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Guilty Crown(TV) (2011-2012)
In the near future, a meteorite carrying a foreign virus crashes in Japan, leading to a devastating nation-wide infection and total anarchy. Several years later, ShuŚa teen with a special ability awakened by the Apocalypse VirusŚmeets a strange girl who incites him to join the struggle against a government organizationĺs robotic forces and a secret society whose goal remains shrouded in mystery.
For more about Guilty Crown and the Guilty Crown Blu-ray release, see Guilty Crown Blu-ray Review published by Jeffrey Kauffman on August 25, 2013 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.0 out of 5.
Starring: Yűki Kaji, Ai Kayano, Yuichi Nakamura, Kana Hanazawa, Ayana Taketatsu, Yu Shimamura
Director: Tetsur˘ Araki
» See full cast & crew
Guilty Crown Blu-ray Review
Can guilt be recycled?
Reviewed by Jeffrey Kauffman, August 25, 2013
As far as dystopian post-apocalyptic Japanese stories go, the news is either pretty good or beyond horrible, depending on your point of view: amidst all the cultural devolution and burgeoning internecine warfare, at least school is still in session. Damn those Japanese and their emphasis on education! Guilty Crown is yet another in a long (some might argue endless) series of anime that posits a future Japan which has undergone a horrible calamity, and is now attempting to pick up the pieces. As with at least several others in this sub-genre, a sort of martial law has been imposed, and there are nefarious government agents at work everywhere viciously attempting to keep the body politic in line. And of course there's an insurgency that is determined to restore everything that is true, right, just and free to people everywhereŚor at least in their insular social circle. Guilty Crown is an impeccably beautiful anime which is quite redolent (at times at least) of Ghost in the Shell 2.0, at least from a visual perspective, though it has relatively little of Mamoru Oshii's florid philosophizing and plot mechanics. Instead Guilty Crown stuffs its opening set of episodes with an almost manic explosion of characters, ideas and pretzel logic plot points that it's hard to keep everything straight, to the point that some viewers may just cease caring relatively early. The show may be hampered by some probably unrealistic expectations that had built up due to quite a bit of press hype that presaged its debut on the noitaminA block on Fuji TV, and from a distance at least the show would seem to have a lot to recommend it Śif you don't mind a certain "dÚjÓ vu all over again" quality to many of the characters and plot elements. And while Guilty Crown is never really horrible in any major sense, there's an increasing sense of confusion and dissipation as the series moves forward, which is the exact opposite of what most viewers will want to experience.
As with so many other anime of this same general ilk, we have a nerdy high school guy who ends up having superpowers (as well as a mysterious past), and an enigmatic, almost alien, female who suddenly shows up in his life and helps him find out who he really is. In this particular case our hero is Shu Ouma, a 17 year old kid who does okay in school despite not having great social skills. Shu arrives back at his desolate warehouse like apartment one day to find Inori, an online pop sensation with a group called Egoist, sitting there in apparent disarray. There's an R2 D2 like droid next to her, also seemingly in disrepair. Before Shu can quite figure out what's going on, his lair is invaded by a bunch of menacing government henchman. Inori proffers a cat's cradle toward Shu and urges him to take it, but he's too frightened to do anything. The henchmen end up beating Inori and taking her, leaving Shu destitute that he didn't have the internal fortitude to help.
It turns out that Inori, aside from being a rock goddess (or something like that), is also an insurgent with the group Funeral Parlor which is attempting to overthrow the fascistic government which has taken control of Japan in the wake of a huge biological apocalypse which was visited on the nation ten years previously. Through some fairly rote plot dynamics, Shu delivers the droid, which has been left behind by the careless policemen, to Gai, the leader of Funeral Parlor. In the meantime, a bunch of nefarious government operatives have been attempting to track Funeral Parlor's moves, and despite having Inori in captivity, can't figure out what she's done with a valuable genome she's evidently made off with. The operatives decide a slash and burn operation is the best alternative, and as Gai looks on from a distance, seeing explosions drawing ever nearer, he hands Shu a mysterious vial and tells him to run for it, and to protect the vial at all costs.
