A lot of people were really hard on the first season of Tokyo Ghoul, for some very understandable reasons. The anime basically clips out the major moments from the original manga in order to fit about half of its content into 12 episodes. It probably didn’t help that, at its core, the plot is really just another X-Men like story about societal outcasts trying to show everyone that they’re human too. Also censoring. But despite all of these visible issues, I found it really easy to love and appreciate Tokyo Ghoul.
Shuhei Morita’s powerful direction turned this otherwise low budget action horror show into a visual treat, and the power of its original source material shines through at all the right moments. I still maintain the show’s final episode is the best one that aired last year, with its amazing bravery and psychological breakdown of protagonist Kaneki being some of the best directed and written material I’ve seen in a long time. So with that said I was pretty excited to board the Tokyo Ghoul √A hype train, even though the prospect of it being an entirely anime original second season was strange and confusing to me. And boy was that hype worth it! Tokyo Ghoul 2, as I’ll call it throughout the rest of these posts, represents the first season of the show at its best. It’s constantly intriguing, beautifully directed, and this time around the characters have the space to interact and grow, making the pacing feel ten times smoother.
That latter point is especially noteworthy, because despite how likable the cast was in the first season, they felt rather detached due to the fact that they had no room to breath. Sure I guess we got to see Hinami bond with Touka and Kaneki for a bit, and we learned a few things about the others, but for the most part the story just kept moving from set piece to set piece at lightning speed. This change makes a huge impact, since now the story and conversation scenes are filled to the brim with subtle little character moments; which tell me more about these people than the first season ever did. From the way Kaneki still helps out people in need despite his new cold exterior, to Hide’s expression changing at the mention of his missing friend, everyone feels very well defined and fleshed out this season.
This surprisingly applies to the CCG members too, who were some of the less sympathetic cast members of the story last season. Instead of making their side seem like cold monsters though, this season has been covering both the Ghouls and the Doves pretty equally, to the point where the morally grey area the series has hinted at throughout its runtime has finally become visible. Like the first season showed us, the Ghouls and Doves have a lot in common, the only difference is their outlooks on each other. Dove members like the newly introduced Akira Mado, or Amon have understandable motivations for hating the Ghouls; throughout their lives Ghouls have killed their friends and family, almost destroying them psychologically. And even the ones that don’t have clear reasons for hating the Ghouls feel and act like relatable people. In fact the only Dove that has yet to be painted sympathetically is Juzo Suzuya, but recently the show has been hinting at an interesting back story.
However, while all of that human focus is great, the best new aspect of Tokyo Ghoul 2 is Kaneki’s character transformation. After the heart pounding first season finale, Kaneki’s mind is in complete turmoil. His primal Ghoul nature has taken over, and now he’s decided to abandon his friends at Anteiku to join Aogiri Tree, the very organization that was trying to kill him and his friends. While this may seem out of place, especially when compared to events in the manga, it makes sense when you take last season’s finale into consideration. Kaneki was basically psychologically destroyed by the end of season one, his barrier between his human and ghoul personalities completely obliterated. So it’s only understandable that he’d make such a drastic decision, and as hinted by the end of Episode 4, this change in character may not be because he wants to help Aogiri Tree. Moments of kindness still shine through his cold hearted mask, and he mentions something about protecting his friends at the end of episode 4. It’s all very up in the air at the moment, but I couldn’t be more intrigued.
The way his character change has affected the other cast members has also been quite the site to behold. Touka is clearly distraught from it, not only has she been trying to shun him when he comes up in conversation, but she’s also trying to join his college after she graduates high school. Hide has also changed quite a bit, which is a nice change of pace since he didn’t really contribute much to the show last season, despite being Kaneki’s best friend. Now though, Hide has started to actively search for Kaneki, discovering he was a Ghoul in the process. I like this a lot, not only because it gives him something to do plot wise, but also because it shows how much Kaneki’s decision has affected the cast members on both the Ghoul and Human side of the story.
Anyways, to end this post off, I’d like to talk about the last improvement to the show: The animation. Oh, don’t get me wrong, this show is still not very high budget, but Studio Pierrot have made quite a few improvements since the Fall season break. For one thing the character models are much more consistent, with everything looking more polished and on model than ever before. This leaves a lot of room for subtle expressions during conversation scenes, making the more static scenes more of a visual treat than they used to be. However, despite the fact that director Shuhei Morita is still on his A game here, the action scenes have many ugly moments.. Episode 4 is a prime example of this, with slow motion, too many static camera shots, and a lot more off model shots than there were in Episodes 1-3. Don’t get me wrong, Morita definitely knows how to choreograph a fight scene, but the budget cuts in these scenes are really noticeable.
Overall though, I’m loving this introduction to Tokyo Ghoul’s second season. It’s really been improving on all of the problems I had with season one with amazing proficiency. The pacing is much better, the animation has improved a lot, and the characters actually have a ton more room to develop. I especially like Kaneki’s metamorphosis from a kind hearted weakling, into a cold blooded animal trying to fight back his human urges. That, and the way every other character has reacted to it, has been a true joy to watch. So anyways, I bid you adieu until the next post, where Tokyo Ghoul will hopefully continue to be a bloody and gorgeous mess.