A short and fluffy Yixing one-shot inspired by the photo above, written for an assignment titled “photograph as muse.” I wrote this about two months ago! Hope you enjoy.
One wrong turn and you found yourself in a winding maze, still as a deer in headlights, staring wide-eyed at your surroundings with crowds of people moving past you. The narrow streets of Tokyo were brightly lit at night, red lanterns with symbols you could not decipher, banners indicating small trinket shops and street eateries. You slowly trod on the stone path, peering into cubicles full of incense and passing by an elderly man sitting cross-legged on the floor selling handmade jewelry. The atmosphere was lively and you could hear upbeat music from the speakers above. Your stomach growled, and you frowned as you searched for a place to eat. Tokyo must be foreigner friendly, right? Perhaps the city was, but in the back alleys, it was doubtful they spoke your native tongue.
What do you think about the clowns? What's their goal? specially Uta, he works with furuta but he's friends with yomo too, why nico helped kaneki's group, it's all very confusing :(
The role of a clown is to provide entertainment for entertainment’s sake, and that is exactly what the Clowns do. They push the story along in the directions they find the most entertaining.
The Clowns are essentially hedonists; their goal in life takes the form of a sadistic pleasure in watching chaos unfold. So basically, the Clowns are fans of Tokyo Ghoul. They are the readers (and often the authors) within the story itself, detached from everything and everyone as they manipulate them for the sake of their art. Just look at how Roma appreciates Kaneki in the exact same way we did - enjoying his suffering from a detached perspective as an artform. When she says, “I won’t lose to any tragedy!”, she even describes Kaneki’s meta-rebellion against the genre of his story, his attempt to escape the tragedy he’s been written into.
They are literary analysts, meta-writers, and the representatives of the fandom - but because they’re inside the story itself, their fascination comes across as psychotic rather than insightful. Nico has the same fascination with Kaneki, noting his despair is what makes him beautiful.
Here Nico states the detachment the Clowns draw between themselves and other people. You can either live beautifully - an artform and subject of a story - or you can live for beautiful people and be the writer of that story, directing them down the path of their struggle.
Uta makes for another great example of this. Tokyo Ghoul’s utilisation of extreme character development is one of its most fascinating features - can we really blame Uta for thinking so too?
He is an artist, after all. Uta goes on to talk about how he enjoys being so involved in the story because it’s lonely ‘on the edges’.
As well as this being Uta openly acknowledging how he went from a side character to someone much more important (Clowns are so meta), he also admits his hedonism stems from loneliness. The easiest way to escape a tragedy is to become an author of it (or so they think). Donato is not so sentimental - his hedonism stems from purely evil intent.
The clowns all manipulate the transformation of characters in various ways. In the original series, their sole interest is in Kaneki, Uta’s “special customer”. Judging from the conversation below, it seems that this interest comes from an awareness that Kaneki is being reared as the One-Eyed King, since Nico starts talking about Kaneki immediately after the concept behind the King. Furuta, as a newer member of the Clowns, is at first unaware.
Furuta drops the steel beam on him (though unintentionally), Uta makes him his creepy mask, Itori convinces him to go to the Ghoul Restaurant, Nico helps Yamori abduct him, Itori leads him to Kanou, Nico gives him information about Aogiri, Donato encourages Amon to find him, Uta encourages him to see Yomo (and thus Rize). All of these events push Kaneki along in his development, first to his transformation into Shironeki, then towards his loss of conviction and his ‘death’.
In :re, while still interested in Kaneki, they start playing with other major characters as well. Uta plays mind games with Mutsuki (Kaneki’s successor in tragedy), first at the auction, telling her that nobody will come to rescue her, leading her to desperate action which results eventually in her giving into her repressed desires and eating from a corpse, and again at the Clown Siege, making her snap entirely. He also attempts to manipulate Hirako and Suzuya, and he sends Kaneki his mask to help unlock his memories. Donato gets Haise to think more deeply about his amnesia and he breaks Urie, forcing him into becoming a Ghoul. Nico has brought Goat’s attention to the Great Wheel Act, and I believe that him seeing Kaneki at the party was why the Clowns were at the Auction in the first place - because they knew Kaneki would be there. See Uta’s reaction to Kaneki’s screams.
Like he’s found what he’d been looking for. If a character is skirting around an abyss, a Clown is always there to give them a helpful push.
Nico helping out Goat shows that the Clowns’ allegiance is solely to the most interesting turn of events, the same allegiance is us readers. But it’s not always easy being a Clown. You need to be able to draw that sharp divide between subject and observer that can allow you to enjoy people you know suffering from a detached perspective. Nico has mastered this; his emotion at Yamori’s death seemed sarcastic at best, and he’s happy to leave Roma in Goat’s hands. But his is where Uta falters somewhat. He does care about Yomo quite deeply, and this is expressed in his neck tattoo: nec possum tecum vivere, nec sine te (a quote from Ovid, albeit jumbled around a bit, and a hint that he’s a Clown; most meta-characters in the series are well read).
He’s struggling with fully detaching himself from this world to be a true Clown. He can’t live with Yomo because he is a true Clown; and he can’t be a true Clown because he can’t live without Yomo. I think one day he and Yomo will meet in battle, and he will be forced to decide…and I think that he will choose beautifully. He will die a tragic but beautiful death at the hand of his loved one; both author and character at once, like he has always been.
This dichotomy applies to Furuta as well. But rather than being attached to a person (his ‘love’ of Rize being just a part of his power complex), his goals are concrete, physical, and specifically within the world of the story rather than the abstract and metaphysical pleasure the Clowns derive from manipulating that world. He is a subject only playing at being an author, and that will be his undoing. Furuta’s only on Team Furuta at the end of the day, manipulating his many affiliations to further his ambition. But he’s fooling himself in believing he controls the Clowns, as Nico has already proven. Furuta is not playing the Clowns, the Clowns are playing Furuta, and they will cast him aside as soon as they stop finding him amusing.
In fact, the set-up’s already in place for his downfall when he made the hubristic move of hiring Akihiro Kanou, someone almost certainly in league with the Clowns. Roma’s presence in Kanou’s lab speaks volumes, and as much as Kanou talks about breaking open birdcages, the scorpion-butterfly on his wall says a lot more about his true nature - he takes abstract pleasure in watching things transform.
The Clowns were the ones who enabled Furuta into dropping the beam on Rize and Kaneki, providing Kanou with his ideal kakuhou and a ready test subject in one fell swoop. And Kanou has just created around 100 supersoldiers - not to mention he’s the one keeping Rize in her tank. If Donato decides he wants to control the story in a more direct way and take the throne for himself, Furuta will be easily cornered by his own Oggai, and when he rushes to see his love, he will find the tank empty, and a hungry Rize waiting to take revenge.