「幽囚」 (Yuushuu)
“Captivity”

Is Tokyo Ghoul beginning to develop a reverse Star Trek syndrome?

I’m not quite ready to call it a pattern, but there’s definitely a trend here – the odd-numbered episodes of Tokyo Ghoul tend to be much better than the even-numbered ones (which is of course the opposite of the Star Trek movies – though I’d likewise say it’s not 100% true there either). This is this season’s polar opposite of Barakamon for me – the more the manga readers bitch and complain, the less I care – I like what I see, though there are some pacing and consistency issues which prevent Tokyo Ghoul from being a truly elite series (sadly, this season doesn’t seem to have one of those).

While this episode continued to focus loosely on Hinami’s story – which was the root cause of most of the problems with last week’s episode – the difference in approach was night and day. Rather than wallow in lowest-common-denominator pandering, this was brutal and thought-provoking – rather than to cash in cheap emotional payoffs, the death of Ryouko was used as a trigger to expose the core intellectual and moral dilemma at the heart of a series. And brutal and thought-provoking are two qualities that are definitely part of Tokyo Ghoul’s best side.

Fundamentally, Tokyo Ghoul seems to be thematically coalescing around the disconnect between the viewpoints of the Doves and the Ghouls. How is it possible, one might rightly ask, for the inspectors to seem so decent and compassionate – they worry for each other and mourn each other – and yet to be so thoroughly removed from any feelings towards the ghouls they kill? So much so that they would kill a mother in front of her child, and then unceremoniously kill the child after if given the chance? The answer seems clear enough – they simply don’t view the ghouls as anything but dangerous animals, like rabid dogs or sewer rats.

This is personified in Mado, of course – I could do without the droopy eye and Scooby Doo villainy, but narratively speaking he does serve his purpose. It’s Amon who actually makes the more troubling figure, because he seems thoroughly decent and normal in every way but is no less impassive when it comes to the ghouls. More than impassive, it seems he and Mado – and the Doves in general – take sadistic pleasure in killing them. To us, who know the ghouls at Anteiku and see Hirnami and Ryouko as a seemingly normal mother and child, this is horrifying, and it naturally casts Mado and Amon as the villains in the story.

The obvious problem, though, is that we’ve seen other ghouls too – Jason and Rize and Tsukiyama – and we know that this is a species that not only needs to eat humans to survive, but has many members who likewise take sadistic pleasure in doing so. While we’ve seen only small windows into the ghoul world, it seems very likely that Yoshimura’s brood are very much the exceptions, and that most Tokyo ghouls – even if they don’t necessarily take pleasure in it – do indeed take human lives in order to survive. What the Doves are doing is a form of self-defense, then, as horrifying as it in the context of the plot.

The natural question this raises for me is whether there’s any detente to be forged here, or whether warfare is the unavoidable state that must exist. When Yoshimura warns Touko not to seek revenge for Ryouko’s death, he does indeed scold her for being so hung up on revenge that she can’t live her life, but the bulk of his concern is a practical one. If Touko goes after the Doves, any hope for peace in the 20th Ward will be shattered and whatever Doves she kills will simply be replaced by new ones. Naturally she seeks revenge anyway, and she takes out one of Mado’s underlings, Kusaba (Taishi Murata), who’s just been shown at his most endearingly human. She’s about to finish off colleague Nakajima (Oguro Kazuhiro) when Amon intervenes – and when Touko proves too much for him, Mado steps in and gives her a good schooling (the timing of their successive arrivals was a bit too convenient, truth be told) – making reference to her as an “Ukaku-type” as he uses her as a learning opportunity for Amon.

