This review contains spoilers!
I had high hopes for this anime. I watched the first 2 episodes when it first came out and dropped it until it was finished. I've put it off for very long (needless to say considering it came out in 2011.) This anime is definitely a memorable one. It's one of those shows I just CANNOT forget no matter what I do. It's very bittersweet.
The plot seemed promising. I thought it would do great things....until I remembered it was squished into 22 episodes. Some anime can pull that kind of thing off, but this one, not so much. This story has MANY underlying stories. Some are mentioned and some are not. The first arc is sped through and very confusing. You'll definitely have to watch the anime one or two more times because you have missed everything! They definitely should have developed this arc and the characters better in the first half. Most things aren't addressed until the second half, though. The second arc is great. Shu's reaction to Hare's death is understandable. Though, it's very strange how he just lets everyone roam about with their voids. The ending sucks. It seems very rushed and as if they wanted to hurry up and finish. I wish the creators would have developed the story more to "reach" the ending as opposed to "having" an ending. And I know that Inori had to die. I just couldn't see any other way they could end this sort of anime unless they pulled a resurrection of her like they did with Gai and Mana. The story is very heartbreaking and memorable, but it leaves you completely unsatisfied and begging for more.
The whole concept of the Voids and that "cancer" intrigued and still intrigues me. I love how the writers created a "Princess of the Void" type thing and made her choose her Adam. The story came off as very unique to me despite how rushed and crammed it was. This story could have been developed awesomely and been one of the greatest anime ever if it were given maybe 20 or 30 more episodes. It was underdeveloped.
The animation is GORGEOUS! I watched this with my friend via Teamviewer, and though the quality of the graphics was horrible, I was still astounded by the fluid animation, colors, art, and settings. The hues and backgrounds set the mood perfectly. Spot on.
This soundtrack. This soundtrack. This soundtrack. Buy it, torrent it, YouTube it, snort it, make love to it, I don't care. Just introduce this music to yourself. You're missing out. The BGMs, openings, endings, all of the music is amazing. The OPs, though, are going to stay with you forever. EGOIST and Supercell do these, and they are amazing. The sound effects were okay too. But the music.
The main protagonist is pretty cliché. Ouma Shu is portrayed as an average, awkward teen boy that somehow becomes the savior of the entire universe. He also picks up this hot babe who develops a "thing for him" [(the non-cliché part) who also happens to be the incarnate of his dead sister]. Shu was a complete baby at first and turned into this completely BA dude that can take you out in one hit using his pinky. Despite this, you can't help but love Shu. He went through absolute hell. And sure, he went pretty crazy when he became king, but wouldn't you if you saw one of your best friends turn into a crystal and SHATTER INTO YOUR HANDS? Then, you're expected to just pull yourself together and lead 5,000 teens? And after all that, your arm is ripped off, go blind, and you end up with no hot chick? Hell no! I'm surprised he even became sane after that.
The characters designs are mostly unique. Yuzuriha Inori's orange battle suit is going to be remembered for years. The plugsuits that Tsugumi and Ayase don are very mecha-esque. Tsugumi has the added touch of kitty ears and tail, and happens to be a loli, so we'll give her that. And although, Ayase may be in a wheelchair, she'll kick your ass for noticing. (I love how her Void is legs.)
I really love this anime. This anime is going to be remembered by me for years to come. The characters will stick with me (especially my poor Shu and Inori), and the music will leave me in awe everytime I hear it. Though, the plot's rushed and "we-need-to-hurry-up-with-our-noitaminA-slot" tendencies make me want to pull my hair out, there's a lot I adore about this anime.
I'm not exactly into mecha, which would explain why I put it off for so long, but damn. I was pretty impressed.
I gave the story a 5 not because it was bad but because it did not cover any ground that we have not all seen time after time. It did not deviate from the tried and true formula of hero is born hero has hardships hero overcomes them. This anime also places you in this world and then hopes that you can pick up what is going on from the clues that it is giving without every really fleshing them out.
Watching this anime I could not give it a perfect score but the animation style was very polished and pleasing to watch. This anime was a drama and I appreciate that it did not do what some animes attempt to do and add chibi characters to lighten the mood. The backgrounds that where created for this world were stunning and made up for some of the other parts that this anime lacked.
