Tokyo Ghoul Ep. 12 (Finale): Embrace your mother

Tokyo Ghoul - 1203

Well, I wish we had gotten this week’s episode last week. What then would we do with this week’s episode? Who knows. Maybe tie up some loose ends since this episode is all about Ken. Nearly everything you saw in the previous episode does not make a lick of difference here. The finale is all about Ken’s fall from grace, and hell, that’s fine. We’ve reached the thematic highpoint of the story, so I’m okay with the story ending here. I can see how the story might lack closure for others, though. We have no clue whatsoever how Ken’s friends are doing. Still, Tokyo Ghoul is at its best when it focuses on the characters’ psychology; the fight scenes are just one of many ways to help deliver that story. The problem with last week’s episode was that not only was it nonsensical on many levels, it was never really about the characters. In fact, the past three weeks failed to focus much on anything but the bare bones of the plot. Things moved briskly in order for Studio Pierrot to squeeze an entire arc into just four episode. Naturally, Ken’s torture deserves an episode all to itself, so really, they had even less time to work with.

But you know what? I will give credit where credit’s due: I feel that Studio Pierrot did this episode right. Is the episode perfect? No, but it’s a strong one. It reminds me of what the anime does best. Is the series still flawed, especially towards the end? Very much so, but at least we salvaged something out of the disaster that was the past three weeks. Like I’ve said, we finally do see Ken’s mental torture. I initially thought we wouldn’t after how the previous episode had ended, but I see Studio Pierrot pulled the ol’ switcheroo on us. Or, if you’re being charitable, you can call it foreshadowing, but it’s pretty weak foreshadowing if that’s the case. But moving on, we even revisit some very key themes established at the very start of the series. Why do you suppose Ken is in chains even in his own mind? It’s because Rize is his torturer in this world. Yamori is assaulting our hero’s body, and using this to her advantage, Rize attacks Ken’s mind as well as everything he holds dear. After all, she’s been trying to corrupt him ever since he became a ghoul. She only now senses that she has the perfect opportunity to get the job done.

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Sitting amidst a field of white flowers — white being the color of innocence and purity — a shuddering, sobbing Ken feels a feminine hand reach out and caress him. He instinctively calls out for his mother, but when his blindfold falls off, he realizes that it is none other than Rize standing before him. Wherever Rize stands, the white flowers beneath her feet turn to red — red being the color for anger and hatred, but also love and sex (the sight of flowers blooming is also symbolic of one’s burgeoning sexuality). In other words, she is literally corrupting the flowers as she touches them. What does that tell us when we see her touching Ken? Rize then asks about Ken’s mother, whom our hero remembers fondly. But that’s not what Rize wants, is it? In the very first memory that we see, a white flower that Ken’s mother had cut suddenly turns to red; like with the flowers she had walked on in the previous scene, Rize’s here to corrupt Ken’s memories of his own mother as well. You can even see both Rize and the red flower lurking in the background in this shot. Her goal is to tear Ken’s mother down in his own mind, because Ken bases so much of his personality on what he had learned from his mother.

Ken believes it is better to be hurt than to hurt others thanks to his mother and his mother alone. This is one of the primary reasons why he resistant against accepting his ghoul self. After all, a ghoul derives his or power from consuming flesh. A ghoul’s very existence requires others to get hurt. Throughout the series, Ken drives himself to the brink of death simply because he’s hesitant to eat what he needs to eat. But what if Rize could cause Ken to lose faith in his own mother? Ken’s foundation would no longer lie with his actual mother, but with Rize, who had had a hand in creating his current self. So in order for Ken to accept his ghoul side, he must also accept Rize as a mother figure. He must see that Rize is someone who can protect him, because that’s the role that mothers play in almost every culture. To facilitate this, Rize makes our hero see that his actual mother had worked herself too hard for her sister’s sake. And in doing so, she had neglected Ken, her own son. And for all that she’s taught him, look where it has gotten him. He’s absolutely defenseless against Yamori, because he’s just too soft-hearted. Ken’s mother couldn’t protect him from loneliness back then, and she can’t protect him from Yamori’s torture now.

