Ken Kaneki Character Analysis

Francisco Daniel, Sports Editor

Tokyo Ghoul by Sui Ishida is one of, if not, my all-time favorite piece of fiction that I have ever consumed. It introduced me to the beautiful and tragic character of Ken Kaneki. In this article, I will demonstrate what makes him such an impactful character. The majority of this analysis was initially made and posted on my TikTok account, ciscofwmanga, in May of last year.

firstly, Kaneki is a visual representation of somebody going through the five stages of grief. The first stage, denial, is the stage individuals believe the diagnosis is somehow mistaken and clings to a false, preferable reality. Once Kaneki became a ghoul, he doesn’t believe it to be true, denying what he truly is, holding onto anything in order to believe he was still human. This led him to refuse to the partaking of his ghoul side, which included the inability to eat human food.

The second stage of grief, anger, A strong feeling of being upset or annoyed because of something wrong or bad: the feeling that makes someone want to hurt other people. Kaneki defeated Yamori and left him to die as punishment. Kaneki repeatedly blamed ayato for wrongdoings and touka which happened right before doing the 106 bones(hypocrisy).

The third stage of grief, bargaining, is the hope that the individual can avoid a cause of grief. At this stage, Kaneki tries to avoid all memory of the tragic things that happened to him, including Aogiri and Anteiku. Ironically, he also attempts to reform himself into a new “person”.

In the fourth stage of grief, depression, the individual despairs at the recognition of their mortality. In this state, the individual may become silent, refuse visitors and spend much of the time mournful and sullen. Black reaper(Kaneki) now tends to have re-occurring suicidal thoughts. Kaneki represents this stage with his outfit which is black from top to bottom, symbolizing him in a mourning state. we(readers) can no longer hear any of Kaneki’s thoughts. In other words, a mute protagonist that refuses everyone, including the readers.

In the fifth and final stage of grief, acceptance, individuals embrace mortality or the inevitable future, or that of a loved one, or other tragic events. In this last stage, Kaneki beautifully accepts that he is both half-human and half-ghoul. To add, earlier in the story, Amon said to Kaneki, “This world is wrong”. This resulted in one of Kaneki’s many peaks, “The world isn’t wrong. It just is.”

Now, the visual characterization of Kaneki, specifically his hair, represents what label he attempts to exist under. Kaneki’s hair was black at the beginning of the series when he denied his existence as a ghoul and looked at ghouls as “monsters”. However, when Kaneki came to self-acceptance, his hair turned white as he accepted his “true nature”. This showcases that the color of his hair is how he interprets the world and himself.

How did Kaneki view the ghoul life when he was human? Did he think they lived merely for the sake of eating humans? The moment Kaneki’s hair turns white he disregards his own “innocence” as a human and the ideals of ghouls himself which Kaneki came to eventually represent himself when he became a ghoul.

Haise Sasaki(Kaneki) coincides with the illusionary reality that he unconsciously made shortly after his memory loss and defeat by Arima Kishou, his mentor. His hair, at the time, is white with black strands, showing how he attempts to live as a human and ghoul. A theme for Kaneki is indecisiveness toward what his true nature is. Haise’s attempt at the human and ghoul life is nothing, but an illusion. His attempt at living two lives is illogical, making Kaneki say, “I am done dreaming”. This show’s how Sasaki was subconsciously keeping Kaneki inside him which formed his perfect ideal existence and the perfect reality, while also rejecting the outside/external reality.

Throughout the series, we see many antagonists. However, none of them can raise a finger to Furuta. His dynamic with Kaneki portrays their similarities/differences in ideals. Notably, the acceptance and rejection of reality. As detailed, Kaneki walked down the path of acceptance and atonement. On the other hand, Furuta walked down the path of rejection. An example is how he formulated his own dream of marrying Rize and living a normal life. Similarly, Kaneki was able to relate with him as he too wanted nothing more than a normal life. Denial to acceptance(Kaneki). Acceptance to denial(Furuta).