3-gatsu no Lion – 26

As Hina cries in her big sister’s lap, Rei catches us up on the reason for her tears, as well as her missing shoe. It’s a harrowing, all-too familiar and common story: some girls in her class with nothing better to do started bullying her longtime friend Chiho. While everyone ignored it or pretended nothing was happening (even the teacher), Hina, like a Fire Sister, kept talking and eating with Chiho.

Eventually, the bullying got so bad Chiho stopped coming to school, and her mother decided they’d move to where her father works, pulling her out of school. When the girls who started all this make light of that in gym class, Hina pounces on their queen bee in vicious rage, to no avail.

Now Hina is the target of their bullying, and she’s terrified of going back to school and being alone, just as she’s distressed that she couldn’t do anything for Chiho. After scaring Momo with her crying, Hina runs out into the night, and Rei very slowly chases her (what can you say; kid’s not an athlete).

Rei makes no bones about it: Hina is the reason he’s above water; she is his lifesaver; and after gently taking her hand, he promises he’ll always stay with her, no matter what. After all, for all the distress and pain it’s caused her, Hina is quite correct that she did absolutely nothing wrong in trying to defend Chiho. That it was beyond her ability to stop the bullying, or that she’s the new target, does not change that simple fact that she’s a good person.

Fully appreciative of her fragile state and need to not be alone, Rei spends the day with her at the libarary where they look at books, something he’s been doing a long time and the reason he’s so good at shogi at his age.

While she’s looking at Japanese sweets books, Rei is looking for the name of the “ladybug bush” of his dark earlier years: “Silverthorn.” He also finds the scientific name of the Asian Ladybug that populated those bushes, and Hina notices the kanji for that name also means “heavenly path.”

Rei takes her to the bush and places a ladybug on her hand, and it climbs as high as it can before flying off toward the sun, demonstrating why, long ago, people gave the bug that name.

As the beetle flies heavenward, Rei would wish nothing more than to unleash hell upon those who have done this to Hina; but just as she walks the heavenly (i.e. just and rightous) path, he knows so must he. Tearing those bullies limb from limb won’t solve anything, and probably onlu make things worse for Hina.

Evening arrives, and Rei escorts Hina home, where Akari and Momo are waiting for them and invite Rei to join them for a sumptuous dinner consisting of all of Hina’s favorite foods. Their Gramps is there too, and gravely asks Hina to sit down and listen.

Akari told him everything that happened…and he praises her heartily for what she did. He knows from the papers how serious bullying can be, so he has nothing but joy and pride in knowing Hina would go to bat for her friend despite the dangers involved; something most adults wouldn’t do. He echos her own earlier words that she did nothing wrong, and should be proud of herself.

Now, I watched his monologue in a very dusty room, so you can imagine I needed a lot of Kleenex nearby, just as the Kawamoto sisters did. Both Gramps’ words of encouragement and Akari’s meal were things they knew they could do for Hina. Rei wracks his brain over what he can do, but simply being there for her, by her side, and assuring her he’ll never leave it, is already enough.

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Tokyo Ghoul – 10

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Our friends at Anteiku may have enjoyed a period of peace and calm in the time between Mado’s death and the previous episode…we just don’t get to see a lot of it. Thus, in this way, despite the disorientation of a time-jump and a crapload of new characters—some more interesting than others—the tension is kept up in a show that needs tension and peril to thrive.

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An all-out war between Ghouls and Doves isn’t just “coming”, it’s already here, as Aogiri Tree riads the CCG’s 11th Ward precinct and slaughters every last Dove. Marude, the guy put in charge of the response who very much looks like he’s trying to pop his skull out of his face, has decided to evacuate the ward of all humans in preparation for a massive strike.

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There’s a lot of sneering, eye-bulging, and yelling going on this week, as tempers run short and hot. Worse, Aogiri Tree’s aggression is utterly destroying any chance of detente between the races of the kind Anteiku has successfully achieved. Of course, by harboring Rize’s vessel Kaneki Kei, they made themselves a target of radical ghouls and “special” Doves like Suzuya Juzo, who I hope is insufferably repulsive on purpose.

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This episode also marks the end of a good run of episodes in which Ken wasn’t kidnapped, as a sequence of n’er-do-wells darken Anteiku’s door, starting with Banjou (who resembles a DRAMAtical Murder character), his three masked and numbered underlings, Touka’s brother Ayato, and then, in a case of Bad Guy Overkill, the comically huge and comically-attired Yamori (why a leisure suit?) and his gay stereotype partner Nico.

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We like Banjo’s volatile personality, kooky underlings, funny swirl beard, but he’s too quickly edged out by Ayato, who’s your typical cliched Evil Sibling who only seems to exist to make life more miserable for Touka, and the less seen of Yamori and Nico the better; they really class down the joint with their ridiculous, bordering-on-silly over-the-topness.

