The Hidden Background of Nutcracker

Anyone who talks to me enough knows that I love Tokyo Ghoul. Like, really, really love it. I draw kagune for fun, have a few OC’s, and do Ghoul biology essays on a semi-regular basis. My weapon of choice is a set of super-powered tentacles that grant me an extreme healing factor and can crush things to death. That is all.

And yet, when push came to shove, I wound up picking my token “side-character I like to an absurd degree” as my absolute favorite:

squirrelftw-sui

She was introduced as “Nutcracker,” a Ghoul with a penchant for eating men’s genitals. The first we heard of her (TG:re Ch.9) was as such, possibly linked with a human trafficking ring. The investigation was one of the best of the entire series, starting with all the men needing to crossdress out of fear for their junk:

crossdressingscanlation
(Credit to the now-defunct ImperialScans)

Unfortunately, she didn’t get much screen-time (page-time?).  The CCG (basically the Men in Black/cops for Ghoul-related crimes) already had vital info such as her face, residence, and Rc Type (well, one of them). Her testicle-eating habit and black teeth were both well-known. Despite being part of a human trafficking ring, she wasn’t deemed a threat. There may be a reason for these bits of information; I suspect that some people at the CCG have very kinky leanings indeed, and that one unfortunate soul experienced her ball torture first-hand.

We didn’t get to see her in action until Ch.23 of Tokyo Ghoul:re (“Perry”). This involved infiltrating a human auction with some of Nutcracker’s acquisitions (including one of the aforementioned agents in drag). Then, shit hit the fan so hard and fast that it was nothing but a glorious stream of Nutcracker skewering people with tail mines, revealing a hidden second kagune, eating a young lady’s face off, and generally giving the CCG hell. Oh, and one guy got his testicles trampled on, and we saw Nuts slurping the fluids:

nutcracker_doinherthing

Did I mention that a lot of the people she axed were fans who had submitted their resumes into a job search contest? “Got balls cracked by a Ghoul dominatrix” is the most interesting, yet WTF qualification that might get someone hired.

After the roller coaster of “HOLY SNAAAAP!” that Ch.23 was, she didn’t have much time left at all. She died in Ch.28 after being worn-down, cornered, and impaled. Her dying words? “I want to be beautiful.”

I knew that Sui would pull a heel-face-turn at the last second with Nuts. He’s done it before – Tokyo Ghoul as a whole is very much about putting the shoe on the other foot, and Nuts had so few redeeming qualities that Sui was bound to add something. Alas, what we got of Nuts’s backstory wasn’t much; we saw how her obsessions with beauty and money stemmed from an impoverished life, but we don’t know exactly what happened between the time she got kidnapped and the ohaguro-sporting Ghoul we see in TG:re. Something, anything, would have been nice there. My brain went into overdrive, trying to puzzle out the missing part. A lot of people wanted to see more of her; as a recent S-rate, however, she would not have been allowed to survive.

She wasn’t done yet.

Shirazu, the CCG agent who killed her, was a sensitive guy. His bed-ridden sister had also wanted to be pretty. Nutcracker appeared as a zombie in his sleep, and as a multi-eyed specter as the result of PTSD. (I SWEAR I will bring up all of these later – sit tight). In a do-or-die situation, however, he managed to man up and handle the most unique weapon in the entire series:

nutcracker_hobermanofdeath

This quinque would have worked wonders on anybody but Noro, a character who turned out to be a mass of cells after the dagger-bomb hit him. Not many things can handle being exploded from the inside-out otherwise. This was the last we saw of her in the manga.

The next cameo she had was on the 2016 Tokyo Ghoul flip calendar. Along with one image of her and Shirazu, we basically got Sui’s character reference sheet for her. From this, we got the name “Mayu,” her birthday (Jan. 6), that she was 21 years old, and that was about it. There was more there that didn’t get translated. Why? I don’t really know.

nutsref

Then, in December of 2016, this calendar page was translated. Now that we have a translated stat sheet, we can start looking at Mayu in more depth than ever before.

What’s in a Name? 

