Tokyo Ghoul 2 – 12 (Fin)

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Tokyo Ghoul Root A delivers a finale as still and austere as the previous episodes were flashy and frenetic. It was a hauntingly gorgeous episode so quiet and deliberate, every gesture and breath and ambient sound contained multitudes. Aside from the insert song, a stripped down version of the first season’s OP, there isn’t even any music telling us how to feel. It’s all in the artistry of the camerawork, lighting, and, of course, the characters we’ve come to know.

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More than anything, there’s a palpable feeling of finality to this finale, that a page is about to be turned. Ken starts in a kind of limbo, in the place that held so many happy memories for him. It’s as good a place as any for Hide to finally tell Ken that he knows he’s a ghoul.

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But Hide is in a bad way. The reveal of is injury is a masterpiece of careful unveiling, and the first sign that this truly is the end. Hide was an almost casual, neutral observer of everything Ken and Touka and everyone else have been through. Now that the show is ending, there’s no longer a need for such an observer, so in a way it makes sense for him to die here.

For Ken, his connection and lasting friendship with Hide, someone he had been estranged from going back to the first season, is the only bridge forged between ghoul and human. It was a bridge that was there from the start. If everyone in the CCG had a loved one turned ghoul, they’d likely all be a little more tolerant…and vice versa.

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Touka arrives at Anteiku to find it ablaze, apparently the work of Ken, again closing a door to the past before walking out with Hide. Touka sees his human eye and moves to meet him, but wreckage nearly crushes her; wreckage that came loose due to a ghoul’s weapon.

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Touka still follows Ken and finds him approaching the fortified CCG staging area bearing Hide, who may or may not be dead. At this point Touka’s path is barred again by Yomo, and my suspicion that Ken and Touka might never meet again is confirmed.

The episode really takes its time with Ken’s slow walk, both to and through the CCG ranks, but while it’s not perfect pacing-wise, it’s still some very powerful work, and it’s a credit to the show that it was able to slow things down so we could savor the end rather than choke it down.

Like a carefully-made cup of coffee, it takes quality ingredients, the proper tools, patience, and restraint, and TG exhibited all of the above with aplomb.

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Ken’s final scene is carrying Hide (echoing the show’s promo art) as various CCG soldiers gawk at him and helicopters swoop menacingly above him. These moments were suffused with thick tension as I pondered if and when the CCG would make a move.

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Ultimately, it falls to Arima to face Ken, who stops and puts hide down. But true to this finale’s minimalist atmosphere, we never see a fight, one-sided or no; only the click of the briefcase containing Arima’s quinque. I can’t imagine it’s a coincidence they both have white hair.

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Dawn rises upon Tokyo, Anteiku’s fires are out, and only Arima and a rapier-like quinque stand where Ken once was. The snow has stopped falling, the storm is over, and peace has returned to the city. Was it peace attained by Aogiri’s tactical withdrawal, in which case it’s only temporary? Was some kind of deal struck between Ken and Arima?

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“All we can do is live as we endure loss,” Yomo says to Touka as he stops her from going to Ken, who wasn’t coming back. And he’s right. You can’t just stand still and wallow in despair until it consumes you. The fact som many people on both sides did just that is what put them all on that costly collision course.

After the credits we see Touka has opened a cafe of her own. While cheerfully opening up, she allows a brief moment to gaze wistfully out at the block before her; perhaps she saw something or someone in the corner of her eye? But it’s only a brief moment that passes, and she goes on with her morning with a smile on her face, remembering, but enduring and living. Because that’s just what you gotta do.

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Tokyo Ghoul 2 – 11

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Both the Ghouls and CCG take heavy losses this week—starting with Shinohara in the first two minutes—as the show perpetuates the idea that even those who desire peace are caught up in the tide of war, and be it honor, obligation, revenge, or simply love for one’s family (whatever form it may take) and home, there will never be a shortage of reasons to fight and keep fighting.

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CCG can’t rest on its laurels after defeating Anteiku, as Aogiri Tree descends upon them in force. Ken is among them, but he’d rather Kotarou simply let him pass so he can get to Anteiku. Nothing doing.

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Both remember their first encounter, in which they each blamed the other’s side for continuing the war. Ken spared Koutarou’s life and even saves some CCG grunts from falling debris right in front of him, but such small gestures, while appreciated, cannot make up for all of the death and destruction the Ghouls have caused to those Kotarou knows and loves.

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This unending urge to fight with one’s last breath, in order to pay the enemy back for a wrong, is illustrated by Juuzou’s attempts to fight Eto, who killed his adoptive father Shinohara and laughed about it. Eto flicks Juuzou away dozens of times, and breaks his leg, but Juuzou keeps getting up, until he’s laying hapless punches on Eto. No matter how little effect they have, Juuzou won’t stop fighting until his tank is empty.

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Under less drastic circumstances and with hands less tied by bad blood, Kotarou and Ken could simply sit down and have a nice long chat. But they can’t do anything here and now but fight and try to kill each other.

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And they come very damn close, fighting to a stalemate in which both of them fall. Ken falls last, however, and wanders around later, while Koutarou doesn’t get back up.

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Juuzou, and possibly the rest of the ravaged CCG, are saved by their version of Eto: Arima, a dude who doesn’t wear an Arata but has two ridiculously bad-ass quinques that allow him to calmly and methodically fight on the same level as Eto; perhaps above it, considering Eto is angry about Yoshimura being defeated, while Arima doesn’t seem to express any emotion whatsoever.

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Touka remained out of the fight, which was probably for the best, but while I was hoping she’d find Ken bleeding to death in the alley, the episode ends without them crossing paths. Frankly, I wonder if they’ll ever meet again, considering we only have one more episode to work with.