Tokyo Ghoul - 1207

Rize, on the other hand, can give Ken the power that he needs to stand up and fight for himself. Yamori even taunts Ken along this same line of reasoning: “All of the disadvantage in this world stems from a person’s lack of ability.” Our hero has the ability to overcome his torture; he has the ability to stop all of this, but why isn’t he doing anything? ‘Cause he’s frozen with fear. After all this time, and after all that he’s been through, he’s fearful of hurting people just like his mother was fearful of hurting her sister. She didn’t realize that her fear inadvertently hurt her son, just like how Ken’s inability to fight back prevented him from protecting the people he supposedly cares about. Back in the real world, Yamori puts Ken to the task. He must choose to save one of two people. If Ken refuses to make a decision, Yamori will simply kill them both. Naturally, Ken does nothing; in fact, he is unable to do anything. Inability grips him because he is afraid to make a decision. His kind-hearted nature can’t help him navigate these dilemmas. It’s better to be hurt than to hurt others? What if no matter what you do, someone will get hurt? What then? In the end, his indecision becomes a decision of its own — a decision not to save anyone but himself from the guilt of having to make the decision.

Of course, you could argue that Yamori would’ve killed them both anyway even if Ken had made a decision, but that just brings us back to the fact that he’s weak. This is why Rize goes on to say, “Your mother was the same way. If she had turned aside her intolerable sister’s requests, she wouldn’t have died from overwork.” Ken’s mother thought she was just putting all of the burden onto herself, but without realizing it, she put it on Ken too. So in this moment of despair, our hero finally believes he is weak because he is too much like his mother. Rejecting his human side is thus like rejecting his mother. In doing so, he’s embracing what he and Rize have in common: their ghoul side. Make no mistake about it, Rize then calls Ken a good boy when he abandon his mother’s teachings. She then flat out asks, “Are you saying you accept me?” Ken doesn’t exactly say yes. Instead, he breaks free from his bondage and pins Rize down, claiming that he can always surpass her. You can’t tell me that this moment isn’t supposed to be sexual when our hero adopts a dominant sexual position on top of the woman he had once foolishly tried to date. And gosh, this same woman has been trying all episode long to tear down Ken’s memories of his own mother.

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But why? Why are things suddenly sexual between him and Rize? Well, he was in bondage as Rize caressed and teased him, so you could argue that this scene was always sort of sexual. But more to the point, Ken never had his mother to himself. He was a lonely child, remember? During a childhood developmental stage in which children typically have their mother all to themselves, Ken never got to posses his own mother. This is something most of us eventually grow out of; we accept that we can be independent from our mothers. But thanks to what Ken had to suffer through in his youth, he still has this hang-up — this need to possess the mother figure because she was always too busy for him. So in accepting Rize in this twisted way, Ken can have it both ways. He can have the strength he wants from embracing both Rize and his ghoul side, but he can also possess her. And y’know what? The funniest part was people trying to tell me at the start of the season that I was seeing things. Oh no, dude, Rize isn’t trying to be a mother figure! And there’s nothing sexual about any of this! Meanwhile, we only see from a distance that Ken is enjoying Rize’s flesh… in his own mind, of course, which hammers home the fact that his imbibing of her flesh is metaphorical.

Sex, people, it’s all about sex. Our world is inundated with sex. Stop trying to deny it.

31 thoughts on “Tokyo Ghoul Ep. 12 (Finale): Embrace your mother

  1. Marcomax

    “Sex, people, it’s all about sex. ” That’s a pretty nice line to go out on.

    I was reading on twitter someone comparing the end to Tokyo Ghoul to Berserk TV and Evangelion TV. Where instead of an ending that wraps up the plot, they focus on the characters as they reach the apex of their development. Having watched the episode, I can say that was definitely the best way to end this series.

    Tokyo Ghoul has been a real treat. I was expecting twelve episodes about on the same level as last weeks. Even though I enjoyed episode 11, it was definitely a weaker episode.

