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.”

Kyoukai no Kanata – 01

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Kanbara Akihito is an immortal half-human, half-dreamshade and member of the literature club along with his friend Nase Mitsuki. He meets the spirit hunter Kuriyama Mirai, the last of her clan, who starts regularly stabbing him with her blood sword because she fears killing, even a nightshades. Mitsuki warns Akihito (on behalf of the Nase clan) to stay away from Mirai, but he refuses. Finally he learns her apartment is haunted by a nightshade. He accompanies her there, and they draw it out, beginning her first true battle as a spirit hunter.

This show was rich with detail and very beautifully made, as all KyoAni series tend to be, but thematic and aesthetic similarities to Haruhi, Hyouka, Chu2Koi, and Free! were everywhere. Akihito resembles Nagisa, while Mitsuki looks kinda like Chitanda but acts like Ibara (with the voice of Nagato). Mirai’s ditzy mischievousness reminded us of Rikka, only without the delusions. And like Haruhi, the world contains people with supernatural powers hiding in plain sight. So there’s a lot we found familiar, but all of it from solid shows we don’t regret watching. That could be true of this show too, if it sufficiently shuffles the elements.

We do like how the supernatural elements are actually real; Mirai isn’t forging a sword from her blood in her imagination, and she’s definitely got some slick moves when in combat. While she’d rather live a normal life, her “cursed” blood drags her towards the life of spirit hunting, and baddies are drawn to her power. She doesn’t fear them, but fears killing them, because rival clans will target her if she grows too powerful. Akihito is charmed by her interest in him – and by her ridiculous glasses – but getting involved with Mirai carries certain degree of risks, not the least of which being that it’ll piss off Mitsuki and the Nase clan. Looks like he’ll cross that boundary when he gets to it.

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Rating:7 (Very Good)