Tokyo Ghoul – 12 (Fin)

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Much of this episode was mind-searingly unpleasant and hard to watch with full focus, and I don’t think that was an accident. To give Ken’s eventual acceptance of Rize within him and the transformation that followed proper heft, The route to the destination had to be as excruciatingly awful as possible.

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Of course, that doesn’t make for the most enjoyable viewing experience, but I think this final episode of Tokyo Ghoul (for the time being) ended up succeeding because it adopted the same philosophy that Ken had always rejected and refused to live by but by the end of the episode embraces with gusto: You can’t have it all. Sometimes you have to choose. Sometimes survival requires change…horrible, irreversible change.

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Yamori is fascinated with Ken’s healing ability, and also getting a kick out of snapping off his toes and watching them grow back. Thankfully this grotesque spectacle is not continuous, but segmented with scenes of Ken in an abstract construct of his mind. While Yamori destroys him out there, Rize works on him in there, eventually uncovering Ken’s unconventional mommy issues.

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Represented by a field white flowers, Ken’s mom literally worked herself to death trying to make enough for her and Ken to survive while her sister came by often seeking money, which his mom always gave her. Rize argues his mom died because she refused to choose between her son or her sister. When Yamori asks Ken to choose between the two assistants who were trying to help him, he can’t do it, and as he wallows in his decision not to choose, Yamori kills them both.

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He might’ve done that anyway, regardless of who Ken chose, but it gets to a more fundamental decision in which Ken has chosen to abstain: the reality is, with Rize within him, he is far stronger than Yamori. Ken loved his mother so much, he vowed to live by the very mindset that led to her death. It takes Rize some talking, and showing him possible futures in which Hide and Anteiku are killed for Ken to finally snap and come around to her way of thinking.

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The first part of TG’s finale last week dealt with the ver external battle between Doves and Aogiri with Anteiku, but it follows it up with a very internal, cerebral battle between Ken’s often self-destructive pacifism and his dark potential. Ultimately, Ken seems to turn because he has so much to lose. He won’t make the same mistake mom did and lose all the people he’s come to care for since.

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To prevent his friends’ annihilation at Yamori’s hands and defeat him, Ken must give up whatever semblance of restraint he had upon his ghoul side, and let Rize out of the cage, even if getting her back in later proves impossible. The white flowers turn red and Yamori is dispatched with ease, and TG closes out its first season just as it began: with Rize (in one form or another) messily feasting upon a ghoul. Because devouring others (one way or another) is what life is all about!

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Final Average Rating: 7.67
MAL Score: 8.02

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Tokyo Ghoul – 11

That guy with the light stick is one of the lucky ones
That guy with the light stick is one of the lucky ones

As the CCG, a thousand strong, stages a massive raid of Aogiri Tree, who number around half that, Anteiku wisely decides to use the ensuing chaos as cover for their rescue mission. Rather than dump us right into the middle of the biggest battle TG has attempted yet, we get a little bit of the waiting time that precedes it, followed by a pretty impressive (and somewhat terrifying) display of police force.

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Things start out pretty orderly, with lines of CCG and Aogiri exchanging gunfire and hiding behind shields. But the battle keeps from getting stale or boring by keeping things moving and jumping from one matchup to another. Juzo proves his worth and viciousness by eliminating An Aogiri sniper’s nest single-handedly, sacrificing his boss Harude’s prized motorcycle (whom he regards as “the perfect partner” in the omake) in the process.

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Okay, Suzu is nuts and his stitches are a bit gross, but he’s also pretty bad-ass

One notable face-off is between Touka and Amon, who is still so torn up over Mado that his thirst for revenge, along with the extreme present conditions outweighs whatever desire to reconcile with ghouls Ken might’ve instilled in him. He wants Touka dead. Fortunately for her, the S-rated Bin Brothers interrupt the fight, allowing her to escape. Using Kura, the two-handed quinque Mado left him, he dispatches the Bins, but there’s still a lot of bad guys left to slay, so there’s no time for congratulations.

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Doesn’t anyone want my giant satay stick?

