by Steve Jones,
How would you rate episode 24 of
Tokyo Ghoul:re (TV 2) ?
Tokyo Ghoul:re is finally over. I'm not going to lie—I went into this episode primarily with a sense of relief that my time with this story was nearly up. Any good grace I held in regard to Tokyo Ghoul had all but been worn down by this season's repeated assaults on plot, character, and structure. I was done. So I'm surprised that I exited this episode with a bittersweet sense of parting. I'm still glad it's over, but in these final moments, Tokyo Ghoul managed to remind me of why I felt a connection to this story in the first place. That's not to say this is a particularly great episode, and me being a huge sap is probably a bigger factor than any success delivered by the anime itself. Still, after a 20-car-pileup of a season, I'm thankful that the ultimate conclusion wasn't a complete disaster.
It took until literally the final episode, but we do at last get something resembling a backstory and motivation for Furuta. It's too little too late at this point, and it doesn't make up for him being a clownish cipher of a final antagonist. But it's something! As with most problems in Tokyo Ghoul, the culprit is bad parents. Furuta was raised in the same program as Arima, as the last dying vestige of the Washu clan—another failed experiment thrown into a life of combat. Basically, he didn't have a childhood, and I assume he was headed for an early grave like Arima and the others, so it makes sense why he'd want to destroy the Washus and the CCG along with them, using the strength they gave him as his means of exacting revenge. It's poetic justice, and I can dig that. Where I kind of lose the plot is with his plan to turn all of Tokyo into ghouls. I suppose the implication is that, since he's part ghoul, he wants to make everyone just like him, but the anime seems to dig more into hopelessness as his driving factor. It's the juvenile nihilism of “if everything ends, nothing matters,” so it's easily refuted by Kaneki, but it's still a pretty weak and predictable motivation for a villain. What's more interesting is that Furuta also apparently grew up being in love with Rize, so this whole plot might have been concocted purely to resurrect her. This bit of backstory is blatantly shoehorned in as a means of making Furuta sympathetic in his final moments, and I've already expressed that Sui Ishida's favorite trick is not going to work on me for the umpteenth time. However, Furuta does ultimately cut a pathetic figure as a potential fail-state that Kaneki could have repeated if not for the humans and ghouls he formed bonds with.
Kaneki's battle with Furuta is more like a victory lap than anything with real psychological stakes, so it doesn't hold a candle to any of the previous season finales. It's also the natural and absurd conclusion to Tokyo Ghoul's constantly escalating kagune powers, which by now are basically magic with little rhyme or reason to their function. Kaneki sprouts huge wings while Furuta becomes a weird monster, the two exchange blows, and Kaneki comes out on top. It's a quick and unremarkable conclusion, but what really strikes me is how much this undermines the supposed subtext of their confrontation. Kaneki outright states that he's not as good a fighter as Furuta, but that he's going to persevere anyway. This slots right into Kaneki's arc, where his failings have frequently come from him trying to handle everything on his own, while his successes have been a result of working alongside his friends, opening up to others so that they can cover for his own shortcomings. What doesn't make sense is finishing this story with a mano a mano battle where Kaneki bites a sword and wins due to his superior ghoul powers. It's fun in a cheesy shonen climax sense, but it's hardly satisfying. At least Kaneki's disposal of the Rize clone makes for a more poetic final statement. Rize had become a personification of his trauma and self-hatred, and letting her dissolve along with the rotting citywide carapace is about as final a note as one can get. He doesn't regret the choices he's made or the paths he's taken. He can't undo his life, and he wouldn't if he could; he's just ready to take the next step.
What we're left with is an unequivocally happy ending for pretty much everyone, and I'm of two minds on it. On the one hand, it feels a little contrived to receive this cheery exclamation point on a story that went through such pains to construct a nuanced conflict full of cyclical traumas. Everyone, even Kaneki, seems to get over their problems way too quickly and easily. On the other hand, Tokyo Ghoul was an often horrifying story that went well out of its way to kick its characters while they were down, and these people deserve whatever happiness they can get, dammit. Ultimately, I'm pretty okay with the ending. It's a shame we simply have no time to give every major character a proper epilogue, but the few glimpses we get are enough to pluck my heartstrings. Juzo's long overdue reunion with Shinohara was especially touching, and it's wonderful to see the Quinxes still hanging out as their weird makeshift familial unit six years into the future. Kaneki and Touka's daughter also manages to be the cutest kid in the universe. The shot of her putting ribbons in Renji's hair is absolutely priceless. After two entire series about him trying to find a family, Kaneki finally has one, and it's as big as it is warm.
I don't bid what I'd call a “fond” farewell to Tokyo Ghoul:re. This season was a confusing mess, and its ending feels like one born out of necessity rather than organic storytelling. The glimpses of the complexity and intensity that dragged me into Tokyo Ghoul were too few and far between, and most of the time it felt like I was watching a heavily abridged version of a much longer story. I can fault the adaptation for some of this, but I also have to fault Sui Ishida as well. Even at its best, Tokyo Ghoul was full of offensive stereotypes, torture porn, and the loosest possible attitude toward the permanence of character death. However, its raw grasp on a person's darkest moments and inclinations made for an equally salacious and heart-wrenching story about loneliness and depression. Its message is simple in the end: you do deserve love. Well, unless you're a fascist clown. Then you don't. And that's a message I can support despite the roughest of roads it took to get us there.
Steve is an anime-reviewing zombie who can be found making bad posts about anime on Twitter.
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