Disclaimer: Review copy provided by Viz Media.
Tokyo Ghoul: re has a lot to live up to, which is to be expected given that it’s a sequel to one of the most popular manga series in recent memory. Author Sui Ishida’s Tokyo Ghoul, a supernatural drama about a college student who is turned into a monstrous creature known as a Ghoul after a date gone wrong, was a smash hit worldwide, drawing readers in with its dark atmosphere, well-developed characters, and fascinating supernatural world. re, however, is a different kind of beast — a police procedural with superpowered cops, sinister criminals, and all the usual suspects besides. Reconciling the two different approaches to this premise — a world of monsters hiding just underneath the surface of society — is a daunting task, let alone finding a way to retain old readers while drawing in new ones. Despite this, re still manages to carve out its own identity (as basic as it is) and mostly lands on its feet — even though some loose threads from the original series seem to be clawing their way back to the main stage as the story goes on.
Ghouls live within human society, looking, and acting just like any average Joe and Jane — except for the whole insatiable hunger for human flesh thing. This, understandably, leads to a rash of mysterious disappearances and murders. It’s up to a special police team made up of Quinxes (average humans with implanted Ghoul organs that grant them superpowers) to track down these criminal Ghouls and bring them to justice under the supervision of the Commission of Counter Ghoul. The only problem is that the Quinx Squad is less like a team and more like a powder keg with the shortest fuse imaginable. Well, maybe that’s not the only problem, if you count the mysterious nightmares that squad leader Sasaki keeps having. Oh, and there’s a serial killer on the loose. It’s a CSI monster mash — all that’s missing are the puns and sunglasses.
The main characters are engaging enough, though they fall into traditional cop drama stereotypes pretty much from the get-go (the loner, the mild-mannered one, the hot-blooded one, etc.). They play off each other well despite-or perhaps because of-their simplicity. The growing tensions between squad member Urie and Sasaki, the mystery behind Mutsuki’s Quinx abilities (hell, the Quinx abilities period), and some major reveals about Sasaki near the end of the volume plant the seeds for what I hope are some interesting character arcs to come. Unfortunately, the latter of those points also poses a problem for any newcomers, as it ties heavily into plot threads from the original Tokyo Ghoul that come up extremely suddenly compared to earlier references. Still, it’s an engaging read all the way through and its first arc flows nicely.
The art is not as consistent, though don’t take that as a knock against its quality. re seems to revel in its artistic contrasts, nowhere more apparent than in the differences between regular humans and the Ghouls. Ghouls look utterly unsettling, with bulging eyes and manic grins, and the different forms they take all make for some unique creatures. The human characters also look extremely different from one another, for better or for worse. One character may look cartoony and silly, while another may as well have just walked in from the pages of Death Note, all within the same scene. It’s kind of impressive how versatile the artwork is, but it can still be jarring in ways the author may not have intended.
The fight sequences are where the series hits its stride. The monstrous designs of the criminal ghouls are definitely fun to see in action, but the Quinx Squad all get to show their skills and quirks in battle, helping to develop them more strongly than just talking does. The end of the volume has an incredibly intense and visceral brawl with movement and impact that rival any popular shonen series of late, and it’s a good sign of things to come.
Tokyo Ghoul: re doesn’t necessarily hit the ground running, but it has plenty of potential to be mined. It’s got a lot of creativity and style that’s bogged down by its need to set up future events and address its own past. With a little more focus and polish, though, this series could become just as ghoulishly entertaining and thrilling as its predecessor. Whether you start with the original manga or jump on board with this is up to you, but for what it’s worth, re isn’t that bad of a gateway into the series’ world. Plus, they all have slick suits. That counts for something, right?