Most ghouls seem to think Ken smells weird or unsettling. Take Nishiki, for instance. He often insulted Ken for stinking like a female ghoul. Our dandy, however, differs in that he finds Ken’s aroma to be intoxicating. That’s hardly a coincidence, is it? At the moment, Shu is androgynous in many ways. First, he literally has Rize’s organs inside his own body. Not only that, our hero is timid, shy, vulnerable. etc. Whether or not you believe this to be the case, you must admit that society have long and often considered these to be feminine personality traits. Shu, therefore, represents an androgynous figure. For a lot of folks, like Nishiki, this is a perversion of nature. “Men should be men, and women should be women,” is what those people might say. But for a select few, androgyny represents beauty. Androgyny can even be seen as having the best of both words, and in that case, it goes beyond beauty. All of a sudden, androgyny becomes an ideality. I once heard in a lecture that while hermaphrodites were frowned upon by the Ancient Greeks, androgyny was venerated. For an ostentatious dandy like Shu, therefore, it’s hardly surprising that he would Ken so alluring. Duality is often admired. Itori, a bartender who appears to be an informant for ghouls, even tells Ken that a half-blooded ghoul is superior to a full-blooded one. It is never explained why this would be the case, but one can nevertheless make an educated guess: duality. Man and woman. Human and ghoul. The best of both worlds.
The thing I find most fascinating in this week’s episode, however, is the way Shu manages to “seduce” Ken. Like Rize, Shu piques Ken’s interest with by appealing the young man’s love for books. Both Shu and Rize seem nice and unthreatening on the surface. Both appear, at first glance, to be sophisticated individuals. Learned. Attractive. Charming. Hell, they even share the same hair color. It isn’t a surprise, therefore, to learn that Rize was one of Shu’s many acquaintances. There is, however, a stark difference between the two antagonists. Rize’s surface beauty only goes so far in hiding her true nature. She was, after all, a binge-eater. Unlike Shu, she never pretended to be a sophisticated monster. Behind her human mask, Rize appeared to be a woman of discerning tastes, but that was clearly not the case when it came time to feast. On the other hand, Shu enjoys the finer things in life. He’s well-dressed, he likes to spout random words in a foreign language, he’s a gourmand, so on and so forth. The most important fact, however, is that Shu’s a gourmand. Many ghouls will consume their prey anywhere. Lots of times, victims are devoured right where they are killed, i.e. in some dark back alley. When Shu lures the unwitting Ken into a trap, however, he makes a show of it. All of a sudden, Ken is thrust into a gladiatorial-like fight to the death. All around him, well-to-do ghouls shout and jeer as Ken must do battle against an executioner.
You can’t help but wonder if this is our dandy’s twisted way of hanging onto his humanity. Even though he and Rize were acquaintances, they weren’t exactly friends. In fact, Rize mocks Shu: “…but ghouls, pretending to be high society, devoted to their palates? It’s comical how human that would be, isn’t it…?” The truth is, however, Rize and Shu are just two sides of the same coin. If we see Rize’s binge-eating as a form of sinful gluttony, then Shu is gluttonous as well. He simply can’t enjoy his “food” for what it is, i.e. a form of sustenance or a means to survival. Food is something that is essential to every living creature on this planet. No matter who we are or where we come from, we are equals in that respect. Nevertheless, haute cuisine elevates dining into an art. Not only does it become a show, it becomes a show only for a select few. Not everyone can enjoy a 9-course meal. Only the privileged can ever have that luxury, a privilege that Rize derides: “…I have absolutely no interest in your members-only gourmet club.” In any case, Shu is as gluttonous and sinful as a binge-eating like Rize. They just go about it in different ways. But what difference does it make if you eat a bunch of small plates filled with foie gras and caviar instead of one giant bucket of fried chicken? At the end of the day, there’s something undeniably greedy about it all.
How does the old saying go? “Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me?” So what are we to think of Ken now that he’s fallen for the same trap twice? Not only that, he’s been warned by multiple people that Shu could not be trusted. Nevertheless, our hero finds himself in the middle of the proverbial lion’s den. His life is only spared because, as a one-eyed ghoul, he is even rarer than Shu had previously thought possible. As a result, greediness takes over; Shu wants to have Ken all to himself. We can call Ken all sorts of names: stupid, naive, dimwit, etc. At the end of the day, however, he’s just lonely. He just recently became a ghoul, so he has few friends. Yoshimura is nice enough, but his old age prevents him from being one of Ken’s peers. Touka might be slowly warming up to the guy, but she’s still a frost queen at this moment in time. Renji is just a sparring partner. You get the picture; Ken is lonely. He has a best friend in Hideyoshi, but even when Ken wasn’t a half-blooded ghoul, they never really shared the same interests. Ken just yearns for someone who loves books as much as he does. He just wants someone to share the same passions in life. I still think Ken’s an idiot for walking himself into a blatant trap — after all, Shu’s shadiness in this week’s episode is hardly subtle — I sympathize with the guy. I know he just desperately wants a friend.
— It’s hard to shake the comparison between Shu and the infamous Hannibal from the TV show of the same name. I’m not saying that Hannibal influenced the creation of Shu’s character. I’m just saying that the similarities are remarkable. If anything, this is a sign of how two different cultures tend to view the rich and powerful. They’re both immaculately dressed at all times. They’re both learned men. They both love to throw lavish dinner parties. They’re both picky about what they put into their bodies. They’re both manipulative. Last but not least, their benign outward appearances belie their true nature. Hell, Shu even has no qualms about being a cannibal.
— I don’t think it is really necessary to show Touka puking up the kara-age in the girl’s bathroom. We already learned last week that ghouls have to fake their love for human food. As such, it just seems like the story feels the need to spell it out the audience that Touka doesn’t like her friend’s food as though we might’ve forgotten this little detail.
— There are rumors floating around that Rize’s death was not an accident, but we always had our suspicions, didn’t we? Rather, this is just the first time Ken has entertained the thought.
— When Shu sniffs Ken’s blood, it sends our dandy into a euphoric bliss. His eyes even roll back as he sees a field of stars. On the one hand, this appears like a strong reaction to a potent drug. The same thing, however, occurs during sex as well. You could say Shu’s reaction to the blood is almost orgasmic. Immediately after this scene, the anime cuts to a scene where Ken is showering. Our hero is even confused that this is happening: “Why am I even taking a shower, anyway?” We know the literal answer to this question: he’s getting himself clean because he’s about to be served up as a meal. On the other hand, however, it’s like Ken’s preparing himself for sex. Don’t you shower right before you do the deed?
— Shu has invited all these people to feast upon Ken’s flesh, but there are a lot of people there. I can’t imagine there would actually be enough of our hero to go around.
— I think the battle between Ken and Taro, the executioner-like combatant, is okay. It isn’t as shounen-y as the previous battles.