The latest volume of Tokyo Ghoul came out last week in America and it has one freaky cover. The character is an investigator who’s into body modification, which makes him quite weird and eccentric–just how I like my detectives! He’s not the main character though, which makes you wonder what’s going on with the ghouls?
Tokyo Ghoul Vol 6 (Viz Media)
I’ve actually taken a bit of a break from the series so this official summary is helpful:
Ghouls live among us, the same as normal people in every way—except their craving for human flesh. Ken Kaneki is an ordinary college student until a violent encounter turns him into the first half-human half-ghoul hybrid. Trapped between two worlds, he must survive Ghoul turf wars, learn more about Ghoul society and master his new powers. Things heat up in the Ward Eleven as the CCG investigates the high rate of Investigator deaths. Kaneki has an explosive run-in with Aogiri Tree, the Ghoul Gang, run by a Ghoul known only as the Sekigan King.
Why does this book matter?
Sui Ishida has managed to create a rather unique world using ghouls who are basically higher functioning zombies. Because of their ability to grow massive blades or shields from their bodies they’re incredibly good at killing. Like a primal animal, they aren’t trusted by humans, but they are nearly human and have rights like anyone else. That makes for an interesting dynamic, especially when you throw in the fact that ghouls are run by gangs.
What a dick.
Fine, you have my attention. What’s good about it?
The character on the cover is known as Juzo Suzuya, and he’s quite weird and incredibly feminine. In a lot of ways he reminds me of L from Death Note. He’s strange and his coworkers are unnerved by him. This volume hammers that home in its opening pages as he reveals how he stitches thread through his body as a decoration. By the end of the volume he’s bullied and made to feel inferior and something is bubbling inside him which will be fun to see in volume 7.
The bigger story however is focused on Ken and the discovery that part of an old warrior ghoul was put inside him. Ghouls outside his heaven are coming to the realization that he’s a bit of a ghoul abomination which puts him in danger. We’re getting a bigger picture of ghoul culture, and how evil gangs operate a hierarchy, which is intriguing. This volume ends with a classic role reversal, which will be fun to read about in the next volume.
So this volume sets things up well, but what about the actual book? It contains two good fight sequences for starters and introduces a new villain calling himself Jason. It’s explained he calls himself that because of the hockey mask, though there is no mention of the movies, maybe to avoid lawsuits. The best part though is a physiological explanation of how the ghouls’ powers work, and it’s surprisingly solid and satisfying. Their powers have something to do with building up a thing called Kagune which they get from eating humans, and it’s like a liquid muscle that’s super hard. It’s very well told, but also sets up how four different ghoul types might strategically fight one another. Ishida is essentially setting up some rules of war for battles later.
The art is good and all the characters look much different from one another. The ghoul power explanation is quite clear too and the action, while over the top, is fast paced. Much of this book is dialogue and Ishida does well to keep you turning the pages.
It can’t be perfect can it?
That said, it does drag at times, especially when Ken befriends some new ghouls. It’s not that these scenes aren’t necessary and help build the bonds that make the stakes that much higher, it’s just that we’re hammered over the head with them for too long. This is probably in some part due to the chapter by chapter format these manga are put out in, but it gets old to see Ken review how much a character means to him when it was explained a few pages earlier.
Some of the action is difficult to follow as well, partially because action scenes are reduced to three or four panels when many more could have been used to track what’s going on. It hurts the dramatic beats when you see a hero going at it well, but with some vague slash marks we’re supposed to understand why they lost on a dead stop.
Another issue–however minor since it rears its head in other manga–is a gay stereotype character that pops up from time to time. The character is never developed and only serves as a kind of joke since he’s effeminate and dressed flamboyantly. He’s a villain, and a real bastard at that, but why the gay stereotypes? It’s especially confusing when you consider Juzo is treated poorly for looking like a girl and we’re supposed to be supportive of him.
This is a must read if you’re at all interested in the series as a fascinating explanation of ghoul powers is revealed.