Comparing episode one of the new season to episode one of the first season pretty much sums up the overall change in tone and quality since the beginning of Tokyo Ghoul. Gone is the sinister whisper of imminent personal danger. Gone is the hanging sexual tension bleeding into horrific violence, which has served the vampire genre pretty well since forever. I know, these are ghouls, not vampires, but in more ways than not, we’re very much dealing with a re-imagined Blade here.
Much like Blade, our hero/anti-hero Ken is a half-monster half-human. But he wasn’t born this way; he quickly developed his ghoulish nature from organ transplants. Gradually building something of a support group around him, he learns to navigate through his new life, mitigate or taking advantage of different aspects of his freshly mutated body. This bizarre personal journey, perhaps a monstrously hyped-up allegory for puberty, made up a lot of Season One.
Taking the place of these quiet and foreboding elements is action, and more action. Season two kicks off with a barely coherent hot mess of battles – it hadn’t been long since I’d watched season one, and I still had little idea who was fighting and what they were fighting about. It’s as though the creators took notes from The Matrix sequels, covering a lack of substance with an abundance of noise from nonchalant cool guys. But, like those sequels, it just doesn’t work. It’s like cranking Coldplay to max volume to make it more interesting – it just winds up being more aggressively boring.
Perhaps the fault is with me, I’ve lost patience with this breed of anime. I want it to be better than the tired old tropes it somehow continues to drag with it. It’s been a while since the likes of FLCL, Samurai Champloo, Studio Ghibli movies and several others have shown that stale genre cliches can be reversed, ignored or outright self-awaredly mocked, rather than lazily embraced and ruled by.
We have the reluctant, introverted, accidentally powerful Neo or Squall Leonhart-esque protagonist. We have jock soldiers with Generals as stern and by-the-book as every other one you’ve seen. We have female characters that are either comedic relief or potential love interests. A score that fits perfectly in the early 2000s in an Evanescence covers band kind of way. Everything offered here has been done, so many times before.
So there’s not much fresh or unique going on, but if this is the kind of thing you’re into, it’s a fine job in terms of technical delivery. Good all around voice performance, the art style isn’t some of the best I’ve seen, but it’s above par and most importantly it’s up to the task of carrying the frequent and satisfyingly violent action scenes. Like much anime, it loses me a bit in the dialogue scenes – with less frantic moving about, the art style’s a little flat to watch. Certainly watchable, but entirely missable.