Sui Ishida’s Tokyo Ghoul has become one of the most popular modern-day manga and anime franchises. The dark and bizarre story about an alternative reality where people coexist with creatures called ghouls, who have to eat human flesh in order to survive, has attracted the attention of fans around the world, mostly thanks to the critically acclaimed anime adaptation. Still, Tokyo Ghoul has a very complex narrative and a lot of characters so people often find some of the narrative elements confusing, which is why there are a lot of questions asked on a daily basis. Today’s article is not about a specific question per se, but rather about the differences between the manga and the anime, as we are going to compare the two and tell you which one is better.
Despite both media having their own qualities, we think that the manga is much better than the anime. The main reason is that the anime was quite short and a lot of the content had to be cut from the adaptation, while the manga gives a better and more thorough explanation of the complete lore.
In today’s article, we are going to tell you everything about the manga and the anime from the Tokyo Ghoul franchise. You’re going to find out all the differences and the similarities, while ultimately finding out which one is better and why. Enjoy!
About the Tokyo Ghoul manga
Tokyo Ghoul began as a manga series written and drawn by Sui Ishida. The first chapter appeared on September 8, 2011 in the 41st annual issue of Weekly Young Jump, published by Shūeisha. The last chapter appeared on September 18, 2014 in the 42nd annual edition.
The series was collected in fourteen tankōbon issues and published in Shūeisha’s Young Jump Comics imprint between February 17, 2012 and October 17, 2014. The series was published in English by Viz Media.
A prequel spinoff called Tōkyō Ghoul: [Jack] appeared in Jump Live magazine from August to October 2013, with the chapters being combined into one volume on October 18, 2013. The story spans 7 chapters and focuses on Kishō Arima and Taishi Fura 12 years before the events of Tokyo Ghoul. The manga features several characters from the main series including the above stated Kishō Arima, Taishi Fura, and future key characters Itsuki Marude and Yakumo “Yamori” Ōmori.
The first chapter of the sequel, entitled Tōkyō Ghoul: re, appeared on October 16, 2014 in the 46th annual issue of Weekly Young Jump. The series takes place two years after the first manga ended and introduces new characters. On July 4, 2018, the series was completed; it was later collected in a total of 16 tankōbon volumes.
If you want to know more about Tokyo Ghoul in general, check out our detailed guide.
About the Tokyo Ghoul anime
A 12-episode anime series by Studio Pierrot aired on Tokyo MX between July 4 and September 19, 2014; each episode aired at midnight, which is still considered the previous day when scheduling is concerned. It was also broadcast on TV Aichi, TVQ, TV Osaka, AT-X and Dlife with an offset of up to a week.
The title song was “unravel” and is sung by Tōru “TK” Kitajima, the frontman of the band Ling Tosite Sigure; the closing credits song “The Saints” is by the band People in the Box. The series was simultaneously streamed globally by Funimation with English subtitles. The series has so far been published in four editions on DVD and Blu-Ray. In addition, all episodes are also available online on Netflix.
A second season with an additional 12 episodes – titled Tokyo Ghoul √A (pronounced root A) – ran from January 9 to March 27, 2015 on Tokyo MX. The theme song of the second season was titled “Munō” and was performed by Österreich with Ai Kamano as the singer, while the ending title “Kisetsu wa Tsugitsugi Shinde Iku” was performed by Amazarashi. The series was likewise simulcast and is available on Netflix.
On September 30, 2015, an OVA Tōkyō Ghoul: [Jack], which is actually a prequel, had its premiere, and on December 25, 2015, another OVA, titled Tōkyō Ghoul: PINTO, which adapted the third chapter of the light novel Tokyo Ghoul: Hibi, was released.
The first part of the third season, Tokyo Ghoul: re, consisting of 12 episodes ran from April 3, 2018 to June 19, 2018. The second part of the third season, under the name Tokyo Ghoul: re 2nd Season, with 12 episodes, was aired from October 9, 2018 to December 25, 2018 in Japan. With this, the anime series was officially concluded.
If you want to know more about the anime’s structure, you can check out our ultimate guide to watching Tokyo Ghoul.
What is the difference between the Tokyo Ghoul manga and anime?
And while it’s usual and even somewhat expected that the anime adaptation is different from the original manga in some way, especially when graphical content in seinen manga is concerned, but the differences usually aren’t all that big and the adaptation remains mostly true to the original material. Tokyo Ghoul is an exception here, as the anime is in a lot of ways different from Ishida’s manga.
