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"If, for argument's sake, you were to write a story with me in the lead role, it would certainly be a tragedy."
Tokyo Ghoul is a seinen manga series that mixes together elements of horror and action, starting off with references to The Metamorphosis, but quickly switching into a tragic story about the circle of violence between humans and ghouls.
Your average bookworm, Ken Kaneki, has fallen for a beautiful woman. On their first date, said woman reveals herself to be a monster known as a "ghoul", a creature in human form that feeds on human flesh. Having taken the time to trap him, she prepares to eat him when a falling girder smashes her to bits and leaves Kaneki horribly injured.
Saved through a transplant of organs from the dead woman, Kaneki is left with the inability to eat normal food and a hunger that just won't go away. It doesn't take long before Kaneki realizes what's happened to him, and the far-reaching implications of being a person who belongs to both the human and the ghoul world...
The manga ended at 143 chapters on September 18, 2014, with a total of 14 volumes. A sequel, Tokyo Ghoul:re began serialization in October 2014. It follows Haise Sasaki, Akira Mado, and members of a newly-formed team of Ghoul-Hybrids created by CCG.
The series has been adapted into two 12-episode seasons by Studio Pierrot. The first season, simply titled Tokyo Ghoul, debuted in Summer 2014, and. for the most part, follows the flow of the manga. The second season, Tokyo Ghoul √A, debuted in January 2015. Unlike the first season, its story diverges from the manga.
The story has spawned Spin Offs across several forms of media.
- Tokyo Ghoul: Jack, a Prequel focused on Kishou Arima and Taishi Fura. It was published digitally starting on August 2014 and ran for seven chapters. An OVA based on it is set to be released on September 30,
- Tokyo Ghoul: Pinto, an OVA focused on Shuu Tsukiyama during his high school days. It is set to be released on December 25, 2015.
- Tokyo Ghoul: Days, a Light Novel set before and during the early chapters of the series. It features stories about Hide, Touka, Tsukiyama, Ikuma, Hinami, and Yoshida.
- Tokyo Ghoul: Empty Space, a Light Novel set during the six-month Time Skip. It features stories about Amon, Asa, Chie, Hinami, and Misato.
- Tokyo Ghoul: Old Days, a Light Novel set in the years prior to the series. It features stories about Touka, Kaneki, Banjou, Akira, Kimi, and Koma.
- Tokyo Ghoul: Carnaval, an Action-Adventure game available for download on Japanese smart phones.
- Tokyo Ghoul: JAIL, an Action RPG for the PS Vita. Set to be released on October 1, 2015.
It features new protagonist Rio, as he teams up with Kaneki to find the mysterious Ghoul, Jail.
- Tokyo Ghoul, a stage play based on the first several episodes of the anime. It was performed during the month of July in Tokyo and Kyoto.
- AB Negative: AB is one of the rarest blood types in Japan, accounting for less than 10% of the population. Kaneki and Rize note while on their first date that they have the same blood type, which works out perfectly when he's in need of an organ transplant a few hours later. Creepy Twins Kuro and Shiro are also AB, and Dr. Kanou seems to have a knack for finding AB-types for his experiments using Rize.
- Absurdly Spacious Sewer:Ghouls utilize the underground tunnels to train, or travel without being observed. The area known as V-14 becomes significant, being the only way for Ghouls to enter or leave the 20th Ward. Arima sets up an ambush there, and slaughters the wounded Ghouls attempting to flee. He later encounters and defeats Kaneki there.
- Abusive Parents: Several examples.
- Kaneki's aunt took him in after his mother worked herself to death trying to support both families. However, she began to take out all her resentment towards her sister on him and accused him of trying to make her son look bad. She began to verbally abuse him, as well as isolating him from the rest of the family and showed no interest in him after he left for college.
- Juuzou was raised by a sadistic Ghoul, which twisted him into a Psychopathic Manchild.
- A Glass of Chianti: Classier Ghouls (such as Tsukiyama and Itori) drink blood from wine glasses, in imitation of human behavior. After the timeskip, Kaneki is seen drinking from a martini glass while discussing business with Itori.
- The Alcatraz: Kokuria (as in "cochlea", the spiral cavity of the inner ear), the special Ghoul prison located in the 23rd Ward. Quite literally a massive shaft built into the ground, it is divided into separate basements that house Ghouls based upon their ranking. The lower ranked Ghouls are towards the top, and the further down one goes the higher rated (and more dangerous) the Ghoul prisoners are. These prisoners are kept alive for information, or as eventual resources to create new Quinque weapons. It takes a large-scale invasion by the most powerful members of Aogiri Tree to liberate some of the prisoners. Even then, they weren't able to reach the lowest levels of Kokuria where the SSS rated Ghouls are stored.
