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.