Well, it isn’t the first time a timid, emotionally insecure youth has been trampled underfoot (undertread, in this case) by a girl in a red plugsuit, and if Shu’s less-than-manly behavior keeps up it won’t be his last.
I’ve been taking my time with this episode’s review because, well, the series has come to a pretty crucial junction, and it mostly has to do with the protagonist, Ouma Shu-kun. Now that the series has taken us through some of the obligatory exposition (though I doubt we’ll be getting much more, if any), the focus of events is shifting in the direction of the looming central conflict between GHQ and Japan’s self-proclaimed liberators, Undertaker.
As Gai declares to the rank and file within the organization, Shu will be the key component of their offensive campaign strategies moving forward, to the nearly-universal surprise of all. The next goal is gaining control of GHQ’s super satellite, Leukocyte. Gai tasks a reluctant Ayase with putting Shu through a crash-course in basic training to mitigate his liability in field operations; and as he completes each battery of his training regimen, his instructors have little hope for his becoming a competent soldier for the cause.
At his final test, he can do little else besides evasive maneuvers in the face of Ayase’s pursuing Endlave until he improvises and draws Arugo’s Void, an instrument that envelops its target in an sphere of abject darkness. Just as he is congratulated by everyone and officially welcomed into the resistance, Tsugumi brings word GHQ has fired the weapon Leukocyte at Point Delta -where Gai and Kyou (Fujitou Chika) supposedly are- obliterating the area in a hellish, smoldering crater of devastation.
At this point, Guilty Crown sits on precarious ground. This episode is perhaps the last before the series has to start picking up speed plotwise. However, at the moment the primary protagonist has all the charismatic engagement of wet tissue paper with the resolve to match.
Shu has perhaps the weakest conviction of a series’ main character this side of Ikari Shinji, and at least Shinji could play the cello. Shu’s fascination with Inori was made clear from the first episode; and the news of her status with Gai surely comes as a blow to his fragile ego but hopefully, the series will not take a turn for the melodramatic and inject the series with a forced dynamic between Shu and Inori and Gai to meet some perceived need for romantic drama.
At the end of his test, Shu defeats Ayase only because of the element of surprise and relying on the Void Genome. It seems the series is reminding us of the painfully obvious fact that the only thing that makes Shu unique, and indeed the only reason why either Undertaker or GHQ would even bother with him is because of the Power of the Kings. It’s common for a lead character to have a number of character faults/weaknesses (s)he overcomes through the course of the story to account for development and growth, but it’s remarkable how little Shu has started with and how little he has changed thus far.
With recent developments (e.g. the possibility of Undertaker having just lost their primary leadership), there is still alot of room to compensate for a weak character or two. We’ll have to see what happens at the next stage.