In terms of narrative, this might have been the most polished episode of any so far for Guilty Crown. Still, it lacked some of the charm that the sillier moments have somehow tended to impart. If you like a series because of its flaws rather than in spite of them, where does that leave you if the flaws are corrected?
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying everything was perfect here. This continues to be a series that’s drawn exclusively in primary colors, with almost no shading or subtlety to be found. It’s as if a group of very bright ninth-grade boys were given a huge budget and access to the best TV animators in Japan and told to make an anime. They fill it with whatever seems cool at any given moment, inject what passes for big ideas in their limited consciousness, and as a result the flow between episodes is always awkward and jumpy and the transition between serious and comic moments never smooth. Guilty Crown is to sci-fi anime what R-15’s Taketo is to porn, basically. But then, Taketo’s porn always managed to draw a laugh from me.
Where this episode felt a little different was in execution more than content. The pacing was solid, and while the transitions were still clumsy at least all the pieces seemed to fit together. There was a good mix of exposition and character development (whatever passes for it here, anyway) and it all felt pretty relevant to the overall story. I didn’t especially care about the squabbling between Shu and his pal Souta over the latter’s crushing on Inori, and I seriously suspect the bromance ending to their story – complete with Shu backlit by a gorgeous Production I.G. sunset – wasn’t intended to be nearly as funny as it was. But what that subplot did was shed some light on what’s always been an unspoken reality here, that what Shu does is a form of violation. What gives him the right to reach inside someone’s chest and yank out a part of them? It’s clearly not enjoyable judging by the way they scream, and their memories are wiped. Having to do it to a friend forced Shu to consider the implications of voids, and his role in exploiting them for Gai’s benefit.
That was a general theme here – questions that should have been asked already were finally asked. There’s the matter of Shu’s feelings for Inori, first of all, which seem clear enough but have lacked clarification. Other than the jolting revelation that Inori was buddying up to Shu on Gai’s orders – which now seems like a complete contrivance for the sake of that episode’s plot – it’s been obvious that they have feelings for each other but Shu has continually avoided the topic. And then there’s the matter of Shu’s father, of whom we previously knew nothing. At least we know now that he fits into the larger puzzle – he was a university professor and the top expert on the Apocalypse Virus. It’s interesting that Haruka – who I’m still unconvinced is really Shu’s Mom – decided not to share that with Shu, and I’m willing to bet that Prof. Ouma didn’t die of natural causes.
Indeed, another nice touch was the way the episode’s wild card, the old man named Keido (Inoue Kazuhiko) who we’ve seen before in video chat at GHQ. He shows up at Prof. Ouma’s grave, and enters the secret lab disguised as a shrine on Oshima using the Professor’s ID Card. Perhaps he secretly is the Professor, or perhaps he killed him? Who knows, but it’s nice to have a tangible sort of mystery element that doesn’t stretch credulity added to the plot. Once again the actual caper this time – Gai’s plan to steal “the rock that started it all” from the lab using the camera Shu pulls from Souta’s chest – isn’t really the point. In fact, it’s pretty arbitrary and we never get a sense of importance attached to it, but it does serve to tie the episode together and bring Keido into the story as a physical presence.
Guilty Crown has cleared one hurdle by making an episode that has enough structural integrity to stand under its own power. The next one is to actually try and tie a string of episodes together in a way that’s logical and feels smooth. Continuity continues to be a major problem – threads that start in one ep lead nowhere, and the mood swings between episodes and even scenes are jarring. It’s a good thing to use a better quality of brick – that’s progress. But it’s not a building until you can figure out how to put all the bricks together, no matter how good the bricks are.