Other matchups include Yomo and provisional ally Shuu teaming up against an Aogiri elite, Touka bumping into her brother Ayato yet again, and the climactic meeting of Harude’s right-hand man with the legendary “One-Eyed Owl”, which is shy of the camera but resembles a huge, horrific beast. Harude orders his man to fight the Owl with as few men as possible; no point in too much needless death…right?

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One takeaway from the battle is that the humans could have possibly taken the ghouls by being “wily”, as Mado told Amon when they were first paired up. But Harude isn’t particularly wily; he assumed having double the numbers and rushing in at full power would be enough to deal with Aogiri. Something tells me they rushed in too fast and too recklessly, and while they’ve taken out scores of foot soldier-level ghouls, most of the far more powerful higher-ups remain extant. But if Harude wanted to bomb the mall into the stone age, he could have. But he wanted a true battle, and he gets one.

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For the entire episode, Ken is tied to a chair in a large domed hall in the heart of the mall, and Yamori/Jason is using him as a plaything, subjecting him to the same sickening, brutal torture methods he himself underwent as a prisoner of the humans. It would seem that experience made him stronger and crazier. Ken seems to be getting broken pretty badly both physically and mentally himself, but Banjo and his underlings assure him he’ll be rescued. I’m sure he will be, but the Ken Anteiku will end up won’t be quite the same Ken that was taken from him.

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Tokyo Ghoul – 10

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Our friends at Anteiku may have enjoyed a period of peace and calm in the time between Mado’s death and the previous episode…we just don’t get to see a lot of it. Thus, in this way, despite the disorientation of a time-jump and a crapload of new characters—some more interesting than others—the tension is kept up in a show that needs tension and peril to thrive.

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An all-out war between Ghouls and Doves isn’t just “coming”, it’s already here, as Aogiri Tree riads the CCG’s 11th Ward precinct and slaughters every last Dove. Marude, the guy put in charge of the response who very much looks like he’s trying to pop his skull out of his face, has decided to evacuate the ward of all humans in preparation for a massive strike.

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There’s a lot of sneering, eye-bulging, and yelling going on this week, as tempers run short and hot. Worse, Aogiri Tree’s aggression is utterly destroying any chance of detente between the races of the kind Anteiku has successfully achieved. Of course, by harboring Rize’s vessel Kaneki Kei, they made themselves a target of radical ghouls and “special” Doves like Suzuya Juzo, who I hope is insufferably repulsive on purpose.

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This episode also marks the end of a good run of episodes in which Ken wasn’t kidnapped, as a sequence of n’er-do-wells darken Anteiku’s door, starting with Banjou (who resembles a DRAMAtical Murder character), his three masked and numbered underlings, Touka’s brother Ayato, and then, in a case of Bad Guy Overkill, the comically huge and comically-attired Yamori (why a leisure suit?) and his gay stereotype partner Nico.

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We like Banjo’s volatile personality, kooky underlings, funny swirl beard, but he’s too quickly edged out by Ayato, who’s your typical cliched Evil Sibling who only seems to exist to make life more miserable for Touka, and the less seen of Yamori and Nico the better; they really class down the joint with their ridiculous, bordering-on-silly over-the-topness.

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Case in point, an inordinate amount of time is spent on Yamori beating the ever-loving shit out of Ken because, oh I don’t know, the episode has time to kill. And yet, despite varying between seven and ten feet tall, the bear-like Yamori isn’t even able to do much physical damage to Ken.We see showers of blood, but it’s hard to care about the beating when we know Ken isn’t really at risk of being killed. The show just likes using him as a punching bag a little too much.

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In a nice grasping of the concept of gender balance many other shows struggle with, this results in a case of the girl (Touka) having to go save the guy. She won’t be going alone, though. Yoshimura is tired of all these nutjobs messing up his lawn and hurting his friends. He’s closing Anteiku until further notice, and along with Yomo, Nishio, and even ‘lil Hinami, he’s going to help rescue Ken. We’ve seen the bad guys’ teeth, now it’s time to see what the good guys can do when fully mustered.

