Houseki no Kuni – 05

When Phos can’t be found, Kongou musters the entire group to go perform a search. Diamond encourages Cinnabar to assist, but Cinnabar demurs. Meanwhile, Phos, weak and with smashed legs, is fished out of the sea by the Lunarians, who circle Phos like a bunch of ravenous customers at the local buffet.

Ventricosus would like to be on her way with her brother Aculeatus, but the Lunarians alter the deal, and basically tell Ventri to pray they don’t alter it any further. They want more Gems before handing over her brother. These guys are straight-up jerks, but it’s only fair that a betrayer get betrayed. When Ventri protests, they attack her, and Acule awakens and smashes them to bits, showing his admirabilis form (which Phos finds adorable) before taking humanoid form and assisting Ventri.

Acule is ready to continue using Phos as a bargaining chip to free their family members still imprisoned on the moon. But Ventri seeing a literally broken Phos who won’t even offer words of resistance (Phos is exhausted and immobile; why bother?) causes Ventri to have a change of heart.

Phos has forgiven Ventri after the betrayal, and Ventri sees it as an opportunity to not be like the Lunarians. She and her brother escape, and set Phos free. Just as Kongou prepares to send everyone under the sea to search for Phos, Phose washes ashore…right beside Cinnabar.

Phos apologizes for going another day without keeping the promise made to Cinnabar, and promises to try harder tomorrow. For some reason, rather than call out to Kongou and the others, Cinnabar sneaks into HQ and leaves Phos in the infirmary, to be found later by Rutile.

Kongou’s rage is something to behold, as every step he takes creates cracks in the building; all of the Gems scatter for shelter from his wrath. But while he calls Phos an insolent fool with a force that almost causes Phos to shatter, he then catches Phos before that actually happens—a nice moment of compassion from the master.

He’ll have Rutile do whatever can be done to repair Phos, then hear a report tomorrow. He also summarily cancels Phos’ encyclopedia-writing assignment, leaving Phos once more without a job.

Phos washed ashore with two spikes from Acule’s shell, and Rutile notes they contain agate, which is more than twice as hard as Phos’ structure. Rutile manages to craft new legs for Phos, which have a distinctive iridescent black-and-white striped pattern (pretty cool-looking), but upon standing up, Phos finds the legs useless. Phos has also lost a good deal of memories—including those of Jade—as a result of the loss of the original pair of legs.

As the others leave one by one to attend to their other duties (which will be harder to attend to after that exhausting search), Phos laments being worse off than before all of this started and sulks in the grass, but after thinking of Cinnabar (who is in a worse situation than Phos anyway you look at it), Phos suddenly jumps up and finds that not only do the legs work, but Phos is now unbelievably fast.

Perhaps Phos’ latest brush with destruction has now produced a better situation, and those new legs will give Phos new hope of being useful to Cinnabar, Kongou, and the others.

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Houseki no Kuni – 04

When Master Kongou finally wakes up from his slumber, it’s from a strange dream in which he is in the center of a mob of Lunarians, and destroys them all with a kind of chakra. He regrets sleeping too long.

Jade, Bort, and Diamond then brief him on everything that’s happened, including the snail eating Phos, mining and reconstructing Phos from the snail’s shell, and the fact that only Phos can understand what the creature is saying, leading everyone to think Phos has gone crazy.

In defense of Phos, we can hear the creature too; their name is Ventricosus, king of of the Admirabilis, and in her current form, she’s pretty cheeky (she’s also voiced by Saito Chiwa).

Despite the indignity of a tossed Ventricosus landing on his head just right, Kongou not only believes Phos, but uses Phos as an interpreter to initiate a dialogue with the creature. He orders Phos keep the creature close while continuing work on the encyclopedia (at present, the amount of work Phos has done on that is…naught).

When Phos speaks on Cinnabar’s behalf, Kongou interrupts, stating that not only is he still working on the matter (and has yet to find a solution), but that it was Cinnabar’s decision to go on night watch to begin with, going into exile rather than sit around HQ doing nothing. It’s not ideal, but Kongou maintains the best way Phos can help Cinnabar is by doing what he ordered: work on that encyclopedia. Later, Phos and Venty get to talking, and Venty mentions that there is someone who resembles the Gems back in her homeland under the sea.

