Years after Tokyo Ghoul Season 2 aired, anime fans are still talking and complaining about what happened to Tokyo Ghoul: Root A (or Tokyo Ghoul √A). Some fans of the Tokyo Ghoul manga series believe that Studio Pierrot purposefully went against the script provided by manga creator Sui Ishida and changed the story of the one-eyed, half-ghoul Ken Kaneki for the worse. But what really happened during production?
Warning: This article contains some spoilers based on describing the differences between the anime and the manga.
Both the 143 chapters of the first Tokyo Ghoul manga and the ending of the Tokyo Ghoul Season 2 anime concluded with the Anteiku raid by the CCG, but how the anime arrived at that ending diverged greatly from the source material. Besides changing up the ending fight scene, which was the focus of many chapters in the manga, the ending of Tokyo Ghoul Root A also had Hideyoshi Nagachika (Hide) dying in the arms of Kaneki. Manga fans are hoping that Hide's death will be retconned for the Tokyo Ghoul:re anime adaptation, although Hide's face has already been shown on a missing person poster in the first episode.
However, the biggest plot difference was that Kaneki joined the Aogiri Tree ghoul organization in Tokyo Ghoul: Root A. In the manga, Kaneki formed his own ghoul group to protect his friends after being tortured by Yamori of the Aogiri Tree. Kaneki's group attacked the Aogiri Tree, the Ghoul Restaurant, and the CCG, so most of the second season was a completely original story.
Unfortunately, major plot details were left out, which might change the Tokyo Ghoul:re anime's story. For example, Kaneki's group searched for Professor Akihiro Kanou, the man responsible for using Kaneki as a prototype for creating artificial ghouls by using the body of the ghoul Rize Kamishiro. Without getting into spoilers, Kanou considers Kaneki his ultimate creation and his experimentation played a critical role in the plot of the Tokyo Ghoul:re manga.
All three anime seasons have been based on scripts written by Chuji Mikasano at Studio Pierrot, but director Shuhei Morita was in charge for Tokyo Ghoul Season 2 (Shuhei was replaced by director Odahiro Watanabe for the third season). A 2018 Reddit AMA discussion was released shortly before the Tokyo Ghoul:re anime began airing. Fans asked questions, and director Shuhei explained that manga creator Ishida actually wanted Tokyo Ghoul: Root A to be different from the manga.
"In order to complete Tokyo Ghoul √A's aim of Kaneki joining Aogiri, we needed to make some changes," Shuhei wrote. "Ishida-sensei also urged me to change stuff and go a different route, which is where a lot of the anime came from. We had a massive bubble of ideas, but as to not affect the lore of the original manga, it constantly felt like those ideas were being chipped away at by those above me. I tried my best, and I honestly don't have any regrets given the movement space I was allowed."
Shuhei revealed that he "already knew that Season 2 was going to happen when [he] started Season 1," so the iconic torture scene involving Kaneki was planned out as a transition point.
"Ishida-san had suggested for the first season to be focused on black hair Kaneki, where the second season would be focused on white hair Kaneki," Shuhei explained. "So we needed that traumatic experience to connect the two seasons and develop the character."
Shuhei did admit that he does not try to strictly follow a manga when creating an anime adaptation.
"When I make anime I try to become the character in order to direct better. In fact, when I was making the last episode of season one, seeing Kaneki-kun's suffering really affected me. I felt like I was gonna die!" Shuhei wrote. "It's always tough trying to add the elements that anime brings to the table that are [sic] different from the manga, such as color, sound, voice acting etc. It's a completely different medium, so I try not to just copy the manga.
The secondary issue was that Ishida had not finished writing the Tokyo Ghoul manga's ending when the second season was being created. The mangaka did give the director ideas for how Tokyo Ghoul Season 2 should end, but he claims the manga creator "specifically wanted us to create something original for the second season, which is why it moves in a different direction."
"Root A is completely original based on Ishida-san's original idea. We first started working three months after season 1 was completed, so we had lots of discussion about the storyline," Shuhei wrote. "In the case of Tokyo Ghoul:re, Ishida-san had lots of ideas and did share some of them with me. Interesting story: at the time the comic wasn't finished, he had to consider the final episode before everything started development. I asked Ishida how he would like to end season one, and he gave me the idea that he wanted to see, and then I started working. But Ishida prefers to work on a weekly basis with his manga, so the development was a bit different since he wasn't entirely sure what direction things were going to move when creating the manga at the time."
So, now fans know the whole story behind the making of Tokyo Ghoul Season 2. Hopefully, Studio Pierrot will listen to the fans and make certain that the Tokyo Ghoul:re anime adaptation stays true to its roots.