Lelouch shows off his chess playing prowess as he beats an aristocrat. As insignificant as it may seem, it’s his own way of rebelling against the Holy Empire of Britannia, the superpower that has taken over Japan and dominates the world stage. He knows that as a student and living under the protection of a minor family in this realm, he is literally just a spectator as the events unfolding all around him cause untold suffering and oppression. This has all been weighing heavily upon him since he was a small child, particularly because his beloved sister is now debilitated due to the tumultuous events in their lives. So it was that when a mysterious green haired girl named C.C. appears and offers him the power of the king, he takes it without hesitation and the world afterwards was never the same again.
The 2006-2007 anime season was a very busy one. It produced titles like The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya and Death Note, which have since become classics and have generated fans that the world has not seen since the early days of Naruto and Bleach. Anime trends seem to follow spurts in activity like these and sometimes figuring out what’s going to be a hit is not always so easy. What is often predictable however is that in between these “anime generation” defining periods, there always follow a spate of often mediocre shows that rehash or try to cash in on the popularity of the fashionable titles, and is often the time when we get the most number of jaded critics writing how the glory days of anime are over. This really just means then that in each “golden age” it becomes tough for any more than one or two titles to reign supreme (think of Evangelion; what other titles got as much attention back then?).
So how is it that we have a third hit in the same time period? The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya came out first in 2006 and this centres around a girl that had god-like powers but whom wasn’t aware of them and must be kept in the dark at all cost. Death Note played with the premise of a young man who had awe inspiring powers to alter the destinies of people through a notebook. Code Geass’ extraordinary twist is to grant Lelouch the power to have anyone who is trapped by his gaze to do his bidding, no matter what that may be. Three stories that from the surface level all tell a different tale, but dig in to their core and it’s all about one person granted powers that are beyond what other story tellers have dared to grant their characters before.
Why these titles all got popular back then is simple; they gave people something more. Perhaps it’s a bi-product of the literature at the time wherein books like The Da Vinci Code offered monumental revelations that thoroughly engaged readers. Audiences did not care that they were being overloaded with information and plotlines wove together like some schizophrenic spider’s tangle of webs. The best thing about an audience like this – one that ate up just about anything put in front of them – is that they’ll continue to just keep wanting more, so any show that did just that were sure to succeed.
Code Geass offered a lot of intrigue and political satire, and a main character that is rich in contradictions. The tides of battle were always changing and similarly, alliances were as frail as a castle of sand arrayed against a stormy sea. Mix this in with gratuitous amounts of Pizza Hut product placement, nosebleed inducing fanservice, and a line up of mecha that undoubtedly topped up Bandai’s coffers in sales of model kits then you’ll agree, this show had tonnes to offer. Indeed it’s probably the more ambitious and grand of all the titles released in that season, typical of most Sunrise titles. And did I mention the character designs were CLAMP’s?
Animation quality was pretty good, though as with any of CLAMP’s stylised character designs it may take a bit of getting used to if you’ve come from other mecha anime like Gundam before. On that note, one other thing that gave Code Geass its wide appeal is its ability to attract female viewers (at least in western circles). The flowing and often effeminate appearance and action of the characters, together with the sometimes poetic words and delivery of Zero’s speeches make this almost like Ouran High School Host Club but with robots, lasers and missiles. Rarely will you see a mecha series have this much bright colours.
This has become one of those “must see” titles of the past decade. Hardly an anime fan who has spent a day in an anime convention would claim that they have not heard of Code Geass before. It’s part of a generation of shows that have begun treating its viewers as having a bit more intelligence than your typical shounen battle type anime addict and yet maintains many of the plot devices that attracted us to anime in the first place. If I was going to make a complaint about this series it would be that keeping all of this mix of ingredients from boiling over eventually does become a strain, but for at least this collection everything is run very tightly and before you even notice anything going amiss you’ll already be too deep into it to care.
Overall (dub) : B
Overall (sub) : B
Story : A
Animation : A
Art : A-
Music : A
+ Totally intriguing and fast paced storyline that will have you hooked from the first episode.
− Product placement!