Tokyo Ghoul √A (anime) Episode 1 Review

Warning: Spoilers

This should have been the final episode of the last season.

I thought Tokyo Ghoul’s first season was for the most part, a success—surely riddled with flaws, but overall an enjoyable series.  It was most strong when it spent more time on a smaller cast of characters, as it did during the first half, and really started to go off the tracks towards the season’s conclusion, when suddenly the story thrust itself far too quickly into an expanded world—introducing far too many new characters and conflicts to keep up with in just a few episodes.  I wasn’t a fan of this direction, as the series really needed to take its time to adequately flesh out all of these new dynamics (such as Touka’s past and current relationship with her brother, and Aogiri).  As a result, that first season finale felt empty and left me almost completely uninterested, for the series had only really spent time developing a select cast of characters, and the main cast of that battle were mostly fresh, undeveloped faces.

These problems become alarmingly accentuated in the debut episode of Tokyo Ghoul’s sophomore season.  The episode showcases the final act of this large but vapid battle, with two fights occupying the majority of screen time:  that which is waged between CCG’s top fighters and Aogiri’s leader, and that which is fought between Toka and her brother.  Both these fights are fueled by empty, undeveloped conflicts, and as a result, they are utterly uninteresting.  In the first season, Aogiri’s introduction was seriously out of left field, and we got not nearly nothing of its members and purpose—they were hastily brought onto the scene to be the new baddies.  While two of CCG’s members were developed well in the first season’s first half, we saw nearly nothing of the organization itself and its other members until it far was far too late to sufficiently flesh out any of them.  When the motives and personalities of either sides of a fight are underdeveloped, it’s seriously difficult to get invested, no matter how cool their fancy new weapons and character designs may be.

What's this guy's name again?

What’s this guy’s name again?

The conflict between Toka and her brother saw practically no development in the last season.  The plot is obviously hinting at some dramatic event (presumably the death of their father) which made his personality take a complete 180, so I guess the viewer is supposed to express some semblance sympathy towards his anguish.  However, the brother, just like his organization, was completely rushed in introduction, and thus, warrants no emotional investment.  Maybe if—prior to his introduction—the audience was at least aware of his existence, and there were some hints or teases of their relationship—not even anything noteworthy or long, maybe just some subtle namedrops and flashbacks—we could’ve had something.  Sure it would have been somewhat clichéd, but at least it’s something!  Instead, we get some hackneyed grumbling about prioritizing “power” above all else and yada yada yada, we’ve seen this before.

Dude who are you

Dude who are you

Even the episode’s final twist seems cheap and undercooked.  While I doubt Kaneki is goin’ rogue for reasons besides finding out more about Rize (I could be eating my words the next episode), did Toka and Anteiku really have to left in the dark?  And was Aogori so readily accepting of his membership, especially after Toka’s brother couldn’t have put in a good word for him?  The prior season really didn’t even do much in prescribing Kaneki with enough incentive and motivation to go through such extreme means as working with the enemy.  Additionally, he didn’t get enough screen time to see what his new white-haired, full-ghoul persona will make of his character for this season (I hope Kaneki’s human side—you know, the actual character we’ve got to know hitherto—still plays a significant role).  Couldn’t this little development have gotten a bit of, i don’t know, development?

This little wordless encounter, and *boom* suddenly he's in?

This little wordless encounter, and *boom* suddenly he’s in?

And therein, I think, lies the bulk of my issue with this episode:  it should have stayed in the first season.  It’s blatantly nothing more than a continuation of the event which was started at the end of last season—a final act of last season’s finale.  All it really did was quickly sweep under the rug.  As such, all the flaws of season 1’s finale were carried over and even worsened in this episode, and this did nothing to establish the direction and tone of the second season (what good first episodes of a new season do).  So apart from the new (and somewhat disappointing, compared to last season’s) OP, I wouldn’t have known I was even watching an episode from a new season.  I’m not sure if something got botched up in production and planning or whatever, but it was a critical error to have began the new season with this impression.  I anticipate that next week’s episode will do more to introduce the tone and direction of Tokyo Ghoul √A, though honestly, it’s going to take a lot of time to really develop all the new and no doubt pertinent characters and conflicts to make a compelling story.  For the time being, my expectations remain neutral.

It was pretty to look at, though

-Jam

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