(This has been adapted from my reddit thread. Spoilers ahead!)
Something that is inherent in all people is the need to protect the things you love. Doing whatever it takes to keep the stuff around you safe. Either by fighting or sacrificing, as long as what truly matters to you is unharmed, the rest doesn't matter. It might be family, friends, or your dearest of objects; it's not so much what it is but the act of protecting it that matters. But there are those times when, despite how hard one tries, such protection just isn't possible. Such is the idea that Tokyo Ghoul Root A works with. But without being kept safe itself, it merely implodes.
Root A (the name to be used from here on out) takes place immediately after the conclusion of the first season. Kaneki has become quite strong and through his own volition, has decided to join the "bad" ghoul group known as Aogiri.
...And that's as logical of a plot as Root A offers. From then on, the show adopts a completely nonsensical and disjointed front that, even upon closer inspection, follows no semblance of thought. Kaneki's underlying problems? Sorry, those aren't looked at in depth because it's much more important to have a terribly choreographed fight scene. What about that guy during said fight? Nope, ignored completely for some asinine reason. How about the encompassing battle that was occurring around them? Nuh-uh, nothing is revealed there either. Where were the girls who have only one ghoul eye like Kaneki? What became of Yoshimura, aka "Baby Owl"? What was Aogiri's true motive? Why did Touka literally do nothing for twelve straight episodes? There are no answers to these questions because the show doesn't bother to talk about any of them. And it's not as if they bring them up themselves to elaborate on; they sort of lazily occur, with the narrative progressing from one instance to the next without contributing even an ounce of credible evidence as to why anything that is happening is going down.
Since Root A cannot support itself on the events that really matter, then it falls onto the fights themselves to attempt to salvage anything that remains. But even those cannot escape the downward spiral that is happening. Not counting the lackluster animation, there is an inadequate look at both sides -- the humans and the ghouls -- which causes zero emotional resonance with any of the cast. Thus making the outcomes of the fights a moot point. Touka's "presence" has already been brought up, but the entirety of the cast falls into the same unimportant boat as she does. Yoshimura is given an inconsequential flashback with Koma ("Devil Ape") and Irimi ("Black Dog") receiving the absolute bare minimum of background to constitute some form of morality. Takizawa complains about being second-best, Amon can't understand Kaneki, and Shinohara is a super-nice guy to Juzo; all three men, more or less, die at some point in the anime, but their deaths hold no value because, like the plot, they are given no attention or purpose. The same goes for Hide -- his death is supposed to be somber, but it's awkwardly placed and means nothing to the audience who's only interaction with Hide was him stalking around the Dove headquarters. This all says nothing of the fights in which neither side seems to be able to kill off primary characters after receiving the wallop of a lifetime.
Hearkening back to the introduction and the established inability for the anime to craft relatable characters, one of Kaneki's supposed drives is to protect the people he loves dearly -- those at Anteiku. And to this end, he joins Aogiri, believing that by aiding them he can eradicate the people going after the only friends he has. Obviously, this notion sounds completely insane, but it at least makes sense for Root A. But (perhaps obviously again) it doesn't work: Anteiku burns and his friends are decimated. This is acceptable; as has already been discussed, sometimes protecting the things you love isn't possible. Yet Kaneki seems to just give up. So instead of continuing to try to protect his loved ones -- the whole reason the show began in the first place -- he stops, making his actions up to that moment mean as much as if he never parted ways in the first place.
The art style for Tokyo Ghoul isn't that engaging. Many dark grays, browns, and greens are used all over the place, making the anime feel more depressing than beautiful. Granted, this may be what the show was going for, but it only makes everything seem muddy. Even worse, the fight choreography and direction is lackluster, where the duels seem like an amalgamation of blobs maybe striking at one another here and there.
The character designs for Root A can be good at times, but are nothing too impressive. The Owl is quite intimidating, Kouma's ape mask, and many of the other ghouls are definitely unique and give the necessary feeling of being alien.
Yet, actual animation pulls it all back down, being below average in most cases. The earlier episodes are the most egregious, with a loss in flow in movements, static characters, and simple facial expressions. The later episodes at times can go against these notions, but having to fight through the censoring, the bad camera work, and obstructing debris makes it hard to see much movement even when it is supposedly going on.
The problems continue for Root A when it comes to its characters. Besides being completely distant to the audience, their independent development is severely lacking. It's also difficult to pick any character to initially focus on. Not just because they are all incredibly weak, but because none of them are given enough spotlight to constitute a "main" status.
