Review: Tokyo Ghoul [Past] (Vol 3)

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Before the disastrous events leading to Ken Kaneki being drawn into the center of the battle between humans and ghouls. In this book, we follow multiple characters from the beloved manga series in their lives prior to the main series, giving some insight into their personalities and motivations in six short stories. Welcome to a world where Kaneki is still human, the Kirishima siblings still live together, and Rise is still feasting freely—welcome to Tokyo Ghoul [Past].

Tokyo Ghoul [Past] is the third and final volume of the Tokyo Ghoul light novels. Inspired by the manga series by Sui Ishida, the story is written by Shin Towada. Viz Media published the book in 2017, with translation done by Morgan Giles. This book is a collection of six short stories, focused on several small groups of familiar characters from the manga: Touka and Ayato Kirishima, Kaneki and his best friend Hide, Rize and Banjo, Akira Mado and her father Kureo, Kimi and Nishiki, and Koma working at Anteiku.

Like the previous books in this series, it is assumed you know the setting and characters featured. If you have no background to the manga or anime, there’s no exposition to help you out.

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The first story, Different Kind, follows the Kirishima siblings when they were still living together. After losing their father, Touka has attached herself to the idea of withdrawing completely from human society—a safe tactic to prevent drawing attention to themselves. The duo feel no fear killing humans indiscriminately, and the young teen struggles with her need for vengeance against humans and the CCG who killed her father, fighting other ghouls looking for trouble, and the want to protect her brother and herself from the outside world. All of this comes to a head when she runs into a young lost human boy and his father. She sees a lot of parallels between the young child and her own situation, and starts to realize that ghouls and humans aren’t so different. It’s a well-done short story, and establishes how and why the two siblings are so at odds in the manga. This is the first step to seeing the Touka that fans are familiar with, and opens very effectively.

Story two is Solitary Reading, which is set when the series’ main protagonist, Ken Kaneki, is still in high school. In this, we’re witness to the routine abuse he’s subjected to in his Aunt’s home. After the untimely death of his mother several years before leaving him an orphan, the quiet, bookish teen has been living in his mother’s sister’s home. His Aunt, it appears, hated her sister—and by extension, Ken himself. She ignores him almost completely, and he’s acutely aware that he’s not welcome in the house. It’s only thanks to his mother’s motto of preferring to be a person who is hurt, rather than being a person who hurts people that he puts up with it—and it’s also this that makes him realise how abused she too had been throughout her life. Even so, he has his beloved memories of his mother and his beloved books from his father as a solace. It’s only after his Aunt throws out all of his precious books that his resolve cracks, broken, and his best friend Hide stands up to the woman himself. This story is probably my favorite within this collection, and it highlights the strong friendship between Kaneki and Hide very well, and why the two value each other so much. It’s also an interesting slice of Kaneki’s human life before meeting Rize.

Femme Fatale is the third short story focusing on Banjo’s interactions with ‘binge-eater’ Rize when they both lived in the 11th ward. As a recent addition to the neighborhood, her messy and destructive hunting and eating habits is causing problems for the local ghouls who work hard to stay low-profile from the CCG. When another body is found by the seaside, the beautiful woman is blamed for it, and Banjo finds it unjust that it’s assumed she’s the culprit without indisputable proof. Trying to find the true culprit, he and a few friends start their search—and he admits his admiration of her freedom, unworried about the danger of drawing attention to herself. The story is short and to the point, and rather than being about the actual events shown, is more so used to show Banjo’s character personality and respect.

Story four is Insincerity, taking place during Akira’s days at the CCG academy. She’s treated with a level of irritation thanks to the reputation of both her mother and father, and her to-the-point attitude makes it hard for her to get along with other recruits and senior officers both. One night she meets with a young boy who reported a ghoul after surviving a run-in in an act of quick-thinking, and learns about his wish for revenge against the ‘ladybug masked’ ghoul who murdered his father. Seeing parts of herself in this younger boy, she finds herself trying to fulfill his revenge and prove herself as a CCG member. This also helps her realize the own need for her to mature and improve, and the relationship she has with the people around her. For a character as emotionally awkward as Akira, it’s nice seeing her grow with these realizations.

Matching is the fifth and penultimate story in this book, and is primarily focused on Kimi Nishio as she struggles with the sudden death of her entire immediate family in a traffic accident. After the shock of losing her family hits her, the first-year university student wonders why she was the only one to survive on, and questions why continue to study to become a doctor, if everyone she cares the most about is already beyond saving. It’s at this point, when she’s still stuck in a fog, that she meets Nishiki Nishio, another student. His easy-going personality and friendly demeanor helps her deal with her daily life and grief—as he didn’t know her before, he doesn’t know about her family’s death, and it’s easier for them to spend time together without the expected pity. Considering the relationship these two have in the manga series, it’s interesting to see how it started here in this story, and why Kimi is so devoted and unafraid of the possibilities. This short is another stand-out part of the book, and definitely one that fans will likely value the expansion to.

The final story is Devil Ape, which follows the former leader of the ghoul gang the Apes, Kamo, as he starts working at the popular coffee shop Anteiku. In his previous role he was the feared leader of the group, known as Devil Ape, but now he’s working on little more than cleaning at the cafe. Initially he finds it insulting that’s he’s being treated this way, but Kamo is nothing if not enthusiastic at giving everything an honest effort and try. After a short while, he grows a huge respect for the process of cleaning and its many adaptabilities, and shares the things he’s learning with the other Ape members. Through this they also learn ways to also exist seamlessly within human society and find work, and quickly they all start to find better lives for themselves. The whole process is a learning curve, and when Kamo’s finally able to brew coffee himself, it’s almost a religious experience. Kamo realises that his role at the coffee shop has been put in place to help him grow, and that it’s the same when rival gang leader Irimi also joins Anteiku. It’s an interesting look into the lives of very sidelined characters, but highlights the importance of Anteiku in the role of bringing ghouls and humans together.

Tokyo Ghoul [Past] is a nice collection of short story prequels about a bunch of characters within the Tokyo Ghoul world. For existing fans of the franchise, it gives interesting depth to many characters and relationships that have already been established. This book is not suitable for people who aren’t familiar with the original manga series, but as it is made up entirely of prequel stories it does not have any spoilers for those who have not finished the manga either. Definitely check it out if you’re a fan!!

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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