In 2011, manga writer and artist Sui Ishida launched Tokyo Ghoul, a manga that was in a lot of ways his passion project. The story is set in an alternative reality where people coexist with demonic creatures known as ghouls. The story follows a young boy named Ken Kaneki, who accidentally becomes a ghoul after surviving being eaten by one. Ghouls aren’t inherently evil – not all of them, at least – but they can only taste human meat and blood; everything else makes them vomit, which is why they eat humans. Tokyo Ghoul became a massive hit for Ishida and it soon received both anime and live-action adaptations. Today, Tokyo Ghoul is among the best modern-day seinen narratives out there and we at Fiction Horizon have decided to tell you everything you need to know about it.
Tokyo Ghoul is a story that focuses on Ken Kaneki, a young boy from Tokyo who goes out on a date with a beautiful girl, not knowing that she is a ghoul; ghouls are creatures that look like humans, but can survive only by eating human flesh. As he is about to be eaten by his date, they both almost die in an accident, but he is saved thanks to her organs, after which he himself becomes a ghoul. The series follows his subsequent adventures.
In today’s article, we are going to tell you everything you need to know about Tokyo Ghoul, both the anime and the manga. You’re going to find out about the basic setting and plot, what inspired the story, about the music from Tokyo Ghoul and the main characters. We’ve prepared a thorough guide for you so do stick with us to the end.
What is the setting of Tokyo Ghoul?
Tokyo Ghoul is a manga set in an alternate reality where ghouls, monstrous (or demonic) creatures who look like normal people but can only survive by eating human meat and blood, live in secret among the human population and hide their true nature to avoid persecution by the authorities of the human world. Ghouls have different superhuman powers, such as increased strength and regenerative abilities; a normal ghoul produces 4-7 times more kinetic energy in their muscles than a normal human being; the also have a several times larger number of RC cells, cells that flow like blood and can solidify instantly.
A ghoul’s skin is resistant to common piercing weapons and has at least one special predatory organ called a kagune, that can manifest itself in battle and be used as a weapon. Another distinguishing feature of ghouls is that when excited or hungry, the colour of their sclera in both eyes turns black and their irises become red. This mutation is known as Kakugan (or “red eye”).
A half-ghoul can be born naturally as the descendant of a ghoul and a human, or it can be artificially created by transplanting ghoul organs into a human, which is how Kaneki became a ghoul. Either way, a half-ghoul is usually much stronger than a pure ghoul. In the case of a half-ghoul, only one of their eyes undergoes the “red eye” transformation described above. Naturally-born half-ghouls are very rare, and the artificial creation of half-ghouls has a low success rate initially. There are also so-called half-humans, ghoul and human hybrids who can feed like normal humans and do not have a kagune, while retaining enhanced abilities such as increased speed and reaction time. Naturally-born half-ghouls can also eat like both normal people or pure ghouls.
What is Tokyo Ghoul about?
The story of Tokyo Ghoul revolves around the student Ken Kaneki, who falls in love with a young woman named Rize Kamishiro. After meeting her, she bites his shoulder in a secluded alley and reveals that she is a ghoul, which shocks Ken. As Rizeis about to eat Ken, several large metal poles fall on her from the construction site of a building. Roze dies in the process, while Ken is rushed to hospital with life-threatening injuries. After recovering, he is released from the hospital. On the day of his release, he finds out that he is no longer human. He looks in the mirror and shivers run down his spine because he now has one “red eye”.
He realizes that Rize’s organs were transplanted into him in the hospital. Since he now owns Rize’s organs, he is a so-called and very rarely occurring “half-ghoul”. Since he cannot turn to anyone else, he is taken in by a group of ghouls who run the café Anteiku. They teach him how to cope with his new life as a half-ghoul and explain a lot about the society of ghouls, their factions and that he has to keep his identity secret from other people. He is reluctant to consume human flesh, but in some situations, he is forced to do so.
At the end of the first season, he is kidnapped and tortured by a group of extremist ghouls until he acknowledges his ghoul nature, gets white hair and black nails and almost kills and then devours his tormentor. He’s more brutal now to protect those who mean something to him. After a war between the ghouls themselves and the humans at the end of season two (called Tokyo Ghoul √A), Kaneki sustains horrific brain damage from a fight with Kishō Arima, the CCG’s most dangerous enforcer. The sequel, Tokyo Ghoul:re, is about Kaneki, who suffers from memory loss caused by the brain damage sustained from the right with Arima. With his new identity as Haise Sasaki, he is the leader of a special team of the CCG called Quinx Squad, whose member underwent a similar procedure as his, allowing them to obtain the special abilities of Ghouls in order to fight them but still being able to live as normal humans. The second season of :re deals with Kaneki rediscovering his identity and Arima’s big secret and his path to becoming the bridge between the ghouls and the humans.
