Code Geass: Rollercoaster Rebellion

[A review/ ramble about Code Geass]

Code Geass, I think, is a glorious example of the greatness of Japanese Animation. There’s so much to this story – so much that made me ecstatic that I had found it. I’ve watched it countless times and enjoyed it again and again, because that’s just how much I love this show.

By the end of the first episode, Code Geass had me hooked. Lelouch is sort of a genius and it was so much fun to see him systematically bring the Brittanian Empire to its knees. His plans are elaborate and almost always effective and even when the odds are stacked against him, Lelouch manages to scheme his way to the top.

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In fact, the best thing about Code Geass is its protagonist – Lelouch Lamperouge. He’s an anti-hero, and an awesome one at that. When Lelouch sets out to change the rotten world that he lives in, he’s willing to sacrifice a great many things regardless of the consequences. He walks the path of carnage because he firmly believes (and I cannot help but agree) that in order to re-create, one must first destroy.

When I first saw this character, I thought he was a lot like Yagami Light from Death Note. They are both exceptionally intelligent anti-heroes, out to change the world and they both carry darkness within them.

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But the best thing about Lelouch is that he is not an unfeeling bastard (unlike Light) and at the end of the day, there is some good in him. He feels immense guilt for some of the losses that he causes and it’s not like he doesn’t suffer. His quest eventually robs him of the people he loves and the relationships that he holds dear. Yet, Lelouch marches on to end the game that he started. He is admirable in that sense. I’m not saying that he isn’t an asshole – I’m just saying that he’s not a complete asshole.

I really liked some of the questions raised by Code Geass – about the nature of good and evil, power and discrimination and whether the ends ever justify the means. In particular, the first season (which was I thought was a lot better than the second) had really beautiful scenes on the inequality that persists in the world, and overall, the narrative worked to show us that the paths we choose have consequences.

While Code Geass was close to perfect, there are some things that the show did not do too well. Firstly, the second season was sort of a let-down for me towards the end. Things started spinning a bit out of control, and while it was still engaging, there was a part of me that could not quite buy some of the things that happened (using Geass on God? Seriously?). While the first season was bringing to light all sorts of issues and conveying rather profound messages about humanity as a whole, the second season descended too much into unrealistic schemes. At one point, it seemed that everyone was scheming against everyone else and that was quite annoying.

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I also disliked the rather volatile relationship between Lelouch and his foil, Suzaku. Suzaku’s ruthless pursuit of righteousness and his unflinching loyalty to the system throws into sharp relief Lelouch’s willingness to bend the rules and do whatever it takes to win. Suzaku believes that the means is just as important as the end; Lelouch believes that the end is more important than the means. It’s a truly well done contrast, but their relationship itself is the very definition of strained. What begins as a strong friendship eventually falls into ruins. While I know that it is necessary in order for the story to work, wishful thinking gets the better of me here, and I want their friendship to remain intact.

Another thing I disliked was the way the characters appeared. Lelouch seemed to get skinnier every time I looked at him, and he does a couple of weird poses and gestures. It is not a major complaint of mine, but just something that I noticed and thought was silly.

Nevertheless, the anime still gets many things right and managed to deliver an incredible story. I watched this show – both seasons – in about two days without pausing. It was thoroughly riveting and I found myself on the edge of my seat many times. The conclusion was a tearjerker and summed everything up perfectly. All the loose ends were tied up and everyone gets what they deserve (including Lelouch). It’s a tragedy, truly, but a good one. I would recommend Code Geass to every avid anime fan. If anyone still hasn’t watched this masterpiece, they should go watch it.

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