Never would’ve thought that killing off my favorite character in any anime would actually help improve the show. But even since the first half of Guilty Crown ended, with Gai’s death among other tidbits, Guilty Crown has shown steady signs of improvement and had produced two respectable episodes since that point. Can’t believe I’m saying this but removing the best character from Guilty Crown has enriched this show significantly.
This really won’t be an analysis type post but just some general thoughts on how and why this bizarre phenomenon is transpiring. Throughout the first half, Gai was the unquestioned ‘hero’ in Guilty Crown, everyone looked up to him. He was the true and tested leader of Funeral Parlor and a badass when it came to dangerous missions and action sequences. Let me remind you he survived the Leukocyte’s laser from space without sustaining as much damage as getting dust in his eyes (never got an explanation about that but everyone’s forgotten about it, so who cares?). He possessed traits of decisiveness, astuteness, industriousness, and the ability to get the best out of everyone around him. And when he wanted women, he got women. It’s no wonder why Shu admired him, it’s what Shu wanted to be only with morals and no crystalline disease state. Guilty Crown would’ve been completely different had we followed the story through Gai’s eyes but instead we saw the world through Shu. Shu frequently struggled with his social awkwardness, innocence, and depressing mood and it often caused him and others trouble. Gai was the one who took him under his wing and gave inspiration to the boy to improve. Seeing as Shu isn’t a robot (although that would be awesome), he couldn’t turn on a simple switch and suddenly be heroic or courageous but he began to progress in the right direction. Because of all these, I assumed Gai was not only the best character in Guilty Crown but the most integral part of what I enjoyed in the series. I figured he was the embodiment of all that is good in Guilty Crown and that if he died, that the show would simply collapse.
But no, I am happily wrong. Since Gai’s fateful death, the series has improved in every area except for perhaps the art and animation. The story, which still can’t figure out up from down, has been pleasant with coherent plot developments and adequate storytelling. All the characters minus Inori have all had more screentime and several characters have made substantial progress, especially Shu, Ayase, and Tsugumi. Plus, the anime isn’t taking itself as seriously now as it did in the second half. We’ve been stuck at school for the past two episodes and spent fun time with the cast, seeing them wear cute animal ears and dressing in fancy costumes during a school festival and watching Tsugumi go through a magical girl transformation sequence. Certainly it has been serious in areas, obviously all shows do that, but the in-between sequences have been playful and easygoing despite the situation they’re in. I know many are unhappy with those clichéd anime moments or that the anime is withdrawing from its hard drama approach but they were only included for entertainment and I was entertained. And I’m sure there have been other improvements since Gai’s death but these are the ones I’ve enjoyed the most.
Before Gai’s death, these things were few and far between. The story while Gai was alive mainly revolved around Funeral Parlor having random skirmishes with the GHQ and going on missions to save Mana. But now, with Gai gone, so are those lame plot points around Funeral Parlor and Mana that never really went anywhere. And with Gai’s character promptly absent for the rest of the series, this has opened up time for the rest of the cast to be involved in the show and actually have their characters developed. Ayase and Tsugumi, despite being two of the main characters in this anime, never really had any proper development until these past two episodes. Rather than seeing them behave according to their most basic personality trait, we finally saw they’re more than just ‘tomboy with a crush’ and ‘tech-savvy catgirl’. Not to mention Shu has flourished and begun to show the universal traits of a hero. His whining, fear, and depression are now virtually absent and he’s able to act on his own without depending on others. Thankfully he hasn’t assumed Gai’s role either as head of Funeral Parlor and is embarking on his own path, living his life through Gai’s inspiration rather than living Gai’s life through himself. And the whole entertainment aspect was there, kinda, when Gai was around but these past two episodes have a different feel. When Gai was around, it seemed like the anime was trying too hard. Now, it seems that it doesn’t have that high-strung tension behind every scene. It hasn’t been completely goofy or dumb either which is nice because going too far would undermine the entire first half of the series and completely wreck the story so far.
It is rather strange how much more I’m enjoying the series now that my favorite character is gone. I honestly can’t think of any anime ever where I would have felt that way. Usually the character that is my favorite is the one I want in every episode, to be in every major storyline, to interact with all the characters, and to be someone that others love as well. Gai really fit that description well along with his charming looks, suave personality, and unequalled intelligence, so I always thought Guilty Crown would be at its best when Gai was on screen. So why did it turn out this way? I suppose it all has to do with Gai’s role in the story and his motivations. The biggest improvement since Gai’s death has been how the lesser characters and Shu have prospered. It’s like his death lifted the cover over these characters and now they’re finally able to bloom. Second, Gai’s story was never really that interesting nor was it ever executed well. Because of those, his story about saving his love who was trapped in another world was never enjoyable and I was never able to get into Gai’s character because of it. With that story essentially over now, the anime is now focusing on Shu and his friends in their struggle to liberate Japan from the GHQ. Obvious this story is better than the one Gai had. When looking at it from this perspective, it does make sense that the anime would improve in my eyes after Gai’s death. But still, it’s indisputably strange for the series to suddenly improve once my favorite character died. I honestly don’t expect to ever say something like this again.
First off: lol school government. In every school anime the student government is always so high and mighty and everyone acts like it’s important shit but it never is. They just do the jobs the school officials don’t want to do and save money by not hiring someone or having the pay the students for doing all this work. I don’t understand the fascination with school government in anime but it’s always mentioned (either as class president or class rep) and it’s even been the setting for several anime. It must be a cultural difference because no one in high school or college where I’m from gave a shit about student government. And to be honest, student government in anime is so overused and adds so little that it has gotten to the point that it irritates me whenever I see it. Doesn’t necessarily make an anime or characters bad but it’s gotten to the point where it’s a negative that’s completely preventable. To say the least, I was pretty miserable through most of this episode.
But I will say this about the student government in Guilty Crown that impressed me and actually made a purpose out of the school government besides it being the one-dimension to a two-dimensional character. Shu has now taken the role of school president which segues nicely into the whole “king” theme that has been present throughout. Not to mention the symbolism became more apparent to in the setting. The walls surrounding Loop 7 are like the walls of a citadel or fortified city, the school itself being the castle, the students becoming Shu’s subjects, and his friends becoming his advisors or knights. I wouldn’t be surprised if they went overboard on the subject and gave Shu a throne and crown in the next episode. But what I like about this development is that it reiterates this major theme and shows Shu taking the steps to become the Void King. He certainly is displaying the leadership and confidence necessary to take that role. And by using the student government to visualize that transition, I’m content. Guilty Crown used the school government as a plot device to reiterate a central theme to the anime and to show progress in Shu’s character. Can’t say I’m happy they used the student government but it’s worth mentioning that Guilty Crown used student government in the best way possible.