Guilty Crown – 08 Review
While Souta simply goes with ‘I have trouble talking to you because you’re so distant’, Shuu (of course) has prepared a whole list of things to complain about (because he’s a jerk after all). But reading his nitpicky complains I have to ask: Does a sociopath like Shuu actually know what social cues are?
Guilty Crown 08: Friendship Starts With Calling Someone A Jerk
The seventh episode actually did a pretty good job of being the kind of idiotic fun Guilty Crown should be (since it isn’t a series aiming for quality storywise). This episode didn’t continue the stupid vibe of the previous episode but it wasn’t as awful as some of the earlier episodes. It was pretty much a “Meh”-like episode that was overall solid enough (if you don’t have any kind of expectations for this show) but if you look closely it’s still full of the typical mistakes created by following characters whose characterizations are simply crappy. Shuu is still a jerk and Inori still dazzles with the charisma of non-existence. And that won’t change very soon because this series not only sucks at characterization but also at character-development.
Like usual Shuu’s life proceeds as if written by an anime-fand with zero imagination: His club is making a trip to the beach. Other things also work like a clock since Gai has a plan (again). It involves the Void of Souta, one of Shuu’s friends who are his friends for the simply reason of him being an anime-main-character. He spends some time having fun with his friends who are also members of some club whose actual activities play no role whatsoever in this episode.
After having some fun Gai informs Shuu of the plan and tells him that he needs to distract Souta. Gai proposes to use Inori since Souta is a fan of Egoist and therefore likes Inori automatically. Shuu sets up a meeting between Souta and Inori and follows them secretly so that he can extract the Void. But as Souta’s one-sided conversation starts he rapidly goes on to confess his love to her. Shuu getting cold feet hearing this and fearing that he’ll lose Inori to Satou interferes and stops Satou from confessing. The rest of Funeral Parlor reveals itself making fun of Shuu since he does have a habit of acting like an imbecile sometimes. Entering the hidden GHQ-facility using Satou’s Void Gai & Co are outwitted with the Old Dude arriving earlier and taking the rock which brought the Apocalypse Virus to Japan. Grudgingly accepting their failure they leave again.
As Satou wakes up again he’s greeted by Shuu who admits not liking him and says that he won’t support him anymore in getting Inori’s attention. Satou surprises him as he also admits to have a bit of a problem talking with Shuu. As they admit this to each other Satou adds that he’s glad that they’re finally so honest to each other. Hinting at Satou’s Void Satou himself remarks that in the end Shuu has opened up a bit due to his behaviour.
Remember that blonde kid who’s totally nuts? Well, this episode shows us that his dad is a jerk and his mother is dead which is, I think, the excuse for him being totally nuts. I guess we should prepare ourselves for the moment when we’re supposed to pity that crazy kid and blame his father for everything (because being a jerk as teenager is forgiveable but when you’re an adult it’s not).
Guilty Crown has only two modes: One is being predictably generic and the other is being unforeseeably stupid. This week it was more of the former (luckily) and while last week’s episode actually seemed quite okay it was still in the range of being overall generic. What the eighth episode did wasn’t anything wrong from a conceptual point-of-view as Blood-C was wrong with its time-wasting building-up. This episode tried to concentrate on character- and plot-development. And the story went along just fine making things slightly more interesting but character-development was a failure due to its poor execution. Ultimately while the seventh episode actually got my hopes up again that Guilty Crown can be slightly entertaining this episode crushed it again with a kind of blandness that only a series like Guilty Crown can have.
‘This is Guilty Crown’ is what this episode is reminding us and I think at this point one has to say that this show as at its best generic and stereotypical but most of the times even worse than that. The main-reason for that isn’t the story, though, because I’ve seen enough generic shounen-mecha-series to know what I should expect to see when watching a series like this. But what ruins the experience of this series for me are the characters. They are either uninteresting or simply plain stupid. And then there’s Shuu who shouldn’t be a main-character as far as sane characterizations go at least. Characters in this series are portrayed so badly that I don’t care what happens to any of them.
