Rather than the plot, we are analysing the concept of the One Eyed King in Tokyo Ghoul, what it stood for, its origins and why it was needed desperately in a twisted world!
The One Eyed King (stop mixing him up with the one eyed owl already), is a legendary figure in the Tokyo Ghoul universe, often shrouded in mystery and believed to be the leader of Aogiri Tree till it disbanded. After the Third Cochlea raid and the incidents that followed, Ken Kaneki assumes the role of the One Eyed King and leads a resistance of ghouls against the CCG and V.
Many believe that the One Eyed King is a title that has been passed on from one individual to another for a long time in the Tokyo Ghoul universe. But, it is merely a concept/idea created by Eto Yoshimura to unite the ghouls under a powerful leader and revolt against the constant oppression they have been facing.
It is implied that Kishou Arima is the first One Eyed King, but that’s not entirely true either (Kaneki was the one and only OEK). Read the following blog to know why!
Read: Was Arima really the One Eyed King?
The Origins of One Eyed King:
Eto Yoshimura’s inspiration for the One Eyed King could have come from a past legend in the Tokyo Ghoul universe, the Underground King.
The Underground King was a one eyed ghoul born into the Washuu clan. However, he hated and resented his family (the Washuu clan) for reasons unknown and ended up staging a huge revolution against them (Tokyo ghoul:re Chapter 61). For the ghouls who were oppressed by the CCG and the Washuu clan, the Underground King was a symbol of hope. Being a writer, it is natural for Eto to have modelled the One Eyed King around this symbol.
Eto explains this concept in her final book, King Bileygr, which she authored under the name of Sen Takatsuki. In the book’s story, a fictional version of the One Eyed King rallied the ghouls to defeat a corrupt human society that schemed with a certain faction of ghouls to take control over the world (Tokyo Ghoul:re Chapter 64).
Here, Eto is referring to how the CCG was willingly formed by the Japanese Government with a ghoul family at its helm, all because it had to take down a very powerful ghoul (which, according to her, was the Underground King). The book managed to portray the sufferings of the ghouls to the society, creating sympathy in the minds of humans for them. It also motivated the ghouls to fight against the oppression they faced.
Going by the book’s title King Bileygr, it refers to Odin, a norse god who had one eye. Incidentally, if you see the characteristics of Odin as a deity, he is the divine patron of both gods and the outlaws, the two sides of ancient society, which is similar to how the One Eyed King would be looked up to by both the humans and ghouls, the two sides of the society in Tokyo Ghoul universe. An interesting parallel if you ask us.
What was the need for a One Eyed King?
So, if there was already a legendary personality like the Underground King, from which the ghouls could take inspiration, was there really any need for Eto Yoshimura to create the One Eyed King?
Eto had a warped view about the world. She had grown sick of it. She hated how humans continued to live in ignorance surrounded by lies, while the corrupt CCG gnawed away at the ghoul society. Her struggles to survive in this world as a child, combined with deceit and false hope she saw around her made her utterly despise everything about this society. This was the core reason behind her hurting humans and even ghouls who did not want to fight for their freedom. However, despite her sadistic nature, she wanted to create a new world in which humans and ghouls could live together without fearing the other.
While the Underground King could have been a hope for the ghouls, inspiring them to take down CCG and the Washuu clan, he could certainly not be the hope for the humans. The Underground King’s exploits in the Tokyo Ghoul manga paints a picture of humans suffering due to his actions (Tokyo Ghoul:re Chapter 128). In the chapter, Nishio Nishiki explains to Touka how the Underground king only cared about liberating the ghouls. The humans, who were already weak at that time, as they were recovering from the war, had to suffer the brunt of the ghoul uprising.
In the Tokyo Ghoul universe, the humans and ghouls are two sides of the same coin. Eto wanted the One Eyed King to be someone who understood this. Her objective was to unite the two species eventually.
If the ghouls were to simply overthrow the CCG by brute force, the humans would come to fear the ghoul society again. The ghouls would have gained their freedom, but this time, the humans would be the opressed ones. As time would pass, they would come up with a way to revolt and subdue the ghoul society. This cycle will continue and there would never be true peace between the two species. This was her primary reason for modelling the king as a half human, who could lead the ghouls but also sympathize with the humans.
So when Eto presents her views of giving the world a factory reset to Kishou Arima, he becomes interested by her ideas and agrees to help her with the plan. They decide to create the legend of the One Eyed King, and start their search for the right person who could lead the ghouls and unite the two species.
These two made everyone believe that there was a One Eyed King who was working for the liberation of ghouls, the unseen hand that powered the Aogiri Tree. However, the OEK never made a public appearance until Kaneki’s time, because…there was no “real” One Eyed King till then. It was just a concept, a legend, which would push the ghouls to work harder for their freedom, and give the CCG and V something to fear about.
This made Kaneki’s job easier as the king, as the legitimacy of the title/concept no longer needed to be proved to the ghouls. The actions of Arima and Eto had already taken care of that. The legend was established, he only needed to carry it forward.
The One Eyed King could also be seen as a metaphor:
Eto being the writer she was and Sui Ishida being someone who loves resorting to themes that convey deeper meanings in Tokyo Ghoul, the One Eyed King could also be seen as a metaphor for the discrimination suffered by the ghouls.
In Tokyo Ghoul:re, Eto explicitly asks Kaneki to kill the One Eyed King. Many believed this was Eto telling Kaneki to kill Arima and assume his position. But Arima was never really the OEK. He was just warming the throne until the right candidate to lead the ghouls appeared. This could also be seen as Eto simply asking Kaneki to put an end to the discrimination that the ghouls were facing and unite the two species, which was ultimately her goal.
Saying the One Eyed King was behind the Aogiri Tree could also be a way of letting the world know that it was ultimately the discrimination and the opression the ghouls faced which forced them to form such a savage organisation.
What are your opinions about the concept of One Eyed King? Let us know your opinions in the comments section!