OH MY GOD THIS SHOW IS AWFUL. IT’S SO TERRIBLE.
For a long time now, this 2011 series was on my to-watch list, and on paper, it seemed like something with a really good premise: set in a post-apocalyptic Japan, where an oppressive regime rules with an iron fist, and only a small band of misfits are what’s left of a resistance force to take them down and restore independence to their home country. In fact, the studio who created this work, Production I.G, is on record for saying that this series was meant to usher in “the next generation of anime”, with my favorite anime of all time, Neon Genesis Evangelion, as one of its inspirations. Nonetheless, I was hooked by the summary and off it went into the shelves, awaiting some free time in my ever-so busy schedule of work, and a lineup of unfinished series. So, you can imagine my shock when I finally started Guilty Crown and saw for myself how bad it was. Enough of that, let’s dive into why this anime fell way below my expectations.
Guilty Crown takes place in Tokyo in the year 2039, where it is now under control of the GHQ, a UN-backed globalist government organization that apparently managed to overthrow the old imperial system in the wake of Lost Christmas, a nationwide crisis involving a virus that caused crystallized spores to grow on people infected with it, called the Apocalypse Virus. The series focuses on high school student Shu Ouma, a socially awkward teenager who one day, runs into a singer named Inori Yuzuriha who helps him harness the Power of the King, which allows him to grab people’s Voids, or the physical representations of their souls, and use it in battle. Guilty Crown is divided into two sections:
- Episodes 1-12 focuses on Shu’s time as a member of Funeral Parlor, an underground resistance group led by his long-lost friend, Gai Tsutsugami. Each episode follows a specific routine: Shu is informed of some mission, either involving suspect individuals or some GHQ activity, he tags along with Gai, Inori and the rest of his crew, where Shu uses his newfound ability to kick some butt and foil whatever evil was afoot. Here in this series, we learn about things such as the relationship behind Shu’s family to Lost Christmas (trust me, this is really important) and Gai’s true ambitions on why he formed resistance to GHQ.
- Episodes 13-22 see the series transition from being Funeral Parlor-centered, and shift to focusing on the life of Shu and his friends (including former Funeral Parlor members Ayase and Tsugumi) as they adjust to life in Shu’s Tokyo district, now quarantined due to a breakout of the same virus from ten years ago. Instead of continuing the story from the previous chapter, this part has us explore what happens when you give an emotionally unstable kid dictatorial powers over his entire high school. (Who wrote this and thought it was a good idea?)
WHAT I LIKED
- To its credit, Guilty Crown is a series that knows how to be edgy. Throughout the series, we have episodes involving examining one’s self-worth, making a choice between life and death, self-redemption, class discrimination, and Kant’s ever-so-famous “The ends justify the means”. Some examples of these include Shu’s intervention on Jun, the younger brother of his friend Yahiro (episode 9), the latter who eventually repents of his past sins and effectively joins Shu’s quest to dethrone the GHQ, and Inori’s personal predicaments as to what she is capable of.
- One thing that the series excelled at was its depiction of the Apocalypse Virus, and what it can do to a person. The animators did a good job at making the symptoms of the virus look terrifying, and genuinely threatening as can be.
- I should also bring up that the action was pretty good. I was quite impressed by the quality of the battles such as the rescue mission in episode 4, the assault on the GHQ base in episode 11, and the mecha battle between Ayase/Tsugumi and Daryl in episode 21-22.
WHAT I DIDN’T LIKE
- The poor progression of the story was one of the many problems with this series. It first focuses on a freedom fighter group fighting the GHQ in the first half, which I give credit for being consistent, but in the second half we have: a ridiculous subplot involving the high school turning into Mexico during the Cristero Wars (for lack of a better non-Nazi reference), the resurrection of Gai and his inexplicable descent to evil – whi h results in him threatening the world with doomsday, an attempt to explain some kind of backstory with Shu and Gai, and something about Mana being a crazy psycho, and it’s all because an evil organization named Da’ath is lurking in the shadows monitoring humanity’s downfall. How did this series go from having a promising plot to too many subplots?
- I was really disappointed by how they fleshed out the GHQ. When I read the summary of the story, I got the idea they were supposed to be a menacing evil that needed to be stopped of their tyranny. What I got instead, was a lazy, unfulfilling excuse of a military organization that’s bad just for the sake of being bad.
- Even the romance in this series is really bad! The show depicts Shu and Inori as the main couple, but adequately fails to dedicate some time to them building up a relationship outside of battle, or explain how they develop feelings for each other. We’re just supposed to accept that Inori develops feelings for him after spending much time around him, and Shu grows to do the same despite doing nothing significant to display his attraction for her. It’s been a while since I’ve been in a romantic relationship, but I’m pretty sure it doesn’t work like that.
- Did I also mention that there’s a hint of incest in this series? Look up episode 12 and tell me your reaction when Mana flat-out tells her brother by blood, Shu, that she “wants to marry him”.
