Shu's entire world was shattered after a meteorite crashed into Japan, unleashing the lethal Apocalypse Virus. The chaos and anarchy born of the outbreak cost Shu his family and reduced him to a timid, fearful shell of the boy he'd once been. His life took another unexpected turn after a chance encounter with the stunning pop star, Inori. This mysterious beauty introduced Shu to the King's Right Hand: a genetic mutation that allows him to reach into hearts of mortals and turn them into weapons. Shu finds himself caught in the crossfire between those who desperately seek his newfound strength. On one side lurks a clandestine government agency, and on the other, Inori and the spirited band of rebels known as Funeral Parlor. The choice is Shu's to make - and the world is his to change.
Sometimes in life you feel the fight is over,
And it seems as though the writings on the wall,
Superstar you finally made it,
But once your picture becomes tainted,
It's what they call,
The rise and fall.
Forgive me for taking such a musical take on today's review but bear with me. While listening to a song on my phone, I keep connecting the lyrics to my viewing of Guilty Crown. Weird, I know but stay with me. The lyrics above cover a lot of the emotional tone of the first 11 episodes of the show. It also helps to illustrate where the main characters are at the start and where they are at the end.
Shu Ouma is an ordinary kid living in the Japan of 2039. In an incident called Lost Christmas, people in Japan were infected with a crystalline spreading virus called the Apocalypse Virus. Now, some years later, Japan can't govern itself and the outside world in the form of a militant version of the W.H.O. called GHQ is in charge of order. Not a whole lot of law, though. The local resistance (because there just has to be one, right?) called Funeral Parlor have stolen a hyper genome belonging to GHQ. Of course, this is being taken to Funeral Parlor by a mysterious girl (because, why not?) called Inori. She encounters Shu and when GHQ attacks some innocent people and Inori and Shu get caught up in it, Shu is exposed to the genome. He can now remove people's heartfelt fears or desires and manifest them in a real form of weapon. The people he does this to fall unconscious but are not hurt and Shu can put the object back in them to allow them to wake up. So now, he has to decide where his loyalties lie with: GHQ and stability or with Funeral Parlor and the idea of real freedom.
The show's animation works that fine line that Production I.G. walk between clean, crisp character and world environment designs and CG works. The artwork for the show has a very dramatic look to it and Shu has an everyman quality to him in that he could look like any other Japanese teenager and at the same time have a fantastic bearing to him in moments of crisis and battle. The music as well works wonders to bring you further in with the use of Inori as a singer as well as the regular work contributed by Supercell and by series composer Hiroyuki Sawano.
Shu is a great guilty party in this adventure. He's only doing this to begin with to follow Inori. He likes her because she's mysterious as I said. By that, I mean she hardly says anything, has little or no emotions and sings in a band that is a front for the organisation she works with. Shu thinks soon after he arrives that the group's leader Gai, is a pretty boy who somehow has enough charisma to carry himself forward. So he tries to be like Gai and the only thing that happens is that for a while he looks like he's on a winner. He feels like a hero and is living a life with Inori and his mother who works at GHQ. He goes to school in morning and fights the good fight in the evening, so to speak. Soon however, things take a turn for the worst and he is forced to confront the fact that even if he makes all the right decisions, Inori may not be his and worse than that people can and do die as a result of his actions. The power he wields is both a curse and a blessing. He can save so many but the fact is that he is using something he doesn't understand and that can be perverted into a dreadful weapon. So as a result, he freaks out and tries to run away. I like the fact that he gets so conflicted and he is so traumatised by one fight in particular that he can't interact with the people closest to him. This makes Guilty Crown a cut above the rest on its opening half of a season.
The rest of the cast have a better setup than most shows like this. Gai is a real tragic figure. He knows that GHQ will keep murdering his followers but he can't stop the fight because the losses incurred so far would be for nothing. But every face haunts him. He can't understand why he's the one who has to keep living and surviving. Several times he tries to sacrifice himself only to find others who are willing to do it for him. At the same time, the people around him work their best because of the stakes they've accepted. Ayase is the team's most loyal member who fights in a remote control mech known as Endlaves. Despite being paraplegic, her vim and vigour make her fight harder than most. She carries a torch for Gai but then who wouldn't, he is so dreamy! Tsugami is a hacker who is 14, precocious and wears skin tight jumpsuits. Why this is a requirement for shows like this, I don't know. The rest of the team Shu works with, they are good but don't have much screen time. His school friends are okay but again, they are the standard functional roles: the secret love interest, the jock, the amazingly together student council members (male and female) and the super rich girl.
On a different note, the voice acting on this show was quite good and I enjoyed the dub that Funimation put together. The cast throw themselves into being crazy and dull, funny and serious. It think I'm maturing as a reviewer because I wasn't listening to the dub for things they were doing wrong but what they were doing to bring the character forward. Wow, a Funimation dub I liked. Will wonders never cease?
At its heart, Guilty Crown wants to be an awesome, emotional adventure with insights into the human condition. The problem is that it is all stuff that we've seen before and that the show itself has a thread of Neon Genesis Evangelion running through it. Both in its tone and because the producers all say on the disc in an interview that they were influenced by it. Am I excited to see more? Sure, the showrunners had the balls to leave the midseason with an apocalyptic finish. Am I excited to wait four months until the second half is released? Not really and if I do watch it again, it will be with a wary eye.