Tokyo Ghoul Ep. 2: Between two worlds

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Mother, please… this is highly inappropriate. The OP all but confirms that Rize will maintain a strong presence throughout the story. She’ll continue to play the role of the seductress as she tries to corrupt Ken, because, after all, what he ultimately becomes is important to him. She wants him to give in to his base desires; she wants him to lose control. Control is, after all, what sets her apart from the nicer ghouls like Touka and Nishimura. It’s hardly a surprise, therefore, that even when she was once alive, Rize was known for her binge eating. But why does she so badly want to corrupt Ken? What’s in it for her? The truth is, she is both his seductress and his progenitor. This duality is key to bot her and the main character.

Our hero has one foot in each world: he’s both a human and a ghoul. He has the base desires of a ghoul, but the moral framework of a human. But there’s more to it than that. Nishiki repeatedly makes note of Ken’s femininity. First, he accuses the protagonist of stinking like a female ghoul. Second, when Ken charges at Nishiki, the latter taunts, “Seriously? Attacking with your bag? What are you, a woman?!” Ken is a guy on the surface, but there are nevertheless female organs within him. In this sense, he’s half-man and half-woman. Still, we can take this duality even further. When Ken finally snaps, he attacks Nishiki much in the same way that Rize would. At least in this very episode, Ken’s powers are Rize’s powers. As a result, he’s half-Ken and half-Rize.

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It starts to make sense, then, why Rize is so hellbent on corrupting our hero. Like him, there’s a duality to her nature: she’s dead, but then again, she’s not. Even though her body is no more, she continues to live on within both Ken’s body and mind. For the most part, Rize can only mentally torture him whenever he starts to fall ill to his hunger. When our protagonist truly loses control and goes into a rampage, however, that’s when she physically comes out. Ken represents Rize’s legacy. So what would she rather have him become? A nice, little half-ghoul who plays nice with Anteiku, or a ravenous binge eater like she once was? When Ken is all set to give in, her real self comes out as you can see in the screenshot above.

Stray observations:

— Touka says, “…starvation for a ghoul is utter hell.” So again, there’s the drug angle. I mean, hunger feels pretty bad, but utter hell? That has to be withdrawal. So of course, Yoshimura hands Ken a nondescript package, and tells the guy to come back to him should he ever run out. It’s evocative of illicit drug use. If we run with the idea that Rize represents the hero’s mother (yes, I know he had a real mother that has since passed away), then Ken is like a crack baby who must now suffer as a result of his mother’s crimes.

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— The episode makes liberal use of the characters’ reflections: Ken sees himself in his cup of coffee, Yoshimura sees himself in his jars of coffee beans, Touka sees herself on the surface of a table, we see Ken shuddering from withdrawal from the surface of his TV screen, etc. The OP is full of mirror surfaces and reflections as well. Symbolically, mirrors often represent a portal between two worlds, so it’s not hard to see what the anime is going for here. Let’s use Ken’s reflection in the coffee cup as an example. He thinks he won’t enjoy coffee since he hasn’t enjoyed anything else that a human would typically consume. After all, his mental state isn’t too positive at this point in the story, so he probably thinks he’s doomed to live a life as a ghoul. To his surprise, however, when Ken takes a sip of the coffee, he finds it delicious. The coffee thus serves as a link between the two worlds, i.e. Ken exists in both worlds.

— To a lesser extent, this is true for the rest of these characters as well. While Touka and Nishiki are 100% ghoul, they have nevertheless managed to blend themselves into human society as if they were one of us. This is something Ken slowly begins to realize: “Why are these ghouls popping up around me? No, that’s not true. They were there before this all started.” Likewise, being 100% human hardly means you aren’t a monster. Is this a hint that the bizarre Mado guy we meet at the end of the episode will be one of the story’s primary antagonists? Anime is hardly subtle, and this Mado guy doesn’t appear to be a very good person. Even so, time can only tell.

