by Steve Jones,
How would you rate episode 5 of
Tokyo Ghoul:re ?
The battle at the auction house rages on, with the blood of ghouls and humans alike getting spilled by the gallon. And who's that entering the fray? Why it's out good pal Takizawa! Only now he's a big scary ghoul named Owl, of course. (Not to be confused with the One-Eyed Owl, Eto.)
Who is Takizawa? You'll be forgiven for not remembering, since he was a pretty minor member of the CCG. He stuck to the background working under Amon, but the anime did highlight him more in the second season by focusing on his struggle to write a last will and testament before the big final battle against Anteiku. It was classic Tokyo Ghoul character work, revealing the hidden depths of a person, their dreams and fears, just before their brutal and untimely death. But death is a nebulous concept in the Tokyo Ghoul universe, and Takizawa is actually alive and well (by ghoul standards anyway). He's a one-eyed ghoul himself now, just working under Aogiri instead of with Sasaki and the Quinxes, but the details behind his resurrection remain anybody's guess for now. The boy really seems to love jam though.
Takizawa's sudden appearance and radically altered behavior set the tone for this entire episode, which leans hard into Tokyo Ghoul's propensity for gory camp. There's no room for subtlety when Takizawa, reunited with one of his former students, punches straight through her torso as punishment for not paying attention during his lectures. These aren't delicate moments, but they can be fun. I got a kick out of Kanae stopping Mutsuki in his tracks by throwing a projectile rose into the ground, Tuxedo Mask style. Later, one of the investigators shouts “damn you and your sexy body!”, which is an impossible line to take seriously on its own, but doubly so when directed at a woman called Nutcracker as she flies through the air, boobs a-jiggling. Then one of the last scenes is a still shot of Madam with Urie's body half-stuffed in her gigantic gob. These parts are funny, and I'm perfectly okay with Tokyo Ghoul flexing its B-movie sensibilities now and then.
The big problem is that this is yet another messy action-focused episode that lacks the visual pop needed to carry its ambitions. The first two seasons of Tokyo Ghoul weren't animation powerhouses, but they frequently caught my eye with creative staging and composition. By contrast, Tokyo Ghoul:re has been far more conservative and utilitarian. As it jumps from battle to battle, it comes across more like a jumble of scenes haphazardly stitched together than a cohesive whole. This approach makes everything more difficult to follow or care about, especially when watched in weekly installments with no conclusion in sight. A lot happens, but it doesn't feel like it matters yet.
Of course, that's probably because it's all been setup for future conflicts. On the Quinx side, Mutsuki finally reunites with the rest of his family, and they all force Kanae to retreat. Sasaki, ever the caring leader and dad figure, has the injured Mutsuki retreat with Urie, but since Urie's still hungry for recognition, he purposefully takes the long way out of the building and “accidentally” stumbles upon the ghouls' escape route. Urie's not a bad person, but his ambition blinds him to the concerns of anybody else, and he doesn't think twice about possibly putting Mutsuki in graver danger. Fittingly, Urie soon finds himself in too deep (specifically too deep inside Madam's mouth), so now it's up to Mutsuki to save him instead. Meanwhile, Sasaki pursues Nutcracker with the remainder of the Quinxes but soon finds himself locked in battle with fellow half-ghoul Takizawa.
The rest of the CCG fares pretty damn poorly against the multiple ghoul threats. Takizawa mows down everyone, laughing all the way, until he gets to Sasaki. Nutcracker takes down an entire squad by herself, punctuating the battle with her titular move. Juzo is evenly matched with Ayato, so both of them retreat simultaneously. Ayato runs to help fellow Aogiri member Naki, who's not doing too hot against Akira and her dad's old patented spine whip. Then Juzo meets up with Urie and attacks the ghouls escaping from the auction. The Clowns battle another squad of investigators, who hold their ground despite Uta's manipulative face-shifting powers. Oh, and all of this is being manipulated by Washu, who's still overseeing everything from the safety of his monitors. Did you get all that?
Cramming all of this ensemble action into the episode leaves no room for even a pinch of reflection. Takizawa's reveal should be a big deal, but the revelation comes and goes with little fanfare. Naki is portrayed rather sympathetically as somebody who has fallen behind this war's arms race and built a family for himself that he's rapidly losing, but we just don't get enough time to explore these parts of his character. I also expected more to be made of Urie and Juzo indiscriminately slaughtering the ghouls attempting to escape. Obviously, all ghouls are monsters to them, and it's hard for me to feel bad for ghouls who had no qualms buying people too, but Tokyo Ghoul is notorious for refusing to dehumanize either side of the conflict, so this feels like a missed opportunity for nuance.
I'm sure these concerns will be addressed later, and that's fine. But as a discrete unit of storytelling, this episode does a heck of a lot without saying much. In an action-driven episode, I need the action to be impressive on its own, or I'm going to need something else to chew on. Historically, Tokyo Ghoul has always redeemed its shortcomings with strong and thoughtful character work, but episodes like this one leave no room to focus on anything interesting. Nevertheless, the battle rages on into next week.
Steve is a longtime anime fan who can be found making bad posts about anime on his Twitter.
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