Category Archives: Guilty Crown

Life Beyond 8th Grade: Guilty Crown’s Gravest Sin, And a Movie with A Really Long Name

The blog title says it all. Let me break it down:

8th Grade is a reference to “chuu-ni” and in the context of Guilty Crown, that refers to chuunibyou. Chuunibyou, literally 8th grade disease, refers to a, well, trend (now) in regards to a certain kind of mentality that’s pervasive in pop media.

Guilty Crown’s gravest sin… well, that statement is a joke. I think it’s easy to talk down on the show, and not praise it for all the things it did right. FWIW I think it did a lot of stuff right–that’s why so many people watched it to the end. But I’ll leave the white knights and people who wants to thrash against an 8th grader to their work. I mean that’s my biggest issue with dismissing Guilty Crown, it’s like stealing candy from a kid.

Or at least, nobody I think has mentioned the problem I have with Guilty Crown. The problem I have with guilty crown can be summed up in a sentence: it’s a story about someone who struggles with chuunibyou, rather than a story about how cool it is to have your chuunibyou cake and eat it too. I think characters like Okarin, Ed, Leolouch and Light have deep, psychological issues. Shuu? He doesn’t. And as a result he ends up doing things in a way that’s not really fun to watch, and it comes out in the way the story has to write him into these preposterous situations that probably shouldn’t happen given who he is.

The natural reaction I had with this, when I realized this, was just why was Shuu so abnormal in this way? What thematic purpose does it serve? I think it’s in this sense that Guilty Crown is actually redeeming and likable. Well, likable if you have a thing for hating on chuunibyou (for example, hating on fans who take RailDex too far). Unfortunately a normal protagonist doesn’t work with this formula (Bandai/Sunrise formula?), just like how no matter how uplifting Soranowoto was or the interesting issues Fractale explored there are probably a truck load of naysayers and dissatisfied customers. Which is, I guess, just another season of TV anime in the bank and life goes on, etc.

The movie with the really long name is actually billed by its sub-title: The Children Who Chase Lost Voices from Deep Below. I wanted to rewrite this post in order to open with “In order to say goodbye to Guilty Crown I went on a journey to NYC” and catch the last screening of it at the NYCIFF, but that sounded too corny. Anyway it’s great to see that film on a big, proper screen. Let’s just say that unless you got some pimp TV setup, your Blu-ray or Blu-ray rip of it will not do it justice. It is just gorgeous to see it the second time, now that I can dispense with paying attention to the stuff in the film that I already know, and instead focus my attention to the animation.

The story of the movie also comes into the clear better the second time around, at least I guess I kind of figured it out before I watch it the second time, and seeing it the second time affirms what I was thinking about. But then it struck me while I was watching Asuna saying goodbye to Shun–she is not only saying goodbye to a stranger she barely knew, but to a part of her youth. Given that she is the Ghibli-esqe protagonist in a Ghibli-esqe film, it’s kind of ironic that she would go on an adventure in order to say goodbye to her version of Howl or Porco or Pazu or whoever. It’s like she is bidding her to-be chuunibyou life, bidding her once-in-a-lifetime adventure goodbye…by going on a once-in-a-lifetime adventure. And naturally, the adventure she went on is a forbidden one.

I heartily support this message. I also heartily support this film. But like I said earlier about Soranowoto or Fractale or, heh, Guilty Crown, I don’t know, man. Do you like Children Who Chase Lost Voices from Deep Below? Will it sell? Can you eat it?

PS. During the screening of Hoshi o Ou Kodomo, I still felt like as if I was watching “Char and Squid Girl go on an underground adventure.” I guess nothing can cure this.


What Ends Well

Anime and ending is a tough topic, because in order to talk about it to people who speak English you have to first talk about eastern and western storytelling modes, just in case. But I can talk about something about endings that ought to be universal–or rather, the opposite of judging a book by the cover: judging a book by almost the entire thing except the very, very end.