    So yea, Tokyo Ghoul is legit. Don’t know what else to say. *Exits room slowly*

    1. Naota

      I can’t help but agree. I was favourably impressed with this episode, and really surprised to boot. It took Rize from a background idea to my favourite character. I’m so glad they didn’t try to cram the rest of the plot into this episode at any cost just so that it would “make sense”, and instead ended on a dramatic high, closing out the themes of the season with a look at Ken’s psychology rather than the plot events they hastily excavated from the manga last episode.

      All things considered, I don’t think I could have asked for a better ending. Someone at Studio Pierrot really gets what it is I watch anime for.

  2. francetoasty

    the Ken/Rize angle has always been my favorite aspect of the show and with the way the previous few episodes were going, I was worried that they were just going to drop the whole thing, so this finale came as a pleasant surprise!
    i noticed you said that the episode was good but not perfect, so i was wondering… what do you think could’ve been done better?

    1. E Minor Post author

      i noticed you said that the episode was good but not perfect, so i was wondering… what do you think could’ve been done better?

      Just the usual. Unnecessary narration, mediocre fight scenes, gratuitous censorship.

  3. Anonymous

    Amazing how the final episode saved this from being a completely mediocre adaption. I did enjoy though it changed some things from the manga I liked.

  4. Flawfinder

    Not sure when the announcement for the second cour/season came, but I assume it was after you wrote this post.

    What I heard about the ending is pretty bad though. Oh well, I guess that bridge will be crossed when it comes and we’ll see how much personal magic the director can work into the source.

  5. eternia

    I hoped I was wrong when I voted for Tokyo Ghoul, and I am glad that I turned out to be wrong.
    Make no mistake, though, the previous sucky three episodes still prevents me from rating this episode too high, but the finale episode was really satisfying. It’s still vivid in my mind how all the Aogiri’s snipers did nothing as the totally wide open, unprotected old man fired at them, lol. Also the tornado armor, were we watching Fairy Tail?

    As to why it is satisfying, because this is what I have been asking ever since the beginning.
    Just go ahead and do it, man, it;s not like you can turn back into normal human any \more,

  6. BoyTitan

    Would have liked more thoughts from you. No stray observations. Anyways yea you were right about the whole sex thing I can admit being wrong. Cut out that last 3 episodes and this adaption was for the most part better than the manga. Well the fights are better in the manga which is pretty bad because the fight in the manga are only decent-good. The people who choreograph the fights just have no clue what is going on. For instance in the manga when ken is holding Yamori arm both times it is to armbar him a move in Jiu Jitsu,Judo, MMA with the goal of breaking the opponents arm. Even in the manga yamori replied during the fight same trick again and then broke kens foot. Little things like that make a fight more fluid and better. With how big combat sports are today fight scenes have to be detailed and not look like people flailing around with no sense of purpose. I hope next season the action is better choreographed. The end fight scene of this is just something I will forget where as I can still remember Batman vs the Mutant leader scene by scene or Annie vs Eren from attack on titan. As good as the story was the action here was just completely forgettable. There was no sense of life or death in it.

    1. Naota

      The problem with Tokyo Ghoul’s fights, and the fights in many other anime, is that they break the rules we’re used to and then fail to substitute them with anything.

      We know in a real fight that a solid punch to the face is a major advantage to the puncher, being thrown into a wall means broken bones, a bullet to the head is death, and a fall from a building is the end of the line. We know the rules, so we know the stakes. When an iron beam whistles past a character’s head we can suck in our collective breath. “Whew, he really dodged death there!”

      But in anime these things happen willy-nilly and without consequence. A character can be hurled into a solid concrete barrier or slammed into the ground three times and be completely unharmed and unhindered after a quick dust-off, but the fourth time he’s instantly defeated even though it was exactly the same as the last three. Much too often the two characters just show off for three minutes, accomplishing nothing and gaining no meaningful advantage or disadvantage over their opponent, and then the fight is decided in a single blow. A blow that looks no different from any of the five hundred we just saw. We can’t get invested because the fight has no rules. There’s no anticipation. A punch to the gut can be absolutely meaningless one second and a heart-smashing deathblow the next, and both look exactly the same.

