The Complete Guide to Tokyo Ghoul

by Gabriella Ekens,

It's been three years since Tokyo Ghoul's divisive second season aired, so it's understandable to need a refresher before diving into Tokyo Ghoul:re. Here's everything you need to know about the hit horror anime series.

Tokyo Ghoul is the story of Ken Kaneki, a bibliophile college student who finds himself lucky enough to score a date with a hot girl. Unfortunately, that girl turns out to be a flesh-eating monster, and the date ends with her harvesting him for his meat. As a wimpy teen trapped in an alley with a deadly predator, Kaneki is categorically screwed, only managing to survive when a freak construction accident knocks out both of them. The girl dies, and a mysterious doctor ends up transplanting her organs into Kaneki to save his life. Recovery proceeds as normal for a while, until Kaneki realizes that regular food has begun to disgust him, and he's strangely tantalized by the scent of human flesh instead.

Tokyo Ghoul has a pretty basic “normal guy gets turned into a monster in human skin” setup, but instead of the usual vampires or werewolves, the beastie is something a little more uniquely brutal. The first season is pretty standard for the genre, as Kaneki goes through a tortured process of adjusting to his new identity. Fortunately for him, he's not alone in this situation – it turns out that Ghouls have their own complicated societal structure hidden right beneath the surface of Tokyo life, and Kaneki's lucky enough to stumble into one of their nicest factions right away. “Anteiku” is a group of pacifist Ghouls who try not to harm humans and survive off scavenged corpses instead. Its members teach Kaneki about his body's new functions, as well as the skills required to survive in society as part of a hunted minority. This part of the story can be divided into a few arcs, but the most important one concerns Kaneki's first encounter with the CCG, a government agency tasked with managing (i.e. exterminating) the Ghoul menace. While participating in a storm of vengeance-driven violence against the organization, Kaneki strikes up an odd acquaintance with one of their members, a man named Amon. While the two are nominally enemies, an act of mercy from Kaneki makes Amon question whether Ghouls are really just monsters after all. Since Amon only becomes more prominent in the series with time, Kaneki's kindness looks to have longstanding consequences.

However, things go from bad to worse when Kaneki gets captured and tortured by an especially nasty Ghoul named Jason. Kaneki had already been struggling to reconcile his morality with his new cannibalistic existence, but he goes a bit bonkers after this hellish experience, flipping to instinctive brutality as his way of navigating the world. At this point there's a deviation between the anime and the manga – in the anime, Kaneki takes Jason's place at the Terrorist Ghoul organization Aogiri Tree, while in the manga he forms his own vigilante task force. Either way, his motivation is the same: to protect Anteiku using the violent means that they repudiate.

All in all, this change doesn't end up making much difference, because the story's outcome is the same. Kaneki is routinely manipulated by more experienced players, and Anteiku is destroyed in a showdown with the CCG that's gradually arranged by Aogiri Tree as part of a bid for power. In the middle of this battle, Kaneki has another mental breakdown, as he realizes that cutting himself off from his new family to protect them by murdering all of their enemies was not the best way to handle things. In a moment of repentance for causing Anteiku's downfall and the death of his best (and only human) friend Hide, Kaneki allows himself to be struck down by the CCG's champion investigator, Arima. The season ends there, on a note of ambiguity regarding our hero's fate.

Fortunately, it turns out that he's just fine! Well, depending on how you define "fine". The poster for Tokyo Ghoul:re happens to feature a CCG agent who looks just like Kaneki with a mix of his black (human) and white (Ghoul) hairstyle, so I'm going to go ahead and assume he survived at yet another great cost to his psyche. We'll also have to see how much this new season retcons things from Tokyo Ghoul √A, since it made a few choices that were incompatible with TG:re's manga version.

While the story is simple enough to summarize, Tokyo Ghoul has a bazillion characters doing anything at any given moment, and enough of them are going to be relevant in this new season that you'll definitely need a glossary. Here's the rogue's gallery, sorted by each character's factional allegiance:


ANTEIKU

An organization of pacifist Ghouls. Headquartered at a coffee shop, they're eventually destroyed in a raid at the end of the second season.

Touka Kirishima: The series' heroine and Kaneki's senpai in compulsory cannibalism. She has a rough and tough exterior but can be surprisingly nice once you get to know her. Extremely protective of the people she cares about.

Hinami Fueguchi: A kind and gentle girl who becomes the first person to befriend Kaneki in his new life. When her mother is murdered by CCG investigator Kureo Mado, she and Touka are forced to kill him in turn, initiating Hinami into the violence that follows life as a Ghoul.

Nishiki Nishio: An upperclassman at Kaneki's college and one of the first Ghouls that he meets. While they were enemies at first, the two come to an understanding in order to rescue Nishiki's human girlfriend.

Renji Yomo: A quiet older brother figure in Anteiku. He still hangs out with Touka post-time skip.

Yoshimura: Anteiku's boss and owner. He advocates for peaceful relations between humans and Ghouls, using his exceptional strength to maintain Anteiku's status as a neutral power in the Ghoul turf wars. Some time in the past, he fathered a half-human child, who's currently the Aogiri Tree member Eto. At the end of Tokyo Ghoul √A, he sacrificed himself to protect both Anteiku and his daughter.





THE CCG

The Commission of Counter-Ghoul is a government organization established to deal with all of the murderous super-cannibals that have infiltrated human society. Unfortunately, they don't care much to distinguish between violent and non-violent targets.

