I’m left wondering if the things I thought and felt about that episode were what its creators intended.
That certainly lived up to its billing, on the whole. There were elements of this week’s episode-encompassing fight scene that were animated unevenly, but on the whole it was visually excellent – well choreographed and more importantly, parceled out at such a pace as to give the audience a chance to breath and feel. That hasn’t always been the case with Tokyo Ghoul especially this season, but it’s gotten a lot better over the last month.
Big-battle mode isn’t close to being my favorite face of this series, and if this season follows apace (as it looks like it might) that will make two in a row where it’s basically taken over the ending of the season. However, this episode worked very well because Morita-sensei interjected several long patches of silence – no screaming, no fighting, just close-ups of characters starting each other down, or of their faces. This was a battle where what the combatants were thinking was exceptionally important, and I’m glad that wasn’t washed away in flood of non-stop clamor and gore. That’s not to say there wasn’t plenty of all that, but it wasn’t allowed to neutralize what was really important.
Where this gets a little quirky for me, though, is wondering just how Ishida and Morita want me to react to all this intellectually and emotionally. The heavy focus on the CCG for the first half of this season leads me to think I was supposed to come at this episode with divided loyalties, but then you have a scene with a CCG agent ordering an old woman gunned down and a ghoul protecting her… I can say this much – if indeed mixed emotions were intended that intention failed in my case. My heart was squarely with the ghouls here, most obviously Yoshimura. Sure, we’ve seen plenty of ghouls do plenty of terrible things – but not these ghouls. None of these ghouls asked for this fight, and in fact they’ve really been the only characters we’ve seen in the entire series that have been consistently sympathetic. The eventual result of the battle (this phase of it, anyway) has been pretty much a fait accompli from the beginning, but that didn’t make it any easier to watch play out.
That’s especially true, of course, in Yoshimura’s case. Kaneki is the protagonist but if there’s a hero in Tokyo Ghoul, I would argue it’s been him. He’s not only acted with compassion, restraint and wisdom, but he’s been the only one who’s been actively trying the make the world of those around him better, trying to make a real difference. It was pretty obvious the old man was going to die in this fight, but it was still heartbreaking to watch him slowly cut down, scrap of flesh by scrap of flesh. The way his final moments were shot, along with a staggering performance by Sagou Takayuki (especially that tortured breathing), added up to one of the very best sequences of the entire series.
Perhaps surprisingly, it seems as if Koma and Kaya didn’t die, despite both of them being quite prepared to as a fitting punishment for their pre-Anteiku sins. That’s thanks to the intervention of Kaneki, who fails to make it in time to save Yoshimura however. Whether this means Kaneki is officially back on board with Team Anteiku now is unclear, but then – without Anteiku and its spiritual patron, does that team even still exist? I also found it interesting that Touka didn’t get involved in the fight despite rushing to the scene. That’s certainly what Yoshimura (and Koma and Kaya and probably Ken, too) would have wanted, but it took me by surprise. What stopped her – kept her cowering in that alley rather than doing everything she could to save the others, even if she knew the fight was hopeless? Was it simple fear, a respect for Yoshimura’s sacrifice for her benefit – or, as I suspect, something altogether more complicated than that?
As it stands now, it’s Amon who’s confronted Ken (who, as far as I can tell, has refrained from killing any CCG agents in this battle), which makes the most poetical sense. Is it possible that Ken might somehow reach Amon, and ignite that spark of doubt in him that all ghouls are evil (I frankly doubt it)? But the headline here is the fact that despite Yoshimura’s death, Shinohara’s proclamation is effectively a “Mission Accomplished” banner behind George W. Bush, because another Owl has shown up. The “real” Owl, perhaps, but at the very least not the same one – and while many questions remain about this particular Owl, it’s easy to make some educated guesses based on the clues we’ve been given. At the very least, the revelation that Yoshimura asked Kaneki to “save my child” can hardly have been inserted where it was coincidentally…