In the year 2010, the Holy Empire of Britannia is establishing itself as a dominant military nation, starting with the conquest of Japan. Renamed to Area 11 after its swift defeat, Japan has seen significant resistance against these tyrants in an attempt to regain independence.
Lelouch Lamperouge, a Britannian student, unfortunately finds himself caught in a crossfire between the Britannian and the Area 11 rebel armed forces. He is able to escape, however, thanks to the timely appearance of a mysterious girl named C.C., who bestows upon him Geass, the "Power of Kings." Realizing the vast potential of his newfound "power of absolute obedience," Lelouch embarks upon a perilous journey as the masked vigilante known as Zero, leading a merciless onslaught against Britannia in order to get revenge once and for all.
Code Geass: Hangyaku no Lelouch is an original anime series by Sunrise animation studio with original character designs by the all-female Japanese manga artist group Clamp. Manga and light novels based off the show have been published by Kadokawa Shoten. The show has sold millions of DVDs and Blu-ray volumes and is extremely popular in both Japan and North America. The show is known for its multi-genre appeal and for its diverse cast of characters who face many moral dilemmas over the course of the series.
The last two episodes received a pre-airing on an event, July 21, 2007. Regular broadcasting was on July 29, 2007.
The series won: "The Best Anime TV Series" award at the 2007 Tokyo International Anime Fair, "The Best TV animation" award at the twelfth Animation Kobe, and "The Most Popular Anime" award at the Animage 's 29th Annual Anime Grand Prix.
I was incredibly skeptical about Code Geass at first, but I'm very pleased to say that I was greatly surprised.
STORY - Before I saw this series, it was described to me on multiple occasions as "Death Note with mechas." After seeing it, however, I am inclined to disagree. The similarities between the two series are superficial at best, and though I can see why people would draw the comparison, I don't really think that dis/liking one means that you'll dis/like the other. But anyway, unlike Death Note, I wouldn't say that the story in Code Geass is particularly notable or unique. It's actually rather straightforward
and even a little cliche, but that's exactly why this is such a well done series -- the barebones storyline is handled in a refreshing and new way that grabs the viewer's attention. There are enough twists and turns involved to keep you on the edge of your seat. The pacing is excellent and nothing feels rushed or drawn out. Indeed, the progression up to the conclusion is especially brilliant. (It's a cliffhanger "ending," but oh, it's just a fantastic cliffhanger.)
The series is also appealing in its uncanny ability to mix genres. Yes, this is a mecha series, but it really doesn't have to be. Yes, CLAMP did the character designs and there are some very shoujo elements (read: homolust), but there are very shounen rivalries and some pretty epic battle scenes too. Everybody wins! Additionally, because of the number of characters, the story allows for a number of small subplots. I was very happy with how this was handled in particular because all of the subplots relate and affect the main plot directly, whether by revealing some bit of information to both the characters and the viewer or by pushing forward interesting character development. Everything is well thought out and wonderfully executed, so despite the fact that "strong-willed person with plans to change the world receives mysterious power that helps facilitate his goals" isn't a very unique storyline... Code Geass makes it work.
Also. Code Geass utilizes the "best friends trying to kill each other" plotline, and I'm a sucker for that plotline.
CHARACTER - The characters in this series are rather varied. Some are very plain and one-dimensional, while others have an amazing complexity to them that makes them very life-like. I'll be honest. I've become somewhat infatuated with Lelouch as a character (and am rather biased as a result). To me, he is very much a human character -- he has emotions, opinions, a unique point of view, and some very serious flaws, all of which make him incredibly easy to relate to and to sympathize with. He is easily the most complex character in the series, and he feels real to me, even with his supernatural powers and his genius-level intellect. This ability to make the audience relate to him is also probably the series' greatest strength and the main reason why the story is able to remain relevant and interesting despite the fact that there aren't too many new ideas plotwise.
Suzaku would probably be second in line for complexity after Lelouch, though his sense of justice might be called cliche at first (along with Nunnally's and Euphemia's), and his hax-level physical prowess is somehow harder to accept than Lelouch's genius-level intelligence. It's harder to appreciate Suzaku's depth at first, partially because he is presented as Lelouch's main obstacle and the audience's sympathies are with Lelouch, but a great deal is revealed about his character throughout the course of the series, and he becomes an amazing foil to his rival. Their conflicting ideologies and philosophies are fascinating if you really look into it, and gay as it sounds, they really do compliment each other very well.