The “Mayu” written in kanji means “hemp” or “flax.” Names with a similar sound, but different meaning, can mean things like “gentle truth.”(I could have sworn I found one meaning “chrysalis,” but upon digging again, nothing.)  The particular kanji used for Mayu’s name is very rare in this context, but used in other things. If translated to Hindi, “mayu”is  a homonym for “magician.” Considering how tricky she was? Fitting.

Perhaps more interesting is that Mayu doesn’t have a last name. This hints that “Mayu” might be an alias, or that her parents were so far from the Japanese family registry that they simply didn’t bother with a family name. It makes her more of a stray, at any rate. She doesn’t have a family name because she doesn’t have a family.

She Works at a Sex Shop? 

Pretty much, yeah. I realize a lot of teenagers who read Tokyo Ghoul probably haven’t been in BDSM shops. They sell…implements, to put it nicely. This includes lube, whips, chastity belts, the works. It’s a good idea: there are people who like being tortured, and “cock and ball torture (CBT)” gets Nuts what she wants, along with likely releasing some stress. This was honestly a relief to see, because I expected so, so much worse.

Again, it bugs me that we don’t get what happened between Point A and Point B from her flashback; rape, prostitution, and human trafficking are all likely. I have reasons to suspect all of the above, but lack of confirmation from the author will probably bug me to the grave. Once more, I had a feeling of, “that’s it?”

In other words, even if she doesn’t like that she isn’t particularly smart, her job choice was a pretty clever move. It still doesn’t fill in that gap, but it’s a good hunting strategy. Well-played.

Since When is Visual Acuity Important? 

I’m going to run myself in circles figuring out whether or not this stat matters. Be right back.

The answer: it doesn’t matter that much; acuity of 8 is just a touch higher than normal on most eye charts. Sui might have noted it to explain one feature that always grabbed me about Nuts: she has interesting eyes.

For someone in Tokyo Ghoul with a lot of traditional Japanese features, Mayu has very light eyes with almost catlike pupils. They aren’t just her kakugan, either; in an official Ishida drawing, her irises look gray. Another drawing has her with the usual red kakugan common to all ghouls. Although the gray irises are usual, it’s interesting that there are a few panels where her eyes are darker. I have to wonder if that was intentional or not; since Sui is usually a mangaka who explains things, what’s the explanation for the sudden change in eye color?

nutsgrayeyes

What’s with the balls? 

In Nutcracker’s bio sheet, it’s stated that her reason for eating balls is that she thought it would bring her money. This, at first, struck me as incongruous with something we saw in the story: at one point in TG:re Ch.23, she states that balls are “good for the waistline.” While these reasons don’t fly against each other, they seem unrelated…right?

Yes and no. It’s more like one of those points is superstition and the other is legit science.

The relationship between testicles and money is lost in translation. In Japanese, the word for “testicles” is “kintama” – literally, “golden balls.” The same kanji for the “gold” in “kintama” is used for money (but pronounced “kane“).  In English, we have something similar with the idea of “family jewels.” Thus, balls are associated with money in Japanese culture (more on this point later). It makes sense that such a superstition would arise in the man-eating Ghoul world.

The diet food point, however, is legitimate. I crunched a few numbers using the nutritional facts of known animal testicles. Generally speaking, balls are high in cholesterol and protein, with a few odd trace elements like selenium, and very low in fat. Compared to other meats, testicles are most similar to rabbit – a meat so lean that, if a human tries to live on it, they get something called “rabbit starvation.” This isn’t the case for true carnivores, who can live comfortably on such lean meat. I can only presume Ghouls are included in that bunch; a diet that would kill an omnivorous human is probably fine for a Ghoul, which is an obligate carnivore (Ghouls can only eat human flesh). Even by Ghoul standards, however, this is Atkins-tier extreme.

(Disclaimer: Mayu’s nut-busting habit was described as a “hobby,” so she may be eating other body parts as well.)

Nutcracker’s preference for balls is an acquired taste, and both reasons make sense, even if they don’t seem to gel at first. It makes sense for a concern about cholesterol content to lead to the discovery of testicles as a potential diet product. We don’t know exactly how we got from Point A to Point B on this, but can kind of figure out the roadmap. Cool.

So, what if I told you that the basis for this character is largely Japanese, and has hints of not one, but several mythological monsters/figures? That’s why you’re here and you know it. However, your eyes probably need a break after all that, so onto the next post!

Advertisements