No, The Tokyo Ghoul Ending Wasn’t BadPosted: October 15, 2014
This might be a bit late, but I only now started noticing just how much shit the Tokyo Ghoul anime ending was getting. On the one hand, I expected the cries of it being a “cliffhanger” and “unfinished”, but on the other, I didn’t expect the sheer magnitude of it all. Maybe I just happen to not be seeing the more positive reception, but it seems almost unanimous.
So now I have to take the time to explain why everyone is wrong and I’m right.
…That was a joke, obviously, but I do genuinely believe it was just fine, so I wanted to take a little bit of time to explain why I think people missed the point of what made the ending… well, an ending. Along with some pondering on what an ending in general really is.
Needless to say, this is going to be entirely about the final episode of Tokyo Ghoul, so you probably want to stop here if you haven’t seen or finished the show. Which you should, because it was great.
I think what’s mainly baffling is that while hate for the ending seems to be unanimous, love for the episode itself also seems to be unanimous. It’s confusing because if you understand what made the episode so great, then so should the reason on why it ended the way it did.
I could be wrong, but it makes me think that the reason most people liked the episode was simply because Kaneki stopped being a “wimp” and turned into a “badass”. Kind of in the same vein as when people complain about more passive or pathetic main characters being “bad”.
It’s a pretty bad oversimplification of the point behind the episode, as the why is more important. Just like with any fight scene, the choreography of it is just mostly eye-candy, all of the actual tension, excitement, and stakes come from the reasons behind the fight.
So then what is this why, and how does it explain why the ending works?
The episode isn’t great because Kaneki gets aggressive and fights back, in fact, it’s not even really exciting that he retaliates. More than anything it’s somber – considering the sole purpose of the episode was to break Kaneki’s spirit.
Ever since the beginning of the show, the entire defining point of the series was how the lead character became this half-ghoul and half-human being, and his attempt to retain his humanity as much as possible. Throughout the show he continuously has to deal with issues that make it harder and harder for him to avoid his new ghoul side, and the final episode was the nail in the coffin to him fully embracing it.
Depending on your perspective, this could be a good thing, but doesn’t change the fact that Kaneki has spent the entire show desperately trying to hold onto his humanity as best as he can, just for him to be completely broken in the end, both physically and mentally.
That’s what made the last episode work so well (along with some phenomenal directing). Now the question is: why does that make the ending good?
Stories are made up of arcs. Sometimes they’re story arcs, other times they’re character arcs. Generally a show wants to finish a season at the end of an arc, because that’s what gives it finality. There can be hints of more to come, but things are mostly wrapped up.
Tokyo Ghoul did indeed finish on the end of an arc.
Again, the entire point of the show from the very beginning was Kaneki being broken into accepting that he’s now a ghoul. The show started with him refusing to eat another person and being physically disgusted with the idea of cannibalism, and the show ended with him more than willing to devour his captor in vengeance. That’s a character arc.
The main problem I’m sure people have is that everyone from Anteiku showed up to rescue him, and most of them seemed to be about to get into fights before the show ended. The thing is, the show was never really about them. That’s not to say they aren’t important, but pretty much all of the events were there to add to Kaneki’s plight in some way. Reinforcing that there were both good and bad people on both sides of the feud being the main one.
They all went to try and rescue him, but now he’s already free. Though they obviously don’t realize it yet, their goal has already been achieved. They’re done. If I wanted to get really technical I could even argue that it didn’t really end in the middle of anything since those fights didn’t actually start, but that probably wouldn’t fly for most people.
The point is that Kaneki is the center of the universe when it comes to all of these actions, and at the end he’s gone through the character arc that was set up at the beginning, and is now free. The opening even shows this: it starts with him sitting and looking defeated in a chair, eventually has him falling into his ghoul side where they meld, and then you have white-haired Kaneki. The opening was pretty much entirely about the finale; even the song is about him accepting that he’s a ghoul and his thoughts in general.
I’m not going to lie and say every thread got wrapped up, because that’s obviously not true, but it’s placing a bit too much importance on threads that don’t really matter as much as others. As the idiom goes, it’s seeing the forest for the trees. Or is it not seeing the forest for the trees? Anyways, the point is that it’s obsessing over the little details and not getting the overall picture.
I know it sounds like I’m saying “just ignore the problems”, but what I’m actually saying is that they aren’t actually problems to begin with. Again, it’s like what I mentioned before about fight scenes: the fight in and of itself isn’t what’s important, it’s the reasons behind it. It’s the same with Tokyo Ghoul as a whole. There was finality, because it started a character arc, and ended it, as any good show should do.
Well, if you want to get technical it didn’t necessarily “end” so much as morph into something new, but the point is, that’s something for another season. Just like the fights with the other characters it started setting up.
The only reasonable argument against the ending I could think of is that it should have at least continued to the point where Kaneki and everyone else got out and went home, because that would still cover the character arc without leaving any loose ends. But even then I’d argue against that since I doubt they could finish up fights with these ghouls they’ve established as being exceptionally strong in any short amount of time, and more importantly because ending the show with Kaneki eating someone is far too important to have it keep going considering how everything was set up.
There’s not much else to say. The simplistic summary is just that a final episode should have finality, and this one did because it wrapped up a character arc it had set up at the start and developed over the course of the show. It was the core of everything, and it was developed and resolved by the end. And as I said, that’s what any good finale should do.