I’m often impressed by the first episodes of most quality anime. But this one may have been the best first episode I have ever watched. Not only did it surpass my expectations but it may even redefine ‘excellence’ in an anime. So what was it about Guilty Crown that completely blew me away like never before in a first episode?
Before I get ahead of myself, I’ll let you know I’m still quite drunk off the Guilty Crown punch from this first episode. I’ve been excitedly anticipating this quite some time, especially after all the PVs and promotional art. But isn’t this the best time to write out my thoughts and opinions? So yeah, if I make outlandish or unsupportable claims in this post, well then I guess that’s just how I feel right now.
First, the animation and artwork. I have never seen a more visually-stunning or aesthetically-pleasing TV anime than this first episode of Guilty Crown. The constant animation, gorgeous artwork, brilliant use of lighting, and unbroken quality are all testaments to that statement. If you’ve been following my blog, you know what I look out for in these departments. Guilty Crown pretty much exceeded my expectations in every way. The animation was frequent, smooth, and magnificent, bringing motion and emotion to life on the screen. It did not matter if the scene was complex, such as running through the flames or mecha attacking or simple, like reaching a hand out or looking around. And there were even scenes of animation when you wouldn’t expect it, like when the students rose for the teacher or when Shu was listening to Inori singing in the abandoned building. That latter scene really stood out as an example of the excellence in the animation. While most anime would choose to use a still-frame and a slow pan, Guilty Crown shows Shu mesmerized (much like I was) and slowly pacing forward with no repeating frames or wasted animation. To complete the scene, there was even a gradual change in the soft lighting. And all on a trivial scene, too. Perfect.
The artwork, too, is especially astonishing. The art style of the characters is attractive and charismatic, making this anime easy on the eyes, and the background art is picturesque. But what’s most impressive regarding the artwork is the amount of details, ranging from noticeable to minute. Perhaps the best example was Inori’s blood, showing it splattering on the floor and leaving a trail. Those details were important to the story, so it’s essential they were there but seeing it fall and later be smeared were artistic details that help support my point. Another point was those specs of dust reflecting in the sunlight, another unnecessary detail which helps bring the world to life. I continue to see an improved use of lighting in anime and this is series is part of a growing trend. Lighting was not only used for visual purposes but also to help establish a mood or theme, like when Shu walked into the light when meeting Inori (a wonderful metaphor, Shu finding his ‘light’) or when Gai was standing behind intimidating and blinding spotlights. There were also no real significant drops in quality, which is pleasing, but will it be able to last for the entire season? I certainly hope so but it’s not essential for me to enjoy the anime. Virtually every other aspect of the anime was outstanding.
Evaluating the story at this point in the season is usually challenging, not to mention often wrong, but I like what I see. It’s likely the story will revolve around Shu joining a resistance movement with the aid of his awakened superpowers as well as solve his own social/personal issues. Obviously the series can be about something else entirely but that set-up sounds enjoyable, especially on the backdrop of an occupied and oppressed urban Japan. The only characters really featured were Shu and Inori. I’m not sure what to think about Inori; she appears to be a weak, dependent, and wary female lead which is fine but never my favorite. And while I typically dislike the timid-turned-hero cliché for male leads in anime, Shu turns out better than most because he has justifications for his shyness and is a critical thinker rather than a shoot-first-ask-questions-later type. The rest of the cast seems fairly commonplace for an anime with a few older gentleman and couple of attractive schoolgirls. The mecha, action, and fighting were all pleasant surprises and I’m curious to what degree these battles will be featured and what role they’ll play in the story. So far the resistance only has one mecha, so I’m guessing Shu’s powers will be featured frequently whenever they face the tyrannical military. The music, especially the insert song at the end, was pleasant and I’m curious to see if they’ll have more songs like that during future dramatic scenes. If they’re anything like the one in this episode, then I’ll be happy.
Overall, one of the most impressive animes I’ve seen. The art and animation should take most of the credit as this could turn out to be the best TV anime I’ve ever watched visually. Ignoring those details, the rest of the anime turned out strong too, although most should still be considered unknowns at this point. I’m excited to see where this anime goes since there is definitely limitless potential in the story and characters. But you could already tell I’m excited. I just hope that most others out there feel similar to how I do after this first episode and for the rest of the series.
I had a feeling this anime would remind me of Code Geass (forgive the spoilers). You have the male lead with a mysterious and awesome power, the female lead is a mysterious young lady with a link to that power, a wheelchair-bound female (promo art), an oppression/resistance/military theme, numerous powerful mecha, and several other minor details. But really, this first episode reminded me more of Final Fantasy VII. The first few scenes brought back memories of the bombing mission and then immediately following that was Shu on the train to school. Very similar to how that game started. And later, when you see Inori signing in the sunlit, deserted building, I had memories of Aeris in the church. Besides those themes, there are many parallels between this anime and that video game. It certainly helps Guilty Crown that FF7 is one of my favorite video games and bringing back these memories helps create new ones with this anime. If these similarities and themes continue, I’ll be surprised since I’m sure they’ll go in different directions. Still, it’s nice that Guilty Crown was able to conjure up forgotten memories of a cherished game, even if it is only for one episode. Oh, and I forgot to mention one other similarity…