Shu is moments too late to save Inori, and the newly awakened Mana’s dance begins the fourth apocalypse, as countless people around the world become consumed by crystal. Using his friends’ voids, Shu duels with Gai, but is disarmed and struck down. Just when all hope is lost, Inori calls to him from a crystal flower, and he draws her back out. Her song dissolves the crystal all over the world.
As GHQ headquarters collapses around them, Shu stabs Gai, and the two cross over to the Naath Utopia, which lies beyond the apocalypse. Gai tells him the only way for Mana to be put to rest is by letting her finish her role. Shu returns to the real world, where Inori is almost totally encased with crystal, and eventually disintigrates. Together, theyabsorb the last remnants of the apocalypse virus. Years later, the world is back to normal, Shu survived, and he still pines for his lost love.
Well, it was quite a ride, but all things must end, and end Guilty Crown did. It wasn’t the best ending ever but at least we pretty much knew what was going on, and no last-minute twists or contrivances came out of left field. There was naturally the final boss battle, where Gai who claimed Mana while Shu dug down deep and called upon the power of Inori. Gai was redeemed, as he says in the end he did what he did hoping Shu would come stop him, and he did.
We really dug the new music saved for this finale, including a pretty badass remix of the first ending theme. But we do feel ourselves hard-pressed to offer more than faint praise for this last episode. To be perfectly honest, the trio of sci-fi shows that came around in January (Aquarion, Moretsu and Lagrange) have caused our interest in Guilty Crown to wane. In that sense, it’s a good thing the series is over.
UN launches a massive assault on GHQ, but Gai emerges and destroys the force with a single devastating attack. The Undertakers take advantage of the distraction to infiltrate the building, led by Shu using everyone’s voids as he goes. When they reach Central Command they are blocked by Yuu of Naath, who isolates Shu and duels him. Shu wins, but is a moment too late to save Inori, who Gai has had enclosed in crystal to be reborn as Mana, his Eve.
That was a mighty fine penultimate episode. It employed an enthralling “infiltrating the final dungeon” setpiece, complete with a nasty-ass boss in Yuu, who sacrifices minions for void weapons like we usually eat popcorn chicken – rapidly and without mercy. Finally, it just about finished explaining what the heck is going on. Yuu is a member of Naath (he says he is Naath), an organization that apparently chooses the next stage of evolution for humans. Inori is their Eve, it’s clear, but Adam was pretty much a stalemate between Shu and Gai until Yuu asks him a simple question: Will you press the reset button on the world?
Shu is, as Inori observes, “heartbreakingly human”, so much so that heals guys who aren’t even on his side. Eliminating the entire human population, including his friends and family, simply isn’t in his character. Killing Gai to save them all is, though, as he states in perhaps the most touching scene with Ayase yet – part goodbye, part acknowledgement of mutual affection. The stirring score really makes its presence felt and adds gravity to the proceedings. We’re feeling good about a coherent ending taking place, though we can’t speak to how derivative and/or contrived said ending will be.
Shu’s father, Kurosu, as Keido, Gai’s father, reminices about his rivalry with Kurosu. With both Shu’s classmates and Funeral Parlor remnants aboard the Kuhouin yacht, Haruka reminices about meeting Kurosu, after his first wife Saeko died giving birth to Shu. Their first child Mana (Inori) discovered the apocalypse crystals after a meteor hit. Kurosu worked alone in a lab, while Keido ran a ‘nursery’ where children like Gai were experimented on. Gai escaped and ended up meeting Mana and Shu. When Keido finds that Kurosu has solved the mysteries he couldn’t, he kills him out of jealosy. Back in the present, Shu and Funeral Parlor disembark for a face-off with Gai, but not before Shu makes up with Souta.
Lots of past covered this week. Lots and lots of technobabble too, unfortunately. Genome intron resonance blah blah blah it all sounds the same to us. What did manage to rise above all the science speak was finally learning about Kurosu, and how much Shu is like him. But as “Shu” means “group”, Kurosu didn’t intend for his son to walk through life alone. Shu’s friends refuse to take their voids back from him, even if his losing to Gai means their deaths along with his. Their fates are tied together, and he won’t have to fight this battle alone.
As for Keido, well, we only learn that he’s a despicable monster who ran human experiments on children. The episode really underplays his evil though, as even his sister Haruka doesn’t stop associating with him and even asks him if it’s okay if she marries Kurosu. Surely she knows what he’s up to, being a budding scientist herself. Finally, we’re meant to believe Mana and either Shu or Gai will comprise the Adam and Eve of the world that will follow the fourth apocalypse. We’re still not crystal clear about the pertinent parties’ motivations for starting the world anew; all we can ask is what will keep them from getting bored with that world as well? How many apocalypses is enough for these freakshows?
