“I, Lelouch vi Britannia, command you . . .”
What’s more important: the means or the results? Code Geass attempts to tackle this tough question, and it wildly outperforms expectations. This show is brilliant, and the issues of duality and morality boost it to being one of the greatest anime- no, shows of all time.
not basic premise is this: Britannia (basically America) begins invading the rest of the world, including Japan. Lelouch vi Britannia, the 11th prince of the “Holy Britannian Empire,” witnesses his mother die in front of him, an incident that pushes his sister, Nunnally, into blindness due to trauma while also paralyzing her. After receiving little sympathy and no answers from his father, the 98th Emperor of the Britannian Empire Charles zi Britannia, Lelouch is exiled to Japan, the homeland of his mother (Update: she was not Japanese but instead a Britannian commoner who ascended to the ranks of the position of a Knight of the Round). He takes his sister with him, and from that day, he plots to find answers to his mother’s murder while also crushing his father’s empire in order to establish a peaceful and gentle world in which his sister can live.
Along the way, Lelouch (now with the family name Lamperouge while in hiding) finds himself in the middle of terrorist resistance in Japan (referred to as Area 11 by the Britannians). He runs into a mysterious woman named C.C. (pronounced C-2) who grants him the power of Geass in exchange for a contractual agreement. Lelouch’s Geass allows him to him to command any and everyone to obey him. With this newfound power, he expedites his plan to destroy the Britannian Empire with the help of terrorists, giant mechas, chess, and expert planning.
This is the basic story outline. It really boils down to “scorned prince tries to usurp father’s rule,” but it’s so much deeper than that. As the masked mastermind “Zero,” Lelouch prioritizes results over means. This leads him to commit dastardly deeds (I can’t believe I just wrote that) for the sake of his goal. He justifies his means by pushing his agenda of a peaceful world. Murder? It’s fine; it’s all for his kind and gentle sister. Genocide? Listen, he just wants a peaceful world. Using his allies as pawns? No sacrifice, no victory, am I right?
On the reverse side of this coin is Suzaku Kururugi, Lelouch’s “best friend.” The Kururugi family initially provided Lelouch and Nunnally with shelter when they were exiled, so the siblings and Suzaku grew up together. Suzaku is the stark contrast to Lelouch; his famous quote is, “Any end gained by contemptible means are worthless.” As a foil to Lelouch and his alias, Suzaku basically does the opposite of everything for which Zero stands. Suzaku wishes to change Britannia from the inside and to liberate Japan “the right way.”
Murder? Unacceptable. Genocide? No way. Using his allies as pawns? Absolutely not. This duality is at the core of Code Geass, and it makes for an interesting social commentary while watching. That’s what makes Code Geass beautiful. From the beginning to the end, you’re thinking. You’re thinking about which side is right. You’re thinking whether or not the sacrifices Lelouch makes are worth it for what he attempts to achieve. You’re thinking about how much further Suzaku would be if he cut corners and adjusted the means.
What makes the second season of Code Geass memorable besides the non-stop hype from episode to episode is that the duality of these two characters and philosophies converge and diverge in unexpected ways. What happens when Suzaku starts to act like Lelouch/Zero as a result of personal tragedy? What happens when Lelouch/Zero begins to consider Suzaku’s point? On top of the show being a social commentary, it really dips into moral commentary. Is your life black and white like these two characters? It really makes you pontificate (take that, 8th grade English teacher).
No spoilers, but it’s still tough to discern who’s right and who’s wrong at the conclusion of the story. Along the way, prepare yourself for gripping story-telling, tears (seriously, if you tear ducts don’t at least prepare to get wet, then there’s something wrong with you), beautiful animation, amazing opening/ending sequences (if you don’t scream “JIBUNNN WOOO” after five episodes, you’re dead to me) memorable characters, comedic relief and dark moments.
Code Geass balances the comedic relief and sad moments with masterful execution. One moment, you’re crying at a really dark scene and the next you’re laughing with the student council. It’s really interesting to see the ways in which the story flows, but for the most part, it’s coherent.
The character development is really exceptional. As mentioned earlier, Lelouch and Suzaku’s ideals converge and diverge throughout the story, but their character arcs aren’t the only ones that get attention. As we move through the 50 episodes of Code Geass (with more on the way!), even the most minor characters among the supporting cast receive attention. For example, take Rivalz Cardemonde.
Rivalz is basically comedic relief, but as he makes his way through the plot, we see that there is, in fact, depth to his character. He has a deep sense of camaraderie, and his biggest wish is to just enjoy life with his friends, an ideology that reaches back to his Californian background. His feelings for Milly Ashford control the narrative surrounding his character, but his reaction to the wild events that unfold around him show that he’s not just there for laughs. He genuinely cares about all of his friends, and his inability to protect them at all times leads to his lamentation.
The list of intriguing side characters doesn’t stop there; there’s Tamaki, Villetta, Xinkge, Lady Kaguya, Gino, Cornelia, Jeremiah, Anya, and a host of others. This makes the world of Code Geass compelling. The story goes beyond its main characters; there’s an entire world of moving parts out there to care about beyond Lelouch’s struggle. This immersion makes experiencing Code Geass a pleasure.
Having read all that, it’s now time to transcribe what I hope you’re thinking: you should watch Code Geass. Even if you’re not an English dub kind of person, you should watch it in English; the dub is one of the most superior dubs I’ve ever watched. As opposed to modern day anime dubbing, the voices aren’t all similar-sounding, and characters’ voice actors largely represent their unique personalities. If nothing else, give it the classic five-episode test. If you’re not hooked by then, it might not be for you. It’s definitely worth a try, though, because not unlike myself, this anime is firmly situated in top-5 lists of people across the globe for good reason.
What’s that? You don’t want to listen to me? Fine. In that case,
I command you to watch Code Geass.