8 of 31 people found this review helpful
25 of 25 episodes seen
Overall Rating: 10
Opening sequence 1: 8/10
Opening sequence 2: 4/10
Opening sequence 3: 7/10
Ending sequence 1: 8/10
Ending sequence 2: 9/10
My Age Rating: 8: Some violence, brief instances of bloody violence, some fanservice, light sexual themes. All in all everything that could bump the rating is present only in moderation.
Code Geass is a series from Sunrise and this particular studio is known notably for its groundbreaking work on the infamous Gundam franchise. That coupled with other mecha super success shouldn’t make it surprising that they basically lead when it comes to the genre. However it is also true that the Gundam franchise is no longer as lucrative as it once was and that its most recent success was Seed which is basically a remake of the original but its success was stopped only at a second season with most of the Gundam fanbase now being composed mainly old school fans. So to bring in new and younger fans as well as peek the interest of the mecha community, Sunrise decided to make Code Geass, which is, when you really look at it, a reboot of the Gundam franchise. This assessment is further confirmed by how much it borrowed from Gundam, by the fact that it was a series composed in total of 50 episodes and by the recent OVA side stories that are popping up in recent times; indeed it follows the Gundam model. But a fresh and more modern perspective on Gundam wasn’t really enough to make the show a success, they would need more to do that and so it was their choice of director that made them. Goro Taniguchi, a director whose every work as been at least lucrative and most of them instant hit, with awards to accompany them. Works the likes of Planetes and Infinite Ryvius don’t come along everyday and to top it all, he worked on several Gundam titles as well. So with this, Sunrise’s latest success was assured.
The story follows Lelouch, an exiled prince of Britannia who now hides in the recently conquered nation of Japan renamed Area 11. As he goes about his school life, he is eventually entangled in a battle between rebels and Britannian forces and it is only then, on the brink of death, that he is awarded the power of Geass; the ability to bend anyone to his will. Receiving this power makes him realize its potential and awakens his dormant ambitions, and so, he embarks on a quest to crumble the Britannian Empire, defeat his father, avenge his mother’s murder and create a new world for the sake of his sister. The story is compelling from the start and is told at an alarmingly stellar pace, accomplishing more in four episodes than most series manage to do in 50 and all of it with such superb writing that it flows smoothly. Managing to blend in fanservice, action, character development, an intense storyline and good pace with such precision is actually a very hard task and many anime fail to do it, having several elements drag on or step on the others. But Code Geass succeeded where they failed. It’s also an anime that will deliver when it comes to original, unforeseen and breathtaking plot twists. Anime where you can’t guess what will happen and have you on the edge of your seat are so rare that when one presents itself it should not be overlooked. It’s fair to say you’d have to be a true genius to guess half of what is going to happen and literally a seer to see where the show is going from just the first few episodes. And finally, it is anime’s most epic storyline; anyone who can enjoy an epic story should be more than satisfied with the results this series achieved.
The characters, this part might take some time as this is one of the rare titles where I actually have a lot to say about the characters. For one, while they are characters I don’t like, I can honestly say there isn’t one that’s badly written, good writers and superb directing made each character, down to the side ones with few appearances, along with their relationships something really unique.
Lelouch Lamperouge: The main character, Lelouch is interesting in that he deviates largely from the average mecha, or even in anime in general, hero. He’s not some idealistic brat and he doesn’t act like a self centered scared teenager who needs a slap to man up. He actually as a mind of his own and unlike the average mech hero, no one gets to give him orders or tell him what he should do and why; he as his priorities and he gives the orders, anyone who doesn’t like that falls under his supreme power of submission. Indeed he inherits a god like power and he isn’t afraid to use it whenever it suits him and he will kill if necessary to achieve his goals. In that regard he has also often been compared with Light Yagami from Death Note, which is a faulty assessment in my opinion: While it is true they are both very dark anti-hero with a superior intellect who inherited a god like power, the similarities stop there. Light was clearly a psychopath ready to use and kill anyone and cared only for himself while Lelouch as a definite and noble goal and actually does care about his friends, an important distinction to be made.