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Tokyo Ghoul – 09

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After everything that went down last week with Mado, Touka, Hinami, Amon and Ken, you’d expect some kind of respite to follow, and to a degree, that’s true of this week. No one is fighting for their lives, and instead of lots of action and drama, we get backstory and new characters. It almost feels like a new season, with much that is familiar, but details great and small that show that life has gone on in the month-and-a-half since those brutal battles.

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The episode starts, strangely enough, from Amon’s perspective as he first joins the Doves Home Office and is paired up with Mado, who has a reputation for being a kook. Mado teaches him vigilance, in that he suspects an adorable old lady to be behind a string of predatory Ghoul attacks. Amon can’t possibly believe that until he almost becomes a victim, but Mado saves his life, after ostensibly using him as bait.

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Amon seemed more bemused than moved by Ken’s mercy, and he clearly hasn’t stopped idolizing Mado, who he considers to be a hero and “his pride.” I hope Amon’s aggression towards Ghouls won’t grow as twisted as his mentor’s had, but Mado is probably the way he is because he lost everyone he loved and cared about; if the same thing happens to Amon, well, the cycle will continue.

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Meanwhile, Hinami has moved in with Touka and has nursed a pet cockatiel back to health. The bird has really lifted Hinami’s spirits, but despite the fact Touka fought to save Hinami, she still seems to regret having to kill Mado. He was a wretch, but as the ring indicated, even he had a family. That and the bird make her think of her own childhood, when she and her timid little brother Ayato also helped a bird, while living with their dad.

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It’s such a lovely family scene, and it also happens to be the first time we see Ayato. When we see him in the 11th ward licking blood off his arm and calling his sister a “peace-loving wimp.” It’s likely whatever went down between digging for worms as kids and the present, it made both siblings do things they didn’t want to do, but eventually came to enjoy. Touka is through with that part of her life, but her bro clearly isn’t. I imagine he wants Rize back in the fight.

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Other changes in our quasi-season premiere: Amon gets reassigned to a special task force in the increasingly unstable 11th Ward, and two new Doves take over in his old 20th Ward post. A very weird dude with pale skin and red stiches pickpockets Ken, who is probably his prey, a white-haired girl visits Mado’s grave after Mado, and Hide pretty clearly knows what Ken is, but doesn’t seem to have decided what to do about it yet. Lots of table-setting going on. I can only hope the show remembers to stagger the bookings, lest the kitchen get overloadedand chaos reign.

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Tokyo Ghoul – 08

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Overcome by grief and loneliness, Hinami breaks out of Anteiku to wander Tokyo. This is an extraordinarily bad decision, but it’s one a young girl in her state is more than capable of, and in any case, its the catalyst for two crucial and simultaneous showdowns, which in their combined form we consider to be the best the show has presented to date.

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I want to say that none of this would have happened had everyone taken turns being by Hinami’s side in her fragile state, rather than keeping her in a dark room alone (She’s not a stray cat!), but Mado was gunning for her big time, and ultimately would have found her anyway. She just makes confrontations that have to happen happen sooner, and I don’t have a problem with that.

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One showdown is between Touka and Mado, as Hinami cowers in the corner. The other is between Mado’s partner Amon and Ken. Both showdowns feature the same conversations. Amon decries how Ghouls heartlessly tear apart families and are messing up the world; Touka says pretty much the same things about humans to Mado, trying to get him to see her point of view.

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Touka’s words fall on ears that aren’t necessarily deaf by choice, but it’s hinted that they’ve been permanently closed by decades of torment. It’s simply too late for Mado. With that in mind, morals aside Mado is a brilliant genius for figuring out how to make quinques out of the kagunes of dead ghouls. One can’t help but wonder the good that genius could have done had it not been twisted by decades of grief and anguish.

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Alright, enough sympathizing with Mado, the bastard tries to use parts of Hinami’s dead parents to kill her and Touka. NOT COOL. You can’t spell Mado without “Mad”, right? Touka, still recovering from her last fight with him, is again overpowered by Mado’s dual-wield quinques, but his killing coup-de-grace is nullified by Hinami, of all people.

