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.

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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.

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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.

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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 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.

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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

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!