Questions were answered about the end of the first season…albeit without asking more questions. A divisive ending combined with unique traumas for Lelouch make this sequel a bitter taste for fans of the series though still managing to tell a complex and decent story, it feels overall a bit lacking…
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. In the span of one month the island nation was conquered. As a dominion of the Empire the newly acquired territory was renamed Area 11. The rights of its citizens were severely limited and an economic depression followed for the Japanese, now known as Elevens. Just as things seemed at their bleakest one man chose to stand up and fight, the masked crusader Zero. Leading his Order of Black Knights, Zero instigated a full scale revolution against Britannia culminating in one final battle, the Black Rebellion. Heavy casualties were seen by both sides but ultimately Britannia stood the victor resulting in Zero’s execution. And thus was history written. The year is now 2018. With Zero dead and the remnants of the Black Knights being swept up by the Britannian forces, a forced state of peace settles over Area 11. The rights of the Elevens remain limited but with no one to lead them and the defeat during the Black Rebellion hanging over them, the Japanese people remain under the boot of Britannian oppression with no hope to overcome.
Set in English Dolby Surround Sound in both stereo and mono, Japanese in standard 2.0 stereo, the release of Code Geass R2 is similar in stature to the original season, which means it is very good quality. No issues regarding sound quality in Dolby Surround (English) or Stereo(Japanese), the Dolby of course being the better of the two but no issues in either language regards slowdown, keeping in time with subtitles and no cutting away during lip flaps. The visual quality is again excellent, very colourful and clear and no issues regarding frame rates being reduced during fast pace sequences or when pausing the DVD, no problems either way and a quality release.
A 6 disc release, each of them has a similar design on a white-grayish wall with a picture of Lelouch/Zero on the front of each disc, whilst other characters flash by on the left hand side. The menu is set vertically with Play All, Episodes, Set Up and Extras all selectable in that order on each disc. Very easy to navigate and selectable, but with the fact each one is practically the same (with the extras nearly the same on each disc as well) it doesn’t seem particularly interesting. No issues with it however via selection from the menu nor from watching the anime itself so in terms of selection, no problems.
Whilst there are extras on each release, they are very similar – each disc has either an opening or ending from the series (three openings and endings) and has one or two line galleries from the show, with line based drawings of all the characters, locations, mechas and battles that take place throughout the series (9 in total). The textless op/endings are always fine to see and the drawings are plentiful so if you are into that sort of thing more than welcome, but considering we had both dub commentaries and Japanese discussion on the creation of the art in the first release, it feels a little bit of a letdown to say the least.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
The first season of Code Geass was a very enjoyable ride with an interesting anti-heroic lead in Lelouch, combined with a quest of redemption of family vs. order, race and acceptance between the Britannians and the Elevens/Japanese, and ultimately the tragedy of when one has too much power. The sequel showcases what happened after the finale between Lelouch and Suzaku, and how the future looks, but a few swerves and changes cause a similar story being told with a conclusive ending, albeit with a few more hiccups on the way, both for the characters, and for me, the show itself.
The first issue is that it appears Lelouch’s life has been rewritten – he appears to have lost his memory as Zero, Kallen is apparently a slave like Eleven at a casino and there is no mention of Nunnaly. Instead, she is replaced by Lelouch’s ‘brother’ Rolo, with initially no exception what is going on. Fortunately an episode or two later, things are explained when C.C returns to give Lelouch his memory back – which felt a bit of a rush and almost let down as at that point, nothing had been explained. We do eventually see that Suzaku defeated Lelouch, where he was brought to the Emperor Charles, a.k.a. Lelouch’s father, who also has the power of Geass and rewrites Lelouch’s memory. Thanks to C.C, Zero returns and takes control of the remaining Black Knights, including Kallen, one of the people who knows Lelouch is Zero, which leads a lot of intrigue in their relationship this season, as she wonders who he is fighting for, combined with her own feelings for him.
The issues come early as we learn that Rolo is basically someone to keep a check on him with a unique Geass ability of his own, but at the same time Lelouch is able to manipulate him for his own purposes, combined with Rolo’s legit feelings *and jealousy* for Lelouch as a brother figure, and doesn’t want him to find out how happened to Nunnaly…which of course is basically Lelouch’ goal in life, to create a world safe for her. All of your favourite cast members are back in some form, albeit the Ashford Academy is mostly limited, (with the exception of Shirley a bit later on) – we get members of the factions from China, Viletta forced to work on Lelouch’s side once he regains his members (she was a teacher at Ashford basically keeping an eye on him) and my personal favourite, Jeremiah returning as a partial cyborg with a Geass canceller…which is used to tragic circumstances when Shirley regains her memory later…
Suzaku of course is a constant thorn in his side, as Lelouch has to try and work his role as Zero without Suzaku learning that he has regained his memories. A big way is how he saves Nunnaly and she becomes the Viceroy of Area 11, and soon to be Japan – this is what Lelouch wants and can’t go against her…which actually causes a lot of turmoil for him. It does showcase that his love for his sister is first class, but also it does weaken his character in that this does seem to be the only thing going for him – in the first season he was allowed to develop that his emotions are for the sake of going against his family for the sake of how his father betrayed him, combined with his own wishes for the Japanese to return to as they are. The fact that Euphy’s death seemed to have broke that, and there’s even a bit when Suzaku realizes Lelouch is Zero again, that he forces him to confess that Lelouch used his Geass power on Euphy which caused the massacre. Lelouch is more of a tyrant here, (albeit by the end of the series everything does come full circle, it isn’t until the very last episode that everything becomes clear) and he seems a lot more one-dimensional, which does make this series a lot more predictable, albeit still with some excellent Lelouch tactics particularly near the end of the series.