The prequel OVA story Tokyo Ghoul: [Jack] deals with the youth of Kishō Arima and Taishi Fura, two characters from the main series who team up to investigate the death of a friend of Taishi. Taishi died at the hand of a notorious ghoul named Lantern and Taishi follows Arima and ultimately joins the CCG (Commission of Counter Ghoul), the federal agency handling crimes related to ghouls. Another OVA, Tokyo Ghoul: PINTO, tells a story from the lives of Shū Tsukiyama and Chie Hori.
What inspired Tokyo Ghoul?
As far as we know, Tokyo Ghoul is not, like Dragon Ball, for example, inspired by any one work or story. Tokyo Ghoul is an original story and although Sui Ishida did acknowledge some influences and inspirations, there doesn’t seem to be any large idea behind his narrative. We do know that Sui Ishida cited Franz Kafka’s “The Metamorphosis”, the story of salesman Gregor Samsa who wakes up one day to discover that he had turned into a giant insect, as an inspiration, but Tokyo Ghoul is far from a direct adaptation; while there are similarities between Samsa’s and Kaneki’s overnight transformations, that’s about it as far as the connections are concerned.
Other individual elements have also been inspired by other works of fiction. For example, Jason, the sadistic ghoul who tortures Ken, is based on Jason Vorhees, the fictional serial killers from the Friday the 13th franchise; Jason’s real name is Yakumo Omori, but his alter ego and his masks are more than an obvious nod to horror icon.
Who are the main characters of Tokyo Ghoul?
In this section, we are going to introduce you to the main characters of the Tokyo Ghoul manga and anime. They are:
- Ken Kaneki, later also known as Haise Sasaki, is the protagonist of the series. Born on December 20, he is a normal university student who loves literature and has a crush on Rize. After being the victim of an accident, he becomes a half-ghoul, and with the help of Yoshimura and Touka he starts working as a waiter at the Anteiku. By associating with ghouls, he reconsiders the position he should have in the world. His mask was made to measure by Uta to cover his right eye, which in fact never presents the red iris on a black sclera due to him being halfway between a ghoul and a human being; for this reason, his nickname at the CCG is “Eye Patch”. He only accepts his nature as a Ghoul completely after being tortured for 10 days by Jason. After a short fight, he defeated Jason and ate his kagune. After he shows his Kakuja nature, he is also given the nickname “Centipede”, due to the similarity of his kagune to the Scolopendra genus. In Tokyo Ghoul:re, he assumes the identity of first-class ghoul investigator Haise Sasaki, and serves as both the mentor of the Quinx Squad and the team’s member Mado. He will inherit the title of One-Eyed King from Arima, after defeating him in battle. After returning to the king, Touka declares her feelings to Kaneki who reciprocated. They will marry in the depths of the twenty-fourth ward. At the end of the story, they will have a baby girl while Touka is pregnant with their second child. His kagune is of the Rinkaku type.
- Tōka Kirishima is a ghoul envious of humans who, at the beginning of the series, behaves harshly with Ken, but who later opens her heart to him. She also works as a waitress at the Anteiku and behaves in a particularly protective manner towards Hinami, whom she considers almost like a younger sister. Although she is a ghoul, she is in high school and her best friend is Yoriko, a human she loves very much. She is afraid of birds and is nicknamed “Rabbit” by CCG soldiers because of her rabbit-shaped mask. Later, she turns out to have a younger brother named Ayato. In Tokyo Ghoul:re, Renji Yomo and she open a coffee shop named :re. After Ken’s memory is recovered and he becomes the new King, she reveals her feelings to him and he reciprocates. They had a baby girl named Ichika and, at the end of the story, Tōka is revealed to be pregnant again. Her kagune is of the Ukaku type.
- Kishō Arima was the famous special class investigator, known as the “Shinigami of the CCG” (lit. “the God of Death of the CCG”). He was the leader of Squad S3. He had never been beaten by any ghoul. For six years, he was Take Hirako’s partner. He is the protagonist of the short OVA Tokyo Ghoul: JACK along with Taishi Fura. His great talent and his investigative skills have prompted many investigators, such as Kōtarō Amon, to admire him and follow in his footsteps. However, especially in the past, there were many people envious of him. He turns out to be the One-Eyed King, a title that will pass into Kaneki’s hands upon his death.
