The crowd sits in suspense. The vehicles have stopped. The music cues and the spotlight is onstage. The curtain rises in flames to reveal the one who wishes to have the entire world as his audience. The icon of justice, Zero appears, the spark of rebellion sets fire to the nation, and a performance to end them all begins.
Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion is the perfect popcorn spectacle; it is the summer blockbuster of a lifetime! It is as bombastic as anime can get, from its sexy and over-expressive character designs, to its majestic soundtrack, to how it revels in its genius and stupidity. It is pure, unadulterated fun and glory, stemming from such an interesting and brutal concept. Blending impressive mecha action and revolutionary schemes against a powerful dictatorship, with uproarious school comedy, and a supernatural superpower, Code Geass is certainly an ambitious project and an exhibition of theatrics.
It all begins with Zero himself, or rather, the man behind the mask. Lelouch Vi Britannia has always bee a man of spectacle. Even as a child he once had the audacity to demand an audience with his father to complain over his indifference towards his mother’s death. His ideology when it came to chess was nothing if not showy, and dare I say, pretentious. He had the loftiest of ambitions, those being the ideas of overthrowing the largest power in the entire world for the sake of himself and his sister. However, he was stifled. He was suffering. His potential was being put to waste. Then, one girl changed everything. This mysterious, beautiful, and wonderfully sarcastic and playfully malicious girl had given him a power, the power to change the world! The timing could not have been better, as a rebellion by Japanese terrorists had begun. With a loud, booming voice, and the determination of a man out for blood, Lelouch crafted his new persona: ZERO!
A persona iconic both in and out of universe. A persona with lofty goals and the booming voice and charisma to make them seem possible. The sweeping mannerisms of a flamboyant actor in a play. The intelligence to make his outlandish schemes and often luck-based Batman gambits come true with moderate success. Even when he cracked and his plans fell disastrously through, this man was a legend rivaled by few, especially with the absurdly epic and equally ludicrous plan he went out on!
One of said few, played gloriously by the legendary Crispin Freeman, was Jeremiah Gottwald. A glorified, later mechanized clown of sheer flamboyancy and eloquence, this memorable man of orange is one of the most charming minor antagonists in anime, and he chews the pulp out of every scene!
Then we have the man of callousness and casual rudeness, the scientist without a heart beyond mechanics: Lloyd Asplund. He is a man of pure sarcasm and quips, often poking fun at the ever so detested Suzaku Kururugi. He is a man of pudding and competition, with the also entertaining Rakshata. He is the kind of sociopath who could only get such a wonderful rise out of you in fiction such as this.
I could ramble on and on about the various men and women Zero allies with or faces, and how madly entertaining and purposely vibrant they are. However, only one man must be mentioned above all else. The man who caused Lelouch to plan his campaign in the first place. Charles Zi Britannia!
A booming voice that surpasses Zero’s, a tall, towering physique to make lesser men cower in fear, the imperial style of French autocrats such as Louis XIV, and one of the greatest speeches I’ve ever heard. This is as classic a dictator antagonist gets. He’s like if Palpatine was a Russian Czar with a beard and a 17th-century French royalty hairstyle, as if the wonderful costuming and fashion sense the show has wasn’t enough for the students and fighters. Sure, the motivation they try to slap on him towards the end of R2 is fucking bullshit, but he works effectively until then as this asshole titan of a boss and as a douchebag of a parent.
Of course, the eccentricity of these characters is half the battle. They would not be as memorably awesome as they are without their voices. The sub does a good job at portraying them to an extent, but the english dub is absolute perfection in this regard. Johnny Yong Bosch does a fantastic job portraying all sides of Lelouch, from his overly-emotional side, to his more laid back and annoyed sides, to the mask of his magnificent persona. Crispin Freeman, as mentioned earlier, does a perfect job at making Jeremiah such an endearing yet menacing goof. Steve Blum, Liam O’Brian, Michael McConnohie, and many others do a superb job of bringing their often bombastic characters to life. The gloriously visceral facial expressions that have been memed to hell and back over the past decade, serve well in making these magnificent bastards stand out in our minds.
Not to be outdone, composer Kotaro Nakagawa put his heart and soul into delivering my favorite anime OST to date. There is a myriad of phenomenal tracks to choose from, in both seasons! “Cold Nobility”, “Previous Notice”, “Avalon”, “Final Catastrophe”, “School Days”, “Misconduct”, “Madder Sky”, “Showdown”, “Knightmare”, “Inner Strategy”, and at least 30 more of these tracks have become staples in my mind, whether they be epic and bombastic, quiet and contemplative, or something else entirely. On top of that, Hitomi Kuroishi returns for some beautiful vocal tracks such as “Stories”, “If I Were A Bird”, and “Alone”, and even Mikio Sakai –whom many may recognize as the singer of Chivalry of a Failed Knight‘s OP– contributes some wonderful vocal tracks in the form of “Picaresque” and “Callin'”. Listening to all of these songs is an absolute delight.
