This may not have been the perfect episode of Tokyo Ghoul, but I think it came at the perfect time. Frankly “Root A” has been all over the place – scattershot, utterly confusing, uneven and sloppy. Sometimes it’s been exhilarating and sometimes just exhausting, but to have an episode where I actually knew what was going on and who the characters were most of the time was a welcome break. And the fact that it was a good episode in itself was the icing on the cake.
It was also nice to have an episode where we had characters come off as relatively sympathetic for a change. There hasn’t been a whole lot of rooting interest on either side this season, and that’s a problem – what should be a tragic cycle of despair between humans and ghouls has felt more like “a pox on both their houses”. There’s still a fundamental problem when Kaneki has become a minor supporting character, and while there’s no sign of that changing we can at least see that he’s tormented by what’s happening to him. But some of the characters who should theoretically be filling the vacuum Ken’s absence leaves behind finally got some fleshing out, and it couldn’t have come a minute too soon.
We start with Juuzo and Shinohara. The latter is not in Ken’s stomach after all – it was his Quinque that he was eating last week – and it’s for the best, because Shinohara is probably the most genuinely likeable (and normal) character on the CCG side. And the history between he and Juuzo that was shown this week only adds to that. Juuzo is a twisted and depraved individual, no doubt, and his existence one of the mysteries of the series – he really seemed half-ghoul, half-human. Now we know the reason – he was a captive of “Big Madam“and that twisted circus we saw a bit of in the first season, forced to kill humans for his mistress’ sick gratification and tortured and maimed for his troubles. It explains a lot (theory: might Madam A actually be Okada Mari?).
Shinohara is right, of course – Juuzo is a victim here, but that doesn’t diminish just how sadistic and dangerous he is now (I was really worried for that cat). Shinohara’s continued compassion for Juuzo in spite of that is one of the more emotionally impactful things in this season, as is Juuzo’s recognizably human affection for Shinohara (indeed, the moment when Juuzo darted around Shinohara to walk on his right was quietly one of the best of the season). I know there was more gory detail to the manga version of Juuzo’s tragic history that we didn’t see, but I’m fan with that – this was plenty appalling enough, and it makes Juuzo considerably more sympathetic no matter how depraved he is (and I certainly didn’t need to actually see Big Madam literally do to Juuzo what anime has been symbolically doing to male characters for the past several years…).
Frankly, I would have liked much more time with Juuzo and Shinohara and less spent on Amon, Akira and Takizawa’s dinner date. But that part was fine, too (I’ll still take Mori Kaoru when it comes to drawing angry Persian cats, though), and these were characters who definitely needed a little humanizing. This was mostly played for comedy, though not ineffectively. You had to know things were going to get interesting when Akira accepted Amon’s invitation to the kushikatsu restaurant for dinner and did they ever – once the beer (and mojitos) started flowing, so did the honesty. Takizawa’s inebriation predictably stayed well-within his character’s butt-monkey comfort zone, but once he’d gone back to the office things got rather more interesting with Akira.
I still feel nothing for Amon, really – while I don’t think he’s evil or anything, I just find him to be kind of an idiot. Despite (or perhaps because of) that, I rather enjoyed watching him squirm as Akira vented her bile first figuratively and then almost literally. She was out of bounds blaming him for her father’s death of course (he blames himself plenty anyway) but it was nice to see some vulnerability from her. And Amon’s self-flagellation ritual of doing 7890 push-ups was predictably insipid. All in all it was a welcome change-of-pace, but it looks as if we’re headed right back into the insanity again, as CCG is planning another “final” assault against Aogiri Tree and the One-Eyed Owl. I don’t think Tokyo Ghoul is at its best as a flat-out war story – it’s better when it digs into the reasons behind the war, and what it does to the principals involved. Hopefully that won’t be forgotten as the action kicks in again.