All I wanted for Christmas was Guilty Crown.
This may be surprising to some, due to how maligned the series was while airing. Unwitting passenger on the autumn 2011 hype train, Guilty Crown became a must-see series months before the first episode aired. It debuted to a smattering of applause, with an eager audience waiting with baited breath for the series to deliver on its supposed promises. They continued to wait, and wait, until slowly, viewers began to disembark from the hype train, especially when the conductor himself couldn’t stand to watch the series past the seventh episode. Guilty Crown became a joke, something to watch to see what new crazy plot development the staff would come up with next, and the anime blogging community pounced on every misstep. I too, joined in on this fun.
In spite of being an obvious target – the easiest of 2011, if the year-end lists are to be believed – the majority of viewers in the blogging community stuck with Guilty Crown to the end. The term “watching ironically” was bandied about, as it often is with any sort of series deemed terrible, “terribad,” or of the “so bad, it’s good” variety. However, I don’t particularly believe in so-called ironic enjoyment.
Irony, in its broadest definition, is a rhetorical device used to emphasize a specific thought or situation by employing the opposite to convey said thought. For an example, let’s say one of my coworkers is late to work. As they meander in, an hour later than their scheduled time, my response could be a direct, “Would you like to explain to me why are you so late?” or the more sarcastic option of, “So nice of you to arrive to work in such a timely manner!” While the former addresses and sums up the situation immediately – my coworker is late and they are in the wrong – the latter uses the opposite expression to highlight the fact of their tardiness. They are not arriving to work in a timely manner, and they will have to explain why. In spite of the former being the more professional response, especially in a work environment, I would be sorely tempted to use the latter to accentuate my anger.
When I say I love Guilty Crown, it is not an ironic statement. I thoroughly enjoyed watching the series, and will surely enjoy re-watching it again. Additionally, as a viewer, I take issue with the expression of watching or enjoying something ironically as I believe those statements to be disingenuous. It’s a way of placing your own viewing above a particular series or product, instead of simply admitting to your love of it. There’s an undercurrent of smug superiority that permeates this type of viewing, implying that if a particular series is awful – rest assured, Guilty Crown is atrocious on every level save its animation – they need to qualify their enjoyment of it, lest they appear unintelligent.
Regardless of whether you claim to be laughing with a series or at it, you are still deriving enjoyment from your viewing, and it’s at this point where the idea of ironic enjoyment really looses steam. Based on our previously-established definition of irony, the means of conveying the fact must be opposed to the fact itself. If one claims to hate Guilty Crown and yet continues to watch it, laughing as Shuu establishes a new world order at his school or leads the charge on a segway into a climactic battle, they’re still enjoying themselves while watching it. Their actions of mocking the series are not opposed their enjoyment; therefore, there is no irony. I would go as far as to say that, deep down, they actually love it in spite of their protesting. How is that for irony?
My favorite commentary on Guilty Crown comes from people who unabashedly admit that they loved watching it, without the ironic qualifier. Guilty Crown thoroughly entertained me even if my personal expectations for a cohesive narrative or well-developed characters were not met. In fact, my love comes not in spite of the series’ many flaws, but because of them. I am looking forward to watching it again now that I am a proud owner of the blu-ray discs. Guilty Crown was one of the best, most heartfelt gifts I received this year. No irony.