What They Say:
The year is 2017 of the Imperial calendar and parts of the world are under the control of the Holy Britannian Empire. Lelouch Lamperouge, an exiled Britannian prince, encounters a strange girl known as C.C., who gifts him with a great and terrible power. The Geass. With this powerful ability, Lelouch can get anyone to do as he wills. But the power of Geass: is it a blessing…or a curse?
The audio presentation for these films brings us the original Japanese language mix only in its theatrical 5.1 mix. With the show bringing together an edited compilation of the TV series with some new minor material mixed in to bridge things, I can’t imagine the cost in trying to either reassemble the original dub cast, make a new dub, or trying to edit the TV dub into this and create the new materials. So we get the Japanese side only, which has a solid forward soundstage design to it with all the action and some nice throws to the rear channels here and there to give it a bit more life in the theater. The bass level makes out the best with some of this as there’s more impact in the action sequences and the music sounds better overall, but the bulk of the dialogue material is pretty standard stereo design material. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we didn’t have any problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.
Originally released in 2017 and 2018, the transfer for these three films are presented in their original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. Each film comes in at around two hours and gets its own disc. Animated by Sunrise, it reworks the previous TV material into compilation from with some tweaks and updates here and there that I’m sure the big fans can point out but are otherwise unrecognizable to your more casual fan such as myself. What we get is something that feels largely consistent throughout, able to not look that out of place in the years since its original debut but with enough elements that stand out so that it feels like it’s fresh, particularly with its character designs. The encoding looks good overall with solid colors throughout and very little in terms of noise, mostly just a bit during certain panning sequences that creeps into some edges. I like the color design overall with what it does and how vibrant certain parts come across while also really enjoying some of the more fluid action sequences with how well they flow.
The packaging for this release is a rare steelbook one and it’s something that works as I imagine it making some good inroads and availability at big box stores and the like because of it. The front cover uses a great visual of the main cast in purple hues behind Lelouch which gives it a very intense look, especially as the steelbook captures the colors in a particular way. It avoids being murky but has a sense of it at the same time. The back of the steelbook has a lighter image as it focuses on Suzaku and a lot of the Brittanian side of things, though Lelouch is here as well, and this goes with a cooler blue theme to it that’s very appealing. Within the case, we get the third feature key visual along the right side while the left breaks down the films by disc and what extras there are with a simple black background. Additionally, the set comes with three art cards that I believe made up the first round posters announcing the project that are set against a gray backdrop. No other show related inserts are included.
The menu design for this release works a simple angle with it playing clips from the film. That gives us a fairly standard layout where the clip fills most of the screen but even that gets obscured by the oversized logo in the middle of it, which is stylishly done to be sure, while the navigation strip along the bottom feels like it takes up about twenty-percent of the screen. It has the film number and name in a large piece there while below it has the very basic navigation that comes from it not having any language options and the extras kept to the final disc. Navigation is, therefore, a breeze and easily managed both as the main menu and as the pop-up menu during playback.
The only extras included in this release are some of the original promotional videos for the films on the third disc.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Originally arriving in the fall of 2006, the beginning of the Code Geass saga is one that caught on big for a lot of anime fans. An original story out of Sunrise combined with character designs by CLAMP that gave us an intriguing world even with its narrow focus on Japan caught the imagination. It did well with plenty of home video releases, broadcast runs, merchandise, and more. Ten years after the launch of the series a trio of compilation films hit which came out in 2017 and 2018 and make up this set. All of it was in preparation for a new original film that came out in early 2019, which still feels like a surreal kind of experience. With the original series running for two two-cour seasons, there’s a lot of material to get reworked down to a trilogy and there are issues with that. But in service of a new film, and Sunrise’s past with the Gundam films in proving to be superior than the TV series for many, there’s always the hope that they’ll recreate that magic formula again at some point.
