Manga Review: Tokyo Ghoul Vol. 1-7 by Sui Ishida (2015-2016)

Genre: Horror Seinen
Year Release in English: 2015-2016
Source: Viz Media Digital Subscription

Reminder: The star rating reflects overall opinion of the series.

Tokyo Ghoul is an anime that I watched early during my creative journey. The aesthetic, the music, the character journeys, the violence, the world-building—it all has stuck with me since 2015 when it first aired. Unfortunately, the story never finished getting adapted (do not talk to me about Root A, though it will be mentioned when I finish the second half).

This series comes with hauntingly beautiful art, compelling characters, and a unique exploration on what makes people good told both through monstrosity and monstrous humanity, this is going to continue being one of my influences and series to return to moving forward.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Content warnings: Body horror, gore, violence, dismemberment, vomiting, cannibalism, death by exhaustion, death of a parent
There will be mild spoilers

This series starts with Kaneki Ken, a college student with a relatively quiet life. One day, his luck changes when a girl of his dreams walks in and, after a chat about their favorite author, agrees to go on a date with him. Turns out, she’s a ghoul and he’s rescued by a freak accident and an organ transplant. His life gets turned upside down because though he’s largely human, he’s also half ghoul now. Between food tasting like literal shit and other ghouls picking on him, Kaneki now wanders a liminal, bloodthirsty space.

So many of my favorite tropes are here, most obviously the one where a man becomes half the monster he hates. While this series does work with established understandings of morality (like how murder and cannibalism are both frowned upon), the ghouls have their own rules of engagement. Ishida is so committed to highlighting the differences in this subpopulation with different factions and contrasting beliefs in how they should integrate with humans, from mutually assured annihilation to quietly existing on their own.

Ishida also does great job of laying down the groundwork for the different types of ghouls and, in a mirror, the weapons of the Ghoul Investigators. Both factions are formidable, and during the raid arc, are downright terrifying in opposite capacities. There is a lot of character work that goes into pulling this off, from meticulously diving into almost everyone’s backstory but only in the moments where it’s most relevant. Like, we don’t find out the full of extent of Kaneki’s deal until the final chapters of Volume 7, for example.

Throughout, the art is eerie and gorgeous. The ghoul designs follow a basic format, but again, characterization shines here with the configuration of their kagune. Though there are four types, each character uses them in ways that differ from others. Even Kaneki wields his differently than Rize, the source of his new organs. This leads to incredible design choices and flowing illustrations that do not distract or shy away from the body horror. There’s great use of typography and frenetic lines to elicit emotions. But there is also a great use of blank space with “still” images of characters. Some of these pages will stay with me a while, and it’s also really cool to watch the art style evolve and level up chapter after chapter.

Now that I’m all caught up with where the anime ended, I’m really pumped to see what’s in store with the second half of the manga. The only things I know for sure is that Kaneki is having a really bad time, but joining Aogiri Tree isn’t the path he chooses.


5 thoughts on “Manga Review: Tokyo Ghoul Vol. 1-7 by Sui Ishida (2015-2016)

    • It happens! I’ve put off my own read of that because I needed to be in a particular mood for something that upsetting, and it’s delivering and helping me out with some writing things.

      Liked by 1 person

      • You have to put some reads off every now and then or you just won’t enjoy them as much.. I’ve heard enough to gather that this is one of them.


  1. Pingback: October 2022 Reading Recap | Jo Writes Fantasy

  2. Pingback: Manga Review: Tokyo Ghoul Vol. 8-14 by Sui Ishida (2016-2017) | Jo Writes Fantasy

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