Ken Kaneki loves to read, especially horror and mystery stories. So far such horrors have only existed in his books, but that quickly changes when he’s attacked by a Ghoul – monsters that hide amongst and disguise themselves as humans. Their diet is limited almost exclusively to human flesh, as human food tastes disgusting to them. This leads to mysterious murders around town, and Ken finds himself in the middle of an attack when he walks home a girl named Rize from their date. By a stroke of luck, a stack of steel beams falls from a construction site and lands on the attacking ghoul before it can eat Ken, but he’s still gravely injured and in need of an immediate organ transplant to save his life. Unfortunately, the only organs available happen to belong to the very ghoul that attacked him. When Ken wakes up, he finds himself changed, his new organs having turned him into an odd hybrid of human and ghoul. Ghouls are typically born that way; they aren’t humans who later change. So while ghouls find eating human flesh perfectly normal, and have even developed their own society to regulate consumption, Ken struggles with his new hunger. When he goes to a ghoul named Touka for help, she turns him down, angry that he finds her way of life awful and repulsive. Her boss, however, the owner of the Anteiku cafe and another ghoul, is fascinated by the new life form, and offers to help Ken adjust to his new life. Unwilling to consume human flesh, Ken ends up starving himself, and nearly ends up eating his best friend, Hide. No longer fully human, but not fully ghoul, Ken feels as if he doesn’t belong anywhere anymore. Anteiku’s owner suggests that Ken is actually the only person who belongs in both worlds, and offers him a job so he can observe whether or not ghouls are really just mindless monsters.
There are Ghouls. They eat people. This kid accidentally becomes one. He whines a lot. End volume 1. That sums it up pretty well. I don’t mean to say Ken shouldn’t be completely horrified by his situation. He has to eat other humans to survive; of course he’s horrified. But like many a hero down the long line since Shinji Ikari, it’s over-the-top and overdone. A more subtle, internalized struggle would be more effective and a better read. Instead he’s excessively emotive, whines pathetically (I think he has every right to be upset, but this is the way he’s written), and then all of a sudden is a total bad ass. There seem to be only two types of heroes available for shonen titles – the woe-is-me scrawny kid who is secretly over-powered and kicks ass without any build up; and the tough-guy-with-a-heart-of-gold who is also secretly over-powered but at least has to work for it. Between the two, I prefer the latter; they’re written better. I honestly can’t tell where this series is going. Will the murderous flesh eaters be humanized? Will the ultra violent, out of control ghouls be pitted against those who control, ration, and attempt to fit in with humans? There’s hints of both. There definitely seems to be a group of them that believes they can live relatively peacefully among humans. I say relatively, because they still apparently kill and eat humans (although to be ‘fair’, they seem to pick people who ‘deserve’ to die, while other ghouls kill at random). If you’re here for my opinion, I found it boring. And while the art during normal scenes is pretty good, any action on the page becomes an indecipherable blur. I found it utterly uninteresting, and Ken doesn’t pull me in at all. That said, I’m mostly apathetic about it. It’s a lot of style without much substance, and if you’re at all familiar with my tastes and my other reviews, you know that sort of story does nothing for me. Whatever theme the series is trying to get across doesn’t interest me (are ghouls really monsters, etc.), because I’ve seen it done better in other stories, and I’d rather read those.
Review copy provided by Viz Media.