The Censorship of Transgender Identity in Tokyo Ghoul:re

Warning: this article attempts to explore the portrayal of violence against transgender individuals within a particular manga/anime series. 

The duality and clashing of identities, internal or otherwise, has always been central to Tokyo Ghoul.

In the original Tokyo Ghoul, for instance, Ken Kaneki was neither just a ghoul nor just a human and occupied a special position in-between by being an one-eyed ghoul. In a similar vein, Koutarou Amon was a zealous CCG investigator who grew up loving his foster father (who was actually a ghoul). And in Tokyo Ghoul:re, Sasaki Haise initially struggles with being an amnesiac half-ghoul Kaneki while working as a CCG investigator known as Haise.

However, censorship has always been prominent regarding the anime adaptations for Tokyo Ghoul with mangled corpses becoming covered in obscuring darkness and pivotal scenes being left out in order to rush through arcs.

In regards to the latter, which has happened profusely thus far, the results implies an erasure of non-cissexual identities as instances which confirm these moments are skipped or kept ambiguous. This is turn avoids some of the very problematic moments associated with particular characters but also completely changes the very natures of aforementioned characters.

From this point forward, the author will be assuming the reader is aware of the events which take place in Tokyo Ghoul:re and has watched up to at least episode 6.

Furthermore, the author wishes to reaffirm the reader’s suspicion that this is essentially an article in which the anime adaptation will be compared to the original manga adaptation, which is typically a pointless approach since the anime adaptation should be strong enough to stand without requiring the viewer to consume supplementary material (otherwise known as playing the video game or reading the manga/light novel) to understand what’s going on. Be advised.

Essentially, Mutsuki Tooru is the character who is most affected by this imposed censorship. Initially appearing to be a gentle boy who just happens to look very attractive when dressed up as a girl, Tooru is actually a biological female who requested to be a boy after being scouted by the CCG academy.

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Tokyo Ghoul:re chapter 5

This comes to light in chapter 5, but is entirely left out in the anime adaptation. To be fair, it’s actually rather reasonable for this moment to be adapted out considering how Torso rips open Tooru’s shirt with a sneer, insists that Tooru is a girl after confirming that Tooru has cleavage and a scarred torso, and starts beating on Tooru.

This grisly scene is simply too similar to unfortunate real life situations regarding transmen or transwomen, so the removal of this moment makes sense.

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Interestingly, Torso refers to Tooru as the gender-neutral お客様, which means customer, here. The translator had assumed that Mutsuki is a male, which is true considering the missing scene where Tooru requests to be raised as a boy. With all context considered, Torso’s question thus holds multiple meanings: “is Tooru a boy or a girl?” and “is Tooru a ghoul or a human?”

But since the aforementioned scene was removed, anime-only viewers are simply left in the dark regarding Torso’s obsession with Tooru. His motivations have been cut out of the narrative and now viewers have to either guess as to why Torso is fixated on Tooru or have to read the original source material. In that sense, as well as in many other similar instances regarding the removal of context, the anime adaptation of Tokyo Ghoul:re has failed as an anime adaptation.

It really could be said that ignorance is bliss and that it might be for the best that anime-only viewers are given nothing to cause them to believe that Tooru is possibly transgender and possibly identifies as being male. If Tooru considers himself to be a man, then what’s wrong with viewers doing so, as well?

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I suppose these moments might key in anime-only viewers, but it’s awfully subtle and can prove to be confusing.

With that being said, the anime adaptation seems to be unable to make up its own mind since it includes another moment which confirms that Tooru is, biologically, a female. Right after Urie goes on a rampage, loses control of himself, and involuntarily pierces Tooru’s stomach (which is a parallel to what happened between Kaneki and Yomo in Tokyo Ghoul, by the way), Urie notices the scent of blood on Tooru wasn’t from a wound. Urie then deduces that it’s menstrual blood and correctly asks if Tooru was born a woman. The anime adaptation, however, keeps it intentionally vague by just having Urie say, “You are… I see.”

It just seems like the anime adaptation is sending mixed messages or is attempting to not include transgender characters by editing very important moments. However, it is indeed ambiguous whether Tooru is a transman or whether Tooru simply wants to avoid being stared at by lecherous males (which occurs in the bar in episode 3 and shows Tooru being very very uncomfortable).

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Tooru’s kagune is rather beautiful.

A similar situation also happened with Big Madam. A grotesquely obese ghoul, Big Madam was referred to as “Father” by Juuzo, who was raised by Big Madam, right after the ghoul was killed by Juuzo’s squad. Given that Juuzo brought up the idea of a ghoul in drag in the original series (which was probably not included in the original anime adaptation), it’s hard to say whether or not Big Madam was a transwoman or a drag queen. Be that as it may, Juuzo’s parting words to Big Madam were not included in the anime adaptation at all.

And then there’s another character who also may or may not have gender issues, but the anime adaptation hasn’t revealed said character’s plight yet so I’ll stop here.

tl;dr – there are several characters which could be considered transgender in Tokyo Ghoul:re but the anime adaptation has altered these characters and changed these pivotal scenes for various reasons, presumably.


Thank you for reading.

2 thoughts on “The Censorship of Transgender Identity in Tokyo Ghoul:re

  1. That’s a shame that they changed the fact that Tooru is transgender, it makes the character a lot more interesting imo and of course representation matters. This makes me want to read the manga even more!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Right? Well, a lot of people ended up hating the character, including me, due to various reasons…

      Oh, the anime adaptation of both TG and TG:re left out a lot of literary references and Franz Kafka is supposed to be mentioned and we’re supposed to draw a connection between Kafka and the aforementioned Crossbread but it’s all gone because the studio and director cuts too much of everything ughhhhhhhhh

      Liked by 2 people

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