And one reason for that as well is the fact that I don’t know why I should care. This series is so vague in saying anything beyond dumb plot-related foreshadowing and throwing obvious message at you (like “He’s bad”, “He’s in danger” or “Feel sorry for him”) that I have no idea what this series ultimately wants to tell me. If I would drop the series at this point I would have no idea what this series is about. And we’re talking about three hours worth of material here and all it has done was creating this… mess. It’s generic and perhaps if you feel merciful you could grant it the typical messages hidden in the generic parts of the series but I don’t think that a series should be generic when it’s conveying its message to me. ‘Generic’ means that I’ve seen it before and I assume it’s just there to make it more approachable for the mainstream-audience but if even the series’ most basic reason for existence has to rely on this kind of cheap sugar then I don’t know why anyone bothered making the series in the first place.
The first thing that has to change are the characters since the series has a questionable way of handling its characterizations. Strangely Shuu is the most consistent character at this point and the only individual attribute he possesses is his exaggerated whininess. Every episode has a facepalm-worthy moment of me wondering how low a naïve-whiny character like Shuu can sink in being a complete jerk because of some trifling matter. All the time he’s bitching about this and that but the episode always has him turning away from going through with where his jerkiness would actually lead him. It’s always the same game but Shuu doesn’t seem to learn and each episode prepares a new chance for him to embarrass himself by being a whiny jerk. But then someone else does some explaining for him and tells him plainly how wrong he is. Shuu accepts this piece of wisdom and apologizes and eventually does what is expected of him. He’s a pitiful whiny low-life-scum, therefore you would expect his character would be about changing himself and becoming someone else. But the series never lets him face the consequences of his own personality so that he can have a reason to change. Shuu simply backs down at the end of the day and follows orders being convinced it’s the right thing because someone told him that’s how it is. The characterization here favours plot-development over character-development and in that manner all is fine with his characterization as long as it progresses the story. It doesn’t matter whether he keeps being pathetic, his catharsis is simply working for the good guys. Inori meanwhile at this point is a confusing character. On one hand the series tried to show us that Inori wasn’t exactly lovey- dovey regarding Shuu but this episode again seemed to imply more strongly that she actually does support Shuu. Don’t ask me what she’s thinking. Most of the time she doesn’t seem to think at all and her emotionless attitude combined with the contrasting behavior makes it difficult to grant her any kind of personality. She’s human… kind of, anyway, and she does things – that’s all. Talking about the generic parts of the show it does seem likely, though, that she ends up with Shuu after all but I really don’t see it portrayed in her character. Eight episodes in and she’s still a blank slate as far as characterizations go. In the end it’s hard to care about a series whose two main-characters who get most of the airtime are that unlikeable.
It was really weird how nonchalantly Shuu’s reaction was as he learned about how important his dead dad’s job was. And his excuse was simply that he and his mother don’t talk about it at home. It’s not like his mother hid it from him, they didn’t talk about it and Shu doesn’t care about it apparently for whatever strange reason. Normally you would expect a teenager to show interest as to why one of his parents died but Shuu has no interest in that sort of thing.
One of the reasons why this episode failed to meet its unoriginal ambitions was the way the first half ended up being fanservice-only basically. Shuu and his friends (yeah, he has friends now all of a sudden) end up going to the beach but in reality this is just a cover-up for Shuu using Souta’s Void on another mission planned by Gai. But the first half completely ignores that part and just goes along with its boring non-sense slice-of-life. The first half is wasted time.
In the second half the episode remembers (finally) that it actually wants to tell a story that’s supposed to matter and starts introducing two conflicts. The first one is obviously story-related with Gai doing some new shit because he has a plan. The second one is character-related trying to tell something about Souta and Shuu. Let’s first talk about the second one because that was one of the biggest flaws of this episode since it doesn’t really work.
It’s getting obvious that in terms of characters Guilty Crown favours soapy drama of people having a problem with not being a jerk all the time. Wherever you look there’s someone abused by another person’s jerkiness. If you’re not a psychopathic nutcase trying to hurt someone emotionally directly or indirectly – then you’re not a sane person in the world of Guilty Crown. But since everyone’s a jerk it’s clear that it’s nothing personal when anyone is a jerk because it’s the world’s fault. That’s why the good guys have to change everything. It’s not like the people in Guilty Crown can think for themselves what’s right or wrong. For these guys this is actually a challenge to determine what they think is right and what is wrong. So what problems exist between Souta and Shuu? Basically there are two: First there’s the point of them not liking each other secretly. Both of them realize that they have a hard time talking with each other. My answer: “Well, then don’t.” Nobody forces them to talk with each other. But since they are friends (for whatever reason) things can’t be solved that way so they have to talk with each other. And after complaining about each other they can now hold hands or something, whatever, I have no idea how it solves anything just acknowledging the problem openly. The second problem concerns Inori because Souta is a fan of Egoist which means that he loves Inori and her voice – but never bothered to think about the meaning of her songs and therefore never realized the pro-Funeral-Parlor-Subtext of them. That’s what teenage fans are basically: brainless, idealistic and naïve. And like that Satou already believes to have found the love of his life by knowing Inori now personally (as far as that’s possible anyway). And despite Inori having the charisma of a toothbrush Shuu also loves her – but doesn’t admit it. So the conflict is that Shuu supports Souta to get together with Inori since it’s part of the plan. But he gets cold feet and interrupts Souta confessing.
