Tag Archives: Mecha

Eureka Seven: AO

Type: All you need is the original.

Synopsis: A blue haired boy joins a peace keeping organization in order to stop giant coral reef aliens from blowing up. This is in contrast to his father, who joined a pirate ship in order to hit on a pretty girl. But since the father had more episodes to play with, his comes out to be the more interesting story.

Pros: This anime is difficult to talk about because it had a lot of potential. The protagonist is the rare son of former protagonists whose following his own story instead of continuing the previous story. The setting is a slightly altered version of the real world, fought with political commentary. And the mecha are mainly piloted by pretty teenage girls. Later on in the series, the show even introduces the idea of alternate realities and time travel just to add a little bit of sci-fi spice into the story. An adult Eureka and Renton also show up in this story, so fans who saw the 2005 show as teens can now see their old heroes as grown ups like them. The show is at it’s most interesting when it explores all these factors, especially the last two. It’s just a shame that it fumbles it all so badly.

Cons: I’ve been doing this review thing for a while, but I still lack the words needed to communicate exactly what went wrong with this series. Because on paper it has everything it needs to succeed. It ticks all the generic anime mecha boxes: a boy pilot with daddy issues, robots that can only be piloted by teen girls, not so subtle jabs at American foreign policy, and psudo bulsh$t sci-fi. It’s also a sequel to a well known (kind of) show. But it all feels…hallow. The show has no soul. It all felt too by the numbers, nothing felt earned, and it never took that extra step after a big twist or reveal. “Betrayals” are almost immediately reversed, only one important character dies, romances are only hinted at, and the alternate reality stuff is not explored nearly enough. They don’t even show Eureka raising Ao by herself to understand why Ao loves her so much and resents his father. This is going to sound weird from a guy who likes to keep things light, but the show is just not mean enough. Eureka Seven was mean. Renton was beaten repeatedly by his own side! Holland kicked his 14 year old whining behind constantly, because he was not a father, he was a pirate. Eureka didn’t fall for him immediately, she didn’t even like him that much until 25 episodes in. And the kids of the show were plagued with all these new feeling that they didn’t know how to handle because they were teenage kids, while the adults were haunted by their past actions and still didn’t know who to handle certain emotions. But in AO, everyone loves AO. All the adults are extra nice to him, all the girls eventually have crushes on him, and Ao even forgives his dad after like a 5 minute skirmish. We never get to see Ao deal with the smaller, confusing moments in life that would make the audience empathize with him. He’s never shown to be weak, or rash, or awkward, or selfish. All this actually made me dig a little, and it turns out that the show was directed by the same guy who did Eureka Seven, Tomoki Kyoda, but not written by the same guy (Dai Sato). This would explain the dissonance I got while watching it. I’ll be honest, part of the reason why this show annoyed me was because Eureka Seven was one of my shows. An early anime that caught me as a teenager that I would watch at 4:30 am-5:30am before going to Calculus morning classes. It’s a show I’m very familiar with, and its sequel just does not satisfy me at all.

Watch it?: Let me summarize my points: you don’t sympathize with the protagonist, the plot is rushed, too many ideas are crammed in, you only get excited for the parts when Eureka and Renton show up for their one respective episode, you’re still left with a bunch of questions about what happened to everyone else in the original show (like Eureka and Renton’s other adopted kids) and the show has the gall to save the interesting alternate reality stuff for an online-only episode. (3/5)

MVP: Eureka and Renton

Sorry Ao, but your parents are just more interesting

Best Episode: Ep.13 “She’s a Rainbow” (hey, it’s Eureka!)

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Dai-Shogun: Great Revolution

Type: Bad Animation

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Synopsis: You call this a “Great Revolution,” despite the fact that it’s not great and there is no revolution depicted at all.

Pros: The anime is basically a feudal Japan story with the occasional giant robot. It’s about trying to convince the illegitimate son of a shogun to take the title, all while dodging assassination attempts. That’s where the action comes in. The twist is that the main character has access to a giant robot called “Susanoo”, but only as long as he’s a virgin. That’s where the comedy comes in. And ironically enough, the person sent to protect his virginity is a busty ninja girl with curves for days in a loin-cloth kimono outfit. No wonder the shogunate died off.

