Tokyo Ghoul √A – 05

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Wai!  More effing named characters to keep track of!

I saw a comment about this episode (from an ASF poster named Blakstealth, FTR) that sums it up as well, I think, as any can: “I hope the next episode takes some time to explain what the fuck is happening.”  Frankly I really should stop right there because anything else I add to that can only complicate matters, but of course I can’t do that – so far starters, my response would be “Don’t hold your breath”…

I think there are really two main questions at play for with me Root A – the first being the obvious “what the fuck is going on here?”, and the second being “should I care?”  To the first I can offer no answers, but to the second it still seems to be “yes” – though I can’t quite say why.  This series is a mess, in my humble opinion – right now what I’m seeing plays like a bunch of loosely (and poorly) interconnected vignettes of censored gore and inexplicable dialogue, interspersed with unexplained flashbacks.  Yet somehow, I still feel as if I should care.  Go figure.

As to this episode, it should be said for starters that it looked a whole lot better than the last one.  It was action-driven once again, but the choreography and animation were a whole lot smoother and more imaginative.  But while I won’t go so far as to say it was a lot of sound and fury signifying nothing, just what it did signify is pretty much a mystery.  There were several threads that ran into each other, starting with a flashback to Amon lecturing at the academy to the particular interest of three young students, one of whom was Juuzo (then known as Rei) and the others were Kurona and Nashiro.  There was a third girl, too, but she died sometime between then and now – and it’s already too damn hard just to track the names of the characters that are still alive.

What can we take from this sequence?  Well first, the absolutely excruciating line of dialogue “Can even females become great CCG agents?”.  Certainly, that Rei was pretty much a freak even then.  And from the present, that the two girls have somehow become ghouls – a growing trend of note – and that Juuzo may be the biggest badass on the CCG side of things.  But before we have time to consider all this much the action zips along to more fights – Shinohara taking down Ayato but being unable to finish him, flashing back to his father (who he’s named his Quinque after, after all).  And then Shinohara being taken down by Kaneki, who flashes his new centipede form – which Shinohara refers to as a “Kakuja” as if we’re supposed to know what that means.

Afterwards, Kaneki appears to be dining on Shinohara when Amon walks in on them and the entire building is flooded with CRC gas (which is a kind of asspull plot device that seems to render ghouls weak and impotent – which is the only way I could see Amon beating this Kaneki).  Amon still wants answers from “Eyepatch”, and so do I – but we’re not getting them yet.  It is notable that when the gas kicks in, Kaneki loses his bloodlust and starts crying (maybe it’s Amon’s face).  There’s other stuff happening too – facedowns between characters we’ve barely met with big-name seiyuu.  But the big moment comes when the One-eyed Owl finally makes his appearance, and he doesn’t disappoint – he’s an order of magnitude larger than any ghoul we’ve seen so far, and he grasps Kaneki and Ayato in his talons like Frodo and Sam and takes off (though, I suspect, not for Rivendell).

All of this is, in short, a mess.  It’s an interesting mess, but unless this story stops expanding and starts coalescing around what it really cares to be about, it’s hard to see the rest of this season amounting to anything of real consequence.  There are just too many characters, too many plot twists, too much that’s left unexplained – I need Tokyo Ghoul to show me what it cares about before it’s worth my while to do the same.  As well, both the Ghoul and CCG sides have become so thoroughly unlikable that it’s hard to feel anything for either – a sad turnaround from where we were halfway through the first season.  Right now there’s way too much “what” (and who) and not nearly enough “why” – and until that changes, I just don’t see how this show can right the ship.

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  1. S

    Are the One-Eyed-Owl and the One-Eyed-King two different people? That's something that's been bothering me since last season.

  2. A

    You can speculate on that, because it remained unanswered in the manga up to the point that the anime has covered. (if I remember correctly there was one scene in episode 3 or 2 of this season which had two investigators wonder the same thing).

  3. r

    Thanks for this review Enzo. Particularly incongruous and disappointing for me was Kaneki bursting into tears. As you have said in previews reviews, we are left in the blind re: his reasons for joining Aogiri. But it did seem as a reasoned decision somehow, right? And crying in front of Amon looked like admitting he cannot control and regrets what he's been up to lately – definitely he seemed out of control when fighting and devouring Shinohara. So it's really hard to make sense of what's eating him (no pun intended). As for the guy he was fighting last week… another MIA. And the overall lack of coherence makes all those displays of sadistic cruelty all the more meaningless and annoying. Like you, I'm still in, but can't tell for how long…

  4. d

    Like you, Enzo, I was an anime watcher-only up to the end of the first season. I was intrigued enough to go and check out the manga, as I heard root A would be taking a different spin on what would happen, and figured that I might appreciate it more if I had caught up with the source-material. The first season, and the first few episodes of root A, in my opinion, while they've cut down some details, I think have done a relatively good job in condensing and leaving in the important bits while remaining coherent; I at least could follow what was happening in the first season quite well. The last two episodes, like many others, I've taken issue with, however.

    While Kaneki joining Aogiri instead of staying with Anteiku is indeed a difference from the manga, I'm conflicted with the fact that it more or less attempts to be telling the same story with very similar events that happens in the source material – the sequence of character reveals, story events, and where it's all is heading all appear to be more or less identical, with small differing details (I have a funny feeling that they're going to want to segue into Tokyo Ghoul: Re down the road with this). Taking real creative liberty here looks less and less like it's going to be anything meaningful in how it wants to tell its story, so on that front I'm disappointed thus far.

    As for the general confusion and rapid sequence of events, I must agree with many of the naysayers, that before all of these events in the manga, there was usually more than sufficient foreshadowing and proper build-up to what was happening – the ghoul that Kaneki fought last episode being a huge example.

