The following review is spoiler-free, so read without fear. Volume 1 of Tokyo Ghoul:re provided courtesy of VIZ Media.
Ohayo, minasan! Hot on the heels of the smash-hit English-language release for Sui Ishida’s Tokyo Ghoul manga series, VIZ Media is keeping up the Donner Party momentum with Tokyo Ghoul:re. The sequel follows Haise Sasaki, a Ghoul Investigator in the Ghoul Countermeasure Bureau (CCG).
Sasaki has been tasked with teaching the Quinx Squad, humans inplanted with ghouls’ Kagune (predatory organ that functions as their weapon and claws), how to be outstanding investigators. Already a difficult task, it’s complicated by the troublesome personalities of Sasaki’s students and his own uncertain grasp of his Ghoul powers. Can he pull them together as a team, or will Qs Squad first assignment be their last?
Tokyo Ghoul:re is set in a world nearly identical to ours, save for a horrifying species known as Ghouls (literally translated from the Japanese gūru, or “eater species”) that prey on humanity and one another. Ghouls look identical to humans with just one exception—red eyes—making contacts the obvious accessory of choice for the community. The series, set three years after the original, introduces us to a host of delightfully terrifying characters and brings back familiar faces from Tokyo Ghoul.
First and foremost is Haise Sasaki, whom Tokyo Ghoul fans will get a very familiar vibe from in the first few chapters alone (that’s not a spoiler, it’s a hint). Sasaki gives us a fascinating looking-glass perspective in comparison to the original manga series; where Tokyo Ghoul centered on a young man who becomes half-Ghoul and desperately tries to bridge the two worlds, :re focuses in on the CCG. As the protagonists, we get to see how they truly view Ghouls and the lengths their willing to go to eradicate them. Sui Ishida’s script-flipping opens up so many avenues for the story to evolve.
Then there’s the Qs Squad themselves, a band of misfits somehow even stranger than any from the previous series; the roguish hothead Urie who wants nothing to do with his squadmates; Shirazu, the loyal odd duck with a strange affinity for Urie; and Mutsuki, who’s quite possibly the most interesting new character. Her Red Child (Rc) cell count—the basis for all Ghouls’ powers—is still that of a normal human unlike every other Quinx Squad member, which forces her to primarily use a Quinque in battle. For a series expanding on the accidental Kagune transplant that gave Kaneki Ghoul abilities, Mutsuki’s the one to watch.
The Quinx Squad’s powers themselves are a tasty twist on the familiar; up until now, members of the CCG have been exclusively using Quinque, technological weapons crafts from extracted Ghoul Kagune. Sure, there was variety in the weapons and their abilities, but predictable plot points since they had to be held. Now that there are multiple Kaneki-esque half-Ghouls running around, the stakes have never been higher!
Amongst the returning characters, fan-favorite Akira Mado bridges the two Ghoul manga series together better than almost any other. Readers familiar with Tokyo Ghoul know her as the daughter of Kureo Mado, the delightful, Ghoul-obsessed mad scientist First Class Investigator who met a poetically beautiful end in the original series. Akira still displays that inner turmoil over her profession-of-choice and relationship with her now-deceased father that adds so much flavor to the plot.
We also see Ayato from Aogiri Tree, the Ghoul supremacy terrorist organization waging open warfare on the CCG in Tokyo Ghoul, along with his sister Touka at the :re coffee shop. In case you’re not familiar with Tokyo Ghoul, coffee is the only thing Ghouls can digest besides humans and each other—kind of cute, right? That double-trouble are joined by barista (and one of my all-time favorite characters) Renji Yomo, the stone-faced guardian from the original Anteiku shop. We even get a quick appearance from Tsukiyama, the Gourmet Ghoul himself! Is it weird to say I’ve missed his highbrow cannibalism?
As with the original series, Sui Ishida’s writing and art style continue to sink their claws into you and never let go. Tokyo Ghoul:re balances tight action with subtle character development/exposition so seamlessly that you forget you’re reading a manga and not watching a horror flick. Much of that can be attributed to the line work in each panel, becoming borderline manic during a tense confrontation between the CCG and a Ghoul only to settle down quietly like a moonlit lake one sequence later. These unexpected peaks and valleys in the action keep you on your toes from the first page all the way to the last.
High praise should also be given to the depiction of gore in Tokyo Ghoul:re, which is never violence for violence’s sake. That’s one pratfall Ishida will never succumb to—the man’s just too good at horror with meaning.
The only real flaw in the Tokyo Ghoul:re premiere lies in the fact that the series isn’t a standalone—you can’t just pick it up and digest the gory wonder without previous knowledge from Tokyo Ghoul. This first volume is packed with tons of information, between new characters, recalling past events from the original series, ongoing investigations of new Ghouls, and the mystery surrounding Sasaki, but there’s still that gatekeeper issue. Even where a great job is done making everything unique and wonderful about Tokyo Ghoul:re perfectly digestible, there are still junctions that assume you’ve read Tokyo Ghoul.
Then again, even if you haven’t, the high praise in this review should tell you you’ve been missing out on something awesome. Tokyo Ghoul:re at its start is everything Tokyo Ghoul was: A gritty, engaging examination of the human condition through the lens of horror with surprising dark humor moments. It goes without saying that I’m hooked once again and can’t wait to get my paws on Volume 2!
Anxious to get your hands on a copy of Tokyo Ghoul:re Volume 1? Well, guess what? We’ve got your back—nerdslant is giving away one copy to a lucky winner! To be entered in the contest, go to our Facebook page and follow the instructions on the giveaway post. I’ll be selecting the winner on the day of its release: October 17th. You can check out the first chapter for free from VIZ Media.
Tokyo Ghoul:re Volume 1
- Sui Ishida's writing and art style are better than ever.
- All the delightful gore and in-depth storytelling of the original manga.
- An intriguing new cast of characters along with old, familiar faces.
- Story requires you to have in-depth knowledge of the original manga series.