noitaminA premieres: Guilty Crown, UN-GO

NoitaminA has given us some wonderful shows in the past, like Trapeze, Kuragehime, Shiki, to name a few. But one thing they have not done well for some time is create a SF show that lives up to its standards of something different, for adults. Fractale and No.6 started well but fell victim to overused tropes and cliches. C was a complete mess. So, even though it’s a noitaminA show, I wasn’t really looking forward to watching Guilty Crown. After watching episode one, I’m still dubious, but I admit that parts of it are skillfully done.

Let’s see … Japan has fallen prey to the Apocalypse Virus, which apparently devastated the country and forced others to take over. Now they’re under what is pretty much a military dictatorship. We learn this from our young, dull lead character, Shu, but after a thrilling chase scene where a girl and her little bot are being chased by big nasty mechanized things. The scene looks great and is exciting to watch, Inori fleeing amid explosions and a bittersweet ballad (sung by her), so getting Shu after it was over came as a letdown. But it doesn’t take long for him to encounter the girl (Inori, apparently an idol singer), and, a minute later, the bad guys, who threaten him and drag Inori away. Shu spends the next couple minutes hating himself. But why? If some guys with weapons came up and threatened to kill me and drag off a girl I don’t even know, I think I would be “Uh, be my guest.”

"... welcome to rock n'roll fight ..."

Here, I’m afraid, it lapses not into stale SF concepts like those other noitaminA shows, but into typical action/fantasy anime. The little bot, in true R2-D2 fashion, guides Shu to a guy named Gai, and all of a sudden the bad guys decide to invade that part of the city and kill everything that moves. Shu, you see, has the stolen Void Genome that Inori was transporting. Shu, in a ludicrious attempt to rescue Inori (who has escaped and just happens to be on the same street), gets the vial shot away, transporting him to … well, it looked like Penguindrum for a moment. Inori is there too, natch, and she tells him that she is power, there’s one of those sticking-an-arm-into-a-chest bits, and suddenly he’s kicking ass with a huge sword. We’ve seen it all before.

But I must say again: it looks great. Both action scenes are exciting, well directed and scored, and had me going. I’ll keep watching if they can keep that up.

UN-GO, on the other hand, is more in the spirit of noitaminA. It’s fast-paced, witty, and at times bizarre.

It looks like a detective series based on the works of Ango Sakaguchi, the original creator of the Aoi Bungaku story with the cherry blossoms, colorful death, and song and dance numbers. This first episode isn’t as out-and-out strange as that one, but it’s strange enough. With no preparation and a lot of characters introduced by captions (I hate that) we are at a party in some futuristic Tokyo where president Kanou is probably going to get arrested. Rie, the daughter of genius Kaishou, is unwillingly there. So is Sinjurou, “the defeated detective.” And a boatload of other suspects, for Kanou is murdered just before his big speech.

In spite of all the weirdness much of the episode falls into Murder Mystery genre, lots of “Where were you when the lights went out?” And while the show pulls out some tricks, the culprit is exposed even before Sinjurou’s little sidekick Inga transforms into a … whatever she is, and uses her magic powers. Which is good. You don’t want a good mystery ruined just because one character can pull the truth out of someone. A promising start. I hope we see more of Rie. She’s a fun character. And I’m glad to see noitaminA again delivering us something different.

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