Cons: The animation is horrendous. The anime uses this weird flash-hybrid style of animation that just does not work. It makes movement look awkward and fake. FAKE in an animated show about giant robots. I don’t really have a high standard for animation quality, but damn does this look bad. It took me about 3 episodes to notice, and once I did, the illusion was shattered. Story wise, the plot is fairly innocuous. The only real interesting bits are Keiichiro comically tries to lose his virginity, only for ninja girl Kiriko to stop him.  The lead is a typical hot blooded, prideful character. With the exception of the flat-chested fox demon, all the women have giant breasts. The main male villain is stereotypical evil. The only real character of interest is Hōkōin, and even she’s just a evil demon lady. All the other auxiliary characters, like the “cool” pirate, the female Shinsengumi, and the swordswoman that follows Keiichiro around, are not that interesting. That’s really the long and short of Dai-Shogun: it’s just not that interesting.

Watch it?: You can live without it (2/5)

MVP: Hōkōin

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I’m a FAN of her. Get it? DO YOU GET IT?

Best Episode: Ep.3 “The sex witch Hōkōin strikes!” (sex witch!? What’s that!?)

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Escaflowne: A Girl in Gaea (film)

Type: A popular mess

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Synopsis: A girl, who’s kinda a downer to be honest, finds herself in a fantasy land where she happens to be a super special and important Goddess that all the boys have a crush on. To be fair, if she was a he, then he would be a super special and important Warrior that all the girls have a crush on. So no points for originality.

Pros: I chose to watch this movie because whenever older fans of anime (meaning people my age who’s family had money for cable) talk about 90’s anime, there’s always a few names that pop up. Someone will mention Cowboy Bebop, or Evangelion, or Sailor Moon, or DBZ, or this one weird anime called “Escaflowne.” So I decided to give it a shot. Though, in hindsight, I probably should have watched the 1996 anime instead of this 2000 movie (even though the English anime actually did premiere in 2000 in North America). The movie is very pretty to look at, in that 90’s animation kinda way. The themes of depression and escalation stay more or less consistent throughout the story. And the overall world looks fairly interesting. I was actually thinking that I wouldn’t mind following these characters for more than just a 90 minute movie. (P.S. I watched the English Dub, the Ocean Version I believe, and boy…was that something).

Cons: Condensing a full length anime series into a 90 minutes movie is never a wise idea. The movie treatment works better with story arcs that have a more consistent beginning, middle, and end. As such, I often found myself feeling rushed while watching this movie. No character is really allowed to breath. For example, the protagonist Hitomi’s character arc is that she’s suffering from depression, which is only alleviated after she visits a new world and gets a purpose (and also meets a cute boy that solves all her problems, but that’s a separate issue). But the movie didn’t really have enough time to explore this properly, so to me Hitomi was just an angsty teen who felt “alone,” despite not really having any external forces weighing her down and showing evidence being pretty sociable. Then there’s her relationship with Van, the would be Dragon King, which goes from indifference to eternal love in the span of a quick fight scene. Not to mention all the supporting characters that I’m struggling to remember because they don’t really do anything. What all this boils down to is the realization the film version was probably not the best way to experience the Escaflowne story.

Watch it?: Find the anime instead

MVP: Lord Folken

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Now his nihilism I could understand. Being passed over as King would suck.

Best Moment: The characters faces (they look so weird up close)

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Gun x Sword

Type: On the verge of greatness

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Synopsis: Gun x Sword is about a guy with a sword. Well, it’s not really a “sword” sword. It’s more of a remote control for his Mecha suit. There is a guy with a gun as well, but he only shows up here and there. The anime really should have been called “Gun x Claw” since the protagonist is hunting a man with a metal claw for a hand, like in The Fugitive. Wait–the other protagonist Wendy carries a gun. Is she the “gun” in “Gun x Sword?” That actually makes way more sense. Holy crap, I can’t believe I just figured that out…

