This Week in Anime
Is Tokyo Ghoul:re Worth Returning For?

by Nicholas Dupree & Steve Jones,

Three years after the tragic conclusion of Tokyo Ghoul, Tokyo Ghoul:re has returned to soft reboot Kaneki Ken's story. This week, Nick and Steve suss out whether this prolonged continuation offers anything special enough to bring fans back to the action.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by the participants in this chatlog are not the views of Anime News Network. Spoiler Warning for discussion of the series ahead. Not Safe For Work warning for content and language.





You can read our weekly coverage of Tokyo Ghoul:re here!

Nick D
Hey Steve, it's still 2018, right?

Last I checked, yeah.

Okay, so you're saying I haven't time-traveled into a 2007 Hot Topic? Because I see a lot of compelling evidence to dispute you.

Well, maybe it's 2007 in ghoul years.

Part of me admires Sui Ishida's dedication to the Goth Clown aesthetic all these years after it's fallen out of style. But that's the same part of me that wore skull t-shirts every day through my junior year of high school so...

Tokyo Ghoul is nothing if not extremely dedicated to all aspects of itself. And that still applies to Tokyo Ghoul:re, this sequel to the original manga that's been going on for a few years, now finally gracing us in anime form three years after the previous season ended. You might remember the finale of Root A as "that episode that tore what was left of my heart out and devoured it in front of me", so needless to say I leapt at the chance to get back into this nonstop pain train!

I was a little more hesitant myself. While I ended up really loving Tokyo Ghoul (I still consider Root A my favorite thing in 2015, fight me), I also kinda felt like I'd gotten everything out of the story that I needed by the end. Plus there are few endings more conclusive than the tragic end of that first series. Or at least that's what I would have said before :re decided to retcon everything about that conclusion.

I too was pretty satisfied where Root A left off. Or at least as satisfied as I could be with the tragic logical endpoint to one boy's ceaseless series of bad decisions informed by his unfortunate circumstances! But to my surprise, I slid back into Tokyo Ghoul hell rather easily, and I've mostly enjoyed what :re has been doing with its characters both old and new. Of course, this is provided you buy into Kanek--excuse me, Sasaki's extremely convenient memory loss that hasn't yet been explained outside of "because anime".

Yes our boy of bad decisions Kaneki Ken wound up with anime amnesia, and this has somehow allowed him to not only survive after all hell broke loose at the end of Root A, but even join the ghoul-hunting police.

And if that wasn't a big enough jump, he's now in charge of his own band of misfit experimental ghoul/human hybrids. Like this tiny slime gremlin.

Kaneki is a dad with rowdy children now, and it's literally all I ever wanted out of Tokyo Ghoul so thank you Ishida.

Seriously though, seeing Kaneki/Sasaki assume the role of mentor is a great development, and it lends his character a maturity that couldn't have existed in the first part of the story. And flipping the tables to focus on the CCG also makes sense, since Tokyo Ghoul has refused to paint either the humans or the ghouls with a broad brush. Both factions have proven equally capable of both good and evil, and :re has just been thriving in that morally complicated space.

It's a really neat idea when you think about it. Kaneki spent two seasons searching for some place to belong, be it with Anteiku, Aogiri Tree, or even the afterlife. Instead he ends up finding his first real home with the organization that was always trying to kill him. I just wish this soft reboot had taken the chance to prune Tokyo Ghoul's character list, because there are Too Many Fucking People right now, and every episode seems to add a half dozen more names to keep track of.

Ha ha ha, if you think you've got it bad, imagine having to keep track of them all because it's literally your job now, and then every episode introduces five more characters, and you have to pay attention to all of those because you don't know who's going to die immediately next episode and who's going to turn out to be a major player in the overarching plot. Much respect to Ishida for keeping all of this straight, but also please have mercy on us poor freelancers.

And I imagine that gets harder when half the people who died show up again, because on top of piling on new characters, :re has seen fit to bring back basically every person you thought died last season. Like hey, remember the numbnuts whose only role in Root A was to write a letter to his mom and immediately get offed?

Well, he's back and CRAZY AS BALLS.

Ah yeah, that minor side character who only got one episode's worth of focus? He's a major villain now! Because fuck you it's Tokyo Ghoul.

I get that Tokyo Ghoul's themes revolve around living on after life throws you into a blender, but the series really does start to buckle under how many characters are spinning plates at any given moment.

It's especially bad during the Ghoul Auction, where there are literally half a dozen battles going on between two dozen characters, and the anime deals with this by jumping back and forth between all of them. It's hard to follow and it's consequently hard to care.

And that's a shame, because while the secondary cast is mostly expendable, the core members of Kaneki's Quinx Qlub are pretty interesting and likable.

