Ken Kaneki is the main protagonist from the Tokyo Ghoul series, both the anime and the manga. Ken is the epitome of the regular, everyday teenage anime character who is living a relatively normal life at the beginning of the series.
However, his life is irrevocably changed when a freak accident leads him to become something much more than just human.
We are going to be taking a look at the character of Ken Kaneki and some of his noteworthy traits- such as his age and his appearance- as well as some of the powers that he possesses and the backstory that led him to make the transition that changed his life: the change from a human to a half-human, half-ghoul.
Firstly, let’s take a look at some of the main plot of the Tokyo Ghoul series so that we can understand Ken’s character and his situation a little better.
The series of Tokyo Ghoul is set in an alternative reality wherein humans co-exist with supernatural beings known as ghouls. These ghouls are creatures that look exactly like humans- easily being mistaken for regular people-, but that need to feast on humans to live.
Because of this, ghouls must hide their true nature in order to avoid being captured by the authorities.
It is important to know the difference between the humans and the ghouls before we look at Ken as a character, as his change from a human to half-human, half-ghoul is the crux of his story and the series as a whole.
How Old Is Ken Kaneki?
In the anime, Ken starts off the series as an 18-year-old university student and is 19 by the end of the show.
In the manga- Tokyo Ghoul: Re- Ken is slightly older than his anime counterpart, being 21 at the beginning of the manga. By the end of the manga, he is much older than he is in the anime, as he is 29 years old.
Ken’s appearance changes drastically throughout the series for various reasons. As a child and into his teenage years, Ken has the look of an average kid, with dark hair and large brown eyes.
He is a literature student and is, therefore, a huge fan of reading books, but he does not have much of an athletic background. This makes him a little scrawny for his age- as he has spent his youth reading books instead of exercising-, with a slim build as well as a relatively short height.
The run-in that Ken has with the ghoul Rize is what brings about the character’s physical change into a half-human, half-ghoul, as he has to have her organs transplanted into his body to survive after she attacks him (Rize is killed by a steel beam, in the process, which is why her organs are used to heal Ken).
This not only gives him a permanent scar on his stomach, but it also marks the change that Ken will go through physically across the series as a whole.
After becoming a ghoul- thanks to Rize’s transplanted organs- Ken develops a “kakugan” meaning “red-eye”. The kakugan is a trait that all ghouls have, relating to a state in which either one or both eyes will transform into something more sinister-looking.
The iris of the eye will turn red, whilst the white sclera of the eye will turn black and red veins will form within them. These veins will also spread out into the skin directly around the eyes or the one affected eye.
Ken only has one eye that is impacted by the kakugan, and so- whilst he is learning to control it- he wears a medical eye patch to hide it. Ken’s change in appearance becomes more drastic after being tortured by Tokyo Ghoul antagonist Yakumo Oomori, or Yamori.
During his ten-day torture period, his hair turns white, and his nails turn black because of his body constantly regenerating from the abuse inflicted upon him, as well as the stress and trauma of the torture in general.
His hair is later white with black streaks as his natural color starts to come back as his hair grows out.
Later on in the series, Ken wears a specific mask that has become somewhat iconic, known as the Eyepatch Mask (which has become a popular choice with cosplayers all over the world!). The mask is made from leather with a large eye patch on the right side.
It has a creepy look to it thanks to the lipless mouth that has large, exposed teeth on it that adds to the monstrous style. The mask covers the bottom half of Ken’s face- as well as his right eye- and there are also bolts sticking out of the neck area to give off that Frankenstein’s monster vibe.
The mask is incredibly unnerving and, when combined with Ken’s bright white hair, makes for a rather terrifying change when you consider how he used to look.
Much like his appearance, Ken’s personality also starts to alter drastically after his transformation from a human to a half-human, half-ghoul. When he was human, he was a shy and quiet young man who spent a good deal of his time alone reading novels. He had a gentle nature and was quietly optimistic and modest.
After he transitions to half-ghoul, Ken tries to keep his humanity intact. He knows that he will have to become physically stronger due to the danger that comes with being half-ghoul, and so he starts to read books on close combat and martial arts to try and learn how he can protect himself and those that are closest to him.
His interest in reading still clearly remains, but he has to change the way he thinks due to what he has become. In the same way that Ken’s appearance changes severely after his torturous experience with Yamori, so does his personality.
He no longer goes about things the way that he did when he was human. Instead, he develops a ruthless nature and becomes brutally protective of his friends.
He also embraces his ghoul side more ferociously- no longer being afraid of it- which in turn leads him to become much more barbaric with his fighting techniques.
He does eventually start to revert to his old self, going back and forth between his human personality and his hardened ghoul personality as the series continues.
Ken’s Powers And Abilities
Although most of Ken’s powers and abilities come from his ghoul side, he does have some natural talents too. Let’s take a look at some of the things that Ken Kaneki can do.
- Intelligence: Ken is a very intelligent person, but this was the case before he became half-ghoul due to his obsession with books and reading. He has learned lots of different skills due to his love of books and has built up his intelligence, making him a cunning, quick learner as well as a skilled tactician in battle.
- Martial Arts: This also links to Ken’s love of books, as he started to read martial arts books to learn how to protect himself and his loved ones once he became half-ghoul. His ghoul physiology allows him to fight much harder than a human, as demonstrated by his excellence and strength when it comes to close combat, martial arts, and sword fighting.
- Rinkaku Kakgune: Every ghoul has a kagune within them, as it acts as the ghoul’s predatory organ as well as the way that their natural weapons and claws function. Kakgun is made up of Rc cells, which are similar to blood in that they flow but can also become solid, with a ghoul being able to make the kagune soft or hard at their will. There are different types of kagune, with Ken’s being a Rinkaku kagune, which has a similar look to scaled tentacles. Ken’s kagune can help him regenerate quickly in a fight and can strike with superior power, with its main feature being its brute strength, making it one of the strongest forms of kagune.
- Superhuman Strength and Speed: Since becoming half-ghoul, Ken has gained the ability to survive situations that would kill a normal human being, such as being thrown against a concrete wall. He can also lift incredibly heavy items and fight with brutal strength. He is also much faster than the average human.
- Pain Tolerance: Ken is much more tolerant of pain thanks to his ghoul transformation, as demonstrated by his ability to withstand the unrelenting pain of the torture that he received from Yamori.
- Ghoul Physiology: His new genetic makeup- received when he transforms- has made Ken much more durable and powerful overall. This combined with his human intelligence clearly makes him a force to be reckoned with.
Ken Kaneki is a fascinating anime character who goes through a fair amount of physical and mental changes throughout the Tokyo Ghoul series. His transition (and his well-known mask) is so impactful that he has become one of the more iconic anime and manga characters.