"Long time ago there was a man to which was given wings by his father in order to flee from their exile, warned however that he should never fly too close to the sun with them since such would result in the wings melting and ultimatly his dead. Despite the warning, drived by greed and feeling of empowerment he flew higher and higher wich was ultimalty his downfall.
The man name in greek mythology is Icarus; and in mordern time this tale can be applied to the author Ishida Sui whos wings represent his fallen series Tokyo Ghoul."
Before diving into the Tokyo Ghoul:Re manga, wich for the sake of keeping things easier i will just be refering as "Re" from now on, we need to first understand what made this series so popular in the first place. Tokyo Ghoul gather quite a good amount of attention primarily due to its central theme being something that can resonate with a lot of people in this day and age.
Is a story focus around two species (humans and ghouls) that despite presenting similarities they are both biologicaly unable to coexist together. Set in a world filled with oppression and injustice as our main character experienced both sides of the conflict tries to make a stand and change the world, making it a better place to where both groups can stand in equale terms. A nice premises, that saddly gets butchered completly as the series moves along as the author didnt know if it wanted to presente the story itself as a commentary on society or a character analyze or a full on battle centred story about defeating the main baddy.
Re tries to be all the above and fails miserably, prioritizing certain aspects of its narrative but failing to come with anything substantially coherent in the process.
So with that introduction and without further ado, let's go down the rabbit hole that is Re and how the series failed as a continuation of the, while flawed, decent prequel. As you would expect this review will contain a few minor spoilers, but i will try to not give much away.
Re is set 2 years after the events at the end of the original where we follow Haise Sasaki, a Ghoul investigator with a lot of physical resembles to Ken Kaneki and his mannerisms. He is the leader of a CCG squad named Quinx, that consist of human investigators with built-in quinques in their bodies.
The squad members are the following: Kuki Urie a very ambitious individual guided by nothing more then his own desires to get promoted and be recognized by others; Ginshi Shirazu a scary looking but kind hearted guy with a very straight foward attitude however at the same time with a weak mind; Mutsuki Tooru a very altruistic individual that lacks a lot of confidence in terms of personal strength and as such is always second guessing himself; and finally Saiko Yonebayashi a bubbly, carefree and humorous short girl that is pretty much the happiness of the group and comic relif character. In addition to this character's there were also some other CCG members and ghouls that got introduced in re, but nothing really worth mention for now.
So the story will be focused on the Quinx squad and each members as they progress as individuals throughout everything, right? Well not exactly. Sure they all go through their own character arcs (wich is someting i will dive into more so later), but the problem isn't entirely with the way that happens. The main glaring issue that this series has is that it tries to present itself with a character driven type premises but rapidly switchs to a battle manga whenever the plots demands it, and all philosophical themes are left rotting on the side. Now i wouldn't have had that much of a problem with it if the series at least had some nice fights to complement it, but that isnt the case. From power scales change for the sake of plot convenience, to battles that were built up chapters in advance with no real pay off since they either get off-screen or the fight themself are just a few pages in length, ending everything in a anticlimatic and dull manner.
It felt like the fights were just used as a way to catalyze the plot points rather than being part of the actual narrative and honestly at that point why even bother if all you care about is showing is the result? Discarding two or three fights where both sides had their highlights, all the rest are simply bland and/or one sided.
The story itself is nothing that impressive either, as it suffers from a identity crisis and doesn't know what it fully wants to do and simply walks around in circles while it rehashs a lot of the same basic ideas.
Did you like when Kaneki broke his emotional chains, created a different person and his hair changed colors? MORE of that; Do you remember when characters went completely berserk? MORE of that; Did you like when in the end of part 1 characters were being slaughter left and right? MORE of that; Do you like last minute savings? A TON MORE of that; Do you like fake last panel character's deads? MORE of that.
More and more because more is better right? Is not.
When you reused the same tropes and consepts over and over again all the original impact starts to fade. For example when Kaneki had his first change in personality it was a iconic moment for the series as well as what that implied, but when you repeat it multiple times it becomes nonsencial and this is where Re fails in a storytelling stand point. Re tries to capitalize so much on certain aspects that made its prequel popular without even bothering trying to present new ideas, trying to be its own thing and without even understanding what made those scenes so impactful in the first place. But hey if this type of format is selling well why bother with how repeative the story gets right?