Nevertheless, Kaneki is around once more this season. After his previous trauma at the hands of Jason, Kaneki is no longer the scared, helpless kid but instead a confident, strong ghoul. But following his beginning speeches and departure, his vocabulary is reduced to a lot of screaming and the occasional "Hide..." here and there. He has some kind of metamorphosis that essentially enwraps his mind but -- like most everything within Root A -- why this happens to him isn't clearly looked at. He manages to go around, attacking random human buildings and groups until "finally" realizing that he should have been there to protect Anteiku personally instead of indirectly. His character is supposedly killed (the ending is obscenely convoluted), and since his actions have been relatively unknown, his growth is nearly nonexistent.
Somehow worse than Kaneki is Touka, the semi-in-love-but-not-really girl who is doing what she can to be by Kaneki's side. After fighting to save him and him suddenly leaving her and the coffee shop, Touka is somewhat crestfallen. In order to take her mind off of the situation, she opts to go to a college while simultaneously getting nearer to Kaneki. Her inner turmoil about fitting in and the struggles she faced against her brother and society are replaced with quasi-romance feelings, effectively killing any development she may have had. Which would have been at least tolerable, had they done something with such a turn of events. Instead, after working rather hard to be with him, the two times she comes "face-to-face" with him, what occurs is: her attacking him and her letting him go. The former can make sense in context; she is simply letting out her frustration against the boy who won't look her way. The latter goes against what Root A had started in her. By the end, the only thing she gained was a few facts from a college textbook.
The rest of the cast, from both the human side and the ghoul side, are not even worth mentioning. Nearly all of the Doves are given one-note personalities, with their respective persons being more foreign than the ghouls that inhabit the show. Amon does nothing but fight and complain, Akira laments about her dead relatives, and Takizawa has some forced melodrama. Other members exist, but a passing show of their messed-up face or a single line from the enemy about their power doesn't tell the audience anything about their character, let alone what kind of experiences they might have had. And the same can be said for the ghouls. All of Aogiri is filled with characters that somehow seem to have pasts with their Dove counterparts, but such revelations are never given and subsequently their characters mean nothing. Names like Noro, Tatara, and Eto are just that; names without any fraction of message behind them besides that they are "really cool looking." The only character that maybe earns any sort of credibility is Juzo. He is a known psychopath working under Shinohara, with his background being explained in an exchange between the two. And after all of the time he spent with his pseudo-father, he shows some form of compassion and sadness for the only person who cared for him. Unfortunately, not even Juzo's markings are enough to keep the cast stitched together.
The OP is extremely grating on the ears. The instruments are a mishmash of sound that doesn't seem to follow any kind of order, the singing is all over the place, and it isn't catchy at all. It's as mangled as the rest of what Root A gives.
The only good thing about the anime is the ED. The drums and singing in the first half work nicely in tandem, rising and falling in power as it works its way to the halfway point. At that moment, the background singers kick in and the piano takes on a more prominent role, giving the whole a piece a presence that overtakes the whole anime. On top of all that, the various ending art for each of them is quite beautiful, too; more so than anything that the actual art for Root A used.
The rest of the soundtrack often uses rather loud sounds and more pounding instruments for a higher feeling of creepiness and awe. But it can also tone down that feeling, incorporating a soft piano for those more heartfelt moments. The tracks fit the mood of the anime but aren't worth listening to outside of the anime itself.
As for voice-acting, the cast performs generally around average. There are no special shout-outs to be had.
This show prioritized the fighting and the "drama" before anything else, and it was not something that I could effectively get behind. All of the fights were boring, predictable, or honestly dumb. Akira getting bit on the leg while Amon just stands around for no apparent reason makes no sense. Arima being able to take on the Giant Owl by himself wasn't fun to watch, it made me question why in the world he wasn't doing anything before. And the Kaneki versus Amon fight had so much smoke billowing through the area, I barely got to see any of it.
It has been mentioned briefly, and it has to be brought up at some point, but the ending to Root A is probably the worst ending to an anime that I've ever witnessed. At the minimum, it comes very close. Lots of hair, walking, and intentionally confusing camera work make the ending so painful to see that when it concluded I was happy that I wouldn't have to be watching this show any more.
Tokyo Ghoul Root A didn't just fail at being an anime. It failed at being anything even remotely worthwhile. The story is abysmal, the characters are atrocious, and the rest is forgetful. Honestly speaking, this is one of the worst shows I have ever seen.
Story: Terrible, nonsensical, pointless, and meaningless
Animation: Bad, boring art style, okay character designs, below-average actual animation
Characters: Terrible, Kaneki and Touka are awful while the rest of the cast means absolutely nothing
Sound: Bad, lame OP, good ED, okay soundtrack, average VA work
Enjoyment: Terrible, lame fights, unnecessarily confusing ending, and contains no value
Final Score: 1/10