Guilty Crown Part 1 (Episodes 1-11) (Cert 15)
2 Discs (Distributor: Manga Entertainment) Running time: 252 minutes approx.
Stop me if you’ve already heard this one: In 2039, ten years after a nationwide disaster called Lost Christmas, in which an alien virus called Apocalypse Virus hit Japan over the festive period and wiped out huge numbers of people, leaving Japan under the control of a UN sanctioned military group called GHC, a high school boy named Shu Ouma discovers an injured young girl named Inori in his hideaway. The singer of a popular internet group Egoist, Inori is also part of a rebel group called Funeral Parlour (or Undertakers in some translations) who are fighting against GHC, and has stolen a vial of a substance known as Void Genome. When cornered by GHC soldiers, the vial is broken and the Void Genome transfers itself onto Shu, who then gains the power to extract weapons from the hearts of specific people to use in combat. For saving Inori, Shu is invited to join Funeral Parlour by its enigmatic and charismatic leader Gai Tsutsugami.
Forgive the flippancy but Guilty Crown can quite aptly be renamed Neon Geass – LeLouch Of Evangelion, such is the reliance on the material of these two shows that this one has borrowed liberally from. Obviously writer Hiroyuki Yoshino has tried to put his own spin on this veritable melting pop of established concepts but keen eyed viewers will be spot the influences a mile off. That said, in the hands of Death Note, High School Of the Dead and Attack On Titan director Tetsurō Araki and animation giants Production IG, we actually have a very well made show that is rather enjoyable in its own right.
Some of the references and rip-offs are annoyingly blatant, such as Funeral Parlour’s wheelchair bound Mecha pilot – called Endlaves here – Ayase, who is not only the spitting image of Eva’s Asuka Langley but wears an identical red pilot uniform! Oh and she’s a tsundere towards Shu too. Then there is tech wiz Tsugumi who wears cat ears similar the pilot headgear Eva’s Rei Ayanami sports, and we have Shu’s mother Haruka, a sexy MILF who likes beer and treats Shu more like a lover than a Son. Misato Katsuragi sound familiar anyone? Finally there is Inori, the tacit pink haired girl who – surprise surprise – transfers to Shu’s school and turns up to live with him at home!
As the leading man Shu doesn’t compare to Eva’s Shinji Ikari as a wimpy, emotionally tortured whiner nor is he as dynamic and intelligent as Geass’s Lelouch Vi Britannia. He is not even somewhere in between, instead fulfilling the role of your average awkward school kid thrown into the midst of a national calamity. To be fair he does adapt to his new position quite well, spurred on by his need to protect Inori, and by extension the people around him although his failure to save one victim brings about a crisis of faith and a minor breakdown as a result.
Credit where it is due, these eleven episodes are action packed and the story moves along at a brisk pace, with plenty of material covered in this first half. Aside from an episode in which we get the obligatory – and in this instance incongruous – trip to the beach to provide some fan service to break up the monotony of explosions and gunfire, nothing is wasted here and every episode is devoted to furthering the plot. Exposition and backstories aren’t considered a priority so far but we learn enough about the characters to get a decent handle on them. A brief moment involving Haruka of all people teases a potentially combustive secret from Shu’s past but little else is revealed about the main cast.
One element that is exclusive to this series is Inori’s musical abilities; it seems that her voice in conjunction with certain melodies have incredible healing powers and can reverse and cure the infection from the Apocalypse Virus. If you are thinking “Well why hasn’t anyone capitalised on this and have her sell millions of records to help the infected, instead of her being forced to live as a rebel terrorist?” then join the queue. An answer of sorts is forthcoming before the closing episodes of this volume however, which, coincidentally, ends on tragic cliffhanger leaving the audience no choice but to hunger for the second volume.
Where this show cannot be faulted, and I defy anyone to suggest otherwise, is in the presentation. Production IG have given us unquestionably one of the best looking shows of the year with high end production values that suggest a substantial budget beyond that of a regular TV series was afforded to it. The backgrounds are sumptuously and meticulously detailed, rich with vibrant colours and suffused with a warm depth. The character designs are standard but well animated while the action scenes are exciting thrill rides. If you are fortunate enough to be watching this on Blu-ray this is a real visual treat for the old peppers.
Guilty Crown is an infuriating show. Why? Because one wants to hate it so badly after the shamelessly derivative opening episodes yet as time progresses, one is totally immersed in the cliché ridden but well structured story. The gag about replacing the word “crown” in the title with a certain simile for enjoyment beginning with “p” has been made in abundance and to repeat it here would make this review complicit with the lack of originality found in this series, yet it is so utterly true. Kudos to al involved for confounding our jaded expectations and turning them back on ourselves!
The moral of this review – shed your cynicism and simply enjoy.
Dolby True HD: English Language 5.1
Dolby True HD: Japanese Language 2.0
Commentary for Episodes 2 & 4
Episode Previews 1-11
Guilty Crown 4-Panel Theatre
Into the Void: The Creative Vision
Textless Opening Song – Version 1
Textless Opening Song – Version 2
Textless Closing Song – phase 01
Ratings – ****
Man In Black