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Tokyo Ghoul Root A – 09 »« Tokyo Ghoul Root A – 07

Tokyo Ghoul Root A – 08

「旧九」 (Kuzen)
“Kuzen”

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.

February 27, 2015 at 6:15 am
12 comments »
  • February 27, 2015 at 7:07 amvladrin

    Totally agree.

    This is the Tokyo Ghoul I loved and was anticipating a second season for. Not the embarrassing and self-destructive approach followed in the first half.

    Problem though is that the effect has already been done. Feels like these two episodes are a bit too little too late. Even though they are not a too little, they are certainly too late.

    They say you don’t get a second chance for a first impression. Problem I think most viewers did give the second season a shot and tolerated far too much to what appeared an exhausting experience in the first 6 episodes. Anyway, hopefully I will get at least partially satisfied by the end as the Tokyo Ghoul deserves far more than what was delivered in the first half of the season.

    • March 1, 2015 at 4:51 amTresBien!

      Feels like these two episodes are a bit too little too late.

      These 2 episodes are also the closest to the manga.

  • February 27, 2015 at 8:00 amHunter-Wolf

    Very interesting and insightful episode, Yoshimura has been one of my fav characters in the show since season one (despite not showing his fighting prowess or background story), maybe because if i was in his place i would have done the same as he did, i wonder what could have happened if Yoshimura dropped the act and tried to talk to Shinohara about ghouls and what Antiku really is, maybe things could have worked out differently, but alas .. too late for that now, the arrow has been loosed and there is no stopping it.

    Also, is it me or doesn’t Tokyo Ghoul Root A has some of the best insert songs this season (if not the best i ever heard in a long time), it’s OST seems to be on par with Aldnoah Zero and a very close contender to best OST this season.

  • February 27, 2015 at 10:00 amMgMaster

    Oh man, talk about tense! I was constantly on the edge of ever since Shinohara entered Anteiku & had that little insightful chat with Yoshimura, waiting for shit to go down(I’m actually surprised it didn’t start this episode). Touka & Hinami are so not gonna take this well, and who can blame them? Way to go Tokyo Ghoul for focusing on the Anteiku crew this & the previous episode, reminding us what a nice, cozy & peaceful place it is – something very-much needed to ghouls who want to live like humans.

    Early R.I.P. Anteiku, it was so much more than a great coffee shop.

  • February 27, 2015 at 4:14 pmJuan

    As mentioned there are actually 2 Owls, but the one the CCG really wants is the One Eyed Owl. They only tracked down Yoshimura because of the rescue of Ken. It wasn’t touched on too much in the adaptation but in the manga there were a lot of mentions of the “Owl” seeming to be different from the infamous one

  • February 27, 2015 at 7:08 pmCorin

    In context, the manga version of Yoshimura’s backstory outright showed Ukina forcing herself to down human meat.

    I’m kind of actually getting the impression that action scenes are this season’s glaring weakness. For all that it’s mostly retracing manga territory, this season does the human aspect scenes fairly well – although I still cringe at them taking Mr. Gourmet’s flamboyance and dialing it up to over 11 – but fails miserably at properly directing action sequences

  • February 28, 2015 at 9:40 amDubious

    I can see why they made the “miracle” so ambiguous that (judging by the various comments I’ve seen) quite a few people weren’t able to figure out what it really meant. So the nice girl who supposedly humanized our friend takes up eating human meat in the name of ghoulish procreation and we’re supposed to feel sorry about the destruction of this idyllic family? That’s a pretty tall order indeed, but no doubt there will be plenty of takers because as we all know, whenever “true love” crowds the room, morality gets pushed out the window.

    • February 28, 2015 at 11:38 amInugirlz

      I think whether we should feel sorry for the family or not depends largely on HOW they came about the human flesh. I mean if it was a dead body already then I don’t see why its wrong. It was a necessity. If Kuzen murdered some innocent person to provide for his wife then that’s a bit twisted.

    • February 28, 2015 at 3:43 pmLightHawk

      I think it’s safe to assume that Kuzen stopped hunting humans and resorted to the current way of feeding (suicide/recently deceased people) once he entered in a relationship with Ukina.

  • February 28, 2015 at 8:05 pmTheVoid

    The organization he worked for was called V, and they actually oppose Aogiri Tree.

  • March 1, 2015 at 6:51 amFrost

    Wow now this episode was good, and how I got bit angry with poor minded Takatsuki divulged her father’s peace nest, and how sad Yoshimura’s past have, and what a tense when Shinohara and Yoshimura met each other and talk about ”coffee bean”. Certainly received back applause and emotions from me compared to what they did past few episode which made me so disappointed and tired.

    Now let the battle begins.

  • March 1, 2015 at 2:45 pmNoragami!

    This show is really exhausting. I can’t tell what it’s trying to accomplish. It is CLEARLY not a satisfactory action series by any means. Hell, I’m in the opinion that SAO is trash but if I could recommend TG which was at least decent versus SAO on an action front, I’d recommend SAO without a thought.

    It is not really a character driven show in my opinion. At this point, the show exhausted any interest in Kaneki, many supporting characters are now basically irrelevant, and no one is even that interesting, save Hide, Yoshimura, Juuzo, and author girl.

    Then what are we looking for next? The story? This season is still so confused about whether or not it wants us to delve into Kaneki’s psyche or explore the human aspect that it nearly abandoned for the first six episodes. The coffee bean scene was okay, albeit a bit cheesy, but it came far too late. And of course our protagonist is in a non-speaking role, so we don’t see anything past his psyche besides what’s already glaringly obvious.

    *sigh.* I’m sorry — sure, the episode itself was fine, and far better than the beginning of the show, but I think with what has been established and with the context of everything that should have happened, anythin right now is far from a masterpiece (and yes, I’m referring to the episode itself.)