The Void in People’s Hearts
From the animation studio that brought us the likes of Psycho-Pass, Kuroko no Basuke, Haikyuu!!, several adaptations of the Ghost in the Shell series, and many more, on behalf of Production I.G, we present you: Guilty Crown. Guilty Crown is a 22-episode action, dystopia, drama, sci-fi, anime-original series that first aired on October 13, 2011. Shortly after the premiere, Square Enix published a manga adaptation of the anime, followed by another one from ASCII Media Works in the following year.
The story of Guilty Crown takes place in post-apocalyptic Japan, 10 years after an event called Lost Christmas. Wherein an unknown disease spread throughout the country. The destruction caused by the pandemic resulted in an intervention by the United Nations to bring back order to Japan. This culminated in the creation of the GHQ, who enacted martial law to maintain order across the country. Their rule is later revealed to be ineffective. Eventually, GHQ began to use authoritarian measures to crack down on dissent under the guise of preventing the spread of the disease. This led to the formation of a resistance group called ‘Funeral Parlor’ who vowed to liberate Japan from the despotic hands of the GHQ. We see a meeting between the two main characters in the first episode, introducing us to Yuzuriha Inori (VA: Ai Kayano), a member of Funeral Parlor. After escaping the GHQ, she takes refuge in a rundown workshop where she meets Ouma Shu (VA: Kaji Yūki). It is through their encounter that Shu acquires the “Void Genome”, giving him the ability to draw out the incarnation of a person’s heart called a “Void”. Each void having numerous forms and abilities representing the individual from whom it was from. After being recruited by Funeral Parlor, Shu learns more about the truth of the disease and the events of Lost Christmas.
Faced with the dilemma of wanting to live a normal life or saving his country, it is now up to Shu to decide the future of Japan. Seems interesting, right? Read more below to see if this anime is fit to your tastes.
First of all, let’s talk about the plot and its execution. During the first few episodes, the anime focuses on the rebellion of Funeral Parlor against the GHQ. We see them try to outsmart and outlive each other, using any means necessary to eliminate the opposing party. As the story progresses, the anime turns its attention to the characters central to the main storyline and away from the revolutionary side of the story. The anime originally about freeing Japan from authoritarian control turns into a much larger battle between two opposing forces. From this point on, there’s suddenly a barrage of information thrown to the audience with little to no explanation. Some of which, possibly being answered by the visual novel ‘Guilty Crown: Lost Christmas’, a direct prequel to the anime with loads of lore material, but nobody has the time to play that unless they’re a lore-lover. Let’s use how the anime explained the very concept of ‘Voids’ as an example. It was introduced as the incarnation of an individual’s heart and personality, but what the anime failed to do was to elaborate on the emotional aspect of either using the Voids or being used as Voids. One could say that the plot escalated too quickly. It is as if the studio was being forced to pick up the pace and start wrapping things up. Even though it didn’t do well during its airing period, it is still a good watch. It even might be more appropriate to air it now than before, with how timely its initial message during the first part is: no matter how insignificant you think your contribution to society may be, we should strive to involve ourselves more, especially when our rights are the ones that suffer from it most. We should stop thinking that we are living our lives for our own, but rather contemplate on the fact that we are part of something bigger; we are a collective.
Now, let’s move on to the characters of the anime. They’re interesting, to say the least. They’re not as fleshed out and the huge hurdle stopping them from being decent characters is how weirdly paced their developments were as well as how the plot took their personalities in a completely different direction than what you would expect. It definitely felt like the characters lacked the time to develop their personalities despite having 22 episodes to do so. To give a more elaborate explanation on this, we’ll compare the two main characters, Ouma Shu and Yuzuriha Inori, with two side characters.
Let’s start off with our main protagonist, Ouma Shu. In the first half of the anime, Shu had a solid base personality. After each episode, various developments in his life slowly develop his character without damaging the original personality. But unexpectedly, it went downhill from there. During the second half, we see Shu’s personality turn a full 180 degrees way too quickly. With the events which led to his personality change being a bit lackluster, it made the change seem too cliché. It could be said that he did not offer much for the plot except for his ability to use Voids. Overall, it just felt like his personality went on a very weird rollercoaster that led to him being a confusing and unrelatable character.
Next, let’s talk about the heroine of the story, Yuzuriha Inori. Introduced to us as an almost doll-like girl. Inori acted as a pillar in Shu’s life, allowing him to retain his sanity amidst all the hardships they faced. From that, we could say that she fulfilled her role as the heroine of the story. But, not everything is as simple as that. First of all, despite having a substantial amount of screen time, she did not do much for the story as one of the main characters. Secondly, Guilty Crown didn’t have a lot of instances where the main protagonist and the heroine would undergo trials that strengthen their bonds which would eventually lead to romantic developments. The plot felt like it was forcing their relationship despite the lack of a good foundation for the romance to occur. We could say that she was a ‘good’ heroine for her role in being an emotional pillar for Shu, but her character could definitely have been developed better.
With the main characters out of the way, let’s talk about the side characters for a bit. Honestly, the side characters get more character development than the actual main characters. Let’s take Lieutenant Daryl Yan, a lieutenant of the GHQ, as one of our examples. At first, he seemed to simply love chaos and destruction, with no care for whom it may affect. But over time, we get a glimpse of why he does it and how he overcame that struggle. We see how, probably for the first time in his life, he became aware of his own actions; he contemplated whether his previous actions were right or wrong.
Another example of decent character development can be seen in the character of Shinomiya Ayase, a wheelchair-bound member of Funeral Parlor. At first, we see how she tends to be overconfident in herself, trying to make herself seem like she can still keep up with others. But as the plot moves forward, we see how Ayase’s character grows; she accepts her weaknesses and becomes more open. And this is the character development that the main characters needed to be decent, at the very least.
Moving on to the music and art of Guilty Crown. The best word to describe both would be: amazing. Both of these aspects can be seen as the anime’s strongest points. On the musical side, it’s no surprise that Guilty Crown has quite the array of beautiful soundtracks given how the majority of them were composed by none other than Sawano Hiroyuki. Sawano himself has won several awards for the music he composed for other anime. Some examples being ‘Attack on Titan’, ‘Aldnoah.Zero’ and ‘Kill la Kill.’
The most iconic song of the anime, however, would probably be its first opening song, “My Dearest”, which was composed by the band Supercell. They also partnered with another vocalist, Chelly, to form the duo, Egoist. The name is a reference to a fictional band in Guilty Crown. Together they composed other iconic insert songs such as “Euterpe”, the first song you’ll hear in the series; even before the opening song. In terms of graphics, Guilty Crown stands out when it comes to the creativity and attention to detail given by the animators, with these being evident in the various special effects and scenery used throughout the series. The unique designs and effects created by the animation team of Guilty Crown can only be described as mesmerizing and beautifully designed; with everything from even a simple ballpen to the voids manifested in the series being aesthetically pleasing and unique. Even the fight and action scenes seem more like a deadly dance between the characters of the series instead of a brutal brawl for survival and freedom. So in terms of overall musical and graphical performance, Guilty Crown does go above and beyond the standard for most anime.
In conclusion, if you don’t care much about main character developments or plot holes, then Guilty Crown might be up your alley. The pacing from world and character introductions is slow, but as you progress, it begins to accelerate. With visually stunning sequences accompanied by goosebump-inducing background music, it is fair to say that it is above average when executing climax scenes and makes up for the lack of development in its plot and characters. But if you’re yearning for a masterpiece with a well-written storyline, this series won’t likely fill the void in your heart that you’re looking to fill.
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