And here’s why I think so.
This assuming there’s a sequel series, which, while not confirmed at this point, seems more likely than not. I’m more sure of my grasp of the thematic elements like the tarot cards and how the composition of the final chapter points to him being alive than I am about the speculated plot details. I’m open to discussion on this. Hold onto your butts, this will be a long one:
- I believe that while Kaneki’s kakuhou (or one of them at least) was turned into a quinque, Kaneki himself likely isn’t dead, and is probably in Kokuria. (I know Itori said he wasn’t, I’ll address that a few bullet points down.)
- It has been long suspected that Arata—who has blatant parallels with Kaneki, both in appearance and demeanor—is being kept alive at Kokuria so the CCG can farm him for quinques. This is all but confirmed, as we know that it’s impossible to repair or upgrade a quinque. Yet we keep getting new versions of Arata’s quinque, and half the CCG seems to have a copy.
- The CCG have a much greater incentive to keep Kaneki alive as a source of quinques than they do to simply kill him off and give one to Arima. They’ve lost a lot in the Anteiku raid, and Kaneki’s kagune is the only thing they’ve encountered that can even crack IXA. Amon even says himself that after what Kaneki did, he’s most likely headed for Kokuria.
- As for the document that says he’s been “erased” I don’t believe this means he’s been killed. Note how in the panel above it, the other presumably killed ghoul on the paperwork does not have a big ‘erased’ stamped on their picture. Rather, I think it means they’ve expunged all records related to Kaneki and are basically keeping him top secret.
- Why? Because he’s a walking Ethics-Board nightmare. The CCG higher-ups have at the very least figured out that he was an ordinary human who only turned into a ghoul after Kanou got his hands on him. They want him not only as a powerful resource, but as a science experiment due to his half ghoul nature, but they don’t want to deal with the possible fallout if the rest of the CCG, or heaven forbid the general public, finds out who he really is.
- Amon and Kaneki both promised each other they would somehow live through this, and their frienemy-ship is one of the most important elements of the manga. It’s almost certain at this point that Amon is alive in Aogiri’s clutches, even though the official story is that he’s dead. Likewise, I think that Kaneki is still alive even though certain parties are covering it up. Those two have had plenty of parallels up to this point so why stop now?
- The thing that most convinces me that he’s alive is Touka’s words, which were important enough to end the manga with in three pages of full color. She says she has faith in him, and believes that he will return to both them and Anteiku. (that nuance isn’t apparent in the translation of the last chapter, but if you look at the raws, it says both.)
- In a high res version of the image, you can see the words ‘see you next’ on Touka’s shirt. So much sequel bait…
- Looking at the preceding pages, the CCG implies but does not directly state that Kaneki is dead. The scene with the director and Arima lends itself to both readings: that Kaneki is dead, and that Kaneki’s merely interred at Kokuria.
- the clown gang only heard about it second hand. The CCG is covering up the fact they have Kaneki, so it makes sense that Itori believed there were no prisoners taken after the raid, Kaneki was the big exception and they’re in no hurry to reveal it. Also, while the translation used in the scan says they killed off everyone in Kokuria, apparently that translation isn’t accurate, and it’s more along the lines of ‘the ccg took no prisoners in the anteiku raid.’
- While they say they have the last laugh, it’s quite telling that they only get the second-to-last word in of the manga. The one who symbolically has the final say here is Touka. And she says it more assuredly than them as far as panel composition is concerned
- This whole chapter strikes me as one that is wholly tragic and incomprehensible at first glance, but when you look closely, there’s plenty of hopeful subtext beneath the surface
- Hide’s (probable) sacrifice stops being meaningless if Kaneki is at Kokuria. I saw this theory a couple of weeks ago. Basically, since Kaneki (probably) ate Hide, he regained enough strength to give Arima a run for his money. He’s pretty much the only person who’s managed to scratch Arima and damage Arata. This made it entirely clear to Arima that he was useful enough to keep around. If he’d hobbled in wounded and half-crazy, he likely would have been simply killed and disposed of like the rest.
like, I’m still hoping Hide’s alive and just missing a chunk of his shoulder or an arm or whatever; and that he’s gone off the grid because he knows it’s more of a liability than an asset to stick with the ccg at this point…but I’m not holding my breath.
In fact, part of me hopes that he rescued kaneki and has gone into hiding but that not…very likely
- With that, let’s talk about tarot cards, I’m pretty confident in this aspect of my interpretation
- First off, Touka. She is associated with the high priestess as of chapter 140. This card is all about mystery, wisdom, hidden knowledge, and the power of intuition. In that chapter, it symbolized Touka’s insight into the truth of Kaneki’s condition which he didn’t fully realize until later. As for how it relates to this chapter…
- Touka’s resolute belief that Kaneki is alive is based on her own gut feeling as opposed to the hearsay around her. And, supposing that my theory that Kaneki’s existence has merely been covered up is correct, her knowing that he’s alive would fall under purview of hidden knowledge.