Pros: This anime is a very good anime. Yes, that’s the phrase. “Very good.” The premise is simple enough, it’s about a guy named Van hunting down a man with a claw who killed his bride to be. In the first episode, Van meets a girl named Wendy, whose brother was kidnapped by the same man with the claw. For a third of the series, the two set out in some pretty great episodic adventures and eventually tie together at the end, where everyone they meet come together to help Van and Wendy defeat the man with the claw and his crazy schemes. The anime does a good job of hiding “The Claw,” for a good while, and I really liked his depiction. The Claw presented himself as a soft spoken man, but never took the “I’m actually really evil” turn that a lot of villains do, especially when their plans are thwarted. He’s crazy, sure, but he developed a cult of personality around his crazy. The anime is filled with interesting characters, from the con woman Carmen 99, to the El Dorado Five, the SICKEST heroes this side of the Power Rangers. The anime has interesting and fun stories, great characters, and an overall swell plot. It has all the elements of a great series.

Cons: But, Gun x Sword never quiet reaches that apex of greatness. It’s hard to describe why. It doesn’t have that “It” factor. It’s strange, because it has everyone most fans and cranky critics would love. It has episodic, stand alone episodes. A lot of them are parodies, which I loved. It has a connecting narrative that doesn’t overpower the present story being told. It has fun and memorable characters. And it has villains that, that-oh, that’s the problem. It has weak villains. Outside of “The Claw,” the villainous New Original 7 (it makes sense in the anime) aren’t that interesting. You have two little kids who are annoying, especially the boy. You have a rich dude, I guess, who does nothing and dies later. And you have Wendy’s Brother, who got brainwashed way too easily. Van’s friend, who turned out betrayed him to the Claw, was somewhat interesting, but he could only really die given the story. That leaves Fasalina, the Claw’s right hand woman, whose interesting in her devotion to the plan. But honestly, a large part of her appeal is her unique fighting styles, which mixes stripper moves and sticky substances. I’ve never seen that. The main protagonists aren’t that strong either. Wendy can get away from being bland since she’s the audience surrogate, but Van doesn’t have an excuse. Van doesn’t really have an arc outside of “making friends.” He acts the same in episode 1 as he does in episode 25. His lazy gimmick was interesting, as was his violent outburst when The Claw was involved, but I never felt that I go to know him. I would have liked an episode dedicated to just his life as “Van the Drifter” (and no, the flashbacks don’t count). The show’s real strengths are it’s stand alone episodes, which area littered with great supporting characters. The last chunck, which is all plot related, is great because it brings all the characters together, but the villains bring it a bit down. If I was going to compare my feelings for this anime to anything, I think it’d be to Planetes. Both are anime that are of solid quality, but it just doesn’t reach the levels of other shows of a similar nature.

Watch it: Again, it’s a good show. I liked it. (4/5)

MVP: El Dorodo Five

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Adios Amigo!

Best Episode: Ep.3 “Heroes One More Time” (most of the episodes are good, but this one has five robots turn into a bigger robot!)

 

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Mobile Fighter G Gundam

Type: Super Fighting Robots!

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Synopsis: So what do you do after your Mecha series has gone on for 15 years with waning popularity? Some people would double down on what brought them to the dance in the first place…but screw that! Who needs introspective war narratives when you could have Giant Robots beat each other up real nice!!

Pros: One of the most interesting things about Mobile Fighter G Gundam is the history surrounding it. The anime premiered on the 15th anniversary of the Gundam series. It was a franchise reboot, and the first to diverge from the original “Universal Century” timeline. This newest entry into the Gundam franchise moved away from military stories to a outlandish martial arts story. And it worked! Fighter G did revive the Gundam franchise. I know that it was the first Gundam series I watched. It’s had clear influences on other media, from Gurren Laggan to Pacific Rim. And funny enough, Neon Genesis Evangelion would premiere a year after. The premise, which is very Shoen inspired, is that each nation now lives in orbiting space colonies. Every 4 years, they hold a world tournament where national representatives fight one another in Gundam Mechas. So you wind up with things like the Canadian Gundam fighting the Russian Gundam, and etc. This was the funnest aspect of the show, seeing what each nation’s Gundam looked like and fought. It may not sound very intellectual, but it was very fun.

