A big anime with a lot of big names involved, Code Geass hits the mark in most counts as action, characters and intriguing plots manage to throw together an intense, if slightly flawed, production.
What They Say :
On August 10th of the year 2010 the Holy Empire of Britannia began a campaign of conquest, its sights set on Japan. Operations were completed in one month thanks to Britannia’s deployment of new mobile humanoid armor vehicles dubbed Knightmare Frames. Japan’s rights and identity were stripped away, the once proud nation now referred to as Area 11. Its citizens, Elevens, are forced to scratch out a living while the Britannian aristocracy lives comfortably within their settlements. Pockets of resistance appear throughout Area 11, working towards independence for Japan. Lelouch, an exiled Imperial Prince of Britannia posing as a student, finds himself in the heart of the ongoing conflict for the island nation. Through a chance meeting with a mysterious girl named C.C., Lelouch gains his Geass, the power of the king. Now endowed with absolute dominance over any person, Lelouch may finally realize his goal of bringing down Britannia from within!
The Review :
The DVD release has a 5.1 English and Japanese track, making it already a big thing when this is usually only reserved for anime movies, the tracks on both languages are superb, which is what you need considering the amount of action Code Geass brings. There were no glitches regarding sound in the main show (although a couple of times there was a slight freeze glitch in the sound during a couple of the audio commentaries) and the transaction with audio and visual was excellent without any errors. Speaking of visual, the animation designs are done by manga powerhouse CLAMP (Cardcaptor Sakura, X, Chobits) which means it’s a visual masterpiece as well, fantastic colours, flowing animation and despite its fast paced action, it doesn’t have any problems with the subtitles, as they switch very quickly when more than one person is speaking. I cannot fault this release bar the minor issues (which could more be based on the fact I had test discs) and it is a joy to look and listen to.
On each disc we get an image of Lelouch on the right by the side of a menu scrolling vertically whilst on the left hand side various characters pass by fairly quickly on a white background, each disc having the same menu side with Play All, Episodes, Audio and Extras. Each menu is easily accessible and simple to navigate, my own issue it being the same design for each disc which could have been modified slightly for someone else perhaps depending on the menu focus of the episodes involved? A bit nitpicky, but otherwise a straight forward and simple but easy to use menu with no problems selection either from the main menu or to navigate whilst watching an episode.
Code Geass has a motherload of extras – with it being a 25 episode box set, each disc has a selection of extras, whilst similar do give extra insight both to the show and to the people involved in the show.
On discs 2, 3 and 6 we get the picture dramas, which are almost in-between stages of the episodes and other people’s point of view in the show, flashbacks or just amusing stories. These range from Suzaku and Lelouch’s first meeting, to some fanservice girl chat with the girls from Ashford Academy, to a time between Nunnally thinking of her relationship with her brother and Euphemia…right before the infamous incident in episode 22. As you can probably tell, these range from adding to the story, to light hearted romps to actually point of views from other characters about various situations (one involves Jeremiah and his actual upset over the banishment over Nunnally and Lelouch) – they range from 3 to 6 minutes long and a number of them really add to the story which fills in a few blanks you may have had or though. As done picture drama style, there’s no animation and the drawing range from anime quality to more anime ending quality, however it is in both English and Japanese, which is rare as these sort of extras are rarely dubbed so bonus points for that.
On each disc, there is at least one Japanese commentary (some having 2 or 3 commentaries) – to go through each one and discuss what they saw would be longer than the review, but for the most part they are more dinner party like atmospheres, having fun with the people involved, part talking about the show and part having fun. They are all introduced by Jun Fukuyama(Lelouch), and throughout the commentaries, we get to listen to Yukana (C.C), Goro Taniguchi (director), Ichiro Okouchi(story/script composer), Ami Koshimizu(Kallen), Ken Narita(Jeremiah), Mitsuaki Madona(Ohgi), Kazunari Tanaki(Tamaki), Yuriko Chiba(Character Animation Director), Eiji Nakada(designer of Knightmares and Mecha Animation Director), Kazuya Murata(Associate Director), Fumiko Orikasa(Shirley), Hiroyuki Yoshino(Assistant Series Planner), Seiichi Nakatani(Animation Director), Yukawa(Bandai Visual) and Takahiro Sakurai(Suzaku). It ranges of their thoughts of Lelouch, various stories, how CLAMP got involved, to the shock of the actors towards the ending, to jokes about the characters hair styles or the Pizza Hut advertisements. A lot of it is quite silly to be honest, but there are a lot of commentaries and they are very entertaining with still some degree of information displayed in the creation and voice acting process. It’s a lot of fun and a ton of extras for the box release.
