Code Geass: A Masterful Rebellion To Be Remembered

A review of the 2006-2007 anime “Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion” and its 2008 sequel, “R2”

***Beware of slight spoilers, though everyone should have seen this show by now***

Before I start writing, we must travel back in time to December of last year – my amateur Guilty Crown review *shudders*. In it, I accused GC of “stealing something precious from every solid robot/action anime prior to its own existence,” and that it was “just a messy conglomeration of past sci-fi anime.” I actually confess to being the one guilty here, as prior to that review I was honestly just venting others’ thoughts rather than speaking my own. I knew nothing about the mecha genre of anime! So now, I apologize and atone for my sins by witnessing the very chaos where Guilty Crown got its roots – And it all rises with a single rebellious command.

Secondly, my god, how I love smart characters. Enjoy ~

By 2010, the totalitarian Holy Britannian Empire, which already claims a third of the world, captures and strips the honorable Japan down to petty people. Now renamed to Area 11, the “Elevens” no longer enjoy a life of freedom and pride, but slave away while the Britannian aristocracy stands over them with overwhelming wealth and authority, wine glasses in hand.

Lelouch vi Britannia, a banished royal youth has been taking refuge in the prestigious Ashford Academy with his blind and wheelchair-bound little sister Nunnally. Going by the last name Lamperouge to escape execution, the two became members of the spirited student council. All goes fairly well for the two, but Lelouch can hardly even call hiding in secret day by day living! So when a Japanese terrorist operation results in a horrific highway wreck, the witness Lelouch runs to check on their safety, but instead uncovers a classified Britannian “weapon” of sorts. Her name is C.C. (pronounced C2), and she bestows the near-omnipotent power of Geass upon him – the power of absolute control over another, which merely requires direct eye contact and a command to activate.

It’s at this exact moment that the scheming Lelouch ZERO begins his awe-inspiring rebellion to destroy Britannia and recreate the world anew, all for the safety of his crippled sister and to uncover the mysteries surrounding his mother’s death. Zero rallies his Black Knights, the Japanese terrorists, and sets his sights on liberation, but by donning the mask of a criminal mastermind and wielding his King’s Power mercilessly, he shall pave his own path of solitude and shoulder all of the world’s evil.

Code Geass is a complex anime to watch. Half of the show is following Lelouch as he scrambles identities from school boy to the anarchist Zero, while the other half is political mumbo jumbo. Between constant Geass brainwashing, royal court betrayals, and countless bickering, national figureheads, each complete with an ideology of their own, it’s quite easy to get lost. The plot also relies on very meticulously placed characters to show you what you need to see, when you should see it. I don’t think this overly convenient placement is considered plot armor for Lelouch, for he is quite the intelligent badass, it’s just that there is an inhuman amount of info to keep track of, considering that each character’s current knowledge, prior history and point of view is equally important toward the end result. One easy slip-up early on and his whole uprising would have fallen flat -_-

As a viewer, I was very stressed to find no answers to any of my several hundred questions after the first season, but in due time, everything became clear. Often, explanations arrive too late in the series, however, which only adds to the long-standing confusion. My episode one qualms no longer seemed relevant to what was going on.

About the mechs. While the first season valued tactics, ahem errr, strategy on the battlefield, the second season’s combat was structured on “my gun is bigger than your gun,” of which the sexy Rakshata or ridiculously quirky “Earl of Pudding” would steal the other’s ideas to invent a better one. These scientific discoveries were pointless compared to the supernatural Geass, though they were at least entertaining. The second season’s use of flight capabilities also took out the thrill that came from ground combat. All in all, I really enjoyed the solidly strategized Knightmare Frame battles, but I could have gone without the boring aerial stuff.

As for characters, we have the aforementioned Lelouch Lamperouge, the brilliant chess master who is justly one of the BEST anime characters EVER, like do I even need to explain? Always several steps ahead of the game, using whomever he needs like pawns to create a new world. One character who constantly bumps heads with him is childhood friend Suzaku Kururugi, a knight of justice who in contrast to Lelouch believes that the means are more important than the end result. Due to “Spinzaku” being Japanese, his righteousness brings punishment from leaders on the both sides, however, and his stubborn will causes never-ending interference with the Britannian nobles and Lelouch. A fine character nevertheless.

