Tokyo Ghoul √A – 08

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Honestly, between the first and second halves of this season of Tokyo Ghoul √A, it’s almost hard to believe it’s the same series.

Watching Tokyo Ghoul this season has certainly been an odd experience.  The first half of the season was almost like a band releasing an album of B-sides – you could tell who they were, but the material obviously wasn’t good enough to release as a single.  Or seeing a veteran band in concert do nothing but play stuff off the new album – which isn’t that great – and then come back after the intermission and start playing their classic material.

Well, I’ve been in that latter situation more than a few times, and I can tell you that what you remember isn’t the first half of the concert, but how pumped up you were for the second. And now that Tokyo Ghoul has found its stride to an almost miraculous degree, the frustrations of the first half of the season are quickly fading into memory.  That doesn’t mean I’m not worried about a relapse (believe me I am) but if this is the sort of material we get in the last four episodes, I’ll certainly call Tokyo Ghoul √A a success.

The formula for that success has been astonishingly simple: focus on existing characters rather than cascade new ones.  Focus on the characters whose arcs have real weight.  And actually start explaining what’s going on.  In the process, Tokyo Ghoul has once again taken on something of the air of tragedy it had in the first season – a story of fundamentally good people caught in a no-win situation and headed for disaster.  Most of the time that was mainly Kaneki, but while he’s very much connected to what happened this week, the focus was squarely on Yoshimura – and that’s a welcome development.

It’s no exaggeration to say we’ve been waiting on Yoshimura’s backstory since the very first episode of Tokyo Ghoul, and in the event it’s not too different than I imagined it.  I’d long suspected that he was The Owl, but apparently there are two “Owls” – Yoshimura and his child, the One-eyed Owl.  Yoshimura recounts his story to Kaneki over (naturally) coffee, and speaks of a young man named Kuzen – a ghoul of terrible power who killed both humans and his own kind, and was eventually recruited into a powerful ghoul gang (an early Aogiri Tree?).  But even in the group, he was always alone – that is, until a young waitress at a coffee shop managed to get past his defenses and reach his heart.

This is a tragic story pretty much from the beginning, though Kuzen and the girl named Ukina (Kotobuki Minako) were certainly in love.  They conceived a child, but apparently a “miracle” is required for a child conceived between ghoul father and human mother to be born.  What that miracle is exactly isn’t clear, but it’s strongly insinuated that it means Ukina has to mimic ghoul feeding behavior for the child inside her to survive.  And survive it does, but sadly Ukina’s life is lost not long after the child is born – she’s murdered by what I assume to be members of Kuzen’s old gang.  Kuzen saves the child, but it seems that child (whose gender is never stated, but who has the same green hair color as the crazy author Takatsuki, who’s stirring up trouble for Anteiku with Shinohara) is going to grow up to be just as violent as its father was in his youth.  And it’s the pain of this ordeal that drives Kuzen to become The Owl in the first place.

All of this is set off against a series of marvelously atmospheric and melancholy scenes at Anteiku: a busy day with a shop full of customers, Touka and her friend talking about dreams of the future, a light snow falling from a windless sky.  This is clearly the calm before the storm, and it’s clear from Yoshimura’s contemplative mood that he’s soaking in these peaceful moments because he knows they’re about to end.  He’s sending Touka and Hinami away on the pretense that the shop is going to be remodeled, but the truth is obvious – he knows the CCG is onto him, and he’s preparing for the battle that’s to come.

Once again, I find the scene featuring Yoshimura and Shinohara especially powerful.  This time Shinohara stops by late (perhaps even after closing) and Yoshimura joins him for a cup of coffee and a chat about coffee that’s not really about coffee.  The real tragedy of the situation is stark here – these are both decent and sober men, neither of whom seems to bear any ill will towards the other, yet they’re both caught up in an unavoidable path to bloodshed.  The past is a powerful thing, not easily forgotten or forgiven, but what Yoshimura engineered for the 20th Ward certainly seems better than any alternative we’ve seen so far.  That fragile peace seems to be at an end, though – there’s simply too much entrenched malice on both sides for it to stand.

Just what Ken’s role in the coming battle will be isn’t yet clear, but the tone of the episode suggests it’s one The Owl isn’t likely to survive.  That leads me to think Ken’s eventual destiny is to step into Yoshimura’s place as the protector of those at Anteiku, and possibly as the lonely advocate for coexistence between ghouls and humans.  That task seems a mountain too high for Ken or indeed anyone to climb – even Yoshimura was only able to carve out a small island of stability in an ocean of chaos – but it’s hard to see Tokyo Ghoul going where it needs to go as a story unless Ken takes that task on his shoulders.

