Japan has fallen on hard times since a virus decimated the country. As such Japan is dependent on foreign aid, and a young man named Shu is convinced he should be doing more to than just studying. A chance encounter with Inori, and her subsequent capture, forces Shu to face his fears - this leads him down the rabbit hole from which there's no coming back.
He's absorbed into the anti-government society named Funeral Parlour, headed by a mysterious young man and backed by some heavy firepower. Shu becomes gifted and able to access the Void, a soul-powered artefact contained in every human being under 17. These Void's take the form of objects, which can be anything from weapons to ornate objects. Inari's Void is a powerful sword, and together they form a formidable fighting team.
Guilty Crown has one of the most beautiful openings of any anime I've seen since Madoka. Amidst a glittering Tokyo skyline, a young man watches a video of a girl singing, covered in crow feathers. Meanwhile, across the city a mysterious young girl is on the run with an item that has attracted some heavily armed attention. It's a beautiful scene, ably directed and utterly arresting.
Guilty Crown is a visually rich experience. The character designs are striking, with lovingly detailed backgrounds all animated with a flare and panache that's among the best I've seen in recent years. Production I.G. show why they're the go-to studio for action series - if Ghost in the Shell raised the bar, this goes even further.
The music also deserves special mention - it's a feast. The mysterious Guy makes an entrance Aerosmith would envy, complete with wailing guitars, stage lights and a balletic fight scene. He's basically awesome. Like a cross between Farscape and Yoko Kanno's finest. The series rightfully deserves its Blu Ray release - play it on a large screen, with the volume up. Michael Bay would approve. For a more in-depth look at the musical side of Guilty Crown, check out Paul Browne's article on the Manga Entertainment website.
Guilty Crown isn't terribly original; the disabled girl pairing Avatar like with her mech, the Gundam 00 terrorist bent and, most notably, Code Geass, which it rips off wholesale. However, it does mix its inspirations with a deft brush. Thanks to the action-packed direction you don't have time to notice that you may have seen it before somewhere.
It also helps that the series has a healthy sense of humour. Shu's Void training (in which he pulls out objects from fellow students) is a delight. The moments of levity peppered throughout the series certainly helps to humanise the characters.
The pacing is also spot-on. Each episode ends on a perfect cliff-hanger, and the "just one more" vibe is on par with Gundam SEED, and coming from one of the biggest SEED fans ever, trust me that's quite the compliment.
The fan service (particularly with Maya and Tsugumi, who work as mech pilot and computer backup respectively) can be a bit distracting. If you don't mind pert and bouncy girls jiggling across the screen, you'll be happy here of course. Maya's cyber catgirl costume is particularly cute, and you can't argue with Inari's dress either. It's an inspired piece of design.
We were sent the DVD to review, so can't comment on the sharpness of the Blu-Ray release. However, the DVD is nice and sharp, the colours really pop and the sound is strong. Speaking of which, the English dub is pretty good, with a range of distinctive and suitable voices.
So would I recommend Guilty Crown? Without hesitation. It's a series that really showcases what anime can do. It sounds amazing, looks stunning and ties it all together with an intriguing and well-paced plot. Grab it.