There was nothing wrong with the sound of this anime except the fact that they continued to use the same song for most of the anime. Some may argue that this was a theme throughout the anime but it seemed to me that it was almost like the creators spent a lot of money on this song so we are going to get money's worth out of it.
The charaters to their credit could have been just a symptom of the story but I never felt any attachement to any of the main characters. The two main characters kind of just felt flat to me and not very fleshed out except when the anime made an effort to flesh them out and then you just wind up hating them. The most interesting out of all the characters was the main villian for most of the anime because he actually had character.
I am not going to say that I did not enjoy my time watching this anime but what it did was leave me with a feeling that I could have enjoyed it more if I could have gotten to know the characters and the world better with my short time with them. Maybe I could have enjoyed it more if I read the manga before I watched this anime? One final note the ending should have ended about 5 min before it actually did. They tried to tie up the series with a neat little bow but it really just took the main character which I was starting to like again and made him blah one last time before we left him on that park bench.
Set in a future post-apocalyptic Japan under the occupation of the military group GHQ, Guilty Crown explores the life of 17-year-old boy Ouma Shu and how meeting the girl Yuzuriha Inori from pop band Egotist, changed everything. While hardly a unique concept, I think Guilty Crown does decently in its attempts to delineate itself from its predecessors such as Neon Genesis Evangelion, Code Geass and even to a degree, Deadman Wonderland. While many plot elements overlap e.g. a post-apocalyptic event as its premise, the plot begins to unfold 10 years after the apocalyptic event, Japan is occupied by a military organization, rebel organization tries to free Japan from the rule of the military organizaion, boy mistakenly acquires mysterious power after meeting mysterious girl etc., it manages to create a story that while not unique or particularly new, captivates the viewer enough to convince you that it is telling its very own story rather than someone else's. While more seasoned anime viewers may find some of its plot elements extremely blatantly borrowed and I will not deny and say that they are not, it still succeeds where titles such as RahXephon failed. It does feel like a clone at times, but not enough to detract the viewer from enjoying the plot.
Instead, I'd say the biggest problem with Guilty Crown is that it is highly inconsistent and by that I mean that Guilty Crown does not seem to know what it wants to be. As already mentioned, Guilty Crown blends many genres into one: post-apocalyptic drama, romance, shonen storytelling tropes, shonen superpowers, mecha, rebellion, slice of life, high-school life and so on, but instead of sticking with one theme and really go with it and explore that in detail, Guilty Crown ends up exploring a lot of directions without truly being able to offer any depth to either of them. While this kind of storytelling may work in more slice of life-kind of stories such as Mushishi or in character studies such as Neon Genesis Evangelion, Guilty Crown wants to be so many things it fails to really be any of the things it does want to be. That the series is also cut at 22 instead of the typical 26 number of episodes does not help the plot in terms of development, but has the completely opposite effect in that it feels extremely rushed, especially towards the end, which is not helped by the fact that Guilty Crown also has two climaxes but only one of them is really offering any proper sense of closure which unfortunately is the one that occurs mid-season. It brings the same bad taste in my mouth that Code Geass did that also executed this element very poorly, not quite knowing where to end the story.
The end result is that we have episodes such as the very first that in its execution is extremely typically shonen-esque, to then suddenly move on to a plot that feels more akin to something we've seen in Code Geass to then move to a plot that is much closer to a psychological drama or character study, emphasizing the personal tragedies of the characters and the human condition rather than being plot-driven. Out of these three, Guilty Crown ironically succeeds at being a tragic story the best and is at times surprisingly touching which shows that the writers of the show actually did manage to create something unique and profound, but the plot unfortunately deviates too much from this. If Guilty Crown's goal had been a psychological drama all along, I think it had succeeded to be a much more coherent story, Evangelion-clone or not. That Guilty Crown also fails to explore its own plot ideas such as what the Human Genome is, what is the Apocalyptic Virus?, where does it come from?, what is Genome Resonance? etc., creates a plot that feels weak and lacking in depth. The writers should have focused on making the first climax the primary climax, and worked towards filling all plot elements of a 26 episode long series towards this ending.