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No, it turns out to be Hideyoshi who carries Ken to Anteiku, which is ironically a pretty safe place to be now that the battle is pretty much over. It occurs to me I may have been all wrong about Koutarou being the human representative to entreat with Ken to hammer out some kind of peace or at least cease-fire. Hide is human, after all, and by all appearances he continues to consider Ken a friend, if not his best friend.

So after an episode of pointless fighting, death, and despair and futility, we end with an ever-so-slight glimmer of hope, with two old friends reuniting for the first time in a while.

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Even that glimmer is threatened by the post-credits scene, where Eto spits out Yoshimura, who breathes still, and returns to her human form (a pretty awesome sequence to behold, I might add). Another reunion is achieved, though at this point I’m not sure what Eto intends to do with Yoshimura, or if she’d have the slightest interest in peace with humans.

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Tokyo Ghoul 2 – 10

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Unlike the last two episodes’ cold opens, which could have stood alone as masterful short films, this week’s doesn’t even feel necessary, since we already know a concerned Touka is rushing towards CCG siege on Anteiku. On the other hand, it’s only 55 seconds long…because there’s shit to get done this week.

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While the Mall and Prison super-battles felt larger in scale, this one brings more emotional and dramatic weight, because this time it’s Anteiku, which has always striven to live and let live, and the battle isn’t going well, because the CCG are bringing it.

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Koma and Kaya are ready to make their last stand tonight, fighting beside Yoshimura, who brought them together in peace, and going out in a blaze of glory, or at least with one last good fight. Koma and Kaya don’t get their wish, as Kaneki arrives just in time to save them from the finishing moves of the Doves attacking them.

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A lot of the glory this week goes to our two favorite white-heads, Kaneki and Juuozu, who both show just how terrifying they are when they’re serious. It’s kind of a shame that they don’t meet or cross blades this time, but I can see why the two sub-battles were separated. Koma and Kaya were able to be saved by Kaneki because Yoshimura is attracting all the CCG heavies, Juuzou included.

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Even with Shinohara, Iwa, Juuzou, Ui, Houji hacking away at him all night in varying states of coordination, Yoshimura is one tough sonofabitch, which seems to almost work against his plan to pay for his sins and pave the way for the future by all but letting himself get killed. He can’t help but fight back, and his status as the Owl means even if he doesn’t lift a finger in defense (and he very much does), it takes a good long time for him to go down.

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That emotional weight I mentioned? It comes in a flurry of flashes as Yoshimura remembers all the various people in his life he either saved or was saved by. The last thing he sees is his beloved Ukina, the human who accepted him and even bore his child, who is now out there somewhere. You want to hope now that he’s paid for his sins with his life at last, he’ll be able to rest in peace with Ukina in the hereafter.

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Unlike Kaneki, who saves Koma and Kaya, Touka takes no action in the battle. This was probably a good move on her part, as I imagine she would have been outclassed here. Still, she doesn’t particularly look happy about sitting this one out. As for Hide, he’s somehow able to suit up as a CCG grunt to watch, which…well, that doesn’t exactly reflect well on their security procedures, now does it?

As for Kaneki, he isn’t able to simply walk away after dispatching the Second and Third CCG divisions. The Fourth still stands in his way, led by a particularly focused-looking Amon. I don’t imagine he’s in the mood for talk. And while Amon is the underdog in a fight with Kaneki, he’s got friends, and he hung in there versus an admittedly more unstable Kaneki at Cochlea, so he won’t be a slouch.

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Finally, as soon as Yoshimura is defeated, the other Owl, his daughter, arrives on the scene, ready to rumble against the by-now exhausted Doves. Yoshimura’s last request to Kaneki was to not squander his unique status as the one person who bridges the gap between ghouls and humans.

He also told him to try to save his daughter. With Kaneki and Eto about to enter into fierce battles of their own, prospects for either of those things happening seem pretty bleak.

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Tokyo Ghoul 2 – 09

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Last weeks long cold open told Yoshimura’s tale, and it was a stirring one. This week’s even longer cold open focuses on the Doves, how on the eve of their impending raid on Anteiku, are obligated to fill out their last wills and testaments prior to going into battle. But it’s not just a formality this time. You get the sense some of them really won’t be coming back.

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The various Doves, those we know well and those less-so, regard the duty, and cope with the prospect of their imminent doom, in different ways. Takizawa visit his mom. Akira visits graves, then tries to kiss Kotarou, who covers her lips with his hand. Hey, if there is no tomorrow, somethings need to be said and/or done.

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Takizawa, by the way, shows that without any specific vengeance in his heart like Akira’s or Kotarou’s, he can’t quite cope with the enormity of what he’s about to get into. All he can think about is how much he doesn’t want to die. But when going up against Yoshimura, everyone knows dying is a distinct possibility.

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On the other end of the spectrum is Juuzou, who turns his will into paper airplane, which speaks not just to his chaotic nihilism, but to his confidence he’ll come out of this like any other battle; with nary a scratch. What’s chilling is that I believe it.

In a nice bit of character connection across sprawling Tokyo, Ken spots Juuzou’s airplane and watches its flight, leading his eyes to a TV screen announcing the impending battle in the 20th Ward. It’s the same broadcast Touka is watching from a safehouse. Ken and Touka are the only two non-doves in this cold open, alike in the fact they’re both meant to sit this one out, despite how much Anteiku means to them.

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In one final powerful sequence, all the Doves we’ve watched separately are all assembled under the command of Washuu. They’re all there for different reasons and for different people, and despite the fact they’re about to set out to kill our friends, I just can’t see them as the bad guys. It speaks to TG’s fierce devotion to showing us all facets of its characters. In the field of cold opens, TG is locked in; in fact, if this episode were just those first eight minutes of change, I’d probably still give it a 10 despite getting only half the runtime I expected. It’s moving, masterful work.