Much of the rest of the cast seems to fall into typical archetypes -- there's your adorable little sister, your mad scientist and his assistant, your cheerful schoolgirls, your best friend, your most loyal soldier, your second-in-command, your village idiot, your... really creepy lesbian girl? Despite the generic-sounding descriptions, most of the characters are actually pretty fun, or at the very least, interesting. C.C. provides snarky commentary. Shirley spreads innocent schoolgirl love. Nunnally is so moe you'll die. Jeremiah is a good butt of all jokes. Little bits of backstory are tossed in here and there to separate them from the crowd, but it's never enough to actually intrude, and the wide range of characters lets you settle into the world pretty well too; after all, what universe is complete without an animal mascot that shows up now and again?
ARTWORK & ANIMATION - I wasn't too impressed with CLAMP's character designs at first (noodleboys!), but as always seems to be the case, they gradually grew on me, and I remembered just how pretty X was. CLAMP just knows how to make everyone look amazingly sexy, male or female. I really loved how they did all of the facial expressions in the series though, especially for Lelouch. Seriously, that guy had some of the most awesome crazy expressions, some of the most amazingly touching sadface expressions, and of course, some of the most amusing WTF expressions. The mecha designs for the Knightmare Frames were also pretty awesome. I dig the whole rollar blade thing, and some of the technologies they come up with are neat, if a little over-the-top. The animation is fluid and smooth for the most part and very few things stood out as being bad.
MUSIC - Initially, I wasn't particularly fond of any of the OP/EDs for Code Geass except the first ending by ALI PROJECT because 1) they're awesome, and 2) Yuki Kajiura's style seemed to suit the series very well. The screaming violins both convey the high status of Britannia and the intensity of the emotions in the series. The rest of the themes seemed lackluster in comparison, but though I was never a huge fan of FLOW, "COLORS" kind of grew on me after a while. The final insert song, "Innocent Days" by Hitomi is pretty nice as well. Very thoughtful, very poignant, very fitting. The background music during the series was negligible for the most part; there is some pretty generic battle build-up type music and other appropriate, but rather typical, themes. Still, there's some neat classical/opera stuff, and the "All hail Brittania!" theme is definitely awesome.
VOICE ACTING - I've seen all of Code Geass subbed and most of it dubbed. Although I was incredibly turned off by Johnny Yong Bosch's role as Lelouch initially, it kind of grew on me, and now I think it fits well enough, though I do wish he'd change his voice a little more when Lelouch is Zero (make it a little deeper?). Suzaku's dub voice surprised me with how appropriate it was too. One of the things I really wish we could replicate in English though, is the subtle differences in manners between characters, between Lelouch and Suzaku at various stages of their lives, and between Lelouch and Zero. In Japanese, when Lelouch and Suzaku are children, they refer to themselves with "boku" and "ore" respectively. As teenagers, the pronouns are swapped, with Lelouch using "ore" (Zero uses "watashi") and Suzaku using "boku." Euphemia uses "watakushi." I'll skip the grammar lesson (go wiki "Japanese pronouns"), but suffice to say that these differences provide a lot of very interesting insight into each of the characters. It's really too bad English isn't nearly as interesting.
The rest of the voices in the dub are pretty average, perhaps the low end of average, with a stereotypically high-pitched girly voice for Nunnally that is amazingly annoying, and very forgettable voices for virtually all the female characters (Milly, Shirley, and Kallen all kind of sound the same). I was very impressed with Lloyd's dub voice though, even if nothing will ever amount to his amazing original voice, which is uh, amazing! Seriously. One of the most amusing voices I've ever heard. Jun Fukuyama's voice for Lelouch I found to be a bit too deep/old sounding initially, but that grew on me as well, and I really love the badassity of his voice for Zero. Suzaku's original voice sounds a little generic at first, but it grows with his character. There's a good bit of Engrish in the Japanese version as well, which is always fun. I don't think you can ever get tired of their "Yes, my lord(o)!" or their "All hail Britannia!"
Overall, I'd say the original is damn awesome, and the dub is pretty watchable -- always a plus, right?
OVERALL - I really love this series, and I definitely did not see that happening. Honestly, I found the first episode incredibly underwhelming: the opening sequence made it look like a series I wouldn't be interested in watching at all, and all of the expository really turned me off...but the second episode? That was so much more epic than I could have ever predicted, and I was pretty much won over after that. I'm just a sucker for chess analogies, I guess! Seriously though, good story, good characters, good animation, and good music! Mechas, politics, rivalry and comradery, strained friendships, love and hate, complex ideologies, and blowing shit up! What more could you want? :D
Code Geass is one of my favorite anime. Why? It's filled with so much action, bombastic dialogue, and has such eye-catching visuals that it tops the charts in entertainment value. This is an exciting and epic anime and it's over the top.
