Ken Kaneki (金木 研, Kaneki Ken) is the protagonist of the story. He used to be a normal human living a normal student life, but due to certain events, he earns the transplant of Rize's kakuhou and became a One-Eyed Ghoul. Kaneki starts struggling with hardships one after another, between being a university freshman studying Japanese Literature at the Department of Literature of Kamii University and being a part-time waiter working at Anteiku, where he becomes known as Eyepatch (眼帯). Currently, he leads his own group of ghouls under the goal of protecting the ones precious to him and the goal of "picking out" the people who threaten the place he belongs to. While active with his group and searching for answers, he had been seen using his second kagune, which has given him a nickname in accordance to its resemblance as Centipede.


Kaneki is a shy and reserved person with Hide being his only close friend. He usually spends most of his time reading books, mostly novels. He is extremely gentle and appears to be optimistic most of the time. Influenced by his mother and a true testament of modesty, he willingly takes blame and punishment from others so that he can be someone who doesn't hurt people but rather "the person getting hurt". However, this lack of assertiveness normally gets him bullied and taken advantage of.[4][5]

However, beneath his selfless and gentle nature is an underlying fear of being alone. Ever since his mother died, Kaneki has developed his personality to resemble his mother's. He despises the idea of solitude, hence he tries to protect those dear to him so he would not have to face his fears of being alone in the world.

This is perhaps his greatest weakness and act of selfishness. Since Kaneki is always trying to protect others, he is essentially trying to protect himself from becoming alone again. Therefore to escape that scenario, he would shoulder the task of protecting other onto himself without looking for others to help him. This is also the reason why Kaneki seems to reject the notion of "living" because to him, watching others die before him is the beginning of returning to those lonely days without anyone behind him.

After he was turned into a half-ghoul, he clings to his human side. To keep his life in the human world, he began to work at Anteiku and had built relationships with the ghouls there. Because of his experiences, he had started to have interest in becoming stronger and began reading martial art books so that he could protect himself and the people close to him. He was troubled with the fact that he is a half-ghoul and is searching for a place he can belong to. If people close to him are threatened, Kaneki will try to protect them even he is the one who gets hurt the most instead.


Kaneki waking up in the hospital
In the first chapter, Kaneki and Hide listened to the news about ghoul attacks in the 20th ward while in Anteiku. Hide wondered if Touka was Kaneki's new crush that he wanted to show him, but Kaneki denied it. Instead, He pointed to Rize as she entered the café. After Hide had left the place, Kaneki ended up being arranged to a date with Rize. However, Rize turned out to be a ghoul targeting Kaneki, which she revealed after tricking Kaneki into entering a quiet alley. During her attack, Kaneki was wounded in the abdomen by her kagune, but steel bars fell on her and apparently killed her before she could kill him. To save his life, the staff of the Kanou General Hospital under the direction of Dr. Kanou decided to transplant Rize's organs into him. From then on, Kaneki became a half-human, half-ghoul.
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After the accident, Kaneki hid the fact that Rize was a ghoul. He found everything he ate tasted disgusting and he was hardly able to eat normal food, so he started to live only on water for days. Around that time he realized that ghouls were also unable to eat normal food, his hunger struck him. Unable to find anything to satisfy his hunger, he wandered the streets. At that time, he found out that the waitress, Touka, from Anteiku was also a ghoul when she killed a human in front of him. In terror, he ran away. He soon saw that he could barely keep himself in check. Since he thought the organ transplant was the reason for his transformation, he tried to get rid of the transplanted organs, but was unsuccessful. Desperate, he turned to Touka for help. Touka refused to give assistance, but Anteiku's manager Yoshimura kindly gave Kaneki human meat to satisfy his hunger.

However, Kaneki was still repelled by the thought of having to eat human meat, so he decided to continue rejecting it. Instead, he looked for other digestible food frantically. He discovered that he was still able to drink coffee. Drinking coffee calmed him down, so he went off to buy more. In a store, a man revealed to be Nishio advised him to buy the instant coffee "Blondy". As Kaneki was returning home, he noticed the smell of delicious food. He traced the smell's source, which turned out to be a human corpse. The ghoul Kazuo Yoshida was eating the freshly slain body, but he was immediately killed by Nishio. Asserting that this was his feeding ground, Nishio attacked Kaneki too. At that moment, Touka appeared and declared that this place wasn't Nishio's feeding ground, but Rize's. Nishio retorted that this was originally his feeding ground until Rize came, but Touka, unfazed, responded that the feeding grounds would be re-alloted among the weaker ghouls and that it was his own fault for being too weak. Angered, Nishio attacked Touka, but was immediately defeated. Touka tried to force Kaneki to eat some of the meat, but Kaneki hysterically screamed that he was human and different from ghouls. Angered, Touka retorted that Kaneki was neither human nor ghoul and no place where he belonged, but she also warned him that a ghoul's hunger was hell.

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