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18 comments

  1. E

    If this is the final showdown, then I can't help but wonder why they went through the trouble of showing us how they saved Danny Trejo from a top security (complete with ass-pull anti-ghoul gas).

  2. C

    Once again another episode of TG without Kaneki. S1: Focused on Kaneki's development and rushed everything else to get to his character-defining moment. S2: Unceremoniously drops him when he is at his most interesting, in order to rush everything towards the first manga's finale, which will be incredibly anti-climactic and will lose all its weight given how he has more screentime in the opening than in the show itself.

  3. s

    honestly if it wasnt for Shuhei Morita's pristine directing of this show, a lot of these developments would have fell flat. The series composition this season is really weak. it just makes me wish that this season was more like the latest 3 eps we've just watched.

  4. l

    I don't think Morita quite has that much of an impact, if at all on any of this season's episodes. Morita is involved with the planning and structure of the season but beyond that, each episode is dictated by the episode director, particularly with Root A as every episode is directed and storyboarded by the same person, and it shows with how lackluster they've been. Morita has yet to direct a single episode this season in contrast to the 2 episodes he did from last season which were both fantastic. I just hope he directs one episode, preferably the final episode of the season with Kazuhiro Miwa as the animation director lest we get 12 sub par directed episodes. If he had a bigger impact on the series as a whole then we could have had a much better series. Beyond everything that has been taken out, what hurts the series most is how uninspired it feels. Morita works well when he has full control of an episode as he has shown in his previous OVA shorts and the individual Toyko Ghoul episodes he has directed but not much beyond that. A more talented overall staff under Morita could have worked wonders but we'll never know what could have been.

  5. s

    still morita is the overall director and it shows regardless of whether he doesnt have full control (which i wish he did like he had on ep 12 of season 1 in which he directed from the ground up). Although i probably should have rephrased that to saying that if it wasnt for Morita's overall input, these season's eps would be flatter than usual. He may not have full reign but he does put the pieces together at the end of the day. It's not like with Space dandy where he is just a general director. In this particular relationship while episode directors get to have their creative input be the basis of how the episode plays out, the director is the one the has the last call as to what the person truly does. Speaking of which, where did you get the episode staff information? I kinda want to see for myself

  6. G

    Such a good episode, it really reminded me why I loved the first season so much even with all its flaws and what was missing from the first few episodes.

    Even though the whole final scene at the café at the end was amazing and pretty much made me cry from the sheer amount of emotions it showed while saying so little, my favorite little detail was the few last seconds of that scene where you see Yoshimura's looking out the window with his eye "open" in "Ghoul mode", it really shows something intense is about to go down and I can't wait for the next episode.

  7. p

    The last 2 episodes have also been pretty faithful to manga. I think that accounts for a part of the improvement. And well they pretty much packed ~57 chapters in the first 7 episodes. They tried changing the story so that it would still make a semblance of sense but they failed miserably. And it's a shame because that stretch of the manga is probably my favourite part. Now they had only 20 chapters left so they could slow the story down a bit.

    Not really a big fan of most of things that are to come but maybe we will see some bits of good action ? TBH Root has been awfully disappointing on that front too compared to S1 so I'm not holding my breath.

  8. G

    There will never be any kind of a bridge between humans and ghouls unless ghouls learn to survive without eatting humans. Same situation (mostly) in Parasyte.

  9. s

    keep in mind that this is supposedly ishida sui's rough draft of the second half of tokyo ghoul so things are going to be different from what ultimately became the final product in the manga. initially this was what ishida planned for ukina

  10. R

    This really is a lot better than the bombast that we have seen, and I have always find Yoshimura the more interesting one — calm but somehow carrying the weight of a mysterious past. I'm fearing that he's gonna die soon, and that's quite a tragic end to a heroic "person" who has crafted out a peaceful space for humans and ghouls to co-exist. His last line talking to Ukina about his wish not coming true pulled my heartstrings a little.

  11. O

    ^ This anime has almost nothing to do with Ishida's draft at all. It's just a fraud. They showed pages from Ishida's draft in the CM and the second PV – the story progression was completely different. For example, Ishida's Cochlea arc was different and shorter.

