It wasn’t perfect. BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT EVAR!!!
With my expectations scaled back a few notches, Guilty Crown’s first episode does manage to join the esteemed ranks of “better than bloody Bakuman”, of which only Persona 4 and Future Diary had achieved the rank of so far (although the second episodes of Fate/Zero and Chihayafuru were both improvements). I just wish it wasn’t so derivative.
The Geass comparisons are inevitable and obvious, rather hilariously so when they start referring to the different Japanese districts as numbers again. There’s a little bit more justification behind the occupation of Japan this time around. The country had to accept foreign intervention to recover from a biological weapon attack rather than a Darwinian dictatorship rolling over the country with their giant robots. Mind you, both still have the comically evil villains who cold-heartedly massacre entire neighbourhoods for poorly justified reasons. But it’s not like the political frame to Geass was ever the series strong point. In Geass, the main conflict was with the protagonist’s questionable morals behind repelling the invasion and whether it was his method or his friend’s more peaceful method that was the correct course of action. But where Lelouch is a hugely charismatic, entertainingly flamboyant lead character, Guilty Crown’s protagonist is a generic wimpy teenage boy.
OK, let’s be fair. As I said in my Future Diary post, I’d take a wimpy lead over Yuji Everylead the Bland anytime. I’m the kind of crazy person who loves characters like Shinji from Evangelion, Keitaro from Love Hina or the entire cast of Infinite Ryvius. However there’s a key difference between the approach Future Diary took with its main character and what Guilty Crown did. Both series have wimpy male lead having a girl fall into his metaphorical lap while being given a magical power. But, while Guilty Crown plays with wish fulfillment totally straight, Future Diary pulls the ‘be careful what you wish for’ card and makes both the new girlfriend and the magical power just make his life infinitely worse. I should probably re-iterate that I really did like that first episode of Future Diary.
I did say Guilty Crown was good though, so onto the positive. The animation is glorious, laughing in the face of everything else this season and looking better than even most anime movies do. The character designs are attractive and actually move fluidly. The action scenes are dynamic and hair-prickling-on-the-back-of-the-neck intense. There’s scenery porn everywhere. Even the mecha CGI is decently done, what with them being as shiny as the character designs themselves, the two don’t really clash. The music I’m a little bit torn on, not being a particularly big fan of Supercell at all, and neither am I particularly fond of every single blasted piece of BGM being an insert song. However they were all pulled off fairly well and suited the mood at the time. It all lends to this dramatic atmosphere they’re creating.
But if you’ll allow me to return to the Geass comparisons, there’s one key factor that both these shows have (and Death Note had too, this directors previous flagship project). There’s a self-conviction behind the execution that is infectious. Much like Geass, the show is convinced of its own greatness to the point that you can’t help be swept up in its grandness. The climactic action shot of the episode was genuinely thrilling in a way no other anime this season has been able to capture. Yes, during this scene there’s a little cynical man kicking with his big heavy boots in the back of my mind, pointing out the rather dull wish fulfilment story and hoping this isn’t the extend of character development we ever get to this main character, but I ignored him because damn did it ever look pretty.