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Case in point, an inordinate amount of time is spent on Yamori beating the ever-loving shit out of Ken because, oh I don’t know, the episode has time to kill. And yet, despite varying between seven and ten feet tall, the bear-like Yamori isn’t even able to do much physical damage to Ken.We see showers of blood, but it’s hard to care about the beating when we know Ken isn’t really at risk of being killed. The show just likes using him as a punching bag a little too much.

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In a nice grasping of the concept of gender balance many other shows struggle with, this results in a case of the girl (Touka) having to go save the guy. She won’t be going alone, though. Yoshimura is tired of all these nutjobs messing up his lawn and hurting his friends. He’s closing Anteiku until further notice, and along with Yomo, Nishio, and even ‘lil Hinami, he’s going to help rescue Ken. We’ve seen the bad guys’ teeth, now it’s time to see what the good guys can do when fully mustered.

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Tokyo Ghoul – 09

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After everything that went down last week with Mado, Touka, Hinami, Amon and Ken, you’d expect some kind of respite to follow, and to a degree, that’s true of this week. No one is fighting for their lives, and instead of lots of action and drama, we get backstory and new characters. It almost feels like a new season, with much that is familiar, but details great and small that show that life has gone on in the month-and-a-half since those brutal battles.

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The episode starts, strangely enough, from Amon’s perspective as he first joins the Doves Home Office and is paired up with Mado, who has a reputation for being a kook. Mado teaches him vigilance, in that he suspects an adorable old lady to be behind a string of predatory Ghoul attacks. Amon can’t possibly believe that until he almost becomes a victim, but Mado saves his life, after ostensibly using him as bait.

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Amon seemed more bemused than moved by Ken’s mercy, and he clearly hasn’t stopped idolizing Mado, who he considers to be a hero and “his pride.” I hope Amon’s aggression towards Ghouls won’t grow as twisted as his mentor’s had, but Mado is probably the way he is because he lost everyone he loved and cared about; if the same thing happens to Amon, well, the cycle will continue.

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Meanwhile, Hinami has moved in with Touka and has nursed a pet cockatiel back to health. The bird has really lifted Hinami’s spirits, but despite the fact Touka fought to save Hinami, she still seems to regret having to kill Mado. He was a wretch, but as the ring indicated, even he had a family. That and the bird make her think of her own childhood, when she and her timid little brother Ayato also helped a bird, while living with their dad.

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It’s such a lovely family scene, and it also happens to be the first time we see Ayato. When we see him in the 11th ward licking blood off his arm and calling his sister a “peace-loving wimp.” It’s likely whatever went down between digging for worms as kids and the present, it made both siblings do things they didn’t want to do, but eventually came to enjoy. Touka is through with that part of her life, but her bro clearly isn’t. I imagine he wants Rize back in the fight.

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Other changes in our quasi-season premiere: Amon gets reassigned to a special task force in the increasingly unstable 11th Ward, and two new Doves take over in his old 20th Ward post. A very weird dude with pale skin and red stiches pickpockets Ken, who is probably his prey, a white-haired girl visits Mado’s grave after Mado, and Hide pretty clearly knows what Ken is, but doesn’t seem to have decided what to do about it yet. Lots of table-setting going on. I can only hope the show remembers to stagger the bookings, lest the kitchen get overloadedand chaos reign.

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Tokyo Ghoul – 08

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Overcome by grief and loneliness, Hinami breaks out of Anteiku to wander Tokyo. This is an extraordinarily bad decision, but it’s one a young girl in her state is more than capable of, and in any case, its the catalyst for two crucial and simultaneous showdowns, which in their combined form we consider to be the best the show has presented to date.

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I want to say that none of this would have happened had everyone taken turns being by Hinami’s side in her fragile state, rather than keeping her in a dark room alone (She’s not a stray cat!), but Mado was gunning for her big time, and ultimately would have found her anyway. She just makes confrontations that have to happen happen sooner, and I don’t have a problem with that.

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One showdown is between Touka and Mado, as Hinami cowers in the corner. The other is between Mado’s partner Amon and Ken. Both showdowns feature the same conversations. Amon decries how Ghouls heartlessly tear apart families and are messing up the world; Touka says pretty much the same things about humans to Mado, trying to get him to see her point of view.

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Touka’s words fall on ears that aren’t necessarily deaf by choice, but it’s hinted that they’ve been permanently closed by decades of torment. It’s simply too late for Mado. With that in mind, morals aside Mado is a brilliant genius for figuring out how to make quinques out of the kagunes of dead ghouls. One can’t help but wonder the good that genius could have done had it not been twisted by decades of grief and anguish.

