by Jacob Chapman,
After the slow-burn setup of episode 9, Tokyo Ghoul's 10th episode is a briskly-paced tour of highs and lows all smushed up against each other in a violent see-saw of "reactions may vary." I can only speak for my own reactions of course, but for me the experience was nothing short of smile followed by frown repeating into infinitum right up until the pre-credits twist, leaving me both excited and apprehensive about the show's fast-approaching finale.
First, the good stuff! The mysterious new gang of hyper-violent ghouls, known as Aogiri Tree, are much more widespread and threatening than episode 9 foreshadowed. They've completely overtaken the 11th ward in a single night, killing all the doves headquartered there in a surprise siege. (Thankfully, Amon wasn't on duty that night.) This has turned the area into an undefended hellhole and encouraged the new paranoid nutcase in charge of the 20th ward to blast the area and declare all-out war against ghouls everywhere, starting with the 11th ward and moving through the entire city. Yikes! To make matters worse, Aogiri Tree has come to the 20th ward early to recruit Rize to their cause. When they find out Rize is dead and her remains are swimming around in the body of poor Ken Kaneki, he becomes their new target, first tortured, then kidnapped, and leaving the good ghouls of Anteiku caught between two corrupt forces of human and ghoul, forced to fight in order to keep the peace. Touka is in the toughest position, being pitted against her own ghoul brother to save the one human friend who brought her out of the darkness and allowed her to reconnect with new friends at Anteiku. It's getting to be one tangled web.
The stakes are refreshingly high for just 12 episodes of an "urban vampire" action show, and yet it's easy to see how we got here in such a short time. Aogiri Tree's existence has been foreshadowed since early in the series when it bled into the villain arcs of both Shuu and Mado, which in turn bleed back over into the show's ultimate battle in clever ways that seek to return good for the evil of both men. The show seems to hold out an olive branch for just about anybody, making its "evil" characters potential forces for good once the conflict becomes so heavy that it endangers both ghouls and humans on a large scale. The doves have been getting worse and worse, and they have to be stopped, but so do the binge eaters and gourmets of the ghoul underground, now coalesced into one "master race"-touting gang in Aogiri Tree. Of course, it's anybody's guess where Kaneki stands in all of this, and whether he will succumb to Rize's growing influence on his mind or push past it to find something he can fight for without holding back. (For that matter, what's Hide's role in all this? The show keeps cutting back to him with great foreboding...)
Still, there's some bad stuff breaking up the fun. The introduction of Juzo Suzuya, pictured above, is underwhelming. We've seen the white-haired freak-on-a-leash character innumerable times in anime, (even earlier in this series in the form of Mado), and adding the "evil child" element is both cliche and seems absurd in light of the ghoul inspection force he joins being otherwise staffed by burly middle-aged men. The fact that Suzuya seems like our "cliffhanger" villain, introduced to nibble at screentime during the season one climax only to tease a season two at the end and not much else, doesn't help. On top of that, Aogiri Tree's new cadre of cads includes yet another flaming sadomasochistic stereotype who's characterized as evil "because he's a drag queen" more than anything else. (Shuu wasn't enough? We need another guy?) I would say "fortunately he isn't given much screentime," but the last-second twist before the credits of this episode ensure us that we're going to be seeing a lot of this uncomfortable stereotype, and not just from one character. Ugh.
Of course, the biggest stormcloud over all this otherwise exciting material is The Lingering Doubt That This May Not Pan Out. There's a lot of action to cover in the next two episodes, divided between an enormous cast of characters that's only gotten larger this week. The 11th Ward, and possibly the 20th, has about 40 minutes to be destroyed and rebuilt at this point, and the odds that the finale could be underwhelming sequel-bait are pretty high. Still, I have faith in Tokyo Ghoul. Its pacing is still tight and engaging, and it's managed to wrap all its threads into one another well thus far. It probably won't be a perfect conclusion, but I'm definitely holding out hope for something I can sink my teeth into.
Tokyo Ghoul is currently streaming on Funimation.
Hope has been an anime fan since childhood, and likes to chat about cartoons, pop culture, and visual novel dev on Twitter.
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