- All Your Base Are Belong to Us: In the final arc, Anteiku is raided by CCG. Most of the cast are sent fleeing for their lives, while Yoshimura makes his last stand along with Koma and Irimi. Kaneki heads into the battle zone in a desperate attempt to save them, but instead is subjected to a Curb-Stomp Battle thanks to Arima and may have been killed.
- All Love Is Unrequited: There's a considerable amount of unresolved feelings, rejections, or dead lovers in this series. The finale sees a heart-broken Touka firm in her belief Kaneki will return someday, Tsukiyama in a grief-fueled Angst Coma, Akira mourning the loss of two more people she loved, and Nishiki forced to leave Kimi behind to protect her.
- Almighty Janitor: Rank 3 Ghoul Investigators. While at the very bottom of the pile in terms of authority, it is only possible to be this rank if personally appointed by Chairman Washuu, himself. Arima started his career as one, prior to jumping two Ranks after defeating the One-Eyed Owl in single combat. Juuzou also starts out as one, but turns out to be a One-Man Army.
- A Man Is Not a Virgin:Averted all over the place. Kaneki and Hide's initial conversation makes it blatantly clear neither one of them has ever been on so much as a date, with Kaneki's first date being the event that triggers the entire series. Likewise, Amon is a Chaste Hero that rejects Akira's many advances and is essentially a paragon of masculinity. On the other hand, the only male character with a confirmed sex life (besides the settled-down older Investigators with families) is Nishiki, who is mocked about his sex life and generally treated as a Butt Monkey.
- And Then John Was a Zombie:
- Kaneki goes from a normal young man with typical attitudes about the mysterious Ghouls, to a Half-Human Hybrid forced to adjust to living as a Ghoul. He very quickly learns that they aren't the monsters he believed them to be.
- Chapter 143 gives us an even more straight-forward example: Some of the Investigators listed as deceased during the raid on the 20th Ward were really stolen by Aogiri, and are set to become the new test subjects for Dr. Kanou's experiments in creating artificial Ghouls.
- Animal Motifs: Numerous Ghouls are associated with animals, using their imagery for their masks or aliases.
- Kaneki: Insects, particularly Creepy Centipedes.
- Touka: Rabbits
- Yoshimura: Owls
- Yomo: Ravens and Crows
- Irimi: Dogs
- Koma: Great Apes
- Hinami: Butterflies
- Chie Hori: Rodents (hamsters, rats, mice)
- Applied Phlebotinum: RC cells. Humans and Ghouls both have them, and the later use it as their primary source of energy.
- Arc Symbol:A random shot of a centipede appears throughout the Aogiri Arc, leading up to Yamori sticking one in Kaneki's ear during his torture.
- Arc Words:
- "The World is Wrong.".
- "To live is to eat others."
- "My salvation is...."
- Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking:Suzuya's first two chapters has him slaughtering a gang of ghouls for fun, sucking out a police officer's eardrum and squashing it for wasting his time, and stealing Kaneki's wallet.
- Art Evolution:The early chapters' art is a bit inconsistent, with some panels looking much better than others. this smooths out over the course of the series, with the art becoming more polished and consistent.
- Asshole Victim: As a general rule, if a character is a Jerkass, be they Ghoul or Human, chances are they will die horrifically.
- Astral Checkerboard Decor: Checkered patterns appear throughout the series, most notably in Yamori's Torture Cellar, the CCG chairman's office, and Uta's mask studio. Suffice to say, this pattern appearing is never a good thing.
- The Bad Guys Win: How the series ends. Anteiku and the CCG's battle causes massive damage to CCG, while Anteiku is destroyed. While Aogiri Tree takes the hurt CCG inspectors and Yoshimura to continue their experiments with Pierrot laughing their asses off at their manipulations
- Badass Crew: Tokyo Ghoul is filled with this.
- There's the Anteiku rescue team of Yoshimura, Yomo, Uta, Touka, Nishiki and Tsukiyama.
- Then there's Kaneki's crew with Tsukiyama, Hinami, Banjou and the Gas Mask Brothers.
- The CCG Investigators form one whenever preparing to hunt a dangerous, high-ranked Ghoul.
- And don't forget the Aogiri Tree. Being the leaders, Tatara, Noro and Eto are considered absurdly strong, and already displayed huge strenght, durability or movement speed far beyond the level of "extremely strong". In fact, Eto is the One-Eyed Owl herself, the currently strongest ghoul introduced in the whole series. Even their underlings such as Ayato, Miza, Naki and Yamori are absolute powerhouses who can take on even the strongest investigators. And the list goes on and on...
- Badass in a Nice Suit: All over the place.
- The staff of Anteiku wear high-end dining uniforms, and are almost to the person powerful Ghouls.
- CCG Investigators wear suits, and are highly-skilled fights able to fight Ghouls head-on.
