The World of Tokyo Ghoul, Explained

By Jonna Miller

If you liked Tokyo Ghoul when it first aired back in 2015, but you’re having a little trouble following Tokyo Ghoul:re, don’t worry! We’ve got just the thing for you.

This ultimate recap blog will explain the differences between the manga and anime, laying out the overarching story which is incredible, beautiful, and worthy of a thorough explanation.

SPOILER WARNING: There will be many spoilers. This blog is broken down by season/part, and we’ll try to contain each season’s spoilers to its respective section. This recap stops at Tokyo Ghoul:re Episode 16.

Let’s kick it off with a handy chart explaining how the manga and anime generally align:

Tokyo Ghoul | Tokyo Ghoul √A | Tokyo Ghoul:re | Tokyo Ghoul:re Part 2

While some of those manga chapters aren’t exactly aligned with the anime, you’ll definitely get the general idea. We’re well aware that the manga and anime don’t 100% reflect each other, but they’re surprisingly close. So let’s break it down:

Tokyo Ghoul Season 1:

The story, TLDR: Ken Kaneki gets turned into a half-ghoul and struggles to accept his grim new life while becoming friends with fellow ghouls. He gets kidnapped by a ghoul organization and tortured for fun.

The story in depth: For the most part, the anime and manga go hand-in-hand in this season to present the story of Ken Kaneki, a quiet bookworm, who gets ghoul organs transplanted into his body after a freak accident. Now, this former human has to eat human flesh to keep from going ravenous, and gets pulled into ghoul society through a coffee shop/ghoul safehouse.

Pursuing the ghouls are the investigators of the CCG—a human organization dedicated to wiping out all ghouls. As Kaneki makes friends with ghouls, the audience quickly sees that there’s inhumanity on both sides of the battle, and it would take a half-ghoul to unite the two sides.

What you may have missed: One thing we see in the manga that’s not in the anime, is when Kaneki and his ghoul friend, Touka, go undercover as high school students and infiltrate the CCG to spread false information. There, we’re first introduced to the Rc gates, which Kaneki successfully passes through undetected. The whole arc is very faithfully depicted in the live action movie, which is pretty darn good, as far as live action adaptations go. Check it out if you’d like to see the full scenario!

Kaneki’s mental state at the end: Ken Kaneki survives torture at the hands of an up-and-coming ghoul organization, Aogiri Tree. The trauma causes this kind bookworm’s demeanor to change (illustrated by his white hair). He now values his survival over his humanity, and believes that consuming ghouls is the only way to protect himself and those he loves.

Tokyo Ghoul Season 2, Root A:

TLDR: Kaneki sets out to become stronger, cannibalizing other ghouls until he loses touch with his humanity. In the end, he’s at the mercy of Arima—the reaper of the CCG.

The story in depth, according to the manga:

Kaneki leaves the coffee shop/ghoul safehouse (Anteiku) to form his own squad of ghouls. Their goal is to destroy the ghoul organization, Aogiri Tree, and uncover more details about the incident that turned Kaneki into a ghoul. The CCG shares similar goals, leading to a showdown in an underground laboratory where Kaneki learns that Rize—his ghoul organ donor—is still alive. But a member of Anteiku takes Rize away.

Later, the CCG learns that the legendary One-Eyed Owl runs Anteiku, and they launch an attack. (Actually, the CCG realizes there are two Owls. One is old man Yoshimura, and the other is his half-ghoul daughter, Eto.) Kaneki jumps in to help his ghoul fam. He goes toe-to-toe with investigator Amon—the tall, handsome guy with fantastic eyebrows—who then disappears in the line of duty along with another young investigator, Takizawa.

Meanwhile, Kaneki recuperates in the sewers, where he meets his dear human friend, Hide. The audience is led to believe that Kaneki consumes his friend for nourishment. Shortly after, the reaper of the CCG, Arima, finds Kaneki and lances him through the brain and both eyes. Kaneki essentially dies.

In the end: Some investigators’ bodies are missing, Anteiku disbands, Touka sets up a new café called :re, and old man Yoshimura’s body is in the hands of the doctor responsible for Kaneki’s ghoulificaton. We learn that a group of ghouls called the Clowns are behind Rize’s “freak accident.” Finally, a new investigator introduces himself—his name is Haise Sasaki (and he looks just like Ken Kaneki. The audience has no idea how he survived or why he’s an investigator.)

Kaneki’s mental state at the end: Blocking Hide’s grim fate from his mind, Kaneki downright loses it when Arima stabs him in the brain, falling into an internal discussion with his childhood self. In this discussion, he realizes that his purpose for becoming stronger was never about protecting others, but instead it was intended to keep his friends from dying so that he wouldn’t be alone. He sees this as cowardice and feels that he disappointed his younger-self, who truly wanted to help others.

The story in depth, according to the anime:

Kaneki leaves the coffee shop to join Aogiri Tree. Their goal is to free an imprisoned ghoul who has ties to Rize, while the CCG’s goal is to find information about the One-Eyed Owl.

This leads to a showdown at the ghoul prison, Cochlea, where the ghoul named Shachi is freed. (He also appeared in the manga during the laboratory fight.)

Later, the CCG learns that the legendary One-Eyed Owl runs Anteiku, and they launch an attack. Kaneki jumps in to help his ghoul fam, going toe-to-toe with investigator Amon.

