Title: Guilty Crown
Company: Production I.G.
Format: 22 episodes
Dates: 14 Oct 2011 – 23 Mar 2012
Synopsis: In the year 2039, Tokyo is under control of the organization GHQ following an outbreak of a virus a decade earlier. Ouma Shu is a 17-year-old who meets Yuzuriha Inori, a mysterious girl involved with an underground resistance group led by Tsutsugami Gai. Shu becomes inextricably tied with the group when he is accidentally infused with the King’s Power, which gives him the ability to extract a weapon or tool from anyone around him.
Visuals: Generally strong.
Story: A generic beginning that devolves into a convoluted mess.
Ouma Shu: Being Shu is suffering.
Student councils: More powerful than you could possibly imagine.
The hype for Guilty Crown before it aired was enormous, such that it seemed almost guaranteed not to live up to it. I’m a man who believes it unfair to evaluate anything based on hype. If Guilty Crown were merely “good” rather than “amazing,” how would it be fair to rake it over the coals for that? Unfortunately, Guilty Crown makes it easy to sidestep that issue by not being good, or even average, but quite bad.
Before we get into that fun stuff, though, the one aspect of Guilty Crown that is of legitimate merit: the visuals. The show looks excellent for the most part. Its action scenes are generally smooth and slick, and the animation is polished. Maybe my only complaint about how the show looks is that the urban environments aren’t particularly interesting. There’s not much about the setting that feels as if Guilty Crown is putting its stamp on it. Still, even if the style doesn’t appeal to a person, it would be silly to claim Guilty Crown is not a good-looking series.
This pretty outer shell houses a ridiculous, convoluted story. Guilty Crown‘s first half actually isn’t that bad, in a relative sense. It can be dumb and silly, but it at least works to build its characters’ motivations and personalities, even if they’re somewhat ridiculous. At the halfway point, however, the story shifts into full-on melodramatic overdrive. Plot points appear at such a rapid, ridiculous pace that it’s as if the creators pulled ideas out of a hat. To be fair, there are some clear instances of foreshadowing, but it seems as though all the dumbest plot ideas are the ones that are foreshadowed. It’s almost worse that the stupidest ideas appeared to be the ones that had the most thought put into them.
What really stands out about the twists and turns is not that they’re stupid or ridiculous, but that they reek of desperation. The biggest plot twists always seem as if they should be accompanied by flashing neon, “What a twist!” signs. There are so many things about Guilty Crown‘s plot that make little-to-no sense that the only sensible explanation is that the plot twists serve to distract the audience. Throw the dog something shiny, and maybe it’ll stop crapping in your yard. To make matters worse, everything is done with such stone-faced seriousness that it becomes impossible to take seriously. The drama is so thick that the only logical response is to choke on it with laughter.
This wouldn’t matter so much if the series gave its audience something — anything! — onto which it could latch. It’s easy to pick apart many action and thriller series and movies, but the best ones work because they accentuate what they do well and gloss over their negatives smoothly enough that the audience doesn’t care enough to notice them. Code Geass, for instance, has a charismatic protagonist, an interesting rivalry, and breakneck plotting and pacing that actually works. Everything Guilty Crown has going for it grows progressively weaker as the show marches on, until it all crumbles under the weight of a plot that is too stupid for its own good.
The only thing that kept me going through the series is seeing how much dumber it could possibly get. How much more could Shu suffer before the show concluded? How much more bland and boring could Inori become? How much more “shocking” sexual assault could be tossed in? How long could Guilty Crown get away with acting as if a school’s student council is a legitimate form of government in normal society, much less a world following near-apocalyptic destruction? Were Tsugumi’s machines built specifically to be operated by her ass? And so on.
Guilty Crown has many of the tools to be entertaining, and it actually is entertaining — just not in the ways the creators hoped it would be. But if you like ham-fisted plot twists, annoyingly Christlike protagonists, bland mysterious girls and refrigerators with power levels, then you are not only the audience Guilty Crown deserves but also the one it needs.
The Rating: 3
Reviewed by: Shinmaru