A lot of this is due to the fact it is truly a family issue more than just Britannians vs. Elevens, especially with his father. It leads to some truly epic conflicts, especially when the truth about Lelouch’s mother is revealed. This is legit shocking and was really surprised how well it worked, and one of the true moments this season shined, especially as the final plot involving Lelouch, Suzaku and CC works out to try and unite the world. CC has her issues as well, especially when her and her opposite VV are within conflicting interests. Add to that, the factors of characters like Jeremiah, Rolo and Kallen, along with many of the Black Knights when Zero’s identity is showcased, and especially Lord Schneizel being the man behind the mask, it is a real battle of wits towards the end. Of course, the ending itself is very debatable whether you like it or not, so without spoiling it, it is a real divide in the fan base. Personally, the plan works at what Lelouch wanted to do, especially after what happens to Nunnally (another surprise twist) – however you get the feeling there could have been another way to deal with it.
The season definitely has its ups and downs, the main issue for me is a couple of things. First is how rushed it feels in trying to get the Black Knights back together, how Lelouch regains his memory, how we have to quickly accept how it became this way, and how Rolo became his brother. Almost all of this is explained in separate little bits which total up to about 8 minutes before we get into Lelouch returning to what he did in the first season. For the most part, it does feel like a retread of the first season, just changing a few things round. For example, CC and VV feud and what they really are, the true secret of Marianne, the characters of the Chinese Dynasty, and the amount of new Geasses and how they are used.
The second I have is that because of this, very few of the characters actually stand out. It moves very fast throughout but unlike the first season, it feels it needs to get as much story as it can, yet still get in a few quirky episodes in. Small sub-plots are mentioned and showcased in it (Lloyds/Milly’s one time engagement, Nina becoming a scientist for the Britannian Royal Family, the Emperor’s attempt at destruction, Nunnaly’s role as an enemy, etc) and whilst they are all tied by Lelouch, it does seem like it tries too hard and makes things unnecessarily complicated. Now fortunately, a number of the main storylines do hit hard, for example Shirley recovering her memory and how Rolo’s obsession for becoming Lelouch’s one true sibling whilst Lelouch could care less, this does change over time despite what Rolo does to Shirley, as Lelouch understands it is the power of Geass which is causing the turn of humanity in these people so it does feel tragic when things do happen.
Another positive is that some of the characters really do improve in this season – my favourites being Schneizel and Jeremiah. Schneizel actually is far more engaging as the main villain for Lelouch but at the same time has a suave and calm demeanor which makes it hard to not root for him – he is extremely intelligent and causes so much panic for Lelouch that you are cheering for him half the time (that side, the way Lelouch does actually defeat him is a masterstroke) – Jeremiah on the other hand has a true story when he goes after Zero, which leads him to actually going on his side after he learns who it is. Jeremiah’s back-story with him being in love with Lelouch’s mother is actually touching and seeing this badass in action actually makes you support him especially considering how much of a victim he was in the first season. Sadly, the same can’t be said with a lot of the other supporting cast. Nina is still a touchy subject and still borderline psychotic when Euphy is involved, most of Ashford Academy is non-existent, even Kallen gets downgraded a fair bit as she gets captured during one part, and whilst she narrates the ending, she only was significant for a small part basically being Zero’s shoulder to lie on when Lelouch gets depressed when things happen to Nunnally…
There is still plenty I haven’t mentioned – does the relationship between Ohgi/Viletta ever surface? Princess Cornelia’s feelings about Lelouch when she learns it was him that killed Euphy? Suzaku being a knight of Charles and how he and Lelouch will try and make the world a better place, both with each other and against each other? Nunnaly’s role as Viceroy and her reaction when she knows about the secrets Lelouch and Suzaku have been keeping behind her back? There is a lot of little things and big things which you really need to get into the story for. Because of this however, it is a fair bit weaker than Season 1 – whilst I can’t say if you haven’t seen the first season it is impossible to follow through, it is a cluster to do so, and even for fans of the first season, it does feel a bit rushed with too much going on. That said, it does end on a dramatic note and it does actually conclude quite well when all the plans are brought together, so it’s definitely still above average. But for a sequel to the original series, it is a tad disappointing. Certainly not bad at all, but definitely had the potential to be better.
Code Geass R2 is a decent sequel to a good series which is sadly hampered by too much going on and not using enough of the time to explain the story in more depth. The rush down feeling of the first few episodes combined with the character of Rolo doesn’t give fans of the first season the need to support Lelouch as well as it did in the first season, combined with the nature of both the Knights and Britannians, it is hard to say what is going on. That said, it does actually tell the story eventually and ends conclusively and really well done(though fans of Lelouch may say otherwise), and overall I did enjoy it as a sequel to the original, I just felt it could have been told much better.
Japanese Language, English Language, English Subtitles, Clean Opening And Ending (1-3), Line Gallery Art (1-9)
Content Grade: B-
Audio Grade: A-
Video Grade: A-
Packaging Grade: N/A
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: C+
Released By: Manga Entertainment UK
Release Date: March 11th, 2013
Running Time: 625 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Playstation3, Sony Bravia 32 Inc EX4 Television, Aiwa 2 Way Twin Duct Bass Reflex Speaker System.