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But we weren’t cheated. This episode benefited both from some fantastic character moments and some fantastic action. That action is brief, but effective, as we finally see Koma and Kaya in action (at least I think it’s the first time. I don’t recall if they were in the mall battle). They’re pretty badass when it’s just the two of them punching and carving through legions of CCG troops, but then they reveal they have their own ghoul factions fighting for them, this time on the same side, as it’s implied Yoshimura brought the two formerly bitter enemies together.

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Yoshimura himself makes a pretty fantastic entrance, complete with smoke, cloak, and a cool speech about how everyone is evil, because life is a succession of sins, i.e. people taking from other people. I don’t quite agree with him, but he’s right that there is evil in everyone, human and ghoul, and the answer to a peaceful world isn’t “Kill All Ghouls” any more than it’s “Kill All Humans,” as much as either side may want to make that happen.

Yoshimura, Koma and Kaya are fighting, in part, to punish themselves for their sins, but also to protect their younger members who will take their place. I imagine Yoshimura hopes for a time when those successors will find common cause with the Doves the way he was able to broker peace between warring ghoul gangs.

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But it’s clear those people, be they the remnants of Anteiku, members of Aogiri, or both, are a pretty long way from that point, and it doesn’t seem likely they’ll be spared the same suffering and loss that poisoned the previous generations of both sides, and the generations before that.

How can the cycle be broken when Touka won’t simply sit on the sidelines and let the old guard be killed? Touka manages to escape Yomo’s “protection” by pointing out that she too is guilty of sins. She wants to be punished too, even if it’s a futile attempt to hold onto the things slipping away from her. She’s lost enough. But her approach may only lead to losing more.

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Ken doesn’t intend to sit out the battle, either, but he’s not necessarily seeking punishment or revenge. He’s seeking to validate his strength and his agency. Far too many of his friends died and suffered to protect him, and now it’s his turn, come hell or high water. In the only character beat that fell somewhat flat, Ken rejects and defeats a ravenous Shuu, whose desite to eat Ken has driven him even more batshit crazy than he was originally.

Shuu may be a bit of an eyesore, but even in his crazy-ass obsessive state he’s at least pitiable. And in any case, Ken also has a great talk with Nishiki, who plans to honor the ones dying to save them and stay alive, which to him means running.

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Tokyo Ghoul 2 – 08

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This is a different kind of episode of Tokyo Ghoul, made clear by the fact the cold open is over seven minutes long, comprised entirely of the sad tale of the “One-Eyed Owl” as told by Yoshimura to Ken, who is curious about him. These seven minutes are a masterpiece of form and emotional resonance.

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The last time I can remember being as moved, transfixed, and enraptured in an opening as I was here was in the flawlessly spellbinding beginning of Pixar’s Up. Unlike Carl and Ellie, Yoshimura and Ukina are able to successfully conceive despite being Ghoul and Human.

But they are pursued by other ghouls, and Ukina is killed. Yoshimura sets his infant daughter aside to avenge her mother, but when he returns she is gone. And that infant grew up to be Eto. And now I know their connection!

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Honestly, that cold open was about as good as a cold open can get, especially considering how much it opens up the formerly closed mystery that is the owner of Anteiku. The rest of the episode, almost halfway-done, boils down to the Doves’ continued interest in the cafe and in Yoshimura in particular.

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There’s a pall over Anteiku as the Doves, who are always cropped out of the frame to accentuate the fact that they are out of place and a looming threat. Watching Nishio and Kimi, acting like ordinary people, being watched closely by anonymous Doves, sent shivers down my spine.

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Yoma becomes aware of the increased surveillance, so Yoshimura does what he feels he must and sends Touka and Hinami away into the snowy night, to protect them from what could be an impending CCG raid. This entire sequence of events is subtly and impeccably handled, as it should be for someone of Yoshimura’s past and vast experience. Yes, he’s an incredibly badass ghoul, but he’d rather not bare those fangs, for it was over-exuberance that contributed to Ukina’s death.

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Just as Touka and Hinami are out of the picture, the Doves descend on Anteiku, but only one enters: Shinohara, who arrives not as a conqueror or oppressor, but a humble customer. The rapport between him and Yoshimura is steeped in old-school respect and decorum. Neither of them spout a single word of the reality of the situation they find themselves in; they both play it so very cool.

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But the reality is, the CCG now considers Anteiku and its proprietor as ghouls, which makes them a threat to civic peace. The encounter we witness is only the calm before the storm. Yoshimura knows it; Shinohara knows it. Even if Yoshimura was able to connect with a human and even allow her into his heart, such a thing cannot be replicated in the current, volatile environment.

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Kaya and Koma, Yoshimura’s loyal soldiers, make all the preparations necessary before this impending storm, and are both rewarded with cups of Yoshimura’s sublime coffee, every bean of which was treated with the utmost respect and care; a fact Yoshimura attempts to expound upon Shinohara as a symbol of how Doves should deal with ghouls and vice-versa. It isn’t a black-and-white world; there are bad Doves and good ghouls. But perhaps there’s also too much bad blood for that to matter.

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In a dark courtroom, permission is granted to launch an assault on Anteiku. CCG’s instincts aren’t all wrong; Eyepatch did recently visit. One of Ken’s hopes was to protect the cafe and everyone who worked there, but that seems increasingly unlikely after this week. That being said, the people who made Anteiku all remain alive and kicking—for now—so he can’t declare total failure quite yet.