One of the major reasons for that is the fact that the anime consists of only 48 episodes, which adapt the complete two-part manga, which has a total of 30 volumes. The discrepancy is just too big for the anime to be a faithful adaptation. Another reason is that the manga is extremely graphic and violent, which is fine with printed materials, but the anime has certain standards they have to adhere to, which meant that the producers had to cut a lot of the content from the adaptation.
In this section, we are going to bring you the 10 biggest differences between the Tokyo Ghoul manga and the anime. They are:
The events surrounding the appearance of Tsukiyama and the larger Dove Emergence Arc had their order switched in the anime. In the manga, Tsukiyama was introduced first, while the events with Amon and Mado happened later.
The anime, for some unknown reason, switched these two events and while it wasn’t a big deal and it didn’t really do anything to the story if you haven’t read the manga (thus knowing the actual order), it’s still a difference we had to note.
Kaneki is (not) a ghoul
During the Dove Emergence Arc, Kaneki and Tōka decide to sneak into the CCG headquarters dressed as high school students. And while this manga moment was more comical than actually important, which explains what it was eventually cut from the anime adaptation, it contains one important scene that proves just how Kaneki is different from the other ghouls and how important that distinction actually is.
Namely, when Mado forced Kaneki through a ghoul detector, the detector did not indicate that Kaneki was a ghoul, which is a detail, but an important one that anime fans have to know.
The relationship between Kaneki and Amon was a very dynamic, deep and interesting one. This is why their fights were always heavily anticipated and among the best in the series. In the Tokyo Ghoul manga, during their final clash, Amon uses the Arata Proto II armor while fighting Kaneki; in the anime, he never used the armor, only his quinque. The battle ended with Amon losing an arm and Kaneki having a gaping wound in his side.
The confusion of Tokyo Ghoul:re
Ishida’s sequel manga, Tokyo Ghoul:re, had a time skip that introduced new characters, new relationships and somewhat changed the scenery of the whole narrative. And while the manga provided all the necessary explanations and backstories necessary for the readers to completely understand why things were as they were, the anime did nothing of the sort.
The anime introduced the new characters and the new scenery, but a lot of the explanations and backstories were simply omitted from the adaptation, both in the first and the second season of the anime. This left viewers confused and it took some time to get used to the novelties, but this lack of depth and backstory is an important downside of the adaptation.
Some of the major elements that were omitted are Haise/Kaneki leaving the Quinx squad, Takatsuki’s characterization, and basically the whole Operation Rushima.
Ayato’s 103 bones
When Kaneki finally managed to break free from Jason’s torture at the end of the Aogiri Tree arc, he found Ayato nearly killing Tōka. Seeing how he cared for her, he immediately attacked Ayato and after a tense fight, he overpowered him. Kaneki was a little on the brink of madness at the time so, seeing how Ayato half-killed Tōka, he found it befitting for him to half-kill Ayato as well, which he did by breaking half of the bones in his body (103).
The manga showed that scene, but the anime omitted it due to its graphical nature; the anime fight was ultimately interrupted and we never got to see Kaneki’s majestically morbid victory.
As far as Rize is concerned, we all know how important of a role she had in the series, as she was “responsible” for Kaneki becoming a ghoul. In the manga, Rize appears to Kaneki as a hallucination during his torture at the hands of Jason; in the anime, she appears much earlier, during Kaneki’s hunger fits, taunting him because he kept fighting against his ghoul nature.
This was a good addition, actually, as it added more depth to Rize’s character and her role in the story. On the other hand, where the manga did great with explaining her fate in Tokyo Ghoul:re, the anime was a bit confusing, as it wasn’t until the last season that we finally got confirmation as to her ultimate fate.
The chin touch
In the manga, Kaneki had a cute habit of touching his chin whenever he was lying… about anything. It was subtle, it was well-placed and it was a very important character trait that spoke about Kaneki and his persona. Hide noticed this, which we found when he told Tōka about it and while it had a very important role in the manga, this habit was certainly underused in the anime.
There were only a handful of situations where we saw Kaneki doing this, which is a shame as it was a very important (despite not being essential) character trait that would’ve made his characterisation better.
“I am a ghoul”
Kaneki’s realization that he is in fact a ghoul is a pivotal moment in the franchise. It happened during Jason’s torture, as Kaneky finally acknowledged his ghoul side, which allowed him to defeat Jason. In the anime, the scene was treated very differently from the manga. The animated version shows a calm, collected Kaneki that seemed to have accepted his nature in the spur of a moment, realizing the inevitability of his ghoul side; his hair also turned from black to white in an instant.
