What Is the Meaning of the Red Flower in Tokyo Ghoul?


In 2011, manga writer and artist Sui Ishida launched Tokyo Ghoul, a manga that was, in a lot of ways, his passion project. Tokyo Ghoul became a massive hit for Ishida and soon received both anime and live-action adaptations. Today, Tokyo Ghoul is among the best modern-day seinen narratives out there, but sadly the series is over, and as things stand, there won’t be any new stories from the world of Tokyo Ghoul. Still, the series is filled with many interesting moments, details, and questions, and in this article, we will answer one of these questions. In this article, you will find out what the red flowers, seen in the anime, represent.

The red flower seen in Tokyo Ghoul is actually the red spider lily (Lycoris radiata), a very well-known flower from Japan. In folklore, it is usually associated with death. In Tokyo Ghoul, the flower was first seen when the white carnations turned into these flowers while Kaneki was being tortured; in that aspect, they represent the symbolic death of the old, innocent Kaneki and the creation of the Kaneki we’ve seen in the series.

The rest of this article will focus on the symbolism of the red spider lily in the Tokyo Ghoul anime. This very specific and beautiful flower has a strong symbolic role in the story. In this article, we will explain everything you need to know about the story, the flower, and how the flower ties into the story. If you did not follow through with the whole series, we have to warn you that this article might have spoilers for you.

What is the red flower in Tokyo Ghoul?

Before we actually tell you everything, take a look at this scene from the anime:

If you have seen the scene, you’ll have observed that the white carnations around Kaneki quickly turned into bright-red flowers. These flowers are actual flowers known as red spider lilies. The red spider lily (Lycoris radiata) is a bulbous plant of the Amarillidaceae family. Lycoris radiata is a bulbous perennial plant. It typically blooms before the 30- to 70-centimeter-tall stems fully develop leaves. The radical leaves range in width from 0.5 to 1 centimeter and have a lighter center stripe. Umbels of red flowers are used to organize them. Each bloom is asymmetrical, with long projecting filaments and slender segments that curve backward.


Tokyo Ghoul: What Is the Difference Between a Kakuja and a Kagune?

The plant is indigenous to China, Korea, and Nepal; it was then imported to Japan, and from there, it spread to the United States and other countries. The Seychelles Islands and Ryukyu consider the plant to be naturalized. It can reproduce by seed and is diploid. The species was later imported to America and other countries, and the triploid varieties are common in both China and Japan. What is believed to be the original form of Lycoris radiata, called L. radiata var. pumila, is present only in China. It is diploid and is able to reproduce by seed. The triploid forms only reproduce vegetatively through the bulb and are sterile.

Japanese triploids have a consistent genetic makeup. It has been said that they came to Japan from China along with rice farming. When Japanese ports for trade were created in 1854, the plant was first introduced to the United States. Only three red spider lily bulbs were brought back by Captain William Roberts, who loved botany. Her granddaughter then planted the bulbs after learning that they don’t bloom until after the first fall rain. Since then, the plants have spread to other southern states, including Texas, North Carolina, and others.

Plants with stems that are between 61 and 71 cm tall will bloom in the late summer or early fall. The leaves remain through the winter and then vanish in early June, after the flowers. During the course of a week, the flowers turn from a vivid neon red to a deep pink color. The bulbs of Lycoris radiata are extremely toxic. They are specifically utilized in Japan, primarily to deter rodents and vermin. So, the majority of them now flourish close to rivers.

The crimson lily symbolizes the beginning of fall in Japan. Many Buddhists use it to commemorate it with a ritual at the graves of their loved ones. As a form of respect for the deceased, people place them on graves. Many believe red lilies should never be given as a bouquet because they are frequently connected to death. In the Chinese and Japanese translations of the Lotus Sutra, these scarlet flowers are depicted as weeds that grow in Hell and guide the dead till their next rebirth because they typically blossom next to cemeteries around the autumnal equinox. According to a Chinese folktale, these are heavenly lilies that can ward off evil from anybody who sees them.

What is the meaning of the red spider lily in Tokyo Ghoul?

Now that you know that the red spider lily symbolizes in Japanese folklore, we can go back to Tokyo Ghoul. Now, the red flower is, as most Tokyo Ghoul things, primarily related to Ken Kaneki, the protagonist of the series, and it marks a transition in his life, as could be observed in the video we have shown you above.

Going back to the start, Ken Kaneki was a shy yet sincere student whom Rize Kamishiro took advantage of, or, to be more precise, wanted to take advantage of. He saw someone intelligent and beautiful in her, whereas she – she saw a very tasty meal in him. By luring him out on a date, she made him her prey and would lure him into a secluded place where she revealed that she was a Ghoul and that she would eat him. You know what happened then, and as the result of that freakish accident, Ken Kaneki became a Ghoul. Of course, the change was too much for him, and since he was not a complete Ghoul, Kaneki kept fighting his Ghoul side with the help of his friends and allies.


Is Kaneki in Tokyo Ghoul:re?

But, due to his enormous power, he was kidnapped and tortured by Jason, and at that moment, Kaneki broke. While having one of his numerous internal dialogues with Rize, who was still part of him, Kaneki found out that his enemies would not stop and that they were going to cause a lot of trouble for his friends, which is when he ultimately broke and decided to abandon his innocence and embrace his Ghoul side. And while we won’t spoil future events for you, we can only say that the flowers symbolize the transition.

Namely, initially, Kaneki was represented by the white carnation, a symbol of innocence and purity, which is everything that Kaneki was up until that point. He had even been fighting his urges and suffered pain because of that, as he did not want to become a monster. But, as he became aware of his role in the world and the dangers around him, the already unstable Kaneki, as Jason was inhumanely torturing him, decided to change. The transition was initially portrayed by a striped carnation, a symbol of refusal, but ultimately changed into a red spider lily, a symbol of death and transition.

Thus, in a symbolic way, Ken Kaneki dies, and Ghoul Kaneki is born, and this is represented by the flowers and the changes in their structure and appearance.