If you look at this and decide you don’t want to read it, then scroll down and play the track. It’ll almost certainly be worth your time.
Not every show is universally good or bad. Search the internet hard enough and you can find good and bad reviews for pretty much any show. One of the more divisive shows out there is Guilty Crown, a post-apocalyptic sci-fi show, based on a unassuming boy called Shu who gains the power of the king. Here’s my review.
10 years ago a virus swept across Japan. The event known as Lost Christmas crippled the country, forcing it to take a huge amount of foreign aid and to be run by a undemocratically selected government called the GHQ. Even 10 years on after the incident, the government shows no signs of moving on or helping to completely eradicated the virus. Our main characters are Shu, a socially awkward student and Inori, a singer of the (now real) band Egoist and member of terrorist/liberation group, ‘Funeral Parlour’. After school, Shu goes to an abandoned military building to work on videos that he creates. On one occasion he finds that Inori has taken shelter there after stealing an important item for Funeral Parlour, and after a brief introduction and discussion she is found and taken away by the military. Shu is, unexpectedly left with the item that Inori stole and takes it upon himself to get it to the people that want it. After meeting some of the other important characters in the story, most notably Gai, the leader of Funeral Parlour, the ‘antibodies’ (government secret police types), go after a group of innocent citizens in an attempt to find the vial that was stolen by Inori. Funeral Parlour go after them to save Inori, with Shu tagging along. In an attempt to show he isn’t always a coward, Shu, who still has the vial, runs out to protect Inori who has been injured. In the gun fire, the vial breaks and Shu absorbs the power of the King, allowing him to pull out people’s voids (objects of varying usefulness that reflect what’s in a persons heart). He pulls out Inori’s void which is an incredible sword, and defeats all of the mechs.
The first half of the story follows Shu, Inori and Gai as they fight against the antibodies and the government seemingly with the view of freeing Japan from oppression. In a lot of ways up until episode 12 we are getting an introduction to Guilty Crown. This is the time used to develop Shu and Inori’s relationship, find out more about Shu’s power and Shu and Gai’s connected past. Though the real point of the story doesn’t develop until the final 2 or 3 episodes of the arc, the screen time up until that point is used excellently. While it is fair to say that this is both character and plot development time, the way the show gets through this is by no means dull. For example, in episode 4, the real aim of the episode is develop the relationship of Shu and Inori: in terms of episode plot though Funeral Parlour are attempting to free Kenji, a high security prisoner, to gain access to his void for Shu. For much of the plot the action scenes, in truth, aren’t really necessary, but the way in which the story is written makes them feel like they are.
The crux of the first arc goes something like this: in the past, Shu’s older sister, Mana, was the first person to touch the rock that spread the apocalypse virus, and thus she was consumed by its power losing her mind. This madness led to falling in love with her brother, Shu, with whom she wanted to create a new world. First time around, on Last Christmas, Shu pushed her away which sent her into a frenzy, causing the catastrophe to occur. The organisation behind the whole thing (Doth) wants to try again by resurrecting Mana and giving her a king i.e. Shu. How to bring her back? Through Inori, who had been created as a clone of sorts as a host for when Mana returned. Before Mana is awakened though, Shu managed to stop them, but has to sacrifice Gai in the process.
In the second half, the story that has been so spectacularly been set up in the first arc unravels itself. The area in which Shu’s school is situated, loop 7, has been quarantined following the virus outbreak caused by Mana’s near resurrection and it is soon announced that it wont be removed by the government. Quickly the issue becomes how to survive on limited supplies, most importantly vaccine. After an incident when Shu has to destroy a mech with Inori’s void, the rest of the students become aware of his power. The lack of action leads them to elect a new School Council President to run the survival effort and Shu is selected. After initially running the school as equally as possible, Shu loses one of his closest friends, Hare, in a gun fight turning him, how should we say… cold.
On the advice of another of his friends, Yahiro, Shu implements a void ranking system, allocating vaccine and other supplies to those with the most important voids first. If that wasn’t enough to worry everyone, a rumour is spread by Arisa, the former council president who was attacked (unknowingly) by Inori that when a persons void is destroyed, the person will die. I really didn’t like Arisa, but that was only because she was playing the role of slimy bad guy you just can’t stop and unfortunately, she was very good at it. Led by Shu, the students complete a mission to get through the wall, out of the quarantine zone. The students then turn on Shu, claiming he had run out of usefulness. In a shock move Gai appears, somehow revived to, in one fell swoop, summon Inori’s void, and cut of Shu’s right arm taking the King’s power.
After a period of hiding, Inori is captured by Gai and a combination of voids, but not before she uses her power to summon the apocalypse virus as a weapon destroying several mechs in the process. It turns out that Mana had already being lying dormant inside Inori from early on in the series (hence the lack of consciousness when she attacked Arisa), so the process of transferring Mana into Inori doesn’t take long. Shu reconciles himself with his friends after regaining the king’s power from another void genome and goes to save Inori from Gai and Mana. It’s at this point when fighting Doth and then Gai that we can see most clearly Shu’s development from socially awkward student to genuine world saving hero.