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She finally reveals her own kagunes, showing she possesses the combined powers of both her loving parents. She uses them, and Mado goes down, but she doesn’t finish him, not wanting to become a killer. Mado bleeds out and dies on his own—a welcome nod to the fact that humans are far more fragile than ghouls, and all but defenseless without quinques.

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Whereas it’s too late for Mado and he won’t listen to anything Touka says, Ken is more than receptive of Amon’s words. He knows them well, since they’re the exact same words that describe what’s happened to Hinami. What Amon doesn’t understand yet, but isn’t beyond understanding like Mado, given time, is that ghouls have the same feelings humans do. Amon is so caught up on the minority of evil ghouls that he’s blind to the fact most of them are just trying to live.

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He’s also so caught up in the grief and victimhood that he’s also blind to the fact that there’s a minority of bad humans that, along with the bad ghouls, are messing up the world together. Neither side is innocent here, and there’s plenty of middle ground to be had if only cooler heads on either side sat down and listened. As he’s being beaten to a pulp, Ken realizes that having both ghoul and human makes him singularly equipped to be the bridge the two races desperately need before they destroy each other.

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At first, he tries to make Amon understand by letting himself get beaten up. When that doesn’t work, he grudgingly summons Rize’s power and attacks Amon, but like Hinami, holds back, not wanting to become a killer. Rize, as mad as Mado, fights hard to take over Ken’s body, but Amon isn’t mortally wounded, and heeds Ken’s desperate cries to run away. Amon sees the tears and the pain Ken is in, and knows Ken just had mercy on him. Maybe that’s the beginning of him starting to understand.

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I just hope Amon finding Mado’s body doesn’t undo all of the progress (such as it was) Ken made with him. Ken, meanwhile, is saved from flying off the handle by Yomo, who takes Ken’s strike like it’s nothing (though it probably is something), calmly states he now sees what Yoshimura saw in him, and asks him to come home. They reunite with Touka and Hinami. When the latter asks if “it’s okay for her to be alive”, Ken is ready with an apt reponse: “your mom was telling you to live.” Is it okay to be alive? Absolutely. Is it easy? Not a chance.

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Tokyo Ghoul – 07

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After six weeks of building up our affinity for the Ghouls, we finally get a more in-depth look at the Doves. Like the Ghouls, not all of them are remorseless killers. If you forget the overarching fact that they’re a force tasked with subjugating and eliminating another race, they occupy a comparable amount of shades of grey as the Ghouls.

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Both sides have their extremes. Mado is very much the Dove equivalent of Rize and Shuu: unhinged and completely detached from morality. Both sides have their innocents, whether it’s Hinami and her mom on the Ghoul side or Amon’s two colleagues, who always seem to be the ones who pay the price for the action or inaction of a third group. “The more earnest they are, the sooner they lose their lives.”

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Amon and Touka belong to that third group: far stronger and more capable than the innocents, but still aware that their actions are wrong, but must be taken anyway. I don’t think Mado was born rotten any more than Shuu was; time and the horrors they witnessed and committed over the years, twisted all of them gradually.

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When Hinami’s mom is killed senselessly, Touka cannot stop herself from retaliating, even though Mado is a walking ghoul encyclopedia armed with a deadly zabimaru-esque quinque that seems to be fueled by ghoul blood. In other words, she’s no match. Touka is as indiscriminate in her victims as Mado was.

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Murdering the affable “dove schlub” Kusaba sets off Amon the same way Ryoko’s murder set her off. This is a cycle of violence that is very much in practice in several parts of the real world, and that’s just between factions of humans; It’s not surprising coexistence between humans and ghouls is equally untenable.

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This isn’t just a case of evil people doing evil things and good people doing nothing to stop them; it’s about people who could be good becoming seduced by anger and revenge and letting it drive them to commit evil themselves. Ken still hasn’t made sense of it all, nor does he know who, if anyone, to endorse. All he knows is that Touka is his friend and he doesn’t want her or anyone else to die.

