The end of Guilty Crown is here, managing to raise more questions than it answers and leaving many more unanswered besides. A rather rushed and surprisingly inconclusive episode ultimately leads us to a bittersweet, if not simply confusing ending. Fans of the show might be satisfied but to everyone else it is a disappointing end to a disappointing show, despite the promise the previous few episodes had shown.
Overall Episode 22 of Guilty Crown ends the show on a positive note in that the world is saved, however on a personal level it’s not so clear cut. One by one almost all of the antagonists meet their end, yet there is never really any sense of justice to it. The only ones who get killed are Kenji and Segai. Kenji is perhaps the most poorly explained character in the entire show and even his death makes little sense. Somehow Shibungi travels from the Funeral Parlour base, deep into the war torn GHQ centre, finds Kenji and kills him.
Meanwhile Segai doesn’t seem to even notice his death, only elated for he has died in the way that he wished. Like Segai, Shuichiro also dies on his own terms. Assuming the victory was theirs; Shuichiro turns himself into a crystal rather than die by his sister’s hand. Effectively he kills himself but he wins insofar as he was never brought to justice and ended the game on his terms. Then you have Gai who only died because that was part of his grand plan all along and Mana who isn’t so much defeated as spontaneously disintegrates for reasons never explained.
Thus you end with villains who either died completely on their own terms, didn’t care or even survived. Evil has won at almost every turn and is only thwarted by the evil of Gai who ultimately betrays all the other antagonists for his own cause. This is something that can both be applauded and criticised of the show. You have to give it some credit for not going into cliché territory with characters who beg to live or suddenly realise their mistakes. The antagonists are at least so convinced in their actions that even death doesn’t faze them.
Yet there is no real sense of victory, all the bad guys in their own ways win and this really wouldn’t be so noticeable if one of the worst antagonists, Daryl hadn’t survived. The guy gets off with absolutely no repercussions, a guy who refers to himself as ‘Daryl the Butcher’ who almost beat a grieving woman to death for having the audacity to touch him. There is the implication that he is now making amends because of the plea of friend, but there’s no real reason to believe it, or excuse every crime he has committed thus far.
There are a few things that don’t really make sense in this episode besides the issue of Daryl, which unfortunately overshadows the various emotional scenes that take place. First of all there is the logic behind the fourth apocalypse and the supposed next stage of human evolution. So behind everything was the Da’at, an organisation never explained that by all accounts might not even be human considering how little we know of them. The Da’at feel, for no apparent reason it’s time to evolve into a crystal state of being, a collective consciousness of shared memories. We get a glimpse of this and it really just raises the question of if everyone is crystal then who built everything?
Gai is mortal so would die naturally, however Mana is immortal unless she fulfils her role, suggesting that she dies naturally when her purpose is complete. Thus you have a planet of crystals that can’t do anything, sure they share memories and there is no good or bad but it can’t do anything beyond simply existing. The only new memories this mass will have is it’s day by day existence until the Da’at or whoever is behind them decide it’s time for the fifth apocalypse.
Then there’s Gai’s plan. After failing the first time Gai surmises (somehow) that the only way to kill Mana is to let her fulfil her purpose first. As he explains to Shu, the Da’at and the will of natural selection won’t allow her to die. I.e. she’s immortal and the Da’at want her to fulfil her purpose at all costs.
Thus Gai’s plan was to let Mana play her part and then have Shu kill them, thus saving Mana. So Gai became evil and caused millions to die to save a girl and he still failed. From what I understand there is no way to stop Mana, you obviously can’t let her play out her role but even if you manage to kill her she will still exist as long as the virus does. So despite coming up with this theory in the first place Gai didn’t realise his plan was flawed from the outset. If Shu is able to kill them then Mana has failed and thus Mana will continue to exist until resurrected by the Da’at. So the only way to free Mana is to cause the extinction of the human race. However Shu managed to stop that so we’re essentially back to the first point of Mana being immortal and the Da’at still very much existing with their agenda, albeit in a likely reduced capacity.
In the end Shu only wins because Gai planned it so, Gai was always more powerful than Shu and if Gai had realised the inherent flaws of his plan he could have simply killed Shu and be done with it, especially with the combat abilities of Mana at his side. So really Shu has only postponed the apocalypse, yet no one knows because Shu hasn’t told them this crucial bit of information. With the Da’at in no way destroyed and Mana still not truly dead it feels like we’re back to square one rather than some epic victory. Especially in the fact everyone mistakenly thinks it’s a final victory and it doesn’t seem like Shu is going to tell them otherwise.