- Kōtarō Amon is a very promising young CCG soldier who graduated first in his course at the academy. He doesn’t spare himself in any way to reach his goal, that is a perfect world without ghouls, so much so that he works hard every day to be able to annihilate them all, from the first to the last. After the death of his mentor Kureo Mado, he will seek revenge against Rabbit in every way. In Tokyo Ghoul:re, it is revealed that he is not dead, despite the previous fight with Ken, and he has been transplanted with ghoul organs.
- Akira Mado is the daughter of Kureo Mado and an investigator like him. She became Amon’s partner after her father died. She is an intelligent woman and always seems to be serious about work and her daily routine in general. As her father she has a strong instinct to determine what is happening around her on the field. After Amon’s disappearance, she becomes Haise’s squad leader and the Quinx squad overseer. Despite having high regard for Haise, she becomes wary of her proximity to Hinami.
- Hideyoshi Nagachika, later known as Hide, was a childhood friend of Ken’s who attends his university. Apparently always cheerful and superficial, in reality he possesses an extraordinary spirit of observation: he is in fact the first to notice the transformation of Ken into a half-ghoul. Following Ken’s disappearance, he joins the CCG to secretly gather news of him, but after finding him, he loses consciousness from a fatal wound. He returns in Tokyo Ghoul:re in the false guise of the ghoul “Scarecrow” to reconnect with Kaneki. Once reunited, Hide reveals his face partially eaten by Kaneki himself during the operation for the extermination of the Owl.
- Shū Tsukiyama is a ghoul that is fussy like no other when it comes to food and he is intoxicated by the aroma of Ken’s blood. CCG gave him the nickname “Gourmet”. While he speaks, he often uses French, English and Italian terms. His kagune is of the Koukaku type and is incredibly strong. His power is almost on par with Touka’s.
- Jūzō Suzuya is an albino boy with a crazy and childlike personality who has stitches all over his body. He is a CCG soldier who fights with a sickle-shaped Quinque. His real name is Rei Suzuya and as a child he was kidnapped and raised as an animal to make him perform circus performances, or kill other people inside an arena for the amusement of some ghouls. After being saved by the soldiers of the CCG. He began to grow fond of investigator Shinohara in particular, so much that he fell into depression when he, following a clash with the Owl, almost dies and ends up in a vegetative state.
- Rize Kamishiro is the cause of Kaneki’s life change. In the twentieth ward she was known by the nickname “Gluttonous” because of her insatiable hunger for human beings, especially males. She was well known among ghouls because of her very powerful kagune. When she died in an accident, her internal organs were transplanted to Ken. She occasionally appears before Ken in the form of a “ghost” to urge him to let go of his new nature. Her kagune was of the Rinkaku type. In Tokyo Ghoul:re, her body is used to make new half-ghouls by Professor Kano and later by Furuta to create the Oggai.
- Yakumo Ōmori, also known as Jason, was an unbalanced assassin from Aogiri; he was nicknamed “Jason” for his hockey mask that refers to the fictional serial killer Jason Voorhees, differentiating himself from the latter for the weapon he uses: surgical pincers. Also known as “Yamori”, he was once imprisoned by the CCG, being tortured by his jailer to madness, developing a love of torturing others. He was among the most feared Kakuja out ther, as he captured the other ghouls, tortured them and then devoured them. Jason manages to capture Ken: according to a false agreement, if Ken had handed himself over to him, he would have spared some hostages; when they arrived at the secret headquarters of Aogiri, Jason begins to torture him for ten days in a row, both with a serum that deactivated the resistance of the body of the ghouls to any common weapon, and with a scolopendra. After Ken frees himself from the chains he defeats him in a fight and devours his kagune before letting him die. He was later found and killed by Juzo Suzuya, and transformed into his Quinque, “Jason”. His kagune is of the Rinkaku type.
- Eto Yoshimura is the main antagonist of the series. Mysterious and childish, she is the founder and leader of Aogiri. She is a ghoul with natural sekigan as the half-ghoul, half-human daughter of Yoshimura and his partner Ukina. She is the infamous ghoul known as “the One-Eyed Owl” who, unlike her father, can transform further into a more monstrous guise. When she’s not working with Aogiri, she lives with the human identity of Sen Takatsuki, the author of Kaneki’s favourite horror novels. Her kagune is of the Ukaku type. Her birthday falls on December 1st.
How many episodes does the Tokyo Ghoul anime have?
