Tokyo Ghoul:re – 07 – Congratulations and Recollections

The sheer number of players big and small in the Tokyo Ghoul universe can make darting from one group to another a daunting task, especially for one not versed in the manga upon which :re is based. Still, the sight of all those myriad faces, most of them familiar, lend the world a lived-in, oddly comforting atmosphere.

Then there’s the new faces, our Quinx Squad, who come out of the great Auction Raid not only none the worse for wear (relatively), but having distinguished themselves to a man (and in Saiko’s case, to a woman). The raid ends abruptly—which I was hoping for. Sasaki takes Hinami into custody (after Arima allows it), and Rabbit and the other members of Aogiri Tree retreat.

Most of the surviving CCG investigators are promoted in a ceremony, with Tooru jumping from 3rd to 1st class for his conspicuous valor (no doubt irking Urie, who probably wishes he outranked his Quinxmate) Their leader Sasaki becomes a Senior Investigator at a very young age.

As the Doves celebrate their victory, Akira visits her father’s grave, eager new members join a “cursed” squad, Tooru is coached in knifesmanship by Juuzou, and a familiar green-haired lady leaves something in the Quinx Squad’s house’s mailbox.

The celebrations continue when Sasaki invites Akira and Arima over for a dinner party, preparing a sumptuous feast for them and his squad, and giving everyone gifts to commemorate their promotions (or in Arima’s case, just ’cause). After so much peril, blood, and death, I liked the return to the warm and cozy home life of the squad.

Even stick-in-the-mud Prince Urie, who manages to be both insufferable and sympathetic, chips in, while the higher-ranked investigators seem happy for the respite; there’s no other motive for Sasaki inviting them except perhaps to show them  how much his ragtag squad has gelled.

Then Sasaki opens the package addressed to him. It contains Kaneki Ken’s mask, as well as a novel by Takatsuki Sen (who also happened to be the deliverer of the package). If this is an effort by her to help Sasaki remember more about Ken, it seems to work in a very specific and poignant way.

As Shirazu visits his injured, unconscious sister in the hospital (something Urie also happens to see) Sasaki ends up in a cafe being served coffee by Touka at the Cafe :re, and thinking how familiar the coffee, the waitress, and the other patrons of the cafe feel.

Then walks past Anteiku in its prime, with Yoshimura looking on before walking in. Sasaki looks again, and the cafe is gone, replaced by a cleared lot and orange cone barriers. He must have been seeing through Ken’s eyes.

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Tokyo Ghoul:re – 06 – Filling the Void

The Quinx Squad remains split into thirds as the raid enters its final stages—and you get the sense that they’d do better as a single unit. Thankfully, Urie is not all alone when he decides it’s time to unleash his “Frame 4” power…because it doesn’t go all too well for him!

Once Big Madam can gauge his power, she realizes he’s punching way above his weight, and takes him out with a barrage of blows. Tooru is there to comfort Urie in his defeat (when “ME! ME! ME!” becomes “O Woe is Me!”), while Juuzou has backup and no qualms about bringing down his former “Mama”.

Meanwhile, Shirazu and Saiko are fighting Nutcracker with Hayashimura…only Saiko…isn’t really doing anything; simply asking what she should do. Shirazu knows what I’ve come to suspect (and which was kind of obvious): Saiko has the highest latent ability among the Quinx Squad members not named Sasaki Haise.

Saiko is also motivated by a desire to help Haise, and her burst of violence, while off-camera, puts the Nutcracker on her ass. Shirazu finishes her off, but not before Nut says something very “human” about always wanting to be pretty.

As Shirazu and Saiko defeat Nutcracker, Juuzou and the XIIIth take out Madam, leaving Owl and Haise as the one remaining main event of the raid.

Haise is scared of giving in too much to the Kaneki Ken within him lest he lose himself, but Owl takes advantage of his hesitation by utterly laying waste to him, while one of his associates broadcasts Haise’s screams of pain over the P.A. system, leading Saiko to race to where he is.

Saving Haise from an early grave is none other than Fueguchi Hinami, who states that Haise is too valuable for Owl to simply eliminate on a whim. Owl doesn’t like that, but Hinami can hold her own against him, at least long enough for Haise to get his shit together and summon enough of Kaneki’s power to fight back against Owl himself.

The process whereby Haise does this is by realizing that while he fears Kaneki—and rightly so—there’s a part of Kaneki within him that is still a child, and similarly terrified. It’s not about competing with the guy; it’s about relating to him. He shouldn’t fear the void, he should embrace it, and Ken. If he doesn’t, he and his squad are toast.

