Tokyo Ghoul:re
Episodes 1-3

by Steve Jones,

How would you rate episode 1 of
Tokyo Ghoul:re ?

How would you rate episode 2 of
Tokyo Ghoul:re ?

How would you rate episode 3 of
Tokyo Ghoul:re ?

After three years, Sui Ishida's Tokyo Ghoul has returned in anime form! Tokyo Ghoul:re throws us back into the underground war between humans and the cannibalistic monsters who look just like us (if you don't count the scary armored appendages that sometimes burst out of their backs). This time, our hero is the fresh-faced, half-ghoul-half-human investigator Haise Sasaki, who is positively, definitely, absolutely a brand-new character with no relation to anybody we might have already followed for two seasons!

Okay, Sasaki is Kaneki, and thankfully the show stops being coy about this as soon as the first episode ends. Two years have passed since the explosive √A finale, and while it's still unclear exactly what happened in that timeskip, Kaneki has assumed a new identity working with his old enemies at the CCG. It's a surprising development, but not completely unexpected. Despite his best efforts, however misguided they were, Kaneki lost almost all of his friends at Anteiku, lost his best friend, and almost lost his soul after joining Aogiri Tree. It's a mystery right now whether the CCG locked away his memories or if he willed amnesia upon himself, but it is at least clear that the old Kaneki, specifically the twisted revenge-hungry Kaneki that wreaked havoc in the second season, is still inside of him. In the world of Tokyo Ghoul, our demons are always in lock-step with us.

That said, Sasaki seems pretty content with his new life as a ghoul hunter, and after all that suffering, the boy deserves some happiness. He's now the leader of the Quinx Squad, the latest development in the perpetual arms race between ghouls and humans. Like Sasaki, they blur the line between the two worlds, having ghoul organs implanted in their bodies so they too can summon kagune to fight. They're also a bunch of goofballs, and Sasaki's fatherly interactions with them are my favorite part of the new season. It's only been three episodes, but the anime has done an excellent job of establishing their personalities and making them likable. There's the serious, ambitious, and triangle-eyed Urie, who's quiet but prone to snarky soliloquies. There's the tough, not-too-bright, and shark-toothed Shirazu, who despite appearances has a good heart. There's the meek and eyepatched Mutsuki, who still has trouble using his kagune. And there's the diminutive Yonebayashi, who's a NEET gremlin. I've always had a soft spot for found families made up of weirdo misfits, so I'm glad that the Quinx Squad is our focal point this season.

Of course there are plenty of recurring characters as well, and the two-year timeskip has shuffled around many more familiar faces beyond just Kaneki/Sasaki. Akira Mado is now supervising Sasaki's squad, still a stalwart moral compass working for the often sketchy CCG. Her old partner Amon is nowhere to be found, and I'd presume him dead if I didn't know Tokyo Ghoul any better. Also on the CCG side, our old pal Juzo has grown up a lot! For one thing, his hair has been dyed black, which is Tokyo Ghoul shorthand for becoming more human. But he's also got a squad of his own, and it's genuinely heartwarming to see him be able to laugh warmly with Sasaki. The mysterious ghoul investigator Arima has been acting as Sasaki's father figure (he even calls the the Quinx Squad his grandchildren which is adorable), but his true motives remain inscrutable.

On the ghoul side, Aogiri Tree and its hooligans are still causing problems. Ayato is hopping around as the Rabbit. Eto is seen briefly but surely still pulling strings. Hinami appears to be working with Aogiri Tree, which breaks my heart. Nishio is slithering around as Orochi, seemingly a rogue agent loyal to no one but relying on Aogiri Tree for something. Amon's old teacher Donato remains in Cochlea prison, providing Hannibal-like guidance to the CCG when he's not trying to manipulate Sasaki. Everyone's favorite ghoul gourmand Shu is apparently on his deathbed, but he was never the strongest character, so that may be a blessing in disguise for now. In fact, the only ghouls who seem better off post time-skip are the few survivors from Anteiku, Renji and Touka, who are still operating their small cafe under the new name of, you guessed it, :re.

As always, Tokyo Ghoul has a lot of moving parts, with competing plans and ideologies always working in the background, but the main plot so far has been straightforward enough. The Quinx Squad's first assignment is to capture a ghoul named Torso, so named for his recent torso-eating spree. That plan goes belly-up when Torso escapes and Nishio attacks the squad, forcing Sasaki to intervene. This becomes his first direct confrontation with his forgotten past, and it predictably ends with him getting shot and sedated when he goes berserk. Sasaki thinks he's already redeemed in his new life, but redemption isn't as simple as forgetting your past and moving on. This amnesia strikes me as just the latest iteration of Kaneki's perpetually flawed decision-making process, in which he conflates his responsibility to do no harm with short-sighted acts of self-sacrifice that actually do the most harm to the people closest to him. Nowhere is that more evident than in his chance reunion with Touka, which damn near ripped my heart out of my chest. In the grand scheme of things, maybe Sasaki is the best version of Kaneki that he can hope to be at this point, but it still hurts.

With the Torso investigation botched, the Quinx's new assignment is a ghoul named Nutcracker. (If you don't understand why she's called Nutcracker, don't worry, the show explains it twice.) At the same time, the Quinx Squad are facing their own internal ripples. Urie loses his title of captain for not following orders, which only fuels his inferiority complex and drives him to act behind Sasaki's back and release the second of five limiters on his kagune. Sasaki appoints Shirazu as the new captain, surprising everyone including Shirazu. But the shark-toothed dope does care for his teammates, and he even manages to drag Yonebayashi away from her video games. Urie's actions are sure to come to a head at some point, but I like all of these kids and I hope they manage to work their problems out. In order to infiltrate Nutcracker's human trafficking ring, the gang disguises themselves as women, which thankfully isn't handled as poorly as I was expecting. The scene even gives us more insight into Mutsuki's character. He suffers from social anxiety (same) and almost has a panic attack until Sasaki comforts him, which shows both how much Sasaki genuinely cares for the Quinxes and how much they look up to him. Mutsuki is also a loud drunk (also same), which lands him a spot in Nutcracker's next auction and sets us up for the next episode.

I went into Tokyo Ghoul:re with reservations. As much as I enjoyed the first two seasons of the anime, they were very much a mixed bag, with odd shifts in tone and too many subplots than it knew how to handle. My favorite parts of those seasons (namely the finales) were handled closely by the series director Shuhei Morita, who did not return for :re. But despite my apprehensions, I got sucked back into the world of Tokyo Ghoul almost immediately. The visual composition isn't quite as strong, and there are still too many things going on at once, but Sui Ishida's refusal to paint either the ghouls or the humans with a broad brush gives the series a strong foundation, where both heroes and the villains can have equally compelling and infuriating reasons to continue their struggle. And after the harrowing conclusion of √A, I've really appreciated this (relatively) mellow shift to Sasaki's new life with his new family. The suffering is sure to come later, but I already care for these characters, so I hope Sasaki/Kaneki finds a way to reconcile his past and present that doesn't end up with all of his friends dead this time. I doubt the world of Tokyo Ghoul is kind enough to allow him that luxury, but it's nice to hope, and I'm along for the ride either way.

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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