Legendary tales are passed down from generation to generation. The tales of yore were often retold with minor alterations over time for one reason or another. Sometimes it was simply to update it for current times, other times it was merely for not remembering everything. Such stories were enduring for ages despite the very real possibility of being lost to time. Works such as Grendel owe their survival to the acts of translation and retelling. However, this idea is not exclusive to literature and family tales that remained unwritten; films and television series got this treatment as well.
Almost a decade after the saga of Lelouch
came to an end, the magnificent bastards over at Studio Sunrise brought the old writing and directing team of Garou Taniguchi, Ichiro Okouchi, and others altogether for a project of retelling and resurrection. A retelling of the original 50 episode series was made as a film trilogy, with this being the first. Admittedly, some may pause at the word “retelling”, asking why not refer to it as recap. Simply put, it is far more, as they made alterations to the script for a new age and for the condensed format. The story of Code Geass has been passed down to a new generation, with the old masters learning from the year since the original’s conclusion, analyzing the original for what best to keep for a trilogy, and adding to it to strengthen the parts they kept and improve on characters in interesting ways with their new take on things. It's a wonder the pacing is as decent as it is.
When it came to lifting visuals from the show, they did nothing to alter it, which sadly means no improvements on the CGI or any of the momentary dips on quality. However, the new scenes were wonderful, recapturing the look and feel of the show with a slightly sleeker look that hardly looks out of place. While the visuals of the show itself could have been polished up for the big screen in places, the plethora of new scenes makes up for it in a way due to how faithful and wonderful they look. The mech battles are as fun, well-planned and executed, and acrobatic as ever, and any new clothing featured looks as great as the rest.
Another area the film adds new love to is the music. Code Geass already has a wondrous OST, and this film nor only shuffled around tracks from the episodes being retold and added some fantastic tracks from R2, but the new tracks (whose names cannot be discerned at the moment due to lack of release) not only fit in perfectly but work as wonderful as the rest. They even added new songs from Hitomi Kuroishi, who sang the more melodic songs of the original such as “Continued Story”, “Stories”, and “Precious Time”. They kept the iconic opening to the TV series and added a new ED theme that surpasses both of the first season’s EDs, especially the first one. “Aka Dake ga Tarinai” by Iris, is a fantastic track that fits perfectly with the penultimate scene of Todoh’s rescue from episode 20 of the original, with wonderful vocals and lovely chorus sections that blend in magnificently with the tone of the scene proper. It was a wonder hearing the old tracks in new places and the new tracks getting along perfectly. Kotaro Nakagawa and Hitomi Kuroishi, thank you for such wonderful contributions to what is already one of the best OSTs in anime.
Admittedly, the film does carry a few vices from the television show. While not every tone shift in the series was done poorly and abruptly, they clearly only took the bad ones. I still have questions regarding the creation of Zero’s iconic uniform, among other questions. However, the new footage does a lot to expand on things, like give more time for the Black Knights to have fun and do relevant things not shown during battles and other moments in the original; the film even explains how they got their headquarters. From the end of the first scene, we even see relevant relatives of Lelouch as they see him and his sister off. These relatives would be the very same we know proper in the show, so it was a sweet touch to add to make the idea of them seeing Lelouch again all the more impactful. You can tell they analyzed this story to an extent to see what to add and what to alter. There is even a montage that shows some of the events the Black Knights did in the early parts of their campaign following the final major event they partook in during the film, showing most of what was skipped. As well, some scenes played out differently regarding Villetta and the Japan Liberation Front, in order to suit the runtime, and they work flawlessly.
While regrettably, the scenes of Arthur biting Suzaku and later getting acquainted with him were cut given a role that was played towards R2’s finale, it is nothing worth fretting overmuch. They even alter a scene of Lelouch and C.C in a way that has her come off as more tender and vulnerable, showcasing a stronger connection between the two at that point than the series did. Not to mention that a variety of the new scenes centered around those two, including a scene of Lelouch playing darts as C.C eats pizza. It’s very clear where the writers are taking this relationship in comparison to before. No other character was altered in any significant way with aside from adding more scenes with Lelouch playing darts and facing hardship over a major reveal about his rival; everyone remains just s good as you remember them. The only exception is a member named Naomi, who actually gets added relevance with her actually doing something like taking down an enemy onscreen and witnessing Zero’s conversation with the head of Kyoto along with more relevant members, Kallen and Ohgi. It may be odd to focus on such a minor character from the original, whose name the series didn’t actually tell us (promo material, merchandise, word of god, etc. told us instead) but the film adds a bit to her and they didn’t need to go out of their way to do so. Nice things aren’t always necessary to do, they’re just thoughtful and sweet and deserve to be acknowledged.
Effectively, this film succeeded splendidly as a retelling of the original 17 episodes (and episode 20, sans 8, 9, most of 12 and 13, and 14-16), while adding meaningful content to really justify the film’s existence, from new tracks to entire scenes that contribute to the characters in some way. The alterations worked wonders as well for this new interpretation of the material. It will be fascinating to see how the next two films of this new version of the story will handle things, and based on the results of this film, I am more than confident that they know what they are doing. As a fan of the original series, most notably the first season, I am more than satisfied with this new take on this legendary show, and at the end of the day, that was all they needed to do to solidify this film’s existence. Until next time, as always, I bid you adieu.
This is not a substitute for watching the original series so you can experience all of Code Geass seasons 1&2 in just 3 movies but if you watched the show years ago and want to relive the experience but don't have time to marathon 2 seasons of anime then this does a far better job than most condensed to movie adaptations.
The stuff it leaves out/covers in less detail is generally very well done so the movie has a nice flow and still covers all the important developments. However they made one glaring mistake when it came to deciding what material to cut. This movie cuts
out almost every interaction anyone has with the characters Shirley and Euphemia which is a massive problem. The relationships formed between Lelouch and Suzaku and them are incredibly important to the development of the plot and if someone were to only watch the movie version they would have almost no idea who they are or why they are so important and beloved. The sad thing is it would have been such an easy problem to fix by just extending the movie's run time 5-10 minutes.
For reference I gave the original show a 10/10 because even though it isn't perfect it was just so much fun to watch and I gave the movie an 8/10 because they left out the heart of the show by cutting out any emotional developments.