The Opening rogues gallery fares particularly well, to add to the musical mastery of this series. FLOW does an incredible job with OPs 1 and 5, those being “Colors” and “WORLD END” respectively. The former is one of the most iconic anime openings of all time, with how catchy it is. The latter is personally top 20 of all time worthy as far as I’m concerned, with how much of a satisfying final send-off the song is. The final few seconds get me every time. Opening 2, “Kaidoku Funou” by Jinn, is certainly the weakest of the lot but still an enjoyable track for me. “Hitomi no Tsubasa” by Access, otherwise known as Opening 3, is certainly more of a climactic send-off to the first season, really giving it that vibe of everything turning into a grandiose climax, in a manner different to most hype-inducing OPs. Finally, OP 4, “02~O-Two~” by Orange Range, is also fantastic, and oddly enough, it gave me a nostalgic vibe. I like the stylish vibe it gives off as well. As for the 4 ED themes, sadly, there only one worth mentioning. ED 2, “Mosaic Kakera” by SunSet Swish, is a nice tune to listen to, even if it hardly holds a candle to most of the songs mentioned thus far. Regardless, the collection of songs both series proudly boast is as monumental as it is fantastic, with up to and over 50 songs I enjoy listening to on a remotely regular basis.
Even when the script goes off the rails, the sheer level of bravado and energy displayed by this glorious series more than makes up for it, especially in R1 where the damage in the script isn’t too heinous. The characters, the more bombastic and impeccably-voiced ones anyway, do a great job at enhancing the magnificent viewing experience there is to be had here. As far as I can see, it is a genuinely difficult series to hate. Even many who criticize the show’s writing and a fair amount of the characters found themselves happily along to witness the spectacle of a performance, even with its various mishaps. Additionally, the oft-criminally reviled school episodes boast some uproarious running gags, as well as a cat that manages to be a more entertaining and well-written tsundere than a majority of that archetype’s market today. The cat doesn’t even have dialogue! Additionally, the well-animated fight scenes and superb mecha designs help contribute to how exhilarating the show can be, even when it turns from acrobatic battles that show off the ingenuity of the mechanical designs with the axles and result in mechs that fight like superpowered breakdancers, to fights that are more about flashy over-kill spectacles and often more flight-based 1V1 skirmishes (though that’s not to say we don’t get cool breakdance type action sequences later on as well).
All in all, Code Geass is one of the shining examples of bombast in anime, and a shining example of how a good performance and spirit can sell a script. The audience cheered for good reasons, even when tomatoes could rightfully be spawned. The sets and writing peeled back over time, but to say everyone’s all went into this passionate project is an understatement, especially at first. I could touch more on some decently-executed attempts at semi-confusing multiple interpretation type scenes they tried incorporating later on, gush about how gloriously a complete cuntbag like Suzaku was implemented and how well his dynamic with Lelouch evolved and degraded. I could speak more of the designs in the show, and go into further detail about how much I adore the first season in particular yet still appreciate the best aspects of R2. However, my peace as a patron has been said, and I hope to have allowed for some more appreciation on what a magnificent mess this beauty of a show, especially in regards to its first season, turned out to be.
10 thoughts on “The Theatric Glory of Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion”
You find the character designs to be attractive which seems to be not that popular of an opinion anymore since a lot of anime fans these days find them repulsive and either won’t watch the series or couldn’t continue the series because of them. What exactly makes the designs so appealing to you?
It feels like a more restrained version of the CLAMP art style, not on the extreme level of say, xxxHOLiC, where that show’s art style is a bit much for me despite finding Yuuko to be downright gorgeous. I don’t really side with people who just quit or completely avoid the show solely because of the art style, as that’s a pretty weak reason to avoid a show unless it’s just one minor thing in a list of other reasons why the show doesn’t seem to appeal to you and that just becomes the only one people say. I can’t exactly describe what’s so appealing about the art style aside from just finding the women in the show really attractive, which just comes to preferences I have a bad time describing as well.
I think the complaints toward the art syle is more directed towards the male characters(particulary the younger ones) since it makes them look like lanky twinks. The females definitly have it better than the male characters since the lankyness for them is less of a problem and with co designer Kimura Takahiro it helps because he usually draws attractive females.
Eh, it doesn’t feel much lankier than most anime, I find. It ain’t nearly as lanky as most CLAMP either.
“As far as I can see, it is a genuinely difficult series to hate”
Are you sure? Because I see so many people these days utterly despise it.
Some people really aren’t affected by (or might be negatively affected by) the show’s rule of cool factor, especially if they only see the rickety narrative and find not much else. Still, even though a lot of my friends are far more critical of it than me, it’s rare to find one among them who genuinely dislikes it, but some people unfortunately do.
Yeah I wish it counted for everyone but that doesn’t seem the case anymore like there is definitly stuff to critisize but when I see some of the hate it gets it makes me wonder if we even watched the same show. Like there is a guy on Youtube called DX who made 2 videos very hatefully attacking the show and to some extend the creators( like I have never see so much hatred for a show as much as that guy has for Code Geass).
I remember commenting on those videos regarding the points I disagreed with it (he never really attacked the creators though, just broke down what he hated about the show in chronological order, even if I heavily disagree with some of his points) and even then, he still considers R1 at least to be one of the least bad things he’s covered in his “Anime I Fucking Hate” series.
At the end of his R1 video he showed official art and acted like the main creators were behind it and to show that its an awful show. Also he throws some jabs at them when he really hated a scene(like the one where Lelouch is with Nunnally on the phone with Suzaku behind him in R2). I personally thought his video(or atleast a lot of it) was full of unfair critisism because of his bias hatred against and I hate the fact that these videos are being used now by Geass haters to prove that its an awful anime.
Yeah, some of those jabs felt a bit unneccessary, though nothing overly heinous, and some points I still felt were bad or at least very disagreeable. If people really are doing that, oh well. The most we can do is just combat their points with things even some fans don’t really appreciate that are great about the show, on top of just debating with several tried and true points made in the show’s favor.