This brings me to my second point and biggest gripe with Guilty Crown, and that is the characters and the character development. With such an inconsistent plot writing, this is also obviously going to affect the characters as well. While there is some character depth and exploration here, most of the characters eventually end up feeling very flat and one-dimensional. While one-dimensionality is not always bad, it is bad when characters with obvious three-dimensional potential are introduced but never fully explored in detail. There are two notable examples that stand out here, being Daryl Yan and Segai aside the glaring example of Inori, who, as a main character, is extremely underwhelmingly developed. Questions such as "where does she come from?", "how was she born?", "how did she become the lead singer of the band Egotist?", "why does she care about music?", "how come she joined the Undertakers?", "what's her relationship with Gai?" are never explored. The end-result is an extremely flat character that is obviously an attempt to copy Ayanami Rei from Neon Genesis Evangelion, but whereas there was a purpose to Rei's flatness, the flatness for Inori's character is never revealed nor explained beyond "being a clone of Shu's big sister", which in itself is a poor justification given Inori's relationship with Shu and the writer's attempt to actually make her seen human and involved with life. While not seeking to explore every detail of a secondary character may be acceptable due to storytelling limitations, it should not be acceptable when we speak of a secondary main character such as Inori or a secondary main antagonist such as Segai.
When it comes to Shu himself, there is a similar feeling that on the one hand, the writers never quite knew what they wanted to do with him and on the one hand, wanted him to be like Ikari Shinji from Neon Genesis Evangelion. I'm reminded of the manga Inugami whose plot development is quite similar to Guilty Crown's and how it too tried to pull off awkward and socially outcast teenager but with much better results because Inugami showed how our awkward protaganist was originally very shut away from the world and stuck in his own head. While Shu receives some hefty development that does feel natural for him, there is just nothing that is really likable or captivating about Shu. People can think what they want about Shinji, but if there is one thing Shinji does is that people have opinions about him. That is regardless of whether those opinions are good are bad, because it is a sign for good characterization because it means people are involved in the character, that the character affects the viewer. With Shu on the other hand, the only feeling that I have is that he in the end felt extremely bland and ironically enough given his own clamors, extremely uninteresting as a character. There is no real struggle to overcome and there is no real trauma to be found. The struggle that is there, which is between him, Gai and his sister and his stepmother, gets pushed away in favor of the hardships that he has to face such as dealing with the deaths of people close to him. While this is not bad in itself becase dealing with sudden loss is also a part of the human condition, it becomes to feel tacked on and somewhat forced, as if the writers wanted him to suffer for suffering's sake.
The only character that was overall well-written, interesting and believable was Gai. The primary reason for this was because we could clearly see how Gai was internally conflicted and how this conflicted sense of being actually played out in his character and characterization and was the underlying motive for everything he felt, did or thought. The only problem with Gai is how the writing eventually ruined his character halfway through the series, which overall was the weakest part of the story as well. In a way Gai was the Guilty Crown version of Severus Snape, except not nearly as well executed.
Guilty Crown's most obvious strength is its animation. Being a Noitami work, this shouldn't come across as too surprising. The battle animations are crisp and I really liked how they animated the Void effects. Other than that there isn't much to say here. I also really like the character design which is beautiful and is one of the reasons why I decided to watch this anime.
The voice acting doesn't quite stand out but isn't bad either. I can't say I noticed the music or the background effects much. What I did notice, however, was the over-use of one of the Egotist songs for symbolic effect. As a result, it began to feel contrived, tacked on and void of meaning as it felt like its lyrics were shoved down your throat instead of added as a thoughtful aftereffect.
Guilty Crown isn't bad, but I wouldn't say it's good either. The primary problem is that it tries too hard to be so many things while not quite succeeding at any of them that it ends up becoming empty and devoid of any real content to offer. While not an explicit clone, all this borrowing of elements creates a mess of a story that lacks true coherency and consistency. The end result is a rushed, sometimes tacked on story that while occasionally manages to reach its own form of brilliance, most of the part feels like a shallow attempt to recreate a masterpiece similar to the titles it borrows obvious inspiration from. For those who only want something shonen-ish with a tragic flair with a vibe similar to Code Geass, Deadman Wonderland or Neon Genesis Evangelion, Guilty Crown may be for you, but for those looking for an original and compelling story, I recommend looking elsewhere.