In the end, Shu defeats Gai and thus Mana, and absorbs all of the virus that has been released into the world using his own void. Inori appears again, blind and covered in the virus, only for her then save Shu from the virus by sacrificing herself, leaving Shu with the blindness that he inherited. I’ll leave the final ending as something for you to watch and appreciate for yourselves.
The series is very much focused on Shu’s development as a person, despite all of the action that is going at the same time. As I’ve mentioned, his development is constantly highlighted, most obviously with his taking of the Cat’s Cradle from Inori at the end of the show, something which he didn’t do in the first episode (very nice link). The inner conflict that develops within him in the second arc after Hare’s death is quite possibly the best aspect of the show. Not only does it show that the writers were making him to the hero, but it shows that he was going to be a hero that related to the Shu we knew at the start of the show. His character isn’t neccesarily one that people like, in as much as he is quite whiny and self pitying for part of the show, but lets face it if he was head strong, he’d be far too close to Lelouch in character style (and as one of the writers wrote Code Geass too, they knew it).
Inori’s development is far more subtle. Much of her character revolves around her lack of understanding of emotions due to her not being entirely human, which can come across as vaguely confusing at some points, but all clicks satisfyingly into place when we discover the truth behind her past. It does have to be said that her developing love for Shu is very endearing, particularly as it is her defining factor for the majority of the show.
The other character worth mentioning here is Gai. Before he disappears from the show after his ‘death’, his intentions and motives seem pretty clear cut and honest. I can only say for the first arc that he was acting as genuine friend to Shu, trying to make him stronger and more capable with his power. One of my only problems with the show is the explanations given for his resurrection for the end of the show. At the end of one episode we see him walking out of a pool of… something being watched over by Shu’s mum and uncle. Unfortunately there is no explanation as to how that happened and then when he explains his motives at the end of the show you can’t help but be a little skeptical of his ‘act’. A gamble on Shu to save the whole world? Risky… Probably too risky for someone like Gai who was otherwise very calculated and logical. It just seemed too out of character.
Sound, Artwork and Animation
Well. How do I cover this section without over using my superlative dictionary. I know there are plenty of people out there that have watched more anime than I have, but if there is a better soundtrack in terms of openings, endings, inserts and backing songs I want to see it. And if you told me there was one without showing me, I wouldn’t believe you. The two opening’s fit the show perfectly, not to mention that animation for the title sequences sits alongside those songs brilliantly. Some of the insert tracks are simply beautiful and will make scenes that aren’t inherently emotional, really very touching. In terms of both artwork and animation I can’t really give them high enough praise. Much of the animation is of such a higher standard compared to the norm in anime, it’s hard to really draw comparisons. The action scenes are fluid and pretty but often I found simple movements just as memorising as the big scenes in terms of animation: everything is so polished.
Episode 21, Eclosion: Emergence
Oddly enough, like another recent review (Attack on Titan), I’ve gone for episode 21. I was tempted to go with episode 17, but I couldn’t help but think the battle scene between Doth and Shu in 21 was an accurate summing up of the transition to what Shu used to be (Doth’s view of him) through to what he became (his own view of himself). At the beginning, we always sort of expected Shu to pull out of dangerous tasks, but now he’s the one leading them, protecting his friends and trying to rescue his lover. Classic.
Favourite piece of music
I like most of the songs from this show. In truth I could honestly put about 8 tracks in this space and it wouldn’t be a bad move. Euterpe is probably the most iconic given the Inori sings it a numerous points throughout the show, though maybe I’d overlook it because it’s overused slightly. My Dearest will always be the opening song associated with the show, but I felt that The Everlasting Guilty Crown fit Shu and Inori’s relationship better. I’m not going to choose that either though because I’d be guilty of ignoring some real classic pieces of music. Bios is probably the best piece of action music I’ve heard, it builds up and up and becomes synonymous with Shu becoming the hero the show is turning him into. Again, I’m not going for that. The song I’m going to go with is Krone. A track that has it all, Krone is used in death scenes, in reuninon scenes and in one very emotionally charged action scene. Plus it’s a generally stunning piece of classical music.
Go and listen to The Everlasting Guilty Crown as well though. Go on, do it for me.
In my mind, Guilty Crown is undoubtedly a great anime series. It takes a fantastic concept in terms of voids and adds some really good characters that also develop really well. The action scenes are truly incredible and the soundtrack to accompany it all doesn’t really have a fault (there was one song called Alpha which I wasn’t a fan of saying that). Shu’s development is a great piece of writing and I loved the relationship he had with Inori. On a more sentimental level the end of the show was incredibly sad, but it was very sweet at the same time. I can happily overlook the problems with the latter part of Gai’s plot line in a show that doesn’t stumble often, and you know, I am a self proclaimed amateur so I don’t have to take marks of if I don’t want to. If you haven’t seen this, start it now.
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