I’ll be honest, the raid lost a bit of steam from the first episode to the second, and between Big Madam’s wildly variable mouth size and the huge number of seemingly mortal wounds that turn out not to be not that bad, the decline in my enthusiasm has continued into the third. The fourth will surely mark the end the raid (one can hope). We’ll see where Haise and the Quinx Squad stands then.

Tokyo Ghoul:re – 05 – Damn You and Your Sexy Body!

The battle continues on numerous fronts—almost too many, to be honest—but this scattered episode manages to linger long enough on the important ones. Kanae learns how fast Tooru heals and aims to relieve him of his limbs, but is thwarted by Haise, backed by Shiazu, Urie, and Saiko. The Quinx squad fares much better than other squads, and one particularly unlucky one must square off against the certifiable Owl.

Another squad bites off more than they can chew in trying to take out Nutcracker, and get their, er…nuts cracked. Naki is certain he’s done for courtesy of Akira, but gets bailed out by Rabbit, who decides to break off from his stalemated duel with Juuzou.

The Quinx manage to do a number on Kanae, but their quarry is retrieved by Matsumae. When Washu orders Quinx to engage Nutcracker, Haise requests Tooru be evacuated out of the shit, and Washi recommends Urie for this purpose—much, initially, to Urie’s annoyance. He’s trying to “distinguish” himself as an investigator, and being relegated to escort duty is hella lame for the self-involved, triangle-eyed brat.

One doomed member of the unlucky squad recognizes Owl as former investigator Takizawa, whose lectures she once attended. Recalling that she talked in class, he impales her with his hand. Meanwhile, Urie does exactly what Washu thought he would do and goes looking for a way to earn some glory by finding a hidden passageway beneath the auction stage.

Juuzou is already down there, and along with Urie and Tooru, start hacking away at the masked auction attendees, whose whereabouts had previously been unknown. Urie is happy he can unleash his full power with someone of Juuzou’s caliber fighting beside him, while Tooru is just trying to contribute in any way he can.

Throughout the battles and dialogue, Yamada Yutaka’s electronic score pulses along, providing a stylish rhythm for the bloody chaos. While the animation is a little iffy, I have zero complaints about TG:re’s soundtrack.

Urie’s hubris gets the best of him, as he ends up falling victim to Big Madam’s predation, and when Tooru catches up to him, she’s in the process of gulping him down like a snake swallowing a rat…so not exactly distinguishing himself!

Finally, the rest of Quinx squad never makes it to Nutcracker; instead, Haise is ordered by Washu to fight Owl one-on-one, no doubt to test the limits of his abilities. Unfortunately, Saiko does absolutely nothing with her giant hammer, and is escorted away by Shirazu.

Even if we assume Haise can handle Owl or at least fight him to a draw, there’s still a lot of players left on the board for next week: Big Madam, Nutcracker, and Rabbit chief among them.

Tokyo Ghoul:re – 04 – It’s Party Time

Oh man, I do love a good big Tokyo Ghoul raid. This week, we get the start of a doozy. Things start out quietly yet ominously, as the pageantry of the Eyes Wide Shut-style human auction commences with a washed up actor and then Tooru in disguise.

As a one-eyed Ghoul, Tooru induces a huge 200 million bid, much to the scantily-clad Nutcracker’s delight. That winning bid belongs to the Doves’ primary target tonight: Big Madam, just beating out Master Shuu’s servant.

One of the trio of Ghoul “Clown” MCs whispers to Tooru that no one is coming to save him, but that’s nonsense, as the very next lot is Juuzou, who’s already seen enough of the auction and decides to get the real party started, unleashing a fusillade of daggers at all the Ghouls around him.

Outside the venue (and shouldn’t the Ghouls have picked a less conspicuous place?) The CCG raiding parties are ready to commence the operation, including the Quinx Squad. Their primary goal: Eliminate All Ghouls—but Big Madam in particular—and rescue any human captives.

As Juuzou ditches the wig and attracts the attention of Rabbit (now Ayato, not Touka), Tooru sheds the Nutcracker and runs, but is pursued not just by Master Shuu’s servant, still sore over losing the bid, but by Torso, who splits off from Ayato (and Hinami, who’s with Aogiri Tree now) who simply wants Tooru’s torso all to himself.

What we don’t see much of at all is the Quinx Squad in action. What we do see is pretty much everyone else. We see how the new young blood among the Doves are the source of some resentment from the old “fogeys”, but when a young hotshot over-confidently rushes into the Clowns and gets himself killed, it’s up to the fogey to clean up the mess, even though he’s also killed by the sudden arrival of Owl.

There’s a lot of pieces being set up this week, as new and old faces prepare to go at it. The whole raid is crackling with electricity. And this is just the beginning, with no clear victor yet in sight. Should be a fun resolution.

