Spectrum Nexus

Anime Info

Creator: A Sunrise Production
Director: Goro Taniguchi
Genre: Science Fantasy
Length: 25 Episodes
Purchase: Here From Amazon

Summary

+ Animation is pretty
+ Premise is interesting
+ Interesting main character
– Clichéd villains

Overview

Lelouch Lamperouge was chosen the most popular male character of 2006 and 2007 at Animage Magazine's Anime Grand Prix. A character as interesting as Lelouch shouldn't be wasted in this hackneyed series which seems to exist for the sole purpose of painting Japan as a victim of Western aggression. Television series are supposed to be entertaining and Code Geass is, if your idea of entertainment is watching cardboard cut-out villains get their comeuppance from an angsty teenager. The popularity of this series is truly inexplicable.

Public Rating

Our Rating

Score of 3 out of 5
3 out of 5

Code Geass Anime Review

Written by: Frank B. Chavez III on 7/18/2008

Introduction

In spite of their own militaristic past, the Japanese are often accused of depicting themselves as victims of Western aggression. In the minds of some viewers, the series Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion may reinforce that accusation. Created for Sunrise, Inc. by acclaimed writer Ichiro Okouchi and director Goro Taniguchi with character designs by Clamp, the series follows in the footsteps of other popular alternate history series and books. Code Geass postulates a world where a powerful Celtic king managed to resist Julius Caesar's invasion and establish the Holy Empire of Britannia. Despite its name, the Holy Empire of Britannia doesn't rule the United Kingdom or Ireland. Instead, in this world's alternate history, Britannia centers on North America. The Empir's absolute monarchy managed to suppress the American Revolution and then transplanted their capital from London to North America after Napoleon managed to conquer the British Isles along with the European mainland. In the series' timeframe, the Holy Empire of Britannia rules one third of the world: the Americas; New Zealand; Japan; and parts of the Middle East all come under their sway. With the exception of Australia, the rest of the world is divided between Britannia's rivals the Chinese Federation and the Euro Universe. The story follows Lelouch a Britannian teenager with mysterious powers, living in Japan, who has made it his life's work to destroy Britannia's decadent Empire.

Review

Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion is not a terrible series just terribly frustrating. It is built up of elements of other, better movies and series. Among the familiar elements are the self-centered teenage protagonist endowed with awesome power, the teenage protagonist's needlessly complicated plan to reform the world in his own image, and the secondary protagonist who is nobler than the primary protagonist and functions as his counterpoint or foil. Add to that sneering villains, giant robots, and mindless action and you have the basic ingredients of dozens of anime series including Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion.

The story begins shortly after Japan has been conquered by the Holy Empire of Britannia. The elitist Britannians rule Japan, which they have renamed Area 11, with an iron fist. The Japanese, referred to as Elevens, have been forced into poverty and are second class citizens in their own country with few rights although some have managed to achieve an Honorary Citizenship by volunteering as police and soldiers fighting their own people. The Britannians live a life of luxury and privilege isolated from the native Japanese. Britannian society is a meritocracy influenced by the philosophy of Social Darwinism and is ruled by decadent nobles whose will is enforced by a powerful military. While their military has much in common with cotemporary military forces, it is augmented by giant mecha called Knightmare Frames which are piloted by arrogant noble knights. With their technological advantage they managed to defeat the Japanese defense force and overthrow their government in less than a month.

The protagonist of our story is Lelouch, a young intelligent student, who is gifted at strategy games such as chess, and is a lucky, perhaps gifted gambler. He is also a Prince in disguise, the Emperor's son and 17th in line to the throne, banished to Japan as a hostage during a crisis just before the invasion, he's since been declared legally dead and lives under an assumed name. Because his father failed to prevent the murder of Lelouch's mother, Lelouch has spent his time in Japan planning to overthrow the Emperor and build a better world where his blind sister can have her dream of peace. Lelouch is the kind of Byronic anti-hero that anime producers seem obsessed with. He spends half the series squinting his eyes, brooding over what a miserable wretch he's become and the other half pretending to be a happy, carefree, spoiled teenager. Characters like this are romantic and interesting in small doses but when they are the lead in the series it becomes a tiresome choir to pay attention to the story. The privileged Lelouch is so spoiled and self-centered that his whining and brooding really is grating after a while. Hasn't he noticed all the people starving in the streets?

On his way back to school after a chess tournament against one of the nobles, Lelouch stumbles into a battle between government forces and Japanese rebels who have high-jacked an important government cargo. During the fighting Lelouch encounters Suzaku Kururugi, a former childhood friend who has joined Britannia's Army. Lelouch and Suzaku discover that the government cargo is actually not a chemical weapon as the terrorists have been lead to believe but is in fact C.C, a mysterious green haired girl who grants Lelouch a mysterious power called a Geass, named for a form of magical gift or curse found in Celtic lore. Lelouch may use this power as he sees fit as long as he eventually grants C.C one wish.

