Tokyo Ghoul √A
by Jacob Chapman,
Oh good, Shinohara hasn't kicked the bucket after all! While a few choice lines from Amon make it clear that we were meant to think otherwise during the monstrous climax of last week's episode, it seems that Kaneki's murderous rampage was once again ghoul-focused only. Having his kakuja armor ripped from his body did cause Shinohara minor injury, but he'll be discharged soon, so Kaneki still has yet to kill a human being (perhaps purely through Amon's intervention.) "Be careful, that one's dangerous," the senior investigator warns Amon.
Yeah, I'm pretty sure he knows.
On that note, this entire episode turns out to be low-key character drama, centered exclusively around the human side of the ghoul-human war. We don't yet know what happened to The Owl, Ayato, or any other part of Aogiri. Anteiku is barely visited, and only in a "these guys are still okay" runtime-crack-filling context. The most we see of Kaneki is a couple short peekaboo scenes that find him writhing around in a sparsely-furnished room from what appears to be the world's worst bout of ghoul-uterus cramps, occasionally interrupted by the rapidly evolving kagune ripping out of his kidneys. Plot-wise, very little of consequence happens. Even so, I found this to be one of the strongest episodes so far, thanks to its willingness to relax and dwell on the inner lives of the CCG characters, giving the audience an all-new appreciation for many cast members that we barely knew before.
This episode also provides another great example of the story's stance on morality, or surprising lack of a stance. Tokyo Ghoul has never been interested in "good" vs. "evil" or which side "deserves" to win, and nowhere is this more clear than in its compassion for Juzo Suzuya, who is finally given his own backstory this week, right after punching his ticket to complete non-sympathy last week. The "why" behind Suzuya does not make him more likable at all, but it does make him easier to understand, and that's all Tokyo Ghoul is interested in: making sure you understand why its monsters became monsters. While it is unfortunate that Suzuya's origin story had to be wrapped around the story's tackiest concept, (underground society of rich pervert ghouls,) I am glad that the idea can be revisited in a way that lends it more cohesion, so it doesn't just feel like a throwaway event from the worst episode of season one. The CCG thinks Suzuya is a psychopath because he was "raised by ghouls," which only adds to the cruel divide between humans and ghouls. Suzuya was raised by a horrible person whose species was inconsequential to their abuse; she could just as well have been human given their relationship. He can only experience joy through violence toward himself or others, (the scars all over his body are self-inflicted,) and while his condition was caused by torture at the hands of a ghoul, the same thing happened to Jason at the hands of a human.
At the same time, the CCG is not condemned for their misunderstanding. In fact, if Shinohara didn't see Suzuya as a victim of ghoul influence and seek to make him "more human," choosing to become a father figure to him because he has the strength to do so without fear, there truly would be no hope for Suzuya. Slowly but surely, he's being rehabilitated into something like a normal life with a parent who loves him...but is it worth it if his life's purpose is exterminating ghouls, who are far more sympathetic to the audience than he is? It's another big flashing reminder that violence itself is the only real evil Tokyo Ghoul condemns, whether it's against either "good guys" or "bad guys."
Another evil that separates allies more than enemies in Tokyo Ghoul is blame, and we explore that in the episode's tender second half between Amon and Akira. Akira is a blunt and logical woman who always speaks her mind and seeks only the facts in every situation, but she's only human, and finds herself succumbing to irrational emotions as a coping mechanism even when she's fully aware that's what she's doing. "My father died trying to raise me and take revenge for my mother's death all at once. He endured the mockery of everyone else in the CCG, and I couldn't grow up fast enough to protect him from any of it." She admits this to Amon out loud, and while this self-blame has become the driving force behind her rapid success at the bureau, she also uses it to drive people away.
"You were strong enough. You were there with him. Why couldn't you protect him?" she asks Amon. He already knows that she's just deflecting to spare herself some of the pain from her father's death, so Amon has no problem bearing this burden for her, taking full responsibility for Mado's death even though it hurts him just as badly to do so. None of this is fair to either of them, and there is no right, wrong, or sense in general to be made out of what happened. Heck, Mado was never even a sympathetic character to the audience (much like Suzuya and Jason), framed as a villain even in his final moments, but as the "wedding ring shot" after his demise made clear, even the deaths of bad people have repercussions on good lives, and Tokyo Ghoul brings this across powerfully by using his death to separate two people we know should be together. (Amon and Akira complement each other well as partners, but they'd make an adorable romantic couple too!)
While both of these little character explorations are very sad, they also end on a happy note of hope, as Suzuya's "dad" takes him around the zoo, and Akira teases Amon about his impressive anti-boner pushups. There are other little seeds of story dropped into the mix. Takizawa gets a mysterious call from "the bastard" at the CCG for mysterious "unfinished" work. Most importantly, the CCG will be launching a full-force manhunt for Aogiri, Eyepatch, and The Owl thanks to the horrific Cochlea raid. As integral as this plot moment is, I'm glad that the episode chose to focus on character to such a fulfilling extent, saving the war politics for the end of the episode where they belong, and leading into yet another fantastic (and very meta!) ED animation to cap it all off. It's a quiet episode, but incredibly solid, food for the heart in this frequently loud and messy show.
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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