"If, for argument's sake, you were to write a story with me in the lead role, it would certainly be a tragedy."
- Ken Kaneki
Tokyu Ghoul is an ongoing seinen manga series that mixes together elements of horror and action, starting off with references to The Metamorphosis, but quickly switching into a tragic story about the circle of violence between humans and ghouls. An anime adaptation from Studio Pierrot debuted in Summer 2014.Your average bookworm, Ken Kaneki, has fallen for a beautiful woman. After a few dates, said woman reveals herself to be a monster known as a "ghoul", a creature in human form that feeds on human flesh. Having taken the time to trap him, she prepares to eat him when a falling girder smashes her to bits and leaves Kaneki horribly injured. Saved through a transplant of organs from the dead woman, Kaneki is left with the inability to eat normal food and a hunger that just won't go away. It doesn't take long before Kaneki realizes what's happened to him, and the far-reaching implications of being a person who belongs to both the human and the ghoul world..
This manga provides examples of:
Abusive Parents: A unique variant in Kaneki's aunt, because it's the sort of abuse that's nearly impossible to prove or get the authorities involved in. Kaneki's aunt was selfish and constantly asked his mother for help when tight on money despite them not being that much more well off so she took Kaneki in when his mom died of exhaustion, partially blaming herself. When she takes him in, she quickly grows jealous of how he's a better student than her son, stops giving him as much food, eventually only gives him the bare minimum money he needs to go out and buy it himself, until her house becomes nothing more than a roof to sleep under for him.
Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: Suzuya's first two chapters has him slaughtering a gang of ghouls for fun, sucking out a police officer's eardrum and squashing it for wasting his time, and stealing Kaneki's wallet.
Asshole Victim: As a general rule, if a character is a Jerkass, be they Ghoul or Human, chances are they will die horrifically.
This also applies to the CCG, as their default uniform are suits and ties.
Badass Normal: The Doves. They're all human, yet fight head to head with ghouls regularly and manage to defeat them mainly with their experience and skill. Not to mention the weapons they've made from fallen ghoul kagune.
Becoming the Mask: A literal case for Kaneki. As masks in the ghoul world reflect both personality and fighting style of their wearers, Uta making such a monstrous leather mask for the soft-spoken Kaneki seemed like a mismatch. However, as the story progresses, Kaneki grows to become just the fierce and savage character his mask exudes.
Uta is an interesting subversion: despite his intimidating looks, Kaneki notes how gentle he is. Zig-zagged when he's then told that Uta used to be a violent delinquent and that he and Yomo were responsible for wrecking the 4th ward back in the day.
You could argue that Yoshimura and the workers of Anteiku are this as well, since they hide their ghoul natures under a veneer of polite respectability.
Black Eyes of Evil: The biggest tell if someone is a ghoul. Their eyes go black when especially hungry or using their powers.
Black and Grey Morality: The majority of ghouls kill humans without hesitation. Humans generally kill ghouls indiscriminately due to how easily they can be killed by ghouls' kagune. The few ghouls that don't kill humans are either killed by ghouls due to being weaker and involved in territorial disputes or by humans so they can be stripped of their kagune so they can be manufactured into anti-Ghoul weapons.
Blue and Orange Morality: Played with. Several ghouls that have fully accepted their nature see humans as nothing more than prey of some sort and don't really believe in good or evil. Ghouls closer to humans, however, mostly follow these beliefs as a way to cope with killing humans to survive.
Bridal Carry: Kaneki does this to Touka after he swoops in to save her after she was defeated by her brother Ayato.
Body Horror: The ghoul's kagune. They don't match their mostly human appearance, instead being crimson insectoid limbs that tear out of the ghoul's body.
Book Dumb: Most ghouls are this, as most never went to school.
Break the Cutie: Just look at the main quote. Poor Kaneki deserves a massive hug.
Arguably, every ghoul's childhood backstory will have this due to the two-tier society they were born into. Even the most sociopathic ghouls were normal children until their families were betrayed by friends and neighbours and hunted mercilessly by the CCG.
Cannibalism Superpower: Ghouls become more powerful by eating more and more. It's not exactly cannibalism since they're not originally human, except in the case of Kaneki. There are a few ghouls that do feed on their own kind, however, but it's not known if they gain strength from this.
In fact, ghouls do gain power from cannibalizing other ghouls, though it's implied its at the cost of one's sanity. Cannibal ghouls are known as Awakened (Kakujya), and look like monsters as their kagune forms a sort of armour around the body. Kakujya ghouls also heal near-instantaneously and have ridiculous fighting power.
Crazy Consumption: Tsukiyama to the other ghouls. He's absolutely obsessed with eating.
Character Tic: Kaneki cracks his index finger before he enters into his ass-kicking 'ghoul mode'. A troubling example of He Who Fights Monsters as Kaneki adopted from Yamori, who himself emulated the gesture from an insane CCG officer.
