Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion Anime | My Reviews 06 APR 2008

Code GeassJapan is no more. Conquered by the Holy Empire of Britannia armed with their awe-inspiring mecha known as the Knightmare Frames, Japan is now known simply as Area 11 and its native inhabitants simply as “Elevens”. While society struggles to get to grips with the various class structures now forced upon it, there are however still those pockets of resistance that would see a revived Japan rise from the ashes and struggle against the authorities who would keep them down.

One such figure is your not so ordinary student Lelouch Lamperouge, an exiled prince who is abnormally clever and more than just a little scheming. A dark past has meant that this young man has sworn to bring down Britannia, and a chance encounter with a strange girl known only as CC has blessed him with the most awesome of abilities, that of the Geass. Now with the ability to bend anyone to his will, Lelouch seeks to craft a world where his disabled sister can live happily and where a Britannia no longer exists.

On the other side of the coin is Suzaku Kururugi, son of the last Japanese prime minister and a boy who has instead embraced Britannia and seeks to bring about a world of peace using Britannia as the tool. An excellent warrior with a particularly awesome Knightmare Frame at his disposal, Suzaku will soon be pitted head to head against his once best friend, Lelouch – or as he is more commonly known to the world – Zero.

Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion is a 25 episode long anime series, produced by Sunrise and directed by Goro Taniguchi. Now Taniguchi isn’t new to the anime scene and has brought classics like s-CRY-ed, Planetes and Gun X Sword to our screens and his latest production, Code Geass, certainly doesn’t disappoint.

What makes Code Geass so enjoyable is the clever story writing in which we find an oppressed Japan (by Britain no less) and a scheming, revenge and power-hungry student who wishes to oppose his oppressor and take control over the world. This lad is then given the amazing power of the Geass which allows him to bend anyone to his will (with the usual restrictions in place just to give us some more plot devices) and then set free to start his machinations. The beginning of the anime is charaterised by clever and intricate plots that leaves a viewer hanging, much in the same vein as what Death Note did a year before it. Unfortunately though, the rigours of this clever writing proves to be a little too much and halfway through the anime slumps back into your typical student romance/comedy/drama which leaves a pretty bland taste in your mouth.

Thankfully though, the writers rescue the show with a couple of episodes to go and turn up the action a notch, while at the same time falling back to the clever twists that made the show such a hit right at the outset. This makes for a grand finale and puts Code Geass back firmly on the must see list.

However, and this is a big however, Code Geass is let down by the fact that it appears that commerce had a heavy hand in its production. First off is the atrocious decision to allow Pizza-Hut on board with its egarious advertising campaign in which huge sections of the show is specifically added to simply showcase their product. It is an annoyingly obvious intrusion and I can only believe in the disgust that Tanaguchi to deal with when forced to inject these scenes in his work. The second is the whole stop production at 23 episodes, then decide to wait a couple of months before releasing episodes 24 and 25 and then because of the great interest that was generated, end episode 25 and thus the ‘season’ off on a HUGE cliffhanger and announce that a second season would come into production.

Terrible. Of course, the problem is that we as the fans allowed this kind of behavior from the production companies behind the show and as such have to live with the consequence. Nevertheless, despite these two quibbles, Code Geass is in fact quite a well written story with an interesting storyline, some compelling characters and worthy themes that are explored throughout the series.

The first thing that immediately stands out when you see Code Geass for the first time is the unmistakable CLAMP inspired character designs, all in their trademark character gawkiness. An inspired move on the part of Taniguchi because the look of Code Geass raises it above other similar mecha-based school shows and CLAMP certainly didn’t let him down in this regard. For instance, one of the pieces that got the most attention was the design of Zero’s helmet. The idea was to come up with something never seen before and the final “tulip” design certainly exclaims this.

Of course, the show needs good looking mecha to move forward as well and in this regard Code Geass doesn’t disappoint. Solid mecha designs that use an innovative roller skating system to get around and clever harpoon cables to inflict a lot of damage makes for some fantastic battle sequences which are made even more spectacular thanks to the extremely smooth and fluid animation that literally oozes throughout Code Geass. A lot of effort was spent on animating things right and combined with a dynamic and vibrant colour palette give a stunning visual result.

The voice acting in Code Geass is pretty much as spot on as you can get for all the characters, though the forced English “Yes my Lord” can sometimes be a tad silly. Lelouch in particular stands out, sounding as arrogant, conceited and eccentric as what he appears to be. The music for the series is composed by Kotaro Nakagawa and Hitomi Kuroishi, the same guys who had worked previously with the Geass team on Planetes and Gun X Sword and they come up with some great incidental and insert tracks for the show.

The initial opening theme song is “Colors” performed by FLOW and is a brilliantly energetic track that sets the perfect mood for the action and intrigue that is to follow. Unfortunately the ending track doesn’t quite live up to the opening theme song and disappointingly, neither do the two opening/closing replacement tracks halfway through the series even though they aren’t all that bad on their own.

Code Geass is a novel take on your usual Mecha series in that it is cleverly written, intellectual at heart and yet features a protagonist that you simply can’t bring yourself to like but at the same time delivers on some strong themes like friendship, loyalty and betrayal – all mixed up with a generous amount of comedy and romantic hi-jinks that are pretty standard in most anime titles nowadays anyway. The forced Pizza-Hut advertising is a bit of a pain and the horrible cliffhanger of an ending is a disaster, but outside of those two negatives, Code Geass does make for quite an interesting and gripping watch, particularly the first and last thirds of the series.

It looks good, plays out good and is guaranteed to hold your attention. What more could you ask for?

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About Craig Lotter

South African software architect and developer at Touchwork. Husband to a cupcake baker and father to two little girls. I don't have time for myself any more.