Review: Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion

titleWhen it comes to anime shows about large robots fighting, you won’t be looking around the genre long before you come across Code Geass. In fact, if you’re looking for recommendations in general then this is a name you’re likely to hear even before someone tells you to watch Death Note or Fullmetal Alchemist. Code Geass is already a classic, and it’s one you probably won’t want to miss.

01On paper, there are so many things about Code Geass that shouldn’t work. Its elements don’t really blend together, and the mix of high school drama and ‘liberation of Japan via use of mechas’ is a strange (yet still slightly predictable) combination. Things that shouldn’t be connected are, and outside the classroom the same characters are fighting each other in a war for freedom. Admittedly Code Geass took me a while to get into, and in the first few episodes the narrative easily gets lots in confusing politics and military strategy.

03Half way into series one and I found myself drawn in to both the Code Geass world and the characters that inhabit it. The battle scenes become hypnotic, and the high school antics serve as entertaining interludes, although I’m sure that many hardcore fans would disagree with me that these are the best bits of the show. But it’s that variety that ultimately works holds everything together, and seeing characters that were fighting each other in one episode make a giant pizza together in the next may have been odd, but it certainly entertained me.

These were the kind of elements that meant towards the end of the show’s two series run I was hooked. Whilst it’s debatable which series is superior, it’s the second that I enjoyed from start to finish – even though it’s far from perfect. After a climactic end to series one the status quo is conveniently restored when the characters all have their memories altered, and whilst Code Geass R2 succeeds in entertaining, it doesn’t immediately follow through on any of the issues you might want it to.

02However, whilst I was happy to forgive some of the shows flaws, and overlook others, it does commit a few crimes that are harder to ignore. Lelouch’s Geass power – which allows him to command anyone to do his bidding – is certainly interesting, but the actual mechanics of how it works are always vague. Remember how in Death Note Light Yagami does all these experiments to ascertain the true power of his demon notebook? Well that’s because Death Note is better written. I want to know what happenes when Geass is used to command the impossible, something contradictory/open to interpretation, or something someone doesn’t already know how to do. It’s never quite made clear exactly what Lelouch can and can’t achieve using his powers. Because of this its applications feel at best unpredictable, and at worst acts of Deus ex machina.

Still, especially in the later episodes, Geass is used in some interesting and creative ways. Unfortunately, the show’s logic that dictates success and failure isn’t quite as realistic as it should be, and many of Lelouch’s plans work out when perhaps they shouldn’t have. In particular the final episode, which I know many people think is great, left me unsatisfied. I know his schemes are meant to show us that he is a tactical strategist capable of out-thinking his enemies, but the plans he sets in motion often include so many elements completely out of his control, and when they succeed it feels like sheer luck.

043Code Geass is an iconic anime that is fun, weird and entertaining. I’d recommend it in this regard – don’t let anyone tell you it’s all intellectual or anything. If you want some light heated enjoyment then it truly delivers, and this is something none of its problems can take away.

8/10

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7 responses to “Review: Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion”

  1. Quvin Sharpe says :

    I agree with your review, Code Geass is my all time favorite show. For me it was the first episode in season one that I fell in love with the show. The political and military stuff dragged me in and made it all seam so realistic to me. I love both the school and the Knightmare scenes, altho l love the Knightmare seans more there both alsome. I also love the military strategies they use. I just won’t to say I love Code Geass thank you for your review.

  2. Matteo Vukoja says :

    You have probably heard/seen people recommend Code Geass to Death Note fans, but they are completely wrong. Death Note and Code Geass are completely different. The only Anime I know of which is similar and better than Death Note is One Outs. All the military decisions and strategies Lelouch made, along with the mecha fights/wars were only to give the series a bit of excitement, because otherwise, the story would have never gotten popular enough to finish. The real beauty about CG is the story, it’s vast set of characters and their individual development. We have seen Lelouch receive the Geass and form the Black Knights, but many times he has betrayed his followers and used dishonest methods (including the Geass) to reach his goal in the first season. He was a true anti-hero, but only in our eyes. The second season followed him on his path to redemption, where he decided to care about the his followers and allies in the war, although his redemption is a series of tragic events which left a deep scar on his soul, but made him understand the people he cares about are his real treasure (his desire to light the fireworks at the Academy showed it, and how he could not bear to tell Rivalz that he won’t be able to do it). It was a great experience watching him change, and I will never forget it. On the side is Suzaku. Although I did not like him at first, I liked his change as well, because it felt realistic. He was always idealistic, wanted to solve any issue through peaceful solutions and save people, mostly because he wanted to atone for what he did to his father. He always despised Zero and believed that the means to achieve a goal should always be honorable and follow his view of “justice”. He then met Euphemia, a Britannian princess who shared his exact dream, and thought he could finally realize it when she announced the Special Zone of Japan. Her tragic death was a death blow to Suzaku, and I think many people would have either committed suicide immediately or abandoned their dream forever, but he didn’t. He finally understood well an ideal world could never exist, and that he has to protect what he loves at any cost. Suzaku now understood how Lelouch felt when he lost his mother and Nunally was left crippled, but he still could not accept Zero’s actions. After the ending of season 1 and the start of R2,he became quite bitter because he could not accept all of the tragic events that took place in the recent months of his life. He stayed like this until he reunited with Lelouch, and put into action the Zero Requiem. They both knew what they had to do, and how to achieve it, although the sacrifices would still be great. The ending was the best I could have possibly imagined, and there were not many options for the ending after he became the Emperor. These two guys had some serious balls to do this, but, although they were the main characters, all of the side characters were as important to the story as they were, no matter how insignificant they may have seemed. They all gave support or influenced Lelouch and Suzaku in a way that helped them achieve the Zero Requiem. I have just analysed these two and not even to the slightest detail, but I think I gave a more clear picture of what is actually Code Geass. I believe it’s an amazing story, and in my opinion, along with Hunter X Hunter (2011), the best anime of all time. I only hope I changed your opinion about it as well, but even if I didn’t, it’s still okay because now that I wrote this small analysis, I feel my love for Code Geass has only strengthened.

    • Disco Dracula says :

      I certainly agree that Death Note and Code Geass are very different, although I can still see why the two are recomended together. Whilst the content differs, they are two of the most well known and highly regarded anime, and I think most people who enjoyed one would also like the other. When I first got into anime they were two names I was reading a lot, and for two shows frequently grouped together they are indeed not that similar – and you’ve pointed out many of the reasons why. I guess it could depend on exactly what someone liked about Death Note, but if you’re criteria is simply excellent anime shows then it’s easy to recommend both. I’ve not seen One Outs but will deffinitly check it out, thanks for the recomendation!

      • Matteo Vukoja says :

        Well, criteria is just a matter of perspective of the individual, but yeah, there are shows which simply anyone will like, and Death Note, Code Geass and Attack On Titan as well fall into that category. I watched Code Geass for the first time simply because someone recommended it to me because I liked Death Note, but only now that I watched it the second time, I finally understand how good it actually is. And yeah, One Outs is actually better than Death Note, although sometimes it can be confusing about the baseball rules you do not know about. Have fun watching :D

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