Combat Pragmatist: How the members of the CCG operates, as humans against ghouls whose strength and power ranges from 4-7 times of that of an adult human wouldn't last in a fair fight. As Mado had put it, ""Even 'cowardice' can be forgiven in the name of 'justice.'"
Cursed with Awesome: Kaneki's ghoul transformation gives him superior strength and reflexes, along with a powerful weapon organ he can use to fight.
Blessed with Suck: On the other hand, using his powers makes him hunger for human flesh, and the only things he can digest anymore are human meat, coffee and water.
Cycle of Revenge: The fighting between humans and ghouls, started by ghouls giving into their hunger for human flesh. Heck this may be the series' Central Theme.
The CCG encourages this, by raising orphans killed by ghouls.
Dead Person Conversation: Kaneki sees Rize often in his head, especially in times of distress and intense emotional pain. Until he learns that she is not dead at all.
Despair Event Horizon: After torturing Kaneki for days, Yamori decides to renege on their deal and brings in a mother and child that Kaneki gave himself up to protect. Yamori says he's going to kill one of them and threatens Kaneki to choose which one will live or else he'll kill them both. Kaneki hesitates, so Yamori proceeds to kill them both. The incident broke Kaneki in ways days of physical torture couldn't...
Deceased Parents Arethe Best: Deconstructed with Kaneki's mother because if she had refused to support her sister, she would still be alive.
Disposing of a Body: The Anteiku acts as a "soup" kitchen for ghouls, so left over bodies are brought over, butchered and stored away in their fridge.
Disproportionate Retribution: Suzuya is quick to violence for minor offense. For example, when a cop arrests him for carrying a bloody weapon and doesn't believe he's a dove, he sucks out his ear drum and then stomps on it.
Ear Ache: Suzuya is introduced proper licking and sucking out a rude police officer's eardrum.
Eat the Evidence: Ghouls manage to stay hidden by eating the entire body of their victims. Sometimes, they just find people that have killed themselves and eat that over a living person, because there's less chance someone will miss that person and less chance of law enforcement becoming involved.
Eyepatch of Power: Kaneki starts wearing one when he has trouble controlling the color of his left eye. Subverted with his mask, which covers the other, non-ghoul eye. The designer made it that way so he could see Kaneki's hidden eye properly.
Fantastic Racism: Humans against ghouls, understandingly. When Kaneki and Touka ask someone at the police HQ about the mother and child ghoul case while under cover, she replies that it's perfectly okay to kill the child because she's a ghoul with an unflinching smile.
Food Porn: Inverted. There's a lot of detailed food items in the series, but many of them are made with human meat, even some sugar cubes Kaneki uses with his coffee. Some are outright human parts, like an eye Tsukiyama eats from a famous woman.
Gory Discretion Shot: In the anime, the worst injuries are obscured from the audience. In the manga, not so much.
Half-Human Hybrid: Kaneki and the mysterious "one-eye," the only known hybrid by birth, if he really exists.
He Who Fights Monsters: Kaneki Yamori foreshadows that Kaneki will become like him. Yamori recounts how he came to love inflicting torture as he was once brutally tortured by a sadistic CCG officer himself.
Hidden in Plain Sight: Ghouls live among humans in modern society, with a few characters even going to public schools with human friends.
Human Resources: Humans to ghouls, as not eating humans will eventually cause their hunger to go out of control. In particular, Anteiku collects bodies from suicides for meat and to avoid killing humans, while also bringing less suspicion from authorities.
Idiot Savant: Kaneki's friend Hide seems very dim at first, but he absorbs knowledge easily, as shown when he reads a book on how ghouls function and starts casting theories on a recent case involving a mother and child ghoul. Various other ghouls see him as a possible threat because of this.
I Shall Taunt You: How Kaneki manages to defeat Amon. He goads him into attacking recklessly so his movements will be simpler and easier to dodge.
It's All About Me: Rize tends to act without consideration for others in the ghoul community. After Rize's binge-eating tendencies get the investigators to close in on 11th ward, she skips town to let the other local ghouls fend for themselves.
This comes back to bite her later. She was used to create half ghoul experiments specifically because she was stronger than the average ghoul. By doing whatever she wanted, she brought attention to herself.
Knight Templar: The "doves," human investigators that have absolutely no sympathy for ghouls.
Laughing Mad: After Yamori places a Chinese red-headed centipede into Kaneki's ear, the insect goes to town in Kaneki's brain. Instead of crying out in pain, Kaneki starts cackling insanely.
Morality Chain: Hide for Kaneki, Yoriko to Touka, and Kimi to Nishiki.
Mommy Issues: Kaneki watched his mother slowly work herself death trying to support him and her sister's family.
Mood Whiplash: At the end of each action-packed, blood-soaked volume/episode are short, comedic comics about various characters doing plot-unrelated things. Can also happen mid-action, such as the monstrous butcher, Taro, not knowing how to open a briefcase.
