Tokyo Ghoul Ep. 7: Desperate vengeance

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In my most recent Everything Else post, I’m asking people who they think is the best heroine of the season. Well, thus far, anyway. While I won’t reveal the results of this impromptu poll just yet — nor is it even a comprehensive poll by any means — but so far, it seems as though a lot of you guys think Touka is a pretty cool anime character. Personally, I don’t dislike Touka, but here’s the thing… I feel as though a large reason why she stands out from the crowd is due to, well, Ken’s relative ineffectiveness. At the moment, Ken is very green, very idealistic, and very much a wimp. Despite this, I actually don’t mind the guy’s character, but I won’t deny that he can be a bit helpless at times. So understandably, a lot of viewers are frustrated with him. I also think he’s supposed to be somewhat frustrating, though. In fact, I think his actions and reactions make a lot of sense within the context of the story. C’mon, guys, he’s just a dorky bookworm.

Out of nowhere, this nerdy college kid is thrust into the world of dangerous ghouls and sadistic anti-ghoul “doves.” After living the majority of his life in relative comfort, he’s now lost in a world where it’s kill or be killed. He now has to scavenge for dead bodies, because he’s unwilling to hunt innocent people for food. His world has been turned upside-down. So with that in mind, what do you expect Ken to do? Become a battle-hardened veteran overnight? Pursue the doves with reckless abandon? The thing is, the anime’s opening even outright tells us that the guy will eventually get there — that his heart will eventually to turn to stone one day. But I guess we just don’t have much patience nowadays for the coming-of-age process. Even though we deride the Gary Stus of the season for their unrealistic ability to power through every conflict with ease, we seem to be riding Ken’s ass just as hard for his all-too-human reluctance to embrace his ghoulish fate. I don’t really get it.

Tokyo Ghoul - 0703

But back to my original point, because Ken is currently weak, Touka often makes up for what Ken lacks. Touka is a capable fighter. Touka is no-nonsense. Touka does take action. But y’know what? It isn’t always smart to leap into action, It isn’t always wise to take a no-holds-barred approach to life just because you feel as though you have an unerring sense of justice. But first, some context. Last week, we saw Hinami’s father meet his end, and even though her mother survived to see at least another episode, Mado still eventually kills her at the start of this week’s episode. Needless to say, an enraged Touka desperately desires revenge. And I don’t disagree with her necessarily; I certainly don’t disagree with her feelings. Evildoers must be punished, we must attain justice for the weak, blah blah blah. That’s all fine and dandy, but… we can’t always act on our feelings.

When Touka tries to take matters into her own hands, she is not only being very foolish but selfish as well. First, Touka’s foolish to think she could single-handedly take out the four doves by herself. What does she know about them? Does she know what they’re capable of? Why would you pick a fight when you have no information on your opponents? More importantly, however, Touka ignores Renji’s very reasonable argument: even if you do take out the doves directly responsible for the deaths of Hinami’s parents, the anti-ghoul bureau will just send more doves to the 20th ward. Even if you achieve revenge, you’d just endanger the lives of every ghoul in the area. Yes, Touka will be able to quell the anger and hatred in her heart, but is it worth putting everyone at risk? Touka says she’d “feel sorry for [Hinami’s mother] if [they] can’t take vengeance for her.” But would killing the doves really make Hinami feel better? Is that the best way to help the grieving child right now? Touka says she can’t bear it when someone like Hinami’s mother has to die, but I still can’t square this logic with putting the entire ward at risk.