Zero: The second persona adopted by Lelouch to lead the rebellion as the leader of the Black Knights, he is the embodiment of everything that makes Lelouch formidable. When he takes on the mask of Zero to hide his true identity, all that remains are his cunning, his charisma and his determination to destroy Britannia. He possesses all the qualities required to gather the support of the masses and with the use of his schemes and the help of his Geass, he manages to inflict upon Britannia what entire nations are not able to.
Suzaku Kururugi: He basically fills in the role of the young idealistic teenager who thinks you have to follow the system and obey orders to achieve peace. For people tired of clichéd protagonists invading anime he might be a definite deterrent to the series but his presence is more than essential and he does an incredible job in making a realistic representation of what would happen to such an individual in a war with great character development. Fortunately for us Code Geass’ message is not like that of the original Gundam (that teenagers are unruly brat who need to be disciplined and beaten until they follow the system) so Suzaku doesn’t shower us with moral propaganda but rather shows us how ideals are crushed in war. As he follows Britannia, he realizes that he is called to commit crimes in order to follow his orders and that following the system doesn’t guaranty fairness will prevail, even less that he will be able to keep his ethics while doing so. To further break the mecha hero stereotype, he doesn’t take half the series to get used to piloting a super powerful mecha only he can pilot; his mecha isn’t Britannia’s only hope and he is chosen because he is already a hardened capable soldier so he gets down to business from the moment he steps behind Lancelot’s cockpit. Before I forget, Suzaku’s most important role in the story can be explained by the fact that he is Lelouch’s childhood friend and that now he is cast as his worst enemy. While both fail to realize it, their diverging ideals has led them against one another without their knowledge.
Nunnally Lamperouge: Lelouch’s sister, she is in hiding along with him and relies entirely on his care since the attacked that claimed her mother’s life left her blind and crippled years ago. She is a kind hearted and pure young girl who truly loves her brother and wishes for nothing but to be with him and for a gentler world. In providing a reason to fight for Lelouch, she does a stellar and believable job, you trully want him to win if only for her.
Kallen Kozuki: A member of the Black Knights (Lelouch’s rebels) who fights as his elite. She is the pilot of the fearsome Guren and her skills as forced her into becoming Suzaku’s rival when it comes to the battlefield. When people talk about badass characters they speak about characters like Kallen and to top it all, she is one of the show’s most sexy female leads as well.
C.C.: The mysterious woman who gave Lelouch his power. We are unaware during the series of the price of her gift and what her true intents are but as time goes she becomes close to Lelouch and even starts to work with him at his side, assisting him in his quest. C.C. is also always walking around with Cheese-kun (Pizza Hutt’s official mascot) and eating pizza, so a large part of her character was fashioned after product placement and as strange as it may sound, it actually made her stand out, gave her an unusual personality and created an original character unlike any other in anime.
Diethard Ried: A journalist who idealizes Zero, he wishes to record Zero’s rise to power as he crumbles Britannia and also proves to be a very capable member of the Black Knights; assisting with several tasks and taking a place of importance within the order. Though he might not seem worthy of his own paragraph, I thought he stood out enough to warrant one. Maybe it’s the incredible voice acting he benefited from or simply how well his character was carried out but he’s definitely up there in the characters.
Euphemia li Britannia: Conelia’s younger sister and the most kind-hearted idealist within the series. Her wishes are to actually be of helped in trying to create a better world. She lives mostly a carefree existence. It is only her arrival in Area 11 and her meeting with Suzaku that made her realize the need to change how things are and how she needs to mature and do what she can to assist. She later falls in love with Suzaku and their relationship deepens as the series progresses.
Cornelia li Britannia: A princess of the Empire and the person in charge of maintaining order in Area 11 as well as capturing Zero. She’s a ruthless and fierce enemy on the battlefield capable of quick thinking and an adequate strategist who gave Lelouch a run for his money a few times. Her aggressive personality and battle prowess only highlight how this show doesn’t rely solely on male warriors and how it as a diverse cast on both sides; ranging from weak and helpless girls to strong willed combatant and from fierce male warriors to average high school boys, not limiting itself to too few character types.