Phos, not making any progress on the land with Cinnabar, decides it’s work a look, and prepares for the trip by applying a salve to the “skin” that should protect the finish from the saltwater. Rutile tattles on Phos, and Kongou categorically forbids such a trip, reminding Phos to do what he asked and not worry about Cinnabar for now.

When it’s clear Ventri isn’t getting the proper nutrition she needs away from the sea (Phos even believes Ventri has died momentarily), Phos and Ventri have a very in-depth discussion on the nature of death (something neither the immortal Phos nor any Gem may can fully grasp the finality of), then Phos breaks the rules once again and heads underwater.

Once on the sea floor, Venty suddenly transforms into a beautiful jellyfish-queen form, and here is again where the 3DCGI fluidity really shines. Now closer to home, Venty starts to remember certain information; a kind of oral history about a race called “humans” who walked the earth.

Things happened, and humans split into three distinct forms: flesh (Admirabilae like Venty), bone (the Gems) and soul (the Lunarians). “Vague stories” also point to the fact that the Lunarians are seeking a revival of humanity by uniting the three forms, capturing them by force.

While that’s their goal, the “flesh” in the equation are content with their existence under the waves, while the “bone” would clearly prefer not being attacked from the sky all the time.

Alas, Ventricosus is hiding something, and exploits their newly-formed bond to deceive Phos. There is no malice in her actions, but her brother is being held by the Lunarians, and she means to offer Phos in exchange for his freedom.

With the sun almost down and Phos greatly weakened, the Lunarians prepare to capture Phos, smashing Phos’ arms and legs. But I’m sure Venty’s betrayal hurts far more than Phos’ loss of limbs, and the fact that Phos once again needs rescuing after disobeying Kongou’s commands to try to help Cinnabar.

It isn’t just the animation that’s beautiful in HnK, although it certainly is that; it’s also very well-written and performed, with a wealth of clever quips in the dialogue and some surprisingly profound discussion on the varying natures of existence of the three kinds of beings.

It remains a mystery what happened to humans, or what exactly Kongou is besides caretaker to the Gems, but if we take Venty’s stories at face value, we now know a lot more about why things are the way they are in this world, and have a clearer picture on the Lunarians’ goals.

Not that that puts them in the right; despite being human myself (I think), there’s something sinister about eliminating three new forms of life that emerged naturally for the sake of reviving one. It seems reckless and hubristic; akin to swimming against the waves of evolution.

Tokyo Ghoul – 06

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

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

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

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

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

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Tokyo Ghoul – 05

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Tokyo Ghoul – 04

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Stray Observations:

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

Tokyo Ghoul – 03

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Tokyo Ghoul – 02

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Pupa – 07

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While the last episode was a terrifyingly mundane study in flesh-eating, there’s more plot and exposition to this one. After some narration by Utsutsu about how he knows his sister takes no joy in eating him, we switch to Maria and her pal Hotoki. Maria takes the sperm of the brother and the eggs of the sister and impregnates herself with the resulting devilspawn, which…yikes. Just yikes. Talk about scientific curiosity!


Rating: 5 (Average)

Pupa – 06

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This episode of Pupa takes a page from Steve McQueen, pointing its “camera” at a thoroughly disturbing scene and simply refusing to pan away; lingering on the scene long after the audience have had their fill of it (no pun intended); sucking them into the horror of the moment. This is three minutes of Yume eating the shit out of Utsutsu as they lie together in bed, presented without comment and with minimal dialogue.

The sounds of Yume eating are thoroughly disgusting (or oddly relaxing, if you have ASMR), and the scene manages to make three scant minutes feel like far longer. There’s more than a little sexual/incestuous subtext what with the siblings’ position in bed, the clothes strewn about on the floor, and Yume’s gentle cooing as she feasts. It’s all quite unsettling and gross…and it doesn’t give a shit.

But more than that, the three minutes illustrate how banal and workaday this whole process has become to the siblings, underlined by the lighthearted music that comes in at the halfway point. Utsutsu lets her eat him, day after day, so she won’t eat others, and he knows he’ll always heal. Just as Pupa is not the anime many were looking for (or necessarily deserved), the plight of the siblings may not be ideal…but they’re managing.


Rating: 6 (Good)