I think there are a lot of wasted ink spilled on why it is okay to justify crapping on a show with only the first, second or all three of the first three episodes. To be honest I don’t care; fact remains you are making a call with just (at most) three episodes, and I’m hoping your wager is equally tempered with how you’re rolling your odds against the other 9 or whatever episodes that you haven’t seen yet. That’s not my business, anyway. However I think the equal if not much stronger argument can be made with the last, next-to-last, or three episodes from the end (or any 1-3 episodes in the middle, for that matter). Some shows, rather, really need to end on a strong note in order to have a shot at being “good.” I’m thinking we have at least a couple this season, for various reasons.

Take Another for starters. [I totally picked it first so I can avoid making another pun.] It is more or less a classic Hollywood-styled and paced horror anime. It’s also the kind of horror anime that wants to play the entire spectrum of happy and sad scares. Its final-destination-esqe deaths are one of the biggest booms. I can’t help but to compare it with Angel Beats. I think all the Angel Beats naysayers would have had a great time if the cast in that show actually died in those comedic ways. Too bad they were already dead.

Anyway. I think a show like Another really, really needs to end on a strong note. It’s that sort of poetic/thematic redemption that can make or break a show where it bankais on all the emotional chips it built up over the season. So it had to end well. Or else all that emotional ride comes crashing down, and people will leave the theater with a bad impression. I’d say it’s because this precise thing that made Shiki at all a bearable show (I didn’t think it was very good, except for the climax and the end), so I have high hopes, given how it’s written by the woman’s husband.

The other big one riding on the end is Lagrange ~ The Flower of Rin-ne. Technically Lag-Rin (or Kamojo or w/e) is a Fate/Zero-style hack–it is doing just the first half this season and I’m assuming it’ll get a break and resume in the summer. But for people to care about this show, it has to go all-in with this ending. This week’s build-up was beyond expectation in terms of quality, so hopefully we’ll go into the break with some positive feeling about this show, despite how it really tried to squander all that good will by its lackadaisical character development.

Not as dire as the previous two, but the romantic throwback Ano Natsu de Matteru also needs a very strong ending. The biggest reason why would be that it already has expended most of its chips; it may be safe to say the emotional climax has come and gone. What remains is largely people’s expired expectations. If it were to merely meet these low hanging fruits it would have made the show unremarkable on its own. But given how people lowered those expectations it is precisely the time to strike. It would be easy to surprise us with something clever when we’re least expecting it. I think a car chase is a good beginning to the end! Actually, given how close Natsumachi is to filmmaking in general, I’m not going to be surprised if it makes a real push at the end. It would be a pleasant thing.

Among these, however, the show that really, really needs a good ending is Guilty Crown. It hasn’t quite lost the audience it picked up from the very beginning, but it’s beginning to thin. We’ve had a good run of the show as a joke but if it can’t cap the dramatic climatic turns that this high-energy, high-budget formula has typically provided in times past, it will soon be forgotten. Maybe it’ll get as much creds as Star Driver?

As for what I’m watching…that might be it. Or at least I’ve come to expect these handful, for better or worse. I guess if a show is really dire I probably wouldn’t think a great ending could do much for it, so maybe there is something to be said about that.

Year in Review: N-Listing

So, the tradition continues. 12 lists of 12 things. Some are ranked, others are not. One this year is not ranked but merely numerated.

Continue reading

On noitaminA, Again

Farming twitter is easy picking, especially when someone already collected the tweets. Take this snippet, originated from an interview of three key dudes behind Guilty Crown.  (So pardon the twice-in-a-row.)

I think this is indicative of how derailed how a few vocal types on the internet think what “mainstream” entertainment is. I mean, when I think about it, I think things like Michael Jackson, Transformer 3 or Donald Duck. I certainly don’t think Guilty Crown panders to the male otaku niche–that’s the same as saying action-fighting-violent Hollywood SFX in the likes of Avatar or Transformers panders to the minority otaku crowd. I think those words do not mean what some people (namely, this guy) think it means.

The twitter conversation went on from there, lots of people talked about certain things about noitaminA and the various shows from it. It’s not really important unless you do marketing and licensing for noitaminA, because I feel for those of us overseas who recognizes the name, that’s somewhat representative as to how we feel about the “brand.” But I wouldn’t trust it much further than I can throw it.

