Tokyo Ghoul, Ep 12: To be hurt

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Throughout the final episode to the first season of Tokyo Ghoul, Kaneki is under the captivity of the ghoul Yakumo and undergoes severe torture. In between these brutal scenes, we’re treated to various instances where the ghost of Rise talks with Kaneki, and discusses his past and how it relates to the various flaws of his. Whether this is actually Rise or just a figment of Kaneki’s imagination is up to interpretation. This eventually leads to him admitting these flaws, which in turn causes him to awaken to his true powers as a ghoul, and then getting back at Yakumo before the episode abruptly ends.

So what is Kaneki’s major flaw, the flaw which has been demonstrated throughout the series, and which he must overcome to become the white-haired man we see by the end of this episode? It’s that he’s a huge wimp. And not just any wimp, but a wimp who is weak precisely because of his stubborn clinging to good-guy ideals. Okay, maybe that’s a bit harsh. Let’s back up a bit.

Early on through one of the flashbacks which Kaneki shares with Rise, we learn that his mother was very kind and caring, and who according to Kaneki never scolded or got mad at him. She tells him as a child: “Ken…it’s okay to feel loss. Nice boys like you can be happy with just that.” Which Ken follows with “It’s better to be hurt than to hurt others. That’s what she taught me.” Kaneki obviously looked up to this woman quite a lot, which is especially evident considering that Ken has taken her attitude towards life to heart. Which, before we’re suddenly treated to more brutal torture scenes, Rise remarks that that sort of thinking is precisely why Kaneki is in this situation to begin with.

Tokyo Ghoul お母さん

Sure, it’s certainly a nice thought that suffering and bearing whatever burden necessary instead of harming others is admirable and heroic. We often consider that to be what  makes a “good” person. And maybe it is to an extent, but allowing harm to be done to yourself is also a form of inaction. In adhering to this philosophy, Kaneki has become a very passive person. From the very first episode he’s established as a bookworm who barely has the confidence to ask a girl out. Throughout the series he scarcely ever fights back when attacked, and even when he does it’s only from losing control from starvation or having Rise take over him. A lack of assertiveness isn’t going to get you anywhere in life though, and especially when you’re thrown into a seedy underworld like Kaneki was, it can even end up causing harm to others despite your intentions to specifically not do that.

Midway through the episode Yakumo throws two of Banjou’s buddy’s on the ground, who in the previous episode promised they would save Kaneki, and gives Kaneki a choice: choose which one of them should die at the hands of Yakuno and which he should spare, or else he’ll kill both of them. Kaneki, with his reluctance to do anything bad, simply cannot bring himself to do anything in this situation. “I can’t choose something like that! It would be like I’m the one doing the killing, wouldn’t it?!” And eventually, despite much insistence for Kaneki to make a choice and “save” one of them, Yakumo goes ahead and kills both of his victims.

Now, to be fair, any average person would have difficulty making such a choice, and there’s no guarantee that Yakuno would have actually spared of the two, but what’s important to note is how Kaneki responds to this. He simply chooses not to do anything, because he just can’t handle it. He doesn’t want to harm others.

Tokyo Ghoul poor kaneki

“If only you had been strong at that moment,” says Rise, now referring to Ryouko’s death at the hand of the Doves, which Kaneki had to witness midway through the series. In this instance Kaneki arguably couldn’t have done anything; he wasn’t a skilled fighter and didn’t even know how to use his kagune. So going up against several Doves, including Mado and Amon, would have been a very unlikely win for him. But in this instant Rise isn’t commening on Kaneki’s hesitation or inaction, but that fact that he wasn’t strong enough as a flaw. It’s more reason why he needs to stop being so passive, since it’s that passiveness which keeps him from getting stronger. And if that doesn’t happen, then as Rise shows him, Yakumo will just go on killing all the members of Anteiku. And as Yakumo tells Kaneki, “All of the disadvantages in this world stems from a person’s lack of ability.”

“You to choose to be hurt rather than hurt others, right? You’re nice and wonderful. But while it seems like you’re choosing both, you’re really forsaking both. You’re mother was the same way.”

Rise hammers in the point that Kaneki’s mothers whole world view was flawed, and that the “kindness” which caused her to overwork herself was really just a sign of weakness. If she didn’t give money to her greedy sister, then she wouldn’t have had to work three jobs. “She didn’t have the strength—the resolve to turn back.” Kaneki clings to his mother’s philosophy in hopes that she didn’t die in vain, but Rise eventually gets him to admit his true feelings on the matter: that he really just wishes his mother would have just took better care of herself so she could have continued to raise Kaneki, even if it meant harming his aunt.

