Tokyo Ghoul Anime vs Manga: What’s the Difference?

Tokyo Ghoul Anime vs Manga: What’s the Difference?

Tokyo Ghoul is one of the most popular horror stories of the last ten years. I am going to assume most of you have either read the manga or seen the anime, or you are at least interested in doing so. 

What a lot of people don’t realize is that there are quite some differences between the two. There are a lot of people who prefer manga over anime, and vice versa. Due to the small changes in the story – that really add up to quite a change sometimes – you have quite the discussion in the Tokyo Ghoul community which one is better. 

If you are interested in starting Tokyo Ghoul by either watching the anime or reading the manga, or if you want to check out the other medium, you check out this article to get a clear view if it is worth the time investment. 

Please be aware that there are spoilers for both the anime and the manga in this article. So watch out for that if you do not want to read those! 

What is Tokyo Ghoul About?

Tokyo Ghoul is a horror (and much more than just that) story about a world where we co-exist with fantasy creatures named ghouls. Ghouls are monsters that need to eat human flesh to sustain themselves. 

Ken Kaneki is a young kid from the suburbs of Tokyo. One day he has a date with a girl; however, unknowingly to him, she is a ghoul. She lures him to eat him. Just when he is about to die, they get into an accident but are saved by the organs of his date, who were transplanted into him at the hospital. He then transforms into a ghoul himself due to the effect these have on him.

Ken Kaneki soon finds out that being a ghoul comes with both drawbacks and perks. A ghoul is about seven times stronger – kinetic energy-wise – than the average human being. They also can stop their bleeding almost instantly. Besides that, they have strong skin that protects them from weapons, and they have an organ (kagune) that gives them special powers. However, this comes at the cost of sometimes losing your self-control and the need to eat human flesh. 

The story follows how he struggles with his new reality and tries to fit into society and his interactions with other goals. 

This is the general gist of the story that is the same in both the manga and the anime.

What You Need to Know About the Tokyo Ghoul Manga and Anime

The Manga

The anime is based on manga. So the manga can be considered the original story. It appeared in the famous Japanese magazine Weekly Young Jump in September 2011. The series was completed in 2018 and had 16 volumes. These include the sequels and the prequels. Most of the volumes focused on the main storyline. 

The manga is by most – including me – to be considered a canon story. Meaning that if there are any discussions about what happened, the facts and events in the manga have priority over the anime.

The Anime

As is often the case in Japan, an anime was made about the manga. This often has the goal of promoting manga to increase sales. Just like the average anime, Tokyo Ghoul got 12 weekly episodes or exactly one season. The first season started in July 2014 and ended in September. 

Most anime do not get a second season. Tokyo Ghoul has been an exception to this. In 2015, it got another 12 episodes for the winter anime season. Due to its success, the studio decided to make a third season split into two parts of 12 episodes or 24 episodes in total. 

The anime has diverted quite a bit from the manga, which is exactly what we are going to discuss here. 

The Main Differences Between the Tokyo Ghoul Anime and Manga

Just to be clear, these are the differences I think have the most impact on the story and the overall quality of the show or manga. This is completely subjective. Chances are pretty high that you will disagree with me on a lot of parts. I will tell you what is different – keeping in mind that I don’t spoil too much – and what I think about how it affected the story for better or worse. 

The Timeline has Been Changed

If you have read the manga and you are checking out the anime, it is easy to get confused and think you have missed an episode or 2. That is because some of the earlier arcs are switched around in the timeline. 

Without trying to spoil: The situation that Tsukiyama was in was written (and happened) before the events that transpired during the Dove Emergence Arc in the manga. The anime shows the Dove Emergence Arc first. This has little influence on the story but does feel kind of weird for those who read the manga first. 

The Arata of Amon

The fight between Kaneki and Amon is the next difference I found pretty out of place. The two rivals have a lot of history between them by the time we arrive at their final fight against one another. 

Amon, in the manga, has the Arata armor, and while fighting Kaneki he loses an arm but manages to pierce the side of Kaneki’s body. Weirdly, in the anime, Amon only uses his Quinque. For some reason, his Arata Proto II is nowhere to be seen. 

This was quite an odd change, and I have no idea why this change happened, as I believe the Arata Proto II gave the manga fight a bit of extra flavor. 

Whatever Happened to Rize’s Character

In the anime, Rize has a much larger role than she has in the manga. She appears quite often in the hunger hallucinations Keneki has. While in the manga, she only appears in his hallucinations after the whole torture event. 

While she has a larger role in the anime in the first season, subsequent anime seasons are a lot less clear-cut about her character. In the manga, her fate is clear, and she ends up in Dr. Kanou’ ‘s lab (no spoilers). However, in the anime, we have no clue if she is dead or alive or where she is. 

What Happened to Hide

Another character that had quite the change of fate was hidden. In the manga, we do not know what happened to Hide. All we can do is speculate. Most fan theories say that Hide has killed his best friend. Not out of vengeance but out of the mental instability he had. We know that Kaneki found him underground, but not much more is known about the exact situation. Since the manga is finished, we will probably never know for sure. 

In the anime, we do get to know exactly what happened to him. (SPOILERS AHEAD) Hide dies from getting injured in battle. Kaneki is the one who brings his corpse back to Arima, who then also passed away. 

Now, this was a horrible decision by the anime director. If you have read the manga, you know how crucial Kaneki eating HIde was for the story. The anime had to go out of its way to fix this with a clunky side-story feeling solution. Why they changed this in the first place is a complete mystery to me. 

Kaneki’s Torture

In both the manga and the anime, Kaneki gets tortured by Yamori. This causes him to make quite a transformation – both physically and mentally – and helps him accept the fact that he is an actual Ghoul now. 

