When Japan is under siege, one young man must make a choice whether to get involved or let it all flow by him.
What They Say:
Shu’s entire world was shattered after a meteorite crashed into Japan, unleashing the lethal Apocalypse Virus. The chaos and anarchy born of the outbreak cost Shu his family and reduced him to a timid, fearful shell of the boy he’d once been. His life took another unexpected turn after a chance encounter with the stunning pop star, Inori. This mysterious beauty introduced Shu to the King’s Right Hand: a genetic mutation that allows him to reach into hearts of mortals and turn them into weapons.
Shu finds himself caught in the crossfire between those who desperately seek his newfound strength. On one side lurks a clandestine government agency, and on the other, Inori and the spirited band of rebels known as Funeral Parlor. The choice is Shu’s to make – and the world is his to change.
Contains episodes 1-11.
This limited edition includes two 108-page full-color artbooks containing concept art, character designs, creator notes, and other exclusive illustrations.
The audio presentation for this release is quite good as we get the original Japanese language in stereo and the new English language adaptation in 5.1, both of which use the Dolby TrueHD lossless codec. THe series has a good mix of action and dialogue to it with lots of tense moments on both sides where the mixes work well to heighten the mood for each as appropriate. When the show works with just the dialogue, it has a lot of good moments since there are plenty of moody aspects to it and the placement is solid with some welcome depth at times as well. The action naturally ramps everything up several notches and combined with the music and the scale of events, it builds well and makes for a thoroughly engaging series overall in this regard. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we didn’t have any problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.
Originally airing in 2011 into 2012, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. The eleven episodes for this season are spread across two discs with seven on the first and four on the second, which also contains all of the extras. The visual design of the show is one that is incredibly rich looking and with a lot of vibrant colors throughout but it also has a darker and more moody feeling to it, working with a lot of sunsets and evening and night settings with only a few full daytime pieces. The end result is a show that has lots of dark areas that look good and a lot of very vibrant moments that stand out all the more because of it. The colors are rich and solid but there are areas where it gets to have a bit more noise that’s visible, often in the color of characters hair more than anything else. It’s a small distraction but it hits from time to time. We didn’t have any issues with aliasing or cross coloration and largely enjoyed the visual presentation here.
FUNimation has gone and made an oversized and meaningful limited edition release here that the price tag certainly justifies for the big fans of the series. The heavy chipboard box is meant to hold both seasons so there’s a spacer box inside in addition to all the extras. The box artwork is beautiful with the front having a great close-up of Shu and Inori together as he draws out her Void and it wraps around to the back where we get some nice colors and the full series logo itself. It’s a simple but effective looking box that has a slick look about it that keeps the show fresh looking. Inside the box we get the black and white spacer with a wraparound image of the various classmates that Shu has. The release also has two full color books included in it. The first one has a look at all the character designs and some conceptual location/setting artwork. It’s filled with all the various angles and some text about each of the characters with who they are. The second book provides even more looks at the conceptual designs for the cast with commentary on them and we get a number of full color pieces as well. There’s also a segment that goes into some of the key visuals that were released early on and examples of some of the CD jackets from within the show as well. Both books are thick and full of great things that definitely makes for a thoroughly engaging package.
The Blu-ray case inside is a bit thicker than the normal ones but not doubly so. The front has a beautiful if sad illustration of Inori in her full idol mode style outfit while the back has a mostly white background with the series logo and a breakdown of the episodes by number and title, though there’s no listing of the extras to be had here. The cover does have artwork on the reverse side which is laid out the same but uses Hare as its main illustration character which looks really well done here. Colors across the board are a bit more muted but it fits with the illustration style and each of the images simply looks appealing.
The menu design for this release works quite well for the show and it has some good design elements to it overall that eschews what most other releases have done lately. Laid out with a large strip through the center that has some good imagery of the characters from the series, it’s surrounded by darker gray pieces that fit the design of the series itself, giving it a strong technical feel and a real sense of coldness. The logo along the top adds to this feeling while underneath the imagery we get the basic navigation which is small but simple and easy to use with quick responses. The language menu is easy to use but since the languages are locked during playback, you can’t adjust subtitles here.
