Friday, October 21, 2011

Guilty Crown - 02

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It’s very rare that I can point to an anime that floored me strictly with visuals – in fact, I could count them on one hand.  I’m a character guy, and always prefer a strong story with weak animation to the opposite.  But damn, Guilty Crown is just exquisite eye candy.

OP: "My Dearest" by supercell
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It’s not as though the second episode was bad.  In fact, it was quite a bit more entertaining than the first.  But this is the first show in years where I find myself almost not paying attention to the story because I’m floored by what I’m seeing.  There’s only so much you can talk about that – you really have to watch it, and you’ll understand.  But it’s just the whole package – animation, backgrounds, CGI, character designs…  Even the use of colors and shadows is stupendous.  Production I.G. proves once again that they can churn out production values that put anyone else in TV anime to shame.

Of course there is a story and there are characters, and with a 22-episode show those elements are going to have to carry their weight before it’s said and done for Guilty Crown to be something more than a gorgeous two-dimensional painting.  In general terms this is a continuation of the trend we’ve seen in anime this year, an increased focus on dystopian society and a sense of helplessness at the hand of internationalism gaining too much power.  It’s played differently here than in UN-GO, as fits the fact that the two series could hardly be more stylistically different.  GC is straight-ahead, big-budget blockbuster – it’s a Memorial Day Weekend opening tentpole motion picture.  As such, subtlety doesn’t seem to be one of the goals.

My biggest concern so far is with lead character Ouma Shu.  Kaji Yuuki’s performance doesn’t help, but as written he’s a flat character.  We’ve never really gotten inside his head, and we have no idea who he is or how he got that way.  He’s just a boring kid who got mixed up with strange and dangerous people and lucked into a mysterious power that saved his own life and that of Rei Inori.  My hope is that this is at least in part an intentional device, and (I really hope I’m not giving Yoshino Hiroyuki too much credit here) some credence was given to that idea by the ending of this episode.  By refusing to take Gai’s hand and join Undertaker, he proved himself to be ordinary (or at least want to).  Maybe the story now will focus on how he becomes exceptional.

It’s certainly no secret that the themes and construction of this series have been done many times before.  I’m not a huge Code Geass fan so I’ll leave it to others to elaborate on the obvious self-plagiarism Yoshino is engaging in here.  But we’ve seen elements of Evangelion too, and Ghost in the Shell, and a dozen others.  it doesn’t really matter when you have a show that isn’t trying to break new ground.  The point with blockbusters isn’t really to invent, but to execute in an entertaining way.  And this episode was pretty entertaining, not just because the action scenes were sublime but because it was genuinely interesting.   We know more than we did – Gai’s group is called Undertaker, and they call the international authorities “Antibodies”.  The power Shu unleashed was a biological weapon was called a Void Genome, and it’s sort of an interesting concept – a weapon created from the intron sequences of the human genome.   Pretty much your standard mecha anime mumbo-jumbo, in other words.

So we have a pretty standard sci-fi setup here.  We have the self-loathing ordinary schoolboy thrust into a massive struggle.  We have the mysterious and beautiful girl (now in his class at school) connected to the source of power.  The charismatic rebel leader, a spunky hacker chick who controls weapons with her butt (Taketatsu Ayana as Tsugumi) the genetic weaponry, the mechas, the evil international government agency that’s killing civilians to protect its secrets.  My goodness – it really does feel as if I’ve seen this series before, and probably produced by BONES (and that UN-GO was produced by GAINAX.  Musical studios?)  But the difference is the production values – they elevate the whole series from ordinary to exceptional.  I have no idea if I.G. can keep this up for 22 episodes, but they’re off to an amazing start.

I’ll allow myself to dream big here, and hope that this series really finds its creative legs.  There’s a potentially interesting story to be told with Shu, though who knows if we’ll see it.  In terms of the geopolitics and science of the plot, that’s so standard that it’s hard to expect that to ever become really memorable – but it does have the potential to be exciting, especially with a solid director at the helm.  If we can get to that point – exciting action and an interesting MC, with stellar production values – we’ll be looking at one of the standout series of 2011, original or no.

