Tokyo Ghoul:re
Episode 11

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Tokyo Ghoul:re ?

Tokyo Ghoul:re is about family. It's a huge story with hundreds of characters and dozens of narrative detours, so it touches upon many topics and themes, but the overpowering one is family. Most blatantly in this final act of the season, it's about the concept and impact of legacy—what things children inherit from their parents or mentors and how these things evolve over a child's lifetime. Practically all of the major players in the extermination of the Tsukiyama family are people dealing with the complex swirl of emotions and experiences that were passed down to them. Some of it is good, but a lot of it is bad. This is Tokyo Ghoul, after all.

At the center of this operation lies Shu, who alone bears the burden of carrying the Tsukiyama family name beyond the reach of the CCG. Unlike most of the characters in this story, Shu seems to have had a positive and uncomplicated relationship with his family, but he's still an unwitting participant in his father's plan to preserve his legacy. Protecting his son at all costs is a simultaneously benevolent and selfish act, and this conflict extends visibly to Shu throughout this episode. He doesn't want to part ways with Matsumae. He doesn't want to kill Kaneki. But he can't extricate himself from his father's wishes, nor can he relieve his servants from their sense of duty. It's all too deeply ingrained. It's the noble, unifying strength of the Tsukiyama family's bonds that dooms these ghouls to fight to the death.

We also learn that Kanae has been carrying a similar burden for most of his life. It's an almost identical story, with a strong patriarchal figure instilling in the surviving members of his family a sense of duty to carry on his legacy. Tragically, Kanae lost his mother and his brothers over the years, leaving him the last of the Rosewalds. Where his story diverges from Shu's is the revelation that Kanae was born Karren, and out of his strong devotion to his father and family's legacy, she chose to live as a male heir when she was taken into the Tsukiyama household. This is pretty much what I expect from Sui Ishida at this point—Kanae's story is extremely messy, sensationalist, and has little to no basis in the lives or psychologies of gender-nonconforming people. It doesn't help that all this is revealed in a short flashback, and the episode ends before the details can be properly addressed, if they ever will be. Timing is the big issue here, since this information is dropped on us out of nowhere with obvious intent to be shocking, which is a lame way of handling a character's gender issues.

For the purposes of this review, I'm going to continue referring to Kanae as "him", but I could see Ishida swinging the narrative of his “true” gender the other way if he survives this battle and the truth comes out. Either way, this is yet another example of Tokyo Ghoul's fairly numerous queer narratives deserving much more thought and time than to be used as quick shock fodder. The only saving grace to this reveal is that it falls in line with Ishida's pattern of drumming up sympathy for most of his villains right before a climactic moment, and Kanae is nothing if not sympathetic. His sole motivation is his desire to be loved and wanted by Shu, and this weakness is just vulnerable enough for which Eto to pour her corruption into.

In true Tokyo Ghoul fashion, it's the “villainous” side that gets the most heroic moments this week. Obviously, the moral compass of Tokyo Ghoul is such that neither side is wholly hero or villain, but :re has mostly followed the CCG and its investigators, so it still feels a little unconventional to see the ghouls dispensing true justice this week. Shu's servants Matsumae and Mairo face off against the senior investigators Ihei and Kijima, and this match-up is one of the more black-and-white showdowns in all of Tokyo Ghoul. Matsumae and Mairo go into battle solely with the selfless intent of protecting Shu, with no delusions about surviving the battle. Ihei hasn't been in the story for long, but we've seen her revel too much in her slaughter of nameless ghouls, while Kijima is a merciless torturer who killed two Tsukiyama servants for no reason other than to be cruel.

Their battle turns out to be the most viscerally satisfying of the season, not just because of the stakes, but because it's a big, bloody, over-the-top spectacle. I lost it when Ihei whipped out a freaking LASER BEAM quinque, and I practically clapped when Mairo shouted “I don't need my lower half!” right before decapitating Ihei with just his torso. Then I actually clapped when he cut Kijima's preemptive victory speech short. The animation quality still isn't great, and the editing cuts around most of the truly gory bits, but the commitment to glorious excess makes this scene thrilling all the same. And even though we don't really see it, Kijima's voice actor also does a great job selling that he has an active chainsaw embedded in his brain. Matsumae and Mairo both meet an unfortunate end (nice of you to finally show your true colors, Furuta), but their successful bid to take revenge for their slain family members is the only somewhat uplifting moment in this entire episode.

