Tokyo Ghoul √A
by Jacob Chapman,
Out with the old Kaneki and in with the new! By which I mean Hide. Hide is the new Kaneki, optimistic and forward in his compassion and similar in goals, but with far less naivete, which is a very good thing, considering that his naivete is what destroyed the old Kaneki. Old Kaneki (complete with white hair) is still getting the bugs out after his traumatic torture experience, so it's up to the friends he's made who are not drowning in despair to try and rescue him from it somehow. One of the things I like most about this show is that there's no certainty to how it will end for the main character. Even the vaguest "Kaneki is redeemed" or "Kaneki is condemned" or "Kaneki saves Tokyo" or "Kaneki dooms Tokyo" assumptions all seem equally valid.
For now, the show is still steering clear of Kaneki for the most part, continuing last week's trend of checking in with the rest of the cast and establishing their potential trajectories for the last half of the story. Hinami continues to improve her reading skills, and still holds out hope that she will run into Kaneki someday and be able to bring him home. Touka tries to gently dissuade her from this, but that just makes her a big old hypocrite. Touka has "not over it" plastered all over her face as she tours Kaneki's old college, imagining the old Kaneki reading his books in peace as she passes a "missing" poster with his once-innocent face on it. Suddenly, a hand reaches out and rips down the poster to put up a recruitment poster for a festival committee instead. It's Hide, and it's also a nice indication that unlike Touka, Hide has already accepted his friend's changes and decided to trust him. (He still misses him too, since he takes the poster home for a personal keepsake as well.) Hide and Touka may see Kaneki's transformation differently, but they're also becoming closer friends, sharing coffee and sharing stories about Kaneki as they remember him. Between Hide's acceptance of his new self and Touka's desire to protect the old self, there may be a beam of hope for the one-eyed ghoul's salvation after all. Kaneki may not know it, but he's definitely lucky to have friends like these.
What little we do see of our protagonist reinforces what we were beginning to suspect last week: he hasn't "turned evil" after all. If anything, Kaneki hasn't been changed, he's been "buried." His true self, the hopeful bleeding-heart, still peeks through his "badass" facade whether he likes it or not, even when he's reduced to one scene per episode. In this case, Aogiri Tree has been sending him and Ayato out on damage control, freeing captured stooges from lower in the gang's ranks. The "prize" from their most recent rescue is the crazy thug pictured in the screencap above, a former underling ("altar boy" might be a better comparison) of the sadistic Boss Yamori. Viewers may know "Boss Yamori" better as Jason, the monster who drove Kaneki insane and got eaten alive by our hero in reprisal. The underling is driven mad with grief, wallowing and screaming in the dirt, so Ayato dismisses him as useless, and the rescue effort only a waste of time. Kaneki's reaction is shocking by contrast. He sits in the dirt with the little weirdo (named "Naki" apparently,) and shows him how to write Yamori's name, after it becomes clear that Naki is illiterate. He's filled with gratitude, having no idea that Kaneki's the one who took down his mentor (and if Kaneki's smart, he won't ever tell him.) Sparing lives during raids, showing kindness to his enemies...Kaneki hasn't changed as much as he wants everyone to think he has.
Of course, Kaneki's not the only one responsible for Yamori's death, as a quick visit to the CCG reveals that the creepy-crawly Suzuya has been promoted and given his own quinque, a ridiculous scythe in a very familiar purple shade that he names "Juzo's Jason." Uh oh. Are we headed for a weird tripartite conflict over revenge for Jason's demise? The cycle of hatred theme from the first season is already re-emerging under the consequences from Kaneki's decision to finally fight back. It's cruel because Kaneki's pacifism really was destroying him prior to his transformation, but it's already becoming clear that fighting fire with fire will destroy him as well. Maybe Hide and Touka will find a better answer of their own, as the human-ghoul bridge that Kaneki couldn't create inside himself with Rize. (Or maybe not!)
Whatever the case, this episode is all character development and chemistry, so much of it that I could only cover about half of the interactions and subtle changes packed into the twenty-minute span. If you liked the show's sharp slowdown into more focused and subtle character drama last week, this week's episode resumes that trend hard, and also finds time to sprinkle in foreshadowing. Who are the two one-eyed ghouls keeping watch over Aogiri? Will Hide's spying be found out by the CCG, and what will happen if he's caught? Is Kaneki's favorite author a ghoul with connections to Aogiri too?! (Yes, really.) It's slow, but it's the good kind of slow, the kind that makes us care about the large cast and everything they're laying on the line for one another before the human-ghoul war ramps up again.
Tokyo Ghoul √A is currently streaming on Funimation.
Hope has been an anime fan since childhood, and likes to chat about cartoons, pop culture, and visual novel dev on Twitter.
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