I decided to review the action/military anime Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion (2006-2007). This is the first of the two Code Geass series, and is 25 episodes long.
What’s it about?
Set in the future of an alternate history, Japan has been conquered by the superpower Britannia, and renamed “Area 11”, with all traces of Japanese culture effectively erased. Due to the murder of his mother, Lelouch Lamperouge is an exiled Britannian prince living in Area 11 with his younger sister, Nunnally. After a series of events involving terrorists fighting to free Japan, Lelouch comes in contact with the strange woman C.C. who grants him the power of Geass; the power to command others to do his bidding. With this power, Lelouch is determined to find the person who killed his mother, overthrow his father, the Emperor of Britannia, and create a new, safe world for Nunnally. However, further complicating this task is Britannia’s military use of fighting robots known as “Knightmare Frames” and the re-appearance of Lelouch’s former best friend, Suzaku Kururugi.
The plot of this anime is explosive, addictive, and unpredictable. It’s fast paced and almost every episode ends in some kind of “Ah what is going to happen now?” moment. From episode 22 onwards, the anime is brilliant in its nail-biting conclusion, setting the scene nicely for the second series. There are a number of laughs thrown in along the way, as well as a couple of sad moments. There is plenty of action and it is executed well in terms of art and intensity. What I really liked is the fact that this anime did not back down when it came to covering the gruesome acts of war and the way it affects people, both in Lelouch’s actions as part of the rebellion, and in the flashbacks to when Japan was first conquered. I also found this anime pretty realistic in terms of presenting all of the different groups that had vested interests in Lelouch’s rebellion (e.g. the Britannian royal family, the Black Knights, and the Chinese Federation, just to name a few), and also did a great job in depicting the games of cat and mouse, use of tactics, and problems associated with secret identities.
One of the things that I really liked about Code Geass was the two male leads; Lelouch and Suzaku. Standing alone, both characters are quite brilliant. Lelouch is dramatic, flamboyant, and over-the-top, to the point where I was making comparisons to Ouran High’s Tamaki and Fruit Basket’s Ayame (thankfully Lelouch is down to earth not so insanely energetic). At the same time, however, Lelouch is an intellectual and strategist to the nth degree, and is not afraid to become the ‘bad guy’ to get what he wants. At first glance, Suzaku is your standard hero. He’s brave, athletic, loyal, etc. But Suzaku is more complex than that, and his need to play a hero stems from a dark past. Separately, Lelouch and Suzaku are strong characters, but the relationship between the two is also very important. Their relationship involves many different layers, building up from their first meeting as kids, and often puts Lelouch in complicated positions. The friendship (?) between Lelouch and Suzaku is also an ideological battle-field as both characters want to change the world, but take different paths in their effort to do so. Finally, it’s nice to see is the transformation of the two characters and their relationship throughout the series.
Whilst the soundtrack throughout the series is good, I wasn’t particularly impressed by the opening or ending songs, with the exception of “Hero Youth Song” by Ali Project (first ending song).
Firstly… the art. I just found the chins too pointy and the eyes too weirdly shaped. Also… does no one in this anime eat?! I was ready to call an intervention. Everyone is also impossibly tall. Another thing that I didn’t like about the art was some of the clothes that the characters wear… some looked great, but the clothes that the pilots wore looked pretty horrid.
Now, earlier I mentioned that the unpredictability of the plot was a big plus for this anime. Well, hand-in-hand with this unpredictability comes a bit of confusion. When the plot is focused it’s great, well-written and surprising. However, there are times when the story is a bit jumpy, which left me feeling a bit confused. This is particularly the case with characters who don’t get a lot of screen time in general, as well as when exploring the intentions and interests of the different groups that are involved in the politics of the anime.
Sometimes the plot is stretched a little bit in terms of believability. For example, the one that ticks me off the most is Lelouch’s “joke” to his half-sister Princess Euphemia in episode 22 that leads to the climax of the plot. I remember sitting there thinking “there has to be a better way to get this plot moving in that direction”.
Finally, a note on a couple of the characters. Some that you see frequently and play an important role are actually pretty bland; Shirley, one of Lelouch’s school-friends, being the main offender. In fact, almost all of the school members are stereotypical and boring.
Anything else I should consider?
If you’re sitting there thinking this sounds like a great anime, but are put off by the idea of giant fighting robots, you might want to read this. I’m not particularly into mecha myself, and avoided watching this anime for a while. However, the Knightmares play an important role in the action scenes; they allow a faster pace compared to using tanks and soldiers, and they also allow a lot more ‘peaceful’ violence (e.g. instead of a person’s arm being cut of, a robot’s arm is). Take the time to enjoy the visuals in the fighting sequences, which tend to focus more on the pilot and their decision’s than the actual robots, and just tune out on the rare occasions where the characters talk about specifics. All you need to know is that each new model will destroy any earlier model, unless that earlier model is piloted by a key character such as Lelouch, Suzaku, C.C. or Kallen.
Art: 6/10: A lot of hits and misses… but given the terrible-even-by-anime-standards proportions of the characters, more of a miss…
Story: 8/10: Fast paced and intense, I can’t think of an anime off the top of my head that matches Code Geass in its unpredictability and strategy, but you can easily get confused.
Characters: 7/10: Whilst the main characters are solid, particularly Lelouch and Suzaku, the majority of the lesser characters are dull.
This anime’s main assets are its explosive, addicting plot, and its two male leads; Lelouch and Suzaku. Whilst the art isn’t as amazing as it could be, you do get used to it, and it does justice to the action scenes. Whether you are drawn to strategy and tactics, or action, you will probably enjoy this anime. Overall, I give it an 8/10.