- Titles: Code Geass: Lelouch de la Rebelión; Code Geass: Hangyaku no Lelouch
- Genre: Psychological thriller, action, drama, mecha
- Episodes: 25
- Studio: Sunrise
Oh boy, how do I summarize this one? So basically in an alternate universe, Japan got completely colonized by Britannia and the Britannians are kinda being jerks about it. But Lelouch, who is actually a disowned member of the Britanian royalty has sworn vengeance on them and is using the political strife between Britania and the Japanese colony (renamed sector 11) to murder them all. Also, there are giant robots. And the character designs are by CLAMP which I really dig. Oh and Lelouch’s childhood best friend is now a member of the Britannian army even though he is actually Japanese. OK, I think I got most of it down.
First of all, it should be Lelouche or pronounced Lelouck. I’m not sure why it should be like that but I feel it in my heart of hearts.
I have been meaning to watch Code Geass for like a decade. Maybe more. A long time ago I read the Death Note manga (I have not seen the anime) and I really loved it. Ever since then, every online platform and mildly anime savvy friend I have had has told me, if you liked Death Note, you should really watch Code Geass. And now, here we are!
Even though I mentioned it in my summary, I actually didn’t know the character designs were by CLAMP before starting the show and oh boy did it hit me. The CLAMP aesthetic is specific and extravagant. I figure this will either be a plus or a huge minus for viewers. But I love it. A lot. I thought the characters looked fantastic and those designs are in themselves a viable reason to watch Code Geass.
Sadly, the rest is a bit less impressive. Environments are functional but fairly forgettable and the robots are really sort of normal. What I mean is that they aren’t bad by any means and I really like the way the hatch is designed but at a distance, they look like mechas. I wouldn’t necessarily be able to pick them out and I feel like that’s a loss in a series that has such stylized characters.
I will say their designs do make the Macha nice to look at in movement. And the animation is really great for a series that’s now 15 years old. Actually, let me rephrase that: the animation is really great.
As I mentioned, I picked up Code Geass because everyone told me it was the natural next anime after Death Note. So that’s what I was expecting was a plot-driven cat and mouse story with some deep moral quandaries and deeply flawed characters. That’s not quite what I got. Except for the flawed characters…
By the way, so far I have only seen season 1 of Code Geass, which is the 25 first episode. So take this into account. Because Netflix autoplayed the first episode of season 2, I have gotten a glimpse of it, and I have a feeling a lot of what I’m about to say changes in the next 25 episodes. Nevertheless, this was my experience with season 1.
First, let me just say that this isn’t the type of series where you marvel at the brilliance of the plans. Yes, Lelouch does have some pretty elaborate plans and he plays chess a lot. But half the time things actually work out through coincidences. Most of the time there are a lot of factors Lelouch did not account for that throw his plans off and we often don’t actually find out what the plans were supposed to be in the first place as he keeps his cards hidden.
It occasionally feels a bit like a case of the character being much smarter than the writers but the tracks are covered well. At the end of the day, the first season of Code Geass was simply a different type of story.
Moreover, Britannia is just too cartoonishly evil for much nuance in the morality. Yes, there are some Britannian characters who are quite likeable. Euphemia comes to mind, as do Lelouch’s classmates but as a default, the Britaninans are awful. On several occasion, the series goes out of its way to show us an average no-name Britannian citizen, verbally and physically assaulting an 11 (that’s what they call the Japanese, they have stripped them of all national identity and reduced them to a number) for absolutely no reason, while the poor Japanese cowers and apologizes for not being softer on their boots.
I suppose Lelouch is meant to be a compromised character as his motivation is established as revenge and hate but even so, all his actions are generally noble. He strives to minimize suffering for all and to protect the innocents. In fact, any great damage he caused was always by accident. At least in season 1. So the moral conflict here is largely implied but never actually showed to us.
Basically, I never felt the urge to be on Britannia’s side while I watched the series. Instead, I just wanted everyone to join Lelouch and make the world better. That really felt like how the shoe wanted me to feel as well.
As an intricate cat and mouse story or a complex intriguing moral quandary, Code Geass just didn’t work for me. At all. But I’m going to watch the second season. Because for me, Code Geass did work quite well as a character study!
Personally, I think recommending Code Geass is quite simple if you like Lelouch as a character, and by like I don’t necessarily mean you want to be friends with him, I mean you think he’s a well written and interesting character, then you will like Code Geass. Otherwise, you might have a pretty tough time with it.
The thing is, it’s really wonderful as a character study. Lelouch is beautifully flawed. He’s insecure and in many respects immature which clouds his judgment and makes him do some occasionally stupid mistakes. He gets scared and sometimes he gets lucky. He’s smart, compassionate but also selfish and impatient. It’s the clash of these traits that make him a versatile and intriguing character and one that I enjoyed getting to know.
Unfortunately, the rest of the cast gets pushed aside a bit. A lot of them are intriguing but hardly anyone gets much development. Even Suzaku and CC, who are main characters, only get backgrounds and not much else.
This said I liked it enough as a character-driven study to want to watch more. The plot has some pretty big holes and the surrounding cast is a little superficial but I don’t really mind.
Like I said, I did see the first episode of R2 and I was pretty blown away. In that one episode, the few black knights we saw got as much development as they had gotten in the 25 episodes before and the plot was much tighter and cleaner. I really got into the story. So I have a feeling that my complaints regarding season 1 will be addressed and I’m looking forward to finding out.
Favourite character: You would think it was Lelouch considering my entire post. Don’t get me wrong, I like the kid and love the name but it’s actually Lloyd. I still can’t resist a troll it seems.
Suggested drink: Code Red
- Every time anyone calls Lelouch, Loulou – smile
- Every time Britannia is Evil – take a sip
- Every time anyone says 11 – take a breath
- Every time Lelouch uses his geass – gasp!
- Every time we see the cat – cheers!
- Every time we see little Lelouch – take a sip
- Every time the president gets saucy – take a sip
- Every time Lancelot is deployed – take a sip
- Every time Lelouch gets a phone call – listen in
- Every time there’s a surprise CC – raise your glass
- Every time someone says CC’s real name – take a sip
- Every time Shirley is emotional – there there
- Every time CC and Lelouch bicker – awwwww
- Every time there’s pizza – get a snack
- Every time CC is “killed” – take a sip
In case you’re new here, I have a Pinterest with all my screencaps (there are a lot!). If you can’t find a show you are looking for in my main boards, just go to Anime Screenshots. I move the shows I have reviewed there. Of course, I’m still going to add a few images here!