— And later in the OP, we see the motif of the broken mirror, and this is probably a sign of when the characters go one way or the other. Most notably, the image “cracks” whenever we see Rize; the OP features this twice. She does, after all, want to wholly corrupt our hero. When Ken is suffering from symptoms of withdrawals, and we can see a reflection of him shaking uncontrollably on the switched-off TV, Rize moves in front of the mirror surface as if to body block the portal between the two worlds herself. Not surprisingly, she doesn’t put any importance in our hero’s existence as both human and ghoul. She wants him to be whatever she wants him to be. When Ken later gives in to Rize’s temptations, there are no reflections of him in the car window that he is pressed up against:

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The portal between the two worlds has been sealed.

— More signs of Ken going through a drug withdrawal: heavy breathing and profuse sweating. Rize even says, “Once you start eating [human flesh], you won’t be able to stop.”

— At one point, Nishiki says, “And I could have taken no time at all by releasing my kagune?” His what? I assume that’s the shiny, colored shit that comes out of the ghouls when they fight.

— I’m still not keen on the action. It feels too cartoonish, especially when Nishiki is screaming, “I’m dying, dying, dying, dying….” I’m very not keen on the entire scene suddenly going negative. I mean, the fight between Ken and Nishiki wouldn’t have been so bad if it had just played out normally. Yeah, there’s just a little too much censorship in this week’s episode.

— I haven’t abandoned the sex angle. After all, illicit sex rears its ugly head when Ken and Hideyoshi goes to see Nishiki. Since duality is the main theme of the day, the story can be both about sex and drugs. The sex angle was stronger in the first episode, and the drug angle is stronger in this episode. Still, there’s no need for our interpretation of the anime to be all or nothing, i.e. one or the other. In general, Ken’s need to satiate his hunger is like an addiction to drugs. At the same time, however, Rize is hardly your average drug dealer. She’s draped all over our hero, and her hands are wandering all over the place. Likewise, her words are telling. “Come on, quickly. You can do as you like,” she says as she tries to goad Ken into feasting on his best friend’s flesh, “He’s all yours.”

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— In his moment of despair, Ken cries and says, “I, who am neither human nor ghoul, am all alone. There isn’t a place for me anywhere now…!” All of a sudden, Yoshimura opens the blinds and floods with room with light. Typically, the monsters that go bump in the night will shy away from the sunlight, and this is a sign of their inherent immorality. The sunlight, of course, represents the divine. In this scene, however, the sunlight also represents hope as Yoshimura convinces Ken that his situation is not a lost cause. In other words, the divine has not turned its back to Ken and the other ghouls like one might expect. He doesn’t sparkle in the sunlight (thankfully), but he can nevertheless stand within its presence.

— Judging by this screenshot, is it safe to say Hideyoshi overhears everything?


5 Replies to “Tokyo Ghoul Ep. 2: Between two worlds”

  1. Though the fights are a bit silly, I’m really enjoying Tokyo ghoul. The guy with the white hair in the op is supposedly kaneki so I’m interested in seeing what happens to him from now on. And the visuals for the city are really nice.

  2. And this is why I read your blog you pic up things I miss. I completely missed the mirror thing. I still do not agree on the sex angle and I just take it as supernatural beings being sexual which is just common in fiction.I do agree on the drug angle how ever. Who knows maybe next episode will add a whole new theme again and you were right. Also yea this show had to much censorship this episode just took me completely out the moment.

  3. The negative censorship really took me out of the fight. There was another point in the beginning where they just totally cut off part of the screen too. The drugs and sex angles I am actually starting to pick up since you pointed them out in the last episode. Rize taunting him to eat his friend and her movements there were pretty obvious.
    It does look like Hide heard, I wonder how it will affect their relationship.

    1. Hide will just hide that he knows from him while giving him cryptic advice probably. Also I really don’t get it Japanese politics were calling for boobs and ecchi to be censored not gore.Newer anime could really down the censors a lot. Unless they are censoring to get better air times and make money off uncensored D.V.D sales,which is kinda dumb. It would be like game of thrones which I don’t watch censoring itself to get on network t.v. and sale blue rays that would result in less viewers and revenue not more.

  4. Goddamn it, I think I love this show. It has only been two episodes and I already know I’ll be sticking with this show for the long haul. I just had the largest grin on my face when Rize reappeared for the first time. The op by TK from Ling Tosite Sigure is just perfect as well. The way the music swings from peaceful to frantic along side his unique vocals just fit the tone of the show.

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