Anime: Tokyo Ghoul (Season 2)
Released By: FUNimation
Release Date: May 24, 2016
Retail Price: $69.98
If you haven’t witnessed the psychological horror series Tokyo Ghoul for yourself, it can easily be claimed that you are missing out on what is wholeheartedly one of the most devastating anime series in quite some time. During the first season we became aware of a faction of creatures who were labeled “ghouls.” The ghouls of the anime world are unusually strong, with something known as their kagune (manipulated physical manifestation that can be used to attack or defend, with individualistic traits) emerging from their physical forms. While initially you think that these ghouls are designed to be cannibalistic savages with a thirst for flesh and blood, we established that not every ghoul hopes to fulfill the expectations of their biological needs.
Opposite of the ghouls are the CCG (Commission of Counter Ghoul) a federal agency with police force parallels - in a more extreme manner. This battle between two different groups in such opposition forced viewers to take a stance against one view, with a few exceptions that made both sympathetic. Season 2 throws us back into the struggle with the ghouls and the CCG with even higher stakes than the previous season, making it known that things are going to get worse for the plethora of characters we now are more adapted to. One thing that indicated the direction was the conclusion of season 1 in a dark and brutal way, so as we pick up after that moment, Kaneki is a different man than he ever was before.
Kaneki is consistently the focal point of Tokyo Ghoul, and with good reason. When we first met the coy young man he was dealing with the most minor life struggles until his life began down a slippery slope of death and destruction. We had witnessed the physical torture of Kaneki, but season 2 explores the additional psychological turmoil Kaneki continues to go through, making him a shell of his former self. While it makes you so much more invested in Kaneki’s character entirely, I also constantly struggled with the creative choices to subject such an innocent bystander with constant trauma. Despite having practically two personas, Kaneki’s transformation in season 2 takes both sides we have seen and shows the beautifully fractured Kaneki who has experienced both the most extreme highs and darkest lows.
Though we met an entire group of characters whom Kaneki interacted with, Tokyo Ghoul completely revolves around Kaneki. His absence after he joins an unlikely team is felt amongst the characters in his life, but from a viewer’s perspective is confirmation that things can’t carry on the same way - leaving a hole in the story, characters and fans without the beloved pillar of genuinity and unfortunate circumstances. That doesn’t imply that there aren’t others you can’t enjoy or root for (because there are) but Kaneki is the undisputed anchor to Tokyo Ghoul’s stability. Another character who doesn’t always have deserved screentime is the best friend of Kaneki, named Hide. Hide plays a much larger role for one crucial moment in season 2 that is one of the most emotionally gripping scenes of the series and anime in general. The relationship between best friends is certainly shown in season 2 in ways that were needed but still difficult to watch. Season 2 gave us a better chance to see the severity of the ghouls struggles to survive, making it more suspenseful for even the more background roles of Tokyo Ghoul.
The second season of the anime takes a truly cinematic approach at depicting an overall artistic appreciation. Tokyo Ghoul knows exactly how to use even the most subtle or silent scenes and uses an animated version of cinematography that gives most frames an opportunity to be a beautiful still. This is specifically shown towards the final episodes of the series, with powerful scenes that capitalize on the beautiful artistry behind the anime. Part of what makes particular scenes especially heartbreaking is the combination of seriousness and beauty which isn’t an easy balance to achieve in any medium. As far as the dub of Tokyo Ghoul goes, the original Japanese voice cast feels like it really fits the spirit of the series, with every voice fitting their character with ease. The English cast does a fine job as well, however there is a fairly noticeable difference between the essence of both. Tokyo Ghoul’s second season is just as impressive as the first, building on quality from where we left off with an even more dire direction (which didn’t seem possible) but the ending doesn’t feel like we’ve completed the story of Kaneki just yet - there is still so much more to explore for the complex young human/ghoul.
Overall Score: 9/10
Aedan’s Final Thoughts:
-Kaneki is a very strong lead character to follow, making you wish you could see the poor soul’s life find some simplicity once again.
-The series holds plenty of devastating deaths that are hard to stomach (consider yourself warned.)
-The exploration of what a “monster” really is provides us with a deeper understanding of various aspects to humanity and a fear of anything different than people's expectations.
-Nashiro and Kurona were two characters with a smaller role that helped remind viewers that even the outsider characters have depth to them and add something great to the series.
-Even characters who can be frustrating like Juuzou are given at least a few moments where sympathy can be somewhat felt for everyone’s different upbringing.