The logical progression of the story, of course, would have Ken emerge as the factor that can forge peace between the two species since he’s a sort of bridge between them – perhaps that was even the thinking behind his creation in the first place. We can even see the seeds beginning to be planted here, as he declares both Touko and the Doves to be in the wrong, but also that he won’t stand by and see innocents like Ryouko murdered – with the caveat that he himself won’t kill anyone. Taking receipt of his mask from Uta-san is a symbolic entry into the war for Ken, but he’s obviously going to try and have it both ways – fight without killing, have friends on both sides. His struggle on the personal level seems likely to be a metaphor for the larger struggle to forge a third way for ghouls and humans, in which Ken is likely to be the pivotal figure. I don’t know how much of it we’ll see play out this season, but it has all the hallmarks of a fascinating story to watch.

27 Comments

  1. “When Tsukiyama warns Touko not to seek revenge for Ryouko’s death”
    – It’s Yoshimura.

    “She’s about to finish off colleague Nakajima (Oguro Kazuhiro) when Mado intervenes”
    – Amon intervened.

    “he won’t stand by and see innocents like Ryouka murdered”
    – It’s Ryouko.

    Hanabira.Kage
      1. Here are many pics and some vids, though to be honest (and this is the truth) I didn’t buy anything. I go to Comiket basically as a cultural experience – there’s nothing remotely like it, and it’s always nice to see what’s trending in doujins and what the industry is pushing (though that was incredibly depressing this time). I have bought a couple of doujins over the years, but never at Comiket – at Toranoana or the like.

        http://www.lostinanime.com/2014/08/comiket-86-live-sort-of.html

      2. Since this was my first visit to Comiket and I wanted some official merchandise, I didn’t even check the Eastern wing. My friends did buy lots of Touhou there, though. West was chock-full of Titans, Yowamushi Pedal and the like.

        SingerOfW
  2. It’s great how all the characters acknowledge that what they are doing can easily be considered wrong while also seeing that the humans are also not wrong for wanting them gone. However when personal feelings come into play that’s when a characters maturity comes to light. I thought it was pretty selfish for Touka to try to take revenge on those guys because not only did she kill an innocent person but she risked exposing all the ghouls at the cafe had her mask broken. But i liked what Kankei said. He can understand how Touka felt as well as understanding why the doves aren’t wrong in simply doing their job. However when people close to him get hurt that’s when he feels people aren’t wrong for wanting to do something about it. While this may sound harsh that’s actually how humans typically think. When you see someone die on the news do you rush off to demand the killer be found even though you don’t know them? Of course not. Now compare that to someone close to you dying like a husband or family member. You can bet your reaction is going to change.

    She made her choice and now must take responsibility for it even though she knew it was wrong. Lucky that she had Kankei around to keep her from straying to far off the correct path. It’s a shame he couldn’t do anything during the mother’s fight but in hindsight if he had blindly charged in him and the mothers daughter would have ended up dead. Given that even Touka couldn’t beat the guy him rushing in there wouldn’t have changed a thing. Still can’t wait for him to give that crazy inspector what for.

    Speaking of which Amon……..doesn’t really seem like a bad guy. In fact I’d say he’s an ideal person for this job. Heck even the crazy inspector obviously cares a great deal about him since he’s protected in both fights where he almost died. The two probably share a history together but I think there is more to their relationship that meets the eye. Amon didn’t like the idea of taking a child away from her mother so I don’t think he’s as heartless as his inspector partner. Sure I know that them being uncaring of ghouls makes complete sense for the dirty job they have to do but it’s nice to see Amon showing some development as a villain.

    As you’ve seen from this series Ghouls will blend into society in order to lure humans into a false sense of security. Kankei experienced this first hand. So i don’t think it’s unreasonable for there to be a bit of a gap between treating them as they would normal humans. Because they aren’t. They pose a threat to humans just by being alive. And it’s not like they know that not all ghouls kill people to get their food (like the people at the cafe). Yeah it’s racism but it’s UNDERSTANDABLE racism. We can sympathize with ghouls because we are seeing their side of the story. What do you think humans see? The superficial surface. Ghouls eat people and are evil. That’s all they can see. But for the first time amon saw how messed up his job was when he came across this mother and daughter situation. They genuinely loved each other like normal human beings. Which served to mess with his trained state of mind to only see them as enemies. Hence why he is now determined to change the way things are so no more innocent people have to die.

