Friday, June 11, 2010

Video Backlog: "Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion"

Publisher: Bandai Entertainment (USA)
Format: Region 1 DVD, NTSC, Japanese Dialogue with optional English Dub and English Subtitles
Length: 25 Episodes x 24 mins
Production Date: 2006 - 2007
Currently in Print (as of writing): Yes

Story Outline: In August 2010, the Holy Britannian Empire invaded Japan. In the aftermath of the battle, the country was renamed Area 11 and its citizens reduced to a lower class over the Britannian people who rebuilt the country and settled in it. Some seven years later, Japan gives the impression it is a wealthy nation, but the original inhabitants are designated to ghettos and are the oppressed working poor. 17 year old Ashford Academy student Lelouch Lamperouge may be part of the elite, but has a social conscious and enjoys participating against bourgeois men in chess games for money. Riding back to the academy with his friend, Rivalz, they both witness what appears to be an truck accident. Lelouch rushes to help, but discovers that the truck was stolen by the Japanese resistance. Britannian soldiers wipe out Japanese citizens near the scene of the accident to retrieve what is thought to be large capsule of stolen poison gas, however inside is a girl who gives Lelouch the power, called Geass, to make people obey him, just before she is shot in the head by soldiers.

Lelouch is incensed by the Britannian soldier’s actions and commands them to kill themselves. Shocked at what he has done, nevertheless he regains his composure and commands a pilot to hand over her Knighmare robot and manages to command the Japanese resistance forces to force the Britannian soldiers to retreat. With this power, Lelouch begins to realise his dream of destroying the Britannian Empire and making the world a peaceful place for his beloved crippled sister Nunnally. He creates the masked persona Zero to command the Japanese resistance forces to realise his dream. However he has to deal with the fact that Kallen Stadtfeld, one of the resistance fights, leads a double life at the academy, and he has to keep secret his Zero persona and the fact he is the exiled son of the current Emperor of Britannia. Unfortunately his long lost friend Suzaku Kururugi has now joined his class at the academy, but keeps his past identity secret. But Lelouch doesn’t realise that Suzaku is now an elite Knightmare pilot with the Britannian Empire. Suzaku begins to have suspicions that Lelouch could be Zero. Lelouch has enough trouble balancing the downfall of the Britannian Empire with school work, however yet another spanner in the works appears with the arrival of the girl who gave him his Geass powers, C.C. (pronounced as “Cee-two”), who has apparently come back from the dead and decides to move in with him, despite Lelouch’s protests.

Mini Review: Well yes, this is the big series from a couple years back. As I generally only buy anime now rather than obtaining fansubs (which I haven’t done since the about 2000 when fansubs became digital downloads) I am horribly behind the times when it comes to anime (and don’t really care that I am). Anyway as the last volume for the second series of the show recently came out in the US, and the original series had finally made it to the top of my backlog pile. Immediate impressions of this show is that a LOT of money, time and effort has been poured into this series. The animation is fluid, highly detailed and extremely well done for a TV series. You can see where Sunrise has used a lot of elements from recent shows, most notably “Gundam Seed”. It’s influence is pretty apparent in terms of style. The plot is really well thought out and sucks you in. Due to the Geass power it’s not much of a leap to believe that Lelouch could possibly bring down Britannian Empire, and it’s reasonable to believe that he could command a group resistance fighters and lead in battle due to his royal heritage and his chess skills. Plus the guy is a complete megalomaniac. I also like the fact his Geass power has limitations. Scenes where he has used the power on some people but not others, and where he needs to us his power on everyone to get out of the fix he is in, makes for tense drama.

I think the core part of the show which makes so good is the intricate relationships between the characters and the depth of them. Everything suddenly becomes so complex and intertwined, you’re just on the edge of your seat waiting for everything to come down crashing in a spectacular heap. Secondary, but also quite important, is the visual look of the show. CLAMP did the initial character designs, and although they’ve been cleaned up and slightly changed for animation purposes, their style can be clearly seen. A lot of characters look very similar to those in “X”, “Magic Knights Rayearth” and even “Cardcaptor Sakura”. Admittedly you could just say “Tsubasa” and be done with it... Also fantastic in the design category are the robots, the Knightmares and the main robot of the show the Lancelot, which I think looks a lot like the mecha in “Eureka Seven”.

While I liked most of the show, there was a number of niggling little problems I had with it. While a lot of the plotlines where believable, sometimes it just goes into bizarro land melodrama. The product placement, mostly Pizza Hut, was made worse in the English version where a clean version of the animation sans the Pizza Hut logo was used. So we occasionally end up with in frame shots of totally blank pizza boxes which looks rather strange. While we were told that the removal was due to copyright issues (despite Pizza Hut in Japan paying for the product placement), the other notable product placement, Biglobe, remains prominently throughout the show. I also had some problems with what happened to the character Shirley Fenette. It’s completely illogical what Lelouch does to her and would raise more suspicions than solve problems. There’s also too many characters and too little time to use them effectively. For example I thought Villetta Nu was underutilised, however she has more of a bigger role in the second season. I also was a bit disappointed at the use of clich├ęs and fan service in the show. It was like they had a check list and ticked off the elements they thought they had use to get the fans in. However this is not such a big problem in the show. The ending was also rather abrupt and annoyed me. It’s obvious from the start they intended to make a sequel. But despite all of this, I really enjoyed the show. Not a classic, but extremely well made entertainment 8.5 out of 10.

Remaining Backlog: 21 months (it's much easier this way than listing the number of discs).

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