A Certain Group-Thinking Hivemind

I don’t know what sort of complex or societal system that builds up the typical love-hate reaction on Guilty Crown. It’s kind of like the stereotypical complaints hurled at a show nobody likes because it hypes too much and panders too hard: generic, cliché characters with stereotypical and predictable waffing, with just enough angst and fanservice to tick all those check boxes. At least I haven’t heard a “designed by committee” complaint yet.

I really don’t think Guilty Crown has much if any of those things. It’s only problematic in conforming to what used to work for hit action anime and game titles. Well, what used to work may still work, I guess. I also thought if the first two episodes were taken wholly, it might had been significantly more enjoyable and more effective as a pilot episode.

To me, those complaints are what is truly cliché. The industrial nature of GC’s production is unavoidable and frankly, refreshingly obvious. We like shows like Ghost in the Shell, after all. We like those fancy costumes, showing us the gap between a man’s heart and a man’s desire. I think. Same with the writhing song bird showing equal parts skin and vocal prowess. Others have fancier words for it. That the show takes place between this weirdly hybrid world of underground terrorism and campus life, with a protagonist torn between the two worlds, is merely common and been-done. But that is not valid ground to single GC out for something anime has always been doing for the past 20+ years.

More pertinently, I believe the tepidly ill opinions towards Guilty Crown’s characterization and plot elements are not misguided, just misplaced or imprecise. It’s with that sense of irony in which I think there has to be a better, less-of-a-cliché way to state these complaints. Because then it can truly address that familiar and diverging emotion which makes shows like Gundam SEED Destiny best sellers, or why I watched Guilty Crown episodes 1 and 2 multiple times. More importantly, there are clearly things the show is doing right beyond the visuals, direction and music. As much as we may find the writing campy or been-done, there is still something to the characterization and the way the characters compose themselves which make it dramatic and interesting.

It’s sort of like how people grow out of Final Fantasy 7? What was amusing in 1997 is no longer in 2011; that is par for the course. But unlike Square’s blockbuster PlayStation game, Guilty Crown is fun to watch even by 2011 standards–to its credit, that’s proof enough that it has improved on the formula that has existed for over ten years, or at least since Code Geass. But for some reason I’m sitting here and wondering how many people probably tempered their enjoyment of the show because they would rather be less honest about their feeling as a result of this sort of cliche armchair criticism reflex. (And in the meta, how many people enjoy watching this tsundere reaction playing out?)

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11 responses to “A Certain Group-Thinking Hivemind

  • Emperor J

    Designed by committee would be accurate because it was literally designed by committee. I stopped watching early in episode 2. It just wasn’t to my taste and I felt it shouldn’t have to do some of what it did.

  • jpmeyer

    Yeah well you don’t understand the sekrit powers within my soul, mom! And my name’s not Kevin either! It’s Desu–that’s Japanese for “death” by the way, but YOU wouldn’t know that being a baka gaijin–Kazemori!

  • omo

    @Emperor J
    For something that is “designed by committee” it is quite good! And the ironic thing is if people were to complain that it is designed by committee (and I haven’t really seen this complaint), it would be at least somewhat reasonable. Although at this point I don’t really know if that term means the thing you think it means.

    @jp
    Don’t bankai on us yet!

  • 21stcenturydigitalboy

    I think this is the wrong show to say all this about. After all, everything that’s good about Guilty Crown is the part that’s awesome pandering. But it can’t be helped that the show just isn’t good. The bitching about it all gets mixed together, cliche maybe, but what else is there? The show is ungood in a very boring way.

    And yes I’m so sure that the show isn’t good, because I’m not blind to the past nor works like this. I’ve seen those older shows and played those older games, and I still like them. I’ve grown out of them, sure, but obviously like you’re finding something to rewatch these episodes for, the old things are still enjoyable. Or maybe actually I didn’t like the old ones either, because if I think about the way in which I don’t like this show, it’s a lot like the shows of its like that I dropped in years past.

    What’s the difference? A couple of clever tricks. First, that anime looks better now, pretty much no matter what. Second, that I’m more liable to give everything a chance. Maybe I’m just used to this kind of show not happening anymore, so I didn’t know to drop it before I watched three episodes and still found it totally boring. I dunno.

  • omo

    I think the pandering is not the only thing good about Guilty Crown. It is clearly the centerpiece of the experience for a lot of people, but besides the production value, I’m not convinced there’s nothing else good about it.

  • 21stcenturydigitalboy

    Then where’s the beef? What is it that’s making you enjoy this? You mention in the post that “there is still something to the characterization and the way the characters compose themselves which make it dramatic and interesting” but I find this the opposite of true, and exactly my problem with the show—the characters are not interesting in the slightest, and nothing that they do implies that they might become interesting later. Where can the lead go? He has no real motivation besides general lack of self-confidence which it’s plainly clear he’ll gain. All of the girls are just *there* and Gai is utterly boring. No one in the show has real screen presence, except for maybe the loli pilot. It takes very close to nothing to make me take interest in a character, which is why for me, having so many thrown at me over the course of three episodes and none of them sticking is grounds for dropping.