Tokyo Ghoul:re – 02 – Death by Ham

Sasaki Haise bails out his subordinates when Urie bites off more than they can chew with Orochi. Heck, even Haise has to take off the kid gloves, and eventually loses control when the Kaneki Ken within him tries to take over.

Akira herself has to take him out, with help from other CCG officers. Orochi gets away, as does Torso. Everyone’s alive, but the mission is a failure.

For his recklessness, Urie is removed from the leadership of the Quinx Squad, and Shirazu is promoted in his place. Urie gets in a “you’re just a ghoul” dig at Haise, but it doesn’t matter; Haise’s word is law in the squad, so his climb to the top just hit a serious snag.

Later, Urie assures a concerned Kuroiwa that Haise will be fine, all while cursing him and hoping he’ll just go die. This Urie guy’s carrying a lot of resentment and hate.

We also get our first sighting of Saiko, but just long enough for her to grab a little ham from the fridge and run off back to her room, presumably to scarf it down.

I’m not quite sure why we’ve seen so little of her (besides the fact she’s, well, a shut-in), but something tells me despite her uninspiring demeanor she might be the strongest of the Quinx other than Haise—if we don’t count Urie’s current (and possibly ill-advised) campaign to increase the strength of his kagune.

Finally, we get the biggest of the cameos from past TGs as Haise, Mutsuki and Shirazu go to the Re: cafe where a slightly older Kirishima Touka works, and seems to recognize Haise (or the Ken within him).

Meanwhile, Touka’s brother Ayato is apparently the new “Rabbit”, still affiliated with Aogiri Tree and apparently letting Torso join as well, which puts him out of the Quinx Squad’s jurisdiction. Instead, their next assigned target is red-light district ghoul nicknamed “Nutcracker,” who does precisely what her nickname says. Quinx could use a win after Orochi and Torso; maybe this will do the trick.

Tokyo Ghoul:re – 01 (First Impressions) – New Faces, New Ballgame

Tokyo Ghoul is back! Umm…yay? I for one wasn’t chomping at the bit for a sequel, to be honest. That’s not a mark against the previous season’s quality, nor my investment in it at the time.

I’ve just watched a lot of anime since Root A, and I guess I’d moved on, while the fact this season does not focus on the main characters from the previous ones further dulled enthusiasm.

Thankfully, the learning curve for getting back into the swing of things—Doves, Ghouls, Orochi, Kagune, got it—wasn’t too bad, and the new characters were introduced along with a comfortably familiar few cameos and name drops, which made the medicine go down easier.

Long story short, a couple of years have passed since Root A, and the CCG are now deploying Quinx Squad, which is not a combination of Quincy and Twix…but it could’ve been. Rather, they’re humans who are able to use the typical Ghoul tricks of the trade thanks to artificial means.

They use those tricks against full-fledged Ghouls that are working against the betterment of society, like the taxi driver “Torso”, so named because that’s the only part of the women he takes.

The Quinx squad is led by Sasaki Haise, whose hair reminds you instantly of Kanzaki Kei, and following that bridge to the past, we later learn Kei is in Sasaki’s head, just as Rize was in his.

Within the various Quinx teams there’s a bit of a turf scuffle over who gets to bring in Torso, but it’s really more of a race between the teams (Sasaki’s superior is Mado Akira, whom we know) and even a competition within Team Mado itself, with Sasaki’s subordinate Urui trying to claim all the glory by himself, manipulating their colleague Shirazu to do so.

I felt immediately putting the team at odds with each other was a nice way to give an edge to the proceedings right off the bat—this is a cutthroat business, and even if everyone’s pretty much on the same side, a lot of other interests are in play.

Rounding out the five-person crew are the timid Mutsuki and Saiko-chan, the only female member who we never see until the end credits.

Urui’s desire to “take initiative” fails in the beginning of the episode, when he and Shirazu have to be bailed out by Sasaki, and it fails at the end, when thanks to Mutsuki and a bit of luck, they suddenly find and engage Torso, but he’s too much for them, especially when a fellow ghoul shows up who’s much tougher.

As such, by all going their separate ways, Quinx Squad Team Mado still manages to end up in the same place, on the cusp of closing a case that will distinguish them among their peers, but which will require the defeat of a rather tough boss. Makes me wonder if the team’s X Factor is the so far off-camera Saiko-chan…or if Sasaki has to draw more from his Inner Kaneki Ken

I wouldn’t recommend anyone unfamiliar with Tokyo Ghoul get into this, due to the fact it doesn’t spend a lot of time holding newbies’ hands, but if you’ve been a fan of the adaptation thus far, I’d say this is at worst worth a look, and at best a must-see.

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.

7_mag

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?

9_mag

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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