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He’s also sick of doing nothing, so he collects his spooky mask from Uta and accompanies Touka; not to kill investigators, he says, but to do something. He’s not sure what he’ll do—it will greatly depend on what Touka is up to—but at least he’ll be in the position to do it.

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P.S.: The illustrations during the end credits have always been a feast for the eyes, and we get a new set this week. If only the characters looked this awesome all the time!

Tokyo Ghoul – 06

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Ken’s flesh really does the trick, as Touka unleashes her kagune at full strength and is able to take a good-size chunk out of Shuu. He’ll probably heal, but it will take a long time, during which everyone can escape. But Touka goes one step further: she wants to kill Kimi for seeing what she wasn’t supposed to see.

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Only when Touka’s about to kill her, Kimi doesn’t recoil or scream; she calls Touka “pretty”, something Touka simply didn’t have the capacity to process in that moment. Unable to kill her, she flies off, and later spends all her time locked in her room. Later, Ken tells her he hopes Kimi and Nishiki are, like her and Yoriko, examples of how humans and ghouls can coexist: as friends and family.

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Speaking of families, the Fueguchi’s do not have a good week. Hinami gets in a fight with her mom over not being able to see her dad, but eventually they make up. Meanwhile her dad Asaki is used as bait by Mado and Amon to lure the S-Class ghoul Jason into the light. They aren’t able to subdue him, and Jason escapes, but they kill Asaki as consolation, and start looking for his wife and daughter, using his scent to lure the latter.

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So far, Ken’s been teaching Hinami how to read the tougher kanji in her book; trying to contribute to some semblance of a normal life the girl should be able to lead, because aside from needing flesh to survive, that’s what she is: a normal, innocent girl. On this point, the Doves vehemently disagree, to the point of proclaiming disgust at the sight of the “mother-daughter act” before them.

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Hinami’s mom goes into Protector Mode, unleashing her kagune in an effort to buy time for Hinami’s escape that could well lead to her death, and while she doesn’t look like a pushover in the ghoul department, she’s outnumbered four-to-one. Now, as Hinami is about to be fresh out of parents, Ken will have to do a bit more than teach her kanji.

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Tokyo Ghoul – 05

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When you become a ghoul, you may not be able to eat human food, but it isn’t automatically the end of your old life. Even for those who aren’t half-ghoul like Ken, your human life lives on, and ghouls are given a choice: to continue living moral lives and do as little harm as possible, or turn into a binge-eating beast.

The former seems quite a bit more difficult than the latter. For the likes of the late Rize and Shuu, humans are no longer anything but fodder. Yoshimura, Touka, Hinami, and the rest of the mainstreaming ghouls at Anteiku and elsewhere, still see humans as having value, and not just value as food, which they very much are at the end of the day.

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It’s silly to argue that denying yourself something you not only desperately want, but need for survival, is a more natural state than simply eating whoever when you’re hungry and not worrying about anything else. Murderous ghouls may shrug off their behavior as no different than a lion taking a gazelle, but that’s a false defense, because lions didn’t have the choice they had.

Also, Shuu isn’t just eating for survival, but for fun (and possibly sexual release). Like George Costanza, he’s turned food and sex (though not TV) into one disgusting uncontrollable urge. He’s rich and powerful, but look how alone he is in his dark and airy mansion. It’s only a matter of time before he ends up like Rize. He’s a walking talking cautionary tale on how not to live a ghoul life.

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Then there are those who toe the line between the worlds of man and beast, like Nishio Nishiki, who is alive. I thought Ken killed him for sure, but I underestimated a ghoul’s ability to heal. I didn’t really think much of him when he was last defeated—bored, arrogant college playboy; a smaller-time Shuu—but this episode doesn’t just see fit to return to his story, but fully flesh out his past.

Ken rescues Nishiki from a gang of ghouls as they’re about to eat him (we don’t see the fight that ensues, but Yomo’s training is working), then meets Nishiki’s lover, Kimi (whom we saw in the second ep). Shuu, keepping an eye on Ken, then uses Kimi as bait, and Ken and a still-weak Nishiki go to Shuu’s to save her. Shuu wants to eat Ken while’s he’s eating Kimi. Lovely.

