Last summer one of my favorite anime was Tokyo Ghoul. I was greatly upset by the ending or, if we're being honest, the lack of an ending, so when a second season was announced, it would be fair to say that I was reasonably hyped. I enjoyed the two-sided battle between ghouls and humans who lacked a true understanding of each other (a premise that has earned many comparisons to another currently airing anime, Parasyte) and I liked to watch the progression of Kaneki. However, this current season has taken many of the issues from the previous one and expanded them, making me concerned about how much I will actually end up enjoying the series.
The first issue that comes to mind would be the relative invincibility of the characters. I'm sure you're thinking, "But Protonstorm! The characters die all the time!" and you would be right. However, what I am referring to is the effortless ease with which every single character will just mow down opposing enemies. This is a common issue in many shows, but it is made more glaringly obvious because there are many characters on either side of the conflict who miraculously rarely come in contact with each other, relatively speaking, and seem to be able to absolutely destroy mountains of what we MMO players would call 'trash mobs'.
Another problem I have with √A thus far would be the way it handles battles. In the first season, I was slightly concerned halfway through during the great battle between Kaneki and Touka and the Gourmet, because it fell into the classic style of fighting where each side continually unveils a new 'killing blow' that repeatedly fails to fully end the battle, and is then retaliated against with another 'killing blow'. The seinen element in this formula would be the ridiculous amount of blood added in that made me wonder how in the hell everyone wasn't dead. Fortunately, the first season was not overly heavy in its usage of this form of fighting, and I was able to enjoy it. This season, however, Tokyo Ghoul uses the formula for literally every battle. It's kind of frustrating, because if I wanted that I would...wait for it... go watch a shounen fighting series!
My most frustrating 'minor' concern, however, is another style of writing that √A has taken on that involves the entire story. I call it the FYI. Essentially, I am always confused as to what is happening while I'm watching. Why? Because the writing intentionally does not explain why things are happening until after they happen. Used properly, this technique is actually an excellent method of suspense generation. Used too frequently, and it just annoys me. Tokyo Ghoul falls into the latter category. The entire story is constantly driven by the unknown, all of which is either answered after it first becomes relevant or (I hope) will be revealed later. Why did Kaneki leave Anteiku? Who is that mummy-like girl? What is up with that investigator with a bunch of sewn up red crosses on his body? Two of those three questions have been answered thus far, but both of them took a while for the show to get around to.
Tokyo Ghoul does a lot of things right though, for all it does wrong. I still find a lot of the characters engaging. Touka's struggle with her feelings for Kaneki is intriguing, Amon's relationship with Mado's daughter is fascinating, and I look forward to Kaneki's continued development. The continued set of misunderstandings between ghouls and humans is a subject definitely worth pondering. As you can see, there are multiple and interesting plot threads the show continues to develop, and the story is still suspenseful and interesting because of them. Unfortunately, as of writing this I am focusing on the (still substantial) issues I have noticed, partially because I enjoyed the first season so much more.
Don't we all?
Tokyo Ghoul √A is far from a bad show. I still enjoy watching it. However, I think it has substantial issues that have either appeared this season or proliferated heavily relative to last season. The battles and writing are both going in directions I'm not too fond of, but I still would recommend giving the show a try if you either enjoyed the first season or are fond of other action anime.
Tokyo Ghoul √A is currently available for free and legal streaming on FUNimation, with a new episode every Thursday.
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