Unfortunately it isn’t typically possible for the average consumer to “reverse engineer” the brand’s image (especially when it’s projected without any direction from the original owners of the brand) and figure out what the business decisions are, when we’re talking about a multi-faceted franchising effort. Especially when it isn’t even in the same language. I mean I don’t even know if people know what the business decisions actually are, yet people are just shooting at it. [And I don’t mean it in a negative way per se: You go armchair anime producer, don’t ever let ignorance stop you from being creative.]

And I think likening Guilty Crown to Code Geass is also partly because in both cases, the producers were trying to attract the same kind of audience. I mean after all there are lots of girls who like Code Geass, I’d think. More than, say, Trapeze probably. So who am I to criticize? Well, maybe only at the fact that noitaminA is a crazy, 2am time slot kind of deal.

If you don’t believe me about the girls-liking-crap-like-this bit (if we can even consider that there are people at all who likes Guilty Crown; certain nobody admits to liking it), let’s not forget: Something like 35% of people who watch K-ON in Japan are actually girls. Is it pandering to otaku? I think it does–but it does also so, so much more. I mean, I’m going to have a :V face towards anyone who called it a moeblob show and left it at that. But since so many did, it just highlights the fact it is really hard to guess these things unless you’ve got the right context. (Or perhaps just as important in the noitaminA discussion: 30% or more of Kuroshitsuji 2’s viewers are male!) I mean there are probably more girls than guys reading Shounen Jump, a magazine clearly pandering to guys. (That one is a guess.)

And who knows, maybe K-ON is the answer, or at least it contains the start to it, a nugget of truth. Maybe noitaminA is known for things like Antique Bakeries or Houses of Five Leaves (to single out one creator on there that I dislike), but it just doesn’t pay. And who is to blame for that?

Reading the actual interview (Dave is in his usual form here), it all makes a lot of sense. They’re following a formula. It only further confuses me why people don’t understand what is happening here; this is hardly new territory. I suppose this can also be chalked up to another case of “catering to someone elses’s tastes = pandering” as per the usual otaku blogger parlor tricks for some people, but com’on man.

And whatever you do, don’t read the ANN forum thread for that topic. It’s even more stupid. Or perhaps the comparison to Transformer 3 is not too far off the course, in that it is a profitable and popular flick that got universally panned. And in that case it’s Mission Accomplished, no?

On Guilt, On Glorifying Needs in Popular Media

And by Popular Media I mean super niche late-night TV anime. Right.

But I do feel kind of guilty of doing:

  • Eating a bento while watching Ben-to.
  • Walking in circles while talking…and in general.
  • During an engaging discussion, suddenly think of OTPs (and the discussion has nothing to do with that topic).
  • Thinking the anime I watch is better than the anime you watch but I don’t watch.
  • Being confused about Horizon.
  • Thinking Haganai is actually funny.
    • Trying to get people to stop using “bokutomo” as a shorthand. This honestly made me feel kind of bad about myself, but please don’t.
  • Thinking Chihayafuru is more titillating than any anime this season. Maybe tied with Guilty Crown, maybe.
    • For that matter, thinking about the poor passengers on the train having to deal with two loud teenagers. Even during those touching-sobbing scenes.
  • Looking at a fanservice-y character’s boobs as the protagonist do the same, at the same time.
  • Being confused about the characterization of Fam.
    • Confusing Fam with Inga.
  • Seeing shows like Persona and Last Exile getting their dues, but not feeling really warmed up to them.
  • Making fun of Fractale.

Unfortunately, the list probably doesn’t stop there. What is actually unfortunate about that is I don’t even get a silly crown to go with!

Do I get it now? Was that bad enough?


I was going to talk about the nature of Ben-to and the underlying notion of glorifying those half-priced leftover dinner boxes that can be found in some Japanese supermarkets and convenient stores. But it isn’t something words can fully describe. Rather, I think during the coming-of-age of all healthy middle-class individuals, at some point you will experience something similar in person. And that is the tie that binds us to Ben-to as an intense, personal experience.