The project comes from director Gorō Taniguchi and written by Ichirō Ōkouchi where we explore one of my favorite things, alternate history. It’s not something that’s been used too awful strongly in the anime world on a global scale though we’ve seen numerous re-imaginings of Japanese history in series and explorations of that past with the supernatural or giant robots. But there are few shows that tackle the present and recent history in this particular fashion. Britain has successfully taken control of a third of the world and America is known as Britannia. In its conquest of other nations, Britannia renames them to specific area numbers and subjugates the citizenry while ruling them as the elite class. In 2010, Japan finally fell to the push of Britannia against what the Euro Universe was doing as well as the Chinese Federation. Now known as Area 11, the country is trying to find the balance between what they were and what Britannia wants them to be.
Enter into this a surprisingly complex tale about revenge and family. The capital of Area 11 has been devastated and the central part of it is now made up of a massive Brittania stronghold. The areas surrounding it are in ruins and are being demolished to make way for new expansions and to push down the Elevens even more. Only Britannians can live within the stronghold but others are allowed in for work and there is a small but growing segment of Honorary Britannians that have come up through the ranks to collaborate with their new rulers. The general population has given in and lives in relative fear but there are still those that struggle against Britannia in hopes of bringing themselves under self-rule again one day.
Within this world, the story is focused on that of a Britannian named Lelouch Lamperouge. Lelouch is an exiled prince from Britannia who has been taken in by the Ashford family in Japan after the death of his mother. Along with his younger sister Nunnally, who has gone blind after being injured in the murder of their mother, the two have grown up in relative obscurity in Area 11 after the invasion of the country and attend events and school within the Britannia section. During all this time, Lelouch has been waiting for his chance to begin his true mission of finding out who had killed his mother and to exact his revenge. Patience is the name of the game but sometimes plans can get accelerated when an unknown element comes into play.
That element is something that a terrorist group has stolen that Lelouch has come into contact with. Originally thought to be poison gas, it turns out that what they stole from the stronghold was actually a container with a mysterious young green-haired woman known as C.C. who finds Lelouch to be exactly what she needs. Lelouch enters into an agreement with her that gives him the power to accomplish his mission, the ability to control the minds of others. There are very strict rules about all of this and that’s what makes it a challenge, and something of a downfall, the further along that it goes. Lelouch, a highly intelligent young man, realizes how quickly he can take advantage of this and of the terrorists that are throughout the country to begin his master plan. Everything is accelerated by this as he takes on the persona of Zero, a very theatrical masked man who pushes through to the highest levels of Britannian royalty in the country and makes his mark known. The series, and the films, basically go all over the place from here and it just keeps escalating and escalating, especially as Zero’s abilities are tested and the workarounds he uses to try and stay ahead of everything gets crazier and crazier. The TV series, especially in its second season, just felt like they had written themselves into more corners and just embraced that. The film side tries to smooth this out a bit but the amplification simply becomes problematic the further it goes on.
Early on, Code Geass is a rather well-layered series as it tackles a lot of different things. The main thrust is that of revenge for Lelouch but it also works through the political level as it delves into the structure of the world and the royalty of Britannia. With numerous relatives all competing to take on the title of Emperor, there are a lot of different things that slowly come into play as more of them are introduced. Lelouch’s role is one that introduces a lot of chaos to the mix early on as he deals with Prince Clovis who is ruling Area 11 for his father. Quite a lot is revealed about the landscape of the series in how the royal family deals and interacts with each other.
I admit I like “early” Code Geass more than alter Code Geass but the later stuff has some absolutely batshit crazy stuff that happens. I loved that the project leaned into some hardcore stuff when it comes to how bloodthirsty it can go and the intensity of relationships. But the project as a whole suffers from some real sprawl that the films have to try and grapple with. What hurts compilation films like this the most to me is that it often lacks the breathing room in the stories necessary to give it life and depth, instead moving from big statements to set pieces, rinse and repeat. That can be compelling when viewed as an additional piece to the series but I struggle with them on their own, or revisiting them years later without remembering much of the smaller moments. That said, this release is pretty welcome to have as it looks great, comes in a fantastic package, and delivers what many will want before going into the new film.
Japanese Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Promos, Trailers
Content Grade: B
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: B+
Packaging Grade: A-
Menu Grade: B+
Extras Grade: C+
Released By: Funimation
Release Date: March 5th, 2019
Running Time: 406 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.