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  • Kristina Elyse Butke

My Favorite Things


Kaneki Ken from Tokyo Ghoul by Sui Ishida - My Favorite Things
Art from Tokyo Ghoul Re: Volume 7

This post was originally written for Speculative Chic and published November 26, 2018. It has been slightly edited with updated information here.


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Tokyo Ghoul by Sui Ishida (Spoilers ahead): “[…] If I were to write a book with me as the main character… it would be…a tragedy,” Ken Kaneki tells us in the opening chapter, and certainly he is one of the most tragic protagonists I’ve encountered in manga, as Kaneki is pummeled with one trauma after the other over the course of the series.


Kaneki is a shy college student with a deep love of reading, and his life changes forever when he goes on a date with Rize, later revealed as one of the ghouls that haunts Tokyo’s 20th ward. Kaneki nearly dies after she attacks him, and his life is saved from an ethically dubious organ transplant that transforms him into a human-ghoul hybrid.

Kaneki struggles with his identity as someone who’s part of two very different worlds, and he struggles with the truth about what makes ghouls — and humans — monsters.


I love the story, the characters, the art, and the stylistic choices mangaka Sui Ishida makes in Tokyo Ghoul. Like many creators, Ishida both writes and illustrates the series.


Ishida’s artwork is gorgeous. He does a lot of digital painting, so his book covers and promotional work feature rich, colorful images (he has a Tumblr if you want to see). As far as the manga pages go, his drawing style is bold and expressive, and his art grows more interesting and beautiful with each volume.


There are rich symbols and death motifs that appear throughout the series. One of the more common images is the Red Spider Lily (in Japanese, higanbana, or the “Flower of the Other Shore”). This is a flower that appears in the Underworld and grows along the Japanese equivalent of the River Styx. It features throughout the series whenever Kaneki is tempted to embrace his ghoul side — which is embracing death and destruction.


Literature is also an important element in the story. Kaneki is often depicted reading, and it is a primary way he connects to other people. A major character in the series is one of Kaneki’s favorite authors, as is her book The Egg of the Black Goat, which makes you wonder how the novel may be a parallel of the manga’s story.


Japanese mythology and poetry are further woven into the tale. One of the most haunting scenes is toward the end of the first manga series, when Kaneki recites the poem “Oishi Ainu no Uta” during a particularly harrowing battle; he speaks of one of the gods of the ancient Ainu people of Hokkaido. It is a devastating, beautiful scene that is emblematic of the type of series Tokyo Ghoul can be.


The Tokyo Ghoul franchise is expansive, and you cannot experience the full story unless you read both Tokyo Ghoul and Tokyo Ghoul Re:. Tokyo Ghoul finishes at 14 volumes while Tokyo Ghoul Re: is complete at 16 volumes.


In addition to the manga, there are novels, art books, a recent live-action adaptation… then there’s the excellent anime series. There are three seasons so far: Tokyo Ghoul, Tokyo Ghoul √A, and Tokyo Ghoul Re:. While there is some divergence from the manga, the anime is a strong addition to the franchise. The show is directed by Academy Award-nominee Shuhei Morita and later episodes by Odahiro Watanabe, animated by Studio Pierrot, and features a dazzling soundtrack by composer Yutaka Yamada.


I love Tokyo Ghoul for its beauty, darkness, absurdity, and tragedy. I’ve never been so emotionally invested in a series, and I’m impatient for the next manga volume’s English release. In the immortal words of the ghoul Shuu Tsukiyama, all I feel is Amore! Heartbreak. No kidding!”


Arda Wigs: One of my hobbies is convention cosplay, and Arda Wigs is a cosplayer’s delight. They are my go-to when I need wigs for specific characters. I pretty much cosplay from anime and manga, and as you may have seen, some of the hairstyles and colors are outrageous and, in my case, impossible to pull off with real hair.


So far I’ve used three wigs from Arda, the very first being the Claudia for my Gankutsuou cosplay at Colossalcon. What I like about Arda Wigs is they are very reasonably priced, and the wigs don’t have that hyper-sheen that makes hair look fake. In fact, on close inspection, you can see the hair fibers come in a multitude of shades within that specific color family, which makes the hair more multi-dimensional and natural. You can even style the wigs with curling irons and curlers, just like real hair! If you’re an avid cosplayer, check them out!


Writing Maps: I’m a fan of visual art and creative writing, and Writing Maps wed the two perfectly. These are literally fold-up maps that guide you through the creative process with tidbits and writing prompts, and I have several in my collection. The artwork and typography are great, and they really do have solid ideas to guide you on your way. For the fantasy-inclined, check out “Write Over the Top: A Writing Map to Fabulous Stories” as an example of what’s available. Plus, when I ordered my first maps, I got a sweet hand-written note and bonus postcards, which I happily have pinned to my writing inspiration wall above my desk. Woohoo!


Humanoid robot looking down with metal parts exposed.
Photo by Possessed Photography on Unsplash

Robots: I’m not talking R2D2 or BB8 — I prefer the robots designed to look like humans. This is because they’re often used in storytelling to question the nature of humanity, godlike power, and the obligation the creator has to the created. Replicants from Blade Runner, Data and the Borg from Star Trek: The Next Generation, mecha from A.I., and the androids of Westworld, I, Robot, Alien, Ex Machina… I’m fascinated by them all. In terms of real life, I have a weird obsession with historical automata (the first androids?) and I keep my eyes peeled for the latest developments in robotics. We’ve not quite figured out how to make robots pass for human (they still live in the uncanny valley), but maybe we will within my lifetime.


Woman in white with black hair holding apple on dark background, Snow White Blood Red
Edited by Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling.

Fairy tales: I love fairy tales, and I tend to follow along with retellings that present them in new ways without deviating too far from the spirit of the source material. For whatever reason, TV and movie fairy tales don’t do it for me (Once Upon a Time leaves an especially yucky taste in my mouth), but fiction does. Maybe it’s because fiction still embraces the spirit of storytelling — the oral tradition pressed onto paper.


I tend to lap up fairy tale anthologies the most, particularly anything that Terri Wendling and Ellen Datlow put together, plus works by Jane Yolen, Juliet Marillier, and Robin McKinley. In my own writing, I try not to stray too far off the path when it comes to fairy tales, because they were my first stories, my introduction to fantasy, and a blunt exploration of what makes people tick. Fairy tales, especially in their oldest form, aren’t afraid to wander into the dark, and I have always been interested in the things that live in the deepest parts of the forest — in our stories, and in our hearts.


✧・゚: *✧・゚:*    *:・゚✧*:・゚✧