I mentioned it before, but Ben-to is an intense anime. It plays the jokes off intensely, and it is very much reminiscent of Air Master, which too had intense animation with intense jokes that don’t always make sense. (Only if Kanetomo-sensei will make an appearance!)

I think ultimately that intensity is magnified when the story can establish some kind of visceral connection with the viewer. For example, Initial D was able to do this with aplomb and those who can connect to its autocross and high school romance roots often find the experience rewarding and well-justified the silly animation production (at least in season 1). Ben-to does more or less the same, although it plays the competitive fighting aspect in a way that is probably most similarly described as some kind of pro wrestling thing. But unlike live acting, you can easily suspend your beliefs in an anime!

Perhaps also unlike pro wrestling, I think Ben-to carries a fundamentally sound and healthy message. Because it is with sincere gratitude that I thank and bless the hands that made my meals every morning and every evening (except mine I guess). This is the origin of giving thanks, regardless if you are Shinto or Catholic. I mean, yeah, food, water and oxygen, right? And I can talk about this because it is the central “joke” to Ben-to. It is almost like a self-suggestive way to hypnotize the way you taste food. And if that means my meals are more delicious and those who feed me are more blessed, why not?

So, to go back to the title of the post: I think there is something to be said when we create fun and enjoyable popular entertainment that help glorify the way we meet our needs. It’s like learning to cherish your janitor or dishwasher or some other forgotten, lower-class cog in the machine of modern, first-world society. They are a much harder sell than starving African children. They are burdened with political baggage. But they are no different than anyone, if we subscribe to the notion that all man are created equal. It’s easy to fish out all these semi-social/political messages from a show like Ben-to, and I believe that is where a particular sort dialog occurs under the current of popular culture. And sometimes it’s interesting to look into that.

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?)

Anime That Saves Anime

I think it’s a small exaggeration to say that this season is the season where anime saves anime. By that I mean while as an avid viewer like myself might find, at any given season, a good dose of TV anime that are worth the time watching, it’s rarely the case that I can pick up a show and recommend to the average anime-aware nerd who may even be keen on a few titles of their own. When such a show appears, those rare viewer types perk up to listen for it, and goes to fetch it.

I suppose part of this thinking came about because I have friends who may have liked certain thing (like Final Fantasy 7, for example) but would have otherwise find the offering slim pickings out of what anime output OTA to the tube in the last 10 years. It’s without any irony that I can offer Fate Zero or Guilty Crown to these guys. Okay, maybe with a sliver of irony.

The more interesting thing is shows like Hourou Musuko and Madoka Magica were pretty good, to pick something else in 2011, but they are much harder to access by those guys. It’s like the average video game/anime overlapping demographic of over the age of 28 or something tend not to lean in that direction. I am even wondering if Redline falls in that category (or not). But then again, 28 is pretty old for this stuff. The younger crowd would have had a better tolerance for a much more fancier chuunibyou material that didn’t have that backbone Steins;Gate demonstrated, or that sense of lighthearted adventure you can find in anime back in the 90s.

Is this why Kenichi is getting an OAV?

There’s just something, an intangible way that it makes you feel, that shows like Guilty Crown gives off. It’s like sinking your teeth into FF7 and spending your first few hours into that landmark game.

The thing is, despite the mind-blowing fabulousness that is Mawaru Penguindrum, I’m not so sure that even fits. Cute and funny penguins do go a long way to break down that barrier. It’s as if the show just wasn’t written for that oversea audience, though.

Which is to say, while I am much less critical of the new Last Exile than some, that intangible feel is definitely running thin in the pilot episode. Perhaps it’s just a case of nostalgia being less accurate of what it was, but it would be the first time I find Maaya Sakamoto not the most welcomed vocal in a show. I mean, great song, but it just doesn’t fit the show. That’s not to mention the way how the animation turned out.

TL;DR: Having boobs is great, but it’s how you use it that makes all the differences.