Kaneki: “I missed you…I hated being alone…I wish…I wish you would have chosen me…! I wish you would have lived…for me!”
Rise: “Even if it meant forsaking your aunt?”
Kaneki: “Even if it meant that!”

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And with that Kaneki finally accepts what he is and awakens to the powers that Rise gave him, becomes more confident, and even goes so far as to blame all his troubles on the world around him:

Rise: “Are you saying you accept me?”
Kaneki: “No. I’m not saying that… I can always surpass you.”
Rise: “Even if that is the wrong choice?”
Kaneki: “I’m not the one who is wrong. What’s wrong… is the world!”

In the middle of that exchange, Kaneki hurls himself onto Rise, holding her down; clearly some sexual imagery there. Throughout this episode Rise has acted as the motherly guide for Kaneki, while now he’s “surpassed” her and asserted dominance. Then he devours her—albeit in his mind, remember—his hair turns white in a nice bit of visual change, and he’s finally awakened to his true powers. He then spends the remainder of the episode battling it out with Yakumo.

So the big message here is that in real life, you often have to be more assertive and make choices for yourself, even if that’s not always the “good” or “right” thing to do. Just blaming all your problems on the world at large isn’t exactly the best way to see things, but just being passive and letting the world do whatever it wants to you isn’t going to help anyone either. Kaneki hasn’t necessarily become a better person due to all this either, it should be noted. His awakening to new superpowers essentially means he’s better at murdering others, and he even starts torturing Yakumo a little to get some payback before he starts eating him. The point isn’t whether he’s become a better person or not, but that he has become a stronger person. At the cost of being the wholly good individual he was before, he’s now able to stand up for himself and others; able to make choices for himself for better or worse.

Tokyo Ghoul scary yakumo

***

As for my thoughts on the episode besides themes and whatnot…well, it was certainly intense seeing Kaneki get tortured by Yakuno, so props to the show for that. Having a character who can regenerate really lets you stretch the boundaries of how much pain you can make a character go through without breaking suspension of disbelief. I’m also quite curious how the others of Anteiku will react to seeing the new and “improved” Kaneki, especially now that he suddenly has white hair. The final story arc in general was a bit rushed, and would have benefited from an extra episode and maybe a little more foreshadowing for its events, but it was a nice ending to this first cour of the series nonetheless. It was a bit more shouneny than usual too, but at this point that’s not saying much.

And as for my thoughts on this series in general… Although the source material is technically seinen, I agree with others that it’s an awfully shounen-like show, especially with the plethora of cartoony fight scenes (and yeah, I know “shounen-like” is rather arbitrary.) Although the fight scenes were amusing, I still hold that the show would have been better if it stayed a straight-up horror series like how the first episode was. But either way it’s still a decent show. For a shounen-like seinen such as this, it did still have plenty to say and plenty of themes for us to parce over, such as all the analogies that can be made between the ghouls and the crime underworld; the whole dynamic between the ghouls and doves, Kaneki’s character arc as a wimp becoming stronger, among other things. Even if it’s a “shounen”, it was still one of the more intriguing shows of the season.

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3 Responses to Tokyo Ghoul, Ep 12: To be hurt

  1. Helen says:

    If anything, Kaneki is definitely not weak. He just chose to be a ” wimp ” as you called him.
    It is true that his mother portrayed the weaker person like Rise has mentioned.
    Because she neglected herself and indirectly (eventually) Kaneki.
    No one can blame Kaneki for wanting her to choose him over anything, yet he remained humble and caring person after everything. If Kaneki is truly a wimp then why wouldn’t he break after going through all those painful moments and experiences + the torture he endured?
    Again. Kaneki is not a wimp and is not weak. He is strong but remains passive because he thinks that is the right choice and indeed living with the: It’s better to be hurt then to hurt others.
    That is true courage, to withstand your own ego and to not allow anger or revenge to take over yourself, but during the final episode he choose his ‘darker’ side. It is safe to say Rise was out for doing this all along, also looking back at the flashbacks Rise shows him, most of them are not even true to begin with.

    Yes Ryouko died while Kaneki could’ve done something. I have to admit that even I was screaming in my thoughts towards Kaneki to do something instead of just standing there.
    Then again being realistic on the fact that him interfering could not have prevented anything + Hinami would have probably been captured so yes doing what he did was probably the
    best choice. There is also this scene where Touko and Hinami are being hurt (by Jason), or well I think Rise made it seem as if they were killed and making Kaneki think that they are because of him (which isn’t true.) And a flashback of Hide saying he is a monster, while in reality Hide still cares about him and still acknowledges him as his best friend.

