I had expected much worse, but Guilty Crown didn’t turn out so bad. From the very beginning, Guilty Crown was a rather dubious television program in more than a few ways, but certain aspects of it kept pulling me back in. Sometimes it was the action, and sometimes it was the pretty girls. It certainly wasn’t the story.
What definitely kept my attention was the animation, which proves to be smooth all the way through. Sure, some episodes are inconsistent in the way that TV anime tends to be, but it’s clear that a significant amount of care is put into animating every character’s complex hairstyle and elaborate costume. A lot of effort also goes into the fight scenes and the set pieces, which I really appreciate, especially after watching the finale to Zero no Tsukaima F–the final entry in a franchise which proved that its previous outings filled with T&A are more the studio’s strong point than action is–something like Guilty Crown that cares about its exciting moments is refreshing.
In fact, between the use of the show’s fabulous soundtrack and spot on direction in its set pieces, it almost seems as if these moments were planned first, with a story written around them. I think it’s fine for entertainment to prioritize big flashy moments over story, provided the story elements are decent enough to keep one’s attention throughout the down time. It worked for two Uncharted games (the third one… not so much) and it almost works here. Almost.
Yes, while the animation in Guilty Crown is smooth, the same can’t be said for its story. When the show first came on, people were drawing parallels to Code Geass–a comparison that is quite apt–and while I wasn’t keeping up with the discussion later on, it’s clear that as the story begins to fall into place in the show’s final episodes, it starts borrowing a lot of the same elements found in Evangelion. Despite being somewhat silly, Code Geass is a pretty good show with an exciting story, and Evangelion is a classic. It’s fine and good for Guilty Crown to use these sorts of elements, but where it falls apart is in its prioritization of time.
Silly techno-babble aside, it’s not as if Guilty Crown did a terribly poor job of explaining itself in the end, but some things could have had more time spent on them. While the flashback near the end of the series more or less solidifies the show’s back-story, the manner in which they explain away the origin of the Voids doesn’t make it seem as if their origin is very important. They just dispense information, and don’t actually depict it in a way that makes it seem as if it’s something important. Perhaps if the show had a nice twenty-four or twenty-six episode run–and maybe cut some of its fat off–it’d be better. I realize that I said prioritizing crazy set pieces over story is fine, but Guilty Crown was so close to having something that worked. Sure, even if it fully explained itself, the story would still be rather cliche. With that in mind, perhaps it’s better to just let the audience fill in the blanks?
Though, one good aspect about Guilty Crown is how the story never really falls into a routine. Sure, earlier on there’s a set of episodes that simply focus on Shuu doing stuff for the Sougisha, but even that somewhat monster-of-the-week section doesn’t last very long. When I sit down and think about it, a lot happens in Guilty Crown, and that’s generally a good thing. Also, like I said in the beginning of this post, it ends pretty well. When the show had its mid-season climax at around episode twelve, I wasn’t really happy with how it simply dropped a bunch of nonsense on us that we had never heard of before, then killed off one of the main characters. That said, while the explanation for all this nonsense in the end is just more nonsense, it’s nice how everything links back together in the end, even if it is somewhat rushed.
Guilty Crown also has a serviceable cast of characters. Much like the story, they draw upon somewhat cliched archetypes, but the show portrays them well. The protagonist, Shuu, is probably the worst of the bunch, mostly because he strikes so close to home. That said, seeing how low he can sink to is part of what makes the show interesting, but maybe not in the best way.
I’m glad he shaped up for the last four episodes. I was pretty disappointed in him during his stint as mini-Hitler, but he turned around spectacularly in the end. Given his performance near the end, I think he could have had a happier ending. His ending isn’t particularly unhappy, but given all the stuff he’s gone through by the time that twenty-second episode rolls around, you may as well just give him the completely happy ending with no strings attached.
As for the other characters, while I doubt I’ll remember them in the long-run, I found a lot of the show’s female cast to be likable. Inori was a bit too much of a cold Rei clone at first, but she grew on me as she changed throughout the show. Ayase and Tsugumi are also a cute pair, but again, they don’t stray much from established archetypes.
However, due to the length of the show, much like some plot points, some characters seem under-explained and esoteric. For instance, that big guy in the Sougisha (See, I can’t even remember his name!) had a cool design and came off as somewhat endearing, but if they had developed him a bit more, his moment to shine would have better. Daryl got a lot of play during the show, but in the end, he seems rather useless. They tried to develop something between him and one of the girls in the Sougisha (See, it was so fleeting that I don’t even remember!) but in the end he doesn’t really amount to much. He feels like Jerid in the Zeta Gundam movies. Or actual Zeta Gundam. While that Da’ath kid is pretty important, he just comes out of nowhere, does some cool stuff, and isn’t given time to develop as anything more than a menacing little kid.
But aside from those loose ends, the show does have some good and complete character backstories and character arcs. More so than the plot points, the characters you’re supposed to care about are explained well, and that means more to me than story.
Oh, and the music is great. Ryo and his dudes throw together a great pop soundtrack that’s a little corny, but drives those set pieces home well. I’m definitely picking it up. Yes.