    This isn't the original way Ishida planned the manga to play out. Ishida created the draft specifically for the anime in mid-July last year. And his draft isn't really "rough". It only seems to be rough in the sense that the drawings are pretty simple. But when I look at the pages from Ishida's draft in the CM and the second PV, I have to conclude that Ishida had worked out the story completely. All scenes from beginning to end. I think you can easily read his draft like a manga (minus the usual drawing quality). He drafted fighting choreography, or he even redrafted scenes from the manga just because in this version of events some additional characters were in these scenes (who weren't really that relevant for what happened in that scene). Also, the draft's route and the manga's route seem to be of similar length.

    This is where the scriptwriter/series composer comes in, and what he apparently did is just utter incompetence. He didn't turn Ishida's draft straight into an anime version, he didn't even try. He began to rearrange scenes, cut scenes, add scenes and change the people in scenes (Kaneki and Tatara were victims of these changes) to make the story better™. I don't know why he did that, but I guess he tried to give each episode some sort of theme – that's at least the impression I get from the way the anime is now playing out. But his reasoning doesn't really matter. In the end, the scriptwriter completely threw Ishida's scenario out of the window after episode 2. The scriptwriter "merged" the draft's second arc into the Cochlea raid. He threw Ishida's Cochlea scenario away and wrote his own, more grand scenario. Not only had his new scenario a lot of logical flaws, he also just badly copy-pasted the fights (in contrast, Ishida seems to have completely redrafted all fights in his draft to make them fit the situation). Furthermore, he deleted the build-up to Ishida's second arc without replacement. And after the Cochlea raid, he started to roughly trace the manga's transition to the manga's final arc. Result: Kaneki, Tsukiyama and Banjou have been completely sidelined and the story turned into gibberish.
    The scriptwriter killed the story as a whole. Morita also utterly failed in supervising the writing of the screenplays. (I'm giving Morita the benefit of the doubt that he didn't have an active hand in this "improvement" of the story.)

    I feel really sorry for Ishida-sensei. He went to the trouble of writing a draft specifically for the anime, and then the scriptwriter throws it away and replaces it with his own bad imitation of Ishida's story. Now people will assume that this was his story, even though there's hardly any resemblance at all and it's really just a runaway scriptwriter's failed attempt at a story.

    I really want to read Ishida's full draft, though. I've no doubt that it's a great read.

  12. C

    Banjou… yeah all the people who didn't read the manga will go who?

  13. s

    where is your source regarding sui ishida's original manga draft? id like to look into it myself

  14. s

    and while it hasnt been truly confirmed if this is truly ishida sui's original draft (hence the "supposedly" in my original comment) it has been stated that he's more involved in this season of tokyo ghoul than the last. The extent of which is still unclear though. I remember seeing that pv of manga panels and they were more from the original manga themselves. That pv, from what it seems (although i could be mistaken) was more of an advertisement to volume 14 of the manga rather than shots of his original draft. That seems to be the case to me. But as i have stated before, the script writing and series composition this season has not been tight at all. The show is coming around though under a great director (whose hands in my opinion are obviously tied) regardless of the staff he is working with.

  15. O

    I believe Ishida's involvement was roughly the same in both seasons. He made the draft, but that's where his involvement seems to end.

    "Not tight" is quite the understatement. I'm worried that this scriptwriter didn't stop "improving" the story in the last arc, too. I fear that he'll somehow try to fix up the skipped developments by adding/changing scenes.

    Ishida commented on the new season in a Young Jump issue 06-07/2015 in an ad for the anime (it's the issue with :re's 12th chapter).
    "7月の中旬に、 アニメ用のネームを切っていたのを思い出します"
    "I remember that I made the draft for the anime in mid-July."
    He also wrote in the acknowledgements:
    "無茶な提案を、ギリギリまで聞き入れて下さる森田監督"
    "Director Morita, who does me the favor of complying with [my] unreasonable proposal to the limit."
    That means that the anime's deviation was originally Ishida's idea. But I think he didn't expect that the anime would hardly follow his draft at all.

    As for pages from the draft:
    PV2: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M2DObpz2174
    CM: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=huP8Di1rbS0
    (It's pretty sad that the CM is the only place where Kaneki's reasoning for joining Aogiri is spelled out, too.)
    Translations of the pages in the CM can be found somewhere on the Internet. But these scenes, like almost everything else from the draft, were removed by the scriptwriter, so it doesn't really matter what the characters are talking about, and a manga reader can figure out what's roughly going on even without the text.
    You can compare the pages from Ishida's draft in the second PV and the CM to the anime, there's hardly any relation at all. I think the anime stops following Ishida's draft after Naki was freed. Everything after that is just the scriptwriter doing his own thing.

