Ken Kaneki is the central character of the Tokyo Ghoul series (‘Tokyo Ghoul’ and ‘Tokyo Ghoul:re’).
Kaneki very nearly dies multiple times throughout the series. In Chapter #1 of the manga (and season one episode one of the anime), Kaneki is attacked by a ghoul named Rize and comes very close to death – thankfully he is saved.
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In Chapter #138 and Chapter #139 of the manga, a character named Arima stabs Kaneki through the eye, but Kaneki survives this ordeal also.
Who Is Kaneki?
Ken Kaneki was born on December 20th, as a human, to an abusive mother who died when he was a boy.
Kaneki was in the midst of studying Japanese Literature at Kamii University when he suffered an attack from a ghoul, Rize.
This event led Kaneki to become a half-Ghoul, or One-Eyed Ghoul. Struggling with this change, he began a job as a waiter at a café named ‘Anteiku’, run by an organization of ghouls. This move was key in Kaneki’s learning how to live as a ghoul, and he became known as ‘Eyepatch’ due to the patch he wore over his left eye.
Following his fight with Arima in later episodes/chapters, Kaneki lost his memory and thus began to live under a new name, ‘Haise Sasaki’.
The series ‘Tokyo Ghoul:re’ follows Sasaki, a First Rank Ghoul Investigator, and Kaneki maintains this identity until episode 12 when his memories of who he really is return.
What Does Kaneki Look Like?
Kaneki has black hair, and as a university student he was relatively short and scrawny. While working in Anteiku, he wears black pants, a white dress shirt, a gray waistcoat, a black necktie (portrayed as a brown cravat in the anime) and a medical eye patch.
His ghoul mask is leather, with large teeth and a lipless mouth.
Throughout the series, Kaneki’s appearance changes from the above. After suffering torture at the hands of Yamori (a major antagonist of the show), his black hair became white, his nails blackened and he became more muscular.
While living as Haise Sasaki, black streaks grow into his hair and he wears the standard dress of a ghoul investigator (a black dress shirt, pinstripe pants, a knee-length white trench coat and a briefcase).
What Is Kaneki’s Personality Like?
As a child, Kaneki was shy, having just one best friend named Hideyoshi Nagachika (or ‘Hide’). He spent most of his time reading, and was gentle in nature.
His mother instilled in him a mighty sense of selflessness, and this leads Kaneki to willingly accept other people’s pain and punishment.
He is scared to be alone, and these acts of trying to protect others can be seen as attempts by Kaneki to be sure he isn’t left on his own (his mother’s death hugely influenced this way of thinking).
After Yamori’s torture, Kaneki becomes more ruthless and brutal (an understandable reaction, I think!). He learns to embrace his ghoul side and while still caring and gentle towards his friends, can easily turn merciless in a split second if needed.
As Haise, Kaneki is good-natured, loyal and trustworthy. He is serious in his work, but shows some mercy in that he does not believe in destroying ghouls unnecessarily.
What Psychological Issues Does Kaneki Face?
Kaneki seems to struggle with many psychological issues throughout the series, though these are never directly addressed. Kaneki personifies his inner thoughts and feelings to such an extent that they become people to him, often symbolized by actual characters of the show.
This method of thinking almost lends itself to being multiple personalities, and through this Kaneki encounters versions of Rize, Hide and even his own self in his mind.
Amnesia causes Kaneki to live as Haise Sasaki, and though his memories do eventually return, this is a significant psychological event in his life. Amnesia also rears its head by way of Kaneki’s repressed childhood memories: he remembers her as almost angelic, whereas in reality she was very abusive and often beat him.
Depression also seems to afflict Kaneki throughout the series, though again this is never directly addressed.
How Does Kaneki (Almost) Die?
Kaneki first escapes death after Rize attacks him, while he was a student at Kamii University. She fails to kill him (instead getting crushed by steel beams) and Kaneki is rushed to hospital.
He survives thanks to Dr. Kanō’s efforts: the doctor transplants some of Rize’s internal organs into Kaneki. It was this operation that turned Kaneki from a regular human into a half-ghoul.
At the end of season two of the ‘Tokyo Ghoul’ anime, Arima (a Special Class Ghoul Investigator) stabs Kaneki in both of his eyes and reaches his brain.
While this could have very easily killed him, Kaneki again escapes death and instead suffers amnesia, which leads to his time living as Haise Sasaki.
How Does Kaneki Become A Full Ghoul?
Kaneki began working at the cafe ‘Anteiku’ while still a half-ghoul, after his operation from Dr Kanō. This enabled him to learn about and understand ghouls to a deeper level than before, and paved the way for his full acceptance of his ghoul status.
While enduring Yamori’s torture, Kaneki looks within himself and realizes that though he is afraid to be alone, his passive and peaceful nature allows the possibility to happen.
In order to truly protect the people around him and also himself, Kaneki realizes he must embrace his ghoul side and use it to help him become stronger.
This births a new personality in Kaneki, a ruthless and brutal one, and he grows from a tentative half-ghoul to a full-ghoul in body and mind.