Cons: This was very much a “boys manga” anime (even if it wasn’t based on any manga). There’s only one Female pilot in the entire show. The story is exactly what you think it is. A passionate protagonist enters a fighting tournament to help his family. He finds 4 rivals; a cocky American, a Posh Frenchman, a Stoic Russian, and a care-free Chinese teenager. Hmmm, America, Russia, France, and China, where have I head those names put together before….(also: sorry Britain, someone had to go!). The story will not blow your mind. It mostly goes from fight to fight. Tonaly, it’s a complete 180 from the rest of the Gundam franchise. So traditionalist won’t really enjoy it. And the animation hasn’t help up in the strictest sense.

Watch it?: Great Fun (4/5)

MVP: Domon Kasshu

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Pilot of the GOD GUNDAM

Best Episode: Ep45. “Farewell Master: Master Asia’s Last Breath” (master vs student)

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Gargantia on the Verdurous Planet

Type: Like Battlestar Galactica, if it was about boats and was more chill

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Synopsis: One culture’s a military based futuristic space alliance, the other culture’s a community based sea faring people. Their the original ideological odd couple!

Pros: This show has really strong first two episodes. The anime opens with the large, if slightly generic, space battle, but quickly transitions to rustic sea based setting. The protagonist, Ledo, is a pilot of a mech who crash lands on a ocean planet. His mech is discovered by the scavengers of a large ship fleet community. When he wakes up, both he and the ship’s authorities are wary of each other. But, in perhaps one of the more mature moments I’ve seen in anime, the chose communication over violence. So the first two episodes are simply each side trying to get a bearing on each other. The commentary on community and social groups presented in this anime is fascinating. One one side you have Ledo, a member of a clearly technologically superior society. But his society is also highly militant, having been in a very long war, so his outlook is very singularly focused. If something does not benefit the community directly, it is useless. This applies to things like fun and games, to things like Families, as families aren’t efficient enough to produce soldiers. On the other side you have Gargantia, another community based society, but one that is more flexible. Instead of efficiency they focus on balance. Both sides have good and bad outcomes. Ledo’s community have little patience for emotion or the weak, but they have made extraordinary advances in technology, while Gargantia’s community clearly have more freedoms, but they also have crime and poverty. The majority of the show is basically Ledo having to integrate into Gargantia’s culture, right down to having to learn their language and trying to apply his specific cultural skills into Gargantia’s. So this show has a secondary immigration theme as well. It is in these aspects that Gargantia is the strongest in.

Cons: While the show has a strong opening, it has a very weak finish. The last 3 episodes turn into a generic action-drama, where the protagonist is met with a person from his past who forces him to reevaluate his beliefs. It falls short of the show’s quality story up to that point, and feels way off based given the show’s slice of life tone. It’s also superfluous, as a revelation in earlier in the plot already made Ledo question his beliefs. In fact, the entire last story arc felt more like it belonged in a second season rather than here. Maybe the writer’s wanted to tie everything up? Ep5 had a similar problem at the opposite spectrum, trying to be the “funny episode” with some fan service and stereotypical transvestite shows.  Hardy har. On a more subjective note, I had a problem with the show’s overall ideological argument. From my perspective, the show strongly argued for cultural assimilation. Everyone always tells Ledo to learn the language, follow their rules, get a job, and adhere to their customs. Which is fine, whatever, their house, their rules. But no one ever asked Ledo about the cultural knowledge he can contribute. The boy is literally a space man with a talking robot! But no one ever asks him what he knows about technology, battle formations, the local solar system. His machine has a unimaginable amount of information, but the people of Gargantia have it move boxes and catch fish. The commander of the fleet doesn’t even meet with him (which is an incredible security lapse if you ask me). The show is not unbiased in comparing Ledo’s society with Gargantia’s. Gargantia is great, and Ledo’s filthy space savages can teach them nothing. Ledo is forced to join the Melting Pot, but a Melting Pot only works if all aspects fuse together. If one aspect overpowers the other, you have a recipe for a bad soup and a bad society.

