Tokyo Ghoul:Re Series Review: This Franchise Demonstrates How Not To Adapt Something

Given I stopped doing episode reviews after episode 4, it should be fairly clear that this anime didn’t really do much for me. And normally I would just drop it and call it a day, but I decided to finish watching it. Mostly because the madness of creating an anime season that follows on from the manga but not the previous anime season just struck me as being a particularly harsh slap in the face for anime fans.

Review:

Let’s get the biggest point out of the way and then I can get on with reviewing this somewhat troubled narrative on its own merit, or lack of it, rather than the perceived slight of being literally dropped into the middle of a mess without any attempt to bridge where anime viewers were left after the previous season and where this began. I actually do get that a lot of anime exists just to sell manga or for fans of the source material. That’s all fine. But I have to wonder if even fans of the manga are happy by how this played out. It isn’t as though they can watch the anime from start to finish and get a coherent story. Instead they’ll get an introduction, a trainwreck of original material and then a jarring leap back to the source. Without heavy reliance on the source there is genuinely no way to follow this leap because characters aren’t where they were and half of them are either unknown or poorly introduced. As someone who never read the manga, I can assure you it is incomprehensible without at least some reading on various wikis and fan sites.

And that is not okay.

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Who is entertained by this? Anime viewers can’t possibly be because this franchise has no rewatch on its own without using the manga as a bridge. Manga fans may as well just read the manga because at least the story might be cohesive rather than what this presented. This is possibly the worst decision they could have made. A full reboot would have been better. A filler original series to somehow skew events back in line with the manga might have satisfied. Honestly, a ten minute character narration explaining events from point A to B would have been something.

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But no. That kind of courtesy is apparently not given when there is a clear expectation by producers that people will watch this franchise regardless of what dribble they drop on them. And given I watched it all the way through, I can’t say they were wrong. And yet, I know on hearing the announcement that Re was getting a second season, my only thought was that I was done. I have no desire to revisit this franchise. Not even the first season which I actually quite liked. And that lack of desire for more comes from the issues in this story on its own rather than from the annoyance that they did nothing to soften the jarring change in narrative for anime fans.

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Standing on its own, Tokyo Ghoul Re is riddled with issues. The central conceit that Haise has no memories of who he is and somehow this is a journey to find himself is poorly executed at best. With a visible transference of hair colour to indicate his current mental state (something that doesn’t play well given Kaneki’s hair went white due to trauma and that is a believable phenomenon whereas hair changing back from white sure isn’t) essentially everything about this struggle is blunt forced into the story bringing the current action sequence to a screeching halt while Haise/Kaneki play around in mental la-la land.

While it might be argued this mirrors Kaneki’s original transformation with Rize acting as a guide, this lacks any of the finesse or poignancy of that encounter. Superficially it is much the same and yet it is inelegant and, to be perfectly honest, quite dull to watch play out.

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Equally, the new characters introduced under Haise’s care are incredibly flat and one dimensional. They barely get screen time and when they do it is to the detriment of the story. And while some new bit players isn’t the worst thing Tokyo Ghoul drops on its audience, it seems it doesn’t realise that nobody cares about these characters building to what is set up as a tragic moment during its final episode that falls flat because to be perfectly frank I was more than happy to see that particular character bite the dust. I only wondered why more hadn’t joined him.

They are clutter and distractions from the older cast members who really just make cameo appearances. Arima gets talked about a lot but barely appears on screen. Touka shows up briefly and Haise gets all teary, but nothing ever comes out of this sequence. He then just moves on. Tsukiyama spends the majority of his time being crazy for reasons unclear to anime only viewers, and then his fate makes up the majority of the final battle sequence and I’m still not sure why anything about that plot line mattered.

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Basically, this entry into the franchise lacks any kind of central theme or driving force. Done better, Haise’s identity might have carried the episodes, but it really didn’t have anywhere near enough power to do that in its current state. And there’s literally nothing else. They go out. They investigate ghouls. They fight. Occasionally a ghoul investigator gets killed (or lots do) and everyone acts all outraged. There are some large scale fights with even more ridiculous antics going on than earlier seasons and none of them look very good.

I guess if you are a really big fan of this franchise there might be something here to cling to, but I didn’t find it. I watched the final scenes play out and breathed a sigh of relief that I was done. So clearly I’m not recommending it.


