When we pick up where we had last left off, the fully-powered Touka makes quick work of Shu in a scene that, well, could have looked a whole lot better. Who knows? Maybe the censors just don’t want impressionable Japanese youth to become dangerous ghouls after watching this show. And can you blame them? Any way you slice it, ghouls — even the powerful ones — seem to have a difficult life. Shortly after snuffing out Shu’s last breath, Touka turns her attention to Kimi, a human who knows too much. It’s not that I can’t understand the young girl’s position. You can’t account for everything, and even if Kimi is absolutely devoted to Nishiki, how would Touka know anything about that? She’s not privy to the details of their relationship. All she knows is that their livelihood — and more importantly, her livelihood — could be threatened by a mere woman. And logically, why would you ever put everything on the line for the sake of a single person? Not only that, the person is not even one of your kind. But she does eventually risk everything; Touka does not end up killing Kimi. At the end of the day, our heroine has a little compassion for the human girl, and a requisite factor appears to be irrationality.
I’m willing to bet most of us do not want to see Kimi die at Touka’s hands. Not only would it be tragic and rather pointless for Kimi to still be killed after all that these characters had been through, especially after Nishiki had done everything in his power to protect her, but this act of murder — or self-defense, if you want to look at it that way — would irreparably change the way we look at Touka. She would become yet another cold-hearted ghoul looking out for herself in a world full of like-minded ghouls. People like Yamori and Rize represent the dangerous extreme. They only look out for numero uno, and thus, they live a dangerous life full of strife and conflict. In any case, Nishiki’s character arc is defined by the fact that he has now learned to trust again, so it would be silly if Touka had killed Kimi. Ultimately, however, none of these appeals really matter. What matters is something altogether too irrational: when Kimi comes to and sees Touka’s kagune, she can’t help but remark, “How pretty.” As much as the good ghouls — ghouls with a conscience, eco-ghouls, ghouls that drive Prius’s, etc. — would like to fit in with the human world, there’s still this notion that an impassable gulf divides them from human kind.
A lot of the individuals in this universe seem to have this idea that humans are humans, ghouls are ghouls, and while we can try to co-exist with one another, should the truth ever come out ghouls live amongst humans, all hell would break loose. That is the reality of an “us vs. them” mindset; we naturally fear the worst and become distrustful of one another. Sometimes, it even feels as though logic goes out the window: “Looking at [Hinami and her mother], I thought, families sure are nice. I thought, the affection between mother and child doesn’t care about being human or ghoul. That shouldn’t be a surprise, but until my body ended up this way, I didn’t have any idea.” From an impassioned outsider’s perspective, it doesn’t make very much sense for Ken to think this way. Why wouldn’t ghouls, who are like us in almost every way, not have mother-daughter relationships? It’s irrational to think this. But these things happen. Lots of times, when one ethnic group spends time with another ethnic group, the former can’t help but think, “Oh, they do that too.” And the only difference there is skin color. The differences between humans and ghouls are, at least, more than skin-deep. Still, it’s irrational to think ghouls are so different from humans that Ken needs to acquaint himself with the idea that ghouls can have families.
And maybe that’s what it comes down to: you need one irrational thought to beat out another irrational thought. When Kimi remarks, “How pretty,” she’s making a personal, subjective statement. She didn’t make a case for herself. She didn’t argue from a logical standpoint that she deserved to live. All she did was comment on the aesthetics of Touka’s appearance. This and this alone, however, was enough to change Touka’s mind. The girl even proceeded to isolate herself for a week or two, probably due to an existential crisis. She had firmly entrenched herself in an us vs. them mindset. Sure, she is willing to co-exist with humans in their society, but this is out of a moral obligation. She just doesn’t want to be a murderer. If she feels threatened in any way, however, she doesn’t have any qualms about taking a life. It’s just self-defense. That’s why Kimi needed to find Touka’s kagune beautiful. All of a sudden, Touka doesn’t know what to think. This one irrational thought throws a wrench in her us vs. them mindset. To be fair, she isn’t the only one who’s confused. I can’t help but notice that Ken still wears his eyepatch. This is likely because he doesn’t have full control of his body yet. Nevertheless, there’s a sense that Ken hasn’t given up on the idea of being 100% human again.
The show’s protagonist is basically the poster child for the peaceful union between humans and ghouls, and yet he seems reluctant to take up this noble cause. He shies from what appears to be his ultimate purpose in life. Lots of people have complained about Ken’s ineffectual character. To them, it feels as though he’s running away from his own show, afraid to be the hero that the people around him need him to be. Nevertheless, the anime’s OP hints at the possibility of us getting a different Ken by the end of the show. What this tells me is that in the end all of the ghouls will have to deal with their existential crisis eventually. Nishiki once saw humans as nothing more than prey, but Kimi taught him he could trust humans again. Touka, likewise, couldn’t trust humans because she didn’t think humans could ever see any value in her and her kind. Again, Kimi served as a catalyst for change. Ken finally embraces his true nature, but in a different way. Unlike the other ghouls, Ken puts himself on the human side of the us vs. them divide even if he doesn’t want to admit it. He has to realize, however, how destructive this ultimately is. Still, it may not work out for Ken as neatly as it has for Nishiki. Rather than landing somewhere in the middle, who’s to say Ken won’t be pushed deep into the other end of the spectrum?
People like like Mado are dangeorus because their limited perspectives blind them. Seeing Hinami’s mom sacrifice herself for her daughter, Mado says, “Is that supposed to be mother-daughter love? It makes me sick.” At the moment, one can only guess why Mado is so incapable of compassion. Maybe he’s lost a loved one to a ghoul or something. Still, he is essentially a hypocrite. He considers himself superior to ghouls simply because he isn’t one, but ironically, he has more in common with a villain like Yamori than characters who are, well, actually ghouls. That’s because actions are ultimately what defines us. And at the end of the day, all that separates Mado from Yamori is the latter’s need to consume human flesh. Mado hunts down ghouls? Well, it seems as though Yamori does the same thing too when he feels like it. Yamori, like every ghoul, fights with kagune? It appears that Mado can only stand toe-to-toe with a ghoul because he fights with weapons he has fashioned out of a ghoul’s kagune. Ultimately, Mado is locked into his us vs. them mindset, and that’s why he’s just another sadistic predator much like Yamori. The only thing that puzzles me is, how are the people around Mado so blind to his sadism? Surely, the us vs. them mindset applies to someone like Amon as well. But is it so strong that he is ignorant of his partner’s lack of moral character? I have no doubt Mado will meet his end. I can only wonder if Amon will go down the same path…