      Now, you can have a fight that doesn’t obey the rules we’re used to, but they have to be known to us beforehand. If Ken regenerates too quickly to stay harmed, I still expect to see him get harmed when someone turns him into a humanoid wrecking ball, and be at a disadvantage while his limbs sort themselves out. No standing up from a cloud of smoke, lightly scuffed, while Jason waits for him like a real sport. We should understand that a devastating hit is going to leave him weakest in the following few seconds, and his enemy is going to press the attack as much as possible right then unless they’re a blithering idiot. We need things to be reasonably worried about when they happen to Ken, and to cheer for and share in his confidence when they happen to his opponent.

    2. E Minor Post author

      Would have liked more thoughts from you. No stray observations.

      I only had two notes written down after everything was said and done. Decided to just delete them.

  7. Mira

    The last three weeks were a mess for Tokyo Ghoul, but I’m glad we got this episode. Instead of focusing on how to resolve the larger issue with big fights, we get a really long torture session that lets us look into Kaneki’s thoughts. Your thoughts on him and Rise mirror my own so I don’t think I have much to add when it comes to the Oedipal angle of their relationship other than they’re really my favorite part of this whole series.

    What I do find interesting is how this final episode contrasts with my impressions on Tokyo when I was there as a tourist. I always felt like you had to be incredibly aware of the people around you and it was best not to trouble anyone. Basically, my impression what that it was more like “put other people’s needs before yours”. It’s probably unfair to simplify an entire culture that way but that was what I picked up on. Being raised in a household that upholds that same thinking, I know how that eventually spreads over not just to yourself but to your family as well. Without realizing it you’ve deprived not just yourself but the people you’re supposed to care about too.

    Also the series has constantly framed Kaneki as a victim and a martyr, even that stand off with Amon painted him like a Christ-like figure. But this series surprised me with him finally choosing to be the aggressor. It’s certainly a cynical turn that kind of redeems this last arc of the first half.

    1. E Minor Post author

      There’s something to be said about the bad guys’ lack of shame. Rize is a binge-eater. Yamori is a sadist. Part of surviving as a ghoul is accepting that you just have to eat people. There are no ways around it. Even the good guys have to scavenge for dead bodies like vultures, which is arguably even more shameful than the art of hunting your prey. The universe of Tokyo Ghoul is rather godless. There’s no real order to it. Just ghouls trying to survive amongst humans, and the doves barely managing to control them. So to survive in this godless world, the strongest are the ones without shame, the ones that don’t have to worry about society’s laws. This may not seem crazy to outsiders, but to a conservative culture like Japans or any other Eastern nation, it’s crazy.

      It’s certainly a cynical turn that kind of redeems this last arc of the first half.

      And following on that godless world thinking, I think Ken ultimately turns ’cause there’s no salvation. No one’s going to come down from heaven to save him. Even his mother can’t protect him, so there’s certainly no higher power to believe in.

  8. Good Taste

    I hope we get more episodes like this in the 2nd season (if it happens). This was probably one of my favorite episodes of 2014.

  9. Anonymous

    I skimmed all of this because I haven’t seen it yet. The last episode kind of took a lot out of me. Looks like it managed to turn things around though. Is a second season confirmed yet?

    Either way, I’ll probably watch it, but I’m very skeptical after last week’s debacle. I feel like I need time to distance myself from that before I watch this one.

  10. John Nash

    Looks like someone heared my prayers last week and forgot about the Owl stuff and the brother/sister drama in favour of the torture scene. Now I’m really interested in how they plan to end the second season, since the manga seems to have ended in a really weired spot …
    If it weren’t for the last two or three episodes (which are actually rather close to the source, including Juzos bike stunt and all that over-the-topness, so that one’s on the author), this could have been a really good season :(

  11. Anonymous

    being that i read the manga from chapter 1-143 i can say that even though the anime was extremly rushed it still was well done but i only really wanted to see kaneki fight yamori
    sucks that there was no ayato fight or owl fight but still got a glimpse of owl even if it was only for 10 seconds which was somewhat fair the only thing i hated about the series was the song used for the fight scene its wasen’t dark enough to express the violent desperation and pure awsomeness of the fight between ken and jason when i read the manga i was expecting there to be a direngrey or some jmetal band for when that scene is animated but nooo we got
    shitty jpop theres good jpop and shitty jpop that was shitty jpop. the fight was “half killed” because of that. but i guess not everything can go my way fuck.

