A beautifully presented animated series by IG Productions, Guilty Crown takes us to a Tokyo once devastated by the Apocalypse Virus. It’s been 10 years since the outbreak began and with the help of the United Nations and GHQ, Japan has slowly rebuilt. Called the Lost Christmas, many people fell victim to the virus and Shu lost his whole family that day. Now a timid teenager, Shu has a relatively normal and comfortable life. After meeting pop Idol Inori, he is thrown into a world of war, love and self discovery after accidently acquiring a powerful genetic weapon, the Kings Right Hand.
After the Apocalypse Virus incident, Japan lost its independence as GHQ took over the government. GHQ employs a quarantine unit called Anti-Bodies, who sweep the city in search of any infected residents. They are often brutal if they are met with resistance, and with powerful Endlaves at their disposal the normal residents can’t put up much of a fight. An underground resistance group Funeral Parlour is taking on GHQ and the Anti-Bodies in hope of restoring Japans Independence. The Kings Right Hand (Void Genome) is capable of pulling Voids out of people’s bodies. Voids are items unique to each individual, they could also be described as someone’s psyche in physical form. Some can be used as weapons and others for healing, shields and reflecting attacks. The first Void we see is Inori’s as a large sword.
As leader of Funeral Parlour, Gai was seeking the Kings Right Hand to tip the battles in their favour. After Inori failed her mission and it came to Shu, Gai attempts to convince him to join their cause. Shu refuses and tries to return to his old life, and Inori is sent undercover to his school to keep an eye on him. He eventually develops feelings for Inori and decides to join Funeral Parlour. Shu is quite a withdrawn person, and after training and learning more about his powers he get’s a bit of a confidence boost. Going up against The Anit-Bodies and their partially insane 2nd Lieutenant Daryl is no easy feat, and he believes he can finally help make a change.
The first half focuses on Shu and how he intergrades into Funeral Parlor, experimenting with his power and Voids as well as his torn feelings between Inori and leading a normal life. Gai is an imposing force, and Shu feels his incompetence and lack of experience in comparison. After seeing him open up about his own hardships Shu sees him in a different light and decides to work together. The second half turns a bit dark as Funeral Parlour is scattered and part of the city is sealed off by the Anti-Bodies. The school and students are inside the sealed zone, and have to fight for survival as time counts down until the walls close in. Shu takes the lead using the classmates Voids to help everyone survive against rogue residents and paid men who infiltrate the area. Things are going quite smoothly, but it rarely stays that way for Shu.
After the death of Hare Shu has a huge personality swing, which is not that surprising seeing as he has been through quite a bit of emotional trauma. Guilty Crown seems to give Shu a push forward, then throw him three steps backwards when things seem to be going his way. Taking the hard line with the other students also ends in disaster as he shoulders far more than he can bare. There are also some revelations, about his sister Mana, how he met Gai and his life before Lost Christmas. He does have another change of heart, which leads him to the final confrontation with Gai and Mana, ultimately to save Inori and destroy the Apocalypse Virus once and for all.
Guilty Crown is a strange mixed bag of treats. There are numerous unexplained elements of the story and a few unbelievable circumstances. Towards the end it all gets a bit convoluted and, I dare say, a little silly. The virus itself is largely unexplained, however as it came from space it could be anything really, even a living entity. There are a few surprises along the way, however it feels like the characters and their interactions are heavily inspired by other series. It’s all very familiar. After a few episodes I was relating Shu very closely to Shinju Ikari (Evangelion), as they are both a bit socially awkward and very reluctant to take part in the bigger picture. Shu’s trauma haunts him, and yet is also his driving force in the end to do what’s he thinks is right.
The animation is high quality for a series of 22 episodes, and even in the shows down time the quality does not drop significantly. The action scenes are polished with a little CG thrown in for some wow factor, and unlike some series it doesn’t get tiresome to watch. The opening themes are a real treat, Supercell’s smash My Dearest graces us for the first opening theme, and the flow of animation is timed beautifully. The first ending and second opening is yet another one of my favourites, Egoist. A fictional band created for Guilty Crown, actually extended their talents beyond and into the likes of Psyco Pass and Kabaneri the Iron Fortress. The first ending also changes slightly each episode depending on the characters and mood of the story. Small touches like that are something I have always been fond of.
Guilty Crown is spread over 4 DVD’s, and the Blu-ray cover has a lovely double sided print with the cast on the inside. The DVD’s also have a nice little painted style character. The extras provided are a welcome change to the stock standard trailers and textless themes. With Episode Commentaries and a Creative Vision Featurette it ads a bit of bulk. English and Japanese 5.1 soundtrack are available, and subtitles are limited to English only.
I actually quite liked this series, even though some elements were a bit over the top towards the end. I would of course recommend Evangelion, Full Metal Panic, Eureka Seven and Code Geass if you enjoyed Guilty Crown.
A review copy was provided by Madman Entertainment to the author for the purpose of this review.