Review: Tokyo Ghoul:re

When Tokyo Ghoul:re (TG:re) was confirmed, I was elated. Tokyo Ghoul was an anime I stumbled upon by chance somewhere in 2016. Something about the concept and particularly about Kaneki drew me quickly into the series. I binged the first two seasons and went immediately on Google, only to find a rumored but unconfirmed season three. Rumors turned into confirmation and then to a release date, and as you can imagine, by the first episode of season three I was on Funimation, popcorn at the ready. Although TG:re was ultimately not quite as good as I hoped, I’m nevertheless excited for part two in October.

**Some spoilers ahead – most will be within the first few episodes, or will be vague if from later episodes**

The Quinx Squad
The members of the Quinx Squad, off duty.

TG:re opens the season by introducing a new group of main characters, known as the Quinx squad. Quinx are the Commission of Counter Ghoul’s (CCG) newest weapon, half-human, half-ghoul hybrids. They are led by a mysterious Haise Sasaki. At first, we don’t know much about the Quinx members—why they want to fight ghouls, why they consented to being part of the Quinx experiment, etc. We are better introduced to some members in this portion of the season, and I suspect will learn more about the remaining members in part two.

And at first I was confused because Kaneki didn’t seem to be present in the series, despite being the star of the last two seasons; this confusion is resolved by a reveal at the end of episode one. Haise Sasaki is not a normal Quinx; he is, in fact, Ken Kaneki. Though the full circumstances of how he wound up as Haise are unclear, TG:re shows glimpses into how we got from Kaneki holding Hide in surrender to the CCG to Haise as leader of the Quinx squad, fighting the most dangerous ghouls as part of the CCG.

Haise, haunted by Kaneki.
Haise and Kaneki’s mental fight begins.

Looking at the season overall, I did have a few bones to pick with it. I initially felt—especially while watching it air weekly—that some episodes or mini-arcs didn’t flow together very well. For example, the first few episodes were introductory and then all of a sudden, we are thrust into a huge CCG mission to counter a large-scale ghoul auction. Once that portion is done, we are suddenly thrown into the pursuit of a high-rank ghoul who seemed unrelated for the most part. When following weekly, I’d occasionally pause and just double-check that I hadn’t missed an episode in the middle, as it felt a bit disjointed.

Additionally, this season reached some darker lows than even the torture scenes with Jason. This may have been an attempt to emphasize how dark things had become in the world at the time, but it had unsettling moments. One such moment was when a character became so distraught at his perceived failure, he ran into the woods and began smashing his head into a tree trunk repeatedly. Another few moments included some sexually suggestive and in a few cases more explicit moments, like a female ghoul known as “The Nutcracker” (she targets certain areas on male victims and dresses like a succubus), or when a male ghoul is being stabbed by his obsession (a character I suspect is in fact female) and eggs them on, asking, “Are we connecting right now?” and begging them to continue “connecting” with him. That scene in particular is very disturbing due to how it’s played out—it’s both graphic and highly suggestive.

Those qualms aside, there were still many aspects of the show which were well done. One thing I have always loved about Tokyo Ghoul and that TG:re pulled off just as well as past seasons was character growth. There are very few “flat” characters in Tokyo Ghoul; each one seems to change in some way, for better or worse. TG:re showed us, as noted above, the struggle Haise faces as he fights against himself—is he Haise, Kaneki, or both? Which part of himself should control him? Is he on the side of ghouls, humans, both, neither? As Haise begins to discover parts of his past as Kaneki and encounters those that Kaneki used to know, he finds himself forced to face a past he’s not sure he wants to learn. Starting from an encounter with Touka, following through to a meeting with Uta, and later meeting again with Tsukiyama and The Owl, he continues to seek to understand both sides of himself.

In typical Tokyo Ghoul fashion, though, Kaneki isn’t the only character who shows development. Hinami reappears not as a timid child, but a force to be reckoned with. Juuzou Suzuya is brought back to try and redeem his past. Urie, member of the Quinx squad, tackles his stifling pride. Shirazu (Quinx squad) struggles with his first ghoul kill. Takizawa descends a dark path from CCG investigator to quinx-type owl, bent on killing. Ayato from Aogiri Tree, on the other hand, seems to show signs of a change in heart from his past ways. These are just a few of the characters who we see growing and changing.

Takizawa, now T-OWL.
Takizawa, now T-OWL.

Finally, I will note that the fight scenes of the show are also very well done. It’s always cool to be introduced to new forms of quinque and kagune as different investigators and ghouls enter the fray. TG:re introduces kagune that send out missiles and can detach and be left hidden in walls or floors. We see investigators wielding quinque that are essentially chainsaws. Watching the fast-paced action of these fights and the new challenges brought on by new people on both sides always keeps things interesting.

In a nutshell, I was happy with this season, but I think how it concludes in part two will sway my opinion a lot. I also believe that I will appreciate the anime that much more when I am caught up on the manga. This may help tie up some loose ends and fill in some blanks I feel the anime didn’t address. This is certainly not a show for people who are bothered easily by blood and gore. There’s not much as far as swearing goes, and sexual content only extends as far as what was mentioned above. The themes can be very dark at times, from abusive pasts to mentally disturbed lines of thinking, but these themes are presented in a way that makes them authentic and often draws a clear line between the good and the bad, or at least poses some very good questions to ponder on the grey areas.

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