That’s a little more like it.
My primary complaints with this season’s first episode was that it did nothing in the way of introducing the tone and direction of the second season. It concerned itself primarily with clean-up duty for the last season’s finale. Whether this was utilized as some cheap gimmick to hook viewers from the beginning, some instance of poor behind-the-scenes planning/scheduling, or whatever, I’m glad to say that this week’s episode worked especially well as an introduction to Tokyo Ghoul’s second season.
The scenes in CCG’s conference room had me at least initially worried that the series would resume an almost military/war-conflict-type tone so unlike the series thus far. In actuality though, these scenes added at least a little bit to the motivations on either side of this Aogiri/CCG conflict. Hopefully more will come, seeing that this war will no doubt cast a heavy shadow on this season. I’m relieved that the series have renewed focus on a smaller, more intimate collection of characters. The episode was primarily one of rest, following last week’s climactic battle, as various characters and groups settled back into their day-to-day lives. But of course, not all carries on as it did before—the prior conflicts yielded very apparent consequences. Kaneki’s absence at Anteiku is certainly felt among its staff and company, especially for Toka, who I guess now means to attend Kaneki’s old university—leaving me kind of stumped (in terms of what practical effect this will have on Kaneki’s retrieval), but perhaps it’s some emotional way to cope with his departure. Even though the episode didn’t spend too much time on Toka, I’ve no doubt she will soon again be heavily featured.
Though, this episode especially impressed me with its treatment of CCG. The new focus on just the members of the 20th Ward leaves the door open for some much-needed character development, so as to give me reason to give a damn about these people aside from Amon (a member of the small cast the first half of the first season spent its time fleshing out). Some of this group’s members had previously been introduced, but in a hasty, rushed manner which left nothing in the way of character development (an issue which unfortunately afflicted a bevy of the characters introduced during the first season’s second half). It’s relieving to see that this season will be spent developed some of them. The introduction of Wado Akira, the daughter of Amon’s former partner (an intriguing character I felt met his end too early) is certainly a welcome addition, though it’s interesting to note her role extends far beyond the daughter of Wado. She brings a level of arrogant and calculative cool-headedness (completely different from the sparkling charisma and wackiness of her dad) which clashes interestingly with Amon’s earnestness, and brings just enough to the table to engage me. While her personality-type has certainly been seen before, I have hope for her development. Her deduction of Rize’s identity is just enough to add a degree of mystique and intrigue to Rize’s past.
Now, Kaneki (whom I thought to be the absolute star of the last season) was shelved for the majority of this episode—appearing only in quick, disjointed scenes—but I’m completely fine with that. In fact, I appreciate it. Obviously this new ghoul-Kaneki brings a completely different dynamic to the series concerning the mystery of his motivations and the lasting effects his actions will yield on those around him. The fact that the episode barely addresses him hopefully means the season’s going to spend its time detailing this new angle. There’s a lot to unpack here, and I’m glad it’s being reserved for episodes to come (please). The very fact that Kaneki made coffee on his downtime spawns many questions to be answered.
The closing montage was especially powerful for me, seeing the coffee shop reopen and its staff and friends celebrate was heartwarming to see, while at the same time melancholy, seeing how Kaneki’s absence is very much felt. The mystery surrounding the actions and motives of Kaneki’s new little task force with Toka’s brother piqued my interest. The closing scene in which a character who came out of nowhere last season (one of many) takes private interest in Kaneki by referring to him as his actual name (he has thus so far been mentioned as “Eye-patch”) is a good enough cliff-hanger as far as I’m concerned.
Overall, this episode has certainly shown potential for a redemption of sorts for this new season. It does exactly what good first episodes should do—plant the seeds for the plot to come. While I’m still somewhat concerned that the series will have trouble balancing this larger cast, the series’ renewed intimacy leaves the door open for some gratifying development–both for these characters and the dynamics within their respective groups (Anteiku, CCG 20th Ward). Hopefully, this will make the inevitable conflict among them more emotionally weighted. Though I remain cautious, this series has renewed my interest, and I’m excited for the story to come.