The Quinx Squad has been Sasaki's family since before the beginning of Tokyo Ghoul:re. They've enabled him to ground himself despite his increasing anxieties about his forgotten past, and his greatest fear is losing them should he ever become Kaneki again. So it's inevitable and tragic that one of the first things he does this episode is separate from them as he goes to confront a figure from his life as Kaneki. The rest of the Quinxes instead find themselves embroiled in a futile battle against a mysterious and seemingly immortal enemy sent by Eto to shake things up. On the subject of legacy, it's Urie who's been obsessed with his father's death this season, but it's Shirazu who gets the spotlight this episode. His parents haven't shown up yet, but his sister is the one who motivates him, and thoughts of her confined to her hospital bed finally spur him to use his new quinque. The entire latter half of the season has been building to this moment, and it feels like it should be triumphant, but this is also the moment when Shirazu loses some of his innocence. Quinques are the primary weapon the CCG has against ghouls, but they're also gruesome war trophies taken directly from another person's life, and by using it, Shirazu becomes a little more hardened and dead inside. Even if his gambit had worked, his heart would be another victim of this war. Of course, it doesn't work, and the battle rages on.

Speaking of quinques, let's finally talk about Sasaki. He's had several different parental figures over the course of the show, and each one has left an indelible mark on him, molding him into our protagonist of perpetual bad decisions. His mother made him bear the brunt of her own poor choices, instilling him with fear and trust issues. Yoshimura took him in and showed him unconditional kindness, but his own failings as a father eventually caught up to him, and he couldn't undo all the damage done to Kaneki on his own. Yamori could hardly be called a parent, but he unintentionally fashioned Kaneki into his own twisted image. And finally we have Arima, who despite his reputation as the CCG's greatest warrior, has exhibited a mild-mannered and fatherlike demeanor whenever he's around Sasaki, and Sasaki only seems to look up to him. But the cracks in this portrait have started to show. After all, Ihei was another protege of Arima's, but she turned out bloodthirsty and unhinged. Sasaki, meanwhile, reflects back on an early sparring match with Arima, who not only threatens Sasaki with another death but also calls him his own “quinque.” In the end, that's all Sasaki is to the CCG—another weapon to use and dispose of as necessary. Sasaki and Kaneki have had a variety of parental figures, but they've all failed him.

“My dear absent one, your parents failed at raising you.” Sasaki recalls this line at the end of the episode, although it's probably more accurate to say that Kaneki recalls this line. I don't remember if this line was mentioned in the previous seasons, but given that this voice speaks over images of Eto flying into the fray, I think it's safe to say it comes from one of her books. Eto was also failed by her parents, and it's probably their common history that drew Kaneki to her writing in the first place. Beneath all of the gory spectacle, they're both children working through their trauma. This is also the extremely frustrating cliffhanger the episode ends on, and I'm left agonizing over the wait for next week's finale.

The manga continues far beyond the events of this arc, so I know not to expect anything truly conclusive, but I'm eager to see how Sasaki's anxieties over his identity and his past potentially resolve themselves before Eto and Shu. I'm praying all of my precious Quinx children make it out okay. I'm quietly dreading wherever Ishida is going to go with Kanae's story. As always, Tokyo Ghoul:re is a mixed bag, but this new action-heavy arc has been a substantial improvement over the auction arc. I don't know if I'm a fan of Tokyo Ghoul as much as a prisoner at this point, but I care about these characters all the same. May we all survive the fallout of next week.

Rating: A-

Tokyo Ghoul:re is currently streaming on Funimation and Hulu.

Steve is a longtime anime fan who can be found making bad posts about anime on his Twitter.

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