Genre: Fantasy, Mecha, Science fiction, Evil Jerk
Main Studio: Sunrise
At some point recently, anime and manga writers realised that a protagonist doesn’t necessarily have to be a dopey but well meaning girl-magnet, a bishounen ponce, or an angsty teen with a talent for piloting mechs. It turns out that it’s actually fun to have a protagonist who’s just an evil bastard, and would probably be more like a villain in any other show. I will credit Death Note with starting this trend with the excellently evil Yagami Light whose quest to rule the world using a murdering notebook was sadly cut short. Enter Lelouch Lamperouge the protagonist of Code Geass who has the same haircut as Light, and is perhaps an even more magnificent bastard than Light was.
He seems like a happy guy.
How ever I describe the plot of this show, it’s probably going to sound like Japanese nationalistic nonsense, so here I go. In the not too distant alternate future, The Holy Empire of Britannia has conquered one third of the world, including Japan. Being jerks, the Britannians have renamed Japan “Area 11”, and all Japanese citizens are now called “Elevens”. The Britannians came in and set up shop in Japan to mine the newly discovered power source, powerful explosive and general plotdevicium Sakuradite. They made all the Elevens live in the shattered ruins of their cities unless they swear allegiance to the Empire and become Honorary Britannians, or hated traitors depending on who you ask.
The show centres on a group of students at Ashford Academy which is a school which both Britannians and Elevens attend; this includes Lelouch and a whole bunch of his friends. Lelouch finds himself getting involved with a rebel attack, and ends up saving the life of a mysterious woman named C.C. who rewards Lelouch by giving him a power called Geass. This Geass allows him to give a command that cannot be disobeyed to anyone who he makes direct eye-contact with. A lot of the show stems from precisely what to do with this power, fortunately for the audience he is of course totally evil, and his first act is to make a squad of 20 soldiers blow their brains out with their own guns. Lelouch as it turns out has a beef with the rulers of the Empire, and sets about trying to use this power in order to take it down. While the idea of the Britannian Empire may seem to follow the Hollywood ‘evil British people’ stereotype, they come across as more American than British in the show. They also bellow ‘All Hail Britannia!’ in English a lot which is always funny.
The main antagonist if I could call him that is Suzaku, the childhood friend of LeLouch would probably have been the hero in any other show. He’s the one with a noble heart, tragic past, and a giant gleaming white robot. Oh did I forget to mention there were giant robots in the show? It’s hardly the main focus of the show or anything, but yes there are robots called Nightmare Frames, which are just how the characters fight when there is fighting to be done. The fact that Suzaku is opposing Lelouch is really odd, it’s like the story is being told from the point of view of the villain, which is a concept that really appeals to me for some reason.
Lelouch as Zero. There’s no way this could be conisdered flamboyant.
Eventually Lelouch sets up as the anonymous leader of a resistance group called the Black Knights, he calls himself Zero and wears a face-obscuring mask and ridiculous cape. Most of the characters in the show end up leading weird dual lives, where for half the time they are soldiers or revels, and the rest of the time they are pretending to be normal students at the academy and having to make up excuses for where they’ve been for the last week. This aspect is sorta ridiculous but only if you think about it too much.
Hmm yeah. I could..I could go for some pizza about now…
Along with Darker than Black, this show may give you an odd desire to eat pizza while watching it. The reason for this is some incredibly subtle product placement from Pizza Hut. Okay, maybe subtle wasn’t quite the right word, I actually meant to say blatant. It is integrated into the show a bit better than Darker than Black which seemed to be set in a future where Pizza Hut had taken over every high street, here they just have the characters getting pizzas delivered a lot.
Going back to LeLouch, he is certainly the main reason to watch the show. He’s rather a hands-off character, and prefers to manipulate people into doing his dirty work for him. In many the large scale conflicts, he hides in his robot issuing orders to his troops, and shows absolutely no remorse if they end up dying. At times where he does get involved, he is absolutely unafraid to play unfair. It sort of plays off the viewer’s expectations for how characters are supposed to act in shows like this, and so it is absolutely delightful when he tricks people into falling into his traps just because they assume that he’s actually being honest this time.
Lelouch also has the great ability to turn terrible disasters into opportunities. Light in Death Note, after an apparent series of horrible failures that somehow worked out okay, would always turn up and says ‘Exactly as I planned’ like he’s some sort of precog, Rather than doing that, Lelouch’s skill is being able to adapt his plan along the way and turn things to his advantage, even when he has the sort of emotional investment in a situation that would leave any other character a blubbering wreck. He is also a great charismatic leader and is always able to round up followers under the seemingly noble cause of freeing Japan, he’s just using them of course, but it gets the job done.
It’s probably worth noting that the animation, voice acting and other product aspects of the show are all top-notch. The show is by all accounts only half-finished, as the last episode after a cliff-hander ending informs us that “Production for the sequel is going smoothly! Anticipate it!”. I will.
Arbitrary Rating: 9 – Fuck yes.