Lastly, each disc through gets one of the openings or endings from the series (3 of them in total) clean and uncut. Standard but nice.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Code Geass is a very well known show which has a lot of hype and a lot of things going for. A top cast of actors in both English and Japanese, animation designs by CLAMP, some excellent music and a story which is very intense which focuses on the divides of society, it’s one of those few anime that definitely is worth the hype it supplies. And whilst I would lie and say it is perfect, it is still very, very strong.
We are treated early to our main theme of the series, the divides of the poor and rich, or in this case the Britanians and the Elevens, a.k.a. the Japanese. Japan has been divided and conquered in the then future by the royal blood known as Britannians, where our main protagonist Lelouch Lamprouge is one – he attends Ashford Academy, a high class school where he has friends and seems to live an upper class life, whilst looking after his little sister Nunnally in an area of the school who is blind and in a wheelchair. One day, he gets pulled into accidentally into a potential terrorist scheme in a ghetto in Shinjiku where he recognizes one of the terrorists as a classmate. He goes down further into the ghetto where the terrorists were trying to bring forth what was appearing to be a gas weapon. To Lelouch’ shock, it is a beautiful blonde haired woman. But before he can comprehend any of this, a Brittanian army confronts him, with his childhood friends Suzaku, an Eleven but who has become an honorary Britannian to try and change the way people think of Eleven’s from within. The army is about to kill Lelouch but Suzaku stops them, leading him to be shot. The girl then awakes and then also gets shot, apparently killing her. But just before Lelouch can be joined with them, the girl somehow transfers something into Lelouch, which is later dubbed a Geass. The power allows anyone he is able to have direct contact with his eyes to do his bidding, which he immediately uses to force the army to commit suicide. With this, begins the long story of Lelouch as with this new power, he begins to think about changing the world – as his own past is a mystery as he has some connections with Britannian royal family blood, yet has more than his own grudges against them…
The series form then has a mostly set pattern, which evolves as more characters are involved. First of all, we get the relationship between Lelouch and Suzaku. Childhood friends who are reunited by fate but will soon be against each other despite wanting the same thing, for different reasons and using different methods. Lelouch for the first few episodes begins to learn his new powers, his ranges, the fact he can’t repeat the ability, etc. His ability allows him to actually assassinate the then Prince of Britannia but the press say it’s Suzaku. This allows Lelouch to start his own plans and form his own army, using the aid of the girl he saw before Kallen – the second interesting yin/yang duo – both of them at school are presented differently, Lelouch a top student but rather quiet, whilst Kallen as a sick girl – whilst Lelouch outside turns into the charismatic Zero, a warrior for justice and Kallen is his ace pilot of mechas. Due to his geass powers, he is able to convince the terrorists and other organizations to join his side, whether be Britannian or Eleven, for those just wanting to defend the weak, which eventually leads to Lelouch forming the Black Knights, an army designed against the Britannians, with the aid of the witch girl who wasn’t killed, the mysterious C.C who gave him the Geass powers.
There is a lot in Code Geass to get through, and to say I’ve only scratched the basics is an understatement. With 25 episodes, Code Geass goes through some excellent animation, music and storytelling, managing to fit everything in storyline wise without really delving into filler. We get some past on Kallen, we get a love issue with Lelouch’s friend Shirley which actually makes Lelouch wonder if things are worth it when things go wrong. We get some info on CC’s past in a mini arc with another Geass user named Mao, we get a lot on the Britannian’s, whether it’s Jeremiah, an elite soldier being demoted due to being geassed and then coming back right at the end, or if it is the beautiful princess Euphemia putting her trust and love into an Eleven, Suzaku, as her knight for the army, despite it being against the wishes of her family and Britannian’s in general. We get a lot of battles – whether it’s Euphemia’s sister Cordellia being a match for Suzaku, whether it’s Euphemia sacrificing herself for a den of Britannians being taken hostage, and of course with Lelouch using his past and his connections to get what he wants…which in actual fact, is all just for the sake of Nunnally, for a world she can actually live in peace. There is a lot going on, but surprisingly, nothing really gets lost in the shuffle, because it all links with the basic theme which is Zero vs. Britannia.