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Once again, Ken could do nothing but watch. Even though Hinami had run to him for help, all he could do in the heat of the moment was cover the young girl’s eyes and muffle her cries lest she be heard. But honestly, what else could he do? He’s in no fighting shape. He can’t take on Mado alone, much less Mado and his partner. Hell, even Touka finds it difficult in this week’s episode to fight Mado one-on-one. Ken wouldn’t have stood a chance. You might then say, “He should put his nose to the grindstone right from the get-go, and become the strongest ghoul out there!” But it’s only the seventh episode. And the kid has other responsibilities. I don’t think it would have made very much sense for some green ghoul to just go toe-to-toe with a senior anit-ghoul investigator. There are trade-offs here. You could certainly turn Ken into a super-duper fighter overnight, but you’d destroy the credibility of the narrative. Plus, do we need another Tatsuya, Kirito, or Inaho?

Yoshimura seems cold when he denies Touka any assistance, but he isn’t just responsible for her life. He’s responsible for every ghoul out there who depends on Anteiku. Plus, he warned her not to make a move. They all did. She deliberately ignored their better advice and acted on her own. She willingly put not just herself but everyone in the 20th ward at risk. I can’t fault Yoshimura for his actions. We then see that Amon is more determined than ever to change “this wrong-way world of ours.” Violence just begets more violence. Mado kills Ryouko, so Touka kills Kusaba Ippei, one of the doves. Now, Amon wants revenge, and the cycle will just continue on forever. Luckily for Touka, however, she isn’t alone. Yoshimura has too much on his plate to run off on some misguided crusade for justice. Ken is alone, though. He has no family, and he has only one close friend. As such, our ineffectual hero can afford to help Touka out. He even says he’s tired of not being able to do anything. It has been a process, but Ken’s getting there. Most of all, I think he’s getting there organically, and I hope Touka will also gain something from this experience.

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Plus, they’re the main characters, so it’s not like anything’s going to happen to them anyway.

21 thoughts on “Tokyo Ghoul Ep. 7: Desperate vengeance

  1. BoyTitan

    Its comes with immaturity. The main character from Gurren Lagan went threw the same process. Thing was I was pretty much a Meat head in highschool so I hated the character. Now that I am older and chilled out a bit I can like a character like Ken and appreciate the realisticness of him being useless in combat. People are just looking at him as a wimp because they can’t put themselves in his shoes.

  2. BoyTitan

    Also there is a large % of fans who do not know what they want, I remember when I went on attack on titan forums everyone was bitching how the other titans physically out match Eren. And how the few fights he won was either out skilled and got lucky or won by using his head. Then when they get a over powered character they complain.

  3. Good taste

    “Kaneki is such a worthless wimp” “Why doesn’t he just become a badass and kill everyone?” -Statements like these just disgust me.and show how immature a lot of anime fans are. It’s really sad how common these complaints are.

  4. Gene

    I can’t say I haven’t seen people bash Kaneki before, one person I know found him annoying to the point they dropped the manga. I think he is mostly liked though. He’s the most popular character at the same time, though that may be due to later events.
    It is similar to what Shinji Ikari’s character does to people. He gets a lot of hate for not being a hardened solider but a scared and introverted teenage boy. I guess it’s down to how people expect males to be? Not showing too much weakness or incompetence. It might be why the gary stu super-powered lead is so popular now.

  5. Naota

    While there are a lot of comments to the tune of “Ken is such a wimp. I wish he would beat up all the bad guys like a badass gary stu.” floating around, I think you’re always going to get these so long as shounen series set the tone for anime as a whole. Through the lens of a teenager getting into this stuff through something like Bleach or Naruto, interested in cool fights and broad strokes ideas, Ken being weak makes him a poor character. After all, in Bleach and Naruto “strength” (always a way more nebulous concept than shounen series like to believe) is the primary metric by which to judge a character’s worth.

    But on the other hand? Yeah, Ken is kind of infuriatingly ineffectual. He’s not just weak physically – he’s weak, naive, not particularly smart or perceptive, inexperienced, slow to learn, uncharismatic, socially awkward, and even a little cowardly. He’s nothing but negative character traits. Unlike, say, Renton Thurston, he lacks that one redeeming quality that makes up for the flaws in his character and lets him hold the course on the path to grow and better himself. There’s almost nothing about Ken to like, and nothing at all to respect.

