Click here to return to the main site.

DVD Review

DVD cover

Guilty Crown
Part 1 (Episodes 1-11)


Starring (voice): Yuuki Kaji, Ai Kayano and Yuuichi Nakamura
Distributor: Manga Entertainment
RRP: £24.99
Certificate: 12
Release Date: 18 November 2013

Shu's entire world was shattered after a meteorite crashed into Japan, unleashing the lethal Apocalypse Virus. The chaos and anarchy born of the outbreak cost Shu his family and reduced him to a timid, fearful shell of the boy he'd once been. His life took another unexpected turn after a chance encounter with the stunning pop star, Inori. This mysterious beauty introduced Shu to the King's Right Hand: a genetic mutation that allows him to reach into hearts of mortals and turn them into weapons. Shu finds himself caught in the crossfire between those who desperately seek his newfound strength. On one side lurks a clandestine government agency, and on the other, Inori and the spirited band of rebels known as Funeral Parlor. The choice is Shu's to make - and the world is his to change...

Guilty Crown is a 2011 TV anime with an odd conception: despite its conventional storyline and the presence of several seasoned studio hands among the staff – more of whom later – it saw broadcast in the Noitamina slot of Fuji TV, a weekly hour reserved for odder and more unconventional anime forays; the effective horror Shiki, political fantasy Eden of the East and literary detective drama Un-Go are just a few of its better-known features. With its high budget, transmedia music tie-ins and splashy widescreen action aesthetic, Guilty Crown stands out from the Noitamina roster like a Michael Bay blockbuster at an indie film festival. Sad to relate, this isn't the only comparison with that most bombastic of Hollywood directors to come to mind while watching.

In terms of scenario, plot and style, Guilty Crown is a mess. It throws together well-worn elements from innumerable past shows: the high school setting, intrusion by a militarised foreign power, combat mecha peacekeeping forces and underground resistance group have all been seen elsewhere, as has the youthful protagonist inexplicably bestowed with a unique power and saddled with a destiny to change the world. Anyone who saw 2006-7's Code Geass will recognize the similarities to that show, but where Geass's ruthless principal character compelled the world to obey his will and drew the show – and our attention – along with him, Shu is the kind of meek, hapless everyman far too often seen in contemporary anime, his wilful passivity reminiscent of Evangelion's Shinji Ikari without any of that landmark series' subtlety of characterisation. (It's galling to note the presence of Geass' co-writers Ichiro Ohkouchi and Hiroyuki Yoshino on the credits for Guilty Crown, seemingly having no qualms about recycling much of their previous hit.)

The cynical feel of committee-driven TV, striving for as broad an appeal as possible, permeates the series, with the result that the scenes of atrocities against civilians and terrorist violence feel empty and weightless. The characterisation is similarly hollow, the female characters coming off poorest of all - heroine Inori emerging as a lifeless fusion of Macross' world-saving songstress Lin Minmei and Evangelion's schizoid, doll-like Rei Ayanami, yet lacking the charm or nuance of either. Inori and the other female cast members are frequently and exploitatively sexualised throughout for the audience's delectation, the worst indignities reserved for headstrong mecha pilot Ayase; despite her competence as a resistance fighter and her pride in her identity as a paraplegic wheelchair-user, her disability is fetishised at numerous points, depriving her of agency and forcing her to rely on Shu for support. It's a deeply distasteful treatment that throws away any pretensions to positively portraying disabled characters the show might have had.

With all that in mind, it's hard to find much to say in Guilty Crown's favour, yet the show does at least make the most of its extravagant production values. Director Tetsuro Araki shows the flair and wilful lack of subtlety familiar to fans of his other hit series, Death Note and Attack On Titan, while the music score by Hiroyuki Sawano (AOT, Gundam Unicorn) with his signature power ballads powers along more effectively than the insert songs for Inori by pop ensemble Egoist. When all the show's strengths are assembled, the result is some genuinely arresting action sequences, the zero-gravity fight in episode four being one such highlight.

Ultimately it's hard not to feel that whatever its superficial virtues, Guilty Crown is too empty and cynical to excite much genuine loyalty. The nasty aftertaste left by the treatment of the female characters is too strong to shake off, even by the anime industry's low standards, and the show's strengths are all to be found in better and more interesting series that have gone before. One to pass by.


Richard Hunt

Buy this item online

Each of the store links below opens in a new window, allowing you to compare the price of this product from various online stores.

icon icon