The rest of the cast are quite lively, active and even important but not enough to warrant their own paragraph so I will summarize by saying that they all do a good job breaking away from re-used clichés and each have a distinct and believable personality, with hopes and dreams of their own. Not to mention they all affect the story in some way or another and some will eventually become important enough to warrant their own paragraph in my review of season two. Though when thinking of the characters it is hard to miss that many of them have names based on Coke brands (Zero, Orange, C2, [Diet]hard…) and even so, it is frightening to see how original and how epic a show based on product placement can actually be.
The voice acting was superb. Lelouch and his father sounded just as epic as they needed to, Kallen and the other characters had just the right touch of badass in them and overall, the emotions were right when they needed to be and the cast did an exemplary job.
Themes, this series’ got them. From revenge to war, oppression, racism, the line between nobility and the commoners, dictatorship, friendship, betrayal… name it, it’s there. They dealt with important and various themes and gave them just the right amount of attention to be able to explore them without overusing them or shoving them in our faces. Of course the more important yet more subtle themes predominated the show; such as strategy in war and changing the world. Lelouch’s quest is indeed the intended focus of the series and it shows how his ideals are to be tested and what price will be required to achieve them, as a task such as this one requires a heavy payment; lines such as “If the king doesn’t lead how can he expect his subordinates to follow?” and “The only ones who should kill are those who are prepared to be killed!” emphasise how he himself is aware of that fact. The second theme is more subtle and most won’t notice it, it concerns strategy in battle and is shown in two parts:
-Part 1: The support of the masses. Aside from using his mind to outwit his opponent and gaining more military might, Lelouch plays another deeper game. His charisma and the public show he displays, which are as flashy as can be and as over the top as you can find, have the purpose of offering to the people miracles and to make his stance clear in that he is intent on helping the masses and he also shows them he can help them, that he possesses the power and might to do so. His methods are very efficient and well played through the entire series.
-Part 2: Chess! Yes the series relies heavily on chess even though the game itself is not predominantly featured. Suzaku is Lelouch’s worse enemy and he is a knight of Britannia, not only that but a white knight by his Nightmare’s (Mecha) design. Lelouch is the king as he so ominously claims and his costume is entirely black, not to mention his army is called the Black Knights. Any of the strategies within the series also involves complex thinking to manage to put their enemy in check. It’s also obvious that Cornelia acts as the white queen and Kallen as the black knight. Other subtleties and references to chess are parsed throughout the series.
The series also excels in attracting all sorts of fans:
-Fanservice: Featuring woman ranging from high school girls and below to mature women, it caters to every fan out there and gives us plenty of revealing outfits and compromising situations. For the girls it features princes with blue eyes, blond hair and a gentleman’s attitude to cool collected guys with dark attitude so many fangirls are fond of. Let’s not forget the amount of tight suits we see on Suzaku and the sea of yaoi material they gave to fuel fangirls as well.
-Mecha: It offers a wide variety of mecha with impressive and colourful designs that are among the best in anime coupled with great and intense fight scenes. More than enough for the mecha crowd.
-Action: With the pace of the series, action is abound but yet it’s handled better than other series like Gundam. While it exceeds in quality it also doesn’t take half of the episode and isn’t mandatory or featured in every episode.
Other material made to lure in guys can be easily spoted, such as war and rivalry with heavy strategies and it also gives the girls plenty of colours and princesses. Euphy alone (a princess with a knight ready to die for her) is the exemplification of every girl’s dream, missing only the marriage ceremony.
To finish what is perhaps my longest review, Code Geass is a series most fans are likely to enjoy and each for their own reasons as it has so much to offer. I highly recommend it and can say that I have never seen anything like it in all of anime, it does an exemplary job at featuring how incredible anime can really be when done right.