Sui Ishida’s Looking Glass: A Dive into Tokyo Ghoul
I have always wondered why writers do what they do. As a writer myself, I try to grasp an understanding of not only the work in front of me, but the person behind the ink as well. Towards the latter half of 2018 I was at a dead end. Nothing I was doing seemed to hold any sort of weight or depth, and the days were growing ephemeral. Being someone who has dealt with depression and anxiety for my entire life, this was not anything new. Get over and through it. That has always been my mindset when these waves hit, but if you are someone who has dealt with depression before, I am sure you know that there are times where the weight gets just too heavy. None of your contingencies seem to work. All those cathartic hobbies just vanish. That is exactly where my head was the day I picked up Tokyo Ghoul. I wasn’t looking for answers or a guidebook to my own head. I just wanted something that would keep me from thinking about harming myself. I had not touched a book in months, but here I was, starting something that (unknowingly) would impact me for the rest of my life.
If you have come across this article randomly or because like me, you realize Dave is the ultimate resource for new things to check out, go ahead and do yourself the favor and start reading Tokyo Ghoul. You will not regret it, I promise. When you are all done there will be more than enough to discuss, and that is what I aim to do here. This will be the start of a series of articles that I will doing, all centered around this series. From top to bottom, start to finish, this is my love letter to my favorite manga to date. The things I loved, the things I hate, and the reason this has helped me so much along the way. Hopefully this gives not only myself, but anyone who is reading this a deeper look into Ishida’s magnum opus. Today will cover the first thirty or so issues. I hope you enjoy it.
Tokyo Ghoul is a dark fantasy manga written by Sui Ishida. It is the tale of Kaneki Ken, a young Japanese student, who finds himself thrown into the world of a species known as ghouls through a tragic accident. One thing I think that truly separates TG from other series is how excellent the first chapter is. Things kick off fast, and structurally things are set up in a way that makes the first few issues incredibly anxiety inducing. It is almost as if you’re watching a house burn down from the very beginning. Ishida let’s us know from the start that this story is going to literally be tragic.
Ghouls are a species that need to eat humans to survive. This is not a choice. Though some are filled with bloodlust or power complexes, eating humans is the only way to keep on living. This is where the divide is initially drawn in the first few chapters. Kaneki, who is now a ghoul, is forced to live among a group of individuals he was raised to hate his entire life. The initial perspectives are so driven in those first few issues. Not only because Ishida builds on them throughout the series, but also because they’re so clear cut and impactful from the beginning. Kaneki, like anyone who has been put in this situation, does not fit in with any group now. Yes, he is now technically a ghoul and must adapt to their way of living but, he was raised as a human for eighteen whole years. He doesn’t want anything to do with ghouls, whether he is one or not. Touka, the lead woman of the series, has been a ghoul her entire life. She never had a choice on how she was born. She’s only been raised how to survive and protect those around her. You also have Amon, one of my absolute favorite characters. Amon is the personification of justice. A character who has been fundamentally a product of his environment, almost to the point where you could never convince him otherwise that what he was doing is wrong. I am usually not a fan of his character trope, but Amon is a huge exception for a number of reasons that I’ll dive into at a different time in this walkthrough.
This World is Wrong: A Shattered Reality
Since the day I picked up the series, I’ve almost always looked at Tokyo Ghoul as a means to catharsis. In between every terrifying encounter chapter to chapter, Ishida has always managed to slip in some very heavy and introspective points, concerning either the human psyche or the emotions we experience on a day to day basis. The actions characters make are met with deep reasoning, and the consequences have a layered and emotional outcome. It makes you question your own personal morality. As I’ve reiterated time and time again this first article is all about perspective. However, what I think drives these first thirty chapters is the main theme presented in the story, that this world is wrong. The people, the actions, the dreams, not of it should be happening. Ishida first shows this through the eyes of Amon, who after losing multiple friends and allies, develops a more melancholic mantra. It makes you ask yourself, in a world that constantly suffers with only fleeting happiness, how can we sit by and accept that? There was a time in my life where I had the same idea as Amon. I believed that the world we were in was a mistake, and it will always come out to bring more pain than anything. The days where I am at my lowest are the days where I am at my most distant. Mainly because the foundation of my thought process becomes so much different, but this is not the real me. It’s a me affected by depression or a hard trial. A time where I am at my most vulnerable, and often stressed to the point of saying what I do not even believe myself. One point that I absolutely adore Ishida for doing with this, is that he shows how infectious our words can be. Amon’s first encounter with Kaneki is one if not the most vital moment in the series. Two individuals coming from two sides of the spectrum. A desperate clash in an attempt for the opposing side to just simply understand. The fighting does not have to happen. Everyone is losing this war. This is also where Kaneki picks after Amon’s mantra, that there is no right in this world, only wrong. This battle is followed with the death of Amon’s mentor, Mado. This is the event that breathes life into Amon’s words, giving him yet another reason to believe this dark and saddening slogan. Both his and Mado’s battles are what conclude the major introductory arc of Tokyo Ghoul. I really find myself going back to this arc over and over, just simply because it helps to remember my eyes are not and will never be the only eyes on this earth. There are so many different voices and views that I come across daily, and that it never hurts to take a step back and just listen. Listen to the people who are hurting. Listen to the ones who are not. I truly believe that is only after you have experienced and felt the world at first hand, that you can hope to go out and establish a new perspective of your own. That’s what perspective is all about (at least in the eyes of Ishida), just the idea of understanding, and no one drives this point home better than Tokyo Ghoul.