Tokyo Ghoul √A
by Jacob Chapman,
Oh thank goodness, the budget has returned, and it's back with a vengeance too! After last week's catastrophically ugly episode, Tokyo Ghoul has cooled down a little and returned to its status quo of mildly competent animation elevated through sharp direction. More importantly, the show has also returned to its strengths as a character piece, with some juicy catharsis we've been anticipating for weeks between two of the show's most important characters.
But not just yet. First, there's Suzuya, at first an obnoxious and hacky "evil child" stereotype, easily the shakiest element in Tokyo Ghoul's story, but now being gradually explored as a more complete character. He's not a sympathetic character by any stretch of the imagination, but he is complete, and his role in the story has become more obvious. He is the CCG's "Jason," a comparison made easier by his literal inheritance of Yamori's powers in the form of a scythe quinque. Suzuya is a heartless sadist weaponized by a supposedly righteous force that exposes their hypocrisy and the endgame for all who seek to achieve peace through violence. The only difference between Suzuya and Jason is that one was chosen by the human half of the equation (CCG) and the other chosen by ghouls (Aogiri.) Maybe Suzuya was once a gentle soul like Jason prior to his corruption, but it doesn't really matter now. Watching him cut down the black-and-white twins, after learning that they were once his classmates and friends in the CCG, cements his role as a tragic psychopath. Like Jason, he is the final stage in the cycle of hatred, a broken monster who can only experience emotion, either good or bad, through violence. It's a fate in Kaneki's near future as well if he can't be rescued from it. (Side note: it seems weird to me that not one but two human-turned-ghouls have appeared in this story now with no reaction or consequence from Kaneki. Perils of adaptation, I guess. If these characters had been introduced in the first season, it would have made an enormous impact on Kaneki, but as he is now, I guess he doesn't care anymore.)
Okay, enough about that. Even though Suzuya's transformation from weird little boy to complete monster is engrossing in its own right, the first half of this episode's got nothing on the insane second half. This was clearly the reason for last week's episode being outsourced to disastrous results. The production team needed all hands on deck for this episode, to properly animate what I can only describe as the "Kaneki-pede," a slavering and mentally regressed version of our hero with 50-foot centipede-like kagune writhing out of his back in all directions. It's anybody's guess what happened to Whale-Tail, Kaneki's original combatant, but now that our one-eyed frenemy has released the power of all the ghouls he's been eating for the past couple months, it doesn't really matter. He goes feral and attacks the CCG, which means not everyone is getting out of this alive, and also marks Kaneki's first murder of a human being. In fact, it might be his first murder period, since we don't know if he killed Jason or merely cannibalized part of him, and the scuttlebutt at Aogiri was that he had been eating ghoul corpses, not murdering its members. It's not hard to understand why releasing all the new ghoul powers he's been digesting for weeks causes Kaneki to go insane, considering how difficult it was for him to deal with Rize's hunger alone, but far more interesting is how he expresses this madness and what eventually stops him.
If you're fond of "dialogue heard two ways" like I am, this episode has a great exchange between Kaneki and Shinohara. When the investigator asks just how many kagune sacs Kaneki even has, Kaneki responds "One thousand minus seven." Shinohara laughs it off and says that Eyepatch is the craziest ghoul he's ever seen, but for the audience, that answer is more than just an impossible number. Kaneki wasn't responding to Shinohara at all. He may not have even heard him. His mind was back in the torture chamber with Jason, back at the lowermost point of the cycle of violence, suffering even as he's causing suffering to others. It's a great moment in an overall great fight scene, and of course the cherry on top comes when Amon arrives on the scene and gives us yet another bit of dialogue heard two different ways. "I thought you were better than this!" he screams, "Why did you save me? What was the point? I thought there was more to you than just a monster!" He's talking to Kaneki here, but some helpful flashback shots remind us that he's also talking to his adoptive father. Every piece of Amon on the inside is screaming for a reason to show compassion to ghoulkind. He wants to believe that the CCG is not just a martial force of oppression. He wants to see them as human, because one of the most murderous ghouls on record is the only family he's ever known...but so is one of the most murderous ghoul-killing humans on record. Of course, Kaneki gets something completely different from his words as well. He's not a martyr or a bridge between worlds like he had hoped to become. He can't even destroy himself to protect the ones he loves. He's "just a murderous ghoul and nothing more." It's just enough to pull him back into reality for a moment. The only words he can manage to eke out are "I don't want to eat anymore."
Then the One-Eyed Owl suddenly appears, dropping through the ceiling of Cochlea in a beautifully animated, horrible bloody rain of bodies. He's about twenty times bigger than he was last time we saw him somehow, and not even recognizably human like Kaneki's "monster" form was. He grabs Kaneki and Ayato each in one enormous talon, regards a furious Akira Mado over his shoulder, and flaps away into the sky like an angel of death. Credits.
Please sir, I want some more.
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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