Manga Review: TOKYO GHOUL: RE by Sui Ishida (2017-2019)

Genre: Horror Seinen
Year Release in English: 2017-2019
Source: Viz Media Digital Subscription

If you’re looking at this header image and wondering, “Who is that?” Welcome to Tokyo Ghoul: Re. A continuation of the story told in Tokyo Ghoul, Sui Ishida returns to a version of Tokyo overrun by ghouls and the investigators hunting them down.

The story starts with the introduction of a new group of Ghoul Investigators called the Quinxes, which are artificially-made ghouls that still function more or less like humans. Their leader is Haise Sasaki, who strangely resembles Kaneki in demeanor and the things haunting his psyche. Everything else I’m going to talk about in my review is going to be a major spoiler for who Haise is and the crew around him. This follow-up does an incredible job expanding the world and diving into backstories with some intense art and moments so gut-wrenching, I had to take weeks off between chapters and volumes.

Full of distressingly beautiful art and moral quandaries that make humans and ghouls hero and villain in equal measure, I am definitely going to seek out the boxset as soon as I have the budget for it.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Content warnings: Body horror, gore, dismemberment, vomiting, cannibalism, death of major characters, death of side characters, castration, misgendering, sexual assault, child abuse, eye trauma, stitches
There will be mild spoilers for the entire series

Kaneki is even worse off than the interlude after the Jason fight. He’s an entirely different person, an investigator called Haise Sasaki. A lot of Kaneki’s energy remains – the optimism, the belief in the inherent goodness of humanity in whichever form it appears. But it’s clear he’s changed. And the rest of his tale explores what happens when you truly stretch someone to their absolute limit. Imagine if fourteen volumes had the same intensity as the Jason fight and its fall out, and that’s about the level Re starts and stays at.

I mentioned this in my review of the first series where Ishida has serious skill in character investment, but oh wow does it shine in throughout this entire series. Much of the old cast still remains, as the big showdown between the CCG and Aogiri Tree at the end of Tokyo Ghoul remain alive in different states, but there is an entirely new cast of characters introduced here. From the orphans who eventually became quinxes, the former Anteiku members in hiding, the Aogiri Tree in shambles, to new evils like the clowns, there’s no stone unturned, which definitely adds to to the length of this series.

If you had any questions about anyone, like what’s up with the Gourmet, what is Kishou Arima’s deal, are those characters we thought were dead truly gone, Ishida answers all of them. I cannot come up with a single loose end that’s essential to understanding the worldbuilding or other bits of the story (aside from, so what’s life with ghouls like outside of Japan and Germany). There a depth and breadth of characters that is a masterpiece to behold, especially given how much plot happens throughout.

And so much does happen. From clearly defined investigations to counter assaults to characters having nervous breakdowns in liminal spaces beautifully and heart-breaking industry, there are so many panels and sequences I had to stop and stare at. It’s brutal. It’s in your face and often lacks subtlety in both depiction and emotion, but it makes the story so much richer for it. The pacing keeps going with some breathers that serve more like therapy than a true breather. The tension is tight, with questions hanging in the air left to be answered with some dexterous storytelling and incredible use of negative space and typography to bring out the intended and unintended emotions.

In terms of theme, there is so much to chew on with regards to the nature of humanity, what hope is, and the difference between usefulness and heroism. I wouldn’t go so far to call Kaneki and anti-hero, but he certainly doesn’t want to make the choices necessary of him. This indecision is at the heart of his character development and the way Ishida puts him through the absolute ringer in exploration is exquisite.

I don’t even know how to talk about the rest of this series without getting into major spoilers because things get absolutely out of hand. There’s two different coups within the CCG. The investigators might not all have been human the entire time. Dr. Kano is hinted at being a real bad dude in the first series, and somehow, he’s even worse? At some point, the more science fiction aspects of the work and the experiments found within start to remind me of the later plots of Claymore with regards to the creations of ghouls in the first place. Re definitely remains primarily a horror in its structure and presentation, but with borrowings from other genres, like romance and the aforementioned science fiction.

In short, I love Tokyo Ghoul: Re so much, possibly even more than I loved the first series. The endings of entire arcs ruined me for weeks on end. There’s one character death I’m not sure I’m over. Compelling and brutal, but never entirely nihilistic, this manga will forever have a spot in my heart.


One thought on “Manga Review: TOKYO GHOUL: RE by Sui Ishida (2017-2019)

  1. Pingback: April 2023 Reading Recap | Jo Writes Fantasy

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