Story/Art: Sui Ishida
Translation: Joe Yamazaki
What They Say
While Haise is determined to help his old friends escape from Cochlea prison, he doesn’t want to hurt any of his CCG colleagues. But his mentor Kisho Arima takes the decision out of Haise’s hands. In the midst of their heated battle, Arima makes an unbelievable move and confirms some of Haise’s greatest fears about the organization that has become his whole life. He lost everything once before. How will he handle it happening again?!
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers):
So, a lot of crap happens in this volume, but there’s one plot point I want to touch on first: we jump back to all the stuff going on with Toru and the Torso, and… my god, I seriously HATE what this volume does here, with a passion. First off, a good chunk of this portion is given to throwing out a tragic backstory for Torso and having Toru go “man, what’s wrong with me? I’m actually sympathizing with him…” Which hell, maybe the book could have done something with that, showing that even the worst of people are human, but ultimately someone’s past doesn’t mean it’s acceptable for them to be a monster in the present. But nah, it’s not really about subtlety, it’s more about just shoving in more torture porn style junk to make readers go “wow, that’s messed up” rather than being something that actually feels substantial. What earns my real hatred, though, is that we get the reveal that of all things, Toru was actually a sadistic murderer this whole time without knowing it, essentially blocking it all out. And man is it crappy on several fronts. Like, for example, rather than FINALLY giving the character agency and allowing him to do something after being hit with “damsel in distress” crap over and over again, it’s like even MORE agency has been ripped away from him and his plot is now solely driven by this twist that’s out of the control of the character we’ve gotten to know. And y’know, it’s yet another crappy twist that comes out of nowhere rather than feeling properly set up. Plus as the added cherry on top, it plays straight into the harmful trope of trans people frequently and consistently being depicted as insane murders again and again in fiction. It’s just a gross, frustrating, poorly executed twist all around, and I think it may be the worst thing this series has done thus far, which is really saying something.
Now there’s of course some other shallow bits of action sprinkled throughout (including one noteworthy bit where the art literally has a woman doing that god awful “I have somehow contorted my spine to show off my tits and ass at the same time!” pose, which looks positively terrible), but most of the rest of the volume goes to the battle between Haise and Arima. As the fight continues on, our hero gains more and more of an advantage, until he has clearly won. But even so, Arima keeps on going, clearly wanting a battle to the death. But when it becomes clear that Haise isn’t going to deal the finishing blow, Arima just goes ahead and kills himself. THIS is when we get a huge plot dump of how he’s part of a big conspiracy, essentially the result of experiments to create half human, half Ghoul mixes. So I guess his motivations ultimately kind of sort of make sense here, as he didn’t have long left and wanted to go down in battle, and then he helps our hero out in the end. Still, it’s yet another twist that doesn’t really feel well established and just sort of comes out of nowhere and is thrown at the reader. And hell, the crucial emotional connection the battle is SUPPOSED to have that may have saved it just isn’t there, because past volumes frankly did a pretty piss poor job of really establishing the relationship the two shared. The real kicker though is that at the last second the reader learns that Arima was Ainu this whole time, and Haise gives him a fitting sendoff. Now, that would have actually been a really cool bit of representation… had it been an established character trait rather than something we’re only told after he’s literally dead. As is, it instead just feels really shallow, like the author decided he wanted to use those lines at the last minute and just tagged on that character trait to facilitate it.
Anyway, will Kaneki be able to make proper use of Arima’s sacrifice, or is he ultimately doomed to fail? And also, when the end of the book does a title drop explaining where the :re comes from, will anyone even care, or will it just come across as more shallow, “stylish” crap?
This volume really does stand as a testament to how much failing to establish things can hurt a book. Because man, this time we get twist after twist, again and again, and none of them were set up properly at all. And as a result, they feel ultimately like shallow attempts at earning cheap shock, and frankly like the author was just pulling it all out of his ass. Add to this a core meant to be emotional payoff for a relationship that frankly wasn’t established well thus far, and the whole book just falls terribly flat. The real kicker, though, is that one of the twists is absolutely awful in pretty much all aspects imaginable, not only really ruining a character, but also being positively vile too. So yeah, this may just be the trashiest entry in the series yet, which is certainly a feat.
Content Grade: C-
Art Grade: A
Packaging Grade: B+
Text/Translation Grade: B+
Age Rating: 16+
Released By: Viz Media
Release Date: December 18th, 2018