by Steve Jones,
How would you rate episode 16 of
Tokyo Ghoul:re (TV 2) ?
I don't want to sound like a broken record every week, so I'm going to ask you, dear readers to take it as a given that this season of Tokyo Ghoul:re has atrocious pacing issues that I don't foresee going away. I'll be sure to comment if they do let up, but trying to condense about two cours worth of material into one is just not going to work without incredibly judicious and smart rewrites. Instead, this anime has taken the route of either excising material or rushing through it, and irrespective of my feelings on Tokyo Ghoul as a story, it's a shame to see any adaptation come out so patchwork. I feel bad for the people actually working on the show, because I speculate they're doing their best with a situation they had no say in. But I still have to call a spade a spade, and Tokyo Ghoul:re's anime continues to feel rushed and rough.
That said, this episode didn't blitz through its material as mind-numbingly fast as the previous three, and it afforded itself some time for contemplation, much to my relief. The Quinxes, for example, actually say things. It's not much, but we get a glimpse of how they've been handling things since Shirazu's death. For Urie and Saiko, their grief has manifested as a stern determination to not lose anybody else. Saiko was something of a cypher back in season one, mostly a source of comic relief due to her NEET lifestyle. In the interim, she seems to have become more serious about being an investigator, and she and Urie have a better rapport. I feared earlier that Urie had slid back into his cynical obsession with gaining power and prestige in the CCG, but his anger and desperation reveal that like Saiko, he has grown to appreciate his comrades above all else. His driving concern during this whole operation has been Mutsuki, who he finally finds alone in a pool of blood in the cave where Torso had dragged him. We don't know much of anything about what happened to Mutsuki, and if I had to guess, there's probably a ton of material in the manga that got cut out. Given that this is Tokyo Ghoul, however, it was probably extremely traumatic—something like Torso finally pushing Mutsuki past a point of no return, and Mutsuki killing (and eating) his captor. The last thing Tokyo Ghoul needs is more torture porn, so I'm totally okay with skipping past that, thank you very much. However, Mutsuki was my favorite of the Quinxes, so I do hope he gets more of a focus in the future. I just hope I'm not inadvertently dooming him by doing so.
The big reveal of the episode is the true nature of the guys who have been commandeering the CCG this whole time, the Washus. Turns out they're ghouls! Surprise! It's actually not that surprising after Eto hinted about as much in her final book, which was clearly a tactical play meant to lead to this conclusion. I'm not quite sure how to feel about Tokyo Ghoul leaning fully into this conspiratorial plot, especially because the Washus, while important figures in the context of the CCG, haven't been important characters with much focus. I understand the desire to escalate the conflict, but this development doesn't feel earned, and Tokyo Ghoul works better on a smaller scale anyway. I care about Kaneki's struggle to love himself and deal with his trauma. I don't care about him being used as a pawn in some three-dimensional chess game between competing ghoul factions. I will say that the Washu revelation falls in line with the all-too-common narrative of an elite class sowing the seeds of conflict between different oppressed groups in order to reap the benefits themselves. And now that the line between what constitutes “ghoul” and “human” is basically nonexistent, this unending war seems even more pointless.
Amon is already wise to all this, and it looks like his intervention last week was done in order to protect Mado and bring her over to his side. This becomes rather easy after Mado passes out from shielding Takizawa. I understand why she'd feel guilt about what happened to him—their rivalry drove Takizawa to prove himself in an ultimately fatal way—but I don't get why she doesn't react more to Amon's presence. Maybe she knew all along? I'm sure they'll have a big scene together at some point later. It's just wild to me that they don't even exchange words here, and it feels like a consequence of the story having so many moving pieces that it doesn't know what to do with all of them. It's comforting to see that Amon remains a good guy though, and that memories of his encounters with Kaneki pull him back from going completely berserk. After the dust settles, it'll be interesting to see if he and Kaneki end up finally working together.
The other big scene this episode is Kaneki saying goodbye to Arima. This takes up a good chunk of the running time, and I appreciate that there's an effort to wallow in the sadness of the situation. Unfortunately, Arima's dying breaths are saddled with a veritable ton of exposition, which detracts from the mood. Turns out he's another half-human half-ghoul (and who isn't these days?) who was born as a result of a breeding program spearheaded by the Washus, except that in most cases, the child doesn't become a badass one-eyed ghoul like Eto. Arima was born strong, but he was also born to die, with accelerated aging already claiming his eyesight (and hair color). And apparently, this makes him the One-Eyed King that Kaneki was supposed to kill, all as part of a plan orchestrated between Arima and Eto to turn Kaneki into some kind of ghoul folk hero. To what end, I don't know. I think I'm supposed to feel sad for Arima, but mostly I'm angry at him for being another awful parental figure who manipulated Kaneki under the pretense of a greater good for all ghouls. Our poor hero just can't catch a break.
Despite all of its twists and turns, this is a strangely hollow episode. The raid on Rushima is over, nobody knows who won, and at this point, it doesn't even matter. The Clowns show up, but they're not even some of the well-known Clowns. The big Clown is out on the prowl now that Cochlea is busted open. The Washus are all dead except for obviously-a-bad-guy Matsuri. Eto is dead, maybe. Kaneki is now the Chosen One. So much is crammed together that actions are now divorced from consequences, so it's difficult to discern where all of this conflict is leading, and it's difficult to care. This is still an improvement over prior weeks, but this is a story in dire need of some focus before it spirals out of control entirely.
Steve is an anime-reviewing zombie who can be found making bad posts about anime on Twitter.
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