21 CommentsCode Geass: Akito the Exiled / By Scamp /

Code Geass: Akito the Exiled 1: Spastic Jazz

I love Code Geass. I’ve tried to keep this under wraps for a while, but I think a few people have discovered my shameful otaku secret. Not sure how they figured that out, I thought I had done a pretty good job of hiding it. So obviously I would have been hyped for Akito the Exiled, right? Well, funny you should mention that. Akito the Exiled was going to be set in Europe in the same world and same time-frame but with a different plot and characters, along with a different director and lead writers. So what they’re doing is taking out all the things people like about the TV series (Lelouch and his grandstanding, contrast between his ideals and Suzakus, the general ridiculous fast-paced nature of its plot twists and cliffhangers) but keep all the things nobody cares about (the art and animation style, the political backdrop, giant robots). But hey, why hate on a director trying to take a show in a different direction? Kazuki Akane is a hugely talented director, doing stuff like Noein. If you keep wanting every part of a franchise to look the same, you’ll end up circling the same drain Gundam has been for the past several years.

Having now watched the first episode of Akito the Exiled, I can quite confidently say that any fears of it being a significant departure from Code Geass-yness were misplaced. This show is still as gloriously dumb as ever.

First off, let’s do a quick background check to see where on earth we are in the Geass timeline. Knowing the alternate history that Geass takes place in was never particularly important for the TV series, but it seems to be a bit more relevant here. From my limited knowledge, in the world of Geass, Napoleon won the battle of Waterloo and conquered Britain. The British elite then all escaped to America, where I guess the Americans hadn’t starting dumping tea in the Atlantic yet and was still part of the British empire. They set up the noble elite, became a Darwinian nation and renamed themselves Britannia.

Meanwhile in Europe, Napoleon took over the continent (protip: You know it’s alternate history when the French actually win a war), but was then apparently dethroned and executed by guillotine. But, this being Europe, they never really sorted themselves out and ended up being a mess of factions and nobles and poor democratically elected leaders. Geass getting into some LOGH territory here, with the Good Dictator being better than a leader elected democratically by a bunch of total idiots (otherwise known as ‘French People’).

Now that we have the background knowledge, this current OVA takes place after Japan has been conquered, what with all the refugees lying around Europe. There wasn’t that much hint beyond what was revealed in this episode, but promo material said that these OVAs take place a bit between the two seasons of Geass TV. The next episode preview did show Suzaku going to Europe. My memory of Geass is hazy, but wasn’t it the case that Suzaku went to Europe after catching Zero?

Not that Geass is overly bothered with explaining everything. It’s an appealingly slapdash approach to world building. With the trend of overly explaining everything that causes people to bitch that the anime adaptation of their favourite light novel doesn’t go into the finer details of how this new fangled magic technology works, I’m becoming increasingly receptive to the Future Diary-approach to storytelling. As in, who cares how it works, it’s not even relevant to the story. People cry “PLOT HOLE!!!” when in reality they just didn’t feel it was necessary to explain exactly how a character got from A to B.

Akito the Exiled has still got plenty of Geass-y aspects to it. It’s still got those noodle people character designs that pull ridiculous distorted faces, like our token racist general here. Speaking of racism, it’s still as nationalistic as it ever was. Possibly even more so, there’s an element of almost anger to the nationalistic bent in Akito. For all its seriousness pomp, the costumes always give this air that the whole thing is a stage play rather than a tough war drama. It was particularly amusing when the posh people at the party started scoffing at the new girl Leila for wearing her military uniform to a fancy ball, even though her military uniform was way more ornate and meticulously designed than anything anyone there was wearing.

Where there’s been a major overhaul is the mecha battles. I think it’s safe to suggest that the mecha were never a key component to the entertainment value in Geass. It was more an anime that happened to have giant robots in it rather than being a Giant Robot Anime. I would say the same for Akito the Exiled too, but they’ve really tried to do something different with the action scenes. Their thinking must have been that CG mecha move weirdly, so to disguise that we’ll make the camera move constantly instead, as if it’s on a particularly violent orbit around the main character’s robot. This, combined with the spastic jazz music that plays through the fight scenes, makes be believe that perhaps these fight scenes will split opinion.

I fucking love them. Spinning the camera wildly to hide the awkwardness of the CG may be a trick of the eye, but gosh darn does it ever work. It gives the fights a lot more of a hectic feel, which ties in perfectly with the music. They’ve also done the thing I really like mecha fights to do and actually show us each move the mecha performs. It’s like the fights in Broken Blade, except instead of big cumbersome war machines, it’s now spider ninja robots. There’s lots of other little things too, like the striking use of colour, the contrast between the claustrophobic environment in the burning forest versus the open lake area, the water splashing up as they move around. The fights were exhilarating in a way the fights in the TV series never were. They were still exciting, but only because you wanted to see what happened to the characters rather than through strength of choreography.