The release has some good extras to it that definitely make for some good additional viewing. The basics are naturally here as we get things like the original promotional videos, the clean opening and closing sequences and the US trailer that was created for the show. We also get the next episode previews, which I believe weren’t used during the actual broadcast, which has a nice play all feature associated with it. We also get a handful of fun little four panel theater bits from the Japanese releases that runs for about seven minutes overall. The release also features an interview at the 2011 New York Comic-Con that has some of the production side being interviewed about how they approached the show and what they wanted to do. IT runs about ten minutes and unfortunately includes more animation from the show than I care for rather than time with the creators. The release also brings us another pair of commentary tracks from the English side and they add a good bit of fun for the dub fans to check out.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
When you combine Production I.G. with noitaminA for a series, there’s going to be a lot of interest just from the production quality alone with the animation. Make it a slightly shorter run like the standard is for this block and it offers up the potential for a much tighter storyline in order to tell its tale. The series deals in a near future time some ten years after an event in Japan called the Apocalypse Virus hit. Because of the scale of it, they had to bring in a lot of outside help and resources, most which have stayed there in some form so the nation isn’t quite what it was, not as independent as it used to be in a way and that’s seeped into the national consciousness.
The series revolves around high school student Shu, who himself realizes that he lives a life in which he makes only “quasi-relationships” possible, much in the same way the nation works. There’s a disconnect in things that just don’t feel right to him in a way and stops him from feeling like he’s a part of things. When he heads into his favorite hideout in a ruined area, he discovers something surprising in the form of Inori, someone that he seemingly completely adores. But she’s wounded and kind of spaced out herself, which makes her easy to capture when the international forces arrive and bring her in since he’s deemed inconsequential. It’s a straightforward setup that hints at other things quickly and builds the basis of what this world is like.
Shu’s attempt to make up for his inaction comes in the form of transporting the small device that she left behind (which the military type guys completely overlooked, in a stupid plot point) by taking it where the directions want him to go. This eventually introduces him to the side she was trying to get to at the same time, called Funeral Parlor, that the other forces are looking for what he has by razing the entire area with their high tech slider mecha suits. While it does play to standard post-war kind of mentality here with the occupying forces in a way, it also goes in a more high tech and near supernatural angle right at the end with how Inori ends up surprisingly manipulating Shu in a way that begs for more information to be given.
What we discover is that Shu has been given the ability to draw out the heart of other people, to give their fears form, and to use that in grand ways. When it comes to Inori, he draws out a magnificent sword that allows him to do a great deal of damage. With others, there are recovery devices, unlocking mechanisms and more different types of things, including shields. When he draws these things out of them, they end up going unconscious until some time after he’s done using what he took from them. Because of this ability, which Funeral Parlor was after, he ends up being drawn into the group. A good part of that is through the presence and personality of its leader, Gai, a man who is doing what he can to shake off the yoke of the foreign powers that are controlling the destiny of Japan at this point in time. With the way so many people have become lost and listless over this, those that follow Gai have a lot of passion driving them, which is the problem for Shu since he’s not sure he can wake himself up enough to truly get involved.
The show works some fun into things as Gai ends up placing Inori into Shu’s life, having her live with him and go to school with him, while he starts to understand what Funeral Parlor is all about. There’s a lot of back and forth within Shu about how much he can do, whether he can fight or not, especially with what he has to do to others in order to fight. That brings in the guilt side of the series name since he’s one of three people with this ability at the moment and Gai is using him as a tool as best as he can. Politics figures into the show well as it goes on and we get to know the GHQ side that is basically controlling Japan a bit with the crazy personalities on the side of “good”, but there are a few of those on Funeral Parlor’s side as well. The first half of the series really spends its time doing a lot of establishing material with a range of characters and builds towards something that in the final episodes really does go big and sets the stage for something powerful as it goes into the next half of it.
When I watched this series during its simulcast run, the way it made such strange leaps at times and brought out so many story plot points, it felt like it was an improv show from week to week where they were really making it up as it went along. Seeing it in marathon form like this, Guilty Crown comes across in a much stronger way in terms of storytelling and what it wants to do. The cast is more realized, the subplots connect better and it’s admittedly easier to keep track of who is who when it rolls along like this. The four hours that makes up the first half of the series is a strong work that really impresses me time after time as I delve into it. The foundations are well established here and the series does it with some amazing animation and beautiful action sequences. The release brings all of that together into a beautiful package with a lot of extras – on disc and physical – that makes it very much worth investing it. This series was one of my absolute favorites for the way it felt so random and revisiting here only reinforces my love of it by seeing just how well connected all that random is when looking at the big picture.
Japanese DTS-HD MA 2.0 Language, English DTS-HD MA 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Commentary for Episodes 2 & 4, Guilty Crown 4-Panel Theater, Into the Void: The Creative Vision, Episode Previews, Textless Opening Songs, Textless Ending Songs, U.S. Trailer
Content Grade: A-
Audio Grade: A-
Video Grade: A-
Packaging Grade: A+
Menu Grade: B+
Extras Grade: B+
Released By: FUNimation
Release Date: August 27th, 2013
Running Time: 250 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation 3 via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.