Two things define Guilty Crown as an anime. The first is the very good production values, which becomes harder and harder to find in the years we are going through. The artwork is very detailed and coloured beautifully, and the animation is quite smooth (when it wants to be). The second is the story, which is nothing but a patchwork of stereotypes from all over the place. People saw the first episode and where screaming CODE GEASS RIP OFF or whatever other show it reminded them. And it’s not like we were overreacting; it is an obvious Code Geass rip-off since it has some of the same writers in it (plus their initials are an anagram of one another). As the name implies, it is “guilty” for trying to steal the “crown” from other major works. Later on you can easily see they take ideas from Gundam (that little robot Inori has is an obvious Haro rip-off) as well as Neon Genesis (the villains’ plan regarding Mana). I am pretty sure this feeling of deza vu will be absent for all those who haven’t watched those shows. It is the repetition that mostly ruins it, as well as a veeeery bad roster of sci-fi titles; so I personally can’t shake off my mind how bad it is since the first minute.
Although this should normally make it feel like a rehash and an easily forgettable title, the fandom made such big fun of all the scenes it plagiarized from elsewhere that it became famous. Nothing is original anymore but Guilty Crown is making a name out of being a thieving cheesefest. It is even more of a joke when you see the creators of the show making official claims that it is completely original and even better than all the ones the fandom is comparing it to. They are just begging us to boo them, especially when they made nothing but a big blunder with whatever they tried to plagiarize. And it’s not like they didn’t try at all since in strict directing terms there are no fillers and something new happens or is revealed in each episode, adding something to the setting. Also, the production values are as I said great and the premise sounds interesting despite being unoriginal. They could have easily made something amazing out of this, there was clearly potential for greatness if directing and presentation were good.
… Which weren’t. Not in the least. And let me tell you why in simple terms.
1. The overall presentation was very basic. And I don’t refer to the production values which are amazing; I am talking about the main idea. It was a cheesefest. It couldn’t get more generic than that *deep breath* with a meek normal high school boy, with amnesia, getting suddenly involved in a very dangerous situation, receiving a superpower by some pretty chick, who transfers to his school the next day, and then moves to his house, and offers excuses for ecchi. *inhale* I have already seen this stuff a thousand times so no matter how cool it looks, it is still less thrilling than a b-grade silly show from 20 years ago. I always appreciate something that doesn’t feel like a rehash and I definitely don’t find it in here. No matter how well made a steak is grilled, if you eat it after ten less tasty grilled steaks the flavour won’t be the same. As much as you may want to publish a story, you must also wait for the proper moment to do so or it won’t have half the excitement you expected. Sorry to say this but the stereotypes are WAY too apparent in this one. At the same time, stereotypes and rehashes are not a negative thing, since most people never get bored of them. And if you don’t believe me look at what Hollywood is doing. But that is not enough, in order for the re-warmed food to still be edible the presentation needs to be elaborate. And in this case, it wasn’t at all. Why? Keep reading.
2. The setting is not captivating, despite its very detailed depiction of a military dystopia. The basic story has to do with Japan being turned into an oppressive state TM with security mechas TM running around, and with the normal teenage boy TM of our story receiving a power from a supernatural girl TM. We have lots of those in recent years and they all petty much look the same. They also trash whatever serious feeling it was trying to have by making fun of the whole thing and turning it into a stereotypical ecchi comedy with magic later on. I understand how most high selling anime always go light with their otherwise heavy themes, since most viewers watch them as means of spending their time in a funny way. In this case though they went so light to the point everything was just drifting aimlessly in the vacuum of space. You couldn’t get a foothold at something and have fun with it. Unless of course you wanted to make fun of how stupid it is at trying to look serious. What do I mean by that? Keep reading.
