Welcome to this week’s The Good, Bad, and What The?, where we took a good, long look at characters in movies, video games, anime, and books and put them on the judgement table to see if they are worthy to be in their respective stories. I strongly believe that well developed characters are more important than anything else in a good story, so I always judge them hard. At the end of every character’s evaluation, I will give them one of four ratings: Good, for those characters that are developed and deserve their place in the story; Bad, for those characters that have no place being made or interacting with anyone else in the story; What The for the characters I just can’t figure out, and then the characters who are dull as dishwasher will get the rating of Sack of Potatoes. Today on the judgement table: Ken Kaneki, the main character of “Tokyo Ghoul.”

kaneki
Kaneki (left)

Tokyo Ghoul” takes place in a world where strange, superhuman creatures called Ghouls are infesting Tokyo. On the outside, Ghouls look just like regular humans, so you cannot immediately tell if someone is a Ghoul. Ghoul, however, are far from human. They have increased strength and speed as well as enhanced healing ability (although that is never directly said; it is implied. It is said that Kaneki has super regeneration, although he is the only one). Ghouls also have strange, tentacle-like organs that sprout from their bodies called Kagune. The Kagune are called predatory organs and are used as weapons. The biggest problem is that Ghouls can only survive off of eating human flesh. As such, there is a human defense force called the CCG (the Ghouls call them Doves) that fight these Ghouls with weapons known as Quinque, which are Kagune removed from dead Ghouls. Kaneki is trapped in this conflict, as he finds himself now a half-Ghoul. Through a very unfortunate event, Kaneki had the organs of a Ghoul named Rize put inside of him. Kaneki now must survive through the Ghoul and CCG war as the new, one-eyed Ghoul.

Kaneki with his Ghoul mask
Kaneki with his Ghoul mask

Kaneki as a character before being a Ghoul is a rather boring guy. He is a loner kind of guy, who prefers to sit and read and has only one really good friend. He isn’t really active or athletic. After becoming a Ghoul, he still tries to retain how he was. Finally, he joins a group of peace loving Ghouls who run a coffee shop called Anteiku. Ghoul taste buds make it so everything except human flesh taste unbearably disgusting to them. Coffee, for whatever reason, is the one thing they can have that tastes normal. Kaneki lives with the Ghouls of Anteiku and exists as peacefully as he can. However, because he is a Ghoul they tell him he must be trained to fight, which he does. As you might expect, Kaneki kind of sucks at fighting. He is a scrawny little kid with little will to actually fight people. Even after his supposed training, he gets beat up pretty badly by one of the Doves. He finally lets loose and uses his Kagune to fight off the Dove, but he then loses control. He never uses his Kagune because he hates it and what it stands for. The Kagune is a symbol that he is now part monster and despises it.

White haired Kaneki
White haired Kaneki

Kaneki hates himself because he feels that being half-human and half-Ghoul means he fits in nowhere. He is a worthless outcast. The boss of Anteiku, Yoshimura, tells him that the fact that he is half and half means that he fits in with everyone. The struggle of a character hating his own being and wishing he were something else is actually a pretty good literary object. Having a character not like himself makes you feel for them and wish that they could realize their value. As I have said plenty of times before, if you start to have the feels for a character, that means they are doing something right. With Kaneki, you want him to embrace his Ghoul powers and use them so he can understand his strength. You want him to do the whole superhero thing and use his power for good, and what not. Kaneki, however, just continues to whine and refuse to use that power. This brings up a big problem I have with him; he whines a lot.

Jason
Jason

The Dove that Kaneki fought when he finally used his Kagune is a big example of his whining. He starts telling the Dove to leave because he doesn’t want him “to make [him] a killer.” Now, I understand that he was once a human and as such he is not really big on the whole killing thing. The problem here, though, is that he starts crying and complaining like a sissy. He literally whines at the guy and says “don’t make me a killer” with tears flying everywhere. It kills the whole mood of the show, which is a very dark and violent mood. In a show where people get eaten all the time and limbs pop off like cherries off a tree, having the main character cry at the enemy is pretty bad. I understand that he doesn’t want the guilt from murder, but he doesn’t really even injure the guy. You want the main character to show some kind of back bone. Kaneki reminds me a lot of Ganta from “Deadman Wonderland” and Yukiteru from “Future Diary.” These are my top two animes. Both main characters start weak, but get a lot tougher and more brutal. Now, if we compare these three at the midpoint of their respective shows, you will see my issue with Kaneki. At this midpoint, Yukiteru and Ganta are like attack dogs, not quite vicious wolves yet, but not puppies, either. Kaneki at his midpoint is a newborn puppy who just opened his eyes. The point here is that Kaneki doesn’t get any cooler or tougher until literally the last episode. Any feels you had for his struggle are gone now because you are sitting there thinking “Quit crying and fight you giant wuss…”tokyo ghoul

Kaneki in the very last episode is captured by a Ghoul named Jason. He is brutally tortured over and over again but continues to live because of his regeneration. Most of this episode is Kaneki losing his mind and talking to the fake Rize in his head. Finally, Kaneki snaps. He goes berserk and tears Jason apart. He bursts out of the chair, his hair turns pure white, and his entire demeanor changes. He unleashes full power and his Kagune comes out of him now at a huge size. He becomes a blank-faced and brutal man. He beats Jason senseless with no effort at all. This entire episode changed his whole character. He is now incredibly powerful; he is just an absolute beast. The last five minutes of this episode basically saved his whole character. I couldn’t stand the whiney wuss, and then out of nowhere my jaw dropped. This episode is only really the halfway point of the show. The manga goes much further than this last episode of the first season. This means if season two hits we will see a very different Kaneki.

So, what do I give the “little-wuss-turned-into-giant-beast-of-death” Kaneki for a verdict? I give Kaneki a What The? I couldn’t stand this guy until the last five minutes of the first season. He had a boring personality, he was a big old wuss, and he refused to really use his power. Then the power came out. If not for that last five minutes, I would have said Kaneki was awful, but he really pulled it out. Although I don’t like the way the main character is in this season, I still say you should watch this anime if you’re a big fan of really dark and brutal anime.

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Also I would like to apologize for missing my Mechanically Beautiful article for Wednesday on September 24th, 2014. It toally slipped my mind big sorry.

  • innuendo

    You should really read the books!! They are super good and they go much more in depth for the characters. The anime is good if you want great action and great voice acting, but not if you want great story or great feelings. The books are amazing!

  • NarukoOtaku

    You were right about Kaneki’s character in the anime, but the anime is missing alot of character development and changed many events and adapted it in such a useless way, so do yourself a favor and read about the real Kaneki in the manga.