Tokyo Ghoul:re
Episode 4

by Steve Jones,

How would you rate episode 4 of
Tokyo Ghoul:re ?

It's the night of the big ghoul auction, and naturally the plans the CCG laid out carefully last episode go belly-up immediately. Mutsuki finds himself alone and powerless on the stage, while the rest of the CCG find themselves embroiled in another large-scale brawl against Aogiri Tree. Oh, and there's also some clowns. Can't forget those clowns.

This episode of Tokyo Ghoul:re shifts the focus away from the Quinx Squad to instead give us more insight into the world of the ghouls, as we see several different factions interacting at the auction house. First, I am sad to admit that not even monstrous cannibals are free from capitalism. The captive humans fetch exorbitant prices from the wealthiest of ghoul barons, and it's mentioned that there are multiple ghoul-run conglomerates with profits in the billions. Members of Aogiri Tree are also in the audience, but they're providing security detail, not contributing bids. In fact, Ayato expresses contempt at the ease with which the rich attach prices to other people's lives. He doesn't go so far as to sympathize with the people being sold, but it's another good example of ghouls, even the villainous ghouls, not being a monolithic community. They're all still people with wildly conflicting sets of values beyond their biological need to consume human flesh.

Among the bidders is Kanae, the young protégé of the gourmand Shu. He cares very much about helping his master, so he jumps at the chance to buy him a present when it's revealed that Mutsuki is another half-ghoul like Kaneki. While he appears to at least have some financial alliance with one of the billionaires, his true allegiance is only to Shu, and for better or worse, he also seems to have absorbed many of Shu's mannerisms (albeit replacing the gratuitous French with gratuitous German). Shuu's exaggerated fayness was the not the most considerate part of the previous seasons, so I'm not exactly eager to see that caricature trotted out again, but I am interested to see how Kanae will fit into the show's larger theme of a younger generation inheriting the problems of their forebears.

Speaking of exaggerated caricatures, we also have our first significant interactions with the Clowns, another mysterious faction of ghouls. They're the masters of ceremonies for the auction, and they're led by a familiar face (or familiar set of neck tattoos anyway) belonging to Uta. We don't have much information on them beyond that; they look like clowns, they like to fight, and they're pretty good at juggling eyeballs, but that's about it.

On the CCG side, I was really looking forward to learning more about Mutsuki this episode. He's a sweet kid trying his best, and his first major assignment seemed like a good opportunity to explore his character. However, everything goes to hell and leaves no space to give introspection to our poor boy. He almost immediately gets separated from Juzo, and then finds himself the target of at least four different ghouls who want his body. It's a rough episode for him! He nearly gives into despair at the thought of being alone and helpless but thankfully puts up some fight in the end. Maybe next episode he'll actually be able to use his kagune.

While Mutsuki does his best to survive, Juzo wastes no time burying a flurry of knives into the faces of the ghouls in attendance. As strongly hinted last episode, Big Madam is revealed to be the ghoul who previously owned and tortured him. Juzo's come a long way since then, so it's satisfying to see him stand strong and confident enough to look dead straight into the eyes of his former captor.

Much of this episode is spent watching various CCG grunts get sliced and diced, as is wont to happen in this show. Investigator Washu, who's leading this operation, explicitly states to the audience that his primary goal is eliminating ghouls, not preserving the lives of humans on the ground. And unfortunately, ordinary CCG units aren't equipped with the tools to protect themselves against ghouls with any decent combat training. At two points in the episode, we're privy to the thoughts of a normal grunt, one young and one old, as they fight. The young investigator is brash and leaps into the fray with contempt for his elders. He dies. The old investigator reflects on how the young have surpassed him, but that he accepts this enough to be content in doing what he can. He also dies.

The world of Tokyo Ghoul is cruel and unfair, and the war between humans and ghouls has escalated far past the abilities or comprehension of normal people on either side. Tragically, it's only the people who've already been warped by this war who have the power to end it, but they've been so changed by this violence that they're compelled to propagate the endless cycle further. Kaneki/Sasaki's new lease on life, the most peace he's ever known, still embroils him in one battle after another. The Quinx Squad have permanently weaponized their bodies in order to fight their own demons. Arima's a godlike warrior, but that's been his life since he was a child, so he might not be aware that there's any happiness outside of it or if he's happy at all. Even Akira, the closest thing to a moral center that the (living) human cast has, struggles against the legacy of her maniacal father that still burns inside of her.

We get plenty to think about this week, but ultimately this episode is another victim of Tokyo Ghoul's ambitions. It's juggling so many (eye)balls in the air that we get no time to pause and reflect. On the plus side, jumping from scene to scene and faction to faction with breakneck pacing makes these 24 minutes come and go in a flash, but the lack of focus detracts from the execution. I noticed a bunch of odd and jarring cuts that made it seem like the director was trying to cram as much into the episode as possible. Also, despite the action-driven meat of the episode, it's pretty light on animation. More importantly, this pacing allows no space for any of the powerful character moments that really make Tokyo Ghoul shine. Instead, it just feels like the show is putting pieces into play for a more interesting conflict next week. The previous two seasons were no strangers to episodes like this, and in the long run it could work out fine, but for week-to-week viewing, this unfortunately results in a lackluster installment.

Rating: B-

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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