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24 comments:

  1. *praying for character development*, *praying for character development*

    If there isn't one, I'll just have to feel happy with gorgeous visuals >.<

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  2. I hope there that there is some good character development and I think GC will provide us with a emotional connection to the characters. Its just been two episodes so give it some time to develop and be a little optimistic.

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  3. Well, I would expect the next episode at least to focus on the main couple and have a bit more interaction rather then action. Inori have only spoken a few times so far so getting to know her seems in order at least. I would expect some comedy as well due to the fact that she seems to consider herself owned by the main character.

    I wouldn't expect the action to be totally gone though as I think the undertakers plans to train him into a hero. I think the pretty girl makes for a good carrot to get him to train some at least.

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  4. ...I'm thinking the writing won't be the strong point here.

    Anyone else note how the entire plan hinged on Shuu pulling that specific weapon out of the douchebag pilot? How did they know he would provide a shield/reflector generator? I hope this is explained.

    Also Void Technology is such patently hilarious bullshit that I have trouble suspending my disbelief, and there is a lot of truly ridiculous plot devices floating around this season.

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  5. 1. At first it seemed that he placed his hand just below her neck, when zoom in it was on chest.
    2. how does he know that going to blonde pilot would give him a shield kaleidoscope weapon?
    3. Is Gai good or evil?
    4. Gai's plan is too dependent on a newbie school kid, too much risk i say.
    5. not grabbing the hand is a pretty new touch. has happened before but not often.
    Overall nice experience. hope to see more explanations and whether my theory that Shu's mum is a scientist

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  6. Didn't Gai call that blonde guy "Kaleidoscope" when he was being briefed of the hostage situation? It was around 10:02.
    I think that corresponds to the weapon that Shuu pulled out. A bit too hax and convenient imo.
    Also, I agree that Gai's plan was too risky.
    What if what Shuu pulled out wasn't that shield reflector weapon. Also, what happens to the weapons when the person dies since I assume blondie died in that assault. Details, details.

    Other than that, seems pretty straightforward.
    It really has that Code Geass feel to it, except Shuu's not like Lelouch that faces his enemies by himself.
    But I truly shat bricks at the animation here. Man that was so wicked I was glued to the screen during the countdown. Really puts other studios to shame. F/Z might be the only one to top this one with the next episode being the starting fight and based on screenshots and glimpses on the PVs, we're in for a treat there as well.

    They mentioned that there's 3 Void Genome. Which means there's 2 more and I assume there are already users of it. Big battles ahead of us.
    And I hope we get some explanation to how the characteristics of the weapons pulled out is defined. Wonder how Gai's weapon looks like xD

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  7. This episode made me feel that i am too old to enjoy the story. I would enjoy the show a lot more if i was 8 again.

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  8. There were crystal-like things on the robots after Shu’s attack. You can also see crystal-like things in the close-up shot to Gai’s eyes (and there was a twinkle in that shot). If this would explain why Gai called that guy “kaleidoscope” – of course, why did Gai have such an eye was a different question that required explanation.

    Similar crystal-like things on the girl in Shu’s flashback. Plenty chance of flashback and explanation.

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  9. @Bel: just because he has a nickname called keladiscope does not mean the weapon appearing would be so. And how did Gai know that keladiscope means shield?
    And i do not think blonde is dead, if he did the weapon should have disappeared? and i do not think shun is ready to kill directly, he can only do it indirectly (hurting pilots by destroying the robots and using a shield to deflect attacks.

    Wonder whether the Gene can be extracted from Shun...

    @Anon: Crystal thing could be the so-called virus which attacked Japan. Guess some people had natural anti-bodies, making the virus dominant. Or perhaps Shu has the anti-body too which is why the Gene works on him?