  • omo

    What is it that’s making you enjoy this?

    That is the question I am asking everyone.

    And it looks like you’re just kind of rephrasing what I’m saying and then answering that question for yourself. Which is what I want to see. Thanks!

  • Emperor J

    @omo

    I was really just reflecting on the fact that the Guilty Crown Production Committee, or whatever name they chose for it, would have had some input into which groups to pander to in order to make the most amount of money from advertisers and fans. This just seems like it has more hands involved in the characters than most.

  • omo

    The production committee is usually just a legal entity that controls all the rights to the show and pools the investors’ money. It’s not actually because there is a committee that inputs into the creative process. Tho nobody can say for sure what impact it has on the creative content.

    For anime, it’s almost always put together by some producers in terms of the various core creative team members, the source material, and the funds. Then the team work together to create the initial prototype stuff. The concept then gets pitched around and funds are solicited, etc, in the case of an anime original. For adaptations the concept is usually just the manga or novel or whatever, plus how/whatever the producer imagines the thing to work.

    But here’s the thing: GC is an anime original. If we take an adaptation of a novel or manga, the source material is already “full of pandering” if you think about it–a similar kind of committee work has to back the source material just as much. In manga’s case, it can get way more input via the role of the editor, especially if the mangaka is newbie.

  • Over and Over…

    [...] I came across this blog post by omo, where he spoke of, interestingly enough, “cliché complaints”. He tied this into Guilty [...]

  • ToastCrust

    I’ve been hard pressed to find a lot to enjoy about Guilty Crown (as fun as it was to watch the loli in a skin suit play a game and bump her butt into a floating window) but I’m kind of biased since I can’t claim the genre was ever one that I had an inclination towards.

    Code Geass for example, I was fairly confident about hating after the first episode, and my opinion hadn’t really improved until maybe episode 4 or 5, and what ultimately salvaged it for me was how ostentatious it could get along with the decently executed reversal where the protagonist is the motivated leader of terrorist activity (kind of lost its bite when they put too much effort into making Lelouch sympathetic though) and made the high-talented, high-power “middle line” of wanting change but disapproving of terrorist methods a primary antagonist. Well, it was good enough until they hammed it up season 2 and reversed a lot of the good things they had built, but that’s another story, haha.

    Similarly, with Rideback, I was utterly positive with the show right up until I found out it wouldn’t be about a girl who had lost direction in life finding a new passion and about an up and coming mecha motorcycle racer’s rise (or about her personal development in finding a new hobby and subsequent reconciliation with her loss). The political overtures of the occupation situation and the question of how appropriate the application of Mao’s protracted warfare is in the face of an oppressive, occupational regime just isn’t that interesting, at least for me.

    What probably saved Code Geass from a similar pothole was probably how asking that question was never actually central; Lelouch was already 100% sure of the necessity of his cutthroat measures from step one and the direction of the show highly favored his values for the most part. The confident, one-sided and unthoughtful decree on the oft-used theme relieved some of the tepidity of the formula, since minimal time was spent on it in favor of much more immediately entertaining things like carefully laid plans being blown up by some frustratingly plot-armored antagonist.

    With Guilty Crown, it’s been rough to find somewhere to anchor down on, though I’ve yet to watch ep 3 so that may be a source of change. I think I concur with the sentiment that the first two episodes could’ve been compressed into a single episode, or at least that might’ve better served engaging some people. Code Geass was actually paced almost identically through the first two episodes, I think, and it’s no coincidence that I thought CG was dreadful through its early episodes. So I’m far from passing judgement on GC at this point, at the very least.

    I do think the complaints about the fanservice and pandering et al are pretty tiresome though. I don’t think fanservice can ever really disturb a show trying to take itself seriously as long as it isn’t really frontal like a 3 second pantyshot accompanied by a KYA with bubbly background or detailed, on-screen fondling. Ass-up views of Kallen in cockpits certainly never hurt anyone.

    Ultimately, at a glance, the CG-GC comparisons seem easy to make, but at the heart of how they let things develop, it’s been pretty different thus far, though you could say that has more to do with the fact that Taniguchi’s schtick is consciously subverting common moral parables (such as in Gun X Sword, where revenge is central, and moralistic challenges of “revenge helps no one!” was the device of the villain and subsequently discredited as sophistry) than with GC consciously trying to differentiate itself, I’d assume.

    It’s a very blockbuster show. So while the early episodes I’ve met with an acute lack of enthusiasm, I think I’ll happily give it some time to show me if it has any sort of selfawareness that’ll make it witty and entertaining. Kind of like that dividing line that makes Die Hard so entertaining when compared with most action blockbusters despite a wealth of superficial similarities.

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