It’s time we ask the age old question that nobody actually asked and might seem kind of self-explanatory but still worth talking about anyway: What is a ghoul? Are they like ghosts? Zombies? Vampires? Where exactly might their origins as creatures lie? I often find myself wondering exactly what a ghoul is closest to (because obviously my love of Tokyo Ghoul means that this question will sometimes keep me up at night. Laying in bed. Eyes wide open, staring at the ceiling as I ask the kami what a ghoul truly is). So today, for day eight of 13 Days of Otakutober, let’s talk about ghouls baby.
So ghouls–what do we know about Tokyo Ghouls ghouls? Well, Kanaki is nearly eaten by one (my girl Rize), becomes one after an organ implant, and Touka is a fucking badass adorable ghoul. Also they can only eat human flesh…and drink coffee apparently too. Love the caffeine addiction. And they possess kagune which is legit like an OP weapon (but only one of the things that make them so overpowered–others being increased strength, speed, hearing, smell, and athletics). Overall, ghouls are made out to be this sort of ultimate predator when you really think about it. So naturally, when thinking about a ghoul you’d think–“hm. Like a vampire?” Well–not quite.
If you look at traditional vampires than you’ll definitely see some similarities. To begin with, both creatures take a human form–blending in seamlessly with people. Both are known to essentially be superhuman. Like I mentioned before…ghouls have superspeed, super strength, increased hearing and smell, and extreme athletic skills. These are all traits that are generally attributed to vampire as well. Quintessentially, a “better” or “improved” human being. But that is kind of where the similarities end…after all, the most prominent piece of a vampire is the fact that while yes, they prey on humans like ghouls, they feast on blood. This is something ghouls 100% do not do. No, instead ghouls go for something a little more substantial as they actually sustain only on flesh. However, it is never explicitly stated that they can only eat human flesh. While you never see a ghoul devouring a different animal, it is noted that ghouls can actually cannibalize each other (it just doesn’t taste as good). So while there are like some pseudo similarities with vampires, they aren’t super close in nature.
Zombies though–zombies are known to eat people. They eat their brains…they eat their flesh. But that’s about it–honestly I hear some people say that ghouls are like zombies and I just–I can’t. Zombies are not known for being particularly strong or fast, they are simply known for being hard to kill on account of them already being dead. And the biggest part of being a zombie is the whole, walking dead thing. But ghouls aren’t dead in Tokyo Ghoul–nor did they become ghouls after death. I think the way in which Kaneki became a ghoul might’ve drawn people to make comparisons of these two creatures…but honestly it’s just not even close. If we were talking about where ghouls might’ve drawn inspiration from, I would 100% say vampires instead of zombies. But again, even vampires only have some similarities to ghouls.
But wait. Luna. Why are you even comparing these things? Isn’t it obvious ghouls in Tokyo Ghoul were based off of ghouls? I mean–yes but also no. So first off a ghoul, if I’ve gotten my facts right, is a monster of pre-Islamic Arabian religion. In this tradition, a ghoul is actually associated with graveyards and consuming human flesh. Ah did you see that there? Human flesh. So yes, this humanoid creature is definitely an inspiration for a portion of Tokyo Ghoul’s ghouls, however that’s about where the similarities end as well. In folklore, ghouls had varying abilities. In some stories they could shapeshift into animals, in others, they could take on the form of the person they last devoured. Otherwise, there aren’t a ton of things to go off of, so like — sure ghouls in TG are inspired by actual ghouls…but like they share way more with vampires it seems in terms of powers.
At the end of the day though…ghouls, while perhaps sharing traits with other supernatural creatures of the horror genre, are their own thing. While their origin in the manga is widely unknown, it is pretty clear that you can’t just…become a ghoul. You can’t be bitten, you can’t just eat a ghoul and therefore become one. Their biological makeup is unique and pretty well thought out by the author. I honestly just wish we knew more about it…because ghouls are amazing. A class of their own, I better not hear anyone call them a zombie or a vampire. Or a ghost. I swear people. Stop hurting me by saying that because ghouls are just an awesome invention.
So did we answer the question–what are ghouls? YES. They are unique, awesome creatures that may share similarities with other monsters but should not be called either a) vampires b) zombies or c) ghosts. I hope this blog helped you understand a little about ghouls and inspired you to go and learn a little more about them in Tokyo Ghoul. But that is all for today. Until tomorrow!