    But only time (and anime) would tell

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  10. I think Guilty Crown might be good for an anime drinking game. Drink whenever you see this anime cliche...

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  11. Listen, this is not the sort of show that will hold up well to close scrutiny. So why scrutinize? Enjoy the eye porn and pretend you're eight years old and it's a theatre full of people.

    Fate/Zero has excellent production values, and certainly the better story by far. But to my eye there's just no comparison, GC is distinctly better in terms of animation, background art and character design.

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  12. @ Guardian Enzo

    Pretending probably isn't going to work, since my basic standards for weekly episodes depend on what shows i am watching.

    Dropping it, on the other hand, will solve the problem, which is what i am going to do if the next 2 or so episodes don't grab my interest.

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  13. Listen, this is not the sort of show that will hold up well to close scrutiny. So why scrutinize? Enjoy the eye porn and pretend you're eight years old and it's a theatre full of people.

    Not the person I would expect to hear this from.

    I largely agree, though I'm somewhat disappointed that such a large budget and a prestigious noitaminA slot has gone to a show which seems to have nothing going for it but the budget provided by the visuals.

    I will certainly keep watching, for the visuals and the voice cast, but I hope they step it up a bit more in the plot department going forward.

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  14. I don't think I can enjoy the show for the production values alone either (the same reason I had no interest in Avatar).

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  15. I hope you mean the movie and not the TV series...

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  16. Yes I definitely meant the movie. :)

    I am a big fan of the animated TV series (and actually hate that the movie franchise now has the use of the word Avatar).

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  17. Yea I would wait a couple more episodes. It is 22 episode after all. Enzo have you seen Eureka 7? That started out pretty generic as well but then became pretty unique later on. I consider that Bon'es best project.

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  18. Yes, I've seen E7. I'd concur to the extent that it's one of my two or three top BONES shows, can't say offhand if it's the best. I do think it sort of fell apart at the, as pretty much every BONES show does, and was so convoluted as to be almost indecipherable, as pretty much every BONES show is.

    For all that, I found the characters in E7 grabbed me far more right off the bat, and so did the premise. Renton >>>>>>> Shu. But as I've said many times, GC really does feel like a BONES series to me.

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  19. The first two episodes have been quite disappointing, I must say. I don't mind anime cliches as long as they are executed well but unfortunately, the writing and pacing are just plain sloppy. With the team behind GC, I would have expected something better. I guess it's still too early to tell if GC can deliver. For now, I guess I'll sit back and enjoy this eye candy that comes with some of the best fan service out there.

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  20. I don't quite see how it's strange that he refuses to take Gai's hand. GC is likely being set up as a coming-of-age story.

    Plus, think about it, Shu's at the moment had all of his assumptions about the world shattered. He had no clue just how bad the situation was, and now suddenly, he's expected to take charge and change something he didn't know existed? People who can cope with that are pretty rare in real life, and I don't doubt that Shu's growth into that sort of character will be the driving force behind the show (at least, I hope so. I'm a sucker for the bildungsroman).

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  21. That's my take, too. It's optimistic, but it fits the overall traditional approach we're seeing.

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  22. The blond antagonist is definitely alive: you can see him being rescued around 19:45.

    As for the Kaleidoscope, it's obvious Gai knew beforehand what kind of weapon they'd be able to extract from him.

    I agree with Enzo: this is a show that's worth watching even if it's for the visuals alone. As far as plot goes, it has certainly been done before and is predictable but there were a couple of things that caught me off guard: the prisoners being killed and Shu not shaking Gai's hand. The more generic route could have been taken in both cases so there is still hope it will get better as far as I'm concerned.

    Interesting comparison to E7. To be honest, if Shu and Inori manage to make me care about them a fifth of how much I cared about Renton and Eureka then I'd be more than satisfied.

    Also, inb4 blond villain transfers to the same class.

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  23. Nah, Blondie will definitely become Jeremiah Gotwald(Orange) like in Code Geass. ;)

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