    As for the quality of the story and characters themselves, and if you "should care" let me indulge and say that you totally should; Kaneki Ken is a character with fascinating development, and I was pleasantly surprised, in the end, that most of the characters (newer included) are not quite to be taken at face-value. The source material is definitely strong enough to check out, and until the last couple epsiodes, I thought the anime adaption was doing good by it. Hopefully it finds its bearings again, because I find the overall competence of the anime to be much greater when its taking it slow.

  5. F

    He didn't stay with Anteiku in the manga either

  6. I thought long and hard about whether to delete this comment, because TG particularly creates a difficult situation with the way it's handling this season. In the end I think your post does give away a major manga development, which to me is unfair to those who (like me, alas) haven't read that far in the manga. So I am deleting it in part, but here's the rest:

    There'll be some minor spoilers for the manga here (I'll keep it vague.)

    Just to clear up what has hitherto been a misconception to a lot of anime-only viewers, this season of the anime is still following the main manga plotline. Most of the major scenes in the anime were adapted directly from the manga, and the pacing is just as breakneck bad as it was in the latter third of the first season, which is where all the "Who is this character?" and "What the fuck is going on?" questions are coming from this season.

    The only real difference is [redacted] In the manga, Kaneki's change was very pronounced, in line with the Metamorphosis parallels Ishida-sensei has been drawing since the beginning of the manga. The anime tries to show that with the Kanekipede scene but… while it's certainly not a bad scene (quite the opposite), it isn't as good as the manga portrayed it, especially with how Kaneki treated everyone around him with suspicion and saw violence as the first course of action. Anime Kaneki just pales in comparison.

    With how closely they're following the manga, it looks like they're moving towards the same endgame… [redacted] So far, I think the anime is touching on all the necessary scenes to get to that endgame, but the pacing still suffers for it, and I dunno whether there'll be a payoff or not because Ishida will have to radically modify the ending to have it be conclusive. It's not completely out of the question though. He still has half the season to do it and with this pacing it's possible.

    Wish they didn't rush the production for this season. That, and not giving the show enough episodes, pretty much dooms the show to being entertaining and not much more.

    I'm not sure if they're gonna bother explaining what Kakuja is in the anime, but it's explained in that same scene in the manga so:

  7. s

    with each episode, it sort of becomes more and more likely that maybe this original route was the rough draft for the tokyo ghoul manga. It seems to me that shida originally planned for kaneki to be more stoic as to illustrate exactly what the torture took away from him (before deciding that it would be better to still have him dialogue as much as he did before his transformation) and create a disconnect with the audience; but until i see further eps, this disconnect is not adding much to the story. i think it is a neat idea, but it does not seem to be getting executed right in the grander scheme of things and so as a series that is supposed to be a lil bit more character driven than plot, it's not having the impact it's supposed to have. This is why i ultimately believe that ishida eventually went in and changed some things up in his original draft which ultimately became the tokyo ghoul manga.

    As for the other parts of the anime, i agree its a mess, but its a more coherent mess than some shows and definitely has good direction. it's just a shame that it's so jam packed with characters that arguably could be taken out of the story and not affect anything whatsoever because they just arent interesting enough. Either that or they arent made interesting enough.

  8. v

    It feels like someone took the manga, ripped all the pages apart and is now haphazardly reassembling them while adding some "extra" pages here and there. This ship is slowly sinking but I hope they plug the holes and steer it into safe waters.

  9. G

    The CCG is full of idiots…

    First of all Rei/Juuzo is seriously not playing with a full deck. How can they even let a messed up guy like that be an investigator?

    Then Shinohana got what was coming to him for being stupid. He has Ayato down and stands their waiting until he gets back up. These guys entered the facility and killed dozens of innocent guards. He should have chopped Ayato up into little pieces before he got up. Once he said "Oh good I get to go home to my family" I knew he was not gonna make it to the end of the episode.

    Then Amon walks in and Kaneki is eatting his friend. He cuts his ghoul appendages off and Owl runs in and saves him? First thing he should have cut off was Kaneki's head. No wonder the CCG is losing the battle against the Ghouls.

  10. d

    It's showing Shinohara and Amon as having moments of compassion for – yes – ghouls. Shinohara because he saw the helpless gaze of a child. Amon because he remembered the tearful remorse of "eyepatch", whom spared his life. They're obviously individuals who have hardened their hearts for such tasks, but obviously don't often experience these conflicting emotions. While they indeed lacked the ruthlessness to make those immediate kills, it also humanized them in a way that I think members of the CCG have definitely needed up till now.

    As for Juuzo, well, it's pretty much the CCG's policy to use any tools available to them to further their goal. They fight dirty, and understandably so – ghouls are much stronger from a physical standpoint, so we must always remember Mado Kureo's advice: "wiliness". So long as Juuzo doesn't pose a danger to his fellow investigators, they're fully willing to use his abilities to their own ends.

  11. G

    I'm not a manga reader so I don't know whats going on there but Juuzo looks like he could turn on a fellow CCG at a moments notice.

  12. Can someone answer this without manga spoiling: why didn't the guards turn the asspull gas attack on right after Aogiri showed up instead of waiting until all the guards were dead and half the prisoners were freed?

    Or perhaps it's just a plothole…

  13. p

    Pretty much, manga is not going to help here as it's an anime only plot.

  14. F

    Let's just say the first thing Aogiri did was take over the control center (and probably left a few ghouls to watch over it), but then in comes CCG taking out said guards and turning on the gas. It makes really good sense for them to have a gas to disable ghouls in an all ghoul prison after all.

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