The manga and the anime are very different. In the show, Kaneki is a lot calmer. He seems to be a lot more rational and at ease, even when coming to a conclusion and accepting that he has transformed into a Ghoul and no longer is a human. The transformation itself is also quite straightforward. His hair turns white pretty quickly, and the transformation is quick and “easy.” 

The manga is completely different, and in my opinion, it feels a lot better and more natural. In the manga, he is reluctant, full of fear and doubt. He is panicked, and it feels more realistic. I mean, the guy has just come to the conclusion that he needs to eat human flesh now and can no longer live a normal life. 

The anime was downright boring compared to the manga. It felt like it was an organic evolution, as if Kaneki was going through some Pokémon-like evolution, and it was a pretty common thing in this world. The manga takes into account human nature, fear, psychology, and so on, a lot more. 

The Second Season of the Anime

Saving the best – well, in my opinion, the worst – for last, is what happened in the second season and the major divergence from the events that transpired in the manga. For those who have read the manga, I am sure you saw this difference coming. The second anime season was controversial, to say the least, and quite a lot of fans just quit watching the anime after this. 

It is hard to pinpoint a single difference, as many differences just snowball in a big mess of a story. Let us start with how different the character development and the mental and emotional acceptance of being a ghoul was in the anime as compared to the manga. The anime is so much different – in a bad way – that it feels like a different show at some points. The anime just feels flat and dull compared to the manga.

A big surprise for many manga readers was that Kaneki did not fight with the Aogiri Tree, but he joined them. That was a big turn of events, to say the least. This is also one of the many reasons why the second season was considered by far the worst one out of all three by manga readers. 

Reading the Manga Before Watching the Anime: Pros and Cons

If you haven’t seen Tokyo Ghoul before and haven’t read the manga yet, you might be wondering if you should start with manga first. I would personally start with the manga. I am going to tell you why you should (not) follow this advice.

Pros

The original story – The Tokyo Ghoul manga, is how the author intended the story. There were no budget cuts or directors involved that thought they were smart. The manga also isn’t made under as strict of a deadline and does not need to follow a linear story that ends after 12 episodes. It simply is much more enjoyable. 

All wrapped up – While the anime is finished too, there are quite some things that have not been fully resolved yet, or had subpar endings. The final season of the anime got quite a mixed reaction due to this, demanding a new, better final season. The manga, however, has been finished, and the ending was amazing. It was way more satisfactory. Watching the anime first is going to take away from reading the story for the first time. That is why you should read the superior version – the manga, first. 

Cons

It makes the anime less fun – Reading the manga first is going to make you pretty frustrated with the anime. While it is definitely entertaining to watch, even when you have read the manga before, the experience is just not going to be the same. 

More focus is needed – Reading manga is a lot more work than watching an anime. Reading by nature is a more intense process than watching something. The manga is also a bit more complex story-wise. So you will need to pay attention to the story a bit more to make sure you haven’t missed anything.

Conclusion: Is Manga More Enjoyable than Anime? 

The book is better than the movie, but is the manga better than the anime? As you might have noticed, I am a bit biased towards the manga. It was the first time I came into contact with Tokyo Ghoul, so it holds a special place in my heart. I do think I can look at both adaptations of the story in a somewhat objective way.

The anime was not bad. If it was, it wouldn’t get two extra seasons on top of the first one. That is pretty rare in the anime world, so that is always a great sign and indicator to gauge how the fan reactions were from a commercial view. 

Despite me not agreeing with most of the changes the anime studio made in the story, especially the second season, the anime is still very solid story-wise. The animation quality, the sounds, the voice acting (in both the original and the dub) are all spot on and definitely top tier. I also understand that you can not one on 1 adapt a horror story like Tokyo Ghoul. You will run into the quite strict censors of the Japanese entertainment sector. 

That being said, the manga is better. The story is deeper, has a better story arc, the characters and their emotions feel much more realistic. The anime is definitely made by professionals and a top-tier studio, but the chances in the story are just too profound and definitely affect the overall quality of the story. 

If you have not seen the anime and have not read the manga, I would definitely recommend you start with the manga. If you have read the manga, the anime is still worth checking out, but be aware that the manga is the better of the two. If you have just seen the anime, definitely check out the manga, I am sure you will enjoy it a lot, and maybe even more than the anime. 

Frequently asked questions about Tokyo Ghoul Anime vs. Manga

Question: Are the Tokyo Ghoul Anime and Manga the Same?

Answer: No, there are a lot of differences between anime and manga. Not just small details and character quirks. Some are crucial and essential to the plot. A lot of these changes snowballed over the story into completely new scenarios. Overall, fans of the manga do think most of these changes were for the worst. 
While there are a lot of changes, the story overall for the large plot lines is still the same. This is due to the anime studio back paddling and fixing quite a lot of stuff in the third season. 

Question: Did Kaneki Eat Hide or Not? 

Answer: Somewhat, Kaneki did not kill Hide and devour him whole. He did eat a part of his face, but Hide survived this. Hide was then living somewhere else under a different name in Tokyo. Of course, Hide’s story does not end there, but I am not going to spoil that for you. In the manga, his faith is not as clear and gives rise to quite a bit of speculation. 

Question: Why is Season 2 of Tokyo Ghoul Rated so Low? 

Answer: Season 2 had a lot of changes that diverted from what happened in the manga. Fans that read the manga often give the same reasons why they consider season 2 the worst out of the three seasons. 
Mainly, It mostly comes down to strange alliances that Kaneki made. These were radically different than those in the manga. 
Second, the character development felt flat and lacked the emotional depth the manga had. 
Third, a lot of small details like dialogues, reactions, fights were pretty different, and this snowballed into a very different vibe than the manga had in those chapters. 

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Tom Goemaere