If I remember right, then, a little over a decade ago, I watched the first episode or two of this new anime. It struck me as, perhaps, a little overly complicated, with a dizzying number of threads to keep track of, many of them coming and going in the blink of an eye, and a staggering number of characters, many of whom were really quite useless plot-wise. I would later appreciate the excellent world-building, including the mechs and the alternate world history, but for right then, it seemed generally preoccupied with being “epic.” Still, there was something intriguing in this conflict, something riveting in the story being presented to me, especially within the central characters, who were complex and interesting enough to blur the line between hero and villain. I decided to follow it, and ended up watching it all the way to the end.
And that was my introduction to Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion.
Coming out back in 2006 – good grief, it’s already been a decade! – featuring a great deal of action, intrigue, strategy, hot girls – so sue me for noticing, LOL – giant robots, psychic gifts, family feuds, revenge, love, destruction, tragedy, triumph, one of the most breathtakingly multi-threaded plots ever… I could go on for awhile, the point is, there’s a lot to this anime. A lot. I am not going to go over everything here. This is just a brief glance towards a truly massive subject. 😉
One thing I will say about Code Geass is, it got me thinking. For instance, I’d never really considered what I, myself, would look for in a leader that I would follow. The example of Lelouch provided some incentive for considering such. He appeared to be a much better person than he was. He appeared to be quite heroic, and he was most certainly capable of a great many astounding feats. However, he was not a hero. For most of the series, he’s actually quite the villain, a terrorist bent on revenge and destruction, a scheming, manipulating, traitorous sociopath. His followers placed great trust in him, but as capable as he is, he is not worthy of their trust, a fact which undermines him completely late in the show.
Still, for all he flaws, Lelouch had some redeeming virtues to him. He did behave with honor, at least publicly and occasionally privately, and went to extremes to protect the people precious to him. When offered a better solution than his own, he was willing to accept it. The single most terrible thing he did was purely an accident. He sometimes showed genuine remorse and caring for some. His code may have been threadbare and complicated, but he still held true to it, right to the end. And when he finally accepted the mantle of a villain, in the end, that was when he finally became a hero.
Speaking of which, that was a much more poignant ending than anything I was expecting, especially in light of how repetitive, convoluted, and prolonged the show felt at that point. Seriously, it lost so much steam for awhile, at least in my initial viewing, that I was mostly still watching it just because I hate unfinished stories. There were flaws, even in the final conclusion, as the aftermath would not be that smooth and easy for everyone, but it was still a magnificent final scheme Lelouch hatched with his closest co-conspirators.
On that note, I liked the dynamic among the more central cast members. Lelouch, Suzaku, CC, Kallen, and all the rest presented such a diverse range of skills and temperaments, ranging from the mundane to the exotic to the insane. There were too many characters, really, and some of the things we see them do are really quite inappropriate and irrelevant to the story – Euphemia’s biggest fan, for instance… eeewww – and refusing to let any threads dangle untied grew to be a bit obnoxious, but it’s still a very well-crafted narrative driven entirely by the people within it. There are some plot holes – like how and where Kallen learned the skills to become the rebellion’s best mech pilot – but I can generally forgive them.
The single greatest weakness of the show, I think, is simply how long it is. It fails to stay fresh, becoming formulaic – the first two episodes of both seasons are basically replicas of each other – and repetitive with the ongoing intrigue and battles and miraculous schemes, and so many characters, both beloved and useless, meet with terrible fates. It felt like they were beating a dead horse, and I found myself growing pretty bored as the drama wore so thin. It was all just “epic this” and “epic that.” I didn’t even care about most of the later twists and turns.
All in all, it’s a pretty impressive show from most every technical standpoint. It’s merely that the author clearly put much more thought into the background than they did into the story itself. Still, it’s not all bad. It’s no contender for being among my most favorites, but it’ll surely be a classic that finds a home in my collection.
Rating: 8 stars out of 10.