Haruka steals the last void genome ampule from the bowels of GHQ and heads to the Kuhouin manor, but her old friend Kurachi leads her to an office where remnants of Funeral Parlor are holed up. Segai infiltrates the office and Ogumo is killed protecting Haruka, who is swept away by Argo to another hideout. There, Ayase volunteers to inject herself with the genome, but Segai shows up before she can. The ampoule trades hands a couple times before rolling away and into the hands of Shu, who injects it, forms a new right hand, and defeats Segai, absorbing Tamadate’s cancer in the process. He vows to bear all of the virus, and all the bad will with it.
We now have ourselves two kings: “Unsightly Idol” Gai, and the re-crowned runt Shu. Gai’s goals remain somewhat hazy; but Shu’s job is clear: get Gai; end the suffering of his people. The manner in which he got that crown back is not without many moments of incredible luck and circumstance, and his ultimately victorious battle strained credulity at other moments, but we’ll cut the series some slack; it’s almost the endgame, and as Segai says, this isn’t the time to hold back (though he wasn’t talking about logic). But yeah, Segai’s dead now. We won’t miss him that much, he’d become another fairly bland military sadist.
It’s just as well Shu arrived on the scene when and where he did; Ayase was on the ground and about to be killed by Segai (who had plenty of time to do so but didn’t) and even if she’d retrieved the ampoule, there’s no guarantee her body wouldn’t instantly reject it and kill her anyway. Shu’s not-mother insists that if he takes it again he won’t survive, and she turns out to be right about whether he’ll die. She didn’t say when, though. Perhaps he’ll live long enough to save the world, sacrificing himself in the process, and at least in his mind, atoning for all the sins he feels guilty for.
After taking Shu’s power, a newly-crowned Gai uses Nanba and other students to form a combination void that blocks the UN bombing and destroys the bomber. After destroying a carrier strike group, he warns the world to cease all miilitary operations and essentially await further orders. Inori sneaks off and tends to Shu, and they squat in a half-destroyed planetarium. After multiple violent outbursts, Inori realizes the monster within her cannot be controlled. Remembering Shu’s words, she decides to “be herself” and take on Gai’s forces in her berzerk mode. However, Gai uses a void to capture her.
They took his normality, they took his girl, they took his arm, they took his powers and his kingdom…and now they take his other girl. But it looks like it’s going to stop there, because for one, Shu doesn’t have anything else, and for another, his last look was full of resolve. He’s going to go get her back. Right? Otherwise, this was an episode in which Arisa kills her grandfather (who came to kill her for her betrayal, but stayed his sword), Nanba and his minions are thankfully wiped out, Inori wastes a gang of would-be rapists, Daryl Yan disobeys orders, and a stealth bomber gets blowed up real good.
What have we got, four episodes left? That sounds about right. Shu, outta stuff to lose; Inori, losing what humanity she had, Gai, back and on the wrong side and threatening the entire world, the remnants of the Undertakers/Funeral Parlor lost and and seemingly aimless, and a totally wrecked Tokyo (remember how they knocked over the tower last week?). So we’re definitely getting near the end here. What end that will be we have no idea, but we’re enjoying the ride.
Plane Cameo: It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s…yes, it’s a plane. a B-2 Spirit!
As Shu prepares the school for “Exodus”, in which they’ll escape from quarantine, his oppressed subjects are starting to resent his rule. This is exacerbated by Arisa and Nanba spreading the rumor that you’ll die if your void is destroyed. After being attacked by Inori, Arisa is planning a coup d’etat. The operation begins and goes off without a hitch, but when it’s over and the students can escape, Arisa strikes, with many students on her side. A Gai resurrected by GHQ arrives and slices of Shu’s right arm with Inori’s void, taking his power. The UN approves a resolution to “eliminate Japan”.
Wow. Damn. That kingdom didn’t last long. With five whole episodes left, the story is moving alarmingly fast. Shu started the episode with everything and ended with nothing. Well, that first part isn’t quite right. At the start, Shu had become fairly comfortable with his role as reluctant tyrant in order to shape the school into a fighting force. But at great cost: Ayase and Tsugumi are alienated, he impulsively discards Yahiro, and even Arisa, who he once could have counted as a friend, is the leader of the successful revolt against him. Inori stays by his side, but she’s a loose cannon, acting alone when she assaulted Arisa, an act that only made matters worse.
