Reviewby Rebecca Silverman,
GN 3 & 4
The idea of “metamorphosis” suggests a changing from one being into another, a change often symbolized by the butterfly, who spends time in a chrysalis as a caterpillar only to emerge into the sky. But what we forget when we utilize that metaphor is that the caterpillar is technically still there, right between the butterfly's wings. The implication, therefore, is that a metamorphosis is perhaps not so transformative as we like to think – the original nature remains while the rest of the being is changed.
That seems to be the case with Haise Sasaki, formerly known to readers of the original Tokyo Ghoul manga as Ken Kaneki. When Kaneki appeared to die at the end of the first series, we saw him reborn as Sasaki in the sequel – a partially Ghoul investigator with the CCG, the opposite of who he was in the original, at least in terms of sides he's on. But Ken lurks beneath Haise's surface, and he's not going to stay there unacknowledged forever, especially since people who knew him are on the verge of figuring out that their friend isn't as dead as they thought he was.
That's the overarching theme of these second two volumes in Tokyo Ghoul:re, the follow-up series to Sui Ishida's Tokyo Ghoul. Unfortunately it's getting a bit buried by Ishida's attempts to get everything into position for where he wants the series to go next; if the first two books were establishing that the works of Franz Kafka would be the literary base for the sequel (where Mary Shelley's Frankenstein served as the base for the first), these next two are scrambling to re-introduce those characters while also refitting them for their new roles. The result is that the volumes teem with characters both new and old, and the slight time jump between the end of volume three and the start of volume four only serves to exacerbate the problems. Book three deals with the Auction storyline begun in volume two, wrapping it up and reuniting Ken/Haise with Hinami from the original series along with Touka's younger brother, while volume four introduces the Rosé plotline, which brings back The Gourmet from the original and plays more with the idea of transformation. Both are decent storylines in and of themselves, but there needs to be more of a transition between them to allow readers to appreciate them and to get their metaphorical feet under them for the events to be fully understood.
Volume four definitely feels like the weaker of the two. The reintroduction of the Ghoul known colloquially as The Gourmet is handled with a bit less finesse than it might have been had Ishida not been trying to go all-in with the metamorphosis theme. Shu took Ken's loss a lot harder than most of his other friends, and where Touko reinvented herself, he retreated into his own mind, reliving his loss over and over again. Rather than working to find Ken, as arguably Hinami has been doing with moderate success (she finds him, but he locks her up in the end of volume three), Shu has slipped into madness, barely functioning at all. When a ward of the family discovers where Ken/Haise is, the process begins of not only reclaiming Shu as a person, but also of his determination to make Haise remember Ken.
It is at this point that we begin to realize that no matter what name he goes by, the man who was the protagonist of the previous series has become nothing more than a pawn to those around him. The CCG and their less scrupulous affiliates simply want to use him, and his successful transformation into a half-Ghoul, as a tool to combat what they see as a threat to humanity. The Ghouls, or at least those who were his friends and allies, want to bring him back to their side. Admittedly, they want that because they love and miss him, but it still doesn't take into account what he might want. Readers will recall that Ken actively resented Ghoulhood in the previous series before being forced to embrace what he saw as his monstrous new nature. Mightn't he value the chance to start over again in a more human life? Of course, any potential normalcy in this new life has been taken from him by his forceful induction into the CCG, something he has no knowledge of any more than he remembers his previous lives…
Given a bit more space and time to develop, the phase of the story covered by these two volumes could have been emotionally compelling and very important. As it stands, Ishida rushes through things a bit too fast in a bid to get as many characters and plot points as he can in. While the return of Shu and the insight into some of Haise's subordinates is very important and likely will inform future plot developments, it also doesn't allow for the protagonist himself to have the time needed to develop, and the sheer number of characters present in the text is daunting. Ishida's art has also taken a turn for the messier here, which works well for sinister scene but less so when we need to see what's going on in the clear light of day.
Tokyo Ghoul:re is still an interesting use of Kafka's metaphors. It still tells a story worth following as we try to see whether the man was a cockroach all along under his skin. But it also needs to slow down and give us time to digest each new development and reveal, and that isn't something that either of these volumes excels at.
Overall : B-
Story : B-
Art : C+
+ Nice use of Kafka's themes and the idea of the metamorphosis.
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