I’m proud to present an article today on Tokyo Ghoul from KnightofCalvary, a graduating seminary student and chaplain candidate in the U.S. Army Reserves and former A.D. Vision partner through Suncoast and Anime Central. If you’re interested in submitting a guest post, send us a pitch via email.
As a concept, I don’t typically watch anime with the level of violence and gore that Tokyo Ghoul has. However, I’m also not entirely opposed to doing so strictly on the basis of the level of violence. Rather, I’m often left with feelings of disappointment from such anime due to shortfalls in storytelling or character development. Tokyo Ghoul definitely sets itself a part in that respect. It is both heavily violent and well done in terms of storytelling and development of its characters, particularly the main character, Ken Kaneki.
Spoilers to follow.
Poorly fortuned Kaneki is turned into a human eating ghoul following what can only be described as the worst streak of bad luck ever. After surviving an encounter with a female ghoul that attempts to eat him, he ends up in the hospital following the attack and ends up with her organs being transplanted to him to save his life. This results in Kaneki becoming half-ghoul and half-human. The remainder of the first season is spent dealing with Kaneki’s newly found identity issues, integration as a ghoul, conflicts with the police enforcement agency specializing in tracking and destroying ghouls and in the middle of all of this, struggling to maintain some sort of humanity. This effort to remain true to his human half however ultimately fails due to his overwhelming desire to protect those he cares about in the season 1 finale.
Picking up with season 2, Kaneki has fully embraced his new ghoul qualities and powers, however his desire to protect his friends leads him to something forbidden even for a ghoul which is cannibalism, that is a ghoul eating another ghoul. All this leads up to a fight at one point between Amon, an “anti-ghoul” investigator that Kaneki previously showed mercy to and himself. Now at this point in the story, Kaneki’s cannibalism has led to a rage like lack of self control and Amon says during the fight, “That’s all, right? An ordinary ghoul is all you are, right? That’s all, right?!” This snaps Kaneki out of his blind rage and after regaining his self control, he says “I…don’t want to eat anymore…”. I was left with this powerful impression of our daily and constant struggles with sin.
The Apostle Paul says in Romans 7:15, “I don’t really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don’t do it. Instead, I do what I hate” (NLT). We’ve all faced struggle and turmoil in life and will continue to do so on this side of eternity, but what we must never forget is what Amon reminded Kaneki of by way of his question, “An ordinary ghoul is all you are, right?”
Are we only sinners who are only capable of giving in to our desires? Of course not, and so Kaneki is reminded of his humanity and confesses his “sin” and desire, “I…don’t want to eat anymore…”. We don’t have to be slaves to our sins because Christ has set us free and notice that even in spite of everything that Kaneki did and failed in, he still had the same ability that you and I do, to choose to do the right thing. That I think is one of the more powerful aspects of the Gospel message. It’s never too late to stand up and do the right thing. No matter how far you’ve gone. No matter how badly you’ve screwed up and sinned. Even as good intentioned as it may have been, it was still wrong, but God can and does restore us, if we will only confess and turn away from our sins. Picking up our crosses and following Jesus.
So what are you going to do today?
KnightofCalvary is a seminary student at Asbury Theological Seminary, graduating in May 2015 with a Masters in Divinity, Ordained Minister with the Assemblies of God, and a Chaplain Candidate in the United States Army Reserves. He’s worked with Disney World and Suncoast, and been a staffer at Anime Central. Through an Independent Study in Film and Theology course, he ran a film review blog as a project.
2 thoughts on “Guest Post: Tokyo Ghoul and the Nature of Repentance in the Midst of Sin”
“That I think is one of the more powerful aspects of the Gospel message. It’s never too late to stand up and do the right thing. No matter how far you’ve gone. No matter how badly you’ve screwed up and sinned. Even as good intentioned as it may have been, it was still wrong, but God can and does restore us, if we will only confess and turn away from our sins.”
There’s a book series I have a fondness for called Diane Duane’s Young Wizards series, At the very end of the first book, the main character does something that could (Or could not) change everything: She changes the Name of the Lone Power, the series’ Satan figure. Essentially…offering HIM the chance at redemption and forgiveness for his sins, but with the ball in his court. Ever since, I have wanted God to tell me if, at the very end, that is going to be or is possible. The key isn’t whether it does happen (Indications seem to suggest it doesn’t), but whether it can. I have never gotten an answer.
“This snaps Kaneki out of his blind rage and after regaining his self control, he says “I…don’t want to eat anymore…”. I was left with this powerful impression of our daily and constant struggles with sin.”
I have felt like this often enough myself that I know what you mean. We all struggle every day to do the right thing, and sometimes there comes a moment where we really look at ourselves and don’t want to be us anymore. It’s a moment of despair for each person, but also a moment when anything is possible.
I finally found someone who shares the same view on Tokyo Ghoul. That’s exactly how I interpreted the story and the Kaneki Ken’s development and that’s the reason why I became a fan of the anime. I could relate to his pain and it was great to see him work things out on his way to salvation. Great article!