What’s so distressing about all this is that Exodus was a success. Shu did what he set out to do and freed the people. Would they have performed as well had he exercised a gentler hand? Would they have (A)risen up against him regardless? We’ll never know, but that’s the least of Shu’s problems: he’s lost his arm, and with it his King’s power. He’s just a kid again. And just to pile on the peril, the entire country itself is about to be bombed by the UN – apparently to stop the spread of the apocalypse virus. Things are bad – and we can’t see how they’ll get better just now.
Nitpick: Wouldn’t the Tokyo Tower falling create, an enormous shockwave/dust cloud that would envelop/consume Shu’s whole army, considering they’re all gathered around it’s base?
Mr. Kuhouin sends Argo to Tokyo to retrieve his daughter for an arranged marriage in exchange for diplomatic favor. When Argo touches down, he finds a dire situation in which Shu has adopted Yahiro’s ranking system and the entire student body has fallen in line. It’s a highly regimented operation in which the weak are discriminated against due to shortages of food and medicine. Shu has Argo detained, but when he escapes and tries to make off with Arisa, Shu confronts him with a member of his secret service. In the fight, a ceiling beam falls on her void, killing her – something Shu didn’t know could happen. Back at GHQ, Shu’s mother is helping Segai awaken somebody…
Wow, talk about a quick turnaround. We knew there would be big changes once Shu decided he wasn’t going to dick around anymore, but what we have here goes beyond a tight ship. His New Order is an authoritarian regime that draws its power from fear: both the fear of Shu’s void power and the fear of Shu, their last hope, being infected. So the weak like Souma are marginalized (with Shu even ready to let him die in a scene of heartless micromanaging) while those with strong voids get preferential treatment and are invited into the elite secret service. We like how the episode introduced a new Rank A character just to kill her in the end, not only to show us that even the strong aren’t safe, but to expose Yahiro’s lies to Shu, even if it may too late.
As for Inori, well…it seems she made a choice right beside Shu; the choice to put her conscience aside to serve her king. Tsugami is basically going with the flow, and Ayase is just flat-out disgusted with what Shu’s become (he tells her he’s glad they were alone when she slapped him so he didn’t have to “reprimand” her) , as is Argo (the best line of the episode adds some levity to all the dread: “We really liked that ‘pale-faced weakling strugglin’ for all he’s got’ thing you had going, you know!”). But as Shu says to Argo when he’s got a knife to his throat: let’s see you try to keep this mob together and keep them safe with no resources. It’s a thankless job, really. Is Shu expressing the archetypal excuses of the tyrant, or are his sacrifices justified to ensure at least some of his kingdom survives what’s coming?
As the red line draws nearer to the school, food and vaccine supplies are dwindling. Shu, now president, doesn’t want to use the void ranking system Yahiro devised, but he realizes he may not have a choice. Some low-ranked students including Souta get ahold of the ranking, and trick Shu into releasing their voids. Rather than practice, they head out to find more vaccines, but are intercepted by Antibody gunships and endlaves. Shu and Hare head out to help them, but both are seriously injured when Souta makes Hare try to fix a car, which Daryl Yan blows up. Hare heals Shu, at the cost of her own life. When he wakes up, she shatters in his arms. Consumed by fury, Shu uses Inori’s sword to destroy the Antibody attackers. After beating up Souta, he vows to purge his kindness and do what must be done.
This week the series didn’t hold anything back, putting Shu up against a wall. He has a clear choice between discriminating against the weaker students and surviving, or continuing to be kind to everyone and merely delaying the death of all, and the inevitable chaos when supplies run out. Taking over as class president was such a hopeful, optimistic moment, but this episode wasted no time bringing the reality of the situation to the forefront. Shu tried to stay on the fence, but in the end, his hand is forced by the tragic and surprising death of Hare, who was on the cusp of confessing her love to him when their last moment together was interrupted by the news Souta was going off to be a hero.