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Tokyo Ghoul 2 – 07

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Rather than thrust us headlong into anothe multi-part dove-ghoul battle, this week’s TG goes the route of more character development, establishing just what it is everyone seems to be after, while getting us even more emotionally invested in what becomes of these people before all hell breaks loose.

Ken was in a bad way last week, and we see why: in his nightmares he’s being eaten by Rize and Jason; by eating other ghouls and humans, he’s become little more than a wretched tool to provide them with nourishment. And yet, this all seems to be part of some kind of training, because Eto seems to be guiding him, and seems pleased with his progress so far.

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The show’s gaze turns back upon the new but somewhat somber normal of Anteiku, with Hinami gazing intently at a news report she knows is about Ken, before making sure Touka doesn’t catch cold at her desk. The next morning she cheerfully opens the place. She’s trying to be strong but wants to do more for him.

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Shuu sets her down that road, where over a cup of coffee and a quick lesson in floriography, he lists all the ways in which Ken is a sweet osmanthus, with the bits about “first and true love” betraying Hinami’s feelings.

While he’s in the bathroom, Takatsuki Sen slips in and offers her two very blunt cents: unlike Ken, Hinami has always come from a place of warmth and love; Sen doesn’t see Hinami being able to do anything for him the way she is now. Because we know Sen is Eto, there’s an interesting complexity in her words; this isn’t merely advice for her new friend, but in a way, it’s staking a claim. Ken is hers; Hinami can stay right out of it.

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Shuu, meanwhile, has a very intimate moment with the hanky stained with Ken’s blood. Shuu is after Ken too, but for his flavor, not his love. Or heck, maybe he demands that those most exquisite things he eats love him, or something. In any case, it’s good to see the ol’ Gourmet hasn’t been completely neutered by his recent playing nice with Anteiku. On the contrary, this establishes pretty clearly that Shuu is a potentially unstable an element as ever, and only in this for his own interests.

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Sen, meanwhile, is a busy little bee this whole episode, buzzing to CCG headquarters and happening to meet Shinohara and Juzo. Since they’re both humans at the end of the day, they have no spidey-sense for ghouls, but Juzo still regards Sen very wearily, and that’s not just his usual shyness. Perhaps a personality to bright and loud as Sen’s seems threatening to him?

Whatever his issue is, Sen is there to plant two ideas in the good doves’ minds: that ghouls can be artificially created from ordinary humans, and that there could be something fishy about a certain cafe in the 20th ward.

Sen kind of steals all of he scenes, and not just because of her distinctive appearance (Juzo still has her in that department); Sakamoto Maaya’s precise and ethereal yet casual voice is a delight to the ears. She’s got the dorky eccentric author down pat.

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From there, the episode really surprises us when Ken steps into the Anteiku doorway, to speak to Yoshimura. When Hinami learns he’s there, her first instinct isn’t to run to him, but to Touka. And when she arrives at the library out of breath and says “onii-chan”, Touka knows exactly what’s up and she breaks into a sprint.

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The entire “will she/won’t she get to him before he disappears” is a well-worn device, but it’s perfectly executed here, as is the moment they finally come face to face on a pedestrian bridge. The scene is so gorgeous and quiet, but it’s a silence bursting with emotions trying to break out.

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Ken puts on his angsty shonen face, telling Touka he can’t come back because he’s not strong enough to protect everyone, and Touka can’t stop herself from attacking him, which is simultaneously hilarious (because he dodges every acrobatic blow), but also profoundly sad, in a “it’s come to this” kind of way. Ken drops his guard momentarily when Touka tells him never to come back, and she lands a few more blows before returning home, where, after she calms down, she realizes how silly she was on the bridge.

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She wants him to come back, but everything she said and did on that bridge will only serve to make it harder. It’s a classic case of someone unsure of quite how to express their love in a way the other person will understand, and so resorts to ambiguity and/or violence out of frustration.

Still, the smile we see as she gets back to studying means that no matter what Ken is doing and whether or when he’ll come back, he’s still alive, and he’s still Ken, and at the moment, that’s enough. Hinami sees her smile too, which causes her to smile in turn. This time she was able to help Ken by helping Touka meet him. Everyone’s spirits have raised…except Ken’s.

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The cherry on top of this awesomeness sundae? Shinohara obviously checks out Sen’s tip and pays a visit to Anteiku with Juzo, where Yoshimura personally serves them while answering some questions. It’s another scene suffused with tension, but not of the romantic kind like Touka and Ken (or Shuu and his hanky). Shinohara gets a familiar vibe from gramps. I should think so; he fought him in another guise back at the mall. And Shinohara’s quiet mention that he’ll be back sent a chill down my spine…but one I appreciated.

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Tokyo Ghoul 2 – 06

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A big two-part battle like Cochlea deserves to be followed by an episode that lets us collect our collective breath, and reminds us what motivates ghoul and dove alike, which, for everyone featured in this exquisitely characters-first episode, is essentially the same: victimhood; starting with Koutarou being raised and betrayed by a priest who turned out to be a ghoul.

Looking at the files of Kuroha and Nashiro, he can still hardly believe humans can become ghouls, but if it’s true, that means there’s a possibility, however slight, that the opposite could happen: that his beloved students and perhaps even Eyepatch can be redeemed. These are the thoughts of someone who’s life and career were shaped by his past trauma, but not to the extent he lost all empathy for the enemy.

Even in his horrifying kakuja form, Eyepatch’s tears are still able to affect Koutarou. Of course, he concludes that he may be overthinking things, even though this is just the kind of thinking needed to reach true peace and understanding with the non-violent ghouls.

