This review was revised on 12th January 2010. Although the wording has changed, my thoughts and sentiments on the show remain exactly the same. Please take note, however, that the Overall rating changed from 8.7 to 8.5 to take into account the relative ranking of another series.
Opening with a chess game where a high-school student, Lelouch Lamperouge, defeats an aristocrat in record time, Code Geass is a show clearly low in logic and high in cheese. When said student acquires mind-control powers, an all-black superhero costume, and starts playing political games with people as pawns, events get really dumbfounding. In spite of this, Code Geass brims with the kind of high-octane antics that make getting swept away in its story hard to resist.
At the start, terrible things happen to Japanese civilians in rapid, manipulative scenarios to grab attention and sympathy. From then on, it's a rollercoaster ride in which Lelouch (under the pseudonym 'Zero') outmanoeuvres the oppressive Britannian Empire between bouts of maniacal laughter and sweeping hand gestures. The show is an exercise in theatrics, a high-budget pantomime where every chorus of 'He's behind you!' at the Britannians feels as exciting as the first. Indeed, this series embraces melodrama with such joyous frenzy, that its liberal application becomes an endearing trait rather than a handicap.
While any political venture is bound to be fraught with controversies, Code Geass settles only for the juciest. Who can forget the Emperor announcing his warped form of moral darwinism to the world? 'People are not equal!' he asserts. 'We must fight! Compete, take, control, possess! Beyond that lies the future.' Or the show's use of that classic 'buddies at war' plot device a la Gundam SEED, where Lelouch and Suzaku Kururugi stand in opposing camps despite being childhood friends. My personal award, however, goes to Princess Euphemia's stunning revelation on war, which sums up the shallow waters of intellectualism in which Code Geass wades: 'Suzaku, I finally understand. It's not about ideal countries, justice, or other such complicated things. I just want to see smiles.' Tell that to the Iraqis, sweetie.
Moreover, although strictly classifiable as a mecha show, Code Geass is not at all defined by this feature; while the political manoeuvres drive the story, the mecha serve the same function as spoilers on an already monstrous sports car. At some point the writers thought: 'They're tacky and superfluous, but what the heck, they'll make things go faster!' Indeed, as accessories, they are extremely good fun, delivering the kind of pyrotechnics and en masse casualties an action show needs these days to keep the kids slavering.
With all its excesses and crude pseudo-philosophies, nobody could mistake Code Geass for a subtle, intelligent show. On the other hand, I can't deny the slick way it appeals to sentiment and intuition to deliver a jaw-dropping political adventure. It verges on madness and, once or twice, even flirts with genius, but always with a keen eye for spectacle.
Nobody does 'cute' like the ladies at CLAMP. Only they could be responsible for the adorably anorexic character designs reminiscent of their previous works like Tsubasa Chronicle. The unique concept is bright, cartoonish, and full of kawai details - from princesses with flowing pink hair to the quaint upward curve of the girls' miniskirts. Even Lelouch, despite his tortured personality, is on cel nothing more than a bug-eyed bishie. Yet the animation as a whole stops short of looking as childish as Tsubasa Chronicle thanks to the generous application of gory blood splatters and smoothly-animated mecha battles.
On the other hand, the show offers an awkward set of main themes. While they don't suit the tone of the narrative, I'm not certain their schizophrenic application is wholly inappropriate either. The banal first opening theme says nothing of what’s to come in the story, but will likely appeal to avid J-pop lovers. Later, the opening theme switches to the bizarre ‘Kaidoku Funou’ by Jinn; with a funky riff and discordant vocals, this one is more of a controversial choice. I have come to appreciate its unique sound over time and rank it as one of my favourite themes, although this is unlikely to be the case with most other viewers. The rest of the soundtrack consists of choral and instrumental pieces designed to work with the show's grandness - the chorals, in particular, help produce some rousing tragic scenes.
Code Geass is an excellent example of polishing a narrative by using the characters like a dishrag; it manipulates its cast with such ruthless disregard for their development, that most remain unmemorable at best. A handful of main characters deliver entertaining performances and serve their purpose within the narrative well, although they sometimes evince glaring contradictions or convenient mindlessness.