    I would say his positive trait is empathy, but what use does he put it to? He’s seemingly very adept at wringing his hands anxiously whilst the people around him suffer, with nothing to offer them (not even a shoulder to cry most of the time – Ken’s too shy and unsupportive to really be there for these people).

    1. Naota

      Today’s episode is the prime example: Ken runs into a crying, fleeing Hinami on the street. He does nothing to comfort her (failure of empathy), then cuts her off before he can get the full story of what kind of trouble her mother is in (no presence of mind/rationality). He then runs off with her towards this nonspecific danger (lack of judgement) – the very reason her mother sent her away (failure of intuition). He gets there just in time to see Hinami’s mother confront the Doves, but doesn’t fight (no strength), make a distraction (not witty enough), runl for help (not decisive enough), or do anything (cowardly/not brave enough). Maybe because he’s now endangering Hinami (poor planning)!

      So in the end, he ran back into danger with the little girl in order to crouch there ineffectively with her and watch her mother die without taking any action, putting both of them in incredible danger and Hinami through even more trauma for no purpose. Then he ran away again.

      1. E Minor Post author

        Shrug, I guess it just comes down to our expectations. I don’t expect a normal person in his shoes to do anything. We have the luxury of sitting here, considering all the angles our hero could’ve taken. At the same time, however, he’s panicking. He has a crying girl going on about her mother. He has no clue who these doves are or how strong they are. He doesn’t even know where he can call for help or if it’ll even work. I just don’t expect him to have a plan. He met my expectations. Is he weak? Yes. Would I get along with him if I met him in real life? No. But does he make sense to me within this story? Yeah. Does his weakness color my perception of the story? No. And that’s the main thing I’m getting at. A lot of people give up on the show just because he’s weak, and hey, that’s their prerogative, but I don’t really agree with it.

        1. Naota

          Well that’s just it – Tokyo Ghoul is still probably my favourite series this season. Dropping it has never crossed my mind. I do feel like Ken could have used something appealing about his character beyond being the protagonist, but I don’t hate him. I just don’t see anything about him to get behind. I don’t expect him to save the day, or heck – even for him to fight at all – but surely he should give me some reason to take his side.

          I know it’s easy to fall into the classic trap of saying I would do something differently if I was in Ken’s shoes, but surely I would have at least had the presence of mind to send Hinami away from the impending danger or listen enough to understand the basics of what was wrong from her. Those are hardly feats of competence denied to regular people in moments of crisis. That’s why Ken stands out to me – he’s bad at everything you can be bad at. Normal people are a varied lot, and through talent or training or life experience everyone has something they’re good at doing.

          1. E Minor Post author

            surely I would have at least had the presence of mind to send Hinami away from the impending danger or listen enough to understand the basics of what was wrong from her.

            Yeah, I don’t see it. I think you’re overestimating the average person’s ability to cope with a really dire situation. He’s not a trained professional. He’s just a nerdy college kid.

        2. Old McDonald

          surely I would have at least had the presence of mind to send Hinami away from the impending danger or listen enough to understand the basics of what was wrong from her.

          Sending Hinami away is a terrible mistake, at least as bad as Kaneki’s choice, if not worse. You have to look at the situation from Kaneki’s point of view, not from your own. What if there are other doves running around and she runs into them? Or what if Nakajima and Kusaba have decided to chase after Hinami? We know that isn’t the case, but Kaneki does not know and there is no way for him to find out. And you plan to leave this panicking kid alone? The moment you send her away, you lose any ability to interfere with her situation in the future. If something goes wrong, she’s dead.
          And Kaneki didn’t cut Hinami off, Hinami was unable to tell Kaneki what was going on because of her panicking. He would have had to calm her down, but that’s easier said than done, since he was on the verge of panicking himself.