In the manga, however, the process lasted much longer and it was a gradual one. Ultimately, when Kaneki utters “I am a ghoul”, he is not calm, nor composed – he looks like he’s ripping the skin off his face, digging his fingers into his eyes. It was an anticlimactic moment for the anime.
Now, this is one of the major differences in the franchise and although the end result was the same – with Hide becoming the Scarecrow and helping Kaneki become the One-Eyed King – the backstory was quite different. In the manga, Hide joins the CCG to keep an eye on Kaneki and during one of the last scenes of the manga, he finds a crazed, yet hungry Kaneki on his way to a clash with Arima.
Hide offers Kaneki to eat him in order to survive, but Kaneki is reluctant; Kaneki soon passes out and when he wakes up, he does not see Hide and can taste his blood. In the anime, Hide also found Kaneky in Anteiku, but Kaneki was not deranged nor did Hide offer himself to be eaten, as there was no need for that. In fact, Hide was fatally wounded and he asked Kaneki to take them home, after which Kaneki carried his friend’s body through the streets.
Both of these versions led to Kaneki’s clash with Arima, but as explained – the backstories were quite different. This difference caused a major plot hole in Tokyo Ghoul:re, which followed the original manga storyline and not the anime version, which resulted in a big narrative discrepancy.
Tokyo Ghoul √A
The biggest difference, though, is the second season of the anime, titled Tokyo Ghoul √A. Namely, the second season of the anime never adapted the manga and it was a completely original story written by Ishida himself for the anime. Ishida chose a different story probably because he wanted an alternative look on the characters before Tokyo Ghoul:re, but the story elements were so different that a lot of people don’t even consider the second season to be canon.
Certainly, Ishida did not change any major or important plot points so it all ended the way it should have, but the smaller narratives were changed drastically, making Tokyo Ghoul √A a completely different story.
And while you can criticize the additions and the ommissions (especially the omission of Kaneki’s fight with Arima), Tokyo Ghoul √A actually created another major problem – the continuity. Namely, with Tokyo Ghoul:re being a direct adaptation of Ishida’s manga, the anime had a lot of continuity issues in relation to Tokyo Ghoul √A, as the manga backstories didn’t relate to the anime ones.
This resulted in a lot of confusion among fans, as a lot of the scenes just didn’t make any sense when compared to what they had seen in Tokyo Ghoul √A. This also led to the third and fourth seasons being heavily criticized.
Is the Tokyo Ghoul manga better than the anime?
Now that we’ve given you all the necessary information, we can answer the ultimate question – is the manga better than the anime?
In the world of anime, it is generally accepted that the original manga is at least a bit better than the anime, mostly because the manga writers have more freedom and more space to explore all the ideas and the details. The anime producers have a schedule, a time limit and censorship standards they have to adhere to, which doesn’t really kill off the quality, but reduced the quantity of material that can appear on the screen. This is why, generally, manga are usually better than anime, although the difference is generally not that big.
As far as Tokyo Ghoul is concerned, the manga is undoubtedly much better than the anime. It’s not because the anime was produced poorly, but the production had so many “issues” that he manga is just far superior, despite Ishida almost messing everything up in the final chapters of the manga.
The technical aspects of the anime were mostly good – especially the music – and despite some animation issues, this is something we cannot really complain about. The major problems were the story (especially the ommissions) and the second season of the anime, which caused the continuity that appeared later on.
As far as the story-related issues are concerned, the anime had a very small number of episodes when compared to the original manga’s length. This resulted in a lot of scenes getting cut from the animation which, in turn, caused plot holes and generally reduced the narrative segment of the anime. As a standalone story, Tokyo Ghoul wasn’t all that bad, but it failed as an adaptation and that is the major reason why the manga is far superior to the anime.
As for the problematic second season, we have already discussed (see above) the issues related to Tokyo Ghoul √A and the continuity issues it created. And while we can defend Ishida’s wish to come up with an alternative story, the producers of Tokyo Ghoul:re absolutely had to adapt the third and fourth seasons’ stories to the changes from Tokyo Ghoul √A, but they did not, which resulted in the said continuity issues and low quality of :re’s narrative structure.
Having said all of this, if you’re picky and want just one, the manga is much better, but we advise you to check out both, since both the manga and the anime are definitely worth it.
And that’s it for today. We hope you had fun reading this and that we helped solve this dilemma for you. See you next time and don’t forget to follow us!