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And Now… The Results of the Worst of Spring Reader’s Poll Are Here!

If you missed it, the best of the Spring 2018 season reader poll results can be found here.

For those who are new to my end of season awards, I’ll just remind you that worst of the season is a slightly misleading term given I ask people to vote for a show they didn’t drop but was the worst thing they actually watched. That means there are plenty of anime out there that never get voted for that are significantly worse because people have simply dropped them without completing them.

First up, my choices for worst of the season.

Worst Story – Tokyo Ghoul: Re

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It seemed mean to give it to Record of Grancrest War considering it already won this ‘honour’ at the end of the Winter season, and Tokyo Ghoul Re has it coming. No explanations, no attempt to link the previous anime season to this, and just abandoning the anime fans to muddle their way through was a really poor move. Worse, even when you look up all the things you need to look up, we essentially spend 12 episodes gaining very little ground and it is hard to see much point to most of this. There’s the ongoing issue of Haise finding his memories but that’s about three episodes worth of content stretched out and then there’s a bunch of stuff with side characters I was never made to care about. Basically, this one was a bit of a mess but if you just want some ghoul fight sequences, it might deliver that for you.

Worst Visuals – Devils’ Line

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There was never any question on this category. Devils’ Line is ugly to watch whether it is the weird filter they put over scenes, the terrible effect used to make the vampires seem faster or whatever, or just the drab looking everything, it is hideous. While I appreciate not every vampire needs to be an Adonis existing only to draw the female eye, this show is just bad to look at.

Worst Opening – My Hero Academia Season 3

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Yes, I hear your complaints and yet I’m standing by this choice. After some truly thrilling OP’s, My Hero Academia has delivered one that neither gets me fired up, nor visually interests me, outside of the final image of Midoriya standing with All Might. Basically I’ve taken to skipping the OP and am hoping for a mid-season change.

Worst Character – The Cast of Caligula

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This was probably a cheap call, and yet I knew my least favourite characters existed in this series and yet when looking at each one I can barely remember their names let alone distinguish one from the other in terms of which was a more poorly introduced, fleshed out or developed character. This cast is way oversized and not one of the characters pictured above does a single thing of consequence in the entire series (watch it, remove each of these characters, note how that makes no difference to the plot at all). So yeah, it is an entire cast but this is my choice for worst character this season (they even beat some of the choices I had from Grancrest).

And now…

Worst Anime of the Spring 2018 Season – Doreiku The Animation

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I was really torn on this one. Caligula was a great contender for worst of the season as was Devils’ Line. But ultimately both of those had some redeeming qualities hiding deeply beneath layers of poor choices whereas Doreiku is just a concept thrown out there and then used by someone who doesn’t have a clue what to do with it. The first episode presents what could be a rich world of exploration about human desire and morality and ultimately the story barely manages to remain coherent and certainly doesn’t explore anything. It routinely shows us that the characters are horrible but that isn’t really exploration so much as just piling more mud onto what is already a mess. So despite having what arguably could have been one of the more interesting concepts this season, Doreiku has managed to be the anime I really wish I hadn’t stuck with.

Finally, Reader’s Choice

There was some tight competition for worst anime of the season that people actually watched and we ended up with a tie for third place. See the results for yourself.

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And so, with 9 votes, Darling in the Franxx won worst anime that people actually watched this season. I think the show’s popularity worked against it here because as bad as some of the other shows were, more people were watching Franxx. Still, you have to admit it became quite a mess as the series progressed.

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Devils’ Line therefore took a comfortable second place as worst anime closely followed by SAOA: GGO and Doreiku the animation in third place.

It seems like it has been a long season but now we are about to move into the Summer Anime season and begin it all again. Let’s cross our fingers and hope for some amazing stories, and for those anime that disappoint us, there’s always the chance to vote for it in the worst of Summer poll.


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Tokyo Ghoul:Re Episode 4: They All Fight

Ever have a feeling like you’ve seen something before? That’s what I’m getting from this episode of Tokyo Ghoul: Re.

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Who has time for questions such as who they are and what their purpose might be when we can plunge into an all out battle at the auction. We’ve got the doves, aogiri tree and whoever else they want to throw into the mix all just kind of going at it for about half the episode. Not that I dislike violence but there is so little reason here for it and cutting from one fight to another with a whole bunch of characters I either don’t know or don’t care about isn’t exactly a way to re-engage me with a story that threw off my interest mid-way during the second season.

