For a show about humanoid beings who live off of human flesh, the first episode of “Tokyo Ghoul: re” was fairly tame, easy on any less bloodthirsty viewers.
But that certainly doesn’t mean that I was disappointed.
If you haven’t seen the first two seasons of this anime, things might still make sense, but you won’t appreciate the characters or their development as much.
The concept of ghouls (creatures that look like humans but whose only source of nutrients is their lookalikes’ bodies) is explained via a monologue by main character Haise Sasaki to the audience before the opening titles commence. A ghoul’s body’s own weaponry (“kagune”) is also explained during the first fight scene, which kicks off right after the credits end.
In theory, anyone could start from this episode and become well enough acquainted with the Tokyo Ghoul universe to continue without much confusion; the conflicts between ghoul, human and those in between is established strongly in this episode by the new “quinx” characters (ghoul-hunting agents who have had surgery to have their own “kagune” and ghoul-like powers).
That is a major plus. Waiting for months or possibly years between seasons can make even the most hardcore fan forget the crux of the characters and their universe, so it’s good to bring it back right away.
But what really makes this episode special is how artfully the audience is introduced to the main character of this season, Haise Sasaki.
Going into this, I had read in the manga that Haise was going to be an amnesiac version of Ken Kaneki, the main human-turned-ghoul of the past two seasons.
But that information wasn’t revealed directly in the trailer, so I was apprehensive that the producers would reveal that in some clichéd style over multiple episodes, taking away from the real and complex plots that are to develop.
These fears were completely assuaged in the title sequence.
The new theme song, “asphyxia,” takes a bit of getting used to, as it is extremely atonal. With high female vocals, a jazzy piano playing some of the most disharmonious chords imaginable and drums, the theme certainly has its ups and downs.
But by the 40-second mark, the theme really picks up with a good contrasting bass, and the piano’s atonal chords seem fitting as opposed to jarring.
There were strong hints revealing Haise’s identity before the audience gets the chance to see him.
Also, the animation is stunning. The colors are both vibrant and subdued, and Haise’s black-and-white hair is not as jarring as it looked in the trailer.
The lighting – including the realism of the bright sunlight and the street-lit evenings as well as the dreamy aura inside of the mental scenes – is particularly well done.
The one psychological scene toward the end of the episode showcased voice actor Natsuki Hanae’s versatility; he plays both Haise and Ken, yet when they speak to each other, they sound like different people. Haise’s higher and more innocent voice doesn’t sound unnatural even against Ken’s darker and apathetic tone.
Although more new characters are to come, those introduced in the season’s first 25-minute episode all have distinct personalities and tones, offering variation without overwhelming the viewer with too many new personalities.
There are also a few references to older characters (Hide and Arima Kishou), but these nods go by in the blink of the eye and may have been intended for only the more astute viewers.
Viewers will also appreciate the cliffhanger at the end, which involves one of the fan-favorite traits of Ken Kaneki.
Ultimately, this episode set the tone for the next season – and it seems that everything, from the hype-inducing monologue opening to the beginning of a psychological struggle, is going to be a wild ride.