- Yamori wears a nice, white suit while dishing out brutality. Naki and his two nameless lackeys imitate his style, while acting as front-line soldiers for Aogiri Tree.
- Badass Normal: CCG's Investigators are this out of necessity, facing Ghouls with little more than intense physical training, their wits, and weapons made from slain Ghouls.
- Becoming the Mask: A literal case for Kaneki. As masks in the ghoul world reflect both personality and fighting style of their wearers,Uta making such a monstrous leather mask for the soft-spoken Kaneki seemed like a mismatch. However, as the story progresses, Kaneki grows to become just the fierce and savage character his mask exudes.
- Being Tortured Makes You Evil: A major, reoccurring theme that hits more than one character. Kaneki, Yamori, and Suzuya all suffered extensive torture over long periods of time, and emerged from their ordeals changed for the worse. While Yamori and Suzuya are psychopaths that revel in their brutality, Kaneki manages to hang onto enough of his former self to simply become a very ruthless Anti-Hero instead of a monster.
- The Berserker: Some Ghouls that develop Kakuja-type Kagune seem to fall into this state while using it, losing control of themselves and brutally attacking everything in their path.
- Beware the Nice Ones: A common theme.
- Kaneki is noted for his kind personality, but has incredible potential for violence when it comes to protecting those he cares about.
- Yoshimura may be a kind and supportive grandfatherly figure to his employees, but he is also one of the most powerful Ghouls in the series.
- Uta is easy-going and friendly, but noted he was extremely violent in his past. When he does fight, he can tear his opponents to pieces without evening using his Kagune. He's also part of the Pierrot, the group of ghouls that caused Rize's accident and thus the reason why Kaneki became a ghoul.
- Big Damn Heroes: Kaneki pulls an epic one together with He's Back and a Crowning Moment of Heartwarming when he saves Touka and holds her in his arms in a Bridal Carry.
- Big Eater: "Binge-eater" Rize.
- Black Eyes of Evil: The biggest tell if someone is a ghoul. Their eyes go black when especially hungry or using their powers.
- Black and Grey Morality:The majority of ghouls kill humans without hesitation. Humans generally kill ghouls indiscriminately due to how easily they can be killed by ghouls' kagune. The few ghouls that don't kill humans are either killed by ghouls due to being weaker and involved in territorial disputes or by humans so they can be stripped of their kagune so they can be manufactured into anti-Ghoul weapons.
- Blue and Orange Morality:
- Played with. Several ghouls that have fully accepted their nature seehumans as nothing more than prey of some sort and don't really believe in good or evil. Ghouls closer to humans, however, mostly follow these beliefs as a way to cope with killing humans to survive.
- Chie Hori is a human example of the trope, with a rather...unique morality that allows her to remain completely detached from the scenes she photographs.
- Body HorrorThe ghouls' kagune. They don't match their mostly human appearance, instead being crimson insectoid limbs that tear out of the ghoul's body.
- Bonus Material: Each volume has several bonus comics, some plain old parodies while others are comedic extra moments that appear to be canon and provide a little extra characterization. Some of the humorous, non-canon ones even made it into the anime as comical post-credits bonuses. Script-style pieces are also sometimes included, featuring interactions between two or more characters and adding little extra information about their relationships.
- Book Dumb: A common trait of Ghouls, most of which grew up living on the streets or in poverty, with no access to a formal education. The best they can hope for is very basic homeschooling from their parents. Ghouls such as Touka and Nishiki, who attend school, are the exception.
- Breakout Character: Tsukiyama. He starts out as an arc villain, but returns later to become Kaneki's most valuable — if untrustworthy — ally in the second half of the series.
- Break the Cutie:Almost every single character is shown to have suffered a traumatic experience or five over the course of their life, robbing them of their innocence and leaving them severely damaged people. This is what makes many Ghouls become brutal killers, and drives many CCG Investigators to hunt Ghouls so aggressively. Kaneki is flat-out stated to be the protagonist of a tragedy, and it shows with the sheer amount of cruelty he endures.
- Bridal Carry:
- Kaneki does this to Touka after he swoops in to save her after she was defeated by her brother, Ayato.
- Kaneki again after catching Banjou, who fell off a roof during training.
- Came Back Strong: Each near-death experience sees Kaneki essentially reborn, emerging as a stronger being each time. However, it isn't without a price.
- Came Back Wrong: Each subsequent "rebirth" and increase in power chips away at his sanity, leaving him a little less human each time.
- Cannibalism Superpower: Ghouls are able to become stronger as a result of feeding on their own kind, though it is implied to take a toll on their sanity.
- Cast of Snowflakes: Some characters look more different than others, but it's pretty much impossible to mistake someone for somebody else unless there's a reason
- Character Tic: Used heavily in relation to several characters.
