Genre(s): Sci-Fi, Drama, Action, romance, mecha
Age-Appropriateness: 14+ (Violence, blood, profanity, suggestive themes)
Platforms: Hulu, Funimation
TheAwersome Rating: 5.8 / 10 (Good, Bad, and Ugly)
Premise: Japan, 2039. Ten years after the outbreak of the “Apocalypse Virus,” the once proud nation of Japan has fallen under the rule of the GHQ, an independent military force dedicated to restoring order. The Undertakers, a guerilla group led by the infamous Gai Tsutsugami, act as freedom fighters, offering the only resistance to GHQ’s cruel despotism. Inori Yuzuriha, a key member of the Undertakers, runs into the weak and unsociable Shu Ouma during a crucial operation, which results in him obtaining the “Power of Kings”—an ability which allows the wielder to draw out the manifestations of an individual’s personality, or “voids.” Now an unwilling participant in the struggle against GHQ, Shu must learn to control his newfound power if he is to help take back Japan once and for all.
TheAwersome’s Thoughts: Let’s start with the non-spoily bits. This show has some good music, a very interesting world/setting, and high production value. There are some moments, particularly in the first few episodes, that really draw you in and get you excited about the political intrigue of the situation, the various ethical dilemmas, etc. And it’s a good ride. Then it tries very hard to be Evangelion, but not the good parts, not the parts that you like about Evangelion. I’m all for imperfect protagonists and seeing character growth, but I hate hating the main character, you know?
Probably my biggest beef with this show was that it feels like it was written with moments in mind, not characters. “It would be cool if X happened, so let’s find a character to do that.” Because of this, there are frequent drastic breaks of character that made it very hard to stay engaged.
TLDR: Despite having all the ingredients to be the next anime classic, it ended up feeling like Magical Index meets the bad of Evangelion with unrealistic characters that betray their established depth and personalities.
Despite the high production value, the show felt very stiff. Art was very well done and detailed, with great use of colors and framing, but the animation itself felt stiff, not unlike the Don Bluth rotoscoping problem, but worse. There wasn’t a good flow in the animation, nothing felt fluid or finished. As for the plot, I don’t want to get too spoily, but there’s a hard and definite shift in what the story’s focus is after the first cour and it’s pretty jarring. Which is something I can usually forgive, I’m up for shows not locking themselves in to predictability, but when the core themes and messages change, it feels like fanfiction.
There’s a good cast of characters that gets established, with varying motivations and depths. And then in the second cour they ignore all of that depth, motivation, and established personality in exchange for “wouldn’t it be neat if someone did this?” moments. I’m starting to understand how Game of Thrones fans felt. Then there’s also the Naruto issue of easily and quickly forgiving a mass murderer (with no problem slaughtering his goons and cronies, mind you). There’s also the random heel turns of characters who “were actually bad guys all along,” who are then purely evil for a few episodes only to have it revealed they were actually a good guy because they had a good goal in mind. Then they, also, get forgiven for callous murder and betrayal. In short, all the character stories are scattered to no end, I lost absolutely all emotional investment and connection.
Another awkward thing was the breaking of the fourth wall with one of the characters. There is a musical artist duo that frequently does anime OP and ED songs, named EGOIST (Fate/Apocrypha OP for example), and one of the main characters is a singer and member of EGOIST. This is referenced in the show. To be fair, this was the debut of EGOIST, so it wasn’t until after Guilty Crown that they started doing other anime OP and ED songs as EGOIST, but I already knew about them from those performances.
The score I gave this show is a prime example of being bad in the “Mediocrity VS. Squandered Potential” conundrum.