And of course, the rest of the cast is extraordinary! Nobles like Prince Schneizel and Cornelia li Britannia (BEST GIRL) continually throw in spicy curveballs. A rebel like Kallen challenges her very existence because of her being half Britannian and half Japanese. Lovers like Lulu’s sister Nunnally, Rolo, Jeremiah, Shirley, Villetta, and eventually C.C. heighten the levels of drama. There are also the Black Knights, Ashford’s student council, and other royals that play their part exceptionally well! Granted some of the characters are incredibly dumb, and in the second season there are a lot of bipolar decisions, I was pretty damn impressed with what we got. Lastly, Code Geass never forgets about a single character; each one is gradually touched on throughout the entirety of the franchise, and that is not an easy feat to pull off!

Animation was done by Sunrise, and since I have not watched many mecha anime, it was a huge change for me to see robots that were all drawn. Unlike most CG, I was never taken out of the world thanks to the drawn appearance, so that’s a plus! Another nice factor was the character designs done up by Clamp. There’s just something so incredibly sexy about those elongated chests and limbs tagged along with bold, charming, unique faces that made me go mmmm. I especially love the eye and hair designs (Leads, Euphemia, Cornelia), so rich and fierce 😉

Ahh, the OST by Kotaro Nakagawa and Hitomi Kuroishi, much like the animation, a strong point. It’s an epic, classical, string based soundtrack, which are my favorite kinds, but occasionally there are soft, Celtic-esque tracks that play during the most depressing moments, milking all that they can out of a scene. Some of the best songs include “Black Knights,” “Beautiful Emperor,” “Lullaby of M,” “All-out Attack,” and the famous “Madder Sky.” But the one that tops them all, possibly my favorite track from an OST, is the bittersweet “Continued Story” by Hitomi Kuroishi, which played in the final episode. From YouTube, this is the song that got me into the show, and literally tears run down every time . . .

The very first and last ending themes, both Ali Project songs, also added fuel to the fire of the rebellion! Check out “Yuukyou Seishunka” and “Waga Routashi Aku no Hana,” as they are both eerie and insane!

I can now easily understand why Code Geass receives so much conversation and the title of classic. I was always trying to guess what Zero would do next, but little did I know that he had everything in the bag from the start, or so I believe. The show excels in all categories and provides the genre with ONE OF THE BEST (TRAGIC) ENDINGS IN ANIME HISTORY. Code Geass is a battle of wit, a competition for science, a war of mechs, a struggle for royal power, a strife for family, and above all, a rebellion to be remembered. By accepting Geass and becoming the world’s greatest antihero, Lelouch vi Britannia dug his own grave, and once he reaches the pits of hell itself, he shall take all of the world’s hatred with him.

“Suppose there is an evil that justice cannot bring down. What would you do? Would you taint your hands with evil to destroy evil? Or would you carry out your own justice and succumb to that evil?” – Lelouch Lamperouge

+ One of the best main characters to hit anime, supporting cast also brilliant

+ Masterful varying portrayals of justice and other ideological themes

+ Excellent English dub (especially Lelouch, Suzaku, Kallen, Cornelia), strong soundtrack

+ Gripping, curious, and intense story to the finale, one of anime’s greatest endings

– Plotline involving Geass history/Emperor’s grand plan could have used more combing through

– Several moments were a bit too conventional for Lelouch, some bipolar actions made to keep story moving

– 2 seasons; 50 episodes can be very extensive for some

This was definitely a difficult review to write, as I was pretty much just fanboying the entire time 😀 I did have a few complaints, though. But after considering the clever ride from start to finish, it deserves the Caffé Mocha award without a doubt! 9/10 for both seasons to those following my MyAnimeList. Action, romance, drama, great characters and story – EVERY anime fan must watch this show! The varying genres of school, mecha, war, comedy, sci-fi and more also make this show interesting. I feel I have the room to judge anime a little better now that I’ve seen this classic (and that cart scene, I see what you did there). My god, I’ve never been so entertained by one character in such a long time ahaha AHAHAH MUAHAHA – ALL HAIL LELOUCH!! Now, I command you to like, comment and follow my blog, and until next time, this has been

– Takuto, your emperor

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Bakemonogatari Review

So I decided to take up another large anime project and have settled on the Monogatari series. Famous for its dialogue-driven stories full of supernatural phenomenon, I thought “hey, sounds like a blast.” What I got instead, sugar coating scraped off, was a hit-or-miss subtitle-heavy anime that, with all careful decision in mind, I might not explore to its fullest.

“Ghostory” centers on Koyomi Araragi, a high school boy who, after surviving a vampire attack, became half-vampire himself, giving him various powers such as regeneration and heightened vision. To the best of his abilities, Araragi lends a helping hand to five different girls who have also become entangled with ghosts and spirits. His first encounter with the sadist tsundere Ms. Senjougahara Hitagi, however, sets him down the path of frustration yet eventually love.