Speaking of choreography, I really liked Akito’s takedown of the mecha in Paris, under the inexplicably green sky. Sure, there was more than just a hint of the Suzaku-esque super human powers. Jump out the back of an exploding mech into a rolling fall, fire a grappling hook onto the opponent mech and skate under it while firing a grenade launcher into its crotch. All he needed to finish it off was to deliver a spinning kick to knock the cockpit door off. But again, there was a clear direction when it came to the storyboarding of the scene. Oh, and they earn extra points for not pulling Leila’s jujitsu powers out of their ass when it was convenient and actually showed those powers at the start of the episode. I’m sure there’s a trope name for that, but I’m just going to call it Good Storytelling.

Flaws? Well, it’s incredibly dumb and silly…oh wait, you said flaws.

The characters aren’t doing a lot for me as of yet. Leila is a bit too perfect at the moment. She’s an abandoned aristocrat who cares for the Japanese and doesn’t like killing them but is good and jujitsu and is all noble and strong and calm under fire and everything. She doesn’t have a single character flaw. I quite like her commander, the dude rocking that beard, but I’m pretty sure that’s just because he quoted LOGH. Akito, the Japanese terrorist gang, the Chinese dude with the Geass, all share the exact same traits. They’re angry people who feel lost with their lack of a homeland.

That appears to be the running theme in Akito the Exiled. I was struggling for a word to describe it until now. I was going to go for ‘gritty’, until I remembered Akito skating under a robot and firing a grenade launcher at its crotch. The word I eventually came up with was ‘angry’. There’s a real frustrated resentment amongst the Elevens in this story. Leila wants to help the Japanese, but she doesn’t have that same burning anger and utter frustration at their position that Akito or the terrorist leader has. “We want a place to belong” he says as he shoots another guy in the face. Akito talks about helping Leila by burning everything to the ground. Not exactly what you’d call constructive solutions to their problems.

I’ve found with Geass that if you stop listening to the Japan part of it and pretend it takes place in Nationstanland instead, it’s easier to actually take the story in rather than laugh at all the jingoism. When it comes to nationalistic revolts, the fighting usually starts with economic issues first. See the Arab Spring, the Troubles in Northern Island, the Nazis etc. The Japanese in Code Geass would probably be fairly all right with losing their country if they lived happy lives, rather than in slums. They feel their lack of a country to call their own ties in with their lack of an actual real house. Now I’m about as anti-nationalist as you can get, but at the same time I ‘get’ it. I get the frustration that can come from that loss of national identity. Akito the Exiled is really focused on that. Heck, it’s in the name, it’s hardly particularly subtle about it.

And if that aspect to the Geass OVA doesn’t interest you, there’s always some fine Akito wedgies to gawk at.

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  1. Moomba
    Posted September 29, 2012 at 7:08 pm | Permalink

    Suzaku went to Europe where he murdered everything that moved and thus earned the nickname ‘White Grim Reaper.’ It’s pretty much why a lot of the predictions for the series revolve around the majority of the cast being killed by him during the final OVA to nicely clean up any mess.

    On an unrelated note, the Knightmares feel weird without slash harkens and movement from Akito’s feminine mecha is kinda strange since it actually walks in complete contrast to what… every other Knightmare ever? What’s the deal with those things anyway?

    • Scamp
      Posted September 29, 2012 at 10:00 pm | Permalink

      They are spider ninja robots obviously.

      That Suzaku theory is interesting. I have a current theory that each character will join this group, find hope, and then get it all crushed. Hyper depressing stuff is in vogue at the moment

    • Posted October 26, 2012 at 4:30 pm | Permalink

      yes a few of them will die, but some of them might fight Lelouch during the 2 month time skip before Zero Requiem.

  2. Erif
    Posted September 29, 2012 at 7:09 pm | Permalink

    Dat ass.

    Too bad I haven’t watched Geass yet. So I won’t be checking this out.

    • Erif
      Posted September 29, 2012 at 7:15 pm | Permalink

      But I’m totally checking out dat ass.

    • Scamp
      Posted September 29, 2012 at 10:02 pm | Permalink

      To be honest, you don’t need to watch Geass to follow this. What little details you need to know, such as what the hell a Geass is, should be obvious by just watching this episode.

      But seriously, what the hell are you doing on this blog not having watched Geass?

      • Erif
        Posted September 29, 2012 at 11:21 pm | Permalink

        That’s… a good question.

        Your charming smile and amazing wit?

      • Posted September 30, 2012 at 5:29 pm | Permalink

        Translation: dat ass

  3. Souther
    Posted September 29, 2012 at 7:59 pm | Permalink

    Leila does have a couple of character flaws, although they’re not too emphasized right now. There’s a certain degree of hesitation (she let the racist commander have his way until the operation was in progess and still hasn’t resolved her messed up family dynamics) mixed with uneasy feelings regarding her responsibility for all the deaths. Not a whole lot right now, but that’s what the next three episodes are for.

