OP: 「asphyxia」by CöshuNie
“Those Who Hunt: START”
“I’m not the protagonist of a novel, or anything. I’m a college student who likes to read, like you can find anywhere. But if for argument’s sake, you were to write a story with me in the lead role, it would certainly be a tragedy…”
Let the curtains rise
What lays behind the mainstream appeal of a popular series like Tokyo Ghoul? If I had to answer that for myself, the series is framed in the quintessential form of a tragedy, and does well to properly explore the genre within a defined medium. I absolutely love the variety of literary inspirations that flow through Tokyo Ghoul’s veins, because it imparts a great deal of figurative beauty that makes it oh so emotionally intense!
Kaneki is a tragic hero, who repeatedly exhibits his fatal flaw, while suffering extreme reversals of fortune. When confronted by hopelessness and despair, he continues relying on solely himself, rather than having faith in his loved ones. But these are merely the hallmarks of a Greek tragedy. In actuality, Kaneki’s predicaments go far beyond such a scope. Exhibiting introspective sensitivity atypical of a traditional Japanese protagonist, I would compare his characterisation with that of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark. Both are poetic in philosophising their respective plights, and express every spectrum of emotion mayhem, as they experience excruciating ordeals. From human to ghoul, and ghoul to the death of his ego, the inherent tragedy of Kaneki’s life reverberates powerfully through our conscience. His intense suffering and pain is artistically rendered, and it feels so damn beautiful, despite the sheer terror of it all – even till the very end.
As we start off the sequel, what new dawn is Tokyo Ghoul:re looking to bring? With the curtains rising upon a new spectacle, let us jump in, and have a look at what this fresh premiere sets out to achieve.
Following the time skip, this first episode felt like an induction, looking to establish three things. Firstly, “Sasaki Haise” (Hanae Natsuki), who acts like an alter ego to Ken Kaneki. Secondly, the Quinx Squad that Sasaki leads, where we’re introduced to new individuals like Urie, Shirazu and Mutsuki. Thirdly, an investigative storyline tying the aforementioned together, featuring a serial-murderering Ghoul named “Torso”.
There were enough interactions that allowed us to get a feel for the Quinx Squad. Kuki Urie (Ishikawa Kaito) dislikes how Sasaki is his superior, and has no qualms manipulating his fellow squad mates, to try and accomplish an ulterior goal relating to power. Ginshi Shirazu (Uchida Yuuma) might seem lackadaisical, seeing how he disregards personal safety. But we can see that he desperately needs money, which spurred him into joining Quinx, in spite of the gruesome experimentations his body would undergo. These two won’t hesitate to disobey Sasaki’s orders, if it means coming one step closer to attaining their objectives. Tooru Mutsuki (Fujiwara Natsumi) has a phobia of blood, which greatly impedes their ability to utilise the Qinque, that has been built into all members of the Quinx squad. But unlike the previous two, Mutsuki exhibits a dependency on Sasaki, which helps to vary up the group dynamic. So far, everyone offers distinct and interesting personalities. This makes me curious to see more of their backstory, which would help explain their individual particularities. But until these further developments come, the Quinx Squad will remain as vague and unfamiliar entities that we lack emotional attachment towards, who just so happen to be Sasaki Haise’s subordinates.
Speaking of Sasaki Haise, I believe he’s not a mere placeholder for Kaneki, even if many fans see him as such. He’s an intriguing personality in his own right, who embodies a new twist on core values like loyalty and dedication, while bringing a new set of dilemmas to the table. Regarding the inner conflict between two separate personalities, I’m getting impressions of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. Sasaki is a guise of rationality, while Kaneki is an apparition of unbridled instinct that lies below the surface. To that end, Sasaki wears a mask of stability, binding Kaneki in the shackles of Jason’s torture room, afraid of letting this Ghoul side break free. However, upon facing an overwhelming adversary who threatens the Quinx Squad’s safety, Sasaki begins to lose control. Siphoning power from the corruption within, he seeks to protect his teammates from that which endangers their existence. Looks like it’ll come down to an epic battle between Ghouls, that will highlight Sasaki’s struggle to establish psychological control.
While I expect that many fans would like to see Kaneki return as soon as possible, I’m perfectly content at seeing this inner turmoil play out, and how it will violently tear away at Sasaki’s consciousness. After all, who doesn’t have a morbid fascination, when it comes to seeing Ken Kaneki suffer?
Though the underlying premise remained excellent, largely thanks to Ishida Sui’s genius, the execution by Pierrot did not seem quite so sharp. The first episode was by no means bad, but there were many places that could be improved upon. For example, 12 episodes seems rather short for this particular adaptation, and I think it showed, given how the pacing felt rushed. Although some modern usage of photographic effects were pleasant to the eyes, it was arguably used as a crutch in various scenes, leading to inconsistencies between shot compositions. This was the most prominent when it came to the road blockade scenes, where optical effects like smoke, a shallow depth of field and lighting gradients heavily obscured losses of detail. In short, a few moments were visually cluttered, the cuts between scenes were jarring, and I could only conclude that the editing was subpar.
Incidentally, Shuhei Morita threw in the towel, and will no longer preside over the series with his directorial prowess. In a Reddit AMA, he claimed that both Ishida and himself were on the same page on Root A, but their unified visions were destroyed at the hands of corporate meddling. While I wasn’t a huge fan of the way that Root A concluded, I deeply sympathise with the situation they faced. However, whether Morita would have actually made a difference today is anyone’s guess.
With a new director at the helm, could it be that these issues are simply teething problems? For the sake of Tokyo Ghoul fans all around the world, I’d certainly hope so. Nevertheless, I’ll temper my expectations until I’m given a true cause to be properly excited once again.
ED: 「HALF」by Jooubachi (女王蜂)