Three years after the manga’s debut, the first season of the anime series Tokyo Ghoul premiered in Japan. The anime series consists of a total of four seasons. The first season, Tokyo Ghoul, aired from July 4, 2014 to September 19, 2014 and it adapted the first 60 chapters of Ishida’s manga. The second season, titled Tokyo Ghoul √A, aired from January 9 to March 27, 2015 and it roughly adapted the second part of Ishida’s manga series, but it wasn’t a direct adaptation like the first season and it contained a lot of original content. The Tokyo Ghoul:re manga was likewise adapted into an anime series of the same name. The first season of :re aired from April 3 to June 19, 2018, while the second season of the same anime aired from October 9 to December 25, 2018. :re was a direct adaptation of Ishida’s manga, with the two seasons adapting two pars of the manga. This is a summary of the anime adaptations:
|Title||Season||Episodes||Start Date||End Date|
|Tokyo Ghoul||1||12||July 4, 2014||September 19, 2014|
|Tokyo Ghoul √A||2||12||January 9, 2015||March 27, 2015|
|Tokyo Ghoul:re (I)||3||12||April 3, 2018||June 19, 2018|
|Tokyo Ghoul:re (II)||4||12||October 9, 2018||December 25, 2018|
As you can see, each season of Tokyo Ghoul has exactly 12 episodes, which amounts to a total of 48 episodes that you have to watch in order to complete the narrative. Each episode is roughly 20 minutes long, which amounts to around 1000 minutes of material, i.e. a total of 16 hours. If you have the time, Tokyo Ghoul is not an overly complicate binge watch and we strongly recommend it.
What music is in the Tokyo Ghoul anime?
The Tokyo Ghoul anime franchise is quite famous for its music, more than some other anime franchises, which is why we have decided to dedicate one section of today’s article to the music of Tokyo Ghoul. The four season had a total of four opening and four ending songs and here they are:
|1||“unravel”, by TK from 凛として時雨||Tokyo Ghoul, episodes 1-12||1||“The Saints”, by People in the Box||Tokyo Ghoul, episodes 2-11|
|2||“Munou”, by österreich||Tokyo Ghoul √A, episodes 1-11||2||“Kisetsu wa Tsugitsugi Shinde Iku”, by Amazarashi||Tokyo Ghoul √A, episodes 1-12|
|3||“Asphyxia”, by Cö Shu Nie||Tokyo Ghoul:re, episodes 1-12||3||“HALF”, by Queen Bee||Tokyo Ghoul:re, episodes 1-12|
|4||“katharsis”, by TK from 凛として時雨||Tokyo Ghoul:re, episodes 13-24||4||“Rakuen no Kimi”, by österreich||Tokyo Ghoul:re, episodes 13-24|
In addition to these eight songs, two soundtrack discs have been released, each of them containing additional musical compositions that appeared throughout the series. The first soundtrack contains compositions from Tokyo Ghoul and Tokyo Ghoul √A, while the second one covers both seasons of Tokyo Ghoul:re. Yutaka Yamada composed the music for both discs and here is a list of compositions:
|Cover||List of Compositions|
1. “TG Symphonie”
2. “Das erste Kapitel”
3. “im dunkeln”
16. “Verzerrte Welt”
25. “Licht und Schatten”
26. “Das zweite Kapitel”
1. “GLASSY SKY”
5. “Plan A”
14. “Plan B”
20. “Faded Light”
22. “Colour My World”
23. “ON MY OWN”
24. “unravel (TV edit)”
25. “The Saints (TV edit)”
26. “Munou (TV edit)”
27. “Kisetsu wa Tsugitsugi Shindeiku (TV edit)”
|Disc 1 |
1. “Invincible (feat. Yosh)”
2. “Won’t Forget You (feat. SaKy)”
3. “Parabellum (feat. AmaLee)”
4. “At Your Disposal (feat. Luschka)”
5. “Willpower (feat. Future Sunsets)”
6. “Worth Dying For (feat. David Vives & Future Sunsets)”
7. “Remembering (feat. Tate McRae)”
8. “Glassy Sky :reprise (feat. AmaLee)”
9. “Valor (feat. Future Sunsets)”
10. “Tokyo Ghoul :re (feat. Rachelle)”
11. “Phase Shift” 12. “Q’s”
13. “City Jungle” 14. “Deep Dive”
15. “Awaken (feat. Tate McRae)”
16. “Believe Again (Piano Version)”
17. “Reaching for You (feat. Sara)”
1. “Mvt. 1 “Shreds of Light” (Symphonic Suites from Tokyo Ghoul)”
2. “Mvt. 2 “Sphere of Influence I” (Symphonic Suites from Tokyo Ghoul)”
3. “Mvt. 3 “Sphere of Influence II” (Symphonic Suites from Tokyo Ghoul)”