    Similarly, I believe that Akito himself doesn’t seem particularly interested in Japan (in fact, he seems to be mostly going through the motions right now, until he can die) and the other folks have more of a desperate desire for acceptance rather than a nationalistic wish to free Area 11. They could take these issues and others in any of several directions, so we’ll see what happens.

    Other than that, I also liked the mecha battles and most of the music. The ending song in particular was very nice.

    I suppose you could say this is still silly, as Code Geass should be, but not to the point of being as annoying as other shows have been.

    • Scamp
      Posted September 29, 2012 at 10:05 pm | Permalink

      Not buying your Leila character flaws. Standing up to the racist guy earlier would have made her seem ruthless, and her indecision all happened off screen so it doesn’t count.

      Agree with the lack of a wish to restore Japan, although their feeling of wanting a place to belong comes in large part because of the destruction of their homeland. The two are still intrinsickly linked. The difference here versus Kallen/Lelouch/Suzaku is that the Akito and co. have totally given up hope and are just fighting for the sake of it

      • LeloucheIsDead
        Posted September 29, 2012 at 11:47 pm | Permalink

        Similarly she doesn’t stand up to herself even when her stpebrother tells her he is going to turn her into his whore when they get married.

        It does show she has a passivity issue.

      • Souther
        Posted September 30, 2012 at 5:54 pm | Permalink

        @Scamp: We’ll have to see what happens in the future, once again, but I’d still question that we didn’t see Leila express or reflect some doubts on screen.

        For one thing, it’s actually rather obvious during the whole narration/diary writing part, when she questions her actions, and it’s very much implicit when you tie that together with her behavior outside of the party sequence. For another, it’s almost blatant she dislikes her creepy brother but hasn’t really found a way to act upon that. I think this is enough to say she has a few insecurities.

    • Erif
      Posted September 29, 2012 at 11:25 pm | Permalink

      Yeah, those sound less like flaws of her character and more like oh wait shit i haven’t even watched this yet why am i still here.

  4. Duelit
    Posted September 29, 2012 at 11:57 pm | Permalink

    Glad you did a review of this, I was kinda on the edge of watching it. ^^
    By the way Scamp, that’s Namek, not Paris :3

  5. Posted September 30, 2012 at 12:12 am | Permalink

    RE: CGi – I may get my sakuga card revoked because of this, but I thought it was damn great. Its usage in anime is still relatively new, so much like digital post-processing, most studios are still struggling to understand how to handle it properly. Even in BRS’s case, which had motherfucking Imaishi leading Sanzigen, it felt rather clumsy at times; in spite of CGi being fundamentally different it tends to be used just like 2D animation, which really limits its potential. With BRS it was made clear by the episode with some 2D animated cuts that looked just much better than the rest. As it turns out, computer generated models will never stand up to the charm of hand drawn stuff. Who’d have thought!
    Akito, on the other hand, got it right. The hectic camerawork is only possible because of the usage of CGi, and as you said it gives the battle a distinct sense of tension. The effects were gorgeous as well, I was really fond of the exaggerated shadows during the first battle. Although some might argue that the whole thing was a bit too messy, Akito’s action scenes really impressed me.

    And oh my God this thing is so Geass, I fucking love Geassssss.

  6. Karry
    Posted September 30, 2012 at 12:43 am | Permalink

    ” I think it’s safe to suggest that the mecha were never a key component to the entertainment value in Geass.”

    They could have been, if they were smart enough to stick with the first FMP-style models. Lancelot was bad enough, but when the “bat-bot” showed up i stopped giving a fuck.

  7. anon
    Posted September 30, 2012 at 7:36 am | Permalink

    Since when did Scamp like Code Geass?

  8. luffyluffy
    Posted October 1, 2012 at 12:35 am | Permalink

    You’re forgetting, everyone touts Gundam: 08th MS Team as being SUPER ULTRA GRITTY AND AMAZING and Shiro fires rocket launchers at Zaku crotches too.

    Of course, 08th has a lot more issues, like a stupid love story and barfworthy writing.

    Glad to see you caught the logh in the story as well, it’s am little more apparent this time. LEILA I’M GUNNA WIN THE UNIVERSE SO YOU DON’T HAVE TO MARRY YOUR BROTHER

    Also, good job, Commander Rider is easily the best so far.

    • Scamp
      Posted October 1, 2012 at 5:02 pm | Permalink

      Already seen people compare this to 08th MS Team, albeit unfavourably. Think it might be best to approach Akito with that type of OVA in mind

      • luffyluffy
        Posted October 2, 2012 at 3:15 pm | Permalink

        Well, anythings gotta be better than 0083, right?


  9. Anonymous
    Posted October 1, 2012 at 7:17 pm | Permalink

    I was actually quite disappointed at the fact that all the Knightmares were now done in CG, rather than being drawn. Especially the first fight(s) suffered from it, I couldn’t see a bloody thing while they were in that forest.

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