No Vanillaware here, just a Guilty Crown
To be honest, when I first heard of Guilty Crown I actually thought it was an anime adapation of the Princess Crown videogame, so when I went to go check it out and I saw a futuristic city and mobile suits, I decided to pass on it. As the fall and winter seasons progressed, however, I began to hear a lot more about this series — bad and good. It seemed like a pretty controversial title on the internets, so I figured I’d throw it on my to-watch list. Then I read that the screenplay was done by Yoshino Hiroyuki, who did a lot of work on the sound in Code Geass and contributed to its screenplay. I then found out that the series was being directed by Araki Tetsurō of Death Note fame. Needless to say, I found myself in a marathon to catch up to its simulcast airings. Now that the season is over, I can look back and tell myself that I definitely made a good choice by picking this one up when I did.
Ouma Shu was just on his way home from school when he unexpectedly meets Yuzuriha Inori, the female lead vocalist for Egoist, a popular music group. Shu‘s enthusiasm quickly subsides when he discovers that Inori is a member of Funeral Parlor, an armed resistance group fighting against the iron rule of the GHQ group, the current governing body of Japan. Through a series of unintended mishaps, Shu accidentally and irrevocably receives the Power of Kings that was intended for the leader of Funeral Parlor. This power allows Shu to reach into the hearts of people and extract an object that best represents that person’s nature, often a type of battle implement. By obtaining this power, he also forms a strong bond with Inori, who promises to be with him from that point on. Shu‘s meek, pacifist nature puts him at odds with taking responsibility for the power he was never supposed to receive, all the while weighing his relationships with Inori and Funeral Parlor itself.
An interesting thing about Guilty Crown is that is touches upon a number of sub-genres without decisively committing to a single one for too long. Political superpowers, romance and love triangles, incest, mecha — none of them are explored in full. Code Geass, a series that draws many parallels to this series, still had a few genres that were given extra emphasis, namely mecha. In Guilty Crown, the most that we really see of the mecha are them firing guns at each other, and nothing excessively dynamic. Also, there are only two primary mecha users (one in each opposing faction) for the series. Basically, while this series fails to commit to certain subgenres (and possibly alienating potential fans), it makes up for it by emphasizing character development and relationships, particularly between the two main characters, Shu and Inori.
Shu starts off as a reluctant hero. He obviously was in the wrong place at the wrong time when he ended up receiving godlike powers, and it definitely shows in the beginning of the series. What sets him apart from other protagonists is that the series really shows the character grow into a pair of shoes that he feels comfortable in, and not trying to force him into an awkward position that is expected by the viewers. The result is that we really see Shu go through a boatload of crap throughout the series, both due to his power and his ever-changing personality. While Shu‘s personality shifts are somewhat erratic throughout the series, Inori is a wonderful literary foil. Inori‘s personality changes as Shu’s does, only toward the spectrum opposite Shu’s. So there is always a balance between them, and it definitely shows when they share a conversation. This, of course, is all to the detriment of all other elements in the story, especially the overall plot.
I lost track of the primary conflicts many times throughout Guilty Crown. A lot of it had to do with an essential backstory that had to be handled within the series’ 22 episodes. Understanding past events was pivotal to the plot, so having to manage what was essentially two different (but sparsely connected) plotlines was difficult at times. Even near the end of the series, I was left wondering what exactly the protagonists and antagonists were fighting over and what a typical ‘final battle’ would do at that point.
There are a few risque undertones in the series that worked very well, particularly a tempestuous relationship between Shu and the older sister from his past that he loved. It approaches a fine balance of sinister intent and incestuous ‘squick’ that I found to be as haunting as it was compelling — but your mileage may vary. I’ll spare details since it’s a pivotal element of the plot, but it’s definitely one of the more subtle and well-handled ‘taboos’ of the season.
Stylistically, the series is also fantastic. The animation is seamless and, as expected of a series involving one of Geass’ composers, the music is absolutely breathtaking. The two OPs definitely showcase the best of what the series has to offer and always got me excited for the upcoming episode. Araki does a phenomenal job of keeping suspense high throughout the episodes. Of all the titles this past season, Guilty Crown definitely provided the most painfully suspenseful cliffhangers. It’s a good thing.
I found the voiceovers to my liking as well. Kayano Ai, the voice of Inori has a very soft-spoken style of speaking that is very fitting for the role (she plays a similar role in Chihayafuru). Another one of my favorites, Hanazawa Kana, is also present as the voice of Shinomiya Ayase, the crippled mecha pilot with a fiery and independent personality. It was a role that definitely made me appreciate Hanazawa even more as a seiyuu; she normally plays quieter or decidedly moe characters, so to see hear her really fired up (and borderline tsundere) was a real treat.
Love it or hate it, Guilty Crown has a large fanbase all over the world. In my eyes, it’s not hard to see why. I can see why some people would take exception to the series, especially with the staff pedigree present during its production but … really, see it for yourself and decide.
Character Ranking – Guilty Crown
- Shinomiya Ayase
- Ouma Shu
- Menjou Hare
- Yuzuriha Inori
- Ouma Haruka
- Ouma Mana
- Samukawa Yahiro
- Kuhouin Arisa
- Tsutsugami Gai