Manga Review: Tokyo Ghoul Vol. 8-14 by Sui Ishida (2016-2017)

Genre: Horror Seinen
Year Release in English: 2016-2017
Source: Viz Media Digital Subscription

Reminder: The star rating reflects overall opinion of the series. My review of the first half can be found here.

My review starts with me cupping my face with my hands and yelling into my palms. The journey beyond the anime is incredible and definitely something that will stay with me as I keep growing into my dark fantasy/horror self. It’s definitely making me want to go further and explore more within my work, but also the stark differences between the anime and the manga are making me appreciate manga as a medium a lot more.

The standoff between the CCG and the ghouls comes to an end with casualties on both sides, more deranged characters with their own ends and ideas of ghouls vs humans, with a deep thread of defining the boundaries of goodness, kindness, and the things people are willing to do to protect those they care about. Amid the blood and the gore, there is so much compassion that left me somewhat shaken.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Content warnings: Body horror, gore, violence, dismemberment, vomiting, cannibalism, death by exhaustion, death of a parent, castration, child abuse, eye trauma
There will be mild spoilers for the entire series

Kaneki is definitely changed from his experience with Jason. His hair has gone white and the ghoul side of him is at war with his human side. The CCG are ramping up their eradication measures, and the mysterious Dr. Kano who gave Kaneki his organ transplant is on the run. Meanwhile, his community is somewhat in shambles and unsure how to proceed with danger closing in at all sides from humans and ghouls alike.

The only reason Kaneki starts his own gang of ghouls is because he doesn’t want to go against Aogiri Tree on his own but he also doesn’t want Anteiku in immediate danger. Hinami has lost so much, Touka is having a hard time processing what her brother’s been up to, and Yoshimura has been nothing but kind to Kaneki. He wants to give back to that community, even if it might ultimately lead to his demise. That interrogation of heroism is particularly effective, given how overpowered Kaneki becomes the more he leans into his ghoulish side. The enigma of the One-Eyed Owl also explores similar themes, but delving into those is spoiler territory, so I will skip that.

One of the most impressive things that Ishida pulls off is a sense of investment on both sides of the human versus ghoul fight. There’s monstrous humans and awful ghouls. Everyone has their own specific emotional damage that Ishida doles out expertly for the moments where they relate most. It makes the fight scenes gain that emotional resonance necessary.

The way trauma and liminal spaces of dissociation are depicted throughout is so evocative. There’s one moment where Kaneki is literally talking to his younger self that induced an hour of floor time for me. Each character has a flashback or two in the same vein, and it’s clear how much care goes into crafting each character. The cast is massive, but the attention to detail is there.

I will quickly mention Root A, an adaptation that follows the plot of the second half stemming from one major diversion in the plot: Kaneki joins the Aogiri Tree instead of splintering off to do his own thing. Regardless the character assassination and degradation of theme that took place in that adaptation, animation is perhaps not the best medium to tell this story. One of the strengths of Ishida’s style is making great use of empty space and typography.

In short, I love Tokyo Ghoul even more now that I’ve finished the source material for what was formerly among my favorite anime. I’m giving myself some time off like the time skip before starting :Re if only to calm myself down so I can get back on the pain train again.

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