- With regard to Kaneki, while he’s associated with several tarot cards (which I’ll get to in a moment,) the one he’s most associated with is the hanged man. In TG, this card seems to be most associated with letting go of old perspectives and gaining insight and acceptance through sacrifice and suffering. Its iconography is associated with figures like Jesus and Osiris, but especially Odin. All three of these figures died in some sense and were resurrected.
- Odin and Kaneki both have a one-eye/hanged man motif going on, for one thing.
- In Norse mythology, Odin hung himself from Yggdrasil for nine days to gain the wisdom of runes. He pierced himself with a spear and hung upside down gazing into the well of urd in a death-like state before uncovering their wisdom and returning fully to life, more powerful than before. Some verses regard this event as Odin “sacrificing himself to himself”
- and in another myth, he gouged out one of his eyes (remember that fan theory that Kaneki will be blinded after the events of 140? I mean, aside from the literal eye-gouging that occured…) in order to to drink from the well of Urd and gain even more wisdom.
- Kaneki’s situation is like a combination of the above myths. He was stabbed with a spear, his eyes were gouged out, he’s on the edge of life and death, and in chapter 140, he gained wisdom and finally seemed to quell his dissociative tendencies, coming to terms with his past and present self. With all these parallels, it seems fitting that after retreating to the edge of death, Kaneki will come back at some point, in order to complete the parallel. Also the term “sacrificing himself to himself” seems to parallel Kaneki’s situation at least a little bit.
- Furthermore, the site where Odin lost his eye and gained wisdom from was at the well of Urd, which hides underground at the roots of Yggdrasil. A location not unlike a sewer, no?
- Moving on to the other card that’s been showing up lately…
- Temperance. Appearing in volume 14, in V14, and in chapter 140, whose Japanese title, 痕児, can be read as ‘sessei’ or temperance
- This card is about healing and bringing together opposites, I mean, just look at those many optimistic words it’s associated with on the wikipedia page. This is not a ‘kill off your protagonist’ card
- Kaneki, I believe, is going to ‘rest a bit’ in his own words, before eventually waking up and kicking ass in a sane, mentally stable way. Him recovering and coming to terms with himself would make sense with temperance. And that card has certainly gotten a lot of prominence recently
- We also see the chariot show up. I’m starting to feel lazy so I’ll just copy paste the relevant wikipedia quotes:
- "The chariot is one of the most complex cards to define. On its most basic level, it implies war, a struggle, and an eventual, hard-won victory; either over enemies, obstacles, nature, the beasts inside you, or to just get what you want. But there is a great deal more to it. What does this all mean? It means a union of opposites, like the black and white steeds. They pull in different directions, but must be (and can be!) made to go together in one direction.”
- The other card that has shown up frequently in recent chapters in the death card. In spite of its name, it mostly has nothing to do with literal death. It’s all about the embrace of the inevitable, change, and transformation.
- There’s a great post that ties into what I think the death card means here on the bato.to forums here
- Going over some highlights, while Kaneki: the tragic ghoul, who hides his true self, and lives a life outside his control has died, Kaneki: the self-actualized, genuine, non-tragic, half-ghoul half-human is about to be born.
- It is the tragic ghoul who “cannot pass V(volume)14.” Arima did say ‘no ghoul can go any further’ or something along those lines
- But Kaneki is neither ghoul nor human. While one aspect of himself dies at V14, another will rise from the ashes. This also occurs in the story on a meta level. Tokyo Ghoul, as it is now, is a Kafka-esque tragedy, written by the scribbling pens of the clown gang and Takatsuki. It ends here. And yet, the story isn’t finished. Plot threads and character arcs still linger, and it ends on a sequel-bait message of hope delivered by the one character whose words and instincts have the most weight at this point.
- That said, I do think that Kaneki will undergo a serious, permanent, negative change of some sort so as to not get off to lightly, so to speak. I’ve seen blindness and amnesia thrown around as ideas.
- The sequel will likely be an epic instead of a tragedy. Both the main character and the narrative itself have undergone a transformation so thorough that its metaphorical death and rebirth will occur at this juncture. This manga ends, and the story continues in another.
- Also, as the post points out, there’s a sort of dual monologue between Kaneki and Amon going on throughout the chapter. Though I’m not sure myself whether it’s just kaneki speaking, or both of them. Anyway, in the last line, Kaneki questions whether his true salvation could really be found through sleeping/dying and shutting out the world.
- no it won’t u nerd, wake up and join your friends!
