Thoughts on Code Geass: Hangyaku no Lelouch

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I thought of making this entry longer, but seeing as the “first season” is more akin to a first half of a larger story that leaves its ending wide open, I decided to leave some of the more detailed criticisms for when I finish the second half. After all, there are a lot of unexplained plot points by the end of this season. There’s the entire history behind C.C., along with her connection with Geass and the origin of Geass itself; the fate of Nunnally and all those that Lelouch left behind to pursue his goal, and the answers to Lelouch’s hidden past. Henceforth, I’ve decided to only cover the necessities of what this particular season offers on its own accord.

I’ll admit right now: the last five episodes or so are a lot more enjoyable and immersive than the rest of the season. Its focus becomes a lot more straightforward and one no longer has to worry about trivial banter between meager characters or events surrounding said characters. It also puts a heavier emphasis on the weight of Lelouch’s actions throughout the series and an even bigger strain on his conscience. There are a lot of interesting, thought-provoking themes that arise near the end of the series, and aside from a few useless characters acting like psychopaths for no reason, I think the characters behave in a realistic and respectable manner. It is through this chain of episodes that Code Geass‘s strengths are most highlighted, but also hide some of its flaws as well.

Before this point, I felt the series had struggled with attaining a consistent pace throughout. There are segments where Lelouch is organizing things behind the scenes as his alter ego and working towards his goal. However, as he tries to maintain a stable home life along with this, it is here where the anime begins to drag along the surface. Lelouch as a character has no chemistry with his classmates. Only with Suzaku and Kallen, the two characters present in the school that mean something by the end of 25 episodes, does Lelouch show any emotional attachment towards. But that doesn’t mean the series tried, heavens no. There are constantly little breaks with Lelouch’s culture-changing antics to focus on the artificial lives of the students he interacts with on a daily basis, whether they come off as shallow (always) or not (never). They spend an entire episode chasing a cat. They spend an entire episode trying to develop C.C. and her relationship with Lelouch by bringing in some insane asshole who means next to nothing but vague foreshadowing. They spend an entire episode pretending Euphemia isn’t a princess so Suzaku can have a love interest. This series tries, but it hardly succeeds. Only the major characters left an impact on me by season’s end. Seriously, fuck that red-head. It left me wishing to continue with the war between Britannians and Elevens.

The art is an interesting specimen. In some cases, it’s unique in a sense that it doesn’t look like any other series. In others, it’s odd and makes some scenes unintentionally hilarious. Honestly, who hasn’t seen that contorted picture of a crazed Nina? Their body types in particular are also very perplexing. Lelouch and Suzaku are almost like walking skeletons. Their jaw lines are very “v” like. They’re sharp, almost like my tongue. I, personally, wouldn’t necessitate this art style as “bad,” but I certainly wouldn’t compliment its superiority compared to other series. It’s just another style of representation. It didn’t bother me to any extent, but I would hesitate to praise it. It’s serviceable. Nothing more.

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Characters are very hit and miss. Off the top of my head, Lelouch, Suzaku, Kallen, and Euphemia are the only characters I would consider “Strong,” but even then, Kallen and Euphemia’s development rested solely on a single event or philosophy. Honestly, Kallen’s “development” was contained within half an episode, and felt so forced it almost becomes a detriment. This is furthered evidenced by the fact that her mother, the key catalyst in her development, never appears again beyond this episode. It was episode… ten? I believe. Still, there weren’t many characters I found dislikable (except maybe Mao), only characters that felt more like tools to a means. I really use this analogy a lot, don’t I? Suzaku and Lelouch alone are enough to carry the weight of the show’s heavy themes. With the relationship that these two share (which feels genuine), I feel the series becomes stronger when they’re either working together or working against one another. It helps when their morals and means of justice seem to clash on every occasion. C.C. is somewhat of a thing, but I’d rather save more talk of her for the sequel entry.

The enjoyability of this anime shifted up and down throughout the course of the season. I found the more light-hearted or character-developmental episodes weaker than not, but adequate enough to hold my interest. Fortunately, those focused on “Zero” (What a non-cliché name) served the series well, especially near the end when things began to unravel. I’m hesitant about the use of Geass and the otherwise unmentioned consequences that arise from its overuse, but that’s more to be discussed in the sequel entry. However, I’m satisfied with the foundation currently present with how the Geass functions and its conditions. I was worried early on that Lelouch would become an ancient One Punch Man. The power acts more like an upper-hand than a God Mode function, and has drawbacks as well. Whether or not the timing of those drawbacks occurring within the anime makes sense or not… is yet to be seen.

Code Geass is an anime I held a grudge against for a long time. I likely would’ve watched this anime sooner had it not been for my internalized disdain of its (perceived) unwarranted popularity. I don’t regret watching it, though, as it turned out to be better than I expected it to. Then again, I half-expected it to be garbage. Nevertheless, there are a lot of unanswered questions that need to be confronted before I mark this a series as anything worth spending time on. But as a starting place, Code Geass‘s first season proves to be an entertaining, albeit inconsistent, platform for the weight of human justice and its impact on society as a whole.

The rating for this title and all others can be found on MyAnimeList.

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