    We have been looking through the perspective of Ghouls the entire time while little has been shown on why humans hate ghouls. This episode shows why people come to misunderstandings about each race. As you can see an innocent person was killed by a ghoul because she wanted revenge on the mother’s killers. However she took it out on the wrong people (sure he was involved in the case but he wasn’t the one who did the deed) which served to contribute to further hatred people have for ghouls. Ghouls are NOT humans. That’s something we need to simply understand about this society. However that does not mean we cannot sympathize with them like we would normal people. Not all Ghouls are evil but all Ghouls have to eat humans in order to survive. As long as that is the case it is likely that they will never be properly accepted in society.

    I know I’m kind of rambling now but I’d also like to point out how Kaneki’s naive character has contributed greatly to how he see’s the world. Because Kaneki is naive he as seen on many occasions how cruel, evil and manipulating Ghouls can be. This allows him to understand why humans fear ghouls. However upon witnessing the Doves killing the mother he can now see why Touka felt so strongly about taking revenge on them as well as knowing how it feels to not be able to do anything about the situation. Some people get annoyed with this kind of character but I think he fits PERFECTLY in this kind of tale.

    leatherhead333
    1. Honestly speaking, I think that was the intention the author had, Show Spoiler ▼

      MawwQc
    2. That’s a good thing

      I’m glad to see a wide spectrum of characters, even though individually they can seem shallow, taken as a whole against their backrounds, they have more flavor.

      Character/Faction overview

      Dove side:

      Mado’s underlings:
      Some are content to do desk work hah. Goes to show there’s rank and file around. . . In reality desk workers would greatly far more than field agents, as there’s no end to paperwork and non-combat tasks.

      Amon traditional perfect service-man. Physically perfect, good looking and morals. To be envied and overrused. He’s a little boring character wise individually, but serves as a great straight-man foil to Mado.

      Mado:
      Hated by everyone, even his own peers, with few exceptions (Amon being one of them). Ugly, little hesitation or remorse, exemplifying the brutality required to stay alive on the Dov side. If he didn’t, he’d be dead a hundred times over by ghouls willing to take advantage of him. Amon’s colleagues certainly died.

      Both are products of the situation they’re in. Mado’s certainly sadistic, but no more-so than his ghoul equivalent, and half the time it is also so to bait and play mind games with the target to reduce their effectiveness.

      Mado’s not like-able, not for ghouls, not for the viewers, not even other Doves (with exception of his underlings– because he keeps them alive, trains them and doesn’t berate them). Mado’s a villain to everyone, but a professional one and does his job right. I hated him, but I can respect his position. He’s doing his job correctly.

      Ghoul side:

      Superghouls:
      “Binge Eater” “Gourmet”, Jason, Overpowered ghouls beyond normal threats up the Ante and danger level for everyone by increasing militarized response. Jason’s the only obvious villain here

      Generic Ghouls:
      Consider humans food. They’re the rabid animals and threat that enable Doves to be justified.

      Anteiku / ‘Peaceful types’:
      Ghouls stay out of the limelight for survival. Unknown number due to nature their survival strategy.

      All their roles are more dynamic when contrasted against each other. What would be more stock cartoon villainy and heroism is mucked about by the situation and rivalry jeopardizing their very survival.

      Drasca
      1. Here’s a little something they left out:

        There are two kinds of employees at CCG; the investigators and the regular employees. The former join after being trained at CCG’s academy. As such, they are allowed to use Quinques and get higher pay, in addition to generally being better in combat. The latter can only use Q-Bullets and well, just don’t have as much prestige as the investigators. They’re basically your run-of-the-mill mooks. That’s why they generally content with a desk job; it’s not like they get paid a lot, and they don’t get promoted anywhere near as quickly in spite of facing the same level of danger when out in the field.

