How does that old saying go? ‘You can’t judge a book by its cover’. Whilst it has proved to be a golden rule over the years, Edwin Rolfe and Lester Fuller clearly never got the chance to see Ken Kaneki grace the first volume of the manga series. Seriously…he looks awesome.

The Lowdown

The world of Tokyo Ghoul has Japan’s capital occupied by humans and vampire-like beings known as Ghouls, who survive by feasting on human blood to tickle their taste buds. Book worm Ken Kaneki is a freshman in college, an intelligent young man who finds excitement through reading the pages of his favourite author, Sen Takatsuki. A young girl named Rize Kamishiro catches his eye at a local cafe, noticing that she too shares a desire for the author Kaneki strongly adores. What seems too good to be true, probably is and Kaneki soon realises that this is the case, as he discovers that Rize shares a dark secret. Whilst walking her home he soon discovers that Rize is a ghoul and as they travel through a darkened alleyway she attacks him, but fortunately for him, debris from the construction site that surrounds them falls on Rize, instantly killing her.

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Kaneki is rushed to hospital and undergoes emergency surgery, receiving organs from the only available donor to save his life. Unfortunately for our young male protagonist that donor is Rize. As he recovers from his injuries, he soon realises that his body is changing. He no longer likes his favourite foods and the only source that will cure his hunger pains is human flesh.

Why it’s AWESOME

The basic plot of Tokyo Ghoul isn’t anything new, as finding a demon like population mix with the human race that ultimately ends in huge conflict may sound familiar, but it’s the way author Sui Ishida tells the story which sets Tokyo Ghoul apart. Ishida offers a strong character driven story that, as evident in the early pages, doesn’t shy away from graphic detail. Tokyo Ghoul’s promise to provide horror doesn’t disappoint, and as weird as it seems to say, unlike many manga horror stories, it continues to provide horror through its storytelling throughout. From the very first page up until you reach the mini story at the end, Tokyo Ghoul provides constant gruesome moments and only builds upon the fear of ghoul’s walking amongst the humans as the story starts to unfold. The perception behind the ‘ghouls’ alone helps provide the suspense and horror. Ghouls hide themselves amongst humans, but have an addictive hunger for human flesh, where their mighty strength is supported by an organ known as the kagune, which stretches out like sharp tentacles to assist them in hunting their prey.

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The characters individual look and personalities are all unique, and work well to support the strong story. There’s enough to each character to make us care for them, which helps get us emotionally involved with these characters and sympathise with what is about to happen. Ishida does an amazing job in pitting our support behind both the humans and the ghouls. It’s soon established that both kinds have good people, as well as, bad. It isn’t a story about good vs evil, in fact it’s a common theme of Tokyo Ghoul to ask what it takes to be considered good or bad, and if we do something bad but ultimately helps someone in need, can it be considered as good?

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Sui Ishida’s artwork reflects heavily on the dark scenes that are taking place. Ghouls are often found hunting their prays down dark alleys and the beautifully draw panels help highlight the moments of pure horror. Ken Kaneki reacts exactly how the reader does as they read each page, he goes through the experiences of becoming a ghoul for the first time, much like we are. I was extremely impressed by the array of moods volume 1 goes through. One moment we are witnessing a ghoul feast on a human, the next we learn more about the characters back story that immediately changes our emotion. This is cleverly done without it seeming like too much of a fast contrast through the novel.

The style of this opening volume cleverly divides the ‘real’ world and the universe of the ghouls by making the pages white when Kaneki is at college, or with his friend Hide, and black pages for when Kaneki is facing a challenge of the ghoul life that he has adopted. It’s stylistic touches like these which makes this first volume of Tokyo Ghoul separated from other Manga books.

The not so awesome!

The first volume is great to set up a story that can hit huge heights. Tokyo Ghoul isn’t like many Vampire manga novels out there (if you can compare ghouls to vampires that is), but it does hold a few similarities. I would personally separate Tokyo Ghoul from any other manga out there, but if you find opening volumes that only setup the story for future volumes then you may want to buy the few that follow straightaway.

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Final Thoughts

Tokyo Ghoul volume one is a brilliant start to a series. Ishida perfectly executes a strong story that is only made better by the art that supports it. The basis of the story is good vs bad, but I am not doing it justice by saying that. Having our young protagonist occupy both ‘worlds’ has the reader struggling (as well as Kaneki himself) wonder what ‘good’ and ‘evil’ really mean, which helps build suspense and for the reader, itching to know what happens next.

8/10

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