Hare has a powerful final episode, in which she’s nudged by Tsugami to confess, because there’s no telling what may happen tomorrow. She’s then her usual selfless self, doing all she can to heal the wounded in an extremely hazardous situation where she’s in the line of fire. Her final act of sacrifice to save her “kind king” is heartbreaking – there’s no words of goodbye- she’s dead before Shu wakes up. And when he does, cries of grief are stuck in his throat. Then, like a switch going off, the old kind Shu is gone. Kindness didn’t save Hare, and it won’t save his kingdom. The gloves are coming off. The dark side beckons…
With the school cut off from the rest of Tokyo and emotions running high, President Kuhouin struggles to keep order, leading to a vote of no confidence in her leadership from a rabblerouser named Nanba who is prepared to use force to grab power. Things get worse when the quarantine walls move inward, crushing and killing anything and anyone in their way. Chief Segai sends a message to the school that they’ll all be freed if they hand over members of the Undertakers. Nanba apprehends Ayase and Tsugumi, and Kuhouin loses control, but Shu, encouraged by Hare, stands up and calls for order. With the help of Tsugumi’s void, which can create holographic dopplegangers, Shu proves to Nanba and his followers that the government wouldn’t make good on the deal. Yahiro then calls for a vote, and Shu is elected the new school president.
Faced with the prospect of being locked behind walls that are closing in on them, and mass murder that even Daryl Yan finds distasteful, Shu & Co. find themselves in a desperate situation where calming the mob is key to their survival. Nanba and his ilk strike us as overproud bullies taking advantage of the situation to ingratiate themselves, but they aren’t pure evil or anything; they just want to survive like everyone else. This week was all about the school finding someone who can lead them. A big group like this needs direction, and ultimately, they choose someone who never asked for it but nevertheless possesses all the requisites for leadership. They crown Shu.
Since rescuing Inori, Shu has gotten far more tolerable as a character, and considering how many friends he’s made, he has no excuse to not rise to the potential his ability presents. This week he finally uses that power on Tsugumi, who has an extremely useful power. And Yahiro exhibits a change of heart about the guy who couldn’t save his brother, and eggs the student body to choose him. But it ain’t gonna be no picnic: Yahiro also proposes they start ranking people by how valuable their void is (on a scale of A to F; like school!), creating what is essentially a caste system to ensure King Shu has the most powerful voids at his disposal to deal with the threats that are coming. And they are coming. Chief Segai is a sick bastard.
After the “Second Lost Christmas” that killed Gai, the city center district known as Loop 7 is quarantined by GHQ, now led by former Major, now Chief Segai. Ayase and Tsugami join Shu and Inori as classmates. After two weeks separated from the rest of the city, nerves are starting to fray, so the school council led by Kuhouin decide to organize a cultural festival. It is crashed by rioters who were supplied with military equipment by Segai in disguise, but before they can hurt anyone, Shu uses his new power – drawing out a void so its owner can use it – on Ayase. Her void is a set of prosthetic legs which, combined with his Inori sword, take care of the baddies. But when the TV feed is restored, the other shoe drops: the GHQ is closing off Loop 7 for ten years, in hopes of eradicating the alleged apocalypse breakout there.
We were a bit weary when we heard the words “cultural festival”, but this turned out to be a very good aftermath episode, with lots of good Ayase characterization. There isn’t any way around it, practically speaking: Ayase needs technology in order to prove to herself and others that she’s useful. She blames herself for Gai’s death, and is lost without him or her endlave. Fortunately for her, she’s got a friend who can draw out her very convenient – but still poetic – void that enables her to move as she would within an endlave, only with her own body. Which, any way you look at it, must be an absolute thrill. The final action piece with her and Shu kicking ass and taking names was awesome.
Of course, this was just the eye of the storm. Shu, all his friends, and perhaps tens of thousands of people are now trapped within the confines of a few city blocks. Things were already starting to get chippy, what with bands of the strong starting to prey on the weak. That shit’s only going to get worse from here, unless Shu & Co. can either stop it or break down the walls that surround them. There’s also this interesting dynamic with Segai treating Loop 7 like some kind of zoo or lab; no doubt he isn’t just going to leave Shu and his powers alone. Things may have gone from bad to okay to bad again in a jiffy, but the good guys aren’t without means…or guts.
Anti Bodies Chief Koudou captures Inori with the goal of reawakening Mana, the entity that caused the first Lost Christmas. Koudou wants to bring about a second, remaking the world for him to rule. But he has to ‘marry her’ in a strange ceremony. With Gai and Ayase’s help, Shu remembers what he had forgotten: Inori/Mana was his big sister, and together they found Gai washed up on a beach and became good friends. When Mana touched the purple rock, she became infected by Mana, eventually leading to the Lost Christmas. Shu draws out Gai’s void – a gun that itself draws out voids, then uses Inori’s sword void to stab Mana, sacroficing Gai as well. Apocalypse averted.