          In this situation, the rational choice is the choice of the coward: Running away and abandoning Ryouko. Kaneki’s mistake isn’t taking Hinami along, his mistake is trying to help Ryouko at all. But I wonder, how many people would make this choice in this situation?

          About Kaneki’s redeeming feature: When he is on his own, he tends to flee. But that changes when someone whom he values is in danger. We already saw it with Kimi and Hide. He could have left them to their fate, ensuring his own survival. Instead, he chose to try to protect them, risking his own life. The problem is that he isn’t powerful enough yet to really protect others on his own.

        1. E Minor Post author

          He did. The first thing he said was “What’s the matter?” But whatever, this is going in circles and we’re just entrenched in our respective positions.

    2. eternia

      I agree with all you have said, bro.

      After looking around, it seems that there ARE stupid people who asked him to be a badass.
      I myself have never asked him to be a badass or a genius. I want him to be a bit smarter. A bit more perceptive. He should sit down and think about his current life and what to do for the future. Make a list of priorities. Someone in his position definitely doesn’t have the time and leisure to tutor a brat for free. He should have dragged the brat away instead of watching her mother die. What if she cried out loud from the shock even though he tried his hardest to cover her mouth?

      At current state, his bad traits far outweighs his good traits.

      Is there such a flawed person in real life? Of course there is.
      Is he an unrealistic character? Of course no. There are bigger losers in real life.

      But the anime defenders forgot that this is a fiction. A protagonist has to be likeable to some extent.
      Would people read Sherlock Holmes if he is an idiot?
      Would people read Harry Potter if he is a crybaby?

        1. eternia

          How could l like.. someone… so stupid…
          Living in a world where monsters exist,
          1. he followed a woman he has just met to a dark, secluded place.
          2. he followed a narcissist guy he has just met to his house.

          Even though I lived in a world without monsters, I don’t do those.

          [Yeah, we are just going around in circles here :-D]

          1. E Minor Post author

            1. Crime rate in Japan is low. Following a woman into a dark, secluded place is not as scary-sounding there as it might be in, say, New York City. And even though this universe contains ghouls, it’s entirely possible he did not think such a sweet-seeming woman who’s into books was a ghoul. He had a lot of misconceptions about ghouls that weren’t corrected until he became one himself.

            2. Narcissist guy is a narcissist to you. It’s possible Ken did not notice because he is trusting and assumes the best of people. Naive? Yes. But that’s pretty much the point of his character.

            3. No one is asking you to like the guy. I admit I wouldn’t be friends with him if he was a real person. I just don’t think he’s as bad as you guys paint him to be.

  6. BoyTitan

    People don’t like realistic responses in anime. The comments toward Ken are like how Eren in attack on titan was treated all over again.

    1. Naota

      That’s pretty absurd for people to say. What were the comments about Eren? That he didn’t kill enough titans? The thing is, Eren’s characterized by his unbreakable will to defeat the Titans. That’s why he’s the protagonist.

      Ken’s sort of a different kettle of fish, though. Sure some people just don’t like how he can’t win a fight, but it’s more than that. Like I said in an earlier comment, I don’t think he has any redeeming traits aside from being nice (when he isn’t too timid to talk with people). The fact that it’s so commonplace means some people won’t be used to protagonists without agency and some kind of appeal; protagonists who don’t drive their own story, who you aren’t supposed to cheer for. Some people expect only heroes to star in their stories.

      I don’t think a story needs those per se – there are really no hard rules in writing fiction – but I do wonder what author intends with Ken that necessitates him being so helpless and lacking in direction. Just a glimpse into this world as experienced by a normal dude? That’s pretty neat, but it’s certainly not endearing towards him at all.

      1. ea

        There were people who thought Eren and most of the other kids were annoying crybabies because they were traumatised by their family and friends being gruesomely eaten alive in front of them. I guess they wanted Eren to activate gary stu powers to save his mom and kill all the titans as a 10 year old in the first ep or something.


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