        Hanabira.Kage
  3. I wouldn’t say that all manga readers are complaining. Some of those who followed manga back from beginning of serialization actually think that rather than compressing and rushing, anime just throws out some moments that weren’t worth showing (and some that created plot-holes), and strengthens overall plot instead.
    I am not faithful follower of manga, though I’ve read most of the stuff that was scanlated, and like it very much (and yeah Gourmet Arc was incredibly boring in manga so I can’t blame anime for changing some stuff), but I don’t agree with most of negative feedback that anime gets. To me it does not fell rushed (rather than that last few episodes are actually fairly slow), nor I am disappointed with those cuts. So I think that the fact that you keep enjoying anime despite complaining doesn’t seem strange at all. Don’t mind them.

    Kirk Lazarus
  4. I know there are both good and bad people amongst the ghoul and human side, but what Touka said really hits home hard. When someone innocent gets killed without having done anything wrong, it really makes me angry. With that, I’m pretty sure Mado has some sort of tragic back story, but as of now I hate his guts.

    bakakubi
    1. Yeah, but Yoshimura also makes sense.

      Even if Touka feeling as she did was completely understandable (most people would if in the same position), she shouldn’t be going out acting impulsively and with no motivation besides vengeance (especially murderous vengeance like she displayed). Otherwise, she could potentially make things worse not just for Hinami, but for herself and everyone else in the 20th Ward, if not all of the Ghouls in the city, innocent and guilty. And since she still went out and did such things despite being warned about the possible consequences, she should be held responsible for her own actions and not coddled and protected as if she were just a child like Hinami.

      It’s not like Yoshimura was warning against her taking action because he was afraid (like Touka could’ve possibly been thinking in her angry haze), but rather he (and the others) was keeping calm, despite his sadness and own possible anger, and thinking of the bigger picture.

      HalfDemonInuyasha
  5. I have said this before but I will say this again. As a person who read every chapter of manga out right now in Japan, the changes make sense to me. Simply put, the author was a lot more inexperienced 150+ chapters back and the story wasn’t totally flushed out. Pacing and continuity improved as manga progressed. There were logic flaws and important characters that just suddenly appeared out of no where in the first 60 chapters making it kind of confusing at times.

    It almost feels like the author requested certain things changed.

    I am sad though about certain cuts. In particular, some of the cuts that I think they could have naturally fitted in without wasting time. One of those cuts was a line in the first chapter where Kaneki thought while he was in his hospital bed that he doesn’t make a good protagonist in a novel, but if he is to be a protagonist, that book would surely be a tragedy.

    That line, beautiful aside, is very telling imo. Now I am not saying the story will end in tragedy, but tragedies drive the whole story as you may already notice.

    In terms of pacing, I will judge when I can do a rematch with all episodes out and with the crazy censors gone. I also want to see definite green light for season 2.

    Ori
  6. I’ve lost all faith in humanity after I watched this episode and then saw a Japanese kid on the street flailing a toy snake around and shouting “Hebi Quinque!”. Damn, kid, who lets you watch this stuff?

    SingerOfW
  7. “a truly elite series (sadly, this season doesn’t seem to have one of those)”

    Say what?

    Aldnoah Zero had a mediocre first episode, but all the rest has been awesome. It’s already is my top 5 this year.

    Swoard Art Online 2 is also pretty good. Actually, it may be even better than the first season.

    André
  8. I’m not sure if this has been brought up before, I haven’t been reading these Tokyo Ghoul posts as i’ve just gotten around to watching them (love it so far…) but does Amon have a super secret that he’s kept even from Mr. Odd Eye(Mado)? I’ve seen this in the intro a few times and i hope they didn’t make a subtle spoiler…

    http://imgur.com/SoietkO

    Synic
  9. I found myself almost yelling “Fucking to something! Anything! Besides just fucking standing there and watching Ryouko get killed”. But of course…..Ken did nothing. Pissed me off actually. Like I said be4…..he has potential but is so freaking scared to fight for some strange reason.

    M.I.L.K

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