How was Arima abusive? This is a somewhat new topic I'm hearing throughout the TG fandom..
Oh it’s a pretty old topic haha. Arima’s been around for years, and you know how people are :’) But yeah, I’ll get into it.
To preface, I’m not going to pretend that Arima was a saint. He’s done some pretty fucked up things that would not fly if he was a real person. He was strange and distant, a harsh mentor and downright violent at times. All blaring red flags, especially with Kaneki declaring him as his father figure. But no, I do not think “abusive” is applicable in Arima’s situation.
It’s probably a case of semantics, but a problem I have with big fandoms is their tendency to misuse words like “abuse” and “toxic” as umbrella terms for any type of behavior that isn’t hugs and kisses 24/7 in order to defame a person and/or making the things they like look pristine in comparison. It’s hard to take it seriously anymore.
So, with that in mind, people who are calling Arima abusive feel (to me) to be purposefully using a narrow scope to read his character, since it totally writes off an enormous chunk of who he is and what his individual story-line is about within the context of an adult science-fiction horror story.
In the first series, Arima was presented as little more than an outrageously powerful soldier. His entire purpose– the thing he was literally born to do– was to kill ghouls. Kaneki was not his friend or student or figurative son at the time. He was his opponent.
“Abusive” is not what you call two soldiers firing at each other, nor is it what you call two boxers in a ring. Kaneki and Arima were enemies in a story that revolves around violence and death.
In the second series, Arima took the role of being Haise’s mentor. He was a particularly harsh teacher, but it was his job to train him well– the same way he trained Take, Ui, and several others, too.
Arima was Haise’s teacher the same way Haise was the Quinx’s mentor.
Arima was subliminally triggering Kaneki’s deep-set fear of him when they sparred by pointing at his eyes like he did in V14 (in order to get Kaneki to see him as an enemy), but he never actually outright beat or belittled him as a teacher. He drove him hard, and I admit that it was a little mind-game-y, but there was no extraordinary level of cruelty involved.
Plus, I can’t reiterate enough that fighting and killing was a fundamental necessity to all investigators. As a matter of fact, both humans and ghouls alike had to train to survive, and for many of them that involved being pushed to the brink of exhaustion. Yomo was aggressive, Touka was tough, and even Kaneki chucked Banjou off a rooftop.
Last, if there’s one more sliver of space for the abuse argument to stand, it would be the fact that Kaneki saw Arima as a father figure, and that’s only because it’s easy to accidentally let that leak into his role as an opponent. It’s hard to see his love for Kaneki as pure when he’s cutting his legs off in Cochlea, right?
But here’s the important thing about that: the manga actually addressed on multiple occasions that Arima himself struggled immensely with who he needed to be (a teacher, an enemy) and who he wanted to be (a friend, a caretaker).
He knew it wasn’t right that Haise saw him as such. He tried not to encourage it. But after 15 years of careful progress towards a revolution for ghouls and a lifetime of estrangement by his peers, Arima found himself genuinely loving and wanting to be closer to the person he was raising to be his killer.
Kanae eloquently said that the joy of life was “dying as ones-self”– a line that can be echoed in Arima’s death as well. He was finally able to be himself, to admit that he hated killing and hated himself for it (something that is fundamentally a result of the Washuu’s design tbh), but would die happy having known Haise, and happier still with the knowledge that Kaneki would live.
So, how you choose to interpret Arima’s interactions with Kaneki are ultimately your decision to make, but I personally think pigeonholing one of the most complex and heartbreaking relationships in Tokyo Ghoul for both sides as “abusive” is nothing but a damn shame.