Gabe Finally Watches: Code Geass

The first time I ever heard of Code Geass was many moons ago back when I moderated a Death Note forum, and a poster asked for anime suggestions with similar theming. At the time, I just shrugged off the suggestion and went about my merry way, content that my modern anime know-how was limited to whatever the American Shonen Jump articles took the time to hype up.

If only I stayed that content.

Code Geass title card
For the uninitiated, Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion tells the story of Lelouch “Lulu” Lamperouge—an exiled Britannian prince living amongst the people of Japan, which is now known as “Area 11” after Britannia conquered and stripped the land and its citizens of all its rights and freedom. Being something of a tactician (he likes chess, so TV and movie rules tell me there’s no other conclusion to reach besides that), Lelouch wants to bring about change in the world but lacks the power to do so until he stumbles upon the power of Geass—the ability to bend the will of anyone he makes eye contact with. Oh, and there’s giant robots thrown into the mix as a means of military might because… anime.

Now while I didn’t have a problem with the first season as a whole, I will say the first 13 episodes were something of a chore to watch through, mainly because it seemed the primary focus of those episodes was more towards world-building than anything else. There’s a lot of chatter about the major rulers of the world, who reigns over what, and how that affects the characters. It’s an understandable tactic, albeit one that could have been done in less episodes (The Refrain episode was probably my only favorite of that bunch).

Where the series really starts to pick up is actually at the introduction of an ultimately unimportant character: Mao. While Mao takes the series in a somewhat more campy direction, what with his over-enthusiasm when going up against Lulu and excessive clapping during inappropriate moments, he tightens the viewers’ focus on the series to just him, Lelouch, and their two opposing Geass powers. No wondering about the political implications this may have in the grander scheme of things; just a simple story of two guys going mano a mano (or well, “geass a geass”). And not only does the series become more enjoyable from here on out, but we as the viewers begin to pick up on the powers of Geass and how they differ between users.

But what really made the first season of Geass was how well it was able to handle switching between Lelouch as a high school student, and Lelouch as an international terrorist. One of my gripes with early Death Note was just how easily the author tossed aside student problems in favor of grander ones that were more in-line with where he wanted to drive the plot—not the case with Geass. Rather than ignoring student life completely, the series makes a point of bouncing between life as a student and life as a terrorist, making for some of the series’ best moments.

Geass cap01The remainder of the first season continues to build off of its slow start, picking up speed until you’re essentially forced to watch the final batch of episodes in one go just because having to go on not knowing what happens next would be unbearable. In true season finale style, the full cast of characters finally crosses paths in a climactic anything-goes type of final showdown. With the stakes being as raised as high as they are, it made me wonder just how a season 2 would have even been possible.

Well that’s what cliffhanger episodes are good for.

Season 1 of Geass originally aired from October 5, 2006 to July 28, 2007, with Season 2 (known as “R2”) not starting until April 6, 2008. I can only imagine the amount of hype R2 had, considering how everything and everyone was set to their maximum breaking points by the end of season 1. Going into the series knowing that Season 2 was infamously bad, but having just seen the epicness that was Season 1’s finale, you can say my disappointment while watching R2 was still on par with people watching as the season aired.

R2 starts off on the wrong foot and just continues carrying things out in all its wrong-footed glory. While explosions and giant robots were running amok come the Season 1 finale, all that unresolved tension is immediately dropped for the chance to start things fresh. All the property damage and character trauma brought on from last season’s finale is immediately scrubbed away in the form of a time skip, with some choppy backtracking explaining the in-between events in the least dramatic way possible. Furthermore, the series’ already large roster of characters is added to, bringing in new characters (and resurrecting old ones) for the sake of unnecessary side-plots and plot twists. What initially started off as kicking off the new season with as little baggage from the previous season as possible has resulted in something of a “too many cooks in the kitchen” situation, with the plot becoming this murky, unappetizing stew.

While I will admit that the first few Season 1 episodes were just so text-heavy that I ended up glazing over some key points, I feel like my lack of enjoyment from R2 as a whole stems not from my end, but from the work’s end. Rather than taking the time and over-explaining the world and its characters, the twists and turns that R2 takes especially near its end are simply from a lack of information. Characters act with secret agendas, assuming that the viewer is in the know when that is far from the truth. Even when a character feels like giving a lengthy explanation of their master plan, things just lack an all-around cohesiveness and you don’t really feel like you got any of what they said because well… they didn’t really say all that much in terms of an explanation.

Yes, there are choice moments in the second half as well, but the fact that they were reached through such bullshit moments makes them seem undeserved.

When I take the time to notice all the manga, light novels and the like that have stemmed from this one series only to actually backtrack and see for myself what’s behind all the hype, I must side with the majority opinion that will admit to at the least liking the first half of the series, only to immediately change the topic before any mention of R2.

Geass cap02

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About daemoncorps
Gabe (daemoncorps) has been writing about anime and the like since 2005, but has been babysat by it for much longer. He primarily spends his days distracting himself on twitter or writing for Fandom Post until he realizes he has a weekly webcomic (tapastic.com/series/scramblebouquet) to work on. He also just finished writing his first full-length graphic novel about unemployment (https://tapastic.com/episode/293804).

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