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Even Ken, Nishiki, and a just-in-time Touka aren’t close to being match for him, as Touka’s friend’s cooking has weakened her considerably (and Shuu suggests she was once colder and thus stronger “long ago.) During the battle’s halftime we get a sprawling flashback of how Nishiki and his sister lived in squalor as young ghouls, but managed to scrape by.

Nishiki’s sister was reported and taken away by Doves, leaving him alone and very much leaning towards becoming a vengeful monster. Then he meets Kimi, a human, at college, and they start a relationship. As it turns out, he saved her, as she had lost her entire family in an accident just before they met.

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After Ken blasted a hole in him, Nishiki was again saved by Kimi’s love, when she offers him flesh from her shoulder to heal him. This is why, back in the present, no matter how much Shuu beats him down, he won’t give up until he’s dead. Kimi is everything to Nishiki, and while he may not be a saint, he’s at least capable of seeing humans as more than meat, which means there’s hope for him.

Ken may not have seen the flashback we saw, but he gets the same idea Kimi had when he realizes no one will get out of Shuu’s mansion alive if Touka can’t get stronger. So willingly offers to her the very thing Shuu has been going mad trying to take by force: his half-human flesh. Like Popeye’s spinach, it looks like it will do the trick, though that fight will have to wait until next week.

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Tokyo Ghoul – 04

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This week picks up right where the last left off: Ken meeting the flamboyant ghoul “gourmet” and bon vivant, Tsukyama Shuu, voiced by Miyano Mamoru who purrs most of his lines with a silky menace. Shuu wastes no time invading Ken’s space and generally creeping him out, but he can’t help it: he is a man who likes the finer things, and Shuu’s scent is a fine thing indeed.

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While there was never any doubt that Ken was being led into another trap by another ghoul who doesn’t have his best interests at heart, before that happens Ken hangs out with ghouls who do: Yomo, Uta, and Itori are a trio of friends who go way back and have a bit of a wild past, but are now “mainstreaming.” Itori lets Ken know Rize’s death probably wasn’t a mere accident, while Yomo offers defense training after work.

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That training doesn’t progress very long before Ken is in some dire need of it. After a seemingly harmless meet-up at a cafe, Shuu, channeling Rize’s knack for predation-by-seduction and flattery, lures Ken to his mansion. After showering and dressing up to the nines, Ken is given a cup of drugged coffee than lifted up into a blood-spattered arena where the masked ghoul aristocracy looking down from opera balconies.

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It’s all very Eyes Wide Shut, and Ken looks well and truly screwed when a simply ginormous “scrapper” is loosed on him with all manner of cleavers and a saw that can cut through stone. But the shaved gorilla is slow and dumb, and the mortal peril draws out Ken’s ghoul side, shocking the crowd. Shuu shuts the fete down, killing the scrapper, and apologizes to Ken.

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It’s definitely a disquieting look into the bored, rich, seedy under-underbelly of ghoul society, but I like how Rize mocked it all as “playing at humanity” in a flashback that makes Shuu’s blood boil almost to the point of giving away the game too early. As a glutton, Rize embraced her primal, animal side, something Shuu seems intent on gussying up with pomp and pageantry. To her, that’s no better than mainstreaming; a form of self-neutering.

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Unlike Rize or Shuu—or practically anyone else, for that matter—Ken isn’t “playing at” being a human; he is still half of one. Once he figures out what he that and how to summon and control his power, he could do a lot of bad, but he could also do a lot of good. In either case, he can make a big difference, which is why he can’t keep letting himself get lured into traps, to say nothing of falling into the hands of the Doves.

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Stray Observations:

  • Sadly there’s not much Touka this week, though we do get a scene that demonstrates how hard it must be for a ghoul to mainstream, as her classmate offers her some food, which Touka is later unable to purge. Too much of that and she’ll get sick.
  • For a show that’s had mostly normal-sized and shape humans and ghouls alike, the scrapper was a bit too cartoonishly huge and muscular. It was just a silly design.
  • I’m also watching True Blood, so Shuu’s intense arousal of Ken’s scent reminded me of the way Sookie’s fairy blood gets vamps’ mouths watering.
  • There’s also a bit of Hannibal Lecter in Shuu’s mannerisms. Rather than a “foodie”, let’s call him a “fleshie.”

