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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
“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.