    Kaneki is by far the most strongest person in this anime, both psychically and mentally for withstanding everything and to be kind and fair, not matter what had happened to him.
    Again true courage is needed to do this while he pushes his ego/dark side away. Example?
    (The whole entire scene where he tells he wished for his mother to chose him even if it meant forsaking others is the prove of this!) but because of all that had happened during the last episode he broke down and his darker side won over him. It is through his kindness that Touka and everyone else cares for him so much that they risk getting hurt or killed themselves, Banjo respects Kaneki and again even Hide still looks out for Kaneki throughout the whole entire show. Seeing how Kaneki is right now (the white hair dude) is to show us viewers that all along Kaneki has great hidden strength to become who he is right now but because of manipulation (by rise, and Jason through torture) he became his alter (darker) ego.

    I’m really interested to see how season 2 will go from here on. Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s interesting to see Kaneki in this alter ego kind of form that is different from who the person he held onto through the entire show while his darker self/ego he consciously had locked inside.
    However…I think I will kind of miss the old Kaneki thought. xD
    I hope that side of him isn’t lost completely. xD

    Anyways, everyone is entitled to their own opinion of course.
    If you think Kaneki was weak or a wimp and etc. then that’s your thoughts but again I think
    this show provides a more deeper understanding of how Kaneki truly was back then and also became the person who he is right now.

    Sincerely,

    • Sorry for the late reply. You make interesting points, and I appreciate the differing interpretation.

      I agree Kaneki was certainly a good and even courageous person beforehand, since withstanding pain for the sake of others could be considered a form of courage. But like I said, the point I was making wasn’t whether he was becoming a better or person or not. I mean, the first thing the guy does with his new powers is torture his captor, and even enjoys doing so. That’s not really a good-guy thing to do; and he hasn’t necessarily become a more respectful person.

      When I called him a wuss, I meant that in the sense that he never did anything about his problems, and that he was too passive. He kept his issues bottled up for the sake of not hurting others. And sure, it’s good to put others before your self, but there comes a point where that kind of passivity simply doesn’t do anyone any good.

      Of course, sometimes there’s not much you can do to help someone or make a situation better, such as with Ryouko’s death. That’s just life. He was “weak” more in the literal sense where he couldn’t go up against those doves; but now he’s unlocked his “dark side” and is able to do something about these situations now. He’s better able to help his friends now, but at the cost of his former goodness.

      There’s a difference between the strength to be a good person despite whatever the world might throw at you, and being strong enough to carry out actions and do something about your situation. Kaneki was always strong in the former sense, but not in the latter.

      And yeah, I am looking forward to see what S2 does too. Tokyo Ghoul wasn’t my favorite show of 2014, but it was at least one of the more thought-compelling.

      • Helen says:

        No I agree, he definitely has not been a better person. But I guess during the last episode of the season they sort of rushed and made it seem as if with Kaneki it was either good or bad. A sort of black or white kind of view and interpretation of who he is now.
        ( I have no idea if the manga shows this different though! we’ll have to see during season 2 whether he is capable of being kind even in his new alter form. ) But again with the information that we have now it is to safe to say they made it appear like that. So either Kaneki is a good person and remains his former self, or he is a more darker, dis-respectful person while in his new more ghoul form. I still have no idea how to think about this to be honest so I’ll just leave it at here on the matter and will see for myself how season 2 will portray Kaneki in terms of character.

        I understand what you mean now, but in my opinion there was always a part of Kaneki that knew what he had to do to overcome his issues or problems but he just couldn’t make himself do it because his mother again was his biggest role model in life. He didn’t want his mother dying in vain and so no matter how hard the situation or problems he had to face must’ve been he tried to cope with it for the sake of everything just to live by his mothers example. Of course this isn’t good and I am not trying to say that it is, I am just trying to explain that the things that he does, or rather the things that he doesn’t do all have a deeper, hidden reason which you can only understand completely during the final episode when all the pieces off the complex puzzle come together to finally understand why Kaneki is the way he is.

        Alright, well Tokyo Ghoul definitely is one of my favorite anime’s so far. I usually don’t rate or create anime lists ( too lazy x’D ) but If I had to rate it would definitely be a 9/10 and the only reason why it wouldn’t be a 10/10 is because the season only had 12 episodes which was kinda disappointing in my opinion. ( Season 2 so far I’ve heard will also be 12 episodes <_< )
        It is indeed thought-compelling, the complexity and the deepness of the stories are great.
        The emotions of the characters are so raw and touching. The music is just breath-taking. ❤
        It invited you to think further outside of what you perceive through-out the anime.
        Again this is just my taste / style of anime that I favor/like allot.

        Sincerely,

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