by Steve Jones,
How would you rate episode 7 of
Tokyo Ghoul:re ?
The clash at the ghoul auction is over, and the CCG leave (mostly) victorious. Both sides suffer major losses, but Arima swoops in at the last minute like a silver-haired deus-ex-machina and turns the tide definitively with his squad's backup. This episode deals with the aftermath of the battle, and the losses that the surviving characters have to live with. For the most part, though, these losses are not new developments. These characters brought them with themselves into battle, and they left with them. Nobody is victorious against their past.
Sasaki is the star example of this, having lost arguably the most important thing out of everyone—his entire self. His victory against Takizawa ends up only being a half measure (we see Takizawa escape), and likewise his reconciliation with the Kaneki inside of him is short-lived. He returns to his daily life as Sasaki, but now his relationship with Kaneki is more complicated. He doesn't see the tortured maniac in the chair anymore. He sees a young boy in the mirror. But can he let Kaneki in without losing his new self? The line between Sasaki and Kaneki seems more solid now than it was at the end of last episode, but Kaneki's presence looms larger. It's there in his eyes as he saves Hinami. It's there with the survivors of Anteiku, unsure of what to do but sure of their feelings for Kaneki. And it's there in the mask Sasaki receives, lifeless but grinning back at him through the black leather, like a mound of dead skin sloughed off a grotesque monster. As all of these familiar faces crowd closer and closer to him, it's not a question of if he will have to reckon with his past as Kaneki, but when.
Mado's losses compound with her years at the CCG. Her father, Amon, Takizawa, and probably many others we don't know about are gone. And now her subordinate takes custody of the ghoul partially responsible for her father's death. That has to be complicated for her. Of course, Hinami only killed the old inspector Mado because he killed her mother right in front of her eyes, and that act of revenge was instigated by Touka, not Hinami. The web of relationships between the ghouls and the CCG is a dizzying pattern of murder, betrayal, revenge, and endless amounts of grief that neither side can handle existing in their own enemies. Grief drove Mado up the ranks of the CCG, just as grief drove Hinami up the ranks of Aogiri Tree. It's possible that Sasaki's care is the best place for Hinami to be at the moment, but we're reminded that this can only be temporary, and until the gulf between humans and ghouls is bridged, no place is safe.
The Quinx Squad all receive promotions for their victories at the auction, but these ceremonies are prefaced by shots of them in the aftermath of the battle—tired, wounded, quiet, and anything but happy or victorious. Advancement in the CCG comes not only at the cost of ghoul life, but it also comes at the cost of weighing their own lives against the odds every time they go into battle, with no excursion guaranteeing a safe return for anyone. This victory didn't magically solve anyone's problems. Urie is still insecure and still wants to prove himself the strongest. He still carries the memory of his father's death with him, still bears a grudge against the people who abandoned his father, and he's still haunted by the prospect of ending up like his father, abandoned by his friends and comrades. Thankfully, Sasaki gets through to him that it's good to rely on others, and Mutsuki's embrace last episode seems to have softened Urie a touch, which is progress.
We don't get into Mutsuki's headspace much this week, but we do run into his old teacher, who alludes to the fact that he has a criminal background. It's hard to imagine that he's talking about the same Mutsuki who has arguably the kindest heart out of all of the Quinxes. However, just like all of the other characters, Mutsuki surely has his own past trauma that he carries with him. We've seen glimpses of it, but kindness from his found family at the CCG seems to have helped him. Juzo is a walking reminder of what kindness offered freely to another person can accomplish.
Meanwhile, Shirazu is due to get the spoils of his victory against Nutcracker, namely Nutcracker herself (or at least her kagune). But Shirazu is still shaken by the humanity Nutcracker showed him in her final moments, and we can see him silently processing this throughout the episode. Sympathy is a good thing to have, but in Tokyo Ghoul, it's also a dangerous thing to have, and it'll be interesting to see how he acts the next time the Quinxes have to go into battle. He does have his ghost from the past driving him though, taking the form of a woman (his sister?) asleep in a coma with a large, kagune-like object protruding from her eye. It's just another snapshot of the endless series of battles between humans and ghouls.
The strongest thing the Quinx Squad has going for them is their familial bonds with each other. Despite all of the gloom surrounding their lives, this episode grants us a reprieve from the action and lets these characters sit down and enjoy some nice spicy curry. And Sasaki is such a good dad! I lost it when he got custom presents for everyone. Tokyo Ghoul:re often suffers from lackluster direction, spotty animation, and confusing plotting, but it makes up for these flaws with strong and satisfying character writing. Both the newbies and the veterans who have been around since season one are equally compelling, and I'm just as worried for all of their well-being as ever.
For all of the pomp and circumstance, all the celebrations and promotions, nobody gained much from the auction battle, except for some new ghosts to haunt them. The Quinx Squad are a little worse for the wear individually, but they're also stronger and more united. Sasaki's relationship with Kaneki is full of so many caveats and issues that it's difficult to tell what, if anything, counts as progress. By its nature, this episode feels interstitial, a brief pit stop before the next onslaught of big plots and new villains. But I like these quiet, character-driven moments. Sasaki thinks about what kind of friends Kaneki would have had as he walks past the ghost of Anteiku, and my heart broke a little bit more. That's the good kind of hurt I get out of Tokyo Ghoul.
Steve is a longtime anime fan who can be found making bad posts about anime on his Twitter.
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