I’ve mentioned Code Geass: Hangyaku no Lelouch once before, when I mentioned that the main actors from Gakuen Heaven also voiced lead characters in this. The series was brought to us by Sunrise in 2006-2007. It’s an original work by the same studio that brought us the Gundam franchise and many, many other anime. Let’s take a look at Code Geass and see how they did with this one.
Code Geass is set in an alternate future where there are three great powers, the Chinese Federation, the EU and the imperialistic Britannia. Japan has been brought under Britannian rule and lost its name, being called area 11. One day, a Britannian student named Lelouch Lamperouge accidentally falls into a truck being taken by a Japanese resistance group. On board is a strange canister and Lelouch finds himself taken for a ride while Britannian forces chase the group. In the process, the canister opens and a strange woman comes out. Lelouch’s old friend, Kururugi Suzaku, catches up to them, attached to the Britannian forces as an honorary Britannian. He’s ordered to kill the two and refuses, getting shot by the commanding officer. The woman is shot as well, psychically granting Lelouch a contract afterwards. This gives him the titular Geass, the power to give anyone an order that they can’t disobey. Lelouch figures that out and decides to use it for the one thing he wants the most, to destroy Britannia and he plans to start by liberating Japan. To accomplish this goal, he disguises himself, taking the moniker Zero and takes command of resistance forces.
The biggest flaw with the series is the ending. A lot of multi-series anime I’ve reviewed will finish their first series with some kind of big climax that gives you some closure to one of the major sub-plots but that leave more to accomplish. In Code Geass, the entire first series ending is a giant cliffhanger. It’s a right mess that’s focused on setting things up for the second series rather than on giving the audience any real closure. Does it make you want to watch the second series? Absolutely. But it doesn’t make for a satisfying stopping point, at all. The second biggest issue is with the advertising. This series just really wants you to buy Pizza Hut. The advertising is pretty shameless and it comes up quite a bit as a visual element in various scenes. It’s a bit distracting.
On the positive side, the main narrative is really compelling and the series is really good about establishing its rules early on so that it has its major plot elements in place when it needs them to become important. I like that the major conflict has facets to it and verisimilitude. The series is also big on consequence, which I appreciate. It really plays up the idea that Lelouch’s actions are impacting real people. The quieter, more slice of life moments can also be really funny and serve the important purpose of giving the audience more of an opportunity to connect with the characters and letting them unwind from the action and more serious aspects of the series.
The cast of characters is pretty large and, mostly, pretty well developed. They seem like actual people. The friendship between Lelouch and Suzaku is really well done, as is their antagonism on the battlefield. It’s interesting to compare Lelouch’s more pragmatic approach to Suzaku’s more idealistic. Lelouch also has a really strongly developed relationship with his little sister, Nunnally. His protectiveness of her is definitely his most endearing character facet. I also like that the various resistance members are portrayed as having different motives for fighting and even goals for when it’s all over. It really makes them read as more human.
My biggest issue with the artwork is the character designs. You can tell that Clamp worked on the designs. The character limbs are really elongated and their bodies are incredibly thin, giving them an emaciated appearance. It’s not nearly as bad as the Clamp proportions in, say, Xxxholic, but they still look pretty awkward. That being said, the action sequences are really well done and I like the mecha designs. Particularly for the various unique robots. The visual geass effect also looks pretty nice.
The voice acting is really good. Fukuyama Jun, Sakurai Takahiro, Yukana and Koshimizu Ami all give strong performances, as do the various side characters. About the weakest you get is Shiratori Tetsu, who really plays up the “mad scientist” aspect of his character with an odd vocal quality that really doesn’t sound natural. It’s still not a bad performance, it’s just not on par with the others. The music is pretty good as well.
There’s a little bit. Milly likes to grope other girls and Nina develops a really massive crush on another girl.
That’s Code Geass: Hangyaku no Lelouch, series 1. It’s a really good series with a strong narrative. Well-crafted characters and strong acting. It has its flaws but, overall, nothing too bad that would ruing the experience. My final rating is going to be a solid 8/10. Maybe I’ll look at the second series at a later date but, for next week, it’s going to be Kekkai Sensen.
Until next week, Happy Hanukkah, Solstice, Hogswatchnight, Hearth’s Warming, Kwanzaa, Christmas or whatever other holiday you may celebrate at this time of year. May it be a happy and joyous experience.