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Unlike Koutarou, Juuzou, AKA Rei, never had the chance to retain his empathy, or even his humanity. He’s almost a ghoul in human skin after a childhood of torture and being forced to fight in battles for the rich and powerful ghouls’ entertainment. Shinohara freed the poor wretch and with a light touch, managed to tame him enough for Dove duty. In other words, while he’s still very much morally bankrupt, Juuzou behaves himself for his savior Shinohara’s sake.

Revenge isn’t on his mind so much as wanting to see the cross-sections of various living things. I used to admit I found Juuzou irritating when first introduced, but now that I understand where he’s coming from, I’m big enough to admit I was wrong; he’s a terribly wounded, compelling, and oddly adorable kid.

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Touka had a nice family situation going for a while there with her dad and brother, but then her dad left one night (and was turned into an arata), leaving Touka alone and the only one to protect herself and her little brother. We still don’t know the full story about the siblings, but obviously they fell into a dark place, and while Ayato continues to dwell in that darkness with Aogiri, Touka was more or less saved by Anteiku.

With Kaneki walking away from that, and her, all she can do is continue on, trying to live as human a life as she can, which means she has to study her butt off and not let the rumors about her friend swirling around distract her. In his roundabout quest to protect her, Kaneki has made her life more difficult.

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But from the start of the series, Kaneki was always the most overt victim; only now after he was subjected to treatment similar to Juuzou at the finger-cracking hand of Jason has he descended into villainy. He only wanted to go out with a pretty woman; it was Rize who set him on this path and continues to torture him from within.

He let her out of the cage for the mall and prison battles, but especially in the latter he didn’t even accomplish all that much for his trouble. If it was his intention to become stronger, well, now he’s paying a serious price in the form of uncontrollable kakuja fits. He can’t even enjoy a nice cup of coffee anymore; a powerful symbol of his ultimate allegiance to Touka and Anteiku.

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Holy shit, Koutarou got Akira to finally grab some dinner with him! Luck was on his side, as the timing worked out…not to mention the whole matter of him saving her life and staring down the Owl while protecting her. She kinda has to go out, and she knows it.

Unfortunately, the least interesting victim in this story, Takizawa, accompanies them, and after he gets a couple drinks in him he starts to mouth off about how he’s being victimized by having the valedictorian in the same ward as him. Boo-hoo, dude. If you can cry about the prospect of classmates advancing ahead of you, you can do your paperwork properly before getting lit!

But, somewhat awesomely (what am I saying…nothing somewhat about it) Akira reveals that she’s pretty sloshed herself, and says some (but sadly not all) of the things I wanted to say to him.

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The bottom line is, Koutarou is level-headed enough to be referee between the two young guns. But while Takizawa is a whiny punk (until we learn more about him), Akira is a legitimate victim of both tragedy and her own thirst for revenge, a product of her mom and dad falling to the Owl and Rabbit, respectively. It’s the generational vicious cycle Koutarou is best equipped to break.

When he leaves, Akira turns to her partner and superior, and wonders if, like Takizawa, he’s only concerned with advancement. She mentions her father didn’t care about promotions, but at the same time, he was never offered them, beyond Koutarou’s present rank of Senior Investigator. And Akira isn’t wrong that Koutarou has the ability to keep rising.

Akira then turns on Koutarou, going so far as to call him “the one who killed my father,” while also blaming herself for being the one Mado toiled to protect. Koutarou doesn’t deny that assertion, drunk as Akira is. He uses it as one more reason why he has to become even stronger, so he can protect Akira in Mado’s stead.

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After his declaration, and perhaps remembering everything he’s done for her so far, Akira softens…before straight-up passing out. Again Koutarou must bear her slight frame on his broad back, to take her safely home. When she comes to, he moves to leave, but Akira doesn’t want him to go. For a hot second it looks like something is going to…happen, but it doesn’t quite go in that direction, interesting enough as it may be.

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Akira, with no family save a fluffy, stuck-up cat, really only wants to not be alone that night, nothing more amorous than that. But it does indicate that she trusts him, and has accepted him not only as her superior, but her friend and family too.

Koutarou decides to battle through the awkwardness—and strengthen himself for future challenges—in a very Amon Koutarou way: Push-ups. All-Night push-ups; seven thousand of them. And you know what? With hissize and strength, that count is legit.

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In the morning, Akira wastes no time remarking how the wrong idea could be gleaned by Koutarou doing vigorous physical training all night outside his subordinate’s bedroom…but she’s only teasing; more proof she’s accepted him, along with the fact she makes him breakfast (and is very good at it).

The episode closes with Bureau Director Yoshitoki announcing a ghoul-hunt for the Owl he believes is the leader of Aogiri. The strength of Koutarou and Akira’s bond—and Koutarou’s push-ups—will soon be tested. But before that happens, it was really nice to simply have a meal and get drunk with those two.

9_mag

Tokyo Ghoul 2 – 05

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Oh, what a tangled web we watch. I’m starting to get why any kind of reconciliation between Ghouls and Doves is so unlikely: it’s gotten way too personal. Everyone who fights this week seems to have a connection with the one(s) they’re fighting. We start with a somewhat obscure and hastily-sketched dynamic that actually turns out to be engaging because it doesn’t try to do too much: that between the Yasuhisa twins and Juuzou. I mean, just look at how frikkin’ adorable those twins were as humans.

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The twins were once in the same CCG academy class as Juuzou (who was known as “Rei” back then). When the twins’ friend Kawakami Shizuku suddenly died, it created a rift that widened to its current state, with the twins somehow ending up as one-eyed ghouls, and Juuzou ready, willing, and more than able to methodically carve them up like turkeys (portrayed in various states of censorship).

