As the city falls to quarantine, the survivors find a new way to live until the end comes.
What They Say:
Shu’s desperate quest to save Inori from the mysterious spectre known as Death sends him hurtling through a horrifying flashback. Glimpses of the boy he once was combine with fragments of painful memories to hint at the harrowing origins of the Apocalypse Virus.
Meanwhile, nefarious GHQ agents seek to incite chaos by turning the frightened band of young rebels against each other. Division in the ranks – and the shocking death of a dear friend – pushes Shu to the brink of madness, exposing Inori and everyone he loves to an eerily familiar enemy. As the terrifying truth about the power of the King’s Right Hand emerges, Shu and his comrades must place their faith in one another – and fight for the future of their world!
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 nine on the first and two 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.
The packaging for the second part of the release is more traditional, though with the discs involved it does have a bit of heft to the package. The slightly thicker than usual Blu-ray case comes with an O-card slipcover that mirrors what we get on the main cover itself. The front is a dark piece with lots of grays and silvers in the background that allows the main image of Inori, all trussed up in an iconic moment from the show and its opening sequence, hange there in her all black outfit with an odd expression that’s hard to decipher. THe logo is done vertically along the left with a clear listing of the collection and episodes included. The back cover works with a mostly black cover with a few shades of purple mixed in and we get a decent breakdown of shots from the show along the left while the right has the talents involved and the premise of this half of the series. The extras are listed in a purple on black font that’s a bit hard to read – why make your selling points difficult to discern? – but the technical grid lays everything out clearly for both formats in an easy to read way. Though there isn’t any inserts or books with this release compared to the first part, we do get artwork on the reverse side that’s really nice with Tsugumi and Ayase together in their Endlave along the right while the left panel has a largely white piece with the logo and episodes by number and title that comprise this set.
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 extras for this release are similar to what we got on the first collection with an addition that definitely adds to the overall value of the series. The familiar is here in that we get the clean opening and closing as well as the episode previews that were shown on the web for the remainder of the episodes here. We also get a few more of the four panel style comedy shorts which are once again adorable as it reworks the cast in this form. Add in a few commentary tracks from the English language production team on the first disc and you’ve got a very solid release. The release also brings in the digest version of the series, which runs for approximately two episodes worth, and that adds to the overall size of material on this volume. Watching this after finishing off the series is definitely hard since you just saw it all, but it should be an interesting thing to watch some time after watching it all to see how well it works.
Guilty Crown had won me over during its simulcast run for a number of reasons, but my interest in the home video releases stemmed from wanting to see if it would come together in a more coherent way when marathoned. Watching the first set was a real thrill ride in general as it hit a lot of good marks throughout and I felt that as much as I enjoyed the simulcast, I felt like the story connected far better during it. It’s not without its issues, and familiarity, but that’s something of a given when you have a production team that grew up watching Evangelion and wanted to strive for something in their own way when it comes to presenting a young male character that’s conflicted about whether to get involved in some serious issues in the world or to just hide away from it all and hope for the best. They certainly aren’t trying to make another Evangelion here, but it’s welcome to see someone strive to make something big and beautiful with some strong emotional tones covered across it all.
With this half of the season, Guilty Crown really works Shu over in an even more significant way. While there were wishy washy elements to him in the first half as he was thrown into so many difficult situations, this one makes it plain that he can’t just hide in the shadows. The opening of the set is full of conflagration as it deals with the events of Tokyo as it gets caught up in this new unleashing of the Apocalypse Virus which begins to consume much of it, but is staved off at the last minute through some sacrifices made by Gai and Shu. While it goes big and throws a lot at is, the end result that defines the rest of the season is one that works fantastically well for me because it introduces radical change into the series. With the outbreak in the city, the newly taken over government by Keido has opted to quarantine the city with massive walls and keep everyone inside until a solution can be found, or so he says. The end result is that we get a lot of concerned people and some serious tribes forming with our focus on the students staying at the school due to its general familiarity and safety.
What makes this work is that with the realization that they have to figure out their own path to safety at this point and to band together. That has some Lord of the Flies kind of moments going on here as there is a bit of a grapple for power with Arisa trying to maintain her role as student body president, but there’s a sense that she’s not equipped for this kind of situation. What shatters the illusion of trying to maintain normality is the incursion by Endlaves and a hunt for members of Funeral Parlor that are in there, which leads to Shu drawing out a Void in order to defeat them. Revealing him as who he is after a whole lot of drama over the situation causes a student revolt of sorts that forces Shu into a leadership position. Whereas before he didn’t know whether he should originally fight with the resistance, now he’s being given a lot more power and responsibility.
And that responsibility is crushing as the students learn about the Void power and what it means and how they all have it, which means he can access it. Some of the more ambitious students start figuring out how to cement their own position by coming up with a class/ranking system for how useful a Void power is, and forcing that on Shu in order to establish order and consistency within it. Shu’s resistance is naturally welcome to see, but there’s also this sense that it can be done, but has to be done right. Sadly, the loss of someone he felt close to because of the Virus has him closing himself off, which leads to him becoming a quiet tyrannical dictator within the zone as they work through ways to survive, cope and escape from the quarantine. All while events rage on the outside world as a lot of what’s going on is out the the hands of the students.
While we see a really brutal regime expose itself within what Shu operates, some of it he isn’t aware of at first either, the outside world goes through its changes because of Keido taking over and the resurfacing of Gai who has his own long term plan. I wish we had more of his formative background beyond a few key sentences, but his plan had been cloaked in Funeral Parlor and now he’s intent on essentially bringing about a Lost Christmas across the world, especially after so many other nations in the UN opted to eradicate Japan entirely and move forward with a lesson learned. I really wanted more of the global political/military aspect of it, but what we get here at least recognizes that it’s about more than just Japan as it barrels through the final confrontation where Shu, having learned about his true heritage and family, forces a fight in a simple but effective black and white battle against Gai with his own soul at stake. Shu’s changes throughout the series are really fun to watch and I loved that he did change, sometimes significantly, and ends in a very, very different place than he started. It’s not status quo here and that’s a big part of the appeal for me.
Guilty Crown is a series that I adored for its jumbled nature when viewed in weekly installments and is now one that I adore even more for the way its connective tissue is far more exposed and intriguing when viewed in marathon form. This second half is far more focused in a way as the majority of the cast is trapped and exposed and have to deal with a number of revelations and a shifting balance of power. Shu’s twists and turns emotionally are really quite fun to watch and seeing him grapple with power, loss and anger is thoroughly engaging. I like the big picture aspect of it all, the entire aspect of the Void and touching of hearts and the deeper involvement of how the students handle what’s thrown at them as loss is all around. FUNimation’s release of the series overall is exactly what I had hoped for with it and it delivered in spades, making this a series I’ll easily return to many times over the next few years to savor and enjoy. Highly recommended.
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, Digest Version
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.