It’s been over 18 months since the last Akito the Exiled. I gather most people who actually showed up to the first one, even if they were all excited and enjoyed it, are struggling to remember what the hell happened there. That’s the problem with these long-running OVA series. On the one hand if the crew at Sunrise didn’t take 18 months to finish this episode then it wouldn’t have been as well animated as it was and I wouldn’t be able to give it my award for Greatest Mecha Battle Ever. On the other hand, 18 months kills interest. Remember when everyone was really excited for Gundam Unicorn when the first episode came out? They haven’t even finished that yet. Remember when people were losing their shit over Hellsing Ultimate? Did you know that finished this year? I barely saw it mentioned once. At current track record, I wouldn’t at all be surprised if it took 3 years to bring out