Tokyo Ghoul Vol 1
Shueisha Inc (Japanese original) 2011; Viz Media (English translation) June 2015
Writer: Sui Ishida
Review by DG Stewart, 8 January 2016
“Kodokushi” is the Japanese word for “lonely death”: a common enough phenomenon in Japan where haunting alienation from the community is prevalent as a consequence of, amongst other things, Japan’s extended economic stagnation. Many Japanese people, particularly unemployed and middle-aged men, die alone and unnoticed, and it is such an issue that Tokyo’s Shinjuku ward began a lonely-death awareness campaign.
Mr Ishida’s anime comic is concerned not with elderly men dying a lonely death, but with a young, awkward student named Ken Kaneki. Ken attends the imaginary Kamii University, located in Nerima ward in Tokyo. He is hopeless with girls, and hides in the shadow of his good childhood friend, the extroverted Hide. A pretty young woman named Rize slowly becomes interested in Ken, as a consequence of a mutual interest in a sinister book entitled “Egg of the Black Goat”. The two end up walking together down an alley. Rize leans in, apparently nervous, and then abruptly transforms into a ghoul and takes an enormous bite out of Ken’s shoulder and neck. The alley is otherwise empty: Ken’s version of kodokushi will be more horrific than most, but yet not an unexpected thing in Tokyo.