First Impressions–Guilty Crown

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There’s not too much original going in NoitaminA’s second entry, Guilty Crown.  But damn, it sure does look pretty.

OP: “My Dearest Euterpe” by supercell

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Here’s an interesting note of trivia: the director of this series, Araki Tetsuro (most famous for Death Note) directed the episodes of Aoi Bungaku that covered the adaptation of “Sakura no Mori no Mankai no Shita” by Ango Sakaguchi – whose book the other NoitaminA show this season, UN-GO is based upon.  I think the most obvious influence visible in Guilty Crown is not the director, however, but the writer Yoshino Hiroyuki.  He also wrote the Code Geass anime, and it’s hard to watch this show without being reminded of that one.

In some ways, this show feels more like one that might have come from BONES than UN-GO does.  It has some of that late 90’s adolescent male angst theme that BONES loves so much, complete with mecha and a pretty fabulous male lead.  It seems to me that NoitaminA may have made a mistake in pairing these two shows this season.  It’s not that they’re overly similar, but they are both near-future alternative fictions with a hint of dystopia, and I wonder if the block isn’t going to come up a little short in the heart department this time.  GC is the first two-cour NoitaminA show since Shiki, so it’s got plenty of time to prove it’s worth.

I can’t get too excited about this premiere, because if it feels as if you’ve seen all this before, it’s because you have.  It’s 2029 and Japan is apparently under the rule of some sort of multi-national military force, who swooped in to the rescue when the country was devastated by a plague.  We have the self-loathing and timid teen Ouma Shu (Kaji Yuuki).  He meets the mysterious and barely dressed Inori (Kayano Ai) wounded and singing to herself in an abandoned warehouse.  She entrusts him to take a very important vial to someone called Gai before the brownshirts come in and haul her away, stopping to gratuitously rough her up on the way.

Of course she’s a member of some sort of resistance group, and Gai (Nakamura Yuichi) is the leader of that group – a blonde, ultra-fabulous badass who kicks thugs to the curb as though they were soda cans.  Shu sees in him everything he wishes he could be himself – and when the opportunity presents itself for him to save Inori from the GHQ troops destroying the neighborhood, he breaks the vial she’d given him and undergoes a mysterious transformation and takes on the GHQ mechas with some sort of monstrous sword.  Seriously, could that be only more BONES?

Yes, this is very old hat.  Been there, done that.  For now, I’m contenting myself with the fact that the series looks absolutely fantastic.  The character designs are really excellent, the detail in the backgrounds is stunning and the action sequences are beautifully animated.  This is as good-looking a series as Production I.G. has done in a long time, and it’s easy to be entranced by the visuals.  The music can be entrancing too, although the gratuitous use of incongruous rock when Shu undergoes his transformation feels very forced.  The one element of the story that seems as if it might prove really interesting is the exploration of Japan under the thumb of foreign rule.  Shu’s sentiments about this as expressed through his internal monologues are quite overtly political, and it’s clear through Gai’s involvement that this is going to be a major plot point.  Xenophobia is a part of the Japanese mindset, but we haven’t seen it explored directly in anime too often of late. 

I think that political aspect is the best chance this series has of becoming really interesting, and I hope it does since the eye candy isn’t going to be enough to carry the series for two cours.  These two powerhouse studios have given us very polished and attractive NoitaminA premières, but this is the first time in many a season that I haven’t strongly connected to one or the other of the shows in the block after the first episode. 

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ED: “Departures ~Anata ni Okuru Ai no Uta~” by EGOIST

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  1. l

    I wonder why you posted before RC. I still prefer to read your post most of the time(I got to know RC through your website) but it's weird how they didn't do an review of it yet.

    Regarding the episode, I thought it was too rushed for an 2-cour, everything happened too fast, didn't really gave us an chance to get a feel of the world he is(he didn't even why he is living alone etc)

    Also, the main girl is damn beautiful, but everything she said was too cliched(does she even has an personality?), and the ''take it'' line at the beggining was an total non-sense, why didn't Shuu thought ''wtf is she saying?'' or something similar to that?

    At least C.C felt more ''real'' on Code Geass 1st chapter.

  2. l

    Just fixing a mistake: (he didn't even explain why he is living alone etc).

  3. F

    "Ghost in the Bubblegum Geass" is how someone on another site put it, and its really quite true. I don't think there was a single original idea anywhere in the writing of this episode.

    But, and this is a huge but, it was executed flawlessly. Every single aspect of this production was pitch perfect. The designs by Redjuice, the music by ryo, the luscious animation, the fantastic voicework by relative newcomers Kaji Yuuki and Kayano Ai. Even such standout shows this season as Fate/Zero and Horizon couldn't match this show's production.

    Now, will the plot manage to hold up its end, and deliver at least something serviceable, if not unique? Who knows, but I'm along for the ride.

    Also, while Kayano Ai's been around a year or so by now (I first noticed her as Isana in Yumekui Merry, but it seems her first notable role was as Itsuwa in Index II), I haven't paid a huge amount of attention to her, but damn was I impressed here. Especially her singing, her songs were hauntingly beautiful.