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Alright, enough sympathizing with Mado, the bastard tries to use parts of Hinami’s dead parents to kill her and Touka. NOT COOL. You can’t spell Mado without “Mad”, right? Touka, still recovering from her last fight with him, is again overpowered by Mado’s dual-wield quinques, but his killing coup-de-grace is nullified by Hinami, of all people.

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She finally reveals her own kagunes, showing she possesses the combined powers of both her loving parents. She uses them, and Mado goes down, but she doesn’t finish him, not wanting to become a killer. Mado bleeds out and dies on his own—a welcome nod to the fact that humans are far more fragile than ghouls, and all but defenseless without quinques.

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Whereas it’s too late for Mado and he won’t listen to anything Touka says, Ken is more than receptive of Amon’s words. He knows them well, since they’re the exact same words that describe what’s happened to Hinami. What Amon doesn’t understand yet, but isn’t beyond understanding like Mado, given time, is that ghouls have the same feelings humans do. Amon is so caught up on the minority of evil ghouls that he’s blind to the fact most of them are just trying to live.

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He’s also so caught up in the grief and victimhood that he’s also blind to the fact that there’s a minority of bad humans that, along with the bad ghouls, are messing up the world together. Neither side is innocent here, and there’s plenty of middle ground to be had if only cooler heads on either side sat down and listened. As he’s being beaten to a pulp, Ken realizes that having both ghoul and human makes him singularly equipped to be the bridge the two races desperately need before they destroy each other.

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At first, he tries to make Amon understand by letting himself get beaten up. When that doesn’t work, he grudgingly summons Rize’s power and attacks Amon, but like Hinami, holds back, not wanting to become a killer. Rize, as mad as Mado, fights hard to take over Ken’s body, but Amon isn’t mortally wounded, and heeds Ken’s desperate cries to run away. Amon sees the tears and the pain Ken is in, and knows Ken just had mercy on him. Maybe that’s the beginning of him starting to understand.

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I just hope Amon finding Mado’s body doesn’t undo all of the progress (such as it was) Ken made with him. Ken, meanwhile, is saved from flying off the handle by Yomo, who takes Ken’s strike like it’s nothing (though it probably is something), calmly states he now sees what Yoshimura saw in him, and asks him to come home. They reunite with Touka and Hinami. When the latter asks if “it’s okay for her to be alive”, Ken is ready with an apt reponse: “your mom was telling you to live.” Is it okay to be alive? Absolutely. Is it easy? Not a chance.

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Tokyo Ghoul – 07

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After six weeks of building up our affinity for the Ghouls, we finally get a more in-depth look at the Doves. Like the Ghouls, not all of them are remorseless killers. If you forget the overarching fact that they’re a force tasked with subjugating and eliminating another race, they occupy a comparable amount of shades of grey as the Ghouls.

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Both sides have their extremes. Mado is very much the Dove equivalent of Rize and Shuu: unhinged and completely detached from morality. Both sides have their innocents, whether it’s Hinami and her mom on the Ghoul side or Amon’s two colleagues, who always seem to be the ones who pay the price for the action or inaction of a third group. “The more earnest they are, the sooner they lose their lives.”

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Amon and Touka belong to that third group: far stronger and more capable than the innocents, but still aware that their actions are wrong, but must be taken anyway. I don’t think Mado was born rotten any more than Shuu was; time and the horrors they witnessed and committed over the years, twisted all of them gradually.

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When Hinami’s mom is killed senselessly, Touka cannot stop herself from retaliating, even though Mado is a walking ghoul encyclopedia armed with a deadly zabimaru-esque quinque that seems to be fueled by ghoul blood. In other words, she’s no match. Touka is as indiscriminate in her victims as Mado was.

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Murdering the affable “dove schlub” Kusaba sets off Amon the same way Ryoko’s murder set her off. This is a cycle of violence that is very much in practice in several parts of the real world, and that’s just between factions of humans; It’s not surprising coexistence between humans and ghouls is equally untenable.

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This isn’t just a case of evil people doing evil things and good people doing nothing to stop them; it’s about people who could be good becoming seduced by anger and revenge and letting it drive them to commit evil themselves. Ken still hasn’t made sense of it all, nor does he know who, if anyone, to endorse. All he knows is that Touka is his friend and he doesn’t want her or anyone else to die.

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He’s also sick of doing nothing, so he collects his spooky mask from Uta and accompanies Touka; not to kill investigators, he says, but to do something. He’s not sure what he’ll do—it will greatly depend on what Touka is up to—but at least he’ll be in the position to do it.

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P.S.: The illustrations during the end credits have always been a feast for the eyes, and we get a new set this week. If only the characters looked this awesome all the time!