by Rebecca Silverman,

Tokyo Ghoul

GN 5 & 6

Tokyo Ghoul GN 5 & 6
With the police getting ready to come down harder on ghouls, internal tensions within the ghoul community begin to heat up as well. The Gourmet makes another attempt to get Kaneki on his menu by exploiting a different human/ghoul relationship which simultaneously offers Kaneki hope and despair as he sees its possibilities. Meanwhile a group of ghouls from Rize's old ward are ramping up their efforts to find her, not knowing that she's dead, and they're also preparing for a full-scale war between humans and ghouls. What do they want with Kaneki? And is it possible that he's not the only one-eyed ghoul around…and that someone may be creating them on purpose?

One thing you can say for Tokyo Ghoul – once it seizes on a theme, it doesn't look back. As the story has developed, it has continued to play with the notion of the monster versus the man, with both humans and ghouls claiming superiority over the other group. The idea of coexistence is ridiculed by most on both sides, solely based on the fact that ghouls eat humans to survive. On the surface, that seems like a really good reason for the two species to be unable to get along, but the similarities between them belie that simplicity. Both humans and ghouls share the same emotions and are prone to fall into the same type of groupthink, indicating more similarities than differences between them. It is, in fact, in part those emotions that are to blame for the irreconcilable issues the two appear to face: humans can't process that anyone “good” could want to eat them (thereby breaking taboos against cannibalism, since ghouls look human for all intents and purposes) while ghouls can't eat someone they have feelings for, similarly to the way that animals raised for meat are not given names. We can see ways around this at Anteiku, but for the majority of both populations, that's basically unthinkable.

These two volumes try to narrow the line between human and ghoul, first showing how acceptance can help both species emotionally in volume five before moving on to the slim line between hiring the effective and hiring the insane for the countermeasures. Volume five essentially wraps up the storyline involving The Gourmet, an infamous ghoul who gives new meaning to the idea of playing with your food. (Although a between-chapters image indicates that we might not actually be done with him…) He targets Nishio's human girlfriend as a way to get to Kaneki, whom he is dying to consume, and while his appetite is certainly part of the story, the real meat of it is that Kaneki and Nishio realize that they basically hold the same views about human/ghoul interaction. Through his girlfriend, Nishio has found comfort, solace, and love, things he hasn't had from anyone in a very long time, and this indicates that he recognizes her value as a person and understands that it is similar to his own. She, in turn, knows that he's a ghoul and still loves him, affirming Nishio's belief in her. While she does make him vulnerable to both humans and other ghouls, she also makes it possible for him to survive as a person. It's like one of those heartwarming internet stories about a lion adopting a gazelle calf, only with greater repercussions for the world at large.

Not that most of the ghouls or humans are aware of it or would even want to acknowledge it. Ghouls in Ward 11, Rize's old home, have decided that they need to find her, for reasons we aren't yet aware of. It seems that they have also heard rumors of a one-eyed ghoul, Kaneki, in the 20th ward, and for their own purposes, they want him on their side. The ghouls have organized what amounts to the ghoul equivalent of the police's anti-ghoul task force, the Aogiri Tree, and they are led by someone known as the One-Eyed King. This is the first we've heard that Kaneki might not be the only ghoul/human hybrid out there, and while it is heavily implied that someone is creating them surgically, as Kaneki was, it also raises the possibility of a child born to mixed-species parents. We do know that humans are capable of using the ghouls' kagune, and now have reason to suspect that Kaneki's transformation was due to Rize's kagune being implanted in his body alongside (or instead of) her liver, so this is an interesting possibility. It certainly feeds into the idea that Sui Ishida has been pushing all along, that ghouls and humans aren't so different except in their dietary needs.

Following this possibility is the introduction of a new member of the anti-ghoul force, Juzo Suzuya, whom I strongly suspect of being either a ghoul or a half-ghoul. To say that he's unhinged would be putting it mildly, and it is clear that the head office is well aware of both his sadistic nature and self-control shortcomings. The fact that he's a member of the team certainly indicates that the “ghoul problem” is being taken seriously, but it also shows to levels they will stoop in order to take care of it – and that they aren't above working with potential ghouls if it suits their purposes.

While Ishida can go a bit too heavy with the monster vs man plotlines and imagery, on the whole Tokyo Ghoul does a fine job as a modern iteration of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein in its own way. The ghouls are generally better suited to this issue than the more typical vampires, largely because they aren't tied to the trope that says that vampires are coldly beautiful. The ghouls are warm and full of emotions, and Ishida largely eschews ghoul-specific imagery in volume six, keeping the violent ones hidden behind masks and everyone looking largely human. Volume five doesn't skimp on the gruesome (one image of a bone breaking is particularly gut-churning), and while pages tend towards the dark and crowded, the books are fairly easy to read. Facial expression is an issue, and Kaneki appears to have one look on his face for both books, but the story mostly makes up for that. Tokyo Ghoul won't win any awards for subtlety, but it certainly knows what it wants to say – and it does a pretty good job at reminding us that the line between “us” and “not us” can be very, very thin.

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

+ Good use of its primary theme, Juzo offers up interesting possibilities. Rize backstory is interesting…
…but feels disruptive placed in the middle of book 5. Art can get too dark and cluttered and lacks facial expressions.

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Story & Art: Sui Ishida

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