The first season of Studio Pierrot’s Tokyo Ghoul adaptation was a solid season, but one that had a few issues.
Despite this, the final episode of the season was incredible and a great ending for the next season, √A, once again directed by Shuhei Morita, to pick up from.
Yet, coming into √A, I had a lot of concerns because this is the point that many fans say that the Tokyo Ghoul anime began to decline in quality.
And right from the first episode, “New Surge”, I knew this was going to be the case.
To put it bluntly, “New Surge” is easily the worst Tokyo Ghoul episode of the first two seasons because of how badly it both adapts the manga and tries to add new scenes.
For example, the emotional goodbye Kaneki (Natsuki Hanae) has with Touka (Sora Amamiya) in the manga is replaced in this first episode with Kaneki just being a silent edge lord, which he unfortunately remains for most of the season.
Then there is Kaneki joining Aogiri Tree this episode, which is also atrociously done.
The anime decided to change the story in √A from Kaneki forming a resistance group to stop Aogiri to him joining them.
Sui Ishida, the creator of the series, envisioned that Kaneki would do this to secretly find and kill the One Eyed King but Studio Pierrot threw this, and his other ideas, out in favor of Kaneki joining Aogiri Tree to get stronger, which makes no sense at all.
This confusing plot line is on full display in the first episode with the scene that I think is supposed to show Eto (Maaya Sakamoto) convincing Kaneki to join Aogiri, which instead just has her giggling at him and then disappearing, without either of them saying anything.
Why would Aogiri Tree decide to let Kaneki join them anyway, when he is responsible for the death of one of their executives?
Not only this, but many important scenes like Kaneki breaking half the bones in Ayato’s (Yuki Kaiji) body are completely removed in this episode.
Unfortunately, the dip in quality of √A continues, with Pierrot trying to work in characters from the manga that just do not translate well to this new story.
The biggest example of this is Kurona (Aoi Yuuki) and Nashiro (Haruka Tomatsu).
In the manga, these two show up because both Kaneki and the CCG are actively chasing them down, forcing them to fight.
In the anime, however, they deliberately pursue Kaneki for absolutely no reason, making it feel like they were written in just because they were in the manga and not because they had a story based reason for being there.
These problems with the anime original content continue throughout √A, with even censorship being a problem.
Tokyo Ghoul is a dark manga so it should have been a dark anime.
Characters that lost their limbs just break bones here.
Studio Pierrot should have listened to Ishida’s ideas for the season or just followed his original story.
Sadly, the anime only events are not the only issues with √A because the animation and soundtrack are issues too.
While the animation isn’t awful, various fights in the first half of √A feel slow and more static than the first season.
As for the soundtracks, songs are repeated constantly to the point that I actually tired of hearing even the great ones.
I lost count of how many times “Glassy Skies” played.
Not only this, but the opening, “Munou”, is flat out terrible, with barely any effort put into the animation, with it just focusing on Kaneki’s face the entire time.
However, despite the many problems I have mentioned, I still do not consider √A to be a bad season.
It almost is but there are a few redeeming qualities the season has that cause it to miss the title of bad by the skin of its teeth.
For starters, even though I didn’t like many of the changes that were made to the original story, there are actually some good ones.
For example, there is an interaction between Kaneki and Naki (Hiro Shimono) in the first few episodes that I really enjoyed, and I liked some of the little quirks Eto was given, along with her interaction with Juuzou (Rie Kugiyama) and Shinohara (Yutaka Nakano), which explained some of her later actions.
Along with this, when the anime actually adapted parts of the original story correctly, it did them quite well.
The raid on Anteiku was excellent, for the most part, with the fights being very enjoyable, especially Yoshimura’s (Takayuki Sugo).
Speaking of which, I really enjoyed the change of having Yoshimura hallucinate Ukina during this scene.
The animation of these fights was also a lot better than they were earlier in the season.
Not fantastic, but good.
The voice acting also remains solid and, even though I had problems with how repeated the soundtrack was, I liked the final, slower version of Unravel that was played at the end.
I may have not liked the four minute walk that accompanied it but it’s still a fantastic version of a fantastic song.
So, despite its plenty of faults, Tokyo Ghoul √A is saved by its redeeming qualities, barely making it a good season.
Unfortunately, this is not the case for Tokyo Ghoul: Re, which I am currently struggling to get through.
You can expect a review for that train wreck soon.