Tokyo Ghoul:re
Episodes 13-14

by Steve Jones,

How would you rate episode 13 of
Tokyo Ghoul:re (TV 2) ?

How would you rate episode 14 of
Tokyo Ghoul:re (TV 2) ?

Tokyo Ghoul:re is in many ways a flawed and redundant sequel that got saddled with a less ambitious adaptation thanks to the departure of the original director, Shuhei Morita. Nevertheless, I enjoyed following and reviewing it two seasons ago, and I got swept up in the grim operatics of its complex web of interconnected tragedies. It left us on one hell of a cliffhanger too, so I was eager to get back into its world, especially during this most ghoulish of months. Unfortunately, I wasn't quite as eager to get through this material as the anime itself.

The immediate impression that this second cour of Tokyo Ghoul:re gives is one of a runner careening head over heels down a steep hill, willing to sacrifice a few dozen bones if it means finishing the race more quickly. The “bones” in this case are things like character beats and pacing, which are pretty important if you want people to like your show. My current speculation is that since the manga ended a few months back, the show is gonna try to fit the rest of it into these 12 episodes. Now, I'll admit that I haven't read much of the manga, but some quick googling tells me that the first cour covered about 60 chapters worth of material. There are 179 chapters total, so if that's what the showrunners (and in this case I do mean runners) want to do, it's going to have to get through the remaining ~120 chapters twice as fast. Upsettingly, that feels consistent with these first two episodes.

I don't think Tokyo Ghoul is some perfect work of art above the need of some judicious editing, because the first cour of :re already had a lot of pacing issues, and so did the first two seasons. There are absolutely avenues that an adaptation could take to trim some of the fat, hone the core emotional journeys, and streamline its sprawling story and huge cast of characters into something smaller but just as, if not more effective. That's not what these first two episodes are doing. It starts in media res with a huge battle against Aogiri Tree that we have no context for, before jumping back to the CCG headquarters to focus on an entirely different plotline with Kaneki. I almost thought the show had actually continued airing last season and I had missed all of it, but nope, this is where we're picking up. What hurts the most is that the huge emotional climax of the first season, Shirazu's death, isn't addressed at all. In fact, outside of some glimpses during the quick battle montage, we don't see or hear from any of the Quinxes. These episodes are entirely Kaneki-focused, and that makes sense given his awakening, but the Quinxes and his relationships with them were the strongest part of :re so far. Their familial bonds are going to be more fraught now, for sure, but I want to see that explored, not brushed to the side.

I literally cannot go through every plot and subplot point that happens, because this review will be thousands of words long and my editor will kill me. To sum up, the focal points are Kaneki and Eto, and to a lesser extent Arima and Furuta. Kaneki struts into the scene looking tall, dark, and handsome, and he's even sporting some glasses now if his deliberate aping of Arima's style wasn't obvious enough. He's calm and grim, and he also has no qualms intimidating his witness, which shows a clear break from Sasaki's more jovial and well-adjusted personality. His aim is to gather the evidence needed to put Eto away, but Eto has her own agenda, and she uses her prestige as the author Sen Takatsuki to schedule a press conference and announce that she's a ghoul herself. She lets herself get taken to Cochlea by Kaneki, but her real goal is Kaneki himself. She wants him to either kill or more likely become someone called the One-Eyed King. Meanwhile, this ties into her new book, which is based on the Washu Clan who comprise some of the CCG's top brass, despite being ghoul collaborators themselves. Additionally, the Washu Clan, Arima, Furuta, old man Yoshimura (rest in peace), Eto, and even Rize all have something to do with another organization called V. Because the thing I wanted most out of Tokyo Ghoul was more factions to keep track of. Also Furuta is unabashedly and clownishly evil now. All of this information comes scene after scene via machine-gun-like exposition dumps, and it makes the act of watching the show exhausting instead of intriguing.

To his credit, Kaneki doesn't seem to care about any of that. His only goal is rescuing Hinami, which balloons into yet another full-on assault on Cochlea and then getting killed by Arima. Now, Kaneki and death wishes have gone hand in hand for years, but here it feels especially frustrating because we don't get any time devoted to his interiority. If we don't have the time and opportunity to empathize with him, it feels like we're going through the motions of a journey we've experienced before that's already been rendered with more artfulness in the past. Kaneki's big fight with Arima at the bottom of Cochlea should be a huge moment, but it gets crammed into the back half of this second episode while five other things are happening. Likewise, Kaneki seeing a vision of Hide should be a showstopping and heartwrenching moment; while it is sad, it's just rushed like everything else. The turnover from suicidal Kaneki to life-affirming Kaneki happens in the blink of an eye. We didn't even get two full episodes of his black hair! And, of course, because there are 10 episodes left, his fight with Arima still ends tragically despite his best wishes.

The best moments from the first two seasons came when the story slowed to a snail's pace and focused entirely on the psyches of its characters. The first season finale takes place almost entirely inside Kaneki's head. The second season finale concludes with an extended and quiet scene of Kaneki just walking forward. These scenes overflowed with a raw anguish that has stayed with me years after they aired. Tokyo Ghoul has the appeal of a uniformly dark, occasionally campy, and always horrific epic about monsters and humans at war, but it has more potent claws than that. Tokyo Ghoul is really a story about the insidious and toxic nature of the depressive cycle, but without the care taken to create a space for these emotions to be felt and vented, it feels like a story that does nothing but spin its wheels. This beginning portends a rough season ahead, and all I can do is hope the show finds time to stop and smell the kagune. At the very least, it shouldn't ever be boring!

Oh, and because I do want to end on a positive note, the song choices for the OP and ED are once again up to the extremely high standard Tokyo Ghoul set for itself from the beginning. TK from Ling Tosite Sigure returns for the OP, and I can think of few artists who use the full range of their voice (and screams) as well as he does. And österreich, who did the second OP, are back with this ED featuring some mellow math rock and Cinema Staff's vocalist Mizuki Iida. They both set the mood of Tokyo Ghoul—angry, somber, reflective, and always with a hint of hope—better than the show itself at this point.

Rating: C

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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