Koutarou Amon: A young investigator and the series' deuteragonist. While he starts out the series hating Ghouls due to a traumatic experience in his childhood, his encounters with Kaneki have led to him question that hatred. He's left distraught after the death of his first partner and surrogate father-figure, Kureo Mado. Afterward, he forms a strong quasi-romantic bond with his new partner, Mado's daughter Akira. He's MIA after the final battle.

Akira Mado: A talented young investigator who takes up her father's position after his death. While she starts off resenting Amon for failing to save her dad, they end up working through their grief together and form a strong personal bond. She survived the final battle.

Juuzou Suzuya: A strange young man who was raised by Ghouls to participate in gladiatorial death matches. At some point, the CCG rescued him and decided to put his psychopathic skills to use in hunting Ghouls. While his trauma has left him with a childish demeanor and morbid interests, he begins to heal by forming a parent-child relationship with his senior partner. While that partner is left comatose following the final battle, Juuzou lives to fight another day.

Seidou Takizawa: A good-natured young investigator from the same graduating class as Akira who harbors an inferiority complex to her and Amon. He's MIA after the final battle.

Kishou Arima: A legendary Ghoul investigator referred to as the “God of Death.” Not much else is known about him. He takes out a surrendered Kaneki during the final battle.






AOGIRI TREE
This large organized gang of terrorist Ghouls dominate one area of Tokyo. Besides participating in basic turf wars, they seem to be cooking up a greater scheme for even more power. They're led by two legendarily dangerous Ghouls: the One-Eyed King and the One-Eyed Owl.

Eto: This executive of the gang has the appearance of a small and friendly woman. In the second season, she's revealed to be Yoshimura's half-breed daughter, as well as the most dangerous Ghoul ever encountered by the CCG, the One-Eyed Owl. She's also an acclaimed author – Kaneki's favorite, in fact – under the pen-name Sen Takatsuki. That's quite an accomplished life for a person who isn't even out of their 20's. Otherwise, Eto appears to be in the know about whatever massive scheme is going on behind the scenes.

Ayato Kirishima: Touka's estranged brother who disagrees with her affection for humans, after losing their father to tragedy as a child. He's got some serious anger issues.





THE CLOWNS
This bunch of asshole Ghouls hang around in clown masks and seem to be up to no good. Not much else is yet known. Probably Hot Topic enthusiasts.

Uta: Yomo's old acquaintance who makes masks for other Ghouls. He seems nice enough on the surface, but at the end of Tokyo Ghoul √A, he's revealed to be part of a clown club that's scheming behind the scenes. So he's probably a bad guy of unknown intent.





UNAFFILIATED/OTHER

Rize Kamishirou: The beautiful Ghoul girl who tried to kill and eat Kaneki at the beginning of the series. Kaneki has her Ghoul organs and kagune now. When Kaneki is having a psychotic break, she'll sometimes show up in his mind to taunt him. Her background remains tantalizingly mysterious. As an important adaptational note, the manga (but not the anime) revealed that she's actually not dead and currently being held captive as material for making more artificial Ghouls. Kaneki rescued her from this at some point, and now I think Yomo is looking after her. It remains to be seen whether this will be addressed in the anime adaptation of Tokyo Ghoul:re.

Hideyoshi Nagachika: Kaneki's best friend since childhood. While he's easily mistaken for a ditzy goofball, he's actually quite intelligent and perceptive. When Kaneki vanishes at the end of the first season, Hide realizes that he's probably become a Ghoul and infiltrates the CCG to try and find him. During the final battle, Hide reunites with his friend and manages to soothe his aching soul, but at the cost of his own life.

Shuu Tsukiyama: An infamous Ghoul known as the “gourmet” for his taste in specific body parts. After taking an interest in Kaneki's unique anatomy, he keeps trying to kill and eat our hero, but he gets repeatedly foiled. Later on, he tries to ingratiate himself into Kaneki's friend group so he can stalk him. Tokyo Ghoul √A's anime version excised scenes in which he genuinely becomes Kaneki's friend, so it's unknown if this growth in their relationship will become relevant in Tokyo Ghoul:re.

Dr. Kanou: This guy's material was just totally cut from Tokyo Ghoul √A, but it should be important going forward. He's the doctor who operated on Kaneki at the very beginning of the series, as part of his plan to make artificial Ghouls by implanting harvested kagune into humans. Rize's accident was staged to make Kaneki the serendipitous test run for Kanou's method. He's currently working with Aogiri Tree for unknown reasons.



MISCELLANOUS GHOULCABULARY
aka words from the show you should probably know that I couldn't fit in anywhere else

Kagune: A retractable appendage possessed by Ghouls for the purposes of combat. Incredibly deadly, they come in a number of different shapes, from wings to tails to writhing tentacles. There's a Pokémon-style type-based matchup system between different kagune types, but that's not terribly important to following the show's action. Kagune come out of an organ called the kakuhou, which is what gets transplanted into people to turn them into artificial Ghouls.

Kakuja: A special type of kagune that develops when Ghouls cannibalize other Ghouls. It looks like body armor: big, nasty, and strong. Kaneki has one from consuming Jason, as do a few other characters.

Quinque: Weapons wielded by CCG investigators. They're made out of kagune and take on their properties. Without them, humans probably couldn't fight toe-to-toe with Ghouls.


And that's most of what you need to know! If some minor character becomes super important and you end up totally confused because you've forgotten who they are, take it up with Sui Ishida. It's not my fault if Background Clown #5 turns out to be to be the secret evil mastermind behind the entire series. Otherwise, enjoy the new season, and remember to stay beautighoul.


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