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Houji also seems to have a past with his dueling partner Tatara; specifically, Houji and Takizawa’s quinques were once ghouls Tatara held dear. It’s quite a macabre thing to fight against someone using a friend twisted and repurposed into a weapon…or in Ayato’s case, into Shinohara’s Arata, an armor he can’t pierce no matter how hard he charges.

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When Shinohara’s about to finish him, Ayato touches the Arata with his fist and remembers his father—whom the armor used to be—reading to him and Touka in their little apartment, before disappearing into the night, presumably never to be seen again. Like the scenes of Amon with the twins, we see everyone in what amounts to a previous life, before everything went to shit. It’s more than a little bleak.

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Speaking of turning into stuff, Ken has reached a new level of power, but also new levels of insanity, instability, and irredeemability. Shinohara identifies his form as a kakuja, which sounds pretty badass, like gravija. Even so, Shinohara is a tough sonufabitch, and is able to get his licks in before Ken finally stops playing around and brings the hammer down, or, in his case, the centipede appendages down.

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Having narrowly escaped their battle in one piece, Koutarou and Akira end up crossing paths with two other in a state of retreat: Kuroha and Nashiro. This is maybe my favorite moment of the episode, because there’s so much said in three wordless looks: Amon realizing his former human students, whose names he remembered, are now ghouls, and then Kuro and Shiro’s looks back at him, which are a superb blend of shame and ‘stunned, wounded animal’. Koutarou doesn’t pursue the sisters when they flee, though I wonder if he would have, had a bloodied Akira not been hanging off of him.

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Koutarou and Akira find their way into the same area where Ken and Shinohara battled, and I use the past tense here because the battle is over and Ken is eating Shinohara, armor and all, when Koutarou arrives. Koutarou was keen to find Eyepatch so he could learn why it was he shed tears and spared his life when he could have killed him, but now that he sees what a manic beast Ken has become, he’s ready to put a quinque in his skull.

Preparing to do so brings more tears to Ken’s eyes, and for a second there, it’s as if the kakuja ‘spell’ has been lifted. The One-eyed Owl swoops in and scoops up both Ken and Ayato, but Koutarou probably had the time to finish him. He doesn’t, perhaps because he still wants answers, or because Ken spared him once, so he owes him. Like I said; everyone is way too close to one another in this war.

8_mag

Tokyo Ghoul 2 – 04

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Tokyo Ghoul combines lots of concepts and themes familiar to me through other shows, animated or not, and elaborates upon, improves, or polishes them to a sheen, resulting in an end product that is greater than the sum of those appropriated parts. Four shows that came to mind were The X-Files, Battlestar Galactica (the newer one), and Bleach. A strange trio, I know.

First, this episode started out like X-Files, what with the odd-couple investigators diving into a dark secret-of-the week. Amon mirrored Mulder in the bearing of his traumatic event from the past that shaped the man he is today: having to pay a visit to a ghoul who once ran the orphanage where Amon grew up. Akira is Scully, questioning why they’re even there and turning out to be right about it probably being a bad idea.

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That’s because the day they’ve come to the Ghoul internment facility is the same day Aogiri Tree planned a massive attack, turning the quiet detective episode into an all-out spectacle. Few shows did bold spectacles better than Battlestar, and the creepily-cloaked Aogiri forces massing atop the prison, then descending upon the norma-looking prison guards below, reminded me of a swarm of implacable Cylon raiders going in for the kill. This is going to be a bad day for many many people.

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One place where Koutarou and Akira definitely have Mulder and Scully beat is in the combat department, as neither embarrass themselves in the heated battle against those swarms. Akira just happened to be unlucky enough to come afoul of the childish yet lethal Naki, who bites her in the leg and renders her a non-factor for the duration.

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It’s the doves fighting with their quinques and the masked ghouls fighting with their kagunes…well that’s just Shinigami with their Zanpakutos versus Arrancar with their Resurrection. The difference being, in Bleach, battles were often handled one at a time, and at a very deliberate pace, often stretching several episodes. TG compresses and distills the elaborate character and weapon designs and myriad battles into one bonanza of an episode with a lot more going on.

Then it has matchups that are clever, if unexpected, vehicles for fleshing out characters, like the black and white twins bumping into Suzu (who they know somehow) or Ayato facing his father…in the form of Shinohara’s armor.

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This is also just a good bonding experience for Koutarou and Akira, with the former invoking the words of the latter’s father about not letting up the fight even if you lose your arms and legs…the Black Knight mentality. Koutarou insists Akira not give up, and climb onto his shoulders while he handles the numerous but uncoordinated and fairly weak Aogiri third-stringers.

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Ken, meanwhile calmly walks about the facility, unfazed by everything around him. His role in the mission is limited to releasing a high-security captive in “Mr. Shachi.” You’d think he’d be grateful for being sprung, but he smells Rize on Ken and they initiate the fight that’s the centerpiece of the second half of the episode. These are two tough customers, but Ken is still inexperienced, and Shachi essentially toys with him.

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Even so, there’s a kind of inevitability to this fight, as if Ken was meant to be beaten senseless so that he can awaken an even stronger version of himself. He certainly seems to be on board with that, as he knows everyone he cares about (his “liabilities”) will die unless he get stronger. Eto stops Kamishiro from continuing his onslaught, while Ken sprouts a new and even more unsettling mask, something I can’t help but think Eto intended to happen.

7_mag

Tokyo Ghoul 2 – 03

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I know, it’s early, but Tokyo Ghoul Root A has the makings of a rare sequel that surpases the original. It’s firing on all cylinders, both in  Ghoul/Dove conflict and in making us feel every inch of agonizing distance between people who were once so close and familiar they used to get on each other’s nerves. So much has changed, but people keep on keeping on with varying degrees of success.