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Just so you know, this guy died less than thirty seconds after this. Great introduction.

More importantly, it gives us zero reason to become invested in anything introducing a character who gets a line or two about how they are going to improve, overcome or whatever and almost immediately after cuts them down. The only real winner this week are the sound effects because squelching blood never sounded that gross.

And if you are thinking I haven’t said anything about Haise or any of the actual characters we’ve met this season, that’s because other than bait boy who was in the auction, they didn’t do anything other than run into the scene and then disappear for the rest of the run time.

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Tokyo Ghoul:Re Episode 3: The Bleak Picture Continues

They seem to be working as a team, but there are so many horrible people here all after their own goal. Seems like nothings changed with Tokyo Ghoul.

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I know this anime is just getting going and it is building to an operation that looks like it might kick these into motion, but I couldn’t help while watching this episode feeling like the thrill was just gone. I don’t care whether Haise gets his memories back at this point so there’s no emotional resonance going on when creepy prisoner guy is asking him about what he’ll do. The team themselves all have their own issues and while they might become interesting, they aren’t yet. The most action we get this episode is a door getting kicked in and there are so many characters all pushing forward with their own agenda the entire thing just kind of feels disconnected.

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None of this makes it unsalvageable, but other than people who are super thrilled just to get more Tokyo Ghoul, it would be hard to recommend this anime to anyone based on what it has delivered so far. There’s potential to be sure and it would be lovely to see it do something with its themes and ideas, though given season 1 had a fairly strong start and then still squandered it, I’m not going to be overly hopeful until this anime actually delivers an episode that is strong in its own right and not just because I want this franchise to finally deliver.

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Tokyo Ghoul:Re Episode 2: Not Kaneki Thinks He’s Happy

This second episode is painting a bit more of a bleak picture but I’m still left wondering what the point is.

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The team of not ghoul’s are given some explanation in this episode and their personalities are fleshed out a little more, and yet that is possibly to the detriment of my enjoyment considering the former Captain guy is really getting on my nerves. As is this anime’s general tendency to not have characters ask the questions that need to be asked or give the explanations that should be given. You know the doctor not recommending moving Captain guy to the third frame, might have been nice if you said why. I mean, it is pretty obvious that it is going to end poorly and possibly with him losing control, but seriously, what kind of doctor doesn’t at least explain the potential side effects of a procedure.

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Then we have Kaneki v.2 and while we still don’t know why he hasn’t got his memories, it is pretty clear that his old self is going to come back at some point. And my overall question on this whole situation is why? Why is Kaneki still alive? Why manipulate his memories? Why haven’t the others contacted him prior to now? And really, why do we as an audience need to see an overly optimistic Kaneki, again, just to watch him fall apart, again? I guess I could drop this but there’s that tiny nagging thought that maybe, just maybe this anime might be ready to address some of its bigger questions though to be honest if it doesn’t, I’m probably not going to be disappointed this time around. My expectations of Tokyo Ghoul are pretty low at this point.

What did you think of this second episode?

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Tokyo Ghoul:Re First Impressions

I wasn’t entirely convinced I wanted to go back for another round of Tokyo Ghoul but curiosity got the better of me. What did you think of this first episode?

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I’m not entirely sure what I was supposed to make of this first episode. It wasn’t bad, except that there’s been a time jump since the previous seasons and I’m not entirely sure what we’re supposed to assume has happened in the meantime. Even reading the synopsis on MAL wasn’t overly helpful though it seems clear we’re supposed to draw a few conclusions fairly quickly so I wonder if these are red-herrings or if this is a simple case of what we see is what we are going to get.

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As a brief overview, this first episode focus’ on a team of Doves who all have ghoul abilities and are clearly not exactly a functional or admired team. This might be an interesting focus or it might just be another reason to have horrible characters act horribly, and given how previous seasons of this show have gone I have a sneaking suspicion it might be the latter.

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Still, if you liked blood splatter, explosions, and characters making nasty comments right before showing us gross out visuals for the fun of it, then this isn’t a terrible first episode. It doesn’t deliver much else and we’ve barely scratched the surface of these characters (unless they all turn out to be one-note in which case we’ve met them). Definitely a wait and see but it did keep me curious enough that I’ll commit to this.

Your thoughts?


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Karandi James

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