Guilty Crown (ギルティクラウン) is probably the most-hyped anime title of the Fall 2011 Anime season; it is definitely one of the most-talked about shows associated with Production I.G. in recent memory. After many months of restless anticipation, the wait for eager audiences is finally over, with episodes airing in the latter half of Fuji TV’s exclusive noitaminA (ノイタミナ) anime block as the Main Event. Directed by Araki Tetsuro (Gakuen Mokushiroku – High School of the Dead, Death Note) with original character designs by Redjuice of Supercell fame, and Supercell contributing both OP and ED themes, the production team has spared no effort in assembling some of the most successful professionals in the industry to ensure Guilty Crown is a quality work of the highest caliber.
The premiere is nothing short of spectacular, and it’s follow-up episode continues to raise already-lofty expectations. Fair warning for those still forming objective opinions on this show: as you may have already guessed by now, I am completely biased in favor of this series and unreservedly endorse it. As always, spoilers do apply so read at your own risk.
Guilty Crown is set in the year 2039, in a dystopic future where Japan is recovering from the catastrophic devastation of ten years prior by the sudden outbreak of what was known as the “Apocalypse Virus.” The resulting fallout from the epidemic is so severe and widespread Japan verges on the brink of collapse, requiring sustained, long-term aid from numerous countries simply to maintain its status as a nation. However, the international organization GHQ intervenes and declares martial law under the pretense of restoring order and rebuilding Japan’s crippled infrastructure. This is not mere philanthropy out of good-will, for the cost of assisted survival is high: with GHQ’s effectively permanent occupation, Japan loses its independent sovereignty. Needless to say, corruption, societal decay and numbed resignation to an uncertain fate determined by outsiders have paralyzed the general public.
Having a foreign power cross your borders in time of crisis to commandeer your country because “you don’t have the power to protect those precious to you” is no doubt humiliating and would be a reproach to any national psyche.
Out of the midst of this climate of utter despair rises a boy. Ouma Shu (Kaji Yuuki), by all accounts just your average koukousei, has a fairly unremarkable life until he meets frontwoman and vocalist for the group Egoist, idol Yuzuriha Inori (Kayano Ai), whom he much admires. Inori incidentally also happens to be a member of Undertaker, an underground resistance group dedicated to freeing Japan from GHQ. After seizing possession of a strange vial from the hands of the government, Inori evades capture by taking refuge in the abandoned building Shu has commissioned as his makeshift design workshop. It isn’t long, however, before GHQ agents track her to the location and take her into custody, threatening Shu should he interfere.
Immediately afterwards, Shu is overcome with guilt, despising himself for his hesitation and inability to help someone in need. Urgently, Fyu-Neru, Inori’s robotic companion carrying the yet-undiscovered vial, compels Shu to take up her mission in her place to convey the precious cargo to Tsutsugami Gai (Nakamura Yuuichi), leader of Undertaker.
He is successful in reaching Gai but mere moments before he can turn over the vial, the rendezvous point is attacked and overrun by GHQ forces. At Gai’s encouragement, Shu takes responsibility for himself and throws himself into the fray, effectively joining Undertaker as an unofficial recruit as he races to assist Inori, who has been surrounded. As he nears the action, one of the GHQ mech pilots fires upon him, shattering the vial and scattering its contents:
In a flash of light, Shu inherits an ability known as the “Power of Kings,” which allows him to draw weapons and objects from people via the artifact bonded in his right handed. Finally obliging Inori’s request, Shu draws his weapon from Inori and cuts down the hostile forces, ending the skirmish.
If there is one thing thus far that defines Guilty Crown, it is its elegant, cinematic presentation. By cinematic, I mean precisely that. The visuals are breathtaking with stunning scenery and exquisite character designs that amaze and allure; and while the richness of the animation exudes style on its own, Supercell’s OP and ED contributions bookend the drama in each episode to lend the story a suitable ambiance.
In short, the premiere episode is a resounding triumph. I won’t go into the obvious comparisons with a certain other runaway-hit anime also about an oppressed, occupied Japan on the eve of revolt, but I will say though that Guilty Crown promises great things to come.
The right to use my friend as a weapon;
That is the sinful crown I shall adorn.
Indeed. And a glorious crown it is.