- Speaking about Inori, there were times when I just wanted to give up this show on account of her skimpy outfit that she wears to battle. Because you know, this series clearly needed some unnecessary eye candy.
- Another gripe I have with Guilty Crown is the theme with Gai’s resurrection jn the second half. Yeah, it’s pretty rad and he re-introduces himself by cutting off Shu Zedong’s arm to inherit his power, but that begs the question of WHY DID HE TURN EVIL IN THE FIRST PLACE? Ok, this is explained in the ending as far as I know but the explanation was so bad it left me scrambling away as to… WHY DID HE TURN EVIL IN THE FIRST PLACE?
Talking about the characters in Guilty Crown is like reaching into a pack of M&Ms: they may have different colors and sizes, but at the end of the day, they all taste the same. However, whereas M&M chocolates make you feel good and are satisfying to taste, the same can’t be said for the cast of Guilty Crown.
The protagonists of the series are quite many, quite diverse – yet they’re all on the same spectrum of bland. Sure, for some of them there’s some effort at exploring their backgrounds and fleshing out their personalities beyond what we see, as they did with Shu, Yahiro or Gai, but for the majority of the characters, we never get to see that happening. Either they just spend most of the time as extras like they did with Ayase, Tsugumi, Souta and Arisa, or (I’m looking at you, Inori) they were given so little personality, so little anything likable about them, that I’m left bewildered as to how they could establish an entirely believable relationship with any of their peers. They failed to leave a positive impact on the series, and couldn’t give the series the jolt it needed to garner my interest further.
Heck, even the villains in this series suck. No mention is given as to what their motives are that make them so evil, aside from having a discount version of The Joker from Batman named Segai Makoto throwing out evil scenario after evil scenario, a mad scientist (Shuchirou Keido) who somehow becomes the country’s President (and also is responsible for killing Shu’s real father; yeah, didn’t see that coming, did you?) and Daryl, a guy in a mech that just loves to go on random murderous rampages. At least the French Resistance had something going for them when they were taking espionage rolls against Germany in World War II! As for the side villains like Yu or Mana, I really don’t see any need for them being there at all – if anything, they impeded the plotline even more than they advanced it, and blurred what Guilty Crown is supposed to be about.
All in all, the characters that were supposed to make the series great, ended up doing the opposite.
You may be thinking now, “Is there anything good coming out of this show?” To which I answer… yes, there actually is – and it’s the music. It’s the cherry on top of this sludge-covered sundae. The opening and ending songs are all covered by a duet called EGOIST, and for what it’s worth they are all incredible to listen to. Of special mention is the ending credits song, Departures. It is really something worth listening to: the lyrics are beautiful, and it’s serenaded by a soft, yet melodramatic piano background that’s as heart-wrenching as can be. I’d recommend you check out the music from this series, so that if anyone asks you about Guilty Crown, at the very minimum you can say, “Yeah, I’ve heard the music and it’s great!” (Or something of that effect).
Favorite character: Out of the entire character, Dan Eagleman was by far the most entertaining character for me to bear witness too. Yeah, sucks when a minor character clearly outclasses the rest of the main cast, but I mean, come on – Dan’s character was the perfect source of comic relief in this tired mess of an action series.
Favorite episode: Episode 9 is one of my favorite episodes because of how deep it got: in my mind, it’s one of the most memorable sequences of this show because of the heartbreaking themes espoused into it. Likewise, I also found episode 13, with all its festival motifs and the quiet high school scenario to be a light-hearted, entertaining interlude to the second half of the show.
Favorite moment: I liked watching Yahiro’s redemption sequence. After outing his friend Shu to spare his drug-dealing butt, and being an outright terrible person for the first quarter of the series, I was pretty impressed to see him become a better person after the incident with Jun and Shu: the crowning moment for me was when he stood up to Shu and his abuse of the void discrimination system which, ironically, was formulated by the former.
Favorite battle: The only reason why I like the battle between Shu and Segai (the purple-haired dude) just because of how ridiculous it played out. Just listen to how it sounds: Shu gets his Void-extracting powers back, then uses it to penetrate inside Segai’s innards, and cut his life force while the latter is literally getting excited about it. Need I say more? FETISH MOVIE
In conclusion, THIS IS THE WORST ANIME THAT I’VE EVER SEEN IN MY ENTIRE LIFE.
Guilty Crown is literally flat-out trash – the plot is convoluted, the characters are uninteresting specimens, the villains are laughably incompetent, the subplots make no sense, and it all makes for a confusing mess of this story. The fact that the only redeeming thing from this series is the music is just sad. You know what? It’s so bad that I ended up making up a word to describe animes of this level of bad: abominacrappus. Guilty Crown is the most abominacrappus excuse of a series that I’ve ever spent an entire weekend on. I came into this series expecting a high-packed show about underground resistance folks, but instead I got handed a dose of subtle fascism, irrelevant doses of fanservice, and a truckload of “Huh??” added to on the side.
All I can say is, avoid this series at all cost – but if you do choose to embark on a journey through this series, I’ll say a prayer for you when I get to High Mass.