- Yamori's unique manner of cracking his knuckles, a habit he picked up from his human torturer. Naki does it to imitate him, while Kaneki begins to do it as well after being tortured.
- Kaneki has a tendency to adopt the tics of others, such as Yamori's knuckle cracking. Hide informs Touka that he has a tendency to touch his left hand to his chin whenever he's lying to spare someone's feelings. In a flashback, we see his mother doing the same thing.
- Chekov's Gun/Chekhov's Gunman: All over the place.
- In Chapter 20, a pair of Investigators are seen discussing how The Gourmet has killed one of their men. In Chapter 39, Tsukiyama has a Quinque prepared for the scrapper to use against Kaneki and mentions it was a "souvenir".
- The Bin Brothers and their kagune. Their kagune are used along with the broken pieces of Amon's first Quinque to create an Anti-Centipede weapon to bring down Kaneki.
- Sen Takatsuki, the oft-mentioned author. She is the One-Eyed Owl, Yoshimura's Half-Human Hybrid child. As it turns out, she is also Aogiri's true leader, Eto.
- Madam A, one of the members of the Ghoul Restaurant. She has been working for Dr. Kanou, and her Scrappers are his failed experiments.
- Souta, another member of the Ghoul Restaurant. Not only is he a member of the Clown masked Gang, but he's the one that dropped the steel bars on Rize.
- The Clown Mask Gang, mentioned from time to time throughout the series. They are Pierrot, a gang of pranksters led by Uta and Itori. They have been manipulating Kaneki throughout the series for their own amusement, leading him along a path to his doom.
- When Kaneki meets Uta, one of the first things he sees is a clown mask on the wall.
- The Chikan: The Joker one-shot features one that Hanbee and Suzuya catch molesting a schoolgirl on the train. Suzuya intervenes, which turns out to be the break in the Skulls case — the girl is their leader, and later rips off the pervert's offending hand.
- Child Eater:
- Donato Porpora's favorite meal was children, leading him to pose as a Catholic priest and open an orphanage. Little surprise that Amon has such serious issues related to Ghouls and orphaned children.
- Subverted with Tsukiyama, who turns out to prefer the flesh of the elderly. He considers men over the age of 90 to be a particularly rare delicacy.
- The City Narrows: The 24th Ward, an underground labyrinth where an unknown number ofGhouls live. It is considered horrible even by Ghouls, but because CCG rarely dares to go there it is also an ideal location for a hunted Ghoul to hide. Yoshimura discusses
sending Hinami there to escape the Doves pursuing her, but the others ultimately argue that keeping her in near-constant House Arrest is better than sending her to the 24th Ward. It is also mentioned that the infamous One-Eyed Owl emerged from there, and it is one of two Wards that prominent members of Aogiri Tree called home. Yoshimura sent his infant daughter to live there, in order to hide her from the organization called "V".
- Combat Pragmatist:How the members of the CCG operates, as humans against ghouls whose strength and power ranges from 4-7 times of that of an adult human wouldn't last in a fair fight. As Mado had put it, ""Even 'cowardice' can be forgiven in the name of 'justice.'"
- Cosmic Plaything: If it wasn't obvious enough, the universe really seems to hate Kaneki.
- Crapsack World: Humanity must deal with the constant fear of a predatory species that looks just like them, until they reveal their Game Face and start eating people. However, in reality the majority of Ghouls live miserable lives and simply want to live in peace, killing only because there is no other choice for them. Most are orphaned young, and they live in constant fear of the Ghoul Investigators charged with exterminating them without mercy. The cycle of death and revenge draws in everyone, with very few characters in the series that are genuinely innocent.
- Crazy Consumption: Tsukiyama to the other ghouls. He's absolutely obsessed with eating.
- Creepy Child: Eto, who is covered head-to-toe in bandages. Her creepiness is amped up when the audience finds out her true identity as the One-Eyed Owl.
- Cursed with Awesome: Ghouls are physically superior to humans in all ways, with enhanced senses, a Healing Factor, and a predatory organ they can use to pretty much destroy anything. They are also highly resistant to mundane weapons like knives and guns, leading many Ghouls to see themselves as a superior species.
But all this power comes with the cost of being forced to live off human flesh, with coffee and water the only normal things they can enjoy. The vast majority live lonely existences on the fringe of society, always having to look over their shoulder for risk of discovery by Humans or predation by aggressive Ghouls. Almost all Ghouls are orphans, with little hope of a normal life and no ambitions or dreams beyond living one more day.
- Cycle of Revenge: A central theme of the series. Many Investigators and Ghouls alike are driven by their bitterness over losing loved ones, and lash out at the other species in revenge. CCG actively encourages this, often taking in children orphaned by Ghouls with the intention of raising them to be future Investigators. Many Ghouls, likewise, seek to kill Investigators to avenge their murdered family or friends.