Watch it: Everything up to Ep.10 (4/5)

MVP: The Setting

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I love a Fleet Communities in Anime. Quarians, the 13 Tribes, etc.

Best Episodes: Ep1&2 “Castaway” and “The Planet of Origin”

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Mobile Suit Gundam-San

Type: Will this horribly cute war never end!?

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Synopsis: Gundam is about the horrible ramifications of was on the human spirit…but it can also be about a moron’s escapades in space!

Pros: Mobile Suit Gundam-San is a parody anime. It makes fun of the original Gundam series in small 4 minute segments. Great for Gundam fans with busy schedules. There’s plenty of fan service, juvenile jokes, and a weird subplot involving a bird dressed like Char.

Cons: It’s pretty stupid [I mean, I loved it, but lets be real]. You also really need to have seen the original Mobile Suit Gundam series to get any of the jokes.

Watch it: It’s only 4 minutes a piece. It’ll take about 30 minutes to get through. (4/5)

MVP: Char

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Is he really the red comet?

Best Episode: All of it (its really short)

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Full Metal Panic!

Type: Plus Second Raid

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Synopsis: A child soldier named Sousuke Sagura is sent to Japan school to guard a possibly magic girl named Kaname Chidori. Weirdly, the international peace keeping force that sent him neglected the fact that he has not espionage skills, or that he would fall in love. Because of this incredible oversight, his cover in blown right off the bat, putting himself and his charge in constant danger. On the positive side, this does mean the two get to go on the occasional date/counter-terrorist mission.

Pros: This show is the more serious parent series of Fumoffu, which is considered one of the funnier anime series around. For those wondering, yes, during the less action packed episodes, Full Metal Panic! can be just as funny as Fumoffu. The series itself is a military themed action-drama in which the Sausuke Saguar and the counter-terrorist organization “Mithrill”  fight Cobra, I mean the bad guys. Both season one and two have respective big bads, though I’d give the nudge to Season 1’s bat-shit scary Gauron. That man was frightening. The show has really strong characters, each feeling like they have depth and personality, even if they only show up for one scene. Tessa, for example, was portrayed a competent military officer, despite having a jealous crush on Sagura and being designed like the typical “pure” character. The fact that she came off as a “real” person speak volumes for the character work in the show (that one scene in S.2, Ep. 8 was so good!).

Cons: This show ebbs in its pacing. It has really intense action arcs, but then really mellow episodes in between. So it goes really fast, then really slow. The first season was particularly guilty of this, being 25 episodes, some being clearly filler. Season 2 less so because it was only 13 episodes. In fact, Season 2 had a lot less high school scenes than season 1, though Fumoffu had premiered in between, so it sorta balances out. Full Metal Panic! is based on Light Novels, meaning that in classic Light Novel Anime fashion, we don’t get the full story. We don’t know what the “whispered” are. We don’t know about Amalgam. And we end on and open-ended finale. The anime itself is also pretty violent at times, veering from PG-13 to R regularly during the action episodes.

Watch it?: As far as military/high school anime goes, its pretty good. (4/5)

MVP: Tessa Testarossa

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Honestly, even I underestimated her

Best Episode: S.2, Ep. 8 “Jungle Groove” (honestly, S.2 Ep.7-13 are must watches)

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Horizon in the Middle of Nowhere (Season 1 & 2)

Type: I think I’m in Love

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Synopsis: Let’s try to keep this simple, shall we? In the distant future, Earth has become uninhabitable except for the islands of Japan. The country has been divided between outside nations, while the native population is forced to constantly travel on the ship Musashi. In addition, in order to restore the world’s civilizations, every country has decided to reenact history. Oh, and there’s also magic, ghosts, mechas, a perv that tries to save a robot that’s being inhabited by his dead girlfriend from future pope, a ninja that fall in love with Bloody Mary who may or may not be an actual fairy, and a Spain that seems to have a baseball-based military. It’s basically amazing.

