Since its release in 2006, “Code Geass” has formed a very strong, honorable fan base, and has earned itself the unofficial title of a ‘must watch’ series. Although it is not mentioned as much among anime fans, it has become s a series that any respectable anime fan must at least check out. Anyone who appreciates a complex story line, a vast variety of characters ranging from extremely irritable, to loveable fan favorites, as well as a nice, strong dose of mecha will enjoy this series. That’s right, Code Geass is a member of the mecha genre, which features giant human-controlled robots which battle paranormal monsters, or other mechas during war ("Gundam Wing" and "Neon Genesis Evangelion" are popular examples). Although it does not thematically center around mechas, they do get a fair amount of screen time. Known in this series as ‘Knightmares Frames,’ the mechas are used in battle by both opposing forces, the Holy Britannian Empire, and the remaining Japanese forces.
In the world of Code Geass, the majority of the world’s countries are under the control of the Holy Britannian Empire. Japan fell victim to its merciless armed forces, and soon became a colonized territory known simply as ‘Area 11.’ Japanese custom, culture, and traditions were completely replaced by Britannia, and even the Japanese citizens were renamed ‘Elevens.’ The remaining Japanese forces had been grasping whatever hope they possibly could by committing acts of terrorism against Britannia. However, even seven years after their epic loss, they have still barely scratched the surface of the Britannian military. Fortunes change, however, when the masked man, Zero, appears. Zero is in reality a seventeen-year-old exiled prince of Britannia under the name Lelouch Lamperouge (please, for the love of God pronounce his name right, unless you want to be shunned by die hard Code Geass fan boys and fan girls everywhere). Lelouch vows to destroy Britannia and create a world where his sister, Nunally, can live without fear of the cruel empire. His cunning battle plans and the force of remaining terrorists at his command make him formidable for the task. On top of that, a mysterious woman named C.C. gave him the supernatural power, Geass, which allows him to control a person’s mind just by looking them in the eye. You would think that Lelouch is a shoe-in to achieve his goal. Right?
Now, I am sure I am not the only one who picked up any historical references here. Britannia taking over and suppressing multiple different countries and territories? Sounds vaguely familiar. Although no official connections have been made, people have certainly come up with various assumptions, as well as theories. The creator of Code Geass truly went all out in providing information of past events that lead to Britannia’s position in the world. Although, there are not many examples or obvious displays of Japanese culture in this series. In the world of Code Geass, Japanese culture is basically forbidden and any acts against Britannia’s law results in severe punishment. In Code Geass, the few remaining governing forces are: The Holy Britannian Empire, The Chinese Federation, and The European Union. Although there are other militaries, like the Japanese military, they do not have enough control of land to be considered a ‘governing force.’
At the core, Code Geass appears to be to be a typical mecha anime. It has two opposing sides, a general conflict, and the use of mechas to settle conflict. The special thing about Code Geass that sets it off from the rest of mecha anime is Lelouch Lamprouge and his power, Geass. Sure we have giant robots, smashing the day lights out of each other, which is awesome, but the main focal point is watching Lelouch master (or survive) the power of Geass. Lelouch is a fairly complex character, he has a dark, hidden past and a strong motive/desire to obliterate Britannia. Viewers can ask themselves, is Lelouch’s power a blessing, or a curse? Is he slowly being consumed by his own power? Can he survive the psychological roller coaster ride that comes along with the power to be able to control another person’s will? How can he withstand the stress of having to hide his power from his friends and family? Geass isolates Lelouch from other human beings, as he has the burden to carry of tampering with the human mind, and even using his power to kill those who block his path to victory. That is where Code Geass truly shines. Its character development is spectacular. We watch characters explore their morals, and by the end of the series have done complete turnarounds on themselves. Sometimes it could be enjoyable, but other times it was downright obnoxious. When I talk to some of my friends who enjoy anime I often refer to the show as, Code Geass: Clash of the Hypocrites. Don’t get me wrong, this anime is not without its flaws. Some of its attempts to reel the audience in, end up being more hit and miss. But overall, Code Geass’s unique plot and character development, are able to score the anime with a great series title, and a lot of entertainment value. It is one of those animes that you could binge watch for a whole weekend, and still crave more. It is like the gateway drug to the mecha genre.
If someone asked me ‘if I enjoyed Code Geass, what other anime would you recommend?’ I could answer that question in a heartbeat. If you liked Code Geass, “Death Note” is the way to go. Death Note is one of my personal favorite animes. It bears a lot of similarity to Code Geass. Death Note does not have any mechas in it whatsoever, but the reason it is so similar is because of its main protagonist/antagonist (however you choose to see him) Light Yagami. Light Yagami, just like Lelouch, obtained a Godlike power. A notebook dropped by a Shinigami (god of death) that has the power to kill any human whose name you write on its pages. Light automatically decides to use the notebook’s power to rid the world of evil and evildoers. Seems pretty noble-hearted. Right? But just the fact that Light, a mere human, has such a strong and crazy power, his mind over the course of the series becomes consumed by the notebook. Although he’s trying to escape the police, the world’s greatest detective, and achieve his goal, it seems that his biggest challenge is trying to not go completely insane because of the Death Note. Not to mention Light and Lelouch are quite similar characters. They have almost the same moral views, and are willing to do whatever it takes to achieve their idea of a perfect world. However, as both series progress, I find that one of these characters does a better job of sustaining his mental health, and is less of a jerk by the end of the anime. Any ideas about which character that is?
If you would rather watch a show that includes mechas, then I would recommend you go check out “Gundam Wing.” Keep in mind that I have never actually seen Gundam Wing, so this is a blind recommendation based on what people have told me, and what I have seen on the internet. Honestly, the mecha genre just isn’t really my cup of tea. Gundam Wing includes quite a strong amount of mechas and mecha battles, questionable moral viewpoints, and a main character who is considered by many people to be an anti-hero.
Code Geass. In the end, who should watch it? Here is my honest opinion. Code Geass is a well done, well written, unique story with interesting and enjoyable characters. It is a show with a lot of entertainment quality and value, which is really the most important aspect of any anime you are watching. In my opinion, it is a show that anime and manga fans should definitely check out and give a fair shot. At the same time though, I would not consider it one of those shows that is crucial for an anime fan to watch in order to be considered ‘a true anime fan’ or ‘heavily involved in the community.’ I have met people who love everything about the show, some people who despise it, and some that think it is just okay. But let me make one thing clear, it is worth the time to research or watch at least the first couple of episodes, if not the whole series. I personally really enjoyed the show and all though it is not my favorite, it is an anime I can safely say is worth the watch. Specifically, I think that fans of the mecha genre, and fans of anime with intense, controversial plots such as Death Note should definitely try out the show. Code Geass has been both English Subbed and Dubbed. If you have not seen it, go check it out as soon as you can.