Tokyo Ghoul – 03

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Tokyo Ghoul got back on track this week by teaching us a lot more about Ghoul society, introducing a far more compelling adversary in the CCG (Customizable Card Game?), and having Ken come to terms with his new status and finally find a way to contribute. Overall it was a far more efficient, purposeful, and interesting outing than last week’s boss-of-the-week.

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First, Ken is lucky he was “turned” in the 20th Ward, which has the reputation of being one of the most peaceful Ghoul communities. He thought things were bad there, but it’s worse almost everywhere else, something he learns when Touka takes him to a rougher part of town to meet Uta, who measures him for a mask.

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Uta starts the realignment of Ken’s thinking by saying Touka’s far more than just a scary girl; she works diligently to balance her ghoul existence with her human life, as her boss Yoshimura has. There’s a neat scene where Yoshimura tells him how to eat human food. Appearences must be kept up; if Hide finds out Ken’s a ghoul, Touka has promised to kill Hide on the spot. (I enjoyed watching the many sides of Touka this week, from prickly to affable).

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The purpose of the mask is to hide one’s face in case the “Doves” descend upon you. The doves are what they call the CCG, a police-like organization operating out of a gleaming skyscraper that seems to have one goal in mind: ghoul-busting. Whether they only mean to keep the ghouls disorganized and in check or exterminate them outright, it’s a pretty odious business and a pretty strong allegory for racist social policy.

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These swine would even consider little Hinami, frightened daughter of the ward’s ghoul doctor who is being kept in hiding at Yoshimura’s cafe. Aside from her need for human flesh, she’s harmless and deserves to live as normal a life as she can. She and Ken bond over their mutual love of books. Yoshimura even has ghouls go on “shopping trips” to pick up suicide victims, avoiding killing. It’s a philosophy of “mainstreaming”; playing by as many of mankind’s rules as they possibly can.

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It’s also tremendously difficult, as Ken is quickly learning, and those who pull it off like Yoshimura and Touka deserve his admiration. We witness what happens to bold, reckless ghouls who cross the lines; they’re taken out one by one by the odd couple of CCG detectives: the young, stoic Amon and the slightly mad-scientist-y Mado. They’re ultimately after Rize, which means they’ll soon be on Ken’s trail.

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This episode excels in that it underlines how many new threats and hazards and difficulties Ken now faces, right up to the end when a menacing-looking guy in a blazing red suit barges in the cafe, apparently drawn there by Ken’s scent. But at the same time, it shows us that Ken’s life isn’t really that bad, that he’s starting to get that others have it far worse, and shows him all of the ways he can make this work.

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Tokyo Ghoul – 02

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I’m not sure if it was the less even animation, the wealth of scenes in which Ken is bawling or screaming, or that highly irritating OP song featuring a guy who fancies himself Imogen Heap; this second episode of Ghoul felt more of a chore than the first. Then again, the act of turning Ken was done; this was more about the realization of what he has become, and how ignoring his new needs will only lead to greater suffering.

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It’s a shame Ken is such an irritating little twerp most of the time, because his “flesh withdrawal”, made worse by hallucinations (or possibly something more) of Rize seductively egging him on, are effective and visceral, if a bit repetitive. But the focus of this episode is his relationship with his best/only friend and quasi-brother Hideyoshi, along with the awareness that ghouls aren’t simply showing up all over his world; they were always there and he just didn’t see them.

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Unfortunately, Hide comes off as a bit of a cypher himself: the ideal friend who is smarter than he looks (and he looks really dumb) who Ken can’t bear losing by going over to the flesh-eating side of things. But when Hide introduces Ken to Nishio, who is posing as a normal college student living a normal life, Nishio siezes the opportunity to again beat the crap out of Ken, then threaten Hide’s life, causing Ken’s (or rather Rize’s) kagune to sprout out of a desire to protect him.

