Time to do another anime review. This one was an interesting anime in that stylistically at times it reminded me of what I’ve seen of Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood, though it varies greatly in most other areas. This was an anime that I almost stopped half way through, but I’m relatively glad that I didn’t. It’s a pretty dark and depressing anime without being too dark. It’s a weird balance that I’ll talk about later.
What Is it About?
Lelouch, in line to be Emperor of the Holy Britannian Empire, has been exiled to area 11 after his mother was killed. He went there along with his younger sister. He’s held a grudge ever since, and that’s putting it pretty lightly. He is pissed off at his father, the emperor, and is worried for his sisters safety. He’s still a highschool student but it bent on taking down his father. Things start to move faster with his plan than expected when he meets a girl, C2, that the empire was keeping hostage. She’s not normal and gives him the power of geass. This power allows him to, only once, convince someone to do what he tells them to. With that in play, he can start his plan using the rebels from Japan (which is area 11) to draw the emperor out. He soon becomes a power and a faceless mastermind known as Zero. His actions don’t always work as he plans, but with his mind for strategy, he almost always wins.
So How was it?
I liked the show quite well, but I did have some issues with it. With a power like he has, he’s clearly not going to be using it for good most of the time. That causes some issues in terms of consistent tone of the show. It’s a lot about his downward spiral into more and more difficult and destructive situations where he is not the good guy. You realize pretty early on that Lelouch is interested in the safety of his sister, but is much more interested in revenge at any cost. This makes the show very bleak at times, and while you wait for him to be redeemed, it just continues to spiral further and further down.
It’s also odd because it juxtaposes the Zero side of Lelouch versus the face he puts on for the school. There are full episodes that are just silly and goofy. There’s a clear reason for it, otherwise the show would be too heavy, and it also sets up future consequences for Lelouch. However, it often drags out the show. I personally think they could have cut the number of episodes in half and had about the same impact. It starts to get very heavy and dragging as you know what is likely going to happen and while most episodes do have one or two really interesting moments, it could be cut down for the same impact by a lot.
It’s not to say that it’s a bad show. For a show that is heavy, they do a solid job of never feeling like Lelouch is completely lost and can’t be redeemed, though it keeps on being harder and harder to actually believe that he could be. And the ending is a solid payoff for the series. You have a bit of an ah-ah moment about it while watching the last handful of episodes, and that is something that I always appreciate. Is the payoff in the end worth the amount of time that you’ve put into the show, probably, but like I said above, it could certainly be written tighter and would have had the same effect.
Also, subs versus dubs on this one. I watched it dubbed, so I can’t tell you how it sounded with subs, but I’d guess it would be better to watch it subbed. The voice acting wasn’t bad in Code Geass, it just isn’t great. Most likely it would be more compelling to watch in subs to get the full proper emotion.
Finally, how trope heavy is it and how much fan service is there? This is a pretty adult anime. There is nudity, Zero/Lelouch is trying to take over an empire, so there is a fair amount of violence, and while there isn’t a ton of gore, there’s enough blood and consistent violence throughout the show. So for fan service there is a fair amount, just be warned. However, I do think that Code Geass does a solid job of subverting a number of tropes, especially with Lelouch and how it ends. There would be ways to make it very tropey throughout, and it isn’t too heavy in that aspect. Also, there’s a unique element to this anime compared to most others I’ve watched that moves from heavy to light in terms of the episodes and even during some of the same episodes. It’s interesting to see how it does that, and that’s one of the things that can keep it going.
It’s a tough anime for me to really love. I think that there are plenty of solid parts to it that make it quite enjoyable, however, it just takes too long. While the end of the anime subverts a trope, you can really see the telegraphed movements up to that point, and for that reason, it should definitely be shorter, because you know what is going to happen. It would make the ah-ha moments or the what just happened moments stronger as the anime just drags and you don’t get fully wrapped up in it.
Would I recommend it? For a more serious anime fan, I would. I think that I’m at the point where I’m picking up most things that come up, but I know that I’m not catching everything that might make me appreciate it more. However, as I said above, there’s a fair amount of fan service, and there’s a lot of violence, so be warned about that if you do decide to watch it. I’d say that it’s generally worth it for the payoff, and I might right about the payoff in another article about character arcs or something along those lines later. Overall, not bad, could be better, probably worth watching.
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