Review: Tokyo Ghoul Vol. 1

Usually I don’t do both the manga and the anime, but with Tokyo Ghoul I had to check out both. Mostly because the art direction on the comic is a bit different from the anime. It’s a style that really only works in print format, so I’m actually glad that they switched it up some for the anime. Now, I won’t be constantly comparing the two. Frankly the anime is the anime and the manga is the manga. There’s always going to be things different in the adaptation from the source material, because like the art there’s things that only work in print. That and the second season of the anime apparently goes in a completely different direction than the manga. The story is set in Japan, but the catch is there are Ghouls. These Ghouls can only live off the flesh of human beings. They’re feared, they’re hunted and they’re definitely a bit of social commentary on the class system of Japan.

The main character of the story is Ken Kaneki. He’s a college student who has no family and lives on his own. His best and only friend Hide, is the closest thing he has to family. We’re given a solid introduction to the world and ghouls before we dive into Kaneki’s story. He’s quite taken with a young woman that he’s seen reading the same book as him. Eventually this woman, Rize, approaches him and asks him out.

Tokyo Ghoul Vol. 1He of course jumps at the chance since he likes her and feels they have a ton in common. The date seems to go well until Rize reveals that she’s a Ghoul and that she’s been “hunting” Kaneki. She’s what’s known as a “binge eater”, because a normal Ghoul can live for weeks off of one meal, but she eats whenever she wants. Things don’t go according to Rize’s plan as some construction beams are dumped on her and Kaneki. Kaneki survives, but he’s injured due to Rize. In a controversial move, the doctor uses Rize’s organs in Kaneki to save his life.

This kicks off the big part of the story in which Kaneki is now a half-Ghoul. He begins to slowly figure it out when he hears a specialist talking about it on TV and notices that his sense of taste has changed completely. Now everything he eats tastes terrible to him, but what really gives it away is when he starts drooling uncontrollably around a large group of people. That’s not his only problem though, he knows nothing about Ghouls and the way they live making his encounters with them jarring and difficult. Coupled with the fact that he refuses to eat people because he’s not a Ghoul. At least not in his eyes.

The story is frankly amazing. It’s one of the most interesting stories I’ve read in a long while. With the manga I really liked all the extra elements that we’re given as the reader. Kaneki has a random encounter with a Ghoul which leads him to meeting two significant characters in the series. The volume actually goes into this random Ghouls backstory and you actually feel for him. He’s no longer just a two page character there to introduce other Ghouls.

The writing also excels beyond world building. The characters are tremendous. Kaneki’s battle with his new self is just amazing. Yeah he cries and yells a lot, but I think any normal person in this situation would do exactly the same. If you woke up the next day and found out that you had to eat people to stay alive and normal… well, I doubt anyone would take that news well. His emotional plight is very believable and deep.

As for the artwork, it’s very impressive. Here I will compare it to the anime and say that it’s much softer than the cartoon series. The character’s faces are rounder and overall the artwork has a smooth look to it. The linework isn’t harsh, but rather clean and thin for the most part. The character designs are very cool looking and again one of the reasons that this series has stood out to me so much.

The action sequences and gore are great, but not as great as the emotion. The art really excels with the emotion. Kaneki on his knees crying at to the world after trying to eat normally is just painful to see. Back to the action and gore scenes. The action is fluid on the page. It’s not choppy at all. The gore isn’t overkill and thankfully isn’t as censored as the anime. The art does a lot of work for this story and maintains an impressive amount of detail from beginning to end.

The book itself has a great cover. The paper stock isn’t the usual stock for Viz’s mangas, but then this is my first Viz Signature series volume. The interior paper stock is about the same, but the cover is smooth and beautiful looking. It’s also a little bigger which made it nice to hold and read without busting the spine.

If you like horror-esque stories, then you absolutely want to check out Tokyo Ghoul. It has the gore, but it also has an incredible story and world to go along with it. I usually don’t like to read and watch the same story because eventually something big gets changed which ruins one or the other for me (cough Maken-Ki), but this first volume of Tokyo Ghoul has made me want to read the series just as much as I wanted to watch it.

Score: 5/5

Tokyo Ghoul Vol. 1 Writer/Artist/Creator: Sui Ishida Publisher: Viz/Viz Signature Price: $14.99 Release Date: 6/19/15 Format: TPB; Print/Digital