My reactions to these two episodes were as dissonant as the episodes themselves.
It’s easy to see why Tokyo Ghoul generated some buzz coming into the season. It’s stylish and macabre, and seems as interested in the psychology of its characters as it is in splattering blood all over them. And I like it, more or less. It’s pretty comfortably made my summer watchlist at this point. But I also described the second episode as “hilarious” when I was done with it, and I’m preeeetty sure that’s not the tone they were going for.
I just can’t shake the feeling that all this flesh-eating ghoul business is a bit silly, and I can’t decide if the writer is aware of this and is winking at me, or if he’s playing it straight and I’m incapable of interpreting it that way. This leads to moments like Ken frantically screaming “Hide is not food!” which is supposed to remind me that Ken is still clinging to his humanity while navigating a world of monsters, but instead it just calls to mind the image of our MC standing over a ghoul and fwapping him with a rolled up newspaper (“Bad ghoul! You spit Hide out right this second!”), which then leads to… well, those giggles I mentioned before.
That said, while the “horror” sequences in Episode Two provided me with more glee than was probably proper, the quieter moments in Episode Three actually worked pretty well in terms of building world, raising stakes, and establishing characters. There are times when Ken and Touka start to feel like broken records (seriously, we get it, Ken is horrified and Touka is hostile), but the people and ghouls around them are showing strong signs of hidden depth and layers. Ken’s buddy Hide is hiding a perceptive and sympathetic interior behind that smiling facade, and the cafe owner Yoshimura is becoming a sort of father figure to our lost and lonely protagonist.
For the most part, the characters behave and interact organically, providing both a welcome change from (and a strange contrast to) the brutal, bloody nature of the ghoul battles that came before. But then, perhaps this is the point – to highlight the stark difference between “man” and “monster,” and to show how both reside within our protagonist. I’ll be curious to see whether the louder conflicts (ghoul battles! friend murder!) or the quieter ones (of identity, isolation, and what it means to be “human”) take precedence as the series progresses, but I’m very much hoping for the latter.
It takes a lot to truly snap my suspension of disbelief, and if TG continues to develop its cast and world with the obvious care and attention to detail that it showed in the third episode, there’s a good chance I’ll become fully invested in this series and approach it with the proper mindset. Who knows? In another week or two I may even be able to hear Ken say “He is my friend, so I have to eat him” without bursting into laughter. Either way, I’m on board for the full ride. Let’s see where this crazy train takes us.