The same can be said about last minute saving. Multiple times throughout the series you will get a character appearing and saving another one that is in distress, which wouldn't be so bad if it happened sporadically. But Re takes a step further and uses this trope all the time to create a false sense of tension.
Lastly, still on the topic of story, i like to address this false idea that everything is justifiable because it is ultimately supported under the notion that "this is a tragedy". Multiple times in Re you have it where certain actions and decisions come out as forced because the story is just revolved around this dramatic narrative but that lacks the most basic fundamentals of how one should be establish.
In a tragedy you need to make everything unfold in a way that is both not only believable but also that gives the characters present in it room to breath, wich is something that Re fails to do.
There is rarely any pause to anything to make us connect with the cast or appreciate the light moments since one moment to the next you will get bombarded by a tragic outcome or revelation. You may think this might make the story more engaging however that is the furthest from the truth, as the story comes off as more jarring and shortsighted more so than anything else.
The first thing you will notice while reading the manga is that there are a lot of characters being introduced in re as well as a good number of side characters from the previous series reappearing. This doesn't have to be a bad thing per say, since it could give the author more room to work with them.. the problem however is that they all end up falling under the exact same character story structure.
"X character is introduced > after a good amount of time X character becomes prevalent to the plot > X character gets a flashback that 99,9% of times is related to him/her having some sort of parenting or family problem > X character gets killed off or we almost never heard from him/her again"
Discarding my personal question regarding what the hell happened to the author that made him have such a big complex when it comes to parent figures, the most important one however is - why apply this to almost every single one of your diverse cast of characters? You dont need to kill off or shove every one of them to the side as soon as their story arcs ends, they can still play a role in your story so dont limit yourself to a single way of storytelling. This does not create a sense of dread and mortality, rather it just ends up making most of them be viewed as discartable toilet paper.
The only character that was actual well written and developed was Urie, wich progression throughout the series was both apparent and without ever feeling oversaturated in oppose to what is the case with some character such as the main protagonist of re. Shirazu also recived some nice characterization much like Arima, but apart from those everyone else got the short end of the stick.
Speaking more so on the main character however.. the mc is, to put it bluntly, the worst part about this manga. He is depicted as nothing more than a sacrificial lamb where every single decision he takes will ultimately result in a tragic outcome of him or his friends getting hurted, while at the same time we as readers are forced to belive that he didnt learn anything from his past experiences and is forever stuck in his own stagnant mental purgatory until the author dictates otherwise.
Not only that but this results in him ending up never really growing as a individual due to the fact that he constantly resets and creates a different persona as a form of escapismin.. all in a writting attempt of making us, readers, try to constantly empathise with his struggles. And when a story is focus on just presenting a character misery without any type of progression or anything additional to complement it, you are honestly pretty much just gonna be reading this manga for the torture porn at that point.
Lastly still on the topic of character i would like to talk about the villain. Because yes apparently instead of focus on the idea that neither side is truly in the right and no party was fully innocent, this manga picks the easy route and inserts a clear villain to try create a scenario where both groups have to put aside their differences and work together to defeat a common threat.
You may find him to be humorous with his references and how he projects himself as a troll in a for the most part mostly serious series. Or in the opposite end you may find him obnoxious in that regard, it is ultimately subjective. The problem however does not lie so much there, rather with his role in the story as the villain for two reasons:
1)Everything goes accordingly to his plans despite all the innumerous variables and conditioning factors outside of his control; and 2) he is presented as big threat only because of not only how he coincidentally has ties with most organizations prevalent to the story, but also the fact that he himself is considered a force to be reckoned with in terms of strength due to a concept that was only introduced midway through the series in a poor attempt to make him out to be this all powerfull "final boss" because apparently the concept of ghouls and RC-cells was growing so stale that no one would be able to take him seriously otherwise.
This doesn't make for a compelling villain, just one that is fun to poke fun off. Wich is a shame because the revelation and build-up to him being this mastermind orchestrating everything behind the scenes was actually well done.
In conclusion the characters shown a lot of promising features, but by keeping everything so formulated and giving too much the exposition to a main character that constatly defaults to his initial state.. it made all the possible character analyze and emotional investment to become non existence.
Tokyo Ghoul:re has some amazing art. The usage of dark tones to paint the gruesome dark atmosphere is outstanding, illustrating well a world abstant of light both figuratively and literally. It as some nice illustration panels and cover pages that showcase well the author full drawing capabilities.
