Ken Kaneki, who accidentally becomes a ghoul after surviving being eaten by one, is the protagonist of Sui Ishida’s Tokyo Ghoul manga and the anime as well as the protagonist of our article. In this article, we have decided to talk about one of the most important moments in the life of Ken Kaneki – the moment his hair turned from dark black to completely white. This important moment happened at the end of Season 1, during Jason’s torture, and this article will give you all the details you need to know to fully understand what happened.
Ken Kaneki was a boy with black hair but after being exposed to Jason’s torture, his hair turned completely white at the end of the process, after which he defeated and cannibalized his torturer. Kaneki’s hair turned white because of the stress he had been exposed to, but also because he fully embraced his Ghoul side and thus changed (this is evidenced by his nails turning black and his body becoming more muscular, which is not a result of stress).
Today’s article is going to be about Kaneki’s evolution as a character. You’re going to find out about one of the most important moments in his character development, a moment that drastically changed him and redefined his story, as well as his personality. In this article, we are going to give you a detailed narrative overview of this aspect of Kaneki’s character development.
When and how does Kaneki’s hair turn white in Tokyo Ghoul?
Ten days before the CCG storms Aogiri’s hideout, Yamori shows his “Hobby Room” to Kaneki who is shocked when he sees a dead person sitting in a chair. Yamori reveals that his former underling had been tortured for making a mistake. Yamori shows Kaneki the Rc suppressants and explains that they are used to weaken a Ghoul, thus injecting it forcefully into his left eye with a syringe.
After the injection, Kaneki’s body weakens so that Yamori can torture him at will. Days of torment pass, ruining Kaneki’s physical and mental health. Yamori enjoys cutting Kaneki’s fingers, feeding him to regenerate, and repeating it over and over again. He even gets to stick a millipede in his ear. To make conversation, Yamori reveals to Ken that Kanou is doing more experiments with Rize’s Kakuhou, which is “special” due to his unusual vigor.
The torment of torture makes Kaneki’s hair white and he begins to wonder what happened to his friends. In a state of utter desperation, he begins to hallucinate Rize and remember his tragic past. Rize asks Kaneki if he truly believes his mother’s teachings and revives her childhood memories. Kaneki remembers him his father, a lover of reading who died when he was very young, and above all, his mother.
Kaneki loved her and admired her a lot. However, he ended up dying from too much work to try to support even his sister, who he said was in trouble. After the death of his mother, at the age of 10, Kaneki went to live with his aunt and her family. Although his aunt initially seemed kind, his attitude quickly became aggressive and distant.
Furthermore, the family had no financial problems. For that family, he didn’t exist and was almost a burden. The only friend he ever had and who always helped him was Hide. He also remembers a school play in which he was forced to play the part of the protagonist, while Hide was the witch’s assistant. Rize states that he and his mother are “weak”, because Kaneki has always followed her mother’s teachings up to that point, which is to say “more than hurting, he becomes one who suffers from the wounds.”
Suddenly, Yamori reappears with Kei and Kouto. Kaneki is enraged that Yamori has not complied with their agreement to leave the Anti-Aogiri members alone. Kaneki is given an ultimatum: he must choose who between mother and child should die. Kei, her mother, says to save her son and sacrifice her, but Kaneki cannot give an answer to Yamori’s sick question, who decides to kill Kei.
Nico, also present in the room, tells Yamori that he is exaggerating and tries to make him change his mind, but Yamori kills the mother and son anyway. Then Yamori and Nico leave Kaneki to despair of him. Before leaving, Nico cleans the corpses of Kei and Kouto with the kagune, so that they can rest in peace. Rize’s illusion speaks to him again, taunting him of his weakness which led to the two ghouls’ grisly deaths.
Rize explains that if brutal ghouls like Yamori and Aogiri were to come to power, his friends would eventually suffer a fate similar to that of mother and son. Rize points out that if her mother had chosen him instead of trying to help her sister at the same time, she would not have died. Kaneki admits to himself that he would have liked his mother to live for him, even at the cost of abandoning his sister.
Rize compliments him, telling him that trying to save everyone at any cost is not a sign of kindness, but of weakness and lack of resolve. Realizing that in order to prevent his loved ones from coming to a bad end, he must agree to become and be a Ghoul, he “devours” Rize and accepts his fate. During the CCG attack, Yamori returns to Kaneki.
Yamori says that according to some, if a ghoul eats other ghouls, becoming a cannibal, he will get stronger, but ghoul meat is disgusting. When Yamori approaches Kaneki to eat him, Kaneki bites him and agrees with his latest idea of eating other ghouls to get stronger. Breaking free from the chair, he attacks Yamori and bites him.
Raging, he explains to Yamori that Ghouls are made to fight, so Yamori can’t complain if he loses and ends up being devoured. The two fight with their Kagune, but eventually Kaneki wins and proceeds to devour Yamori’s Kagune. After feasting on his Kagune, Kaneki reminds him, before he leaves, that the CCG will come to the hobby room to kill him, while he is injured and cannot defend himself.
Why did Kaneki’s hair turn white in Tokyo Ghoul?
Well, this is actually a combination of two factors, really. The first and most obvious one is the stress he was exposed to. It is known that people’s hair can turn white when exposed to extreme stress. Kaneki was exposed to inhuman levels of stress and torture while in Jason’s (Yamori’s) room and it should not come as a surprise that his hair turned from black to white. He was tortured repeatedly and this was only natural, despite the fact that we cannot really shake off the feeling that Ishida did this for plot purposes, but regardless of that, it makes sense and is narratively plausible.
The second factor is related to Kaneki’s transformation. Namely, in order to survive Yamori’s torture, Kaneki realized that he had to fully embrace his Ghoul side, the new side of his persona he literally obtained from Rize Kamishiro.
All the time, Kaneki was fighting against his inner Ghould and he wanted to remain as human as possible. But, while having an internal dialogue with Rize, Kaneki realized that in order to survive Jason, he had to become a Ghoul, and he did it. He changed psychologically, and that was reflected in his body as well. His hair turned white, but also, his nails turned black and his body became more muscular. Since the latter two are not results of stress, we can only assume that the change in hair color was a combination of the above-mentioned stress and the transformation he went through.