Guilty Crown – Series Review

[Commie] Guilty Crown - 05 [CEDCE7F8].mkv_snapshot_12.22_[2011.11.10_20.08.01] [CoalGuys] Guilty Crown - 07 [C2C2DAB8].mkv_snapshot_13.30_[2011.11.24_14.56.30] [Commie] Guilty Crown - 22 [1084F246].mkv_snapshot_03.33_[2012.03.22_19.48.31]

Where do I begin trying to summarize the unique experience that was watching Guilty Crown

Back when I did my Fall Preview last year, I made note of the fact that Guilty Crown was easily the most hyped series of the season.  I also mentioned that my gut was telling me that UN-GO was going to be the better NoitaminA series that season.  Well, the first was obvious to anyone who spent any time in the English-language fan community, but I wonder just what it was that, even then had me feeling that GC might be more flash than substance.  No doubt I had some creative issues with Code Geass (so much so that I never finished it) and director Araki-sensei has a somewhat mixed track record.  But I think it may have been the alarming lack of specifics when it came to the show itself.  It was really just a lot of really gorgeous promo art, but nothing that said what the series was actually about.  I’d thought maybe they just wanted to create a mystique around the show – now I wonder if Yoshino and Araki were already making it up as they went along, and didn’t know themselves.

It’s fair to ask – would Guilty Crown have been as reviled as it’s been if hadn’t been a NoitaminA series?  I don’t think it’s necessary to rehash again all of the reasons why GC shouldn’t have been a NoitaminA series, but it does bear repeating that it’s without question the most ill-suited series that’s ever appeared in the block.  But in reality that isn’t the show’s fault – it’s NoitaminA’s fault for programming it.  Clearly they wanted to try and broaden their appeal and go for a blatantly commercial property, something that could break the mold for them and generate income with Blu-rays and merchandise.  Well, it’s done pretty well there so if that was the plan, well done – but the irony is, by far the most successful NoitaminA series of the last two years has been one that fit the template quite well, AnoHana.  In any case, I can’t blame Production I.G. or Guilty Crown for that, and I do think that the criticism of the series has been amplified at least a little because of that association.

Of course, independent of that it must be said, Guilty Crown is a series that suffered terrible creative problems almost from the beginning that stand apart from any scheduling considerations.  Those problems are too many to list, but if I had to single out two it would be the lack of cohesive plotting – there was an improvised quality and terrible pacing that never stopped plaguing the show – and the lack of any coherent and cohesive character arcs.  The characters in Guilty Crown were props – they were simply pointed in whatever direction needed them to go in order to get the plot where he needed it, and that’s completely backwards.  A good series allows the characters to organically drive the plot forward.  A bad series manipulates them and forces them to behave inconsistently and in worst-case scenarios (like this show) nonsensically.  As problems go, those are whoppers.

I think partly as a direct result of Yoshino’s limitations as a writer, we ended up with a series that was shot through with cliché right from the very beginning.  It was a pastiche of ideas lifted from archetypal animes like Evangelion and Eureka Seven, presented in less interesting form.  Of all the characters whose behavior made the least sense, a few spring to mind as prime examples – Gai, Daryl and Arisa.  Well, and Yahiro too.  Well, pretty much all of them…  But you get my point.  These characters whip-sawed from extreme to extreme, turned into mere plot devices.  Gai was a disaster from the beginning, unlikeable as a hero, uninteresting as a villain, and unsympathetic as a victim.  Ironically, for all the criticism he took, Shu ended up as one of the least disastrous characters in the show.  Most of the time his behavior at least made a sort of sense, and he did grow over the course of the series.

There were other characters who ended up faring halfway-decently – Hare, Ayase, Haruka – and Segai was at least a fun and entertaining villain, though he had one of the weirdest and most pointless deaths of any major character I can remember.  Mostly, though, the pleasures of Guilty Crown were sensory.  The visual brilliance at play here was obvious from the start – this was a studio capable of performing at the highest level, putting their best foot forward.  GC excelled in both art and animation and did so with unusual consistency for a two-cour series.  The music was a selling point as well, and some of the character designs were terrific – Inori, especially, is one of the most beautiful characters I can recall in any anime.  As a character she made very little impact (or sense) but she was truly breathtaking to look at.

There were a couple of times when I thought Guilty Crown might have really turned a corner and found its voice, and might provide us with a story to match its visual brilliance.  These were just teases though, as a couple of strong eps were always followed up with major letdowns.  The funny thing is that as exasperating as it was, I never grew to hate the show – there was an earnestness to it that made me want to like it, though usually unsuccessfully.  Creatively this felt more like a BONES series to me than anything else, overcomplicated and emotionally transparent, but it never achieved the pure innocent enjoyment that the better-known BONES sci-fi epics did.  In the end it can only be called a major disappointment, because of the studio and the timeslot and the wasted opportunity to have a truly interesting and creative series with a huge budget.  I have no doubt that you could have made five Hourou Musuko seasons for the cost of two of Guilty Crown (not that anyone would) and it saddens me to see so much money spent in the pursuit of something so ultimately hollow.

