Previously on Tokyo Ghoul, “High Spirits”
Leading up to this finale, last episode was essentially one long battle. Amon and Shinohara are facing death with the One-Eyed Owl, Toka is in a standoff with her brother, Yomo and his group are up against a mysteriously powerful ghoul, and that’s not to mention that Yoshimura is joining the fight too. But, in this episode, none of that matters. The show takes a step back to jump into Kaneki’s head during his torture, and his evolution. Does it work? More than it has a right to.
In The Membrane
Kaneki has been Yamori’s torture toy for a while now. While Yamori pulls off Kaneki’s fingers and toes, Kaneki has to count backwards from 1,000, by sevens, aloud. After pulling off Kaneki’s hands and feet, Yamori takes a break while they regenerate. This is repeated without delay, which is why Kaneki is made to count. It’s the only thing keeping Kaneki sane. During one of these breaks, Rize reaches out to him. In his mind, Kaneki is alone, still blindfolded and chained to his chair, but in a field of white roses. The closer Rize gets, and the longer they talk, the more white roses turn into ghoulish red ones.
At first, before Rize removes his blindfold, Kaneki mistakes her for his mom. It’s a small moment on the surface, but it is the catalyst for Kaneki finally coming to grips with his new life. Each time Yamori appears, Rize leaves. But as soon as Yamori leaves, Rize returns to pick up the conversation where they left off. Through Kaneki’s memory of his mom, Rize begins to chip away at Kaneki’s faulty reasoning. His mother believed in treating everyone kindly. “It’s better to be hurt than to hurt others.” Rize quickly counters that this thinking is exactly why he is in this situation. After a torture session being capped off with a centipede being shoved in his ear, even Kaneki has to admit he wants Yamori dead. Going back into his memories, Rize finally shatters the facade Kaneki had built for his mom. Instead of choosing to make her son her priority, Kaneki’s mom worked herself to death trying to support her sister. She had two jobs and also worked when she was at home, making white roses. Kaneki is starting to make a breakthrough, but Yamori returns.
One Last Push
Yamori has been having a ball tearing Kaneki apart physically, but it occurs to him that Kaneki is also extraordinarily strong mentally. Never missing an opportunity, Yamori decides to change tactics. He knew about Shu and Haru trying to help Kaneki, so they are brought in, hands chained and mouths covered. Kaneki must choose which one of the couple will die.
Shu almost instantly gives Kaneki the nod to pick him, but Kaneki can’t do it. Still clinging to his mother’s logic, Kaneki can’t be the cause of anyone’s death. Yamori then snatches Haru by the throat and chokes her, giving Kaneki a time limit. Even though Shu is now pleading with Kaneki, Kaneki lets Haru die. The wail Shu lets loose is chillingly realistic, in both languages. After also finishing off Shu, Yamori leaves and Kaneki is back in his head.
Rize doesn’t waste time using this session to prove a point. Kaneki thought that choosing neither would absolve him from having their blood on his hands, but it was the opposite. They both suffered and died because he didn’t try to save them, let alone make a choice. Kaneki’s naivety and poor decisions have been the problem since day one. Falling for Rize’s trap started everything, and not embracing his power has caused pain to everyone around him, including letting Ryoko die. Rize finally breaks Kaneki when t is all tied back to his mother. She wasn’t kind, she was weak. She didn’t choose him and he finally confronts his emotions. What follows can best be described as a sacrament between the two. Kaneki renounces his mother’s way of thinking and pledges to be strong and do whatever it takes. The white roses are turning ghoulish red rapidly now. Kaneki agrees to everything from Rize, except that he still won’t accept her. Kaneki now believes he is right, and the world is wrong, but he still has some boundaries.
Kaneki breaks his chains and holds Rize down in, what is now, a sea of red ghoul roses. Kaneki now fully accepts being a ghoul, and Rize approves. As a rite, Kaneki begins to feed on Rize. After having his fill, his hair turns white in the real world.
The CCG are closing in on Aogiri Tree, and Yamori can’t ignore the fight anymore. On his way out, he stops by to end things with Kaneki. Now that their time is up, Yamori plans on eating him, but not before gloating about their plans to take out Anteiku. Yamori is about to make his move when Rize speaks out to taunt him one more time. Yamori’s anger turns to excitement over Rize surfacing, but Kaneki dodges Yamori’s kill shot. In the dust up, Kaneki hops on Yamori’s back, chocking him with his chain, before leaping off. It takes a moment for Yamori to realize Kaneki bit a chunk off of his face. Yamori can’t land a hit on Kaneki, but manages to catch his leg. Unphased, Kaneki breaks his leg to land a power kick and then heals it with no effort. Yamori realizes he’s in a fight now and powers up his kagune which forms a Juggernaut-like helmet. With the added firepower, Yamori only manages to throw Kaneki into a wall. He’s tiring out while Kaneki is just now bringing out his kagune.
It’s not long before Kaneki breaks Yamori’s kagune in two and has him down and beaten physically, but Kaneki needs more. Kaneki stabs Yamori with a kagune, each time asking him what 1,000 minus 7 is. A few stabbings in, Yamori’s pride breaks, and through tears, he begins counting. After knocking the centipede out of his head, Kaneki begins to feed on Yamori.
On paper, ramping up the action and tension just to pull back into a mostly psychoanalytical episode sounds horrible. This shouldn’t have worked, but this finale earned its score. Having an unsympathetic Rize to really pull back the layers to Kaneki never felt slow or tedious. She was cold and harsh, but never lied. The symbolism of the roses was strewn throughout, but they never beat us over the head with it. The smaller throw away details to the episode were a nice touch also. Little things like Kaneki’s mom helping him to read the same way that he helps Hinami quietly fleshed out Kaneki. He was a momma’s boy to the core before embracing what he has become. That transformation, and his payback truly work thanks to Yamori. His character worked overtime to make him a hated figure every second of his screen time. I wouldn’t go so far as to put him on the same psycho level as Mado, but they are shoulder to shoulder. Even after the centipede torture and the mind game with Shu and Haru, you almost feel bad for him when he cries. Almost.
Tokyo Ghoul S1E12 = 10/10