Tokyo Ghoul Ep. 6: Us vs. them

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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.

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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.

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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…


27 Replies to “Tokyo Ghoul Ep. 6: Us vs. them”

    1. I can only guess. Here are the four primary reasons I can think of:

      A) People who read manga tend to expect adaptations to be 100% faithful to the source material. From what I have heard, Tokyo Ghoul has had to cut out a lot of material to adapt as much as they can within a single season. I still enjoy what I’m seeing, so it doesn’t really bother me.

      B) Main character isn’t super likeable. People like to identify with the protagonist.

      C) Some people may find the pacing a little boring. No grandiose plot threads yet. Just ghouls trying to survive. On the other hand, a story like Akame ga Kill! hints at the possibility of a revolution. Big ideas like that tend to capture people’s attention.

      D) Maybe they just think the show sucks.

      1. Yeah. The main character is really unlikeable to me.
        He’s wasting too much of his time poking on other people’s business and teaching a brat study.
        That is understandable for rom-com protagonist who has nothing better to do.
        But I am pretty sure I won’t do such thing when I am in his position.
        Rather than helping a brat study and grinning at some motherly love, I am going to train to become stronger. Train like my life depends on it. And I am going to come in term with the bitch inside my head, and convince her to let me use her power.
        While Gary Stu is annoying, a guy who is too stupid is annoying too. He has gone through a lot of life and death situation in a very short time span, and he has the leisure to do all those things that we saw.

        1. You literally described naruto why would you want this to be like naruto. He does not want to be some warrior he wants to be a normal human.

        2. Rather than helping a brat study and grinning at some motherly love, I am going to train to become stronger.

          So screw trying to hold onto your humanity? Just go from nerdy bookworm to superjock overnight? Shrug, I don’t think every story needs to be the same.

  1. Ghouls actually could be integrated into society sense they only consume the recently deceased. I wonder how in real life would such a species be treated with the whole powers and stuff.

    1. I wonder how in real life would such a species be treated with the whole powers and stuff.

      Well, Hamatora and Tokyo ESP are both trying to explore that topic, but not very successfully.

      1. I meant to say with out the powers. Ghouls are really special because unlike vampires they don’t need blood they don’t even need to eat the living they can live off of eating the recently deceased.

      2. If anything, this signals a lack of imagination by the powers-that-be.

        If you’re worried about society being filled by semi-humans with supernatural powers that happen to require something from the humans as well? Why don’t you recruit some ghouls of your own, feed them carrots from your morgues, give them privileges and freedoms. keep aside some big sticks to ensure their loyalty, and bam! You have your own ready-made death squads.

        Anteiku is a prime candidate.

  2. I also like the fact this is different from the manga because from what I hear the manga is worse and more shounen like. I have a gripe tho why the hell didn’t Yamori just kill them both It was with in his power to do so, I see no logic in letting a future enemy live to become stronger. Even in dbz which was shounen as it gets Frieza was kill first talk later. He even killed the teams medic lol.

    1. I have a gripe tho why the hell didn’t Yamori just kill them both It was with in his power to do so, I see no logic in letting a future enemy live to become stronger.

      Shounen logic. He thinks he’s a cat fighting against a pair of mice. Sure, the mice are armed with cat’s paws, but still, they’re mice in his eyes.

  3. To add to your point with Mado, I think people accept his sadistic nature because he comes off as extremely competent. The relationship between Mado and Amon plays more like the partnership between an old fashion senior detective and a young rookie. Mado always seems to take the lead and has an innate intuition to him. He even fared better again Jason this episode then Amon. To an organization devoted to hunting ghouls, someone like Mado is not only valuable but admirable.

    On a side when Ken was trying to talk Touka out of killing Kimi, I’m glad he brought up her friend. Mainly because it’s a nice little example of set up and pay off. They establish Yoriko’s importance in the last two episodes and have it pay off here. Sometimes the little things add up.

    1. Pretty much hit the nail on the head. Mado can function in normal society most likely and he gets the job done. I mean he is pretty much treating what they view as demons as demons.

    2. To an organization devoted to hunting ghouls, someone like Mado is not only valuable but admirable

      How much longer can Amon just stand there and hear the guy say shit like “I want to hear your cries of anguish” before he notices something is wrong, though? Fighting monsters is one thing. Fighting a creature that is cowering and crying is something else.

  4. I am going have to check the manga to see if that is badly written filler. Yamori was going all out vs Rize in the first episode when simply trying to recruit her and he fights like a beserker, I see no reason no for him to be the type to toy with his enemy. Yep it was badly written filler the animators didn’t think through fully.

  5. Your posts are very insightful; it’s good to read a piece from a writer who actually pays attention to the small details. More than Touka’s us vs them mindset, i think a bit part of her emotional dilemma also has to do with that bit of self-loathing she has; it’s why she gets very defensive when she sees people have low opinions of ghouls. I think a big part of her wants to be human. With the humans, i feel like their mentality is that of X-men’s Bolivar Trask. They feel like ghoul’s are sort of a next stage in human evolution and if they dont do something to handle them, humans will be weeded out as dictated by the laws of evolution. It contributes to why they are so hostile towards them

    1. That’s… not how evolution works. It only stipulates that organisms good at surviving will do so and pass on the traits which let them do it, while those that don’t will die. If anything, ghouls are the ones in danger of going extinct. They need to hunt specifically humans to survive – the most dangerous and intelligent animal on the planet, with social systems so complex that simple discovery by one human means death for the ghoul they saw. The snap of a cellphone camera and their fate is sealed.