3. The action is stupid. I am not referring to the actual choreography, which is by far amongst the most elaborate I have encountered in the past years. The robot action is very exciting with its brawling, missile launchers, huge machineguns, and trashing of the whole scenery. At the same time, it is plain fake and has a hundred directing, plausibility, and storyboard problems. Because of space limitations I couldn't post them here, but examples of this sort are mentioned at the end of the same review I made over at Anidb. The link to there is: http://anidb.net/perl-bin/animedb.pl?show=animeatt&aid=8480&attid=8285
It is optional reading and obviously contains lots of spoilers.
4. There is no excitement. No matter how dangerous a situation is, all it takes is for the hero to pull out some superweapon out of a random person next to him and the problem is magically solved in seconds. He can make enemy units to self-destruct, missiles to turn to harmless fireworks, and top security doors to open in an instant. It is very cheap, anti-climactic, and ruins the gravity of the setting. So what if it didn’t happened in a totalitarian Japan and instead the setting was some fairy land made of cotton candy? It would still make no difference… Skip that, it would make a lot of difference since it would fit a lot better. What is the point of having a sci-fi setting when everything is done with magic? It’s like trying to light a fire on the bottom of the sea. Yes, it was funny when Spongebob Squarepants was doing it but this show is NOT a goofball comedy. It just feels like one because of the ridiculous use of its setting. This can easily apply even in the few rare chances someone gets killed. It is not dramatic at all since you are just thinking “Why didn’t they use their powers to save him?” Seriously, every single death in the show could have been prevented very easily but didn’t just because the scriptwriters conveniently made the heroes forget how to use their powers at that moment. So it is a lose-lose situation no matter what happens.
5. The hero. Why exactly is Shuu risking his life out of the blue? Because he cares that much for others? If yes, it is impossible to feel his passion in caring about anything; he looks and acts like a wuss, like the million stereotypical leads of most shounens and harems. He is more dragged into trouble because he has the hots for Inori rather than actively taking part in a quest to help others. I can’t possibly cheer for him; HE IS BLUNT AND BOOORING! Hearing him scream like a girl and running around scared ten times per episode is just pathetic and the only time he actually does something is only because Inori demands it. Hell man, he even betrays his own friends just because she said so and he doesn’t even blink twice about it. And look at that; all the girls in the show are madly in love with him for acting like A COMPLETE ASSHOLE. HE IS A HAREM LEAD OF THE WORST KIND! What is even worse is when he is supposed to mature later on because some of his friends died. It’s not as if it was the first time it happened or he couldn’t easily have saved them if he wasn’t an apathetic asshole. He just gets emo and decides to become Lelouch without any justification at all. The scriptwriters clearly have no idea what the devil they are doing.
6. Fan service. It is stupid and makes a joke out of everything dramatic in the show. One moment a girl is crying over something terrible in her past, the next moment Shuu trips and falls on her boobs. That is not funny and it is definitely not something we can’t get in an average ecchi show out there. The show didn’t even need it with the interesting themes it had, but just like any shallow work out there, the producers didn’t try to offer quality material in any other aspect besides the production values. And no, I don’t consider boob jokes to be quality no matter how well they are drawn.
7. The heroine. First of all, what the hell is this outfit she wears? A half naked clown fish? Fetishes anyone? And she is supposed to be a pop idol? Macross meets Code Geass? And seriously, the last scene of episode 2 regarding the “mysterious transfer student, oh who could it be?” made me facepalm. Yes, it’s her, exactly as the kitsch stereotype dictates. And guess what, she even moves in his house soon afterwards JUST BECAUSE. And later on she now has ultra powerful superpowers JUST BECAUSE. First she is a frail pop idol, then a ghost ninja, then a cocky sharpshooter, then a healing singer, then some sort of clone of an incestuous bitch, then a horny demon. In one episode she has no qualms to shoot to death soldiers, in another she does her best to disarm and knock them unconscious WITH A PISTOL. And let it be noted that NOBODY told her to appreciate life. SHE IS CONSTANTLY OUT OF CHARACTER! Consistency anyone? Aside from that, her only purpose in the show is to motivate Shuu into doing things he otherwise has no balls to even dream of thinking. Other than that she is just an apathetic sex doll for the otaku audience. She is impossible to be liked as a person; she is nothing but a poorly written cosplay whore that behaves in any way its pimps order her to act.
