Tokyo Ghoul:re
Episode 9

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Tokyo Ghoul:re ?

The desire to reunite with his old friend Kaneki finally resuscitates Shu from his bedridden torpor, giving us possibly the most straightforward episode of Tokyo Ghoul:re yet. Shu's various plots to give Kaneki his memories back make up the backbone of the episode, and the few divergences to this plot still tie back into the CCG's growing concern with the Tsukiyama family. It's easy to forget that this is how most anime is structured, since most anime doesn't have to deal with such a huge and ever-expanding cast of characters. In some respects, this complexity is what makes Tokyo Ghoul so impressive, but I can't say it's not nice to have a more simplistic episode now and again.

Shu's back in action, and he brings with him some of the weird slapstick attempts at humor that never quite land enough to lighten Tokyo Ghoul's dark mood. But as another familiar face returning to the main event, Shu comes across as a surprisingly sympathetic figure who genuinely wants his friend back. As I understand it, the manga went into more depth on his friendship with Kaneki, whereas in the anime Shu was largely relegated to awkward comic relief, so anime-only viewers might find it unusual that we're supposed to accept some deep bond he had with Kaneki. That said, both this and previous episode did well establishing Shu's capacity to be a benevolent figure loved by Kanae, Chie, and everyone in his manor. He even concocts a plan to use his bond with Kaneki to rescue Yuma from the CCG. It doesn't actually work, but it adds more color to an increasingly complicated portrait of Shu. When he finally does get some alone time with Sasaki, it's a sweet little scene of the two discussing books they like, even if it ultimately serves as further evidence that Sasaki is not Kaneki. And I'd be lying if I said I didn't get a kick out of Shu's parade of disguises as he spies on Sasaki and the Quinxes. I've really warmed up to his character now that we've seen more depths to him beyond the maniacal gourmet. That side of his character still shows up, but his quiet reflective moments like reminiscing about Anteiku make me worried for what seems to be headed toward the Tsukiyama family.

Surprising everyone, it's not Shu but Kanae who makes the most boneheaded decision this episode. Kanae's character has so far been almost exclusively written around his loyalty to Shu, assuming a role similar to what Shu played in the first two seasons as he alternates between a dangerous adversary for Kaneki/Sasaki and a buffoon who throws random foreign words into his dialogue. His desire to be as helpful as possible takes on a megalomaniacal bent, obsessed with doing everything he can and only begrudgingly accepting help from others. I'm also pretty certain he resents that Chie's photo resuscitated Shu instead of anything he did. This obsession and impatience leads Kanae to recruit some members of Aogiri Tree to kill the Quinxes, which would allow Shu to finally have some time alone with Sasaki. Unfortunately, this hasty plan goes south immediately. The Quinxes fight off all their attackers, and now the CCG will have its sights even more sharper on the Tsukiyama family. It's tragic, but it's consistent with the rest of Tokyo Ghoul, where a person's desire to protect those dearest to them is often warped into an arrogance that only make things worse for everybody involved.

On the CCG side of things, the ghoulish-faced Kijima ruffles a lot of feathers by publicly posting a video of him torturing Yuma, the ghoul from the Tsukiyama manor that was captured last episode. Ui immediately rebukes Kijima for this, believing it compromises his sense of justice, and Sasaki also empathizes with the captured ghoul, believing that nobody deserves to be treated so cruelly. (It's also strongly implied that the public reaction is negative.) However cuts right through all the horrified reactions by coldly pointing out that the CCG's sole purpose is the eradication of ghouls anyway. He can't help but detect something hypocritical and performative about getting upset at torture but still participating in the wholesale slaughter of ghouls at the CCG's hands. Torture is absolutely inhumane and inexcusable, but so is an extermination campaign, and his memory of Nutcracker's final moments prevent Shirazu from seeing Kijima's choice as anything just or noble. Ui most blatantly embraces this hypocrisy, explaining that he cares more about the appearance of justice than acting on Sasaki's plan, which he confides is otherwise solid. Ui's concerns are genuine, but they stem from a place of willful naivete that suits his young appearance.

Sasaki's plan is one of subterfuge, capitalizing on the Quinxes' half-ghoul nature and making them blend in with other ghouls by getting masks made for all of them. The blurring of the boundary between humans and ghouls is what makes Ui so uncomfortable, but that's the Quinx Squad's greatest strength. The line between human and ghoul isn't clearly defined at all, and if they assume these masks, the Quinxes might have to become as wary of the CCG as they are of ghouls. Uta seems perfectly content playing along with Sasaki's plan, although it's unsure whether he's doing so to serve some other secret agenda. At the very least, I'm thankful for him poking fun at the overly-serious Urie, and I hope he makes him an appropriately (or inappropriately) weird mask. “Because it would be funny” is one of the few pure motivations that remain in Tokyo Ghoul, and I wholeheartedly support it.

The climactic battle at the end of the episode wasn't anything show-stopping, but it hit the beats that it needed to. Urie's training seems to have paid off, and this stronger version of him pushes back Kanae with little trouble. Shirazu, on the other hand, vomits at the thought of using his Nutcracker quinque, so he's still in dire straits. Mutsuki faces off against Torso yet again, and although Mutsuki effortlessly gains the upper hand, Torso also gets away yet again. I'm not really sure why Torso of all characters has been around since episode one of :re, and at this point his presence is too bizarre to be threatening. Mutsuki at least gets into a real battle with a new ghoul called the Grave Robber, whose most distinguishing feature is that she wields a quinque. We already know that ghouls can cannibalize other ghouls, so seeing her use essentially a dead ghoul to her advantage isn't so weird, but it's more intriguing that she owns a weapon exclusively manufactured by the CCG. Saiko continues to be left out of the fray, and now nine episodes in, I wish we knew more about her character other than “she's a NEET.” The other Quinxes have all gotten their own mini-arcs, while Saiko just tags along and provides comic relief now and then. Why doesn't she fight with her kagune like the others? At least her running around calling Sasaki “maman” (“mom” in French) is too adorable for me to criticize. It's true; Sasaki is a great mom!

So it looks like the final episodes of this season will pit Sasaki and his Quinxes against Shu, Kanae, and the rest of the Tsukiyama manor. In true Tokyo Ghoul fashion, we've gotten to know both sides well enough to feel bad no matter what the outcome! Pride, greed, love, and grief all affect humans and ghouls equally, and I doubt anybody is going to come out of this battle unscathed. There are still plenty of questions left hanging by this episode, (What's Eto doing there? Who is that mysterious robed figure who saved Saiko? What makes him different from all of the other mysterious robed figures we've seen so far?) but Sui Ishida relishes in the slow burn of Kaneki's winding journey and the slow trickling of plot information. I'm confident that he has plans, but I'm also confident that I couldn't begin to guess what they are. Will some minor background character show up out of the blue as a major antagonist again? Possibly!

It's equal parts fun and frustrating to constantly be on my toes watching this show, trying to suss out its secrets. But it's the core emotional journeys of its characters that really keep me engaged, even when they're in the hands of an author who, like Kaneki's favorite writer Takatsuki, seems to have no qualms killing off important characters. I'd pray for mercy during the upcoming battle, but I know better.

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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