What to call Tokyo Ghoul √A (and no, I don’t mean the weird title – that character apparently translates into “Root A”)? Is this a sequel – or a split-cour? Is it anime-original or not? This series is an odd case – it’s based on the storyline that was supposedly mangaka Ishida Sui’s first planned direction for the manga. He’s providing storyboards for Pierrot as well, so there can be no question about whether he’s truly a creative influence. Of course the natural question is why, if this is a good story, Ishida-sensei didn’t end up using it in the manga. But I think the only logical approach is to take the story as it comes – which is easier for someone who, like me, hasn’t read the current chapters of the manga.
A few things we can stipulate for the record. First, the production continues to be excellent. The OP and ED are both terrific and well-suited to the material. And in Oscar-winning director Morita Shuhei, Pierrot has someone with a well-developed visual style and more creative flair than the vast majority of anime directors out there. Tokyo Ghoul Root A looks great, providing further evidence that when Studio Pierrot wants to make a first-rate series they’re still more than capable of doing so.
I’m nowhere near ready to say what I think of the story direction yet, as it’s only in the final moments that it’s clear big changes are coming. The premiere of Root A picks up right where the first season left off, with the CCG’s assault on Aogiri’s headquarters still in full-swing. It takes up most of the episode, with a dizzying array of characters on both sides going at it (frankly, three months later it was hard to remember who some of them were). While it’s never expressly stated I think it’s suggested that the One-eyed Owl is Yoshimura-san, but he remains a mystery for now.
One of the major battles takes place between Kaneki and Ayato, from whom he’s just rescued Touka-chan (who whether by virtue of her relative power or sentimentality was no match for him). Kaneki’s experience at the hands of Jason has obviously changed him more than just in terms of what hair products he’ll be buying – he’s now in full-on badass mode, and he proves as superior in combat to Ayato as Ayato was to hie Nee-san. But for now at least Ken still seems to be in no-kill mode – he spares Ayato anyway, though he says it’s because he’s Touka’s brother.
On the whole, the raid is pretty much a disaster – half of the Ghoul Investigators never make it out of the building when it comes down, and Sinohara declares the entire raid a “trap”. It’s hard to say how this changes the balance of the series overall, as Aogiri seems largely undamaged (I don’t think Jason was an especially important part of their organization, and I didn’t see anyone else of prominence taken out). But while this seems a setback for the CCG I wouldn’t say it’s a decisive one – they’ll certainly regroup and continue their mission.
The really important factor here, then, is the status of Kaneki-kun. Anteiku’s involvement here in the first place was to rescue him, and he ends up rescuing Touka. But in the end he announces that he’s changing sides – joining forces with Aogiri. This, then, is presumably where the original and final manga routes part ways. But since we don’t know why exactly Ken has done this, it’s hard to have much of an opinion on this new route’s potential. Ken hints at the “secret” of why Ayato has joined Aogiri, implying that this reason is enough to justify his doing so as well – but what is it? Has Ken abandoned his ideal of finding a third way that transcends the blind destruction of ghoul society and the CCG, or does he see joining Aogiri as a way of achieving it? I suspect the latter. but it’s in fleshing out this scenario that the tale will be told of whether Root A makes for a good story or not – and for now, it’s way, way too early to make a call.
ED: “Kisetsu wa Tsugitsugi Shindeiku (季節は次々死んでいく)” by Amazarashi