  16. s

    hmmm; this is some interesting bit of information (by the way, the anime gets into why Kaneki joined aogiri tree and the reason was what we all expected it to be; simple enough).

    Alright so after looking a bit into all this information, this is waht i assumed happened: ishida handed the staff his rough draft and advised that they go off of that, but as the rough draft is probably just that, it doesnt come together completely as a coherent story. It's most likely a bunch of bits and pieces of scenes and story progressions that ishida wanted to have but ultimately didnt go through with and as such, there was no real flow to these draft pieces. This lead to (as you have alluded to), the writers trying to fill in the pieces of the story and in doing so, did it in a way that ended in more lackluster results than positive. Perhaps ishida wanted them to tell a different route with his rough draft seeing as how events were different enough in this draft but instead, the writers took the lazy way out and decided to fill in the gaps with manga events; or rather, attempt to adapt the rest of the manga under the guise of an alternate story…which this really isnt. It would have been very interesting to see the writers actually stick to the original plan and tell a different story (as that was what i was looking forward to) with the rough draft pieces instead of adapting the manga in an arguably pointless endeavor.

    Still, that doesnt change that fact that it's possible that the writers are still using certain ideas from the draft and by that logic, Ukina's fate could have been different before ishida decided to flesh it out. Things have definitely been quite weird for tokyo ghoul this season. I guess the reason why there are quite a few fans that feel like ishida is involved in this season is due to how the pacing feels much like Tokyo Ghoul Re: and the large focus on CCG in that one rather than a balance between the two like the original manga.

  17. O

    There aren't writers. It's just one guy who is scripting a TV series for the first time, which is probably exactly the reason why this season's script writing/series composition is failing so miserably.

    At first, I also assumed that Ishida had just made a rough draft, that he only drafted the Cochlea raid and the climax of the second arc and that he left it to the staff to write the transition between the arcs on the basis of the corresponding manga scenes. But when I looked at the published pages from his draft more closely, I came to the conclusion that this isn't the case and that he redrafted the transitions, too. Ishida reused chapters or sometimes single panels from the manga and the layout of these manga panels didn't necessarily completely fit the layout of the scene in the draft, that's true. But you can see that he changed the lines in the reused panels, that he redrafted the transition between chapters when he copied chapters, and that he redrafted some scenes/chapters completely to fit the situation and the transition between scenes. For example, in the draft, the transition goes Takatsuki signing event (Hinami+Kaneki) -> Touka running into Hinami and Kaneki on the bridge (with probably the same result as in the corresponding manga/anime scene). His draft isn't just a random collection of loosely connected scenes. Ishida worked out the transitions between the scenes in his draft. (OK, the transitions are a bit more abrupt than in the manga, but that's mostly because he omitted the scenery panels in his draft that he usually uses for transitions in the manga.) Perhaps there were some smaller hiccups in some transitions, since I haven't seen the whole draft, but considering Ishida's story-telling qualitites and that the overall story progression rather closely matches the manga's, I doubt that it was anything that would've been really problematic for the story. Any cuts because of missing time would've probably been much more damaging.
    The pages in the draft are also numbered, and because of this you can figure out that Ishida's Cochlea raid is about 90 pages long (i.e., it should have been roughly one episode – episode 3, if I had to guess – in a correct 1 cour adaptation). It's actually just a mini-arc in his draft and mostly serves as build-up to the second arc. That's also why the anime is failing so miserably, because the more important arc that actually develops the story – the second arc – was cut without a real replacement.
    Though if we want to discuss the draft in more detail, we should probably take it somewhere else.

    And what I meant why he joined Aogiri to protect his friends. What he's trying to achieve there. It's only spelled out in the CM.

  18. s

    yea im aware that there's only one writer (dont know why i kept spelling "writers"…long night) but yea regardless the fact that at the end of the day, it's a rough draft still causes the problem of disconnect and flow of events and looking at most of the pages closely, that's what i see. Sure ishida had niumerous pages laying out the cochlea arc in and of itself but there's still some discord with that arc and the events that precede/secede it. At the end of the day, we'll never truly know what' what unless the man releases his rough draft or makes a statement in regards to the anime adaptation. Sure we can extrapolate based on the floating pieces of information but the whole situation surrounding it is still too hazy. One thing i personally can say for sure is that this anime adaptation really isnt an alternate retelling. For now, i say we just watch the anime to the end and see what comes of it. When it comes down to it, i like morita's talent as a director and i feel he makes due with what he's thrown at quite well; although i do agree, it's a bit nagging that we couldnt have got better material from this adaptation.

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