Take Suzaku, for instance, who seems a typical hero - he wants to make the world a better place by changing Britannia from within. Unfortunately, beyond appearances his character falls apart. I'm unsure what the writers were aiming for when they scripted him, but they certainly succeeded in creating a textbook hypcrite. Even as the Britannians massacre his fellow Japanese nationals at every given opportunity, he chooses to fight Zero as part of the Britannian army in the name of justice. With that kind of mindless loyalty to the wrong side, his interventions against Zero appear not so much heroic as idiotic. The show's saving grace is that it makes no pretense of being philosophically consistent - Suzaku, like all the others, is but a convenient cog to facilitate the manipulation of my emotions.
Only Lelouch resembles anything like a fully-fleshed human being. He is to Code Geass what Light Yagami is to Death Note. Armed with a similar arsenal of histrionic speeches ('Either live with me, or die with me!'), he nonetheless comes across more charming. Unlike Light, falling in love with Lelouch is unavoidable for the simple fact that he fights on behalf of the victims whilst having little regard for his own status. In fact, his greatest point of fascination is that, beneath his hatred for Britannia, he loathes himself even more. Delivering a performance that's theatrical but also full of acute anguish, he epitomises everything that's brilliant about Code Geass.
When watching a show like Code Geass I'm reminded of a conversation I one time had with a friend of mine about the insufferably of the public and how easy it is manipulating them. he said, and I quote:
"the masses of a country are roughly stupid and gullible once you introduce the idea of patriotism into the mix. you tell them their opponent represents everything you do not, they look different then you do, and say once in a while that they want to have your women and you've just created a mass of lunatics willing to blow themselves up for their country."
I'm not about to say that Code Geass is 100% Patriotic brain-washing but it's almost as close as one could get without the silly caricatures of the other group. Britannia, a nicely veiled America if we didn't win the revolution, takes over Japan and renames it area 11, taking away their language (though everyone is speaking Japanese.) their culture (though there are Japanese style buildings all over the place.) and being pretty much the typical Gaijins that you usually see in anime, the japanese people are rightfully pissed off and revolutionary groups start popping up faster the dandelions. Introduce our main hero: the Byronic egocentric little monster Lelouch, who gets a hold of the magic power of the geass, which allows him to command a person to do whatever he wants one time from a nice green haired girl who's name I can't really remember.
Now, given if I were to stumble upon probably one of the greatest powers one could find (screw you superman and your flying! I can make people shove things up their butts.) I would probably end up using it in extremely juvenile and childish ways: have people run screaming down the street with their shirts as pants and pants as shirts, watch two wannabe gangsters make out, and did I hear "but it was consensual?" over in the distance. But I'm not a psychotic asshole nor do I have a Napoleon complex like Lelouch. He decides that since he has one of the ultimate weapons of mass destruction, he will lead a rebellion to topple the Britannia empire by dressing up in a faceless helmet and going by the name of Zero. (of, if you couldn't tell, he's supposed to be a zorro-type.)
As you can probably already tell I didn't care much for Lelouch. While, yes, I understand that he IS the actual heir to the throne of Britannia and his mother was shot to death and his sisters a cripple and yadda yadda yadda, I can see why he is a prick, in the beginning. Honestly though, I was kind of looking forward to seeing Lelouch as the main hero. After so many mecha shows dealing with the main hero as either the hot-blood energetic Kabuto Koji knock-offs or the emotional depressed Amuro Ray knock-offs, it was so interesting to see a show where the main character is more akin to Char Azanble then any Shinji Ikari or Ryoma Nagare.
This falls straight on it's face halfway into the show when they are constantly trying to tell me that Lelouch is a good guy, which no amount of drugs could honestly make me think so. The guy is a sick individual who cares almost nothing about the lives he takes or uses to get to his goals but then you're going to tell me he's misunderstood and he's doing it for his sister? Oh come on!!
The shows second banana, Suzaku Kururugi, is introduced as the typical Main mecha guy for the show; he's kind, generous, helpful, and fighting for what he believes to 'stop the war', your basic outline of the character could fit into any number of other real robot main heroes but here comes the nice twist: he's the Japanese guy who's a high ranking officer!! *Gasp!!* How do you think the Britannians take that?
What could have been a great exercise in twisting the archetypical viewpointss of the genre by switching the two primary roles ends up getting lost in the shuffle and becomes your typical mecha show where the main villainss end up with even less humanity then is usually shown, since they are, ya know, white folk.
