by Rebecca Silverman,

Tokyo Ghoul:re

GNs 5-7

Tokyo Ghoul:re GNs 5-7
As the raid on the Tsukiyama family moves forward, Haise begins to have more and more memories of his time as Ken Kaneki, possibly because of Shu's aggressive pursuit of him. This leads Haise to a breakdown as he tries to reconcile the halves of himself and what happened to put him in this state. As a final raid on Aogiri Tree leaves Haise guarding the prison where Hinami is being held for execution, which side will he come down on?

Tokyo Ghoul:re is at its best when it's exploring the inner struggles of Ken Kaneki-turned-Haise Sasaki. That means that of these three volumes, book seven is the strongest, playing into that theme and using elements of both series one's Frankenstein metaphors and series two's Kafka themes to good effect. Both allow us to understand how much of a pawn Kaneki has been from the beginning – unwittingly (and unwillingly) targeted for human/ghoul hybridization experiments, then essentially reborn without his consent as a ghoul investigator for a further phase of those experiments. The latter is just as cruel as the former, not because it involves further physical experimentation, but because it plays with Kaneki's mind – he's stripped of any identity he was able to forge as his went through the events of the previous series and essentially remade in the image that the CCG is looking for. They're taking advantage of what Arima observed about him over the course of Tokyo Ghoul, that he's an empathetic soul who forms bonds firmly and easily, and they're hoping to use the powers he gained through his forced ghoulization for their own benefit.

There's something alarmingly human about that concept, and that's what we see as Haise struggles with his dual selves in specifically volumes five and six. Haise is of a no-man-left-behind mentality as a ghoul inspector, a carry-over from his past in both Anteiku and Aogiri Tree, and that leads him to take risks for himself that we don't see the others, human or ghoul, taking during the battles. There is mourning for fallen comrades on both sides, yes, but only in Haise, and his re-transformation into Kaneki, do we see that sadness turn not into revenge, but into a determination not to lose another person. This directly contradicts what the CCG promotes about ghouls, that they are sub-human because they're predators and that humans are the superior race, because this is something that has not changed in Kaneki from day one, and in fact only grew stronger as he embraced his ghoul side. That it is Hinami, a ghoul, who truly brings him back to himself in a sense further casts doubt on the idea of human superiority – as does the fact that it is the humans, the supposed “good guys,” who are behind most of the cruelties to begin with. It isn't the ghouls who are conducting experiments to create hybrids, after all.

At its heart, then, this series, like its predecessor, is largely about the politics of fear. Ghouls and humans fear each other, and their approaches to each other are colored by that. Yes, the ghouls eat humans, but there are certainly work-arounds that could be come to in reasoned discussion; the problem is that the humans are reacting like prey – with fear. It is those two conflicting sides that are warring inside Kaneki, and even as we mostly see things from the human side in this series, it is still evident that most of the ghouls are behaving more humanely than the humans. (Battles are, of course, the major exception on both sides.) Given what Haise has watched the humans do, and done himself, it makes sense that Hinami's calm demeanor and quiet cooperation would make more of an impression on him and trigger a return to Kaneki than the cruelties he's observed within Cochlea or from his own team of aggressive fighters. We can also see this in the way he initially built his squad at the CCG to function like a family rather than a team of fighters – it's what he's been missing from his life since his rebirth, and he's trying very hard to remedy that, albeit with mixed success.

The notion of belonging and factions is also important to these volumes as the CCG goes after both Aogiri Tree's final stronghold and the Tsukiyama family. Human efforts to paint the ghouls as the evil Other are stymied by scenes of the Tsukiyama family trying desperately to protect their beloved scion, and that has a major impact on the Haise/Kaneki transformation as well. Shu's efforts to wake Kaneki back up show more emotion than anything Arima has done for him when he was in a father-figure position, and that more than anything helps to facilitate what happens in volume seven. The end of the book, where the truth of the voice Haise has been hearing really comes out, also supports this, as it speaks to the importance of people who care about you for who you are, not what you're classified as. Ultimately that's why Kaneki does what he does, his original self overcoming all of the training and brainwashing that he has been subject to since the middle of the original series and the start of this one.

With this being the real strength of Tokyo Ghoul as a franchise, it has been a disappointment that so much of Tokyo Ghoul:re has focused on battles with far too many similar looking characters and difficult to read art. That remains a persistent problem for volumes five and six, and is only off-set in volume seven by the return of Arima as a bigger character and the resurrection of the Frankenstein themes. Ishida isn't quite a good enough artist to have so many characters and to change their hair styles for a plot point, and many scenes can feel very confusing as a result.

Tokyo Ghoul:re is not as compelling as its predecessor, but by volume seven, it seems to be getting back on track. Whether it's Kafka or Mary Shelley, Ishida's literary influences work best when he focuses on character development over dark battle scenes, and we can but hope that going forward, that's where he'll center the story.

Production Info:
Overall : B-
Story : B-
Art : C

+ Return to examination of Kaneki's character, great reveal of the voice at the end of volume seven
Too many characters in too many long fight scenes make for confusion, art can be hard to read

Story & Art: Sui Ishida

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Tokyo Ghoul:re (manga)

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Tokyo Ghoul:re (GN 6)
Tokyo Ghoul:re (GN 5)
Tokyo Ghoul:re (GN 7)

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