I came into this anime expecting dark, twisted stories about ghosts and the occult, but instead I got a romance harem. *sighs* The series is divided into five different arcs – one for each girl – and while each one is interesting and rounds out a particular character to a considerable degree, the lack of coherence to each story chops up Senjougahara and Araragi’s overarching relationship. In an anime filled with nothing but dialogue, each arc manages to keep the story fresh, but their relationship suffers heavily.

In terms of character dialogue, there is nothing wittier than this, well, besides Okabe and Makise from Steins;Gate. Crafty wordplay, playful teasing, and intense argumentative banter are so well presented in Bakemonogatari that often times than not, it’s even worth reading in subs. Sure, some of the comical value of the puns is lost, as I sadly do not know Japanese, but the interactions are still super entertaining. A downside to this factor is that these quirky conversations can last the span of half an episode, where the characters are just standing around or sitting on a park bench. AS SUCH, THE SHOW CAN BE EQUALLY BORING.

Another disappointing thing was that arcs would begin mysteriously and uber creepy (YESS!!), but then they sometimes build up to a lackluster finish. For instance, I really liked how “Nadeko Snake” started, but man, it was such a boring finish. This show was good, but not a masterpiece by any means, and I honestly don’t know if I want to watch the second season.

Each of the girls have been “cursed” so-to-speak by an apparition, and as a result carry some sort of deformation that affects their body: Hitagi’s physical weight was stolen from her, Mayoi can’t seem to return home, Suruga’s arm became that of a monkey’s, so on and so forth. In addition to their dilemmas, each girl is a personification of various anime girl stereotypes – but with a twist. Take Hanekawa: class rep, studious, kind, but has parental problems at home. Suruga is the loud athletic girl, but she’s extremely perverted as well as a hardcore lesbian! These additions not only help personalize characters, but they feel more realistic, too.

Watching all of the characters interact with each other is where this anime shines. Because the show has such a small cast, each of the characters are explored and developed quite thoroughly. Even Araragi is hilarious to watch, witnessing his switch from lolicon to pervert, serious man to joker! The comedic skits are fast-paced while the “return fire” in arguments are just as quick-witted! Great voice acting, especially for Araragi and Senjougahara, also helps to bring out the sass talk!

Animation studio Shaft brings it all together with its attractive presentation. Silhouettes, background shadows, geometric lining, extreme symbolism and color balance are all presented with such unity that it’s truly remarkable to watch! Not to mention, varying camera angles and flash frames attempt to keep those long conversation scenes as exhilarating as possible. Also, it’s hilarious to watch the characters anger Araragi; I love all of the cartoon faces that he makes!

About the flash frames, though –  while some shows flash a couple of words that can easily be read, Bakemonogatari seizures us with occasionally paragraphs of plot-important text. I found myself slamming the pause button every five seconds during the episode openings where they are most abundant.

As for OST, the fight scenes are not necessarily well-supported, but the lengthy conversations have several strange and upbeat scores playing in the background. While the OST is not worth mentioning, the fourth opening “Ren’ai Circulation” by Kana Hanazawa and the fifth opening “Sugar Sweet Nightmare” by Yui Horie are both really catchy!

Bakemonogatari is a very surreal anime built around cursed characters that try to fight their own nightmares. They speak cleverly, some a bit smart-assy than most! I strongly recommend walking into this anime with an open mind, as lots of information are thrown at you – and you gotta read fast! Underneath all of the jokes is a memorable cast of colorful and deep characters, each complete with a story of their own no matter how grim, and it’s all about diving into their personal hell and finding the cure so that they can be at peace once again.

“If I kill you, that means I’ll be the one closest to you when you’re on your deathbed. Isn’t it romantic?” – Senjougahara to Araragi

+ Incredibly well-developed characters with entertaining dialogue

+ Sense of “something’s not quite right” establishes great tone

+ Shaft’s unique animation adds to the series quality

– Lots of subtitles to read

– Drastically boring during periods without suspense

Haha, Senjougahara, I’m not sure if that’s romantic, but it’s definitely true (and freakin’ weird)! If you want, you can watch the first 12 episodes of Bakemonogatari on Crunchyroll for free, and you’ll have to find the last three episodes somewhere . . . umm . . . on the web. What did you think of this anime? Does it get better after the first season? Staplers and head tilts!? Let me know in the comments, thanks for reading, and until next time, this has been

– Takuto, your host