Okay, now since this is coming from a Gringo, I'm probably going to be called racist for it but when you see the elephant in the room you kind of have to address it. when I first saw Lawrence of Arabia, I loved it! it's a marvelous movie and deftly made, but after the fifteenth incarnation of "white people are evil and savage, not like these gentle kind people. man I wish I wasn't white." get's kind of irritating and moronic. Not only does it shove into younger children mentality that their character of person is labeled by their skin, not only does it teach people a sophomoric stilted and simplified version of history that fits the public's viewpoint, the worst part of these type of stories are 95% of them aren't any good. Not since Lawrence of Arabia have they made a good movie based on this basic premise and it's gotten so freaking bad that other countries are copying it. COPYING IT!!! Thank you Kevin Costner. (of course Code Geass did it wrong, they're supposed to be the disgusting belligerent monsters here, not the foreigners.)
Yet that could have easily been overlooked if this show was good. Hell, if they did half the stuff I was thinking they were going to do I would have loved this show and not given a damn about any national subtext or anything, but the characters never broaden in the way they needed to, the enemies have no redeeming qualities which makes it hard for me to care about the conflict, the story rushes forward without a care for continuation or sanity, secondary characters pop up with little use to the overall narrative, Pizza hut logos are everywhere, there will pop up a "light-heated" episode where everyone becomes stupid and do stupid things for stupid reasons, Zeros going around in a school uniform and NO ONE thinks to try and find where the uniform comes from, and the overall conclusion just feels..........hollow. I can't describe it in better terms, the show just ends the exact way you imagine it would and any emotion or feeling they could have been trying to evoke upon you is lost by how the show basically points to that as the conclusion.
Sadly I was looking forward to this show, after hearing so much praise for it and seeing screen shots I went in with an open mind. The art is beautiful, the music overall is well-done, the animation, though rushed at point, moves smoothly and soundly, the mecha designs are interesting and the action scenes are intense and nicely done. Everything was there to make a good Anime, but something fell through and they decided to take the easy way out, which is sad to say the least. For what it did right it was decent but for what it did wrong I can't sit by and give it a good review. a 6.
Whew boy is this long! well, either way that's all I'm saying. I know it's opinions and everyone has opinions, but I'm smart, smarter then you, so I'm right :-D
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I am always in the lookout for grown-up anime, the ones that stand out from the crowd of supernatural schoolboy and magical schoolgirl me-too anime. I was very pleasantly surprised with Code Geass, even though it had high school teenagers, mecha and some supernatural stuff, but the way everything was done was the key to its success.
By the way, this review counts for both seasons, since I’m treating them as the entirety of the show.
Great animation. Crisp, colorful and the mecha battles are usually fast and furious. Maybe you can find fault with the Clamp character designs of males with very pointy faces, but it’s done much better than in their other titles. Plus, the female characters look good too.
Now the very best thing Code Geass has is an absolutely interesting main character.
Lelouch Lamperouge is not a hero, but he’s not a villain. He’s smarter than everyone else, including you (haha), and he won’t reveal his plans until he deems it necessary. He is not above sacrificing his allies as pawns if it guarantees him a victory. He’s pragmatic, devoid of emotional ties to his military units and always has a solution for every problem, if he gets enough time to think about it. However, he still makes mistakes, and he does have emotional vulnerabilities in respect to certain key characters. Some of the choices Lelouch takes will shock you and perhaps make you mad. Although he’s the main character and you want him to succeed on his quest, deep down you’ll know that he has to pay for some of the blood he has spilled and the people he has used.
I also liked several characters that were fighting on behalf of the enemy. I didn’t want to see them killed but I didn’t want to see them destroy Lelouch and his forces either. This reminded me of the dilemmas of “Gundam Seed” and “Gundam 00”, where you have favorite characters on both sides of the confrontation. Lelouch even has a best-friend that’s gunning for him, like “Gundam Seed” had for the most part.
I never knew where the story was going or what Lelouch was going to do next. That’s why you will get hooked and will want to finish all of the two seasons immediately.
“Code Geass” also has quite a bit of comedy, but its tone is mostly serious. There are scenes that show the horrors of war, there are many deaths, there’s a lot of action, there’s poignant moments, there’s emotional events. You are most likely going to be shocked or upset at some point in the series.
Like several other anime that are smartly written and the creators know they are, the explanation of the mysterious powers and the mysterious people that show up eventually get quite convoluted with high-concept ideas, other dimensions and whatnot. But they are not plot-breakers. You can just shrug your shoulders and move on.
