It can be very easy to get overwhelmed when reading an action series. Juggling the needs of the scene and the needs of the readers can get tough-you want to tell this big epic battle in as much detail as you can draw it, but you also want to emphasize the emotional and personal stakes of each individual fight. This is what makes shonen action series like My Hero Academia, One Piece, and Dragon Ball stand out so much; they manage to make their battles flow from panel to panel, page to page, for the best possible storytelling, all while interspersing quiet and important character moments throughout.
Tokyo Ghoul re, to its credit, tries to be like that. It really tries.
But good god is it rough in getting to that point.
In the aftermath of a raid on an auction where a high-profile target was to attend, things are looking a bit dicey for the CCG. Slicey, dicey, and overall pricey for the different squads on the strike force that is. Ghouls are running rampant, there’s a bunch of pricks in clown masks causing more havoc than needed, Aogiri Tree is somehow involved in all of this, and Haise Sasaki is having a bit of an identity crisis. Not exactly the best time for anyone involved, to say the least. It’s an all-out riot, and it’s hard to tell exactly who will come out on top.
There’s a lot to take in with this volume, especially in the first half. While there’s some really nice page layouts with smooth action, a good chunk of its pages are dedicated to pure exposition, with the occasional half-to-full page splash shot and action sequence breaking up the talking. The scene also constantly shifts between the various squads, with at least a good portion of each chapter split between three or more scenes at a time. While this does wonders from preventing us from having to slog through chapters taking place simultaneously, this does cause the story to drag some, especially when it follows the formula of “fight, fight, someone gets their head lopped off/eaten/etc., more fighting, end of chapter.” It’s not the worst way the series could have gone about it-hell, it might even have been the best option — but it can still really bog the action down.
That being said, the action itself kind of pales compared to some of the more character-driven moments of the volume. When you get down to it, a lot of the fights in this volume boil down to “my stabby thing beat your stabby thing” and “whoops there goes your (insert body part here).” The truly important parts are the quiet moments, the ones that make you question hero and villain alike. Urie’s fall into utter madness — however brief it may be — as he strives to be seen as the best of the squad is downright horrifying in the best of ways. His dialogue going more and more deranged, his declaration of being “the chosen one”-you may as well have big red flags waving all over the place, and his emotional moments with Mutsuki really help to develop both of their characters well. Sasaki’s battle with the Ghoul Takizawa and mental struggles really sell the idea that as much as he may as well be an outer shell for Kaneki Ken, he’s still his own person with his own desires. The choices he makes to defend his squad-and the inner “resolution,” as best it can be called, that comes as a result-set up an interesting dynamic going forward.
Artist Sui Ishida’s attention to detail when he really cares about a particular shot is clear as day, making for simultaneously horrifying and beautiful imagery (some of my favorites being the completely deranged, full-page shots of the volume’s bad guys). However, unless they’re absolutely necessary, backgrounds are either non-existent or replaced with some kind of gradient/staticy kind of look. This is a sharp contrast to some of the earlier volumes, and hell, even some of the chapters in this volume. When they’re in place, they look fantastic and add a great sense of space to the proceedings. Otherwise, it feels like they’re fighting in a dull, lifeless void. This does well for, say, final strikes or last words, but not so much just general battle.
Tokyo Ghoul re Volume 3 wraps up the Auction Sweep arc to make way for what I hope to be a new status quo, but it’s a rough ride to that last page. There’s lots of interesting material to enjoy all-in-all, and it finds its stride by the end, but it feels overstuffed. Here’s to the calm before the next inevitable storm, and to sharper storytelling to come.