I’ve pretty much made my point about how great Guilty Crown looks, so it’s probably about time I shut up about it. This does create a dilemma, though – now I actually have to talk about the plot.
This episode reminded me a lot of the slice-of-life episodes of Evangelion, the ones that set the scene at Misako’s apartment, especially after Asuka moved in. The humor certainly wasn’t as sharp, true, but the general tone was quite similar. And there’s a looking something of Shinji in Ouma Shu, the boy who can’t look anyone in the eye – not to mention a very strong spiritual and even physical resemblance between Inor and Ayanami Rei. I was expecting a little more focus on the situation with Inori moving into Shu’s apartment – messy explanations put on hold with Mom conveniently away for one of her week-long absences – but the scene quickly shifted to school, where more dramatic events were taking place.
In addition to providing something of a change-of-pace, the ep was fairly successful at establishing Shu’s character in a “normal” environment. Indeed, he’s shy and somewhat geeky, and looks up to responsible classmate Samukawa Yahiro (Mizushima Takahiro). The writing in the classroom scenes wasn’t great and the humor not razor-sharp, but they were fine for what they were – and the idyll was quickly broken anyway when Gai informed Shu and Inori that someone from the school had witnessed the events in Roppongi in the prior episode. Of course it was immediately obvious that someone was Yahiro-kun, though some effort was made to flog that question for the purposes of both entertainment and exposition.
And exposition we did get, in spades, and somewhat clumsily too (make sure you explain the “rules of voids” to Inori out loud, Shu!). We now know how Gai was so certain Shu’s void weapon would be effective last week, since he knew what Daryl would be attacking with – indeed, Undertakers can conveniently predict anyone’s void. That’s also the key to finding the student who witnessed those events, as they know what their void will be. As well, we know that person was in the area to purchase the boutique drug “Norma Gene” (why Yoshino Hiroyuki chose to name the drug after Marilyn Monroe I’m not certain, nor as to whether the official sub spelling was a genetic pun or simply should have read “Norma Jeane”). A bit of a comedy of errors follows in which Shu uses his newfound void extracting skills to check out the student body, at one point inadvertently groping the class president Kusama Kanon (Kotbuki Minako) – an event forever memorialized on cell phone camera – before he figures out that Yahiro was “Sugar”.
I have to comment on Shu’s stupidity for agreeing to the deal he did with Yahiro, because while Shu had nothing to gain by ratting Yahiro out – if arrested Yahiro could just blurt out Shu’s secret as a way to save his skin – Yahiro had everything to gain by turning Shu into GHQ and guaranteeing his silence, as he’d be dead and all. There’s also the rather ridiculous convenience of these “rules”. Only kids 17 and under can produce a void? When someone’s void is extracted they forget the time period immediately surrounding the event? There may very well be reasonable explanations for all these rules down the line, but for now they sound dangerously like convenient plot contrivances.
Speaking of plot contrivances, we also have the fact that Shu’s mother is a geneticist working with GHQ, who happens to have been around when the Norma Gene was created during the Apocalypse Vaccine development. And seriously, groping the Kaichou – you’re going to dredge that up again? Ah, well – there’s so little here that’s new that it’s hardly sporting to dwell on it at this point. On balance, I would judge that the episode was quite entertaining in spite of the coincidences and plot regurgitations. The school scenes were fairly well done, and it was good to see the underside of this conflict start to be explored in a little more detail. Now, of course, with Shu arrested and in the clutches of the dastardly Major Segai things are going to get life-threatening again quickly.
So what do we have? Plot twists that were predictable, slapstick that’s been done to death, a lot of coincidences and clumsy exposition. Yet somehow, the package as a whole was pretty good. Yes, forgive me for saying again that looked fantastic, but the episode was entertaining in its own right. Shu took some baby steps towards being a sympathetic character and the somber tone of the first two episodes was deflated with a dash of wit. And for all it’s recycled nature, the plot is at least beginning to come together in a way that makes some sense. The bar is never going to be as high for Guilty Crown as for most shows when it comes to writing, not with all the blockbuster elements it brings, but the show took some needed steps towards raising its creative game this week.