It’s not that often that you find animes that can draw you in and hook you so easily but end up taking you on paths you weren’t quite expecting… Guilty Crown is one of those types so read on if you want to know more…
Another product of Production I.G. (it would appear that I subconsciously end up choosing titles made by this company), who also bring a high standard of animation, complete with effects and brilliant casting. This anime is no exception and seeing as it falls partly under a science/fantasy genre, along with action, those effects are required in spades. Guilty Crown is an original concept anime which was directed by Tetsuro Araki, who has worked on titles such as Black Lagoon, Death Note, Highschool of the Dead, Sword Art Online, Attack on Titan and the new upcoming hit Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress. The script was written by Hiroyuki Yoshino (Code Geass, the Berserk movies and Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress to name a few) and Ichiro Okouchi (Code Geass, Kuroshitsuji, Magi and Strike the Blood). As it usually goes with original animes, the mangas, novels and games follow not long after so there are always options for the major fans!
Some of the titles Tetsuro Araki has worked on.
Some of the titles Hiroyuki Yoshino and Ichiro Okouchi have worked on.
The story here revolves around a handful of main characters, spearheaded by Ouma Shu – a highschooler that accidentally gains the “power of the king” which gives him the ability to draw “voids” out of people. Voids usually take the form of items/weapons with special abilities. Also involved in the mix are a government-like organisation known as the GHQ and the ones working against them, The Undertakers (or Funeral Parlour – depending on how you want to interpret it). There is some background information required here to understand the story but the gist (not to give too much away) is that there was an event where a virus infected a number of people and caused a major catastrophe, i.e an “apocalypse”. Now, there are 2 interlinked arcs in the story: the first is about how Shu gets his powers after meeting a girl named Inori, how he comes to terms with his power, meeting the leader of the Undertakers (Tsutsugami Gai) and the fight between the GHQ and the Undertakers. The 2nd arc has to do with the 2nd coming of this “apocalypse virus” and how everyone deals with this and how everything eventually comes to a head with the GHQ, the Undertakers and Shu and his friends.
Our 3 main leads: Shu, Gai and Inori.
Now this was a tricky anime for me to rate because of the division of the show into two very distinct arcs. When I initially started watching the show, I thought to myself “WOW! This is flippin’ epic!” and it was exactly the kind of thing I would expect from Production I.G so I really thought I was in for an incredible 22-episode thrill ride with loads of bad-assery action with a supernatural twist! However, I could not have been more fooled by the 1st arc because the 2nd arc really let me down… This being the case, I’ll take it arc by arc.
1st arc: This was the first half where Shu meets Gai and gets involved with the Undertakers. The story was slightly confusing at the start but this is par for the course since you’re slowly introduced to the setting in this new world where a major catastrophe had once occurred. And before you properly figure out how things work, you’re suddenly plunged into the midst of the action. This actually works in the show’s favour because you adjust to this alternative reality rather quickly where fantasy-based action blends in with slightly more reality-based problems. The story moves along relatively quickly as you meet and get to know the various characters including Gai and Inori, who turn out to be major players in the storyline. They also waste no time with the using the “power of the king” to advance missions (and the storyline by proxy), all the while getting to delve into the past little by little and piece together what happened in the past and how it has affected the present. They also keep track of both camps – Undertakers and GHQ – which lets us see how each side is advancing against the other. All in all, this was a very well done part of the story where all of the various missions and storylines (post past and present) culminate to reach a major point where most of the past is revealed and events reach a head. This then gives way to the 2nd arc…
Some of the many characters you get to meet from the GHQ, Shu’s highschool and The Undertakers.
2nd arc: After the events of the 1st arc you’re left with this feeling like “where are they going with this? What happens now?” Believe me, once you’ve watched it to that point you will completely understand what I mean. You almost feel sorry for this 2nd arc having to take over from the 1st – as if it were Catherine from Gintama following Hitagi Senjougahara from Bakemonogatari in a modelling show. Not unbearable, but not really cohesive. And this is what I found with this show. The 1st arc ends on such a high and definitive point that what comes afterward – the aftermath – is basically like picking up the pieces. Yes, there is a shift and new focus where now we see how everyone deals with the events of the 1st arc. There are more reveals from the past revolving around the beginning of this whole saga and we get more involved with Shu and his high school friends as they begin to take on a more active role in the story. Although the story moves along, it can sometimes feel a little aimless because it focusses on inter-personal politics and moves at a much slower pace. In fact, it’s only the last few episodes where things pick up a little but not enough to end the anime with the “I just watched something amazing!” feeling.
Going from the 1st arc to the 2nd arc is like going from Hitagi to Catherine.
This is, of course, my personal opinion and there must be plenty of others that don’t feel the same way and enjoyed it from start to finish. But for me, this show really did itself a disservice with the story line being so noticeably divided into two and reaching the pinnacle too soon. In a way, it sort of pulled a Gurren Lagann and accidentally shot itself in the foot. I suppose one could argue that this is the downfall of original concept animes – unlike manga which is subject to plenty of public opinion (and lots of editing processes) before it’s converted to an anime, original concepts are only known to those involved before it’s released into the world. This may also influence things like character development and while most of the characters do change in response to the events they face, they do sometimes change in surprising ways which might leave you feeling a bit unsettled as you try to figure out who you should be supporting in this fight.
Mecha fights are par for the course in this version of the world.
In terms of the animation, however, this is a really visually stimulating show and doesn’t hold back. It combines mecha with fantasy and throws in a typical high school setting against a backdrop of an apocalypse and makes it all look pretty coherent. This isn’t really surprising given the studio it’s coming out of and I enjoyed the look of it – whether it was in the classroom or on the battle field. There is even some light fan service for the boys, if you’re into that sort of thing. The music of a show also plays an important role (for me anyway) in most animes but this one take it to the next level. If you’re a fan of EGOIST, you’re in luck because not only do they do the OP and ED for both arcs, but they are also featured in the show itself since Inori has an alternative public personality where she is a singer and even the non-public Inori does some singing too which actually ends up playing a role in how things unfold. For me, it was a bit of overkill and I sat there wondering how this turned into a gigantic advert for EGOIST? I know that Production I.G loves EGOIST and they tend to use them where they can but if you’re not a fan of their style/singing etc. then you’re going to have a tough time listening to them repeatedly. I’m a fan of most music but even I found myself skipping the OPs and EDs after a while.
Production I.G. never disappoints when it comes to the visual aspects of an anime.
Shu takes control of Inori’s void.
It seems that I have more negative than positive things to say about this show, but it wasn’t all bad. As I said, that first arc was epically badass and was actually the reason why I was so fired up to do this review and had I done it while I was still in the first part, I’m sure that this review would have been full of me raving about how awesome the show was. It’s a real pity that the 2nd half tries but falls a bit flat while the story is wrapped up. But if you’re not one to worry too much about the details and you enjoy being generally entertained then you won’t really have any issues with this show.
This show could be compared to climbing a mountain: the beginning has a few struggles as you get to grips with things, but reaching the summit is satisfying and totally worth it. However, now it’s a climb down the mountain where it’s not quite as amazing as before. As I’ve said before though, this is my personal opinion and perhaps you will find that you really loved the show. After all, this is what anime is about – finding what appeals to you, personally – so take this review with a pinch of salt if you must. This was an anime with amazing animation and lots of potential which was only let down by having reached the climax of the story all too soon. However, I would recommend that you watch it for yourself because this show is definitely one that would be subject to mixed opinions.
Image credits: zerochan.net, Production I.G., Sunrise Inc., Shaft
END: Guilty Crown Anime Review