4. “Mvt. 4 “Licht und Schatten I” (Symphonic Suites from Tokyo Ghoul)”
5. “Mvt. 5 “Schmetterling” (Symphonic Suites from Tokyo Ghoul)”
6. “Mvt. 6 “Liftoff” (Symphonic Suites from Tokyo Ghoul)”
7. “Mvt. 7 “Horizon” (Symphonic Suites from Tokyo Ghoul)”
8. “Mvt. 8 “Believe Again” (Symphonic Suites from Tokyo Ghoul)”
9. “Mvt. 9 “Tokyo Ghoul” (Symphonic Suites from Tokyo Ghoul)”
10. “Mvt. 10 “Discoloration” (Symphonic Suites from Tokyo Ghoul)”
11. “Mvt. 11 “Memories” (Symphonic Suites from Tokyo Ghoul)”
12. “Mvt. 12 “Reflections” (Symphonic Suites from Tokyo Ghoul)”
13. “Mvt. 13 “Licht und Schatten II” (Symphonic Suites from Tokyo Ghoul)”
14. “Schmetterling (Piano Version)”
15. “Horizon (Piano Version)”
16. “Memories (Piano Version)”
17. “Reflections (Piano Version)”
18. “Tokyo Ghoul :re (Piano Version)”
19. “asphyxia (TV edit)”
20. “HALF -anime size edit-”
21. “katharsis (TV edit)”
22. “Rakuen no Kimi (TV edit)”
Is there a Tokyo Ghoul live-action movie?
A lot of popular anime have, at one point, also received live-action adaptations, although these have rarely become as popular as the anime or the manga; regardless of that, a lot of these adaptations have also received one or more sequels. Did this happen to Tokyo Ghoul? Incidentally, it did. In 2017, a live-action adaptation of Sui Ishida’s manga, titled Tokyo Ghoul, was released. The movie was directed by Kentarō Hagiwara and featured Masata Kubota in the role of Ken Kaneki. The movie ran for 120 minutes and it adapted the origin story of Kaneki becoming a half-ghoul. The movie received mostly positive reviews from critics. A short synopsis of the movie is: “The plot takes place in an alternative reality, where ghouls, eating only human flesh, live among normal people in secret, hiding their true nature in order to avoid persecution from the authorities. Ken Kaneki is a university student who, as a result of a ghoul attack, ends up in a hospital, where he is illegally transplanted the organs of a dead ghoul, who also happens to be one of the strongest ghouls in Tokyo, in order to save his life. In order to survive, ghouls need to feed on human flesh, so they kill people or find the bodies of people that committed suicide. Due to such an organ transplant, Kaneki becomes a half-ghoul, but he needs to feed on human flesh like everyone else. Kaneki strives to preserve his humanity while trying to keep in touch with the human world by immersing himself in the ghoul community.“
Due to the first movie’s success, a sequel was announced quite soon and it entered into production. Directed by Takuya Kawasaki and Kazuhiko Hiramaki, Tokyo Ghoul S was released in 2019 as a sequel to Tokyo Ghoul. Masataka Kubota reprised his role as Kaneki Ken in a movie that adapted the “Gourmet Arc” of the manga and introduced the live-action version of Shū Tsukiyama. The movie ran for 101 minutes and it received mixed reviews, considered to be a step down from the first movie, although not overly bad. A brief summary of the plot is: “After the murder of model Margaret by Shū Tsukiyama, a murderous ghoul with epicurean desires, Tsukiyama arrives at Anteiku and approaches Ken Kaneki. Tsukiyama befriends Kaneki and wants to eat him. Tsukiyama invites Kaneki to the ghoul restaurant where Kaneki is captured to be eaten by other ghouls. However, after Tsukiyama discovers Kaneki’s Red Eye and a CCG raid happens, Kaneki escapes alive. Kaneki meets Kimi Nishino, a human and a friend of Nishiki Nishio, who had previously been injured by attackers. Nishino is later kidnapped by Tsukiyama, who later asks to eat Kaneki while Kaneki eats Nishino. However, Nishio and Touka Kirishima reciprocate against Tsukiyama and free Nishino. Kirishima also intended to kill Nishino because she is a human who knows the identity of ghouls. After Nishino congratulates Kagune on Kirishima, Kirishima spares him.”
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!