This series is essentially what you would expect to be the end product of 12 directors and script writers playing telephone together with each episode, which would mean no overarching consistency, lack of cohesion and continuity between episodes, little to no character development, and a poor narrative. Alas, although it has turned out like a poorly written fanfiction, Tokyo Ghoul √A does not suffer from its staff playing games in its production. It's just a lackluster adaptation on all fronts, even without comparisons to its source material.
The plot is the biggest pitfall here, due to lack of clear direction and explanation. Even ignoring that the adaptation left out pivotal details from the manga, looking at it as a standalone, it still falls flat on its face because it leaves the viewer in a constant state of confusion. Questions arise from the very first episode and we expect them to be answered, they never are. We are left like outsiders looking in through a pane of glass, excluded from a narrative that should be feeding us something but instead we are left to guess. Why are things happening? Why are characters doing what they are doing? What are their motivations? We are given such limited information because the pacing is so rushed and for lack of ability to expound on the plot, the writers simply gave us bland fighting scenes.
Although we grew to love and enjoy the characters in the first season where they were given some room for development, here we are suffocated by a narrative that refuses to allow us to reconnect with them. Kaneki receives no more development from the end of the first season than by the end of this season; we feel as disassociated from himself as he does – as he struggles with himself, we struggle to understand what is even going on with him because we have nothing to clue us in. It’s one great question mark. Touka is perhaps the only character whose actions, thoughts, and frustrations we can truly sympathize with because she receives enough lines and screen time to convey them. There were even several compelling scenes with Ayato, but ultimately these things amount to little when the plot can’t deliver.
Perhaps the strongest point of this season is the animation, although I would argue that it’s not particularly spectacular. The animation is essentially acceptable which means that it is neither strong nor weak, but because it is average, it’s probably the best part of the series. It seems the majority of the attention was paid to the fight scenes and everything else is rather bland—and that’s giving some leniency for the fighting scenes which themselves waver between interesting to drawn out and boring.
Even the sound is average at best. The tone of the opening scarcely matches the overarching themes of the season, which is a grand disappointment in light of how amazing the opening was for the first season. That comparison aside, the opening animation is just outright disappointing and elicits none of the excitement that we should be experiencing. It accompanies a song that doesn’t set the mood for the rest of the episode, by and large considering the majority of the series includes fighting, and the rest of the soundtrack occasionally sets the generally atmosphere but there is never anything particularly impressive or noticeable about any of it. Only the ending stands out as actually decent and fitting for the series.
For all the complaints above about the end product, I wouldn’t be giving this even a mediocre rating if it hadn’t had some redeeming qualities. One of them was a solid premise and good potential—it may have not fulfilled that, but it did a decent job setting up plot points it just lacked on fulfilling them. It also has a solid cast, though not fully utilized as they should have been and not developed as they should have been, it has a good range of characters. On top of this, it does have an exciting and suspenseful final arc, though not as compelling as it promised to be, still manages to captivate interest.
To summarize, this season was poorly executed on all fronts and a great disappointment. If you enjoyed it and have not read the manga, I highly recommend it as it further develops the empty husk that is the anime series. If you are wondering whether or not you should watch it, then I would say it’s a coin toss—you exchange your time for some minor moments of sincerity and animated battle scenes some of which are exciting others mediocre.