Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion – Review

by Miguel Douglas


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Set in an alternate universe in which Japan is conquered by what is known as the Holy Britannian Empire, the Japanese have been stripped of all rights, freedoms, and have had their country renamed to Area 11. A high school student known as Lelouch Lamperouge is a Britannian prince who gave up his right to the throne after his mother was murdered, and has vowed to destroy his father, the Emperor, and Britannia. He gains the ability through the mysterious power of the Geass, becoming Zero, the leader of the resistance movement to fulfill his two wishes: to seek revenge for his mother and to construct a world in which his beloved sister can live happily.

From reading the synopsis of Code Geass, one can assume it consists entirely of a struggle between two absolute causes—in this case the Japanese and the Britannians. This initial outlook of the show would be detrimental because Code Geass provides not only an insightful look into the struggle for national independence, but also for the conflicting ideals that the individuals within the series face in how to approach such a situation, whether they be for it, against it or in the middle of the spectrum. Surprisingly, Code Geass is a very politicized show, not only for its realistic portrayal of an imperial presence over a nation—in which the dominant class ruthlessly suppresses the aboriginal inhabitants—but also in how it showcases the tremendous calculation and effort that promotes the advantageous nature when such fertile ground for a revolution comes to fruition.

The main protagonist of the show is Lelouch, a character that offers a solution to the suppressed people of Japan to help them gain their freedom. Of course, the plan he has devised doesn’t entirely go as planned, and he has to constantly recalculate his next move in order to take into account unforeseen consequences. The idealistic views that Lelouch holds in the beginning of the series are slowly transformed towards the latter half of the show to that of him becoming somewhat of a realist. This is where the beauty of Code Geass derives from. We begin to see his actions as questionable, not because he personally agrees with the performed actions, but because he knows that they are necessary in order to arrive at his proposed goal. When he is labeled a terrorist by the Britannians towards the beginning of the series, it’s blatantly apparent its just propaganda put forth by the imperial ruling class. What makes the show all the more interesting is that, due to unwarranted circumstances imposed upon him, Lelouch has to actually resort to terroristic measures to get his point across at times. This is just one of the many fine examples of the debatable responses established by the series.

We also discover that starting a revolution is not as easy as it sounds, even more so when there are various factions all vying for a piece of that revolution. Which brings me to another strong point of the series—the supporting cast. What amazes me about this show is that not only do the supporting characters have widely differing views on the current political climate that exists within their world, but that characters who you would consider to be within the same political sphere might oppose one another in terms of how one should address a problem. This paradox is effectively examined within the characters of Lelouch and Suzaku; both who want to bring justice to the world, but just happen to be on the opposite sides in administrating it. This allows the show to convey the realism that is warranted when handling such mature subject material addressed within the plot.

And with all the good things to say about Code Geass, there were some things that irked me when I watched the show. For one, there were some instances in the show that placed too much of an emphasis on minor characters that didn’t really go anywhere. Development-wise, more time could’ve been spent on addressing the main characters of the show. Secondly, and this is a direct result of the first point, is that some of the supporting characters are given little to no background regarding their motivation. Why do certain characters think that way? Why does one group believe that ideology? Why does a character continue to follow that path?

These are questions that I began to ask myself when watching the show, but they are not too much of a factor to consider in terms of understanding the overall plot. Lastly, the juxtaposition between the struggle for independence and certain filler episodes were quite stark to say the least. The story is essentially segmented into arcs, which allows for plenty of action and plot development, but also for some downtime in between major arcs. Not to say the pacing is bad, it’s probably some of the best pacing I’ve seen for awhile in a 25 episode anime series, but I felt the filler episodes could’ve been better constructed in regards to the overall presentation of the plot.

With animation done by Sunrise and character designs by CLAMP, I must say that the art style of Code Geass is very unique. Like all CLAMP designs, the characters are exceptionally tall and skinny, which might turn off some viewers, but they are still all thoughtfully designed. The same goes for the mechanical designs, which lends themselves to some very interesting set pieces that involve them. Concerning the sound of Code Geass, Hitomi Kuroishi and Kotaro Nakagawa composed the music, and I must say it’s excellent. While utilizing many of the same pieces throughout many of the episodes, I felt the dramatic atmosphere of the music really played well with the show.

Overall, I must say that I really enjoyed Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion. I found it to be very fulfilling as an anime show that essentially contains everything that makes anime what it is. Coupled with drama, action, suspense, and romance, Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion should reach a broad demographic of people who enjoy any of the above-mentioned genres, and the show doesn’t attempt to allow one to overtake the other. It’s one of those particularly special cases in anime in which its popularity is well earned, and it’s a great introductory series to showcase the cultivation of what anime can offer.

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Author: Miguel Douglas

As an avid viewer of both Japanese animation and cinema for more than a decade now, Miguel is primarily concerned with establishing a critical look into both mediums as legitimate forms of artistic, cultural, and societal understanding. Never one to simply look at a film or series based solely on superficiality, Miguel has dedicated himself towards bringing awareness to Asian entertainment and its various facets.

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  • ShinjiIkari14

    Yeah this is a great series. I found myself very intrigued with the actions Leloush had to perform, while understandable, I can understand why some thought of him as the villain, while Suzaku comes off as more righteous, some could see him as being naive and too idealistic. I think that some don’t want to accept the fact that at times you have to do the wrong thing for the right reasons, I guess it’s just a matter of perspective. A great review, I am impressed.

  • fifaplayer

    Without knowing anything about Code Geass before watching, I did not
    know what I had gotten myself into. Right from the start it grabbed my
    attention, evoking questions in a compelling way. I will not outline
    the plot as I believe other reviews do a very good job of that, but I
    will describe personal thoughts for someone who wants to know what they
    are in for if they decide to watch. The series has a way on ending each
    episode on a “what’s going to happen next?” way but making you watch
    episode after episode, back to back.

    On a final note, everyone that I know that has seen this anime, being
    an avid watcher or not, has been converted by the likable plot and
    character development right from the get go, which can tell you
    something about the power of Geass. 10/10 (wishing it could be 11/10)