[Commie] Guilty Crown - 02 [6D1930E8].mkv_snapshot_03.45_[2011.10.20_19.35.41] [Commie] Guilty Crown - 02 [6D1930E8].mkv_snapshot_09.16_[2011.10.20_19.41.29] [CoalGuys] Guilty Crown - 04 [0984A4AC].mkv_snapshot_08.58_[2011.11.03_19.57.10]
[CoalGuys] Guilty Crown - 07 [C2C2DAB8].mkv_snapshot_17.35_[2011.11.24_15.00.36] [Commie] Guilty Crown - 08 [B171C9BB].mkv_snapshot_00.46_[2011.12.01_14.14.54] [Hadena] Guilty Crown 14 [1280x720 x264 AAC][B556A7A8].mkv_snapshot_06.31_[2012.01.26_21.50.11]
[Commie] Guilty Crown - 17 [78831216].mkv_snapshot_13.15_[2012.02.16_21.09.56] [Commie] Guilty Crown - 22 [1084F246].mkv_snapshot_18.15_[2012.03.22_20.03.13] [Commie] Guilty Crown - 22 [1084F246].mkv_snapshot_17.15_[2012.03.22_20.02.12]


  1. B

    "It’s fair to ask – would Guilty Crown have been as reviled as it’s been if hadn’t been a NoitaminA series?"

    It is fair to ask. I can only speak for myself, but personally, I have no idea what NoitaminA means. I gather it's a specific timeslot on Japanese television? I've been watching anime for 12+ years and in all that time I have never once made an effort to find out when certain shows air in Japan, all I care about is when the fansub groups I get it from release it. So, from the perspective of one dude who doesn't know or care about "NoitaminA", this show sucked balls and deserves all the hate it's getting.

    Basically when (if) I think about this show 5 years from now, the only thing I feel likely to remember is "Well, the main character's mom was hot."

  2. Fair enough. For me it does matter a little. NoitaminA is nominally supposed to be a timeslot for anime that wouldn't otherwise be produced – they idea was that it was always going to be easy to get shows like Infinite Stratos and Yuriyuri (and BRS and GC) made, but not shows like Hourou Musuko and Usagi Drop. At one time there was a focus on josei, then seinen, but it seemed to evolve into a generic "non-commercial" slot. Then came 2011 and eventually Winter 2012…

    I'm not saying GC would be beloved if it weren't a NoitaminA show – its faults are its own. Just speculating whether it might have amplified the hate a little.

  3. s

    The only way Guilty Crown could have pulled it out was to kill the entire cast off except for Dan Eagleman and change GC into the Dan Eagleman Show.

    Also the show was obviously given a large budget but outside of a couple scenes I was not impressed with the result. Production I.G.'s animation effort for GiTS:SAC from 10 years ago easily surpasses their work with GC.

  4. S

    The Dan & Segai Comedy Hour. Seriously, that'd have been awesome.

    I like to note that the End Card for the series had Dan, Segai & Hare. The 3 most interesting characters in the series.

  5. S

    I also am not familiar with the NoitaminA term or any of the other channels, nor did I even hear about GC until around ep 3 or so. So I pretty much watched without any hype or expectations.

    To that end I found the series "meh" overall. Definitely not deserving of all the hate it's received but certainly not great either. Those that consistently rated it as terrible and "worst show ever produced" should really have just dropped it and saved themselves the pain. I personally think GC has enough going for it to stay as a "decent" 7/10 series.

    At the end of the day I'm still glad to have watched it, The story won't have a lasting impact on me for sure, but the soundtrack and production values will..somewhat. It could have been SO much more, but yeah, did somewhat enjoy it as I never took it seriously.

    Thanks for blogging the series though, Enzo. It's been great to read your opinions. Now that Divine has left I think I'll be frequenting here more than RC, as you're probably my favourite writer atm! =P

  6. Wow, thanks – that's very flattering and I agree in the end, GC is more mediocre than terrible.

  7. D

    It's like you don't even need to watch past Episode 12 to get this sort of impression…which is sad. I just hope they let it die.

    Also *Yahiro not Yashiro

  8. A

    Suffice to say that I actually did like Code Geass a lot (most of which wasn't even written by Hiroyuki Yoshino, given that he was only the assistant or associate writer), but I was originally expecting Guilty Crown to make up for some of its mistakes, particularly because of the different staff members and the change in circumstances. Turns out the exact opposite happened.

    Generally speaking…what I sincerely liked from that show was missing here and mostly what I disliked continued to be present, in addition to some new problems such as an uninteresting pair of male and female leads. Ultimately, Guilty Crown feels…hollow, which is worse than superficial in my book. It gains extra points for having much more style and perhaps even an artistically superior direction, but the story barely made me care at all.

  9. L

    Somehow I expect a series review of mononoke (you know something actually good) to redeem this week of disappointment.

  10. A

    Gosh Guilty Crown makes everyone sounds so depressing.

  11. E

    All this show gave me was bitter taste in the mouth and horrible feeling in the heart, just like that damn anime Blood-C, which I also watched to the end, hoping it would correct itself later on.
    Throughout the episodes, we are made confused with the characters:
    is he/she evil? Righteous? Egoist? Cowardice? Serious or playful? Talkative or not? Horny or frigid? Sane or Insane? And so on…
    But then, there's only one conclusion:
    They are not 'characters'!!
    They are just stage decorations. Just potted plants.
    Which can be arranged and used at will.

  12. Z

    It just feels so stupid of them to waste all this production on a none existing plot and characters. There are almost an infinite number of manga, novels or visual novels which has a story and characters that would make for an awesome series with this production value. One has to wonder if the producers of this series places to value at all on scripts?

  13. d

    Wow. That was one long post for a so-so show.
    And I was with you… didn't understand the hype. Even after watching the preview, I was like ?? Wat was the hype about?

  14. A

    I came into this series with zero knowledge about it so I can say hype isn't a big issue. The music and animation are top notch but that's all you can really say for the series. There are too many plot holes to ignore and characters are wildly inconsistent. What really kills an anime/game for me is having a protagonist I don't like. Both the male and female protagonists are so boring that you have to cling onto the more likable side characters. Segai was probably the only consistent and likable character in the whole show for me. I'd give this series a 5/10 overall. It's just a perfect split down the middle of good production values but bad plot and character.

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