First Impressions – Tokyo Ghoul √A

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And off we sail, into the great unknown.

OP: “Munou (無能)” by österreich

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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.

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ED: “Kisetsu wa Tsugitsugi Shindeiku (季節は次々死んでいく)” by Amazarashi

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17 comments

  1. D

    After the most recent season, this was definitely a refreshing return to a familiar level of quality. I thought that the way the first season's ending might be a bit akward as far as pacing and transition go in s2, but even though I forgot who some of the characters were, the overall story and atmosphere didn't miss a step. Not sure where the story goes from there, as Kaneki's decision definitely caught me a little off guard, but it looks promising so far.

    On a seperate note, I cannnot express just how much I loved the new OP. I rarely find anime OPs memorable or interesting, but this one really grabbed me. Maybe I'm brainwashed or something, but I felt it reflected the tone of the show so well and the singing was hauntingly beautiful. I was quite surprised to see that the majority of the community heavily desliked it.

    All the same, this was an excellent "new" show to start the year with.

  2. G

    I love OPs and EDs. Some series just seem to have one great song after another (Shakugan no Shana, Naruto Shippuden and FMA:Brotherhood come to mind). There are a lot of forgettable songs but also many great ones as well.

  3. F

    I don't know if this counts as spoilers (just do what you do if it does), but the only thing I'm disappointed in not being faithfully adapted was Kaneki slowly and methodically breaking 103 (half) of Ayato's bones (he said he would only "half-kill" him since he's Touka's brother) and the whole psychological discussion on what "half-killing" someone actually means.
    Other than that I'm pretty pleased with the adaptation (still jaded it's going complete anime original but I might as well enjoy what I got).

  4. l

    As a manga reader considering the developments preceding and following this arc, Kaneki joining Aogiri makes absolutely no sense. I have the feeling somehow though that Ishida wants manga readers to feel that exact way and simply throw out what we know about Kaneki from the manga. Tokyo Ghoul has recently become my favorite manga of all time, and in a sense I'm glad I can watch the new episodes in anticipation at what's new rather than despair at what's skipped or butchered.

  5. m

    Yes, the OP and ED animations are gorgeous. i think the animation got off to a very strong start with the beautiful fighting scenes. I also loved the scene where Touka stumbled after Kaneki and there was just silence. This first episode made me think of the series' very strong first episode in the first season, Not yet on par but it brought me back (:

  6. M

    I've read the manga, and watched this together with 2 other readers of the manga, and like a few other manga readers in the comments, we were expecting a particular flow of events.

    This was not the case, and maybe this was because we were experiencing it as a collective, but our disappointment was astronomical. A darkly indulging part was left out, things were happening out of order, and new plot-crucial events happened that left out enthusiasm flaccid.

    It was not a happy night for readers of the Tokyo Ghoul manga, and it sets a precedent for much further disappointment with other events in the series many were looking forward to with high and hungry hopes.

    "Darkly indulging" is the term I wish to emphasis, and without getting into spoilers, as I believe Tokyo Ghoul touched upon an itch the market has had for a long time which standard gore or horror media seldom does without going over the top.

  7. R

    Well, I don't know about this episode exactly but you do realize that they've made it very plain that the storyline for the anime is going to be a completely different one than the manga (though still with Ishida-sensei writing it) so I don't think you should be looking out for plot events happening and the like in comparison to the manga.

  8. Bitching from manga readers has been pretty much a constant from the beginning with TG, and I don't know why it should change now. The fact that this has been advertised all-along as a different storyline from the manga isn't going to make any difference to that group of readers.

  9. M

    My main complaint isn't about the different story line.

    Various parts of the episode followed the manga's plot, and my problem is one of the best parts of that matching flow of events was left out.

    If you haven't read the manga, you're just going to have to trust me when I say, it is a BIGGER let-down than before (and not just to me and my friends, the general impression on various other forums have reflected the gist).

    It did make a difference.

  10. s

    I read the manga and i personally didnt think it made that much of a difference; the scene is cool dont get me wrong but it has no real narrative weight in the grand scheme of things so removing it is not like removing some important piece of information that would be pivotal to understanding someone's character arc or plot development. All it did was reiterate how smart and badass kaneki is…but im almost positive this is something viewers can infer and im pretty sure we are going to see more of white-haired kaneki's strengths in future eps. That scene is for the manga's route, not the anime's. And who knows, perhaps we may see it down the road in a different context, but if we dont, im perfectly fine with that as well. This is a different root written by the author of the manga himself and directed by a person with talent and those are the prospects of this series so far that truly intrigue me.

  11. C

    Well, obviously the "first season" is a disgrace that should have never existed, one of the most horrible adaptations of the year… but I'm very much willing to give this one a try. The animation was nice, the fight scenes were cool, and the "plot twist" was very interesting.

    Here's hoping this one can slightly redeem TG's piss-poor experience in the anime medium.

  12. R

    I am in the minority here, but I liked the first OP better. Not that this one is bad, but I was just more enamored by the first one.

    Onto this. The series really works well if it focuses on only a few characters and stays mostly within Ken's POV. So, I hope they can stay there and cut down on the unnecessary characters soon.

    One curious question here. When the heck did Kaneki get his mask back? I don't recall him having it when he was kidnapped by Jason.

  13. l

    Nishio is the one that hands him his mask in the manga. He kind of just randomly pulls it out here along with the battle suit at the end.

  14. R

    Ah, that explains it. It was a bit of a headscratcher as to where he got the mask here.

  15. i

    Didn't know where else to post this, but I just thought you'd like to know that Ishida recently tweeted about Togashi and posted some fanart too! I can't help but squeal. And yet another mangaka is revealed to be a Togashi fan.

  16. m

    thanks for the share XD

  17. Z

    Beside the fact that Ayato was not beaten half dead (Damn you, no one treats Touka like that, you little shit!), I really love this episode. Those forlorn stare between Kaneki and Touka, the tragic realization of his decision to join Aogiri, this series will not end well.

    Still, keeping the faith for a good ending.

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