The Empire of Britannia has invaded Japan using giant robot weapons called Knightmare Frames. Japan is now referred to as Area 11, and its people the 11s. A Britannian who was living in Japan at the time, Lelouch, vowed to his Japanese friend Suzaku that he'd destroy Brittania. Years later, Lelouch is in high school, but regularly skips out of school to go play chess and gamble on himself. One day, he stumbles on terrorists 11s who've stolen a military secret and is caught by a member of the Britannian task force sent after them, who is Suzaku. As the rest of the squad arrives, Suzaku is shot for disobeying orders, while the military secret, a young girl, gives Lelouch the power to make anyone obey any order. He takes command of the terrorists and leads them to crush the approaching Britannian force. However, Suzaku is secretly made the pilot of Britannia's brand new test model Knightmare, Lancelot. Lelouch becomes the masked king Zero to lead the rebellion to defeat Britannia.
This series follows Suzaku's side of the story, while Lelouch of the Rebellion follows Lelouch's.
I wasn’t sure what to expect when I picked this manga series up. I intended to finish up the entire series since it was only 2 volumes long, but after the 1st volume, I found it so awful that I see no way of the second volume being able to redeem this retelling of one of my favorite series.
First of all, if this is a retelling of Code Geass as seen through Suzaku’s eyes, then it’s appalling at how many inaccuracies there are. There are no Knightmare Frames. None. Zilch. Zero. Suzaku’s prototype Lancelot suit is just a suit
he wears into battle and looks like someone’s Gundam cosplay you would find at a con. The Black Knights, instead of commandeering a fleet of Knightmare Frames, are just ordinary drug traffickers. Thus, there are no mech-to-mech battles, as Britannia isn’t shown to possess Knightmare Frames either, so battles instead center around hand-to-hand combat. Other inaccuracies abound: Here, Prince Clovis’s murder is simplified to the point of blandness, Suzaku’s subsequent trial and public execution from the anime are completely distorted, as well as Zero’s kidnapping of Suzaku afterwards. But perhaps the biggest insult to the series is the true intention of Suzaku’s father. As a result of this distortion, the entire basis of Suzaku’s philosophy and intentions in the anime are completely destroyed, and Suzaku’s development as a character is further hampered by the fact that Lelouch never used his Geass on him in the manga!
One of the things I loved about Code Geass the anime is the relationships amongst the characters. Here, there is none of the strategic, chess-like grittiness that goes on between the Black Knights and the Britannian Empire, and you don’t feel much of Suzaku’s internal conflict with himself at all, because of the destruction of his character basis. His philosophy is highlighted during his first encounter with Lelouch as a soldier, after his rescue during the trial, and when he first put on the Lancelot suit. However, it is so weakly portrayed here that the fact the manga prides itself on being a “Code Geass told through Suzaku’s eyes” series makes it even more insulting. Suzaku’s relationships with other characters, to say the least, is horridly done. Much of the time it’s a distorted version of his internal conflict, but his relationship with Lelouch, deeply portrayed in the anime, feels distant and cold here. It feels like their relationship is held together by used Post-it Notes and Scotch Tape rather than something that was developed over years of hardship and understanding. Arthur doesn’t come up to bite Suzaku’s finger, and Nunnally is portrayed as “my best friend’s little sister” rather than a member of the royal family.
Many characters were shoehorned in for a few scenes and lack much of their distinct personalities, such as Kallen, CC, Prince Schneizel, and most of all, Jeremiah, who here is portrayed as an out-of-character generic soldier. If you just read this manga and skipped the anime, the name Orange-kun wouldn’t mean a thing. Many characters are cut out from the anime, such as Princess Cornelia, King Charles, Villetta, Nina, Rivalz, Milly, and all the Black Knights except for Kallen.
But… the absolute, most unforgivable character they cut out would have to be Princess Euphemia, who is replaced with a shallowly developed character named Mariel. For a manga centered around Suzaku, this is perhaps the epitome of idiocy this manga has to offer. Euphemia is the catalyst of Suzaku’s actions from a third of the way into R1 all the way until at least halfway into R2. She sets things into action towards the end of R1, and if she were cut, there is no chance of telling the Code Geass series accurately.
The premise of this manga is an interesting concept. The conflict of ideals shown between Lelouch and Suzaku are a major theme of the anime series. It goes beyond good vs evil and transcends into what’s morally right and morally wrong, and why they all act the way they do. The anime is told from a Lelouch-centric perspective, and oftentimes Suzaku is portrayed in a negative, naïve light. But the basis for Suzaku’s actions is strong, and it would have been wonderful to see an interpretation of Code Geass from his point-of-view. But this manga’s billing of itself as Code Geass told from Suzaku’s perspective is an insult to the Code Geass name. It’s even an insult to the character it tries to focus on. For the proper Code Geass experience, I do command you to watch the anime series- both R1 and R2- and avoid this manga series like the plague.
Just to get this out of the way, this is not a retelling of Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion. This is a separate timeline of events, with Suzaku as the main character. As with the original series, the art work was good. Nothing in particular really stood out, but it was solid work. This story had so much potential, and it's frustrating that the author chose to utilize a deus ex machina at the end, where they could've really put an interesting end on the series. The story up to the end is okay, not as good as the original, but still acceptable. Though,
in my opinion, the ending ruins the story. Code Geass is my favorite series of manga, and I honestly wouldn't recommend it.