Pros: I did mention that this was amazing right? This anime is visually vibrant, it’s action packed, it’s funny as hell, and knows the right ways to utilize music cues to get you hear racing and fist pumping. Seriously, I almost always to energized after watching an episode. It’s fun from the word go. The pilot is a battle-race that does an inspired job in introducing the rather large cast. Every character has their own personality and fighting style, and you honestly can’t wait to see one of them in a fight. I was also very cool to see how different historical figures where interpreted. Shakespeare was a particularly interesting choice. The first season focuses on rescuing the titular character Horizon from the Pope and Spain, while the second season focuses on the ninja Tenzo falling in love with a very blonde and very ample Bloody Mary, plus fighting England and Spain. It’s also has a tremendous sense of humor, with one of the characters straight-up being naked for the entire second season. I truly, truly hope we see more entries in this franchise in the future.

Cons: No matter how much I enjoyed this series, I cannot overlook the quagmire that is the plot. Seriously, I double checked on Wikipedia and still  cannot for the life of me tell you what’s going on. There’s just too much thrown at you to remember. The actual politics of the world itself are what lost on me. Like, why create doomsday weapons from the emotions of a dead girl? And why is society being run by student governments? And why repeat the bad parts of history at all, because you’ll really be wanting to skip all of 1913-1945. I can’t really say this was perfect if I didn’t understand what was going on half the time. Some of the girls also have what I like to call “balloon breast” that just came off as silly (though that may have been the point).  On a personal note, I know that there’s a game based on this show, and it sucks so hard that it’s only been released in Japan.

Watch it?: The most fun I’ve had watching an anime in a while (4/5)

MVP: Tenzo Crossunite

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Where can I get that hat!

Best Episode: Ep.1 “Those Lined Up Before A Horizon” (I don’t what’s happening, but I love it!)

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Guilty Crown

Type: Lost Christmas

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Synopsis: In this timeless holiday tale, Japan has all but become a colonized state due to an outbreak of a deadly virus on December 25th, 2029. Skip 10 years later, where this kid named Ouma Shu is caught up in this firefight between the terrorist group/early 2000’s garage band “Funeral Parlor.” The battle results in Shu getting awesome heart based powers (suck it Planeteers). Shu’s then tricked into joining the group with promises of smooches from pink haired girl Inori by the leader Gai. Then a bunch of stuff happens, Shu kills his incestous sister, he becomes “King” of his school (but not in the fun way), and everyone does a bunch of crystal. God Bless Us Everyone!

Pros:  This anime is beautiful. The animation was top quality, and the cinematography was awesome. And the music! I usually don’t notice these kinds of things, but whoever composed and directed the music deserves a raise. The actions was pretty cool too, especially the personality-based void weapons, and I always looked forward to a new one beings introduced. Story wise, the show can be split into two. The first 12 episodes were a mecha-like anime, right down to the outlaw group, quiet girl, and emotionally immature protagonist. The next 10 episodes were more of a political thriller, only with high school kids. You really get invested in the characters, especially in Shu. I won’t spoil anything, but lets just say, someone sorta becomes a prostitute. Plus, it has the one of the better wheel chair bound characters, possibly in all media.

Cons:  Firs off, screw Gai. That guy’s manipulation of Shu really bugged me, so much so, that it was hard for me to ever trust anything he said. Though, given that we’re supposed to sympathize with Shu’s point of view, this was probably intentional. I also thought that Shu’s and Inori’s relationship was never earned, especially when it was suggested early on that it was all a fabrication by Gai. Once again, screw Gai. The show’s main problem was that it was too short, so some story beats were glossed over. People go from friends to enemies and back again a bit too quickly. I also still have a few question: Like how did Inori meet Gai? How exactly did Shu’s sister turn evil? What was the deal with the serial killer and Daath kid? Why should I give a crap about anyone in the Undertakers? and is Inori just a famous pop singer on the side? I wish Guilty Crown would have have gotten at least another season worth of episodes. Other than that, some of the finer details of the plot are a bit convoluted, and on a rare occasion, the show gets too Nationalistic (though as an American, I’m not one to talk).

Watch it?: Best Christmas story since Rudolph. (4/5)

MVP: Ayase Shinomiya

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I wish we had gotten more of her

Best Episode: Ep. 15 “Confession:Sacrifice” and Ep.16 “Kingdom: The Tyrant” (I can’t believe they did that)

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