Tokyo Ghoul Review/Recap: Incubation (Episode 02)


“Incubation” picks up exactly where the previous episode ends with Touka shoving a severed hand down Kaneki’s throat. (If you missed it, you can check out the review/recap of the previous episode here.) Despite obviously no longer being human, Kaneki’s insistence that he’s not a monster ­and his implication that all ghouls are infuriates Touka into beating him relentlessly.

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His continued whining about how his life has sucked since the accident prompts her to ask some simple, yet piercing questions. Being born a ghoul, does that mean everything about her life has sucked? Since ghouls can’t eat anything other than human flesh, she asks what cake tastes like because she’s forced to watch humans enjoy it at the café she works at. She questions what it’s like living without the fear of being hunted by the CCG, an organization whose purpose is to indiscriminately rid the world of ghouls altogether.

The manager of the Anteiku café, Yoshimura, intervenes before Touka can do any lasting physical damage. Yoshimura brings Kaneki back to the café where he offers him a cup of coffee, the only thing other than human flesh that ghouls can actually taste and consume without vomiting. It unfortunately isn’t enough to provide ghouls with lasting sustenance, so eating humans is the only means of survival. Yoshimura then gives Kaneki a package of human flesh to stave off his impulses.

This is a fantastic peek into what life is like for ghouls. The first episode presented them in a rather unflattering light, with little redeeming qualities to make viewers care about them. Having the main character be part-ghoul and deal with their inherent issues allows for viewers to empathize with their plight.

Not everything is cut-and-dry or black-and-white in Tokyo Ghoul and that makes for some compelling storytelling possibilities.

Kaneki finally gets the courage to return to school where he runs into his best friend, Hide. He has Kaneki tag along to pick up some materials from an upperclassman. Just to emphasize how well ghouls can blend in with humans, that upperclassman turns out to be Nishiki, the ghoul who tried to kill Kaneki at the end of the previous episode. As Hide makes introductions they pretend to not recognize each other. Nishiki informs Hide the material he needs are at his home and invites him over. Fearing for his best friend’s life, Kaneki joins them.

On the way, Nishiki buys them all some taiyaki, a fish-shaped cake filled with sweetened red beans. Kaneki stands in awe as Nishiki manages to eat the snack without even so much as flinching. He later vomits it all out, but eating it showed just how much composure and skill he has at hiding his true ghoul nature.

They continue walking and once they reach a secluded area (of course), Nishiki makes his move, knocking Hide unconscious with a fierce kick that sends him flying several dozen feet. He drops all pleasantries with Kaneki and the two fight. It starts off incredibly one-sided as Nishiki, fully in control of his ghoul powers, beats Kaneki mercilessly.

Just to add insult to injury, Nishiki then taunts an immobile but conscious Kaneki, telling him to watch while he eats his best friend. Kaneki’s desire to save Hide finally triggers his ghoul powers. Along with Rize’s organs, Kaneki also inherited her ghoul abilities, which are considered one of the strongest amongst her species. Within seconds Kaneki defeats Nishiki by repeatedly thrashing him to within an inch of his life.

Kaneki’s victory is short-lived, however, as Rize’s consciousness – a side effect of having her organs inside him – shows up to convince him to eat Hide on his own. As Kaneki is about to give in to his ghoul side and eat his best friend, Touka steps in at the last possible second to talk him out of it. When he doesn’t listen, showing how much influence Rize has over his mind, Touka effortlessly dispatches Kaneki (in a fight we sadly don’t get to see).

Kaneki wakes up at Anteiku to find Hide safe and sound recovering in an adjoining room. Kaneki joins the café’s staff in order to learn how to control his ghoul side and to better understand ghouls in general.

Elsewhere, two formidable CCG members, Mado and Amon, are introduced. The have come to the 20th Ward in search of both Rize and Jason (the guy from the beginning of the first episode who was wearing, well, a Friday the 13th Jason mask). The eccentric Mado finds the pliers Rize stole from Jason as the episode ends.

The following episodes should provide a finer look into how the more relatable, nonviolent ghouls go about living in a world that intrinsically hates and fears them. That’s exactly where I was hoping the show would proceed as offering insight into both sides of the conflict will make the narrative more intriguing.

You can watch Tokyo Ghoul for free via Funimation or Hulu.