Spring 2018 First Impressions: Tokyo Ghoul: re – Guess Who’s Back, Back Again

Two years after the events of Tokyo Ghoul the city has become a safer place for humans, with many of the resident ghouls hiding in the shadows after their war with the CCG. However, Aogiri Tree is still at large, operating under the cover of night. A new team of doves called the “Quinx”, a group of hybrid ghouls, are formed to take care of messes the rest of the CCG cannot handle. Much to their squad leader Haise Sasaki’s chagrin, the group still has a lot to learn about teamwork. While on a hunt for a ghoul called Torso who has been murdering women around the city an S-class ghoul uses the opportunity to strike. Will Sasaki be able to protect his squad without giving into his previous self and the dark and terrible power that once consumed him?

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My feelings about the original Tokyo Ghoul anime are complicated. While it got off to an intriguing start, heavy censorship and a deterioration in animation quality, as well as some strange and unnecessary story changes meant that the series didn’t quite live up to its full potential. Despite that, I’m thankful that it made me aware of the original manga where the narrative is much better presented. From what I have heard, this adaptation is more a sequel to the manga than to the previous anime, which is good because I really wasn’t a fan of how they switched up parts of the story. I haven’t started reading Tokyo Ghoul: re yet so this was my first introduction to the sequel outside of bits and pieces I have seen around the internet. During the lead up to the season I was very interested to see how this story would compare to its predecessor.

In this first episode we meet the majority of the Quinx squad, which is comprised of Sasaki Haise, the group’s mentor;  Urie Kuki, a calculated young man whose late father was also a member of the CCG; Shirazu Zanshi, a shark toothed investigator who is passionate but easily manipulated; and Mutsuki Toru, the least experienced member of the squad who is still unable to fully utilise their kagune. Over the course of the episode we get a good understanding of how the group play off of each other and I appreciate the fact that they have an interesting dynamic. On top of these introductions the fans get to see a few familiar faces like Akira Mado, who is now a senior investigator and is in charge of the Quinx squad, and Hinami, who has a short appearance in the episode when she comes to deliver Torso with a warning from Aogiri Tree. This set up one of the biggest questions for me that I can’t wait for Tokyo Ghoul: re to answer: how did sweet, kind little Hinami end up joining a terrorist organisation during the two year time skip?

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For an episode of Tokyo Ghoul, there was a surprising lack of tension up until the gang actually close in on Torso.  Back at the dormitory Haise decides to cook the group a meal in a scene that is brief but downright cosy for this show and seems reminiscent of Kaneki’s more relaxed days back at Anteiku (but I’m sure there’s no correlation there, a total coincidence right guys?). He cares about the team being a close unit despite being warned off kindness by Mado because he knows the distrust they face from all sides. Normal humans don’t want to associate with them, they’re tasked with tracking down ghouls, and even the CCG are shown not to trust them because of their ghoulish nature, despite the fact that they’re on the same side.

The main crux of the episode is that the team want to catch the rogue ghoul before Shimonoguchi’s team do, and due to their differing goals we see them split into two groups: Urie and Shirazu, motivated by a need to get ahead and look out for number one, and Haise and Mutsuki, the kinder, more empathetic duo who want to try and bring the squad closer together. During the investigation both groups get involved in their own shenanigans, and other than the encounter with the Priest, a ghoul locked up in the high security prison who gives more details on the killer’s modus operandi, it’s probably one of the more lighthearted segments we’ve seen in this series.

Once they close in on the killer the episode returns to the series’ roots. We see some high stakes action as the group face down against Orochi, a member of Aogiri Tree, while they’re trying to apprehend Torso. I was pleased to see that there wasn’t a dip in animation quality; the fight scenes are fluid and so far there isn’t much of the overzealous censorship that plagued the original series, although that could easily change once we get to gorier content. Haise is desperate to protect his comrades in a way that is very reminiscent of a certain someone, and we end on a hallucinatory note that shows us his inner psyche where a familiar ghoul resides. Yes, Kaneki is still here and he steals the episode in a fantastic scene where he tries to tempt his other self with his unlimited cosmic power so that he can be free of the itty bitty living space that is Haise’s mind. What a note to end on!

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So despite the fact that I thought I was mostly over Tokyo Ghoul, especially in anime form, Tokyo Ghoul: re comes and sucks me back in. For now I will try my best to remain cautiously optimistic because I don’t want to be disappointed. If the new series can keep up this level of quality without making any big narrative missteps then this could be a great adaptation for the anime fans and manga readers alike.

Highlights:

  • Like always, this season of Tokyo Ghoul has a very good opening theme even if it doesn’t quite live up to “unravel”
  • Fans of the series will be excited to see some old favourites
  • The final scene is incredibly hype, but also beautifully directed with great shot composition and effects are used well to add a hallucinatory aura

Lowlights:

  • The scene where all the top investigators are discussing Torso goes on longer than it needs to and starts to really drag towards the end

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