  12. Teo Xi (@sherathan)

    I believe the red flower is called red spider lily.

    “The Red Spider Lily is called the 彼岸花 (“Flower of the Other Shore” aka “Flower of Paradise”) in Chinese, and 曼珠沙華 [まんじゅしゃげ] (manjushaka) in Japanese.

    It said that there is a river in the underworld called 忘川 (Forgotten River). Similar to River Stnx in Greek Mythology, the Forgotten River separates the underworld and the living world. When the dead crosses this river to get to the other side, all the memories of his/her past life will disappear. Growing on the shore of this river are these fiery Red Spider Lilies. Legend has it that the scent of the flowers will bring back all the beautiful memories of the dead for one last time, before they disappear when cross the river.

    The other legend has it that when a relationship ended, no matter how sad it is, a Red Spider Lily will grow around the Forgotten River. To proof that the love did exist and something beautiful will always remain at the other side of the shore.”

  13. mintrubber

    I couldn’t even watch this episode. I spent most of it looking at my cellphone or at wall, because I really hate to watch brutal torture. IMPLIED torture (what we had in the last episode), I love that, and gore during action scenes – even something like Berserk – is also perfectly fine, but I just. Can’t. I can’t watch this level of torture.

    So this episode was very disappointing to me… even more because it’s the last episode. There was no resolution to anything that happened last week, it feels like anime just cut off in the middle of an arc. I loved the series until now, but this ending was terrible.

    1. E Minor Post author

      We didn’t really see anything, but oh well, to each their own.

      There was no resolution to anything that happened last week,

      Well, I didn’t mind this, because everything that happened last week was stupid.

      1. mintrubber

        > We didn’t really see anything, but oh well, to each their own.

        Quite possible, because I wasn’t watching the screen when stuff happened.

        The worst was that thing with that centipede :/

        1. E Minor Post author

          Yeah, we don’t actually see Yamori put the centipede inside Ken. I don’t think any broadcast anime would show that, especially one has heavily censored as Tokyo Ghoul.

        2. kilroygrin

          It didn’t show the insertion of the centipede but it did slightly show Ken pull it out of his ear at the last few frames of animation. (I just think…. that’s worthy of note)

  14. Pingback: Tokyo Ghoul (HOLY CHEESEBALLS) *spoilers* | aknitme

  15. IonCaron (@IonCaron)

    Seems fitting I start posting replies again with this finale.
    Well, while the series didn’t turn out to be what I’d hoped, and while I’m never one to like a series that ends like this, I do appreciate what was accomplished when it was done right.

    E Minor, I gotta say… While I still don’t agree with you on certain topics (like the women in fridges thing), I will always admit that you have a damn good knack for catching onto themes/issues I personally might ignore or overlook.
    _I mean, the sexuality in this series did get a lot more blatant, but I still remember back during your post on the pilot and how I said you might be looking a bit too deeply into that aspect.
    Haha! You nailed it, though, mate.
    Psycho-Pass, the Chitoge tsunderkko, and now this. Damn do I get stuff wrong. Haha!
    Anyway, that’s why you’re the anime blogger. Makes sense you’d get this stuff before I do.

    As for this episode in particular, I also wish that this had come sooner. Then again I’d hoped this whole series would be predominantly this without any typical anime fight scenes, but you take what you can get. I can appreciate what was done and certainly appreciate the reason behind Ken’s “Shinji-ness”.
    Though it seems like, if we followed the story, Ken would keep hold onto his arc and not backslide into an even worse version of his former self like Eva’s cast (initially, from what I remember. I hear the remakes changed that but I haven’t seen them).

  16. Nick

    It really seems like Episodes 1 and 12 had by far the best direction. All the others had bland colour palettes, while these two had some cool shots.

  17. Sap

    This episode was great. Too bad the ten episodes (not counting episode 1, which was very well done too) leading up to that have been such a subpar and overall disappointing adaptation of the source material.


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