by Steve Jones,
How would you rate episode 8 of
Tokyo Ghoul:re ?
The past always dictates the future in Tokyo Ghoul. In the broadest sense, the war between humans and ghouls is passed down from generation to generation, from parents to children, from teachers to students, from friend to friend. People are not so much unwilling to extricate themselves from this war as much as they are unable to do so. It's not just hatred and revenge that fuels people—it's love, respect, and the full spectrum of emotions and bonds that can form between people. This episode of Tokyo Ghoul:re is another relatively quiet one, but it's suffused with the melancholy of memories long past or long forgotten.
The Quinx squad's next target turns out to be the infamous gourmet Shu, or rather, the ghouls currently trying to keep him alive and fed. I have to respect Ishida's decision to turn one of the most colorful characters from the first part into a withered bedridden husk, even though I'm still not sure how effective it is. I did dig the short but sweet backstory we get between Kanae and Shu. Giving a child a place to call home is proof of a selfless kindness that we never really saw from Shu when he was around Kaneki. It's difficult to reconcile this side of him with the clownish villain from the first two seasons (not to be confused with the actual Clowns of this season), but Tokyo Ghoul revels in its dedication to showing as many sides of its heroes and villains as possible. I don't see this dedication as a celebration of moral ambiguity so much as an acknowledgement that all of these characters are capable of both good and evil. Bad people can do good things, and good people can do bad things, and all of these actions have consequences. Kanae's loyalty to his master and brother was borne of true kindness, but it's now turned into an inescapable obligation to help him, no matter the cost of life.
Kanae's story is apparently not unique, as Shu has surrounded himself with a mansion full of people who are dedicated to hunting for him. Now I'm assuming most of these are butlers, maids, and other servants, because Shu does not seem strapped for cash at all, but the glimpses we see paint a sympathetic portrait of a manor that cares deeply for its master. They are yet another tight-knit family that mourns deeply when its members are killed or captured. Chie also finds herself drawn to Shu, despite the pretty important fact that he's a ghoul and she's a human. She's even actively pursued by the CCG for this association, and she's sure to get mixed up in the Rose case too. Her rationale for being fascinated with Shu seems both fatalistic and hedonistic, an acknowledgement that if she's going to eventually die, she might as well go out on her own terms, having fun the whole way. I've been intrigued by the brief snapshots we got of her character, and I look forward to learning more about what makes her tick.
Aogiri Tree only gets one scene this week, but it's important for confirming what was hinted at during the auction arc—namely that Aogiri Tree and the CCG are extremely similar organizations. Ayato lashes out at his superior for refusing to rescue Hinami, being reckless with the lives of ghouls on the ground, and treating his subordinates like easily replaceable pawns. These criticisms could equally be applied to the head of CCG operations at the auction, Matsuri Washu. Now that he's riding high on the success of his previous operation, he's set his sights on the position of director of the entire CCG, and the war continues to escalate. Any future clashes between Aogiri Tree and the CCG will be measures of which organization can be more ruthless and cruel, but it's the people at the bottom, the humans and ghouls that we know and care about, who will bear the brunt of the cost.
Even though they survived, the Quinxes are already victims of Matsuri's ruthlessness, and Shirazu gets the spotlight this week. He now experiences clear symptoms of PTSD. He has nightmares about taking Nutcracker's life, he gets sick when he sees the quinque that was made out of her, and most worrying of all, he seems more emotionally distant than before the auction battle. Sasaki tries to comfort him with the anecdote that most investigators get queasy when they see their quinques, which isn't so much comforting as a horrifying admission of just how commonplace PTSD must be in the organization. Shirazu can only hollowly reflect on how much money he earned for the Nutcracker bounty. It was enough to drive him to kill her, but now it feels meaningless to him. I'm really worried for Shirazu. He's surrounded by people who care for him, but he needs help that I don't think the CCG is going to provide for him.
Of course, I'm also perpetually worried for our main character, disaster boy Sasaki. He mostly takes a backseat this episode, but the few scenes we do get from him are loaded with complicated feelings tied to his old Kaneki identity. Fragments of Kaneki still remain in him, and these come out in the affection he feels for Hinami, now imprisoned in Cochlea, and in the books he brings for her, just as Kaneki used to do. Hinami can't help but call him Big Brother, but her feelings are complicated too. The person before her is both the Kaneki that showed her so much kindness, and the Sasaki that keeps the sweet boy she knew locked away. Sasaki is framed as physically separated from Hinami by the glass prison wall, just as he's separated from his past as Kaneki. He can observe and sympathize, but he cannot cross that barrier. However, it's also worth noting that he sees Kaneki in his reflection now, and that glass can always break. Sasaki is starting to question his own motives, and his visit with Uta is charged with the unspoken tension of his desire to reach across the border and enter Kaneki's world. Uta plays the part of the innocent civilian mask-maker, but he also wants the old Kaneki back, leaving the eyepatched ghoul's mask with Sasaki. Who knows what Sasaki wants new masks for, but each step he takes in this direction will take him closer to Kaneki.
Tokyo Ghoul cannot bring itself to move on to a new arc without introducing even more characters to keep track of, and the hunt for the Rose ghouls is no exception. Most striking is the grim visage of investigator Kijima, who looks like somebody stretched a layer of skin over Yoko Taro's trademark Emil mask. He's accompanied by his assistant Furuta, who seems mild-mannered, but if the OP is anything to go by, he has his secrets. We also have the investigators from the S1 Squad, Ui and Ihei, but Ihei is the only one we get any additional information on. She was part of Arima's team during the Owl extermination mission, and she's risen through the ranks during the years since then, despite being the same age as the Quinxes. She acts like she has her head in the clouds, but she's a skilled fighter and gets one of the better-choreographed fight scenes of the entire season, gracefully dodging and weaving between kagune tendrils. Arima remains a mysterious figure, but his influence spreads throughout the CCG, being passed down to people like Sasaki and Ihei. Once again, the past dictates the future.
Kuroiwa's quiet reunion with a childhood friend is both a vision of a future that could have been and an acknowledgement of its impossibility. Kosaka followed her dreams and opened a bakery, while Kuroiwa followed in his father's footsteps and became a ghoul investigator. The unanswered question is what would Kuroiwa have done if he didn't become an investigator? Would he have settled down with Kosaka? Would he have done something else that we can't imagine because he can't imagine it as he is now? The only certainty is that Kuroiwa is closing in on Shu and the members of his extended family as part of the Rose investigation. The only certainty in Tokyo Ghoul is tragedy.
Steve is a longtime anime fan who can be found making bad posts about anime on his Twitter.
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