Life in Japan has been irrevocably changed since the day of the Lost Christmas in 2029 when a meteorite crashed onto the earth, releasing the deadly Apocalypse Virus. A few years later, all is still far from well. So when Shu Ouma, an unassuming high school student, encounters the beautiful, pink-haired singer Inori, he suddenly finds himself caught up in an violent confrontation between the mysterious group Funeral Parlour and the ruling – foreign – military elite, GHQ. There are mechas – Endlaves – everywhere. Inori is fleeing with the Void Genome – but the vial containing it shatters, resulting in Shu acquiring the King’s Hand, the ability to draw out a Void – a mystical weapon – from the hearts of other humans. Forced to use this new gift to defend Inori, he finds himself fighting off the Endlaves with a mystical sword (Inori’s Void) that he has drawn from inside her.
So now, it seems, Shu’s life can never be ordinary again. Confronted by Gai Tsutsugami, the charismatic young leader of Funeral Parlour, Shu is forced to make some very difficult decisions. Should he join Funeral Parlour and use his new ability to fight against a secret force apparently working for the government? Betrayed by one of his classmates, he is arrested and interrogated by a sinister man named Segai. But his troubles are only just beginning as he’s sucked even deeper into a web of conspiracies and treachery, until he no longer knows who to trust.
Shu makes an interesting and sympathetic protagonist; it’s easy to relate to his confusion at being thrust into such a frightening and violent new role, especially when it all becomes too much and he begins – not surprisingly – to suffer something very like PTSD. We also see him suffering from flashbacks that seem to relate to the Lost Christmas but, as yet, we can only guess at their relevance. Both voice actors, Yuuki Kaji and relative newcomer Austin Tindle, portray the young man’s struggle to come to terms with the changes in his life with sensitivity.
Guilty Crown looks gorgeous, with a lush palette of colours employed by the Art Director and attractive character designs. With a singer as heroine, it’s not surprising that Guilty Crown is filled with songs and Paul Browne at Mangazette has produced an interesting article on this topic if you’d like to learn more http://www.mangauk.com/post.php?p=guilty-pleasures
Sometimes, however, Guilty Crown overeggs the anime cake with familiar tropes. Unprepossessing high school student finds himself unexpectedly the wielder of a unique power? Check. Female pop idol attends hero’s high school and stays in his home? Check. Aforementioned pop idol is always wearing an extremely skimpy outfit whenever hero has to plunge his King’s Hand into her cleavage and extract her Void? Check again. Cute but feisty Ayase is an Endlave/mecha pilot but she’s also disabled and in a wheelchair? Check yet again. And don’t even get me started on the seriously twisted Endlave boy pilot fighting for the other side who has significant father issues… But Guilty Crown also seduces us with attractive songs and delivers nail-biting dramatic crises, betrayals, and fast-moving action, so that in the end, it’s hard not to be swept along by the sheer momentum of the story. And – warning – this first set of eleven episodes ends on one hell of a cliffhanger.
Guilty Crown is a completely original story (a manga followed afterward) but it’s well worth watching ‘Into the Void: The Creative Vision’ a short but revealing interview with the show’s creators in which both Evangelion and Fullmetal Alchemist are mentioned as influences (though not always in the ways you might imagine!)
And, unlike some other recent releases, Guilty Crown comes generously stuffed with extras.
Special Features: Commentaries for Episodes 2 & 4, Guilty Crown 4-Panel Theater, Into the Void: The Creative Vision, Episode Previews, Textless Opening Songs, Textless Ending Songs, U.S. Trailer, Trailers. Spoken Languages: English, Japanese, English subtitles.
With ‘endlave’ mechas piloted remotely by teenaged pilots and Japan controlled by external powers after its apparent inability to get back on its feet after the Apocalypse virus catastrophe, series like Code Geass and Evangelion inevitably come to mind. But not in a bad way; this is a well-paced, fast-moving action story that still makes time to engage the audience’s sympathy with its main characters.