What They Say:
Leila Malcal, commander of her very own W-0 unit for the European army, takes on dangerous missions with her powerful and mysterious lieutenant, Akito Hyuga. With a group of rebels on their side, they fight the Britannian army but face more than the typical perils of war. A foe from Akito’s past seeks his life and a dark power threatens all that Leila has worked for.
The audio presentation for this release brings us the original Japanese language track and English language dub in 5.1 for, both of which are encoded using the Dolby TrueHD lossless codec. The series got a theatrical run prior to the home video release and the 5.1 mixes work well for this when it comes to the action and some of the incidental sound effects. It has a larger feeling than the TV series for sure and that plays well amid the mecha combat sequences and some of the more intense one on one fights that gets underway. The show also deals with the dialogue well with some nice throws to the rear channels but also just some strong and distinctive elements along the forward soundstage, such as crowd scenes or the general movement of characters across it. The collection does a great job overall with both tracks and it’ll definitely deliver what viewers are hoping for in this arena.
Originally released between 2012 and 2016, the transfer for this five-part OVA series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. The show is spread across two Blu-ray discs with three on the first and two on the second and that gives it a good bit of space to work with as episodes are just under an hour or so each. Animated by Sunrise, it has all the style and design of the TV series that we saw back in 2006 but blends and elevates it up with a richer palette and a lot more settings to work with. The show has a really good richness to its design that’s very appealing with costumes and the detail of it comes through perfectly here with the encoding. Colors are solid throughout, the high motion scenes look fantastic, and background details are spot on. It gave me something that feels exactly within the context of the TV series but nudges it up just right so that it must have looked great on the big screen.
The packaging design for this release comes in an oversized Blu-ray case the holds the discs from both formats with two Blu-ray’s and three DVDs on hinges. The set also comes with an o-card that replicates the cover artwork but works the foil angle so that it stands out nicely with some subtle pieces in the way you hold it in the light. THe front cover has a good key visual piece of the main characters in action poses looking serious while the eye looms in the background. I do like the use of the font for the Akito the Exiled aspect of the logo and how well it blends but also stands out against the original logo. The back cover goes for a black background with a few shots from the show along the right that are decent but it also gives us a lengthy summary of the premise, which is sadly done with a dull goldish-brown on the black making it hard to read. The technical grid along the bottom works better with the white text on black and breaks down everything cleanly and accurately. The case itself replicates this and has a good image on the reverse side across both panels of the main cast looking serious.
The limited edition set also comes with a pack of art cards of good size that comes in its own cardstock case. These are great key visual pieces we saw during the theatrical run that shows off the main cast of characters in a wonderfully painted style.
The menu design for this release is a simple one overall as we get the white stripe along the bottom with the navigation that doubles as both the main menu and pop-up menu navigation. The rest of the menu is given over to clips from the show, working some slow build material early on with cityscapes and the like, before adding a bit more to it with character and mecha. The logo is kept along the center of the screen and it’s one that overall looks decent in how everything ties together. The problem is that it feels like it lacks the energy and grandeur that it needs to really set the atmosphere and tone of what you’re going to watch and is more just standard fare material instead. It’s not bad and as a menu it’s fully functional and problem free but it could have been juiced up a bit more.
The extras for this release are a bit meager in a way but there are some good things for dub fans. That comes in the form of an audio commentary for the first episode, which is lengthy, while the third episode gets a video commentary. Beyond that we just get a few Funimation trailers.
The original Code Geass series landed its first season in 2006 into 2007 and then had its second series running throughout 2008, giving is fifty episodes of very fun material. This particular world as an alternate timeline is one that I enjoyed a great deal when I first saw it and I’ll admit frustration in not having time to revisit it before this OVA series. This show landed in 2012 and ran over four years with five episodes as it finished up in 2016. With an intriguing world I was definitely excited to visit it again in a new way and what we get here focuses on other events that takes place between the two previous series, shifting us to another area and giving us a brief bit of time with Lelouch and Suzaku amid all of it that I found delightful. But the show really isn’t about them, though it’s a useful bridging piece to their story before they shift back to where the main series began.