  4. Also, the main girl is damn beautiful, but everything she said was too cliched.

    That sums up the whole ep right there for me, leo.

    Fence, completely unoriginal and executed flawlessly – that's about it right there.

  5. A

    People have lives. RC, as much as it seems like a slick machine guaranteed to churn out posts as they come, is just a bunch of people tired as hell from their hectic lives, yet still trying their best to bring content.
    I know you mean no harm, but you sound so blissfully ignorant. Be a little more thoughtful.

  6. l

    I understand that, but the reason I said that was because they always reviewed everything so fast, but Guilty Crown(the one I was most looking foward to) wasn't out. And yea, I really meant no harm, but I said that fully knowing they have their own lives(I would be a jerk if I actually pressed them to release it soon)

    it seems we share the same opinion, I hope it gets a bit more original further on.

  7. t

    I think Araki's influence shows quite a bit,especialy in the use of music,that's pure Araki,you think it feels forced (and you're not alone) but I love it,all the shaky cameras,quite a bit of perspective views,a few still shots here and there (though less than usual since there's a bigger budget.
    Speaking of that,that's one huge staff they have.Now of course they're handling a bit of the in between animation themeselves,but there's still a grand total of 25-30 other studios that worked on the in between and finish animation,that's off the charts.
    Not just random studios too,AIC,david production,Diomeda and Silver Link are all helping along.

  8. Seirei no Moribito had some big-name studios helping it along, too. Looks like I.G. is trying to put that kind of production value into GC< at least for now.

  9. S

    Now that you mentioned it, it does have a very Bones-y feel to it huh?
    The animation quality is as good as Seirei no Moribito and that probably speaks more for Moribito's production value since it was created 4 years ago ;D

  10. d

    Looking at the flashback/vision of "Shu" there is a woman carrying a baby. If you take the baby ash Shu and the woman as his mother…. you would realize she looks just like the scientist assistant. could that be the reason behind his transformation?? the gene is made from DNA similar to his???
    GC is so far so good. Not superb or anything. Graphics are good but if you look closely they cut some unnoticeable corners =(.
    Watching because of Inori has a nice outfit (but this won't hold me for long)
    Watching because Inori's personality or lack of one is interesting. (hold my interest for another 2 eps or so)
    Watching cause Inori is voiced by my fav seiyuu ever since Merry came out. (considering I could not finish Yumekui Merry, this would hold me for 5 eps)
    Please give me something more interesting! I don't mind cliche or re-used devices… but please try to be somehow unique!

  11. A

    Small correction – I don't believe the OP was in this episode. The song you're linking to is Euterpe, not My Dearest.

  12. U

    Great post. Very critic and observative. Probably the best you have done so far for this season.

    Besides more originality, i hope for some good challenges, as Shu's ability seems very overpower. Other than that, i second every "Code Geas + Macross" comment about this series.

    Now that all animes i wanted to watch this season already had their premiere, i think i can rank my preferences so far: 1. Chihayafuru; 2. Fate / Zero; 3. Working'!!; 4. Mirai Nikki; 5. Hunter x Hunter 2011; 6. Ben-To; 7. Shinryaku!? Ika Musume; 8. Guilty Crown; 9. Persona 4 the Animation; 10. Un-Go; 11. Maken-Ki; 12. C³.

    Dropped Kimi to Boku. Probably going to drop Majikoi. Not sure about watching Gundam AGE, Horizon, Mashiro-Iro, Phi Brain. Will watch Boku wa Tomodachi ga Sukunai, but maybe not so soon.

  13. A

    To those that have not read any info before the first episode aired. Shu's can physically manifest a persons personality in the form of a weapon or tool. And things like a musical instrument or a camera are possible.

  14. Ulisses, I'll be doing a ranking and blogging status update in a week or so.

  15. A

    You hit the nail on the head with this post G.Enzo, I agreed with everything you wrote. Admittedly, I'm glad it wasn't just me.
    Despite the overall lack of originality, I can't hate on the show enough not to watch it next week. Even if it remains about as unoriginal as the premiere (which I sincerely hope it doesn't, I expect it to deviate and be able to stand on it's own two feet) I could watch it all the way to the end and probably still call it good. I'll be waiting to see what you have to say as the series goes on, so far we're on the same page.

  16. T

    As of now, the strong points to this series (to me, at least) is the eye candy and the music. I mean, you have to admit that the character designs are great. Animation was definitely movie quality as well, similar to Fate Zero.

    Now I'm just praying IG can maintain the production quality for the entire series, though that'd probably be really tough.

  17. E

    I was REALLY looking forward to GC from the previews, because the fall lineup (in terms of my personal preference) is almost DEPRESSINGLY weak. Maybe I'm spoiled now since Spring/Summer was so full of solid wins. Unfortunately tho I agree wholeheartedly with your assessment [G.Enzo] of this eppy and just about everyone else who thinks it was both visually stunning and incredibly lacking. Nothing has been a hit out of the park for me aside from Fate/Zero and Chihayafuru … I've got my fingers crossed for Last Exile though or else I will be watching a WHOLE lotta re-runs this season. UGH …

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