The day is August 10th , 2010. The Holy Empire of Britannia put its plan on world conquest into motion and Japan was one of its victims. The invasion of Japan was relatively easy because of Britannia's use of mobile humanoid armor vehicles called 'Knightmare Frames'. The dignity, rights and pride of the Japanese people were stripped away and the nation was given a new name: Area 11. Lelouch Lamperouge is a cunning prince who was exiled from the Britannian Royal Family who wishes to bring down the Britannian Empire. Through a chance meeting with a mysterious woman named C.C. Lelouch—Under the guise of the masked terrorist Zero—gains the power of the Geass,which grants him the ability to control anyone. It may seem that his dream of the destruction of Britannia is not too far from reality.
If there is one staple in the world of Japanese animation it is the use of giant robots, simply referred to as 'Mecha'. This genre of anime seems to follow some typical characteristics, and one of them is having a main character who is a teenager and full of angst. Anxiety ridden characters such as Shinji Ikari from Neon Genesis Evangelion and Amuro Ray from Mobile Suit Gundam: 0079, are two characters which instantly come to mind. With Code Geass, the main character is definitely a teenage male, but that is as far as it goes, and Lelouch Lamperouge has everything but that crippling quality. Lelouch is instead a headstrong, manipulatory tactician with the mind of a cunning genius and with such a intriguing lead for the show, this anime would have to receive a perfect score. Not quite.
On a visual note, Code Geass has another defining trait about it. The main crew that is at the helm of character design is CLAMP; yes the same CLAMP that penned the manga classics Cardcaptor Sakura as well as X penned the characters that the viewers see before them. While this—at first glance—may be a unusual staff choice for an anime that focuses on bombastic action and large-scale mech battles, it actually works quite well. Code Geass also has done what many other anime do not do and that is the ability to create fanservice which would appeal to both male and female viewers. The male characters fill the pretty-boy quota perfectly, giving fan-girls something to squeal about; and the female characters with their lissome appearance and curvaceous design give something for the male fans to drool over. In the fanservice department, everyone wins. Aside from character design, Code Geass has a knack for portraying mech battles with a fast paced panache that is not found in a lot of other anime within the genre. The battles are fierce and move with brutal grace all the while maintaining a sharp witted edge that displays Lelouche's flair for military tactics and underhanded political proceedures. It is this duality of roles that makes this anime so intensely interesting to view.
Speaking of brutality, Code Geass is not afraid to dish out the effects that war has on civilians. People die, and sometimes in the most pointless ways possible and with a bloody aftereffect. It is this unflinching realism in the portrayal of war, that shows how horrifying war truly is.
Musically speaking the soundtrack fits well with the series, and works for the most part, but there is nothing truly memorable in the score for the viewer to take notice. The soundtrack consists mostly of forgettable classical pieces, and as for the opening and ending themes; there is nothing in those areas except generic J-pop and J-rock. Most of the excellence in sound lies in the sound effects of battle and in the emotionally driven voice acting.
Unlike a lot of other main characters in anime, Lelouch is not a hero in any sense of the word; in fact he is quite the rogue. His goals are noble, but the means to which he achieves those goals are anything but, and a lot of times he will raise a few eye brows. Lelouch is a harsh manipulator but also a loving brother, fighting for his blind sister so that she may live in a safe world. To be fair, Lelouch's arrogant actions come back to bite him in the rear several times throughout the series, so karma does play its role in the story of Code Geass. Another vastly important role that is touched upon in the story is that of the relationship between Lelouch and Suzaku. Once best friends, now bitter enemies (or rivals, depending on how one looks at it) this drama provides a lot of the tension in the series because the two now are forced to try and kill one another while trying to maintain a shred of the friendship they once shared. A lot of Code Geass is focused on cat-and-mouse games between Lelouch and his enemies, and him trying to gain the upper hand in his battle to destory the Brittanian Empire, and although the story does speak out about Imperialism (to some extent), it is really a character driven series, and all of the emotions they carry into battle.
This is one of the things wrong with Code Geass but it acts simultaneously as its strongest facet and its biggest weakness. Code Geass has a habit of insisting on its own melodrama by crafting a story that constantly presents emotional ice cubes as emotional icebergs. Zero's speeches are sweeping and emotionally charged from the tone of his voice that swells with corniness, down to the over-the-top gestures that would make the most hammy actors roll their eyes. Code Geass is a series that is attempting to relay a message that denounces imperialism but at times becomes drunk in its own characters emotional power that the message it is trying to convey, becomes lost in the process. Code Geass is trying to make the viewer take it seriously, while bringing about giggles and snickers. On the other side of the spectrum, the melodrama is tight and well executed enough to provide an epic overtone to the whole anime, and covers over the weaker half of the prose of this series nicely.
All in all, Code Geass is a solid work with some visual surprises and well executed action; This is all accompanied with some over-the-top meleodrama that both compels laughter, and stirrs feelings of epic emotions.
A melodramatic piece of science fiction that has more than enough going for it in terms of action and visuals but tends to go overboard with its emotionalism. If this minor flaw can be overlooked, there is an epic story to be told with a rather intriguing main character at the helm. Take away one star if that minor 'flaw' cannot be ignored. — Dallas Marshall
Version(s) Viewed: R1 DVD
Review Status: Full (26/26)
Code Geass © 2006 Sunrise, Bee Train, Bandai
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