Review: Tokyo Ghoul [Days] (Vol 1)

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In a world where humans and ghouls live side by side, it’s by no means is peaceful. Humans, fearful for their lives being cut short by the human-eating Ghouls, and Ghouls live with their true natures hidden trying to avoid the CCG. Six short stories document the relationships between humans and ghouls, and their complicated natures. We have a concerned Hide, an intrigued Tsukiyama, and a conflicted Touka as they live their day-to-day lives—welcome to Tokyo Ghoul [Days].

Tokyo Ghoul [Days] is the first volume of the Tokyo Ghoul light novels. Based on the characters and setting of the manga series by Sui Ishida, Shin Towada has reimagined these familiar characters for the novels. Published by Viz in October 2016, translation is done by Morgan Giles. This book is a collection of six short stories, focused on several loosely-interlaced events: Hide joining the Occult Research Club as they observe Kaneki under suspicion of being a ghoul, Touka getting in a fight with her best (human) friend Yoriko, a young Tsukiyama befriending(?) a girl with a somewhat twisted personality, Ikuma Momochi who has just moved to Tokyo, Hinami visiting a local library, and the unlucky Kazuo Yoshida.

Like most books of this nature—spin-offs of popular and well-known manga and/or anime—there is an innate understanding that the audience is already familiar with these characters and their relationships, so very little is done in the way of exposition. This world of humans and ghouls and their precarious interactions is already assumed by the book, so this is not one for people with no background at all to the main series. This book also includes characters introduced in the Tokyo Ghoul:re manga, so it is recommended you are up to date with the English release of the manga to read this.

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The Bible opens this book with Hide and Kaneki hanging out. Friends since elementary school, the two are closer than anything, except Hide has noticed a change in his best friend since his accident a month before. He’s more distant and can’t stand the taste of his favourite food anymore; he’s still recovering from the trauma, Hide rationalises. But his university’s Occult Research Club seems to think that Kaneki is a ghoul—the upperclassmen’s evidence? The lack of eating on campus. Perturbed at the idea that his best friend may be one of the violent monsters always on the news, he tries to convince them of his best friend’s innocence, to no avail. It gets so out of hand that one of the online members of the club, Cain, wants them to start night surveillance after he gets off work, dragging Hide along. Unsure on how he can help Kaneki, he feels defeated, but the unlikely advice of a street busker gives him a renewed inspiration, and he comes up with a plan. Things get crazy, but Hide is clear on his priorities. It’s nice to see the friendship from his perspective, and it’s a great way to start.

This is followed by Lunch Boxes, where Touka’s friend Yoriko is being bullied for her eagerness in their friendship. Motivated by jealousy, the bullying girls pour salt on the wound as they mention how unenthused the secret ghoul is at the pair’s plans to visit a theme park, and how unhappy she looks every time Yoriko shares her homemade food with her. Due to Touka’s own doubts at how ‘passable’ she is as a human and her tendency to jump to the worst conclusions, a series of misunderstandings leads to a fight between them. Unsure at how to proceed, it’s only once Touka realises her own insecurities that she can start to make amends—helped by Kaneki in making her own lunch boxes to share, even though human food is absolutely disgusting and undigestable to her. Compared to the friendship between Hide and Kaneki, who are well-established and both started as human, Touka and Yoriko are from two different worlds, at the very start of a close friendship. It’s proof that things can work out, despite the differences, and humans and ghouls aren’t so fundamentally different when they feel the same emotions.

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Photograph is the third short story, and also the only one not in the same time frame as the other stories. In this, Shu Tsukiyama is in high school where he meets Chie Hori, who photographs him feeding. The odd girl seems relaxed about knowing one of her classmates is a murderous monster, and in reaction to her attitude, rather than killing her to keep her silence, he brings her to a hospital where a nurse is abusing one of the elderly patients. Tsukiyama isn’t revealing this abuse purely for good intentions, but because he wants to eat the delicate skin of an elderly man—as his gourmet tastes demand. Even threatening Hori’s life, she’s unperturbed at the possibility, instead more dedicated to taking her photos. From this event a strange but respectful friendship between the two is born, which persists far into adulthood.

To the Capital follows Ikuma Momochi, a small-town ghoul who has moved to Tokyo to pursue his music career. The mild-mannered man wants nothing to do with other ghouls and actively avoids places where they gather (including Anteiku). The reason for this is that he prefers living peacefully in human society, having been raised by a human mother his entire life. His mother, a doctor, saved him shortly after the death of her husband and only baby son—helping his birth mother protect him whilst she ran from the CCG. Although the ghoul woman escaped from the investigators, she was found dead on the shore, and the grieving doctor is faced with a decision. Taking the second chance presented, she raises Ikuma as her own son, bringing him bodies for food and loving him as her own. As such, he’s never hunted for food himself and has no want to cause harm to humans, at total odds with most other ghouls. In the city he scavenges from the recently dead in popular suicide spots, but soon finds himself getting pulled into interactions with other ghouls. His life is sometimes hard as he tries to balance both parts of his identity, but his music is helping.

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The fifth story is Bookmark, which has Kaneki and Touka taking Hinami to a library for more books to read. When she’s there, she meets a boy a couple years younger, who questions why she’s having such a hard time reading simple books. Most ghouls are illiterate, thanks to not attending schooling of any kind, so it’s not that unusual, but Hinami is embarrassed regardless. Upset, they leave the library shortly after (once Kaneki convinces Touka not to fight a small child), but the experience doesn’t discourage the young girl at all. Instead, it seems to make Hinami want to get better and better at reading, and the next time she meets the same boy he apologises for being rude. He gives her a bookmark with a four-leaf clover, and the two become good friends each time as they continue to meet. Things take a turn though, when a group of teens decide to harass Hinami and her friend from the library and the secret of Hinami, Touka and Kaneki isn’t hidden quite well enough.

The final story is more so a minor addition rather than a full-fledged chapter with Yoshida following Kazuo Yoshida a ghoul with the worst luck. He’s a gym trainer with an amazing body but ugly face, and so when a young woman from the fitness group seems interested in him, he’s immediately hooked. All is not as it seems though, and truly his luck is just the worst.

Tokyo Ghoul [Days] balances a variety of relationships between human and ghoul characters from the Tokyo Ghoul world. It’s a strong addition to the story that fans already love, and flesh out many of the character dynamics for more complexity. This book is not suitable for people who aren’t familiar with the original manga series, and be wary for minor spoilers for the :re manga.

Gee’s Rating: Recommended for fans.

You can purchase this book online via sites like Amazon (available in paperback or as an ebook) and Book Depository (which offers free worldwide shipping). These are affiliate links, so a small percentage of sales goes toward this site.

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