Show More Lelouch accepts C.C's gift as the key to his victory over Britannia. Like a Jedi, he now has the power to temporally bend people to his will. We know he is using this power because his left eye glows red and the animators throw in some creepy CGI effects to show Lelouch's will taking hold over the other person. Lelouch uses this power shortly after receiving it to escape military patrols and to capture a Knightmare Frame. Unfortunately this ability didn't come with instructions or an owner's manual and Lelouch learns its limits through trial and error: it only affects a person once and the user has to have his target in plain sight.

The Geass couldn't have been given to a more obnoxious character. Besides his Byronic whininess, Lelouch is self-centered and arrogant and prone to fits of violence and melodramatic behavior. His heroic behavior is also largely guided by selfish goals such as revenge. Early on in the series, Lelouch uses his ability to sneak into a Britannian military base and assassinate his half-brother, Prince Clovis, the Viceroy of Area 11. Lelouch goes on to brow beat the various Japanese rebel cells into accepting his leadership by hiding his identity and giving orders over the phone. His plans, developed on the chessboard do work but the rebels are just pawns in Lelouch's greater plans. Later, when Kururugi is accused of Clovis's murder, Lelouch transforms the opportunity to rescue his former friend form military custody into a theatrical spectacle by appearing in public as a masked iconic hero known as Zero. After the rescue, Lelouch offers Kururugi the chance to avenge the wrong by joining the band of rebels he is building and overthrowing the Empire. When Kururugi declines the offer and expresses his desire to reform the Empire from within, Lelouch denounces him as an idiot and alienates a potential ally. Lelouch never realizes or never cares that his arrogant, violent, and melodramatic behavior only taints his noble dream of overthrowing the Empire, in his own way he is as dangerous as the nobles he opposes.

A more likable, if not necessarily more interesting character, is Suzaku Kururugi. The son of Japan's last prime minister, he became friends with Lelouch when Lelouch was banished to Japan as a hostage during a geo-political crisis. Unlike Lelouch who is motivated primarily by vengeance, Kururugi is driven by a need to atone for past mistakes. Fearing that prolonged war would be disastrous for Japan, Kururugi killed his father. His father's death (declared a suicide), led to Japan's unconditional surrender. Wracked with guilt, Kururugi pursues the most dangerous missions the military offers. He is eventually chosen to pilot an experimental model of Knightmare Frame called Lancelot. Unlike Lelouch, Kururugi believes violent revolution is not the proper course; that goals achieved through illegal or immoral means are hollow victories, instead he feels that he can reform the Empire from within. Kururugi's devotion to duty, his volatile emotions, and his obsession with atonement eventually lead to a violent confrontation with his former companion.

Show More
The cliché ridden heroes would be tolerable if the series' creators had provides the viewers with more interesting villains. Instead of creating human beings with realistic motivations and goals, the series' creators saddle the production with generic card board cut outs. Some of the recognizable villainous archetypes are an elite knight who sneers at anyone who isn't pureblooded, a boring emperor who seems to exist for the sole purpose of reciting cliché ridden speeches about the rightness of his society's social order, and a sibling bent on vengeance. Archetypes such as these may be the basis for a story's characters but in and of themselves they are not very interesting. Interesting characters have traits other than those that drive the plot forward; they need hobbies, interests, and passions in their lives just like human beings. The only villain given characteristics other than sneering like a villain is Prince Clovis. He is revealed to be talented portrait artist…but only after he's died.

At least it can be said that Code Geass is pretty to look at. When the producers hired Clamp to design the series' characters they were obviously trying to appeal to both male and female viewers. The problem with Clamp is that there is nothing new or original about their artwork. The other major problem is that their characters are too pretty and too ethereal for the story. Code Geass is a gritty science fiction tale which at the very least deserver realistic looking characters. Not only are the characters too pretty some of them don't even look human. Lelouch in particular looks like some sort of elf or alien. And although it is a tradition in anime to give all characters Caucasian features regardless of ethnicity, in a story where a major aspect of the plot deals with racial disparity it would be nice if the characters at least looked a little like different ethnicities. One of the major characters is half Japanese and half Britannian although you wouldn't know it by looking at her. The fact wouldn't have come out at if didn't practically scream this fact at the top of her lungs.

The series' characters are boring and the plot is riddled with clichés, the most enjoyable aspect of this series is actually the fairly detailed and lovingly crafted alternate history. Hints of this back story are strewn throughout the series but man questions remain such as if Japan is Area 11 what were the first ten? Were the other areas as easily conquered as Japan? In fact There are enough unanswered questions and hints of the world's alternate history that if the producers created a series about how this world came to be it would infinitely more watchable than Code Geass.

Conclusion

Lelouch Code Geass: Lelouch of the Revolution is well made by people with talent. It is also boring and riddled with clichés. The protagonists are whiny and melodramatic jerks and the villains are two-dimensional cardboard cut outs while the plot is recycled out of other better movies. It is pretty to look at but Clamp's beautiful character designs don't fit with the gritty story of revolution against a decadent empire. And it may not have been their intention but by making the villains the rulers of a futuristic British Empire ruled from North America, the producers have inadvertently created an animated "guilt trip" that seems to have little purpose other than to make the West continue to look like the aggressive party in World War II. A series explaining the immense back story of Code Geass may be more entertaining than the series itself. Perhaps even more entertaining would be a video tape of the production meeting for this series as the producers attempt to justify its existence. out.

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