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TG2 has also proven more adept than most shows at juggling a cast that was stupendously huge before all the new intros. It’s mixed things up wonderfully these past two episodes, and made interesting connections and re-connections between disparate characters, lending a sense of community.

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The characters aren’t having a sprawling or blurring effect I want to distance myself from; on the contrary, they’re drawing me in even closer. The conflux of characters in every shade of moral and mental gray, dotted will well-thought-out, punchy action set pieces like the opening attack on the police convoy (which black-and-white one-eyed sisters use to test Ken’s strength), and a script that crackles with poise, all set to a captivating soundtrack, and you see what I mean about all cylinders.

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As “Eyepatch” trashes police convoys and makes it on the news, we’re reminded Touka isn’t the only one he left behind; Hinami has a big-bro-shaped hole in her life now, and can’t help but talk about him, even though Touka rather wouldn’t. The next morning, she’s surprised to find Hinami all dolled up going out by herself (sort of; she has a chaperone) to a Takatsuki Sen book-signing. Hinami doesn’t want Touka to worry about her.

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When Nishiki stops by the cafe, he offers to show Touka Kamii University, where she’s thinking of attending herself. Little things like the fact she won’t stand out by not eating appeal to her, but it isn’t long until Ken’s dumb, innocent staring back at her: a wanted poster; a symbol that he can’t come back even if he wanted to anymore.

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Her heart sinks, but Hideyoshi, who’s been on the periphery of the show so far, steps in to help lift her spirits anyway he can. It’s been a while since these two have seen each other, but just hanging out with someone else who used to be close to Ken, whom she doesn’t have to put a brave face on for (like Hinami) comforts Touka. I particularly love this line by Hide:

“Come to think of it, he once had the lead part in a play! He was surprisingly good, too. He was quite an imposing presence on the stage. Whether it was him playing a part, or him putting on a mask, he always seemed to be saddled with things all unto himself.”

Hinami wanted Touka to reassure her that there must be a good reason Ken left. Hide helps restore a little hope in Touka’s heart that that is indeed the case.

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If Ken is putting on a grudging act, he’s playing a dangerous game, because between B&W and Eto, he still knows very little about his new Aogiri comrades. As for Eto…we finally see her unmasked in the most unexpected place: the book signing Hinami is attending! Turns out she’s the author Takatsuki Sen.

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I picked up on this fact because I recognized Sakamoto Maaya’s voice, and the camera was settling on the lower part of her grinning face, as it did at the end of last week’s episode. To have Eto sign a book she wrote for Hinami as a gift to Ken, the very guy she’s become interested in, is one of those awesome connections that feels both spontaneous and logical.

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Another interesting connection is Hide, whose delivery job affords him access to the CCG station, where he uses his friendly personality to get as much info on the eyepatch case out of Seido as he can (for what purpose I can’t yet fathom) until he’s shut down by a suspicious Akira. Though, to be fair, Akira is suspicious about everyone…but she’s also brilliant, and Natural Police, and Hide better watch himself, because I’m sure she’s watching him from here on out.

Oh yeah, Juuzou is given a new quinque, a huge scythe made from the deceased Jason which he names “Juuzou’s Jason.” Certainly not the most imaginative name, but it’s a frighteningly powerful weapon. Akira and Juuzou are cerebral and physical reminders that the Doves may have taken their licks, but they’re far from toothless in this fight.

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Such is the stength of the case right now, Ken only needs to show up in a couple brief scenes to be effective. Here, we see him take it upon himself to help the late Yamori’s inconsolable underling write the name “Yamori” properly. For some reason I was reminded of when he used to tutor Hinami.

Back at CCG, it’s not Akira who reaches a breakthrough in the case, but Saido (with considerable assistance from Houji). They determine through news reports and such that Eyepatch is Kaneki Ken, a Kamii University student who was injured by falling girders and given organ transplants without his consent from the woman beyond saving he was with at the time of the accident.

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With the Doves now hotter on Ken’s trail than ever, Hide studies the wanted signs he took down on campus, lamenting that Ken is making “such a nice girl worry about him.” But as she lies in bed, a faint smile comes to Touka: Maybe Ken is just out there playing a role, taking the stage and making a big show, for a good reason.

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Whatever that reason, Ken has buried himself in his part. Like last week, we close with them about to start another operation: this time at Cochlea, a ghoul internment center in the 23rd Ward. What fresh devilry—or moral ambiguity—lurks within those  maximum-security ramparts? Where will Ken’s performance lead him next?

9_mag

Tokyo Ghoul 2 – 02

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This week’s Ghoul was smart, introspective, and robust. The most action we saw happened in the cold open, where a young Mado Kureo and his fellow Doves battle the Owl ten years ago, and we got a little bit of Ken running around. If this episode wanted to remind us that Ghoul is not merely about the Ghoul-on-Dove action, it succeeded, surpassing its season opener in mood and immersion.

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The CCG brass are licking their wounds as more wounds are being inflicted: Marude’s incompetence in the 11th ward lead to an unacceptable loss of manpower and equipment, and as a result, Aogiri Tree, with their new eyepatched captain, have been able to easily overrun the 9th and 10th wards as well. Their backs are against a wall, but no one is panicking, and they make the capture or destruction of the Owl their top priority.

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We do cut back to Touka now and again, and while she’s maintaining at school and planning to apply for the same college as Nishiki, every shot of her is tinged with melancholy. She had become accustomed to Ken and his absence notable. Moreover, his activities with Aogiri Tree are stirring up even more anti-Ghoul sentiment than usual, making for a distinctly more uncomfortable school life.

