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by Rebecca Silverman,

Tokyo Ghoul

GN 3 & 4

Tokyo Ghoul GN 3 & 4
As federal investigators are called in to help find Hinami, who survived the government assassination of her mother, Kaneki becomes ever more enmeshed in Touka's (and the ghouls') world. His realization that he is in a unique position to broker an understanding between humans and ghouls influences his actions even as he learns more about just what being a one-eyed ghoul entails. This later calls him to the attention of the ghoul known as “The Gourmet,” who seeks the gastronomic delights spoken of by human chefs. Needless to say, his appetite will take Kaneki to some very dark places indeed...

Every so often, there will be two news items side-by-side: a story about how, for example, a battered “bully breed” dog will have saved a newborn kitten and nursed it back to health juxtaposed with an article about two people killing each other over political views. These are striking because humanity is the supposed “superior” animal, yet it is the furry mammals who are showing the compassion we like to associate with people. The third volume of Sui Ishida's Tokyo Ghoul is a lot like that, with the humanity of the ghouls looking decidedly greater than that of the humans.

The volume picks up the themes of man's inhumanity to man as Kaneki finds himself tagging along with Touka as she heads to the Doves' headquarters, hoping to seed some false information that will put off Hinami's eventual (inevitable?) capture. While there the two encounter one of the main branch investigators, a skeletal man named Mado who instantly picks up on Kaneki as being more than he seems. This leads to a showdown between Mado, his partner Amon, and the three young ghouls, making the volume a particularly philosophical one. As you may recall, ghouls are detectable via their blood, and the investigators have created a machine, sort of like an old-fashioned airport scanner, that can detect their presence. When Kaneki is made to walk through it, another facet of his half-ghoul status is revealed, one which really gets him thinking about his role in his world. When he is confronted by Amon, who reveals his great distaste for ghouls and his inability to see them as anything but monsters, Kaneki tries to speak to him, to show him mercy and attempt to make him change his mind by showing that ghouls have feelings besides hunger. While it doesn't appear that Amon can accept what he has been told – he thinks Kaneki is just odd, and Touka's actions do seem to negate Kaneki's words despite the fact that her actions are justifiable – the first step has been taken, and Kaneki is no longer a relatively passive player in his new life.

Visually the story is less subtle, but that only slightly lessens the effect. Mado looks far more inhuman than any of the ghouls with his angular, almost zombie-like face and crazed eyes. He's also far more bloodthirsty than the regular ghouls, coming off almost as a trophy hunter as he collects the ghouls' powers for his own use and crows about getting what would basically be a complete set should he take down Hinami. Amon's views appear to be shaped by both experiences and his partner, but Mado uses “justice” as an excuse to bag game. We can almost see a difference between hunting for food (ghouls) and hunting for sport (Doves), which makes for an interesting juxtaposition.

Volume four tones down the Mary Shelley aspects as it starts a new story arc about a particular ghoul known as “The Gourmet.” A bit like Rize, he likes to do something different with his food, and as such causes a fair amount of trouble, or at least concern, for the rest of the not-quite-underground society. He can tell there's something special about Kaneki, and due to this fact he tries to get close to him. Kaneki, meanwhile, learns that Rize's death may not have been an accident...but the condition of him getting the whole story it to get the Gourmet to show him where the secret ghoul restaurant is. To say that he succeeds might be understating things a bit, and the story returns to the idea that a pretty face can mask an ugly soul. It's not quite as well done as the Mado storyline or even the short chapters about Touka's school friend, which reveals that she's not as tough as she wants us to think she is, and while it does reveal another facet of ghoul society, it feels like Ishida was going much more for shock value than furthering the plot. It does, however, show us the fruits of Kaneki's attempts to train in martial arts in order to better defend himself, something which was important when he attempted his talk with Amon but clearly still needs work. It also delves deeper into the idea of him being special in his mixed human/ghoul blood, something that looks as if it will form the backbone of the overall series, either in terms of humans and ghouls relating to each other or ghoul politics.

Ishida's artwork has a tendency to look a little smudged and can be very overwhelming in terms of blacks and grays, but it largely works. His grasp of anatomy isn't terrific and some shots of people can look distorted and just downright off. He does, however, do a good job of showing emotion, which is particularly important in volume three. Viz's translation reads smoothly in both books, with volume three feeling a little better in terms of overall flow, and both volumes contain a color page in the front.

Tokyo Ghoul is thinking horror rather than monsters running around killing each other, and these volumes continue that trajectory. While three is overall the stronger book, both are still good and very enjoyable, and the manga is able to go into more depth in general than the anime adaptation. So far this series hasn't disappointed and continues to be a good read that gives you something to chew on.

Overall : B+
Story : B+
Art : B-

+ Volume three is very strong, interesting themes of who is the monster throughout both books.
Art can be hard to read, not particularly subtle in its symbolism. Volume four plays to the tropes a bit much.

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Production Info:
Story & Art: Sui Ishida
Licensed by: Viz Media

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