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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