For some people, the plot, characters, and music alone is bad enough to make the show unwatchable. For others, the high action, flashy animation, and drama will be more than enough to make the show a favorite of all time though I like everything about Code Geass.
Story: Lelouch Lamperouge appears to be a typical high school student at Ashford Academy in the
Britannian controlled Area 11 (formerly named Japan.) But he's actually a prince in the Britannian imperial family, and seventeenth in line to the throne. He develops a hatred for the emperor of Britannia and the entire imperial establishment, vowing to one day destroy them for the death of his mother and cripple of his sister. After an encounter with a mysterious young woman named C.C., Lelouch gains the power of Geass, which grants him the ability to force anyone to do what he wishes. With this ability, Lelouch becomes a mysterious figure named Zero and begins his battle against the Britannian Empire.
Code Geass have too many loose and cliff hanging ends. The end are always left unexplained, leaving the viewer with questions not only about various subplots but also about several key elements of the storyline. However, what makes up for this is the plot and character developments. Every episode is surprising and leave you eager to watch the next episode.
It seems Code Geass mainly focus on the drama, emotion, and the heart-breaking moments. Geass ends up being not so much a story with a certain plot and characters but rather a series of exciting, exaggerated but well-crafted, incredulous and definitely memorable scenes.
Characters: The characters, are so great and awesome that it's hard to stop enjoying them. There are characters that are a goody too shoe, outright intolerable that will make you want to strangle and kill them off the show. The characters are all so great that something unexpected might happen to them. There are also characters that are naive, filled with too much hate and/or love but in the end, you'll have a character you like or maybe even love. My favorite character, of course, are C.C., Kallen, and Lelouch.
Art & Animation: Another good thing about Code Geass is its high production values and colorful animation. The character designs, created by CLAMP, are great and well drawn. The animation may not be great but it is detailed, vivid, and lively. The fights aren't as smooth or fluid as it could be but it's flashy, colorful, which is very much fitting considering the nature of the series.
Sound: The voice acting also plays a role in the show's success. Characters like Zero and Suzaku may be outrageous or cliched but their voice actors fit the characters so well that they are able to sell the characters. One of my favorite voice actor, Jun Fukuyama, does a great job playing the key character of Lelouch/Zero. His performance, especially how well he change from the carefree high school student to the more sinister and manipulative rebel is vital to keeping the series enjoyable and entertaining. Fukuyama is usually playing two characters and does it absolutely convincingly. There's nothing to complain about of the music either as the background music is very good and it fits right in it. The openings for Code Geass are my favorite. It's very paced and exciting.
Enjoyment: I've seen Geass more than 5 times in a row already. (Not counting season 2) This is a nice, great anime. With the non-stop action, you'll be wanting to see which side will win and lose. For one moment you can be smiling, then crying the next. Happens to me sometimes.
Overall: Code Geass is a awesome anime that will surely gather different opinions from viewers and other reviewers other than myself. I've seen and heard a lot of people saying SUNRISE has done an awesome job and it's not because of the use of mecha, action or drama, but rather how effectively it appeals to that certain aspect of anime that is not often addressed and yet is one of the main purposes of anime: entertainment. If your main interest in anime is in the quality of the storytelling or the characters, then Geass is probably not for you. However, if you're in it to have fun or for some good laughs, then take a look at this anime. You wont be disappointed. Indeed Geass is a rare accomplishment.
Alright, its taken me since April to reach this point so I may as well dispense with any further delays and say it outright. Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion is not a masterpiece, it isn’t a great show nor is it a very good one. What it is is a marginally good television program that takes concepts and characters from a wide variety of successful anime productions from the last decade and stitches them all together into twenty-five episodes of vulgarity and excess, a Frankenstein’s monster of a production that has the cold manufactured feel of a product of a focus
group rather than of a motivated team of creative individuals.
Let me take a step back for a moment, because the truth of the matter is that Code Geass brought with it a genuinely compelling concept, one that could have done wonders if the creators at Sunrise had known what the hell they were doing. It takes place in an alternate universe where a version of the British Empire called Britannia, through various quirks of fate, manages to endure and thrive into the 21st century. After witnessing the assasination of his mother and having his and his sister’s lives ruined by his father, an exiled Britannian prince living under the assumed name Lelouch Lamperouge, out of a desire for revenge against the emperor, rises to become a revolutionary leader in an occupied Japan.