Must Have Caffeine: A darker example with Kaneki while he's first discovering his new eating habits. Coffee is one of the few things he can digest properly besides human meat. As time goes on, he's constantly drinking the stuff with a sugar cube packed with bits of human meat and blood to stay healthy.
Natural Weapon: The ghoul's kagune are predatory organs formed from Rc cells they gain from eating humans. While each kagune is unique to the user (although close family such as siblings can have similar kagune) they fall into one of four categories.
There's also a rare 5th type of ghoul, universally tagged as Chimeras by the CCG, that have multiple Kagune types, and are extremely dangerous to both investigators and other ghouls due to their high degree of versatility.
Obsessed with Food: Tsukiyama, who is a self-named gourmet along with the people at his club. A more normal example would be Touka's friend Yoriko, who constantly makes meals for her, unaware that Touka is a ghoul and can't eat human food properly.
Pay Evil unto Evil: The focus of the mother and child arc. Ultimately, everyone is proven to be part of the problem, both the doves for their cruel hunting, and Touka for killing doves that had nothing to do with the death of the mother ghoul. On top of that, it's hinted at the end that nobody involved was actually evil. Kureo was a loving father, Amon's motivation is based entirely around helping human children, and Touka was simply trying to take down people she saw as evil. Only Kaneki came out as the only true good, attempting to talk to Amon about the situation.
What Kaneki does to the Gourmet Restaurant to solidify his Anti-Hero status post-Aogiri arc.
Suzuya does this to ghouls who mistakenly think he's prey. Also finishes the job Kaneki started on Yamori
Power-Up Food: Humans to ghouls, but not to a particularly impressive level. Half-ghouls, like Kaneki, on the other hand...
Posthumous Character: We get reminded all of the time that Rize was one of the most powerful ghouls and possessed a unique kagune.
Sadist: Possibly Rize. The gourmet club would count as well. Definitely Yamori—he lives to inflict pain on anyone he captures, calling them 'toys'.
Screw Destiny: Touka gives one of these when she stops Kaneki from giving into his hunger, deciding that she doesn't want to see someone fall to the ghoul hunger again.
Shapeshifter Weapon: All ghouls have access to special organs called kagune, which all take different forms for each ghoul.
Ship Tease: In an omake, Kaneki is placed in Cinderella's role and Tsukiyama is the prince. He still wants to eat him.
Social Darwinist: A recurring theme in Tokyo Ghoul is the idea that those who are weak and vulnerable will always be trampled by the strong and privileged. Many ghouls rationalize their existence as superior lifeforms since they are designed to devour human meat to survive.
Spoiler Opening: The opening credits show the images of several characters who haven't appeared yet. They also show Rize in the opening credits, which gives the audience the clue that she has a larger importance in the plot despite dying in episode one. However, the biggest spoiler is that it shows Kaneki's white haired appearance, which doesn't happen until after the Aogiri arc. The ending credits also show important characters that haven't appeared yet in the series.
Stepford Smiler: Can't help but think this with Kaneki especially post- Aogiri. However, it's arguable that Kaneki has always been one, according to Hide: Kaneki smiles to mask problems he doesn't want to burden others with.
Tactical Rock-Paper-Scissors: The Ghouls' Kagunes have a form of this, prompting one of the characters to point out that Ghouls are created to kill even their own kind.
Ukaku: Uses speed to outmaneuver and overpower the plain Bikaku, but quickly depletes their energy reserve and risks running empty mid-fight.
Koukaku: Their defensive capability is sufficient to tank out Ukaku's flurry of light attacks, but the increased defense comes with reduced speed.
Rinkaku: Their offensive capability is enough to punch through the slow-moving Koukaku's defenses, but their RC cells are less concentrated, resulting in lower defense.
Bikaku: Lacking any glaring weakness to prey on, they are considered a Rinkaku's worst enemy.
Tranquil Fury: Kaneki wears a serene expression as he breaks half the bones in Ayato's body in a precise, clinical manner.
The Syndicate: Aogiri, the underground ghoul organization led by the fabled 'One-Eyed King'.
Torture Technician: Yamori, in spades. Suzuya to other ghouls. Kaneki becomes this to Ayato, as the latter horrifyingly finds out
Tsundere: Touka, who's normally violent, but has a vulnerable side around those she trust or those who surprise her, in the case of Hide in the first chapter.
Tykebomb: The CCG openly use this trope, albeit in a more positive manner than most other examples. They take in children who are orphaned in Ghoul attacks, give them food, an education, shelter, and train them to become members of the organization. From what we've seen of the CCG-run orphanages, children there are treated very well.
Vegetarian Vampire: The Anteiku is a cafe that covertly sells human flesh to ghouls that can't bring themselves to kill humans. The shop scavenges flesh from suicide hotspots and other remote locations where corpses can be found.
White Hair, Black Heart: Kaneki becomes this after being tortured for days and witnessing the murder of the two people he gave himself up to protect.