Well, now, that certainly took a few twists and turns we were not expecting. Seriously, a whole lot of stuff came out of left field this week; much of which, as far as we know, wasn’t ever foreshadowed or touched upon in the previous eleven episodes. We knew there was something odd about Inori, but never suspected she was some kind of clone of Shu’s big sister. Of course, with this revelation, there are a few uncomfortable Luke+Leia moments, but chalk that up to his sis being under the influence of what is essentially a horny demigoddess.
As for Gai, well, we hardly knew ye…until your last episode. Turns out the reason Shu has been such a bland, wishy-washy character is because he repressed much of who he was, who Gai will say he emulated. “You can be me, like I was once you,” he says in his last moments. Shu used to be a take-charge, assertive dude, and can be again. So he takes charge, and saves the frikkin’ world in the deal. This episode wasn’t without its oddities (crystal eyeball monsters? Digital nuptual veils?), but we still enjoyed it; it was a pretty nice wrap-up to the Undertakers vs. Anti Bodies arc. So…what’s next? Where does the show go from here?
With the apocalypse virus running rampant across the city and the Undertakers pinned at GHQ headquarters, Shu is racked with guilt, but Hare and Tsugumi snap him out of it. He gathers his classmates together and gives them the skinny on how he can draw out voids, how he drew theirs out before, and how he needs their help to save the Undertakers, who gave him the chance to be “someone who matters.” They storm GHQ while Inori sings a song that cures the city, but when Shu reunites with her, a pocket in space opens and a mysterious person draws out her void and nearly kills him, but Gai takes the blow.
The finale to Guilty Crown’s first half pulls out all the stops, and we mean all of them: we were reminded of such epicness as Macross Frontier (the last series we watched in which a songstress played a vital role) and Evangelion (what with all the apocalyptic sky-scorching, big bad government officials, and mythic superweapons). All this goes to show that when push comes to shove, we’ve seen most everything that’s in this series; it’s shounen with a slick futuristic sheen. But just because it reminds us of stuff doesn’t mean we haven’t enjoyed just about every minute of it and are eager to see how the good ol’ cliffhanger is resolved.
Like any good stopping place, this week gave everyone some time, including all of Shu’s friends, and hell, he even confessed what he is and what he’s done to them. They took it well, and it was cool to involve them, although we somewhat doubt they’d survive being tossed around in that Humvee as much as they were. Shu’s grand to-the-rescue entrance, making use of all his friends’ voids, was particularly rousing, and even his mom lends a hand with the hacking! Shu has had a crown all this time, but he’s felt guilty about using it. But it looks like someone’s taking that crown, and he’ll have to stop that guy and save Inori.
Guilty Crown will conclude in mid-January 2012.
In the middle of an operation, Shu breaks down and runs away. He keeps getting flashes of Lost Christmas, and other disturbing hallucinations of people being consumed by the crystalline cancer. Ayase and Gai come to hear his final decision, which is to quit the Undertakers. Inori leaves his house, and he depends on Hare for companionship. His visions turn out to be precient, as Segai orchestrates an elaborate trap that corners the Undertakers and unleashes the Apocalypse Virus into the general public through sound waves, killing hundreds.
So yeah, as we expected, Ouma Shu does not take his part in Jun’s death lightly. In fact he does his best to channel Ikari Shinji, going AWOL and hiding out, held hostage by his own cowardice and self-pity. He totally takes advantage of Hare’s kindness, and even slaps Inori in the face, destroying a data chip with a new song she recorded for him. We’re talking primo little bitch here. But I don’t know what he expected was going to happen; when someone has powers such as his, they are expected to do great things. But with great things come great failures as well. Crushing failures. But one cannot sink into despair after one failure, or one defeat. Especially when you’re the underdog. You have to keep fighting.
He supposes he was trying to be like Gai; trying to win the heart of Inori; trying to be someone he wasn’t. But as Hare states unequivocally, the Shu he is now isn’t the Shu he was anyway. Running away from everyone and everything isn’t going to do him any good. His scene of eating a rice ball Inori made, alone, while crying, says it all. Yes, it sucks that Jun died. Yes, it was fucked up. But abandoning everyone when they need you most, and crawling up into a little ball of inconsolable angst, frankly sucks more. Segai and the Anti Bodies are now implimenting a fresh purge of innocent human life. The Undertakers are the only ones who stand in their way, and they’re screwed without Shu. Get your head in the game, man.