I would have also preferred the romances to be more fleshed-out than just teases and what-ifs, because the potential relationships are there, but the creators opted to go for the more ambiguous routes.
The second season is not as good as the first season, and the ending could have been better because it chooses a commonly seen (it’s happened in Gundam series too) ideological solution to long-lasting warfare, that everybody knows it works only on fiction. Unless they were planning more seasons, which they are not.
It’s a shame that the ending did not place the perfect cap on such an extraordinary anime, but it is still a very, very good series. So many memorable scenes, you will remember this anime forever.
I think every anime fan has to watch “Code Geass”, unless they really don’t like mecha or plots that can get melodramatically serious.
I want more anime like this.
In many ways, Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion is uncannily similar to Sunrise’s own My-Hime. Both have extremely large ensemble casts, superb production values and a surprisingly engaging narrative. Unfortunately, both also suffer from inert character development, nigh unforgivable pacing and a largely disappointing ending.
Code Geass is almost certainly at its best when the protagonist must use his intelligence and questionable morals to overcome a seemingly overwhelming task. These parts are satisfyingly clever, surprisingly engaging and difficult to predict. There is also a good deal of promise in the general premise, which works to set up a Mobile Suit Gundam Seed-styled epic war with sympathetic heroes on both sides.
However, the series’ good points are mixed in with problems so egregious that it’s difficult to recommend the project as a whole. For one, the pacing is terrible; while My-Hime was unbearably slow for the first half, Code Geass feels permanently stuck on fast forward. While each episode has powerful moments, the impact they leave is inevitably dampened by the schizophrenic cutting. The moment you begin to follow one plotline, the series has immediately cut to a different one happening simultaneously. There are simply too many characters doing too many things at once, and the result is a discombobulated mess. There is also a fair deal of unnecessary and generally unimpressive mecha action injected into the show (for the sole reason, some cynics might say, of selling toys). This only exacerbates the lack of narrative focus. Ultimately, Code Geass' story is always more about having clever things happen than making me care about what will happen next.
Finally, the series fails to reach any sort of satisfying conclusion and instead opts for a cliffhanger, assumably to be resolved in the second season.
This is a nice-looking show. The character designs have the same glossy, colorful and memorable feel of Mobile Suit Gundam Seed and My-Hime, which is extremely important when there are so many different characters to keep track of. Also, while uninteresting and unnecessary, the mecha action scenes are at least pretty to look at.
One complaint is that, in spite of fact that a huge number of people die, there is a noticeable lack of gore. The show seems a little self-censored to be able to air at prime-time, which takes away some of the punch of the more violent scenes.
Also, PIZZA HUT there's a ridiculous amount PIZZA HUT of product PIZZA HUT placement for a PIZZA HUT certain company. The logo for this company is PIZZA HUT used so pervasively that PIZZA HUT it actively serves to disrupt PIZZA HUT the flow of the series, not to mention PIZZA HUT ruining the audience's suspension of PIZZA HUT disbelief.
All joking aside, the animation for Code Geass is solid, and I have no major complaints.
The pacing of the series requires the seiyuu to talk extremely quickly, but otherwise they do a fine job. When combined with the character designs, the diverse voice-acting makes for some surprisingly memorable characters, in spite of the gigantic cast.
I didn’t enjoy the OP/ED, but the intense, dramatic, background music works well with the frenetic mood of the series.
While the characters are fairly easy to tell apart, their sheer number prevents any one of them from being developed well. Still, most of them are somewhat likeable at face value, which prevents the show from ever becoming tedious. However, because of the shallow characters, it’s difficult to become emotionally involved in what is going on. When the show is at its very best, Code Geass is still more passively interesting than genuinely suspenseful.
Sadly, even the protagonist fails to be a sympathetic character. He's drawn up to be a high-minded character whose lust for revenge ultimately causes him to use his followers as pawns. The problem is that this tragic flaw is poorly realized and inconsistent with the rest of his character, making him difficult to believe as a real person. One moment he's regretting the waste of life he's accidentally caused, and the next he's using his EVIL MWUHAHAHA laugh as the enemy slips into his carefully planned Machiavellian trap. He's... pardon the phrase, a cartoon character. A caricature. His “ends-justify-the-means” philosophy dominates his personality to the point where he ultimately feels like a giant walking plot device.