So why give such a relatively low score you may ask? Well starting with the most prevalent reason it as to do with the action. The way the action and movement, wich is usually depicted in a very rough manner and with a good amount of heavy dark lining. Now like i said previously this may fit well with the the series, but in contrast it makes most action scenes difficult to interpret the sequence of events and what is happening. Is not a light read to the likes of lets say Yusuke Murata or Takehiko Inoue wich art manage to not only make their action scenes easy to follow but also captivating to look at. With re you will end up re-reading most of the chapters over and over again just in hope to understand what is happening in the panels.
The other reason for giving it a five, is when it comes to the character design department. Some of the characters have some distinct features that makes them stand out like Urie signals close to his left eye or Nobu big lips. But more often than not you will end up confuding some characters (normaly the females) with another one since the way their facial features are drawn out is not that distinct whatsoever.
Is Ishida Sui a talented artist? Definitely, but that much isn't shown in full view when it comes the full ledge of this manga and that is a big shame.
**Symbolism & Presentation**
Since this is something very prevalent and referred by many like indispensable features that are prevalent in the story, i decided to create this additional segment for the review.
Starting off with symbolism. Symbolism is suppose to be both expressive and subtle when it comes to its usage, either as a way to represent a character state of mind; depick na idea and/or to comunicate with the reader.
There is some really good usage of symbolism in TG:Re, like the incorporations of butterflies and centupies in the initial or last page of some chapters, it was nice. The problem however comes when talking about the rest... so lets address the elephant in the room: Tarrot Cards is one of the worst and laziest forms of convaying symbolism if it can even be considered as such. This is not a problem exclusive too re but also the original, nevertheless is still worth pointing out since they are used mainly in steady in-between arcs chapters and are treated like the illuminati symbol on breakfast cereals.
This is not inovative, the author is pretty much forcing you (the reader) too look at pages upon pages in hope to find some hidden meaning to what a character is feeling or foreshadow what is gonna happen to him/her. Is lazy plain and simple.
The other problem is with parallelism, which while not the best form of convaying a idea of how past events tie with present ones, is still fine for the most part if used in either one or two instances. Re however exploits this concept so much to the point that it makes it seem like the entire story is nothing more than a carbon-copy of the original.
Finally the last thing i would like to talk about is regarding shock value… Re has this habit of giving this chapters without any real substance which sole objective is striving to keep the reader's attention while at the same time trying its hardest to maintain this facade of it "being different".
From chapters filled with black panels, referencing Hunter X Hunter to a tee, characters that become infatuated with another one in a blink of an eye, to an whole chapter focus on two character having intercourse. There is no justification to what happens apart from wanting to provoke a reaction out of the readers. And the final arc is the culmination of it all, in which all the sense of story progression is abandoned all together in favor of this type of writing.
**The Final Arc**
If Re was a walking corpse, the final arc of this manga would be the final bullet that put it out of its misery. In which all sense of pacing was set aside, wrapping up all the final plot points left in the most convinient way imaginable.
Prevalent organizations, Clowns and "V", became cannon folder by the end with the prominent figures in both organizations partaking in momentarily last minute fights just to close their stories as fast as possible and move to the "main event"; Characters conveniently receiving power-ups, others acting out of character; obnoxious inner monologue and/or narration that just scream pretentious writing, repeating much of what was already stated beforehand; and so on.
Tokyo Ghoul:re is far from being a good series. It lacks the general basis of how a story should progressing when it comes to the hadling of the main characters, the writing is sloppy ending up repeating the same tropes and ideas, the characters wich could be the best aspect about this manga are not given much room to grow because it focus to much on the so called “tragedy” life of the main character that all the rest is left ignored, constant last minute savings and fake deaths to try shock its readers, the list goes on.
What started as a series that was trying to convey a message of accepting others and more important yourself, got reduced to a convoluted mess with nothing remarkable to tell.
Would i recommend reading re? I would whole-heartedly say no. Even if you were once a big fan of the main series i am incline to say to not bother with re, but i doubt it would serve any diference. If you really like a series than you will untimatly just read it to know how it all concluded no matter how horrible the ride itself may be.
But to those that are unsure whatever or not to start the series, to those i say: Go to a cafe relax, drink some coffee, and if a woman/guy ever approach you asking to read Tokyo Ghoul:re with him/her just run as far away as you can.