8. The villains. They are so stupid even a kid could do better. It would fit if they were some pitiful gang of hooligans but no, they are supposed to be an elite military organization which has the entire nation in its hands and plans to take over the universe with an elaborate masterplan. Unless the average I.Q. of a citizen in this show is around 60, then there is no possible way for them to be making so many ridiculous mistakes all the time and yet be world leaders. And even if they really were stupid, that still doesn’t explain how they control all this high-teck equipment. Thus, instead of feeling threatening and intelligent (as they should), they instead pass as a bunch of pitiful retards. There is no way for the viewer to care about seeing them losing. There is no way to despise them for any evil acts they are doing. They are not feeling dangerous at all, so why would he care about them?
9. The producers. It is a collaboration of Studio I.G. and noitaminA. I am fully aware of the wonderful work they have done in the past but their recent works are PLAIN SHIT! Fractale, C, and No.6 are the worst disappointments of 2011 and now they are once more trying to make ANOTHER similar show? NoitaminA seems to not understand that its shows are great only when they deal with slice of life. SO WHY DOES IT KEEP TRYING TO MAKE SCI-FI WHEN IT FAILS MISERABLY?
So how can someone enjoy this show you may be wondering? It is quite simple actually, all he has to do is just stare at the pretty visuals, listen to that porn doll called Inori sing, eat pop corn while things blow up and above all he needs to NOT BE THINKING! Seriously, don’t think at all. The slightest thought that will pass from your mind is enough to make you see plot holes and stupid things happening. You can of course filter all that out and see the whole thing as a parody of Code Geass (which was itself a parody of Legend of Galactic Heroes) and just have fun with how dumb everything plays out. It is by far not a mature or well written show. It is just dumb fun and guilty pleasure (exactly what the name implies) for viewers with really low expectations. And sure, many are bound to love it, in the same way so many loved Twilight. Does that make it a good show? Hell no; it just proves how most people are tasteless casuals. So take the word of a snob like myself and don’t watch this show for any other reason than to point your finger at it and laugh with how bad it is. Thank you for your understanding and in case you actually liked the show for any other reason then I pity you.
And now for some excused scorings.
ART SECTION: 8/10
General Artwork 2/2 (eye-candy)
Character Figures 1/2 (generic stock material)
Backgrounds 2/2 (detailed and with good CGI)
Animation 1/2 (good but random in follow up scenes)
Visual Effects 2/2 (fancy Voids all over the place)
SOUND SECTION: 7/10
Voice Acting 2/3 (good but stupid in context)
Music Themes 3/4 (nice but not memorable)
Sound Effects 2/3 (ok I guess)
STORY SECTION: 2/10
Premise 2/2 (an interesting Code Geass rip-off)
Pacing 0/2 (terribad random)
Complexity 0/2 (there is some but it all plays out so random and conveniently, I might as well say it doesn’t exist at all)
Plausibility 0/2 (nobody in the whole anime even knows this word)
Conclusion 0/2 (rushed and a cop-out)
CHARACTER SECTION: 2/10
Presence 0/2 (terribad generic)
Personality 1/2 (generic)
Backdrop 1/2 (generic and simplistic but it’s there)
Development 0/2 (terribad random)
Catharsis 0/2 (rushed and a cop-out)
VALUE SECTION: 1/10
Historical Value 1/3 (it will be known as the most famous Code Geass rip-off)
Rewatchability 0/3 (none, unless you want to find more mistakes and to laugh with how bad is)
Memorability 0/4 (not only it has nothing original in it, it is also so bad you must force your brain to delete it if you don’t want to lose faith in anime)
ENJOYMENT SECTION: 1/10
I enjoyed making fun of it but the show itself is a complete train-wreck.
Also known as "Tv tropes: The anime".