      Ghouls have trouble just surviving day to day; humans can barely even manage to die by accident without being saved by an ambulance crew. In the end, all of their physical prowess means nothing in the face of the evolutionary losing hand that is their ultra-specific diet.

      But assuming all that wasn’t true… humans being “weeded out” would signify the death of ghouls as well. They’d have nothing left to eat and animals that could eat more than human flesh would take their place. That would be evolution at work.

  6. I think essentially, Kaneki’s thought on not knowing about the familial ties concerning ghouls might have to do with his own past. We haven’t really seen any of his family members so maybe he didn’t have the chance of experiencing a mother/father-son relationship, hence why he wistfully mentions having a family is nice. The “Oh,they do that too” point is spot-on, and it highlights how little we usually know versus what we think we know. Most of the society thinks of ghouls as nothing more than man eating machines, but this is only half the story.

    I suppose Mado/Amon are not incapable of compassion, more of living by the ideals of humanity’s preservation. The idea that ghouls mingling in society terrifies most people, simply because ghouls prey on humans and that will be unlikely to change. And of course this is a natural reaction, we always fear what hunts us and by striking first we prolong our existence. It is true it takes questionable character to strike down a covering, whimpering creature it also can be said if they let that creature go it will continue to kill. Doing nothing in that situation would perhaps be the worst choice. The organization that Mado/Amon works for probably makes the distinction that ghouls are top predators as well and when 2 predators intrude on one-another’s territory, one of them is going to have to leave.

    1. Doing nothing in that situation would perhaps be the worst choice.

      It’s not about stopping Mado. I’m not telling Amon to go… “We can’t kill these ghouls.” I think you guys are taking me the wrong way, instantly jumping to the other extreme, which is “Let the ghouls go.” Rather, I’m complaining about Amon’s complete lack of reaction. He just stands there all stoic and shit. I don’t need you to have a sudden change of heart just because a loli ghoul is crying her eyes out, but when your partner literally wants to torture these ghouls, you should at least have a reaction. You should at least think, “Man, that’s fucked up.” Even if my job is to hunt down dangerous animals to prevent them from killing people, there’s something to be said about animal cruelty.

      1. I dont think Anon (or I for that matter) were implying that the other extreme is what you think should be the reaction of these characters. I was presenting what i believe to be the mindset of these humans that provokes such hostility like this, and that is self-preservation as well as this conditioning that ghouls arent worth being considered living beings.

        1. I dont think Anon (or I for that matter) were implying that the other extreme is what you think should be the reaction of these characters.

          Not sure why it’s being brought up then.

      2. “It’s not about stopping Mado. I’m not telling Amon to go… “We can’t kill these ghouls.” I think you guys are taking me the wrong way”

        Ah perhaps I didn’t phrase my post well enough, I’m not expecting that Amon goes full 180 either. I’m thinking perhaps Amon and Mado probably lost loved ones to ghouls coupled with their training -which is probably indoctrination- they just fight fire with fire. Ghouls prey on humans and sometimes torture them? We got to do it too to show them who’s boss (or something along the lines). It might be cruel but to the Doves they might see it as a necessity. Besides, the torture Mado uses does reveal a lot of info they both need so Amon being his underling probably learns the ropes and will repeat this vicious cycle once he gets an underling of his own. It might not be very compelling but it might just be the case.

        1. I’m not questioning their actions. I’m questioning Amon’s lack of response. It’s one thing to do what you think is necessary. It’s another thing to listen to your partner deliberately being cruel and not even flinch. Either Amon is poorly written or he’s just as bad.

    2. Would ghouls preying on people really be unlikely to change if there was a safer option which let them integrate into society, though?

      Sure, you’d have the occasional weirdo serial killer/devourer to deal with, but so far most of the ghouls we’ve met would seem to be perfectly happy to receive cadavers from the government in exchange for identifying themselves if it meant not having to constantly fear for their lives. They’re only in hiding, stealing corpses and murdering hobos because there’s no other option – no safer option to pursue. If their simple existence wasn’t punishable by death, maybe they would come forward to people like Amon with information about ghouls like Shu or Yamori who threaten everyone’s safety.

      Instead we see ghouls unilaterally get the death penalty for revealing themselves, and if that’s the case, why not kill humans rather than root about starving for suicide jumpers? What are they going to do in retaliation? Kill you more?

  7. I think Amon simply does not see ghouls as something even close to humans, so doesn’t object to Mado’s treatment of them. They don’t think they are capable of being tender, loving, human-like etc. Like in the first episode some investigators called them animals? I guess that’s why Amon doesn’t look at his superior weirdly, because they are just ravenous monsters who eat people.

    1. I think Amon simply does not see ghouls as something even close to humans

      I would still object to treating animals cruelly.

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