As Shu begins to absorb the virus and Voids from around the world, the show basically tells us that Shu is a hero, with Yahiro’s line of: ‘Shu! Are you going to become the new saviour!?’ Well no, not intentionally, he isn’t quite the second coming of Christ that the show wants you to believe. He does it to save humanity as an afterthought; he does it because he knows from experience if he absorbs enough of the virus it’s going to kill him. For some reason this involves absorbing people’s Voids as well, Voids are a person’s heart and when they are destroyed the person is likewise. Thus it’s quite surprising when the crystals coating Shu shatter and millions of teenagers are still fine. Why was Shu absorbing Voids? If Shu now has millions of Voids within him does that mean when he dies, however and whenever that might be, a few million people are going to die as well?
So Shu’s sacrifice doesn’t mean anything, though one should be hesitant to even call it that seeing how he was simply committing suicide by heroism. However Shu has without knowing it saved the world, for about a short time at least. Mana still exists and so do the Da’at who would love a second shot, but Mana can’t exist without the king. However if the king has no Voids to draw upon then Mana can’t fulfil her function perhaps. So by absorbing everyone’s Voids Shu has put off the apocalypse for 17 years (though if Voids can be taken from under 17s then even fewer). That’s plenty of time for the Da’at to realise this and plan ahead to try and create a ‘utopia’ once more.
Added to this is perhaps the most obvious plot hole of the entire series. Shu has been shown to be absorbing the infection of all his friends and growing more infected because of it. There is no reason at all (no reason explained at least) why he couldn’t have simply saved Inori by taking her infection. The thought doesn’t cross his mind yet it seems the most obvious thing to do. For a show that tries to be about love surely the best ending, not to mention one that makes the most sense is Shu absorbing Inori’s infection and everyone else’s thus dying to save his love. This would even fit into the plot of the episode itself as Inori could then take the infection from him, dying to save him as it plays out in the episode itself.
Following on from this is really the question of why Inori was infected and blind in the first place. Perhaps it was because she stopped Mana’s dance that she absorbed the virus from Mana in her death throes, though that doesn’t explain the blindness. Then later in the epilogue it turns out Shu is blind as well. You can try and rationalise this by stating he took Inori’s blindness yet he took a few million Voids and crystals as well, so you’d expect him to have a few more ailments besides blindness if that were the case. So in other words it comes out of nowhere and makes no sense, existing for reasons that seem little more than poetic i.e. he is blind to everything but Inori/all he can see is his love.
The episode is big on emotion and drama, yet as well executed as most of these scenes are they are let down by the lack of explanation regarding them. For example when Inori appears, infected and blind it’s truly heart wrenching. But there is no reason behind it, she simply appears like that and it takes away the impact of the moment if you’re questioning why it takes place. In the same way, when Ayase begins to lose against Daryl and is slammed against the wall, any possible sense of suspense is undercut by anime boob physics. The emotions of the scenes are convincing, always complimented by an excellent score yet their weight is lost due to these easily avoidable problems, problems that have plagued Guilty Crown throughout its run. Problems most prominent now in the fact you know, for example that no more explanations are coming despite the many questions you might still have.
The show pulled out all the stops for its finale with a multitude of fantastic tracks supporting the dazzling animation. The show stuck to its strengths, as best it could at least and whilst the writing is more a ‘how not to’ guide than anything to celebrate, the show can’t be faulted on animation quality and audio. The episode features several brilliant songs and scores which are excellent at setting tone and complimenting the always superb visuals, yet undercut at every turn by poor writing or direction. The artistic design could never be faulted, the character designs are fantastic if nonsensical at times, the voice actors bringing conviction to even the daftest of their lines and the choreography of the fight scenes will keep you on the edge of your seat.
If Guilty Crown had a story to match then there is no doubt the show would have been an instant classic. Unfortunately the lavish budget was spent entirely on form not function and the amount of plot holes, deus ex machinas and simply lazy, nonsensical writing drag the show down to the point where no amount of shiny fights or excellent soundtrack is going to redeem it. In the end we’re left with more questions than answers and an ending that in its quest to be beautiful is merely superficial, an unfortunate hallmark of the series as a whole.
When Guilty Crown first appeared expectations were through the roof yet and rightly so. However the characters soon proved to be largely unlikable and poorly written with a nonsensical plot that meandered between slice of life and an attempt at serious science-fiction. The show quickly became as frustrating to watch as it was disappointing and in the end we can only look back and wonder what might have been.