Meanwhile, the operatives have let Inori go, seemingly for no other reason than that the plot requires that she and Shu find each other. Unfortunately it looks like Inori is about to get trounced by a gigantic mecha, at which point Shu decides to make amends for his previous inaction and bursts into high octane energy, running to save the young girl. At this point something really weird happens, as some sort of energy portal opens up, swallowing Shu's arm. Inori utters a mysterious "use me" as her heart begins glowing, and then some sort of energy transference takes place, equipping Shu's arm with a gigantic magical blade with which he's able to take down the attacking mechas.
It's at this point that Guilty Crown starts trying to adorn its already derivative storyline with a bunch of mythology, including supposedly surprising revelations about both Shu and Inori's pasts. This is yet another recent anime seemingly fascinated by the Jewish Kabbalah, incorporating not only passing references to the Tree of Life but actually using some Kabbalistic terminology (like Da'ath, for example) for various elements. And truth be told, some of Guilty Crown's mythology is quite interesting, even if it's over convoluted and delivered in so arcane a fashion that it takes some time to ferret out what's actually going on. Part of the problem here is perhaps what might be termed overweening ambition. Guilty Crown has a lot on its mind, including genetic engineering, biological viruses, dystopian governments, rabble rousing insurgents, superpowers, a sort of quasi-vampirism (Shu needs to "suck" what are called voids out of collaborators in order to facilitate his own superpowers), and on and on. It becomes almost too much to keep track of at times and tends to weigh the whole enterprise down.
The major problem with Guilty Crown, however, is that virtually everything in this anime has been seen before. I won't even go so far as to say it's always been better in the previous versions, but after a while even diehard anime fans grow tired of seeing just another iteration of what is basically the same old story. Guilty Crown deserves major kudos for being incredibly beautiful to look at, and for trying at least to invest what at this point is a story that's been told a thousand times before with a complex new mythology, but my hunch is a lot of viewers are not going to stick around long enough to figure out if this show has anything really worthwhile to offer.
Guilty Crown Blu-ray, Video Quality
Guilty Crown is presented on Blu-ray courtesy of FUNimation Entertainment with an AVC encoded 1080p transfer in 1.78:1. This is an uncommonly handsome looking series, one that uses a variety of different styles to its benefit. Some of the establishing shots of various locales are very painterly and soft and quite reminiscent of Ghost in the Shell (see screenshot 5 for a good example), while some of the shōnen elements are much more basic and sharp looking. A number of intentionally distressed cutaways are also utilized, with "grain" and other supposed damage appearing over the image. Colors are very bright and varied here, and line detail remains very strong throughout all of the episodes in this first set. There are some recurrent banding issues that crop up from time to time, but otherwise this is a great looking effort.
Guilty Crown Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Guilty Crown features an English dub delivered via Dolby TrueHD 5.1 and the original Japanese language track in Dolby TrueHD 2.0. This is one anime where I recommend at least checking out the English dub, for it features really good voice work (including a few actors who aren't in every other FUNimation dub), but more importantly more space and much greater dynamic range that allows both the ubiquitous music and effects to really shine. Since Inori is a singer, the show actually features quite a few sung elements, which sound fantastic in the 5.1 mix. The battle sequences are extremely immersive, with some great sound effects zinging through the surround channels. Fidelity is excellent and dynamic range is extremely wide.
Guilty Crown Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
This set comes housed in a deluxe slipcase that includes two softbound volumes of character illustrations with brief text descriptions. This actually resembles a premium Aniplex release more than the typical FUNimation release, and in fact Aniplex is one of the producers of this set. The on disc supplements include:
Guilty Crown Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Guilty Crown may manage to escape the gravity of its all too familiar elements, for the series certainly has a lot of raw material to work with. Maybe too much raw material. This series is almost like Oshii without Oshii's overriding sense of structure and meaning. Shu and Inori make an interesting focal pair, and a lot of the supporting characters are colorful, but there is so much going on in these early episodes that it will make many viewers' heads spin, even as they may be saying they've seen it all before. One way or the other, this is one spectacular looking anime which pops excellently in high definition.
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