The focus of Akito the Exiled is on the Europia United nations that are currently in the midst of their war against the Holy Britannian Empire, which they’re losing to a very good degree because of just how power the empire is. One of the military units within Europia has Leila Malcal taking on a leadership role when an defensive mission goes poorly and she takes control of it, which will bite her in a bad way down the line. But her quick thinking in the here and now has her in charge of a small group of W-0 armored units that’s piloted by Akito Hyuga, who is definitely gifted and has the ability as we see later to drawn on and sync with other pilots in order to take his skills to the next level. It’s a little loose in a way but it works well and allows him to be an unexpected element in the war, especially once Leila draws more soldiers to her group that are like Hyuga in that they’re all Elevens. She doesn’t call them by that and there’s more referencing to them as Japanese at times but they’re still pretty much viewed with derision by most others out there as Eleven’s are essentially cannon fodder to try and soften up the attacks before the “real” soldiers go in. And with so many wiped out they definitely, sadly, serve that purpose.
Over the course of the series we follow as Leila’s group achieves some attention and slowly moves up the rank a bit and gets involved with a range of missions. The show is one that works well for me as it mixes a good bit of politics into it, which was the appeal of the original Code Geass, so seeing more of the Europian side and some of what’s being thrown at them by Britannia certainly hits some sweet spots for me. Leila’s group is a complicated one and a lot of that is because of Leila. Her lineage comes into play as she’s adopted and her family goes back quite a few generations in importance and that allows her to be a key player when tensions are ratcheting up to extreme levels. It also doesn’t hurt that an event in her past has gifted her with the Geass as well, but in a form that will disappear if not used by a certain age which leaves you wondering when and if it’ll be used.
Similarly, Akito is complex in his own way. Being Japanese amid this war and essentially a nose to the grindstone kind of pilot that’s doing what he can to survive he keeps a low profile. There’s a growing romance with Leila to be sure that’s sprinkled through it that comes to life more when they spend some time with the romany people, but his past is complicated as well. He’s been disowned by the family, which seems to just be his older brother Shiang, who is a high muckety muck in the ruling class that’s orchestrating his own events and looking to secure greater position and prestige for Britannia. The relationship when dealt with is certainly complicated but it gives both of them something fun to work off of. Akito’s personality is one that makes it hard to really connect with him a lot of the time and I really felt like Leila was more the central character but he does have some strong sequences throughout and the action really delivers.
The main problem that I’ve seen people have with this show is that if you took off the Code Geass name and eliminated the relatively brief bits with Lelouch you could have placed this into anything. And to some degree I agree with that criticism. But the trappings of the Code Geass series is what sells it more for me as we get going with it because this is an appealing alternate timeline with intriguing social/political aspects that get touched on. Not enough for my tastes but just a bit of it works as most series rarely delve into this realm. I’m also a big fan of the costume and character design for the project and the OVAs here essentially mirror what we had in the TV series but with some really slick animation and a brighter and glossier look with a lot of it that shows just how animation changes over the space of a decade.
Akito the Exiled is going to be a hard sell for some Code Geass fans because of how it operates but it was exactly what I was hoping for with its setup and some of the areas it explored. It has a really good sense of pacing with each episode that clocks in at around an hour so that it delves into both character and action in engaging ways. The quality of the animation is great and it left me wanting more of these characters and these settings. I do wish that things had been a bit clearer and more detailed about the various factions and overall setup of the war that’s underway and the Europian side but what we do get is quite tantalizing. I had a lot of fun with it and am looking forward to revisiting it in between rewatching the original series again some day.
Japanese Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Language, English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Episode 1 Commentary, Episode 3 Video Commentary, and Trailers
Content Grade: B+
Audio Grade: A-
Video Grade: A
Packaging Grade: B
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B-
Released By: Funimation
Release Date: June 27th, 2017
Running Time: 290 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.