a.k.a. Code Geass – Hangyaku no Lelouch
It has been years since the Holy Empire of Britannia conquered Japan (now Area 11) in their thirst for global dominance. Likewise, it has been years since Lelouch Lamperouge and his sister, Nunnally, were exiled after their mother, the Empress, was assassinated. Lelouch has grown up thirsting for revenge against his regal family. As luck would have it, a mysterious girl named C.C. gives Lelouch the power of Geass; the one weapon that may destroy Britannia, and give Lelouch the vengeance he desires.
summary by Ender
Highs: Interesting characters and story; exciting plot; good music; well-animated
Lows: Raises more questions than answers; tends to go way over-the-top
The problem I have with most mech-anime is the main character archetype. More often than not, it’s the same unsure, emotional, teenage pilot who somehow winds up in the cockpit of an über-bot and proves his worth while destroying phalanxes of other über-bots. So, imagine my surprise when Sunrise — the chief purveyor as to why we have said archetype — created a mech-anime in which the main character is a confident, scheming, teenage…terrorist.
Maybe “terrorist” is too harsh a word, but somehow I think that is what director Taniguchi Goro and writer Ōkouchi Ichirō (both from Planetes) wanted to go for. Lelouch is a cross between Death Note’s Light and V: For Vendetta’s eponymous anti-hero; a revenge-obsessed genius, plotting out miniscule details of grand-scale schemes with questionable morals. Sure, he may be eradicating lives wholesale, but it’s all for a greater good…right? These ideas are routinely brought up by the writers through the consistently interesting — though sometimes, not entirely useful — cast. They cover everything from prissy would-be archdukes, to wannabe teenage heroes, to naïve princesses, and none of them are spared Lelouch’s — and the writers’ — wrath. However, and I do understand that this is only the first part of a longer story, some of the motivations behind a good portion of the cast don’t get addressed; I still had no idea whom or what C.C. was, and she’s probably the main factor that ignites Lelouch. It might seem like a lame gripe, but I do not see why this couldn’t be addressed within these 25 episodes.
There is a strange theatrical-quality to CLAMP’s designs. Somehow, no character really feels out of place, and it compliments the “stagey” nature of the show. The Votoms by ways of Escaflowne mechs follow suit; the regal designs of the destructive bots (the Lancelot and the Gawain) seem to work in-tandem with the practical soldier armors. When these metal constructs start moving with its cast of gaudily-dressed anorexics as their pilots, it all makes for great spectacle, and often diabolical drama. This aesthetic gives the impression of a story that sticks close to its operatic influences without completely sacrificing the horrors of battle: beautiful yet chilling.
Granted, the show doesn’t entirely excise the over-the-top nature of operas: there is just so much seriousness that can be milked from the image of a mock Mujahideen force taking orders from a teenager in faux Phantom of the Opera garb. Though I personally enjoyed seeing Lelouch and company overact and chew the scenery, it often came immediately before or after a moment of brutal violence or contrasting school-time comedy. It throws a constant switch in moods, and I can’t tell whether this was deliberate. Maybe it’s another way of showing the duality of being a civilian in a time of war? Perhaps, but then why include supernatural elements? Aren’t robot soldiers enough? I feel that this makes the show less capable of gaining credibility, but more than adequate in losing an audience.
Little problems like those mentioned above keep Code Geass from obtaining a spot in the list of classics in the genre. Regardless, the series was still a monumental joy to behold. It is certainly different from the countless “safe” series out there. It was exciting, brutal, funny, tragic, gorgeous, but a picaresque joy to watch. Come to think of it, I may be describing the main character there.
Code Geass is licensed in the U.S. by Funimation, and episodes may be viewed legally in the United States HERE, and has been expanded to 50 episodes.