- Anyway, I’m not sure how dead he’s supposed to be anyway if he’s monologuing. He certainly sounds a little out of it though. If they treat their prisoners/quinque farms like Kanou treated Rize, then this is probably to be expected.
- Also, I’m not entirely sure on this one, but some people have said they saw a 9 (the hermit) in kaneki’s blood on the last page of 140. It’s symbolism follows the themes lined out thus far quite well. It’s a card that represents retreating into the unconscious, away from society, before coming back out with new found wisdom.
- As I was writing this, users on bato.to noticed a 19 on Touka’s jacket in the color page. This is the sun card (and in the picture she’s bathed in sunlight, no less!)
- It is regarded as the most favorable card in the deck
- "This card is generally considered positive. It is said to reflect happiness and contentment, vitality, self-confidence and success. Sometimes referred to as the best card in Tarot, it represents good things and positive outcomes to current struggles.”
- Touka’s ultimate line of hope is basically backed up by the most powefully positive card in the deck.
- :D. So basically every card that has shown up in the past few chapters has emphasized rebirth, recovery, victory, gaining insight, and all that good jazz.
- The sun card especially fits in with the theory that the next installment of Tokyo Ghoul will not be a tragedy, but a hard won epic.
- They also point out that the suitcase may not contain Kaneki’s kagune. Time will tell, but the visual language seemed to heavily imply it was Kaneki’s. Maybe Arima has a thing for black cases? Another person pointed out that it doesn’t make sense for that suitcase to contain Kaneki since it takes months to convert a powerful kagune into a quinque—Yamori’s took six months to make for example, while this chapter takes place a few days after the raid on anteiku. Who knows, maybe the case is a red herring @_@. But anyway, the possibility that the most tragic and ominous part of the chapter was simply a red herring also fits in with my “this ending is only superficially tragic and is setting up for a comeback” reading. I’m not sure about this point, but it’s worth mentioning.
- Addressing the argument that Kaneki’s out of the picture and there will be a new main character: While I think it’s likely that Touka will be the protagonist of the first chunk of the manga, Kaneki is an iconic, dynamic, and extremely interesting character. His unique situation puts him at the center of the numerous subplots that the manga weaves. It also makes him the only possible savior of the two sides, since Eto is pretty, errr… muderous, and the twins are too busy being emotionless and amoral to care about the conflict. He’s pretty thoroughly impossible to replace. Amon’s cool, but he’s not nearly as interesting or perceptive as Kaneki. He makes for a good deuteragonist, but not so much a protagonist, imo.
- Also, didn’t Yoshimura task Kaneki with saving his child? He still needs to do that. He also needs to talk with Amon.
- So yeah, on a symbolic level, on a metatextual level, on plot level, it makes the most sense that Kaneki is alive, and that he will be a saner and more mature person in the future.
- also this:
- So, if Ishida not fucking with us (haha mighty big if, right?) then there is a way out for Kaneki from his tragic story.
- This is entering the realm of ruti’s speculative wish fulfillment. I really want Touka to lead the charge of rescuing her dad and Kaneki from Kokuria. She’s got two very important people trapped in there, and she’s the only one who still has faith that Kaneki’s alive. And after being out of focus the past god knows how many chapters, she deserves some time in the lime light.
- Also, it would provide the perfect opportunity for Ayato to get over himself and for the two reconcile as they embark on dadquest
- for Touka, it would be both dadquest and baequest
- Also, in this sweet dream of mine, Hide is alive and helps out too
- he can be mission control.
- For the last bit, let’s talk about parallels. Over the course of the story Kaneki has been paralleled with three characters who were/are assumed to be dead, but were actually held by the CCG or Kanou and experimented on. That would be Rize, Arata, and now, Amon.
Alright, in conclusion. While the manga implies Kaneki’s death at first glance—this first installation is a tragedy after all—it doesn’t truly confirm it and instead sets up for a more optimistic sequel. We still need payoff on the whole “Kaneki can be the bridge between two worlds” thing. All the tarot cards used in recent chapters have foreshadowed not Kaneki’s downfall, but his transformation into a better person and eventual return. Kaneki is most associated with the card whose iconography is filled with people who endure a ‘death’ of some kind before returning stronger than ever.
While most characters are assuming he’s dead, the final statement of the manga is delivered by the person whose tarot cards represent hidden wisdom, and the potential for boundless success. And she says with defiance and assurance that he will return, that she believes in him, and that even if he’s lost now, he will find his way back to them. Amon almost certainly isn’t dead, and I think that means Kaneki, his counterpart, is in similar situation: alive, in bad shape, and in the clutches of people who are telling everyone else that they’re dead. Also, there is a non-zero chance that the black case, the most cruel and saddening part of this chapter, is a red herring.
It seems to me that while the tragedy has ended, the story continues, and there’s room for hope.