This concept could have gone in any number of directions and in the right hands could have been turned into something truly remarkable. Unfortunately Goro Tanaguchi and his team at Sunrise either didn’t realize the potential of what they’d come up with or were simply too caught up in making a commercially successful product to care. For, you see, although the basic premise survived to see the light of day it has been chained to and obscured by a wide variety of disparate concepts and ideas, none of which add anything of substance to the proceedings. This is a program that wants to be a mecha action series at the same time it wants to be a war drama at the same time it wants to be a romance/harem series at the same time it wants to be a high school comedy while above all else its trying to be Death Note with a copy of V for Vendetta in its pocket. It all gives the impression of a program that’s so terribly frightened of being disliked by any one subset of the anime fandom that it rushes to appeal to every conceivable kind of viewer and as a result is never truly exceptional at any of the things it attempts.
Giant robots, for example, are thrown in for no better reason than to draw in and satisfy the needs of the giant robot fandom. I don’t have anything against mecha per se but neither do I have any great love for it leaving me rather indifferent to it overall. All I ask is that it adds something to the experience, that there is some concrete purpose for their presence motivated by the narrative, that the giant robots aren’t merely props easily interchangeable with any other fantastical weaponry. Full Metal Panic provides, in its continuity, a fairly detailed justification for how its variation on the giant robot concept came into being. Patlabor provides a similarly believable rationale as well. Ride Back would have had a wonderful thematic connection to its motorcycle/robot hybrids had the creators had the sense to utilize a specific scene outside of the end credits. Code Geass has no such virtue. The “Knightmare frames” come across as a ploy just as empty and cynical as Gonzo’s additions of giant robots to their adaptations of Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai and Dumas’s The Count of Monte Cristo.
The story itself runs into trouble fairly quickly. In the first episode, Lelouch is inspired to begin his campaign against Britannia when he obtains a supernatural ability called Geass from a mysterious girl wearing a tight-fitting straitjacket. This ability allows him to control the will and actions of anyone he chooses with very few actual limitations. All he needs is direct eye contact with his intended victim and that’s it. By comparison the Death Note has a whole page full of rules and restrictions on its use. As a result, a lot of Death Note’s intrigue is generated from the various ways Light Yagami finds to work with or around those rules. The Geass is almost too powerful by comparison. As a result it makes his decision to start a rebellion in Japan as a means of gaining revenge against his father in Britannia seem a very roundabout way of doing things. It would seem more effective to simply hop a plane home, Geass his way past security to get to his father and that would be the end of it. Its not like Lelouch doesn’t accomplish much the same thing with his brother Clovis at the end of the second episode. Of course, if Lelouch were to actually follow the course simple logic would dictate then he wouldn’t have started his rebellion and Code Geass wouldn’t have had the opportunity to indulge in enough overblown spectacle to shame Michael Bay.
This problem is further compounded by the revelation in the second episode that Lelouch is some sort of super-genius strategist. It’s never explained to any degree where his ability comes from, whether the creators want the viewer to assume that its some sort of blood inherited trait or that he was simply educated on the subject. The most the viewer is allowed to understand is that Lelouch’s “strategic brilliance” has something to do with the fact that he’s good at chess, which, if you actually accept that, only explains a fraction of the schemes that he devises. In the end, as a character Lelouch comes across as little more than a plot devise, a strategy generating machine that provides the series with its single greatest source of overblown spectacle.
Out of the rest of the cast the only character who made, or I should say had the potential to leave in impression on me was the anti-Britannian rebel Kallen. She receives an entire episode devoted to her background as the daughter of a Japanese mother and a Britannian father. Much is made of her identification with the Japanese side of her parentage and how her deceased brother figures into things and there is indeed potential for something interesting here. Unfortunately nothing is ever done with any of these elements. Everything that was brought up in that episode is quickly shelved and never brought up again.
It should be noted that a good portion of the issues I have with the show stem from the fact that Code Geass possesses all the subtlety of a sledgehammer to the skull. The result is a heavily calculated experience where the hands of the creators can be clearly seen picking and choosing which ideas or scenarios would have the greatest impact regardless of whether or not they make any sense (coincidences are invoked to the point of absurdity). The first episode alone depicts an ethnic cleansing (a scenario the series portrays twice in its first season) and a bloody mass suicide sure to satisfy the more ghoulish members of the viewership. Fanservice is plentiful and obvious with only a scant few female cast members escaping the first season with their dignity, if they ever had any to begin with.
On the technical side of things there isn’t really a whole lot I can complain about. The animation is smooth well done. The color scheme employed can be a little too bright and cheery for its own good with purple mechs and a city that is lit with pink lighting at night but that is a minor complaint overall. Character designs come courtesy of CLAMP so if you like their artwork you’ll like what you see here. If you don’t like CLAMP then there isn’t anything in Code Geass that will convince you otherwise. The soundtrack, credited to Hitomi Kuroishi and Kotaro Nakagawa, isn’t anything spectacular but it is nonetheless serviceable. It is a competent presentation overall, if only.