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Back to the Dove side, where we check in with Amon Koutarou, recently promoted to senior investigator. While visiting Kureo’s gave, he comes upon Mado’s daughter, Akira (voiced by Seto Asami of Chihayafuru), who happens to have been assigned as Koutarou’s new partner. Harking back to the flashback cold open, this Ghoul/Dove conflict has been going on long enough to become a family business of sorts. Akira has decided to follow in her father’s footsteps, and no explanation is really necessary for why.

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Ghoul doubles down on the Dove focus by placing us in the middle of the 20th Ward office, led by Shinohara and staffed by Koutarou, Houji, Akira, Juuzou, and Seidou. Seidou is the kind of character who might be a protagonist in a lesser show; here he butts heads with Akira, as he came up second to her in the academy. A simple way of comparing their worldview unfolds as Akira warmly compliments Juuzou on the same stitches that creep Seidou out.

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Akira is a brilliant, efficient, hungry investigator, who quickly impresses her superiors with her (correct) theory that the 20th Ward has been regulated for some time. She also unilaterally does away with classic decorum, explaining to Koutarou precisely how much time is wasted per year voicing all the extra syllables such formalities demand. Amon could have told her in all the time she took to explain herself, she could have managed a simple “Yes, Sir”…but gives her the win, knowing she’s truly her father’s daughter.

Shinohara tries to get Amon, new to seniority, to ask Akira out to dinner to break the ice. Akira turns him down instantly, but not out of dislike, but because she simply doesn’t eat after 9:00 PM as a rule. So there are rules Akira breaks and those she doesn’t. She was intriguing enough knowing who her father was, but I’m looking forward to watching “Amon/Mado Mark II” get along.

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After saying goodbye to her friend Yoriko (whom I imagine could become a victim of the present war at some point), Touka again appears distracted and unsure of what to do next, even though she technically has a plan and motions to go through.

Meanwhile, in some dark Aogiri hideout, having shed so much, Ken still makes himself a decent cup of coffee. Is this a force of habit, or a conscious effort to maintain the slightest tie to his past life at the cafe?

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Either way, as tasty as that coffee might be, Ken seems just as miserable as Touka, and can only get one sip in before Touka’s brother summons him for an op.

The Anteiku gang celebrates the re-opening of the cafe after all that unpleasantness, but Touka is only half-involved with the festivities. The other half is fixed on the night outside, where Ken is up to no good.

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Ken seems to have gained some admirers within Aogiri, from black-and-white twins to the mummy-bandaged Eto, who runs off to her quarters to remove the bandages and reveal a normal, healthy-looking young woman, or at least the lower part of her face. Her demeanor suggests she’s excited about the possibilities of having Ken on her side.

While Ghoul did not go into details about those possibilities regarding Ken specifically, they did show a confident Aogiri Tree on the march, a CCG scrambling to mount a defense, and an Anteiku trying to survive and maintain normalcy. Most impressively, I find myself neither able nor willing to pick one ‘good’ guy and one ‘bad’, as all factions are compelling and possess legitimate motivations.

9_mag

Tokyo Ghoul 2 – 01 (First Impressions)

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TG’s first season ended abruptly with the lesson that You can’t have it all, and in Ken’s present situation, wavering pacifism is no longer an option. His survival, and the survival of those dear to him, required him to transform himself drastically, something Yamori helped him along with quite nicely.

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In this, TG’s expected second season, we pick the sprawling battle right where we left off in episode 11, and the show continues to dart from one battle to another to keep things fresh. I’ll admit my memory was a little fuzzy ( I also don’t have the benefit of having read the source material, which likely fleshed some of these guys out :P) but it’s still all very heated and exciting.

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One pertinent battle is the one between the Kirishima siblings, which Touka is losing badly until Ken appears to scoop her up and stand in as Ayato’s opponent.

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It must piss off Ayato to no end that all of a sudden Ken isn’t so easy to take down. Indeed, Ken makes it look easy with his graceful evasions. Ken isn’t here to kill Touka’s brother, though. Rather, he says he knows Ayato’s “secret”, and why he joined Aogiri Tree. This pisses Ayato off even more, because knowledge is power.

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Noro finally breaks up the fight, snatching Ayato up and retreating as a number of explosions rock the site of the battle. Ironically, I had suggested Harude simply bomb the hell out of the mall rather than commit so many men to what amounted to an enormous trap to kill as many men as possible.

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Harude’s top men can’t quite eliminate the Owl, but nor does the Owl eliminate them, and if I’m not mistaken, even saves one of them from getting crushed. I must say, with their nifty full-body, life-sapping “Arata” quinque-suit things, they definitely made their fight a lot more interesting than it had any right to be, what with the Owl going all philosophy professor on them.

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Once the battle is over, the episode lags a bit, which I’m guessing is meant to build up tension about when Ken will do next, as well as introduce a few new characters, but it still lags. That’s not to say it isn’t without its charms: there’s a couple of nicely-staged encounters, first, as Eto emerges and recedes from the smoke in several different places, almost teasingly.

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Another is when Touka is propped up against a tree, looking forward to going home, and warns Ken he’ll have to do something about that crazy white hair. But Ken isn’t going back to Anteiku, even after all the trouble they went to to rescue him. No, Ken is going to Aogiri Tree.

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It’s a drastic but sensible move on his part, and for the sake of Touka and the others, not himself. He has to see where his dark potential, brought forth by Yamori’s torture and by letting Rize out of the cage, perhaps for good. He’s through doing nothing. Now comes figuring what exactly he can and should do, now that he’s doing something. I for one am game; the warmth and comforts and easy smiles of a place like Anteiku are no longer any kind of place for this new Ken.

8_mag