Tokyo Ghoul Root A Ep. 1: Tearing this city apart

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Tokyo Ghoul√A? Yeah, I’m just going to call it Tokyo Ghoul in the body of these posts from now on. Anyway, before I start talking about the latest series, I thought the original was decent. I’m just not sure I wanted to see the story continued because the show looked like it was devolving into a generic shounen towards the end of the previous series. Sure, the final episode turned things around… but the two weeks preceding it were pretty damn bad. So which Tokyo Ghoul are we going to see this time? The 75% that was good? Or the 25% that was an unmitigating disaster?

— I liked the previous OP better. I really dislike the new song. I also liked the execution of the duality motif in the first OP. It was a bit on the nose, but a lot more interesting to look at than the stop-motion-esque movements and psychedelic morphing flowers that we get in the latest OP.

— I do like the tighter focus, though. I’ve never cared for OPs where the cast of characters are paraded onscreen. The minor characters are not important, so I don’t need to see them. Anyway, enough about OPs. They’re really not that important in my eyes.

— Just as I say that, however, the scene that follows the OP just happens to involve some of those minor characters that I don’t particularly care about. They just don’t lend much to the series. This is a story about Ken’s personal and psychological development. I don’t really care about Amon or some new ghoul who’s looking for the guy who took his arm.

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— The story cuts to Touka and her brother, and that’s okay. I don’t mind the spotlight being on Touka so much. But a large problem with the last arc of the previous series was that it simply introduced and involved too many characters that I didn’t care about. Take that Juuzou kid, for instance. Or any of the other CCG members. Or the Aogiri Tree people that I hardly even know nor want to know anything about. Or people who should be dead but somehow come back to life anyway.

— The thing is, these minor characters simply have no depth to them, and how can they? We only get thirteen episodes at twenty-ish minutes of runtime apiece. The story is better served just focusing on the trials and tribulations of a small cast of characters, and not this menagerie that suddenly turned up towards the end of the original series. There are even more characters I haven’t mentioned, and that’s the crux of the problem. I have no interest in talking about them, and I certainly do not have an interest in watching them.

— Action has never been the show’s strong point. Its execution is pretty much textbook shounen. And this part definitely doesn’t look very cool.

— There’s something simultaneously abusive and incestuous about Touka’s brother biting into her flesh. That’s not to mention the fact that he’s straddling her and going on and on about power. Ayato doesn’t kill her, though. He shoots a bunch of sharp quills(?) at his own sister, but I doubt they would’ve killed her. It’s all just torture. Up until this moment, the two siblings largely stayed out of each other’s ways. I suspect he’s hurting her now because he thinks this will scare and keep her away. Ayato also can’t like Ken very much, because Touka basically put herself in danger’s way in an attempt to save the protagonist.

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— So when Ken finally shows up to save Touka from her brother’s abuse, he turns it around on Ayato; he apparently knows the latter’s secret, i.e. why Ayato joined Aogiri Tree in the first place: “It’s for protection, right? What you hold most dear?” Right before he says this, Ken turns and watches a flock of birds fly off together. The Aogiri Tree are clearly a bunch of bad guys up to no good, but the story doesn’t exactly paint the CCG as the protagonists of the story either. At the end of the day, the conflict here is nothing more than gang warfare tearing a city apart.

Humans and ghouls are at each other’s throats, but they’re more similar than they would like to admit. Hell, we see in this very episode alone how those CCG dorks would allow those weird suits to consume them in order to gain more fighting ability. In order to kill ghouls, they have to become ghoul-like. They have to wield quinques. So what’s the difference between CCG and Aogiri Tree? It’s really just two different gangs fighting for control of the city. People will flock to one gang or the other for protection, but that’s all it is. No one here is actually righteous or moral.

Anyway, we all know Ayato joined Aogiri Tree because the organization is strong. It’s like when any wayward youth joins a gang because he wants their protection. The implication here, however, is that he can somehow become strong himself, and as a result, he can turn around and protect Touka, the person that he “hold[s] most dear.” This revelation infuriates Ayato, because he portrays himself as this “power rules everything” kind of guy, when at the end of the day, his actions are emotionally tied to his need to protect the one family member he has left. Having said that, I don’t exactly see what he’s done to protect her.

— Unfortunately, the encounter is cut short as the whole place comes crashing down.

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— So after saving Touka, Ken hands her off to Nishiki, then walks away to stand in some debris. There, this waif-like Aogiri Tree member teleports around him. There’s pretty much no dialogue to this scene. I’m not exactly sure what’s happening here, but whatever did happen pretty much cemented his next decision.

More characters, huh?

— He then returns to Touka, who tries to greet him as though everything is back to normal. But that’s the thing: she and Anteiku came to rescue him, but they were too late. They failed. The old Ken died. This new Ken is certainly different in a lot of respects, but the most important one is that he won’t be returning to Anteiku. In fact, he tells her that he’ll be joining Aogiri Tree. Of course, I can’t imagine him aligning himself with Aogiri Tree’s philosophy, whatever it is. As such, I wonder what he’s really after.

— Still, the Aogiri Tree members seem to welcome him with open arms… except Ayato, that is.

— Maybe he just wants to wear their sleek, new clothes. Still, he changed his outfit rather quickly, didn’t he?

— Anyway, this first episode had a bunch of fighting that I just didn’t care for. You don’t have to remove the conflict between CCG and Aogiri Tree. You just don’t have to draw it out for so long, or give these minor characters so much face time. The developments with Ken are interesting, and I can only hope that the story can stay focused from here on out. Let’s not get too bogged down by the need to have a Noah’s Ark of a cast.

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7 thoughts on “Tokyo Ghoul Root A Ep. 1: Tearing this city apart”

  1. Likewise, I found the two burly old dudes fighting in this episode to be the least interesting part, but with one difference that made it that much more bitter a pill to swallow:

    It… reminded me of Terra Formars. A lot.

    And Terra Formars is a terrible fate indeed.

  2. There’s a little question that nags me here. Where the hell did Ken get his mask from? I don’t recall him having it when he was kidnapped by Jason in the first season.

    1. Eh, I think the mask is just a physical representation of the inner mask. It’s a superhero thing. Does Superman literally wear his suit every single day? Sure, we can sit here and figure out the logistics (like how does he go to the restroom during the day). But the suit is just a literal representation of him going into superhero mode for the audience. Likewise, no one is either 100% ghoul or 100% human. Everyone falls somewhere on the spectrum. When these characters put on the mask, they’re basically saying they’re leaning far ghoul. Where the mask came from or how it stayed on his tattered clothing isn’t super important in the grand scheme of things.

      1. I get that. What I find curious is that they emphasized in the first season that it was a physical object (handcrafted by Uta), so I was under the impression that they have to physically wear it. So I was kinda surprised to see Kaneki suddenly pull it out of nowhere. Not that it’s a big issue, just a headscratcher on my part.

    1. I heard the anime’s story is taking a slightly different path from the manga. Either way, we’ll find out soon enough how the story will turn out.

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