The problem here is that to start with both problems are far too Shuu-centric meaning that Souta’s character is just a stepping-stone for Shuu and actually has only a supporting role without having any characterization. But why would you bother than making a conflict out of it when it’s all just about developing Shuu anyway? Souta’s characters is a boring one-note affair. There’s no subtlety to it and it’s even worse in terms of characterization. In the end it’s again the same old pattern with Shuu being a jerk someone telling him he shouldn’t be such a jerk and then he simply tells everyone that yes, he was a jerk – and everything’s fine. It doesn’t lead anywhere. When Shuu tells Souta that he’s kind of a sociopath and adds indirectly that he likes Inori there’s no real development. It’s probably the dullest way of addressing character-development to let a character develop by simply learning to know what the script says regarding his characterization. The other problem with this whole character-development is Inori. I know from looking at a brick that some things have a hard time selling their personality but she should at least play a role, right? Two guys are in love with the same girl and this dramatic conflict is resolved with Inori playing no substantial role. You’d think she as object of admiration has something to say on the matter of Satou nearly confessing and Shuu interrupting with his own half-assed attempt but no. She doesn’t say anything. She truly show no character or personality whatsoever in this episode. Arnorld Schwarzenegger in Conan: The Barbarian had more personality and he had to face the challenge of speaking English worse than a Gorilla. Inori delivers non-substantial lines of dialogue without any emotion – in which crazy world would this be considered a character? Her characterization (or lack of one) destroys any sort of scene this series wants to create with her having a role in it because she can’t play a role! If you think back what Inori has contributed to this series you think of certain moments and realize that in the end she was just there and because of that other characters did this and that. But she never contributed anything herself. She isn’t even passive, she simply plays no role – or at least you could say she plays as much a role in this series as the existence of breathable air and gravity.
The story-related stuff was slightly interesting if only that Gai actually was outwitted by someone. Well, perhaps the other guy simply had better timing but what matters that the plot of this episode was surprisingly solid. Of course it is still a beach-episode because Guilty Crown apparently treats ‘being generic’ as a kind of religion. Therefore if you distract the amount of time needed for fanservice and awkward soap-oper Shuu-style then there’s not much time left for the serious stuff and that might be the reason why it was so solid. They actually had to concentrate on progressing things seriously without making any attempt of ridiculously screwing things up. Although there was a scene that seemed to be out-of-place and that was as Shuu, Gai and Inori entered the security facility using Souta’s Void and this soldier appears out of nowhere trying to shoot Shuu and Inori goes berserk (well, compared to her usual non-existing personality anyway) kind-of killing that dude (or not, she shot his helmet which did apparently no damage if one can believe the sound of the bullet’s impact). There are so many ways of having Inori showing more interest in Shuu but this weird scene came out-of-nowhere, ended as fast as it began and left me simply confused what it actually meant to say. First, I’ve thought it wanted to introduce the fact that the soldiers have discovered them but the whole thing with soldiers appearing ended there. But then I thought of what it might mean that Inori tries to save Shuu but well, it’s not very convincing. I mean, of course, when a soldier appears seeing three guys who he wants to shoot and Inori thinks about protecting Shuu first then you know what her priorities are. In the end it’s simply not very well done. And that applies to the whole episode even though it’s one of the most solid of this series until now.
Guilty Crown sure loves being generic but I guess it’s a pretty okay beach-episode since it doesn’t go too far with its silliness and it’s nicely integrated into the story. The story is also quite solid in this episode but the seventh episode showed that it’s best when it’s just stupid fun. Being serious and gloomy worked in this episode because Shuu being a jerk (again) and fanservice took up most of the time. But I fear that if the series begins to ponder about its story the awful script-writing will manage to drag down the series again to its abysmal levels it has shown in some of the previous episodes.