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The kagunes are kind of silly looking and over-the-top; kind of the ghouls’ version of bankais. Hide’s is blue, while Ken has three or more, all red and sinister-looking. The colors of their fight scene are inverted so as not to show so much blood, which, like the heavily censored cold open, created more confusion and shrugging than actual excitement. This show is probably best watched uncensored, but I don’t have that option at present.

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In the end, Ken defeats Nishio fairly easily, but he can’t defeat his hunger. His dalliance in addressing that hunger puts him into a frenzy, and a crumpled Hide ceases being his treasured friend and just looks like irrestistable meal. Thankfully Touka appears (I assume she was following them; as Tokyo is kind of a big place), knocks him out, and she and her boss at the coffee shop (another ghoul) feed him while he’s out, ending his flesh-jonesing.

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The flashbacks that attempt to create a deep and meaningful bond between a character who has been doing little besides irritating us and his friend we’ve barely seen come off as a bit schmaltzy and generic. Where the heck is Ken’s family? Is Hide his only link to his human life? Seems that way. That makes the stakes of crossing over that much lower. You’re a ghoul now, dude…deal with it. The old cafe owner and Touka clearly have.

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Tokyo Ghoul – 01

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This show wasn’t on my initial Summer list, since from the admittedly very little I saw and read of it, I’d already seen it’s like before, with similarities to everything from Ao no Exorcist to True Blood. But with nothing else to watch, this first episode was to enticing to pass up, like the flesh laid out before Kaneki Ken. While it was impossible not to notice its many derivative elements, it was still a bloody fun romp.

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Many shows of this genre we’ve seen feature huge sprawling casts of various factions vying for power, but in the interests of easing us into its blood bath, the actors are thankfully kept as few as possible. There’s Ken, an utterly unremarkable bookworm of a kid with bangs that make him look ten years younger than he is, and there’s Rize, his gorgeous date, the true side of whom we see in the episode’s prologue, where she’s nude, enthusiastically gorging on flesh, and escaping a pursuer.

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With Rize, Hana-Kana gets to use both the cute/innocent and bad-ass/crazy/evil sides of her versatile voice. A ghoul—a vampire by any other name—she lures Ken somewhere secluded and attacks him with lustful vigor, totally throwing him, but not us, for a loop. He survives the assault when some steel girders fall on Rize, apparently killing her, and a doctor manages to fix him up, apparently by transplanting some of Rize’s still-intact organs.

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You can guess the rest: he becomes a ghoul himself…or rather a half-ghoul, which makes him unique (so far). Earlier in the episode he’s a bit of a tiresome pipsqueak, but watching the shadows literally close in upon him as he puts the pieces of the puzzle together, is nicely done. I particularly liked how all normal food and drink (given to him by his devoted best and only friend, Hide) now make him retch; now only human flesh will do.

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Like Haruto in Valvrave, he must choose to “resign his humanity”, although fate kind of chooses for him. When his nose leads him to a relatively kindly ghoul tucking into a fresh kill, their encounter is interrupted by Nishiki, an experienced ghoul and a heel who is ready to take over the dead Rize’s territory. He’s about to kill Nishiki when a girl named Touka shows up (Amamiya Sora in her first “tough girl” role).

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Touka was a waitress at the cafe where Ken meets Rize, and whom we imagine to be part of a more disciplined sect of ghouls than Rize or Nishiki. After dispatching the latter, she doles out some tough love to Ken, who is full-on Dr. Strangelove with his human side keeping his ghoul side from eating. Quick as a cat, she shoves the flesh right down Ken’s gullet, deciding for him that this is the way things are going to be.

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This is good, dark, twisted stuff; well-executed if not 100% (or even 50%) original. I liked how realistic, busy and richly-detailed the Tokyo backdrop appears, portraying the metropolis as one massive, seething buffet for Ken & Co. I’m hoping this episode wasn’t an anomaly in terms of either animation quality or amount of blood and gore for this show, because both were at a good level. I also appreciated that political claptrap was kept to a minimum.

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