Injured, Kaneki gets brought back to the coffee shop by his dear human friend, Hide, who dies from a fatal injury. We then witness a poetic scene where Kaneki carries Hide’s body through carnage. Along the way, we catch glimpses of damaged weapons, indicating that some investigators disappeared in the line of duty. Kaneki then confronts the reaper of the CCG, Arima, and the scene ends before either one makes a move.

In the end: Some investigators’ bodies are missing, Anteiku disbands, and Touka sets up a new café called :re.

Tokyo Ghoul:re Part 1:

TLDR: His memories wiped, Kaneki goes by the name “Haise Sasaki”, working for the CCG and answering to Arima. As Haise trains a squad of people with ghoul-like abilities, he slowly regains his memories.

The story, in depth: Two years after the events of Tokyo Ghoul, a young man named Haise Sasaki works as an investigator in the CCG. Haise suffers from amnesia and is, in fact, Ken Kaneki, who was accepted into the CCG and trained to be an investigator by the reaper, Arima. Haise is tasked with developing an investigator who can surpass Arima’s skill level, thus he’s put in charge of the Quinx (Q) Squad—a new experimental team of humans with ghoul abilities.

The diverse personalities on the Q Squad give Haise a run for his money, and as he struggles to keep the team functioning, Haise also struggles to keep his own mental well-being in order. Every battle brings more and more of Kaneki’s memories back, like when his team fails to capture the serial murderer, Torso, then again, when they raid a human-auctioning house.

During the auction raid, Haise confronts someone named Takizawa. This was one of the CCG investigators who disappeared in the line of duty at the end of Root A, and the audience now realizes he’s been turned into a half-ghoul. Aogiri Tree nicknames him “Owl”, and he overpowers Haise, causing Haise to rely on Kaneki’s strength.

Haise also finds himself drawn to his past by the ghouls who were once friends with Kaneki. There’s the beautiful girl at the café, :re, whom the audience recognizes as Touka. Then there’s Hinami, the little ghoul Kaneki saved in Season 1, who has decided to join Aogiri Tree. During the Auction House raid, Hinami steps in to save Haise, and he asks that the CCG spare her life. Finally, there’s the Gourmet ghoul, Tsukiyama, who longs for a taste of the Kaneki he once knew.

When the Gourmet reaches out to Haise, the CCG discovers that the Tsukiyama household is a wealthy ghoul family with influence in many industries. The CCG launches an attack, and during the fight, Haise is nearly killed by one of Tsukiyama’s servants. This causes Kaneki’s memories to fully return, his hair turning completely black. Then, the One-Eyed Owl (Eto) arrives, and Kaneki consumes a portion of her Kagune to power up.

What you may have missed: In the manga, it is stated that physical harm causes a ghoul to become stronger, because the wounds are healed with Rc cells. This may help explain the power scaling of ghouls, and why Kaneki, who gets beaten up and tortured many times, has become so strong.

Kaneki’s mental state at the end: Haise Sasaki fears that his happy life will end, once he remembers Ken Kaneki. During the Tsukiyama raid, he holds an internal dialogue with Kaneki, who recalls being abused as a child and admits to wishing he’d died back when he first fought the reaper, Arima.

Having survived that encounter, Kaneki now wishes to help others before dying again, and to do so, he must give up the dream of being Haise. With his memories restored, Kaneki exudes a brutality that helps him survive, but also a tenderness towards ghouls—as seen when he allows Tsukiyama to escape.

Tokyo Ghoul:re Part 2:

TLDR: Ken Kaneki uncovers the mysteries behind Aogiri Tree and the CCG, deciding his own path as he rises up to face the One-Eyed King—the rumored leader of Aogiri Tree.

The story in depth: Six months after the Tsukiyama raid, Kaneki is now an associate special investigator and is known for his brutality in the field. He captures the famous author Sen Takatuski, whom he now realizes is Eto, the One-Eyed Owl, and a leader of Aogiri Tree. She reveals to Kaneki that the heads of the CCG are ghouls, and that there is a secret organization called “V” working behind the scenes to keep the status quo between humans and ghouls.

Although he poses as Haise in the beginning, Kaneki frees Hinami from prison, proving his true intention is to now help ghouls. He does it knowing full well he’ll have to face Arima, believing this to be his last act of goodwill. But during the chaos at the prison, Kaneki sees Touka again, reviving his will to survive Arima’s deadly attacks. (His hair now turns completely white.) However, when Kaneki refuses to land the finishing blow, Arima slashes his own throat. In his dying words, he passes the truth of everything along to Kaneki, including the identity of the One-Eyed King. Eto also breaks out of the prison, allowing other ghouls to escape, but she is killed in the process.

Meanwhile, the CCG launches an attack on the island of Rushima, the headquarters of Aogiri Tree. There, one of the leaders of Aogiri Tree is killed by Takizawa (the former investigator-turned-ghoul). Takizawa goes on a killing spree until he’s stopped by Amon—another former CCG investigator who disappeared at the end of Root A and was turned into a half-ghoul. It’s soon revealed that a laboratory is located on the island, where humans are getting turned into half-ghouls like Kaneki.

Kaneki’s mental state at the end: We didn’t want to spoil everything. Experience the end of Tokyo Ghoul first-hand!

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