The Beginner’s Guide to Anime, No. 22 – Code Geass

Code Geass

Continuing the current mecha theme, this week is all about a series in which mecha do play a part, but they only form a small section of a much bigger story.

To give the series its full title, Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion, began in 2006, broadcasting two series on TV spanning 50 episodes, and a series of Original Video Anime (OVA) which are currently still being made and released. The series is at times quite complicated, given that it is set in a world with an alternative history, but there are great moments too. Part of this relates to the mecha battles, but mostly it is the psychological and thriller aspect concerning its antihero-like central character, Lelouch Lamperouge.

The series is set in a version of Earth controlled by three superpowers: the EU (which includes Britain), the Chinese Federation, and the Britannia Empire, which does not actually include Britain, but the remains of the British Empire, such as America, which has since gone on to invade countless other countries and continents. At the beginning of the story, the Empire successfully invades Japan, renaming it “Area 11” with the Japanese being dubbed “Elevens” by their occupiers.

The central story follows two main characters, both childhood friends who have sought different paths. One is Lelouch, an exiled Britannian prince who now looks after his sister Nunnally, who following the murder of their mother has become blind and unable to walk. Thus Lelouch has to take constant care for her. The other is Suzaku Kururugi, son of Japan’s last PM, who decides to join the Britannian army and is made an honorary Britannian. Both ultimately have the same goal: bringing down the Empire. But while Lelouch favours rebellion and revolution, Suzaku plans to change the system from within.

Suzaku becomes an expert at fighting with the army’s range of mecha, called “Knightmares”, and is eventually put in charge of an experimental model called the “Lancelot”. Meanwhile, Lelouch is constantly planning of how to start his fight. One day, he discovers a strange girl who calls herself C.C., an immortal “witch”. Under the condition that one day Lelouch will grant her greatest wish, C.C. gives him a special power called “Geass”. The power varies from person-to-person. In Lelouch’s case, it infects his left eye, giving him the power to force anyone to obey any order he gives if he has direct eye contact with them, from committing suicide to carrying out a long-term plan of sabotage.

With this new power, Lelouch adopts the masked alter-ego of “Zero”, begins recruiting allies, and forms a rebel mecha army called the “Black Knights” to take down Britannia. However, this results in him having to hide his identity from everyone except C.C. and constant fighting with his old friend Suzaku in his Lancelot.

In this series, the central plus point are the characters, especially antihero Lelouch. His central plan is to bring down an entire Empire, which is somewhat heroic, but he is willing to do just about anything in order to achieve it. The end justifies the means, even if it results in the loss of hundreds of lives. He is slightly similar to Light Yagami of Death Note (See column No. 8), in that as the story goes along they both become increasingly unstable and megalomaniacal. Lelouch’s Geass powers also begin to have side-effects.

Another plus point is that Code Geass seems to have a bit of something for everyone. There are battles, there is a bit of thriller, there is the psychological aspect, other side characters offer romantic stories, comedic turns and so on. The art also deserves a mention. The character designs were created by the Clamp group of female manga artists who are one of the most successful groups of women in the manga world.

Certain aspects of the story may be a bit confusing, but other than that Code Geass is a very good story with a brilliant protagonist.

Both TV series of Code Geass are available on DVD and Blu-Ray from Manga Entertainment and Kaze. The OVA have yet to be released over here, with some still in production.