Right??? I love all of these dorks so much.

They haven't all gotten their moment to shine yet because we have eighteen other plotlines happening, but they really do feel like a quirky little family with Kaneki trying to Dad Joke his way through keeping them together.

There's his lazy trash daughter...

This good-hearted shark-tooth boy!

This less good-hearted disaster boy:

And my favorite eyepatch boy who, despite everything, is doing his best!!

Mutsuki seems like by far the most interesting of the crew to me. The others have their sympathetic backstories, but they're also pretty straightfoward. Urie wants prestige and power to overcome his personal insecurities. Shirazu wants money to help a loved one in the hospital. Saiko wants to eat food and sleep all day. But Mutsuki's past is still an enigma outside of the tidbit about him being a "problem case" in his training days, and of course he's the last one to unlock his ghoul powers. But you can just tell he's a powder keg of hidden emotions that he's barely managing to keep in check.

As much as I love trash gremlin daughters, Saiko is unfortunately the least developed member of the Quinxes so far (though this most recent episode hints that she might have more connections to the ghoul world than we thought). Mutsuki, on the other hand, seems the most analogous to the Kaneki of the first two seasons. He's sensitive, anxious, but cares deeply for his friends and wants to help, even if he doesn't know the best way to do so. But at the moment I'm most worried for Shirazu, who's still reeling emotionally and psychologically from killing Nutcracker.

It was certainly a traumatic experience, yes.

I mean, she definitely earned that name...

Tokyo Ghoul: a contemplative examination of struggling to live in an incalculably complex world of constant war and infinitely gray morality. Also this shit happens:

Yeah, Tokyo Ghoul's attempts at lightening the mood don't always work out. But then it throws these beautifully tender moments into the same episode and I'm easily won back because I'm a huge sap.

That's more or less what keeps me coming back to this often messy, tonally scrambled, overambitious universe. For all its faults, the sympathy and humanity that Sui Ishida weaves into nearly every character is genuinely inspiring.

And dammit if this moment didn't make me tear up even after three years separated from these characters.

And don't even get me STARTED on this reunion with Touka!

I've rewatched that scene several times and gotten choked up every time. For as often as Ishida puts his characters through the ringer, he still manages to make me care about nearly all of them.

That said, I can't say I've come away from :re with the same enthusiasm as I had for the first two seasons. Maybe it's just the distance of time, maybe it's the less engaging direction, or maybe it's just my brain running out of space for new names, but I still feel like something's missing to really get me invested again.

Tokyo Ghoul:re has definitely suffered from the loss of Shuhei Morita as the series' chief director. It's especially telling when one of the most memorable moments from :re so far was a recapitulation of the OP from the first season, just like Morita used it in both of his finales. I'm glad his influence remains to some extent, but it is disappointing to see the noticeable downgrade in visual storytelling.

I'll admit, even though that moment was totally unearned and had neither the artistry or careful construction of its predecessors, I absolutely choked up when "Unravel" kicked in out of nowhere.

It's SUCH a perfect song for Tokyo Ghoul, and I will always welcome it. The rest of :re's music has also remained on point, both the soundtrack and the OP/ED have been up to snuff imo.

I've mostly come to terms with the likelihood that :re won't ever grab me the way TG originally did, but I can't say it hasn't been a fun ride so far. If nothing else, I can admire how unapologetically extra it is.

It's so extra and so dense. There's so much we don't have room to discuss in one column, and even when I'm writing weekly reviews, there's always a handful of small details and interactions that I don't have the space to include. That's not always a point in the show's favor, but the core story is always strong enough to keep me tethered like a balloon in this tragic parade.

a parade complete with clowns

Okay can we talk about the clowns for a moment?

Please, let's!

Sui Ishida, I have to ask:
why do you wanna fuck clowns so bad?

It's 2018, baby. You can't tell me clown horniness is the weirdest thing you've encountered on the internet anymore. We just have to accept it and move on with our lives.

I just don't get it. I can get the appeal of plenty of other fetishes that show up in anime but just. Clowns. Why.

I mean, Uta graced us with one of the funniest interactions in the show, so I say he's earned all the horny clowning he wants.

All in all, I don't know if I can call Tokyo Ghoul:re a good show, but it's a hole that was made for me, so I'm content to be dragged into this whirlpool of tragic cannibals and their equally tragic human enemies. Suffering is my element, and Tokyo Ghoul provides it freely.

It's certainly a weaker show than what came before, but there's definitely still something compelling at its core that I can't bear to part with, and we've still got much more to go before this tragic train reaches its next wreck.

Just...maybe with fewer fetishes please.

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