Directed by Goro Taniguchi, arguably one of the best directorial talents left at studio Sunrise, and written by his Planetes screenwriter Ichiro Okouchi, Code Geass promised to be a true epic series in the making. An interesting alternate history, a lead character that promised to evolve into a ruthless rebel seeking revenge against the father and the country that ruined his and his sisters life and a dash of mecha added into the mix for good measure. So why did it turn into such a complete circus? An absolute mess of jumbled ideas never touched upon in any way that isn`t absurd or laughable, a
cast of characters who constantly degrade into utter imbeciles and a constantly re-shuffled plot. By the half-way mark of Code Geass, it`s as if focus changed from creating an actually riveting series, to essentially seeing how stupid they could take the whole thing and see how many viewers would go along with the ride.
Story: While Code Geass had an interesting premise that seemingly got off to a good start, it`s unfortunate the creators of the show had no idea how to handle the mass of ideas they had, or perhaps they simply didn`t care. New plot elements are introduced while at the same time are others are pushed back and delayed, sometimes by many episodes, and sometimes taken out of the show entirely, left to be settled in the 2nd season yet to air. The writing completely flat lines half way through and instead of the gripping and fast paced war/revenge story we had, we then dive headfirst into utterly inane romance drama with a resolution so incredibly bone headed that the series has almost turned into a comedy. As the series moves on, almost as if the romance was a checkbox on a "to do" list of the plot, the series gradually builds up again, making you think it may yet recover, despite the still omnipresent idiocy, but the show sees fit to deliver a "plot twist" so completely over the top and ridiculous, the writers have wrecked absolutely everything that the series had built in it`s first half, only to deliver one of the most stupid and pathetic twists in recent years. I can`t imagine the writers had any other intention rather than having the audience laugh at the absurdity of it all. The series seems to want to be so many things at the same time. It wants to be a gripping war story, a drama about revenge, it wants to include romance and tragedy, but without foregoing humour. Unfortuntely it was unable to do any of these right.
Sound: Music wise, the show's soundtrack doesn't impress much if you're familiar with Kotaro Nakagawa. His music here is essentially a rehash of mostly every other show he's done and remixed into one soundtrack. The only stand out area are the vocal tracks by Hitomi and Mikio Sakai, but even those are all too familiar if you're aquainted with their previous works. As far as the OP and EDs go, Colors by FLOW is a great accesible song, and Hitomi no Tsubasa by Access is perfectly catchy in that "I wouldn't admit in real life that I like this" way. The rest of the shows selections vary from the uninspired (2nd ED), to mind numbingly awful (ED1 and it's usual Ali Project rehash and the often hated OP2).
Character:Just as the plot of the series completely crumbles midway through the series, so do the characters. Completely intolerable and annoying side villains are introduced while other much more interesting ones are left to languich and not to reappear until much later. The constantly annoying Suzaku throughout the show is barely even a character, so much his personality and intentions are a joke. Some characters have their personal development completely eradicated from the series, again only to delay it into a second season, while most are barely given even a cursory look, including even supposedly main antagonists. Worst of all is Lelouch, whose descent into a sort of machiavellian evil was purportedly the series main selling point (Episode 1 "the day the devil was born"), is reduced to an utter half wit, commiting imbecilic mistake after another and constantly proving to be all talk and nothing more. A complete let down in every sense.
Value: A seemingly promising series that eventually degrades into nothing more than fanservice and idiocy. Whatever points the series seemed to want to make in it`s first half are utterly invalidated by it`s second. The lack of any sort of resolution, for anything in the series is as confusing as it is aggravating. Being made to wait 4 months for a completely lackluster "ending" only to find out we`ll have to wait even more for any kind of resolution is ridiculous. Knowing that a second season is in the making is irrelevant, there needs to be some kind of payoff for sitting through 25 episodes of this, and all we are left with is having to wait for another 25 episodes.
Enjoyment: As far as rating this show as an enjoyable new series with promise from a once great director, I`d be hard pressed to give it anymore than a 4. Nevertheless, the shows stupidity and constant excesses at least made it worth watching for a few laughs. Laughing at it of course, not with it. Sunrise seems to be stuck in a rut in terms of how it plans out and executes it`s shows. Mai Hime, Mai Otome, and now Code Geass and unfortunately they don`t seem likely to want to change that formula. I expected much more from the people behind this show, a complete shame.