The story delves as more truths are uncovered, whilst Lelouch manages to hold onto his identity, the truth about his geass power as potentially uncontrollable is a shadow which leads to the final arc (in a mini-arc involving Mao and C.C surprisingly), whilst Suzaku and Kallen get into a rivalry on the battle field and more so when they learn they are the pilots of their respective mechs which are the best on each field. Lelouch has many comparisons to Light Yagami from Death Note, with a power which fell into his lap, and using it to manipulate the world. Unlike Light however, Lelouch seems to be more moralistic, his love for his sister, his despair for what happens to Shirley, and his outright pain at what he has to do to the one member of the royal member he truly loved and thought could have actually done what he wanted is tragic and despite using the pain to his advantage, his complexity is far more involving than I felt with Light. On the other side, Suzaku I feel isn’t as interesting, because he seems to be a death seeker though at the same time does become a real hero to those he needs, which again due to tragic circumstances, causes an epic cliffhanger which sets in nicely for the sequel. The range of the cast is superb, with almost every character being involved in some way, ranging from nerdy scientist Lloyd being engaged to Ashford daughter Milly, to Black Knights pseudo-leader Ohgi falling in love with Britannian and amnesiac warrior Viletta. The range of stories and characters flowing so well with each other is a joy to watch, and almost seems like the perfect mix of characterization, storytelling and action.
Unfortunately, there are a few things which stop it from getting an A grade. With so many characters involved and the key theme being equality, there are going to be some people who seem out of place or really have little redeeming nature. Whilst most of the Britannian Royal Family all have their points in the story, with the exception of Euphemia, none of them really get too much development at the point when they are involved. We don’t know enough about Charles or Schneizel to see what their role is bar flashbacks from Lelouch, which whilst potentially could set up for the sequel, all he know really is they are the villains, and Schneizel doesn’t really do anything villainy at this point so again, hard to judge. Of course, Nina is the one which stands out as basically being someone who is blatantly afraid of Elevens…the problem being is that there is no point in the story that suggests why she is afraid of Elevens outside of just casual racism. Combined with her psychotic tendencies towards Euphemia, you really want to fast forward the bits that she is involved with. But the biggest problem for me is how the final arc comes about. Euphemia, out of all the cast, is probably the only genuinely good character – everyone else has shades of black and white, she is the only one who wants to join the divide and bring the Elevens back to being Japanese with just pure motives. Even Lelouch seems to want to try it her way, despite her naivety. There were many ways the story could have taken it, and I really felt the way they did it very nearly ruined the series for me. As it’s very spoilerific I won’t say what happened, but considering many other alternatives I felt that one was very rushed, and considering that Euphemia was a rare good character who was very likeable without being over the top with her kindness, it really felt rushed and whilst it worked as a way for Suzaku to finally have a true reason for fighting Zero and the turmoil Lelouch has for what he did, I still felt it wasn’t the best way to end the series. Add to that the additional of a couple of characters with Geass links by the end as well with very little explanation (bar more info in the sequel), the ending did feel very rushed, despite the superb cliffhanger by the end.
However, everyone will have their favourite characters and moments – so these issues just manage to nag me a little which stops it from being an absolute recommend. However, it is still a very good series, and if the sequel comes to the UK, I hope all my remaining questions are answered, because with the cliffhanger at the end, it’s something that is desperately needed to be seen.
Code Geass is a show that I would say does live up to the hype. Its combination of mostly interesting and complex characters, in a beautiful art style, wrapped up with lots of plots that manage to integrate with each other flawlessly, makes it a truly good anime, with plenty of action, plot twists, a little comedy and romance, and excellent acting. I can’t say it’s perfect though, as the last disc almost ruined it bar the cliffhanger, not all characters are genuinely interesting or likeable enough to qualify as a good inclusion whether be villain, anti-hero or just trying to be a hero, and both main characters have flaws which can be grating. That said, this is still a high recommendation. Bring on the sequel.
Japanese 5.1 Language, English 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Picture Drama Episodes, Audio Commentaries, English Voice Actors, Interviews, Textless Opening and Endings. Spoken Languages: English, Japanese, English subtitles.
Content Grade: B+
Audio Grade: A
Video Grade: A
Packaging Grade: N/A
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: A
Released By: Manga Entertainment UK
Release Date: January 21st, 2013
Running Time: 625 minutes
Review Equipment: Playstation3, Sony Bravia 32 Inc EX4 Television, Aiwa 2 Way Twin Duct Bass Reflex Speaker System.