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?

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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.

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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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