ANIME & MANGA - Review
08:26 - 27th June 2014, by Andrew Osmond

Guilty Crown, Part 2

The second half of Guilty Crown arrives on Blu-ray and DVD several months after the first. If it's been that long since you finished the preceding set, it might be worth rewatching the last part or two to remind yourself where we were. Rather awkwardly, the second set starts in an apocalyptic battle; it's the end of a big story arc, with major revelations about characters' pasts (using that favourite plot twist, the traumatically repressed memory) and what caused the disaster known as Lost Christmas. Clue: it wasn't reindeer.

The opening barney seems to resolve the show's conflict, but... well, wait and see. Guilty Crown is the kind of show we shouldn't spoil much, but the action becomes a 'Tokyo under siege' story, with the city centre surrounded by giant barriers and killer soldiers, pushing in remorselessly towards our heroes. Unlike some series, Guilty Crown doesn't pile on loads of new characters every episode; the main players are those we've already met. Some of them, though, change.

Okay, we're talking about Shu, the hero. Something bad happens to young Shu, the kind of thing that would have Star Wars' Yoda crinkling up his small green face and speaking sadly of the perils of the Dark Side. We're not saying that Shu becomes Darth Vader, quite, but suddenly the show stops being fun froth and gets rather heavy. The plot's no less preposterous, but if you liked Guilty Crown specifically for the cheese - the live-in magic girlfriend, the lingerie-model step mum - then you might be miffed. However, there's more fun stuff on the other side. The finale turns into 'Tokyo against the world', with all the psionic duels and exploding mecha you could want.

That the show stays interested in its 'old' characters helps keep our interest up. A continuing highlight is Ayase, the paraplegic girl (voiced by seiyuu superstar Kana Hanazawa), who stays iron-willed whether she has a robot to drive around in or not. The fact that she's effectively ranked number three in Shu's potential love interests won't stop her shining. And one of the show's last episodes is a big flashback, solving many of the mysteries about who's who and why. The framing story has jealous adults, lost summers of bliss and a heroine who's a cruelly disposable by-blow of some very bad science.

The show still runs on familiar lines if you know Evangelion and Code Geass, though the later episodes riff on the likes of Akira, Fullmetal Alchemist and even Elfen Lied and the wacko "I can kill anyone" trips of Death Note (the last of which shared Guilty Crown's anime director, Testsuro Araki). Despite its mutations, Crown always has something of a "greatest hits" package feeling. It's clearly made for anime fans, but it's those fans, who may have sat through dozens of similar stories, who may find it most redundant.

For most viewers, though, it's just plain enjoyable, switching tones enough to smell fresh while being a down-the-line trad genre show. The second volume is more sparing on the big battles than the first, and still has those weird, clunky still frames at times, but the end bubbles up to a very gratifying bang.

It's still derivative, and a sudden switch to a darker tone may annoy some viewers, but it's still impressively consistent entertainment to the end.
SCORE: 4/5
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