Heh, this is one of those hard to judge. If, on one hand, I can’t but get pissed off at how poorly its characters and plot are ripping off other anime, at how contrived and poorly-explained its developments are, at how it looked like it was trying to cram in as many clichés as humanly possible, on the other hand I can’t but admit that for the most of its run I was genuinely intrigued and at times even moved, despite me going “are you fucking kidding me?” and “You’re really going there?” some too many times beyond the acceptable threshold for what I’d consider a “good anime”. So, let’s wrap up this introduction and dive in…
It’s 2039. In a Japan under martial law by an international organisation called GHQ (remind you of something?) after the outbreak of the so-called “Apocalypse Virus” 10 years earlier (remind you of something?), Ōma Shū is an insecure 17-years-old boy who always keeps to himself and feels useless in the world (remind you of someone?); one day he meets Yuzuriha Inori, lead singer of the band Egotist of which he is a fan, whom he discovers is also a member of the Undertakers, a rebel organisation aiming to liberate Japan (remind you of something?). Shū comes into contact with the Undertakers and obtains the “king’s mark”, a mysterious power (remind you of something?) to reach inside a person and extract a weapon from them. This will be the beginning of Shū’s involvement in the fate of Japan and the world…
Connect the “remind you of something?” and, as the words “Code Geass” and “Evangelion” come out, you’ll see the main problem this anime has. It’s only natural to take inspiration when creating something, but Guilty Crown goes well beyond "following a lead", for everything in it seems to be desperately trying to be like Code Geass and Evangelion, but managing neither to give it a new twist nor to even do it well. The mechas, the rebel organisation, the post-disaster scenario in which another apocalypse must be avoided, the dystopian Japan, the school setting, the protagonist, the power obtained through a meeting with a mysterious girl, the secret organisation pulling the strings, the characters, it took the superficial elements of those two but forgot to take what made them masterpieces. The plot follows a typical shōnen fashion with lots of battles and character interaction, which is not a defect of course, but it becomes one if the twists feel contrived and under-explained as they do, if the ending and so many of its developments are as predictable as they are, and if they throw in so many clichés of the genre taking them so painfully seriously. It looks like the script was written while browsing TV Tropes, for crying out loud! Some of them could have actually made for something interesting, if they were worked in better with more time and depth to not feel like something thrown in because it was contractually obligated to; was there really a need for a beach and a school festival episode? Was there really a need for an episode-long flashback right before the climax, as if the words “Fourth Apocalypse” weren’t reminding us of Evangelion enough? Mind you, this is not to say that the plot is uninteresting, on the contrary it manages to intrigue quite a lot, and they clearly knew what they were doing with the direction and the storytelling, the battles are also pretty intense and some emotional moments are surprisingly touching. But many elements that had a lot of potential are left underdeveloped if not completely unexplored; if that wasn’t enough, a couple of twists, especially the two leading to the surprisingly unimpressive ending, are really too far-fetched.
If I can forgive such a plot on account of it doing its job well, I can’t forgive such pretentiousness with the characters. The protagonist, Shū, is not like Ikari Shinji, he’s trying to be like Shinji, but doesn’t know how to, and doesn’t know that you can’t be like Shinji and like Lelouch at the same time. His development follows stages that could have been interesting, if the transitions weren’t so sudden (at one point he just goes Lelouch for a couple of episodes, and then reverts right back. I suspect DID.), if he wasn’t so inconsistent, and most importantly if the anime actually took the time to explore his psychology (you can’t show me a guy with lots of friends and an obvious childhood-friend-with-a-crush, with a loving relationship with his mother, with an hobby of his own, and then expect me to take your word that he’s weak, insecure, self-deprecating and afraid of being hurt, if you don't show me why, if you don't show me a bit of his mind and backstory). The female protagonist, Inori, is quite simply an Ayanami Rei expy, her entire development is predictable from the first moment she’s onscreen, and the few elements that could have made her something more than a walking plot device and sex doll are just those left unexplored (and I can see no purpose for her being a singer, it makes no sense given her origins…). Gai, the Undertakers leader, is probably the most interesting, and works well for most of the series, but a couple of the far-fetched twists I mentioned earlier regard him, so…
The secondary characters are for the most part the result of someone filling out a Code Geass character sheet minus the development, but the mix is well-balanced and well-done enough to work. The childhood-friend-with-a-crush, the school council president daughter of a wealthy family, the idiot friend, the rebels, they’re all there. Shū’s mother Haruka could have been an interesting character, if the writers realised that introducing an issue and solving it TEN MINUTES LATER (I'm not kidding, ten minutes of running time!) does not make a character deep just because you use the word “running away” once; Ayase does have some interest, as her development is at least carried out throughout the whole series with coherency, and so does Arisa, even though she feels a bit contrived (blind devotion to a man she met twice? That’s all you got as motivation?); but what I really hate is what they did with Tsugumi: her exploration is literally ONE line, “I was always alone”. Sorry, Guilty Crown, but throwing that in does not make her an Asuka. Why was she alone? What has she been through? How did that influence the cheerfully genki girl she is now, is she covering her weakness with a façade? How come she’s such good friends with everybody, especially Ayase? Nothing? Then stop being pretentious, darn it.
Most of the villains have a surprising interesting personality, especially Sagai, one hell of a creepy bastard (a shame the anime never got deeper into his motives…). One of them, Keido, is expanded upon quite nicely through an exploration of his backstory and some hints of psychological analysis, and two others, Yū and Daryl, are intriguing characters whose story, unfortunately, is only barely touched.
I wouldn’t say that the characters aren’t likeable, it’s a matter of tastes here, even I grew attached to some of them, but they certainly aren’t original, most are underdeveloped, and most of the attempts at giving them more depth fall tragically flat.
Well, there really isn’t much I can say here. The sceneries and landscapes are stunning, the battles are intense and just awesome, and even the character design, a field which seemed to have run out its creative vein long ago, is impressive and surprisingly original, at least on the main characters. Fun fact, it was made by one of the graphic artists of Supercell, redjuice. The only complaint I have is that the CGI on the mechas is quite wooden at times, but that’s it.
The scenes that managed to really touch me owe a lot to the soundtrack, which in most scenes is fitting and effective. “Most”, because at some critical moments it uses insert songs, penned by ryo of Supercell, which feel a bit out of place at times. The OP and ED songs, also penned by Supercell, on the other hand, do their job really well: the first opening in particular, thanks to some really expressive singing, is very catchy. The first ED is the obligatory sappy ballad, but aren’t they all these days?, while the second has more of a kick while retaining a melancholic tone.
I’ll state it clearly: if such characters manage to hold out, it’s thanks to the seiyū. Kaji Yūki, a rising star in the industry, doesn’t always manage to deliver the most difficult moments, but it clearly shows he’s doing his best, and in some scenes his performance is really stunning. Kayano Ai, too, does an awesome job with Inori, providing a subtle and intense performance that helps a lot in making such a flat and predictable character likeable. Naruto co-stars Inoue Kazuhiko (Kakashi) and Cappa Nobutoshi (Yakushi “magnificent bastard” Kabuto) are a guarantee by their names alone, and their portrayal of the villains Keido and Sagai is wonderful. Also worth naming, if only for their status as “newcomers”, are Shimamura Yu as Hare, Uchiyama Kōki as Daryl and Nishigaki Yuka as Yū (by God does she sound like Romi Park).
Despite its agonizingly stupid unoriginality, predictable plot, wasted potential and pretentious characters, I must admit that it has effort in other departments, and it’s genuinely involving to watch. Is it bad? Well, it’s definitely not good, but not a disaster either. It’s going to have to be your call depending on your standards. If large amounts of ripping off and overused clichés don’t suit you, just skip it. If you love character studies à la Evangelion, avoid it, you’re probably going to get pissed off. If you’re looking for some fun with a shōnen à la Code Geass, you may give it a try, if you don’t go in expecting something revolutionary. If you just like good storytelling, even if the story is a typical tale of overcoming one’s weakness and good versus evil, you’re probably going to like it. Hell, despite all my bitching, even I had fun watching it, going “that’s Utena!” or “that’s Code Geass!” or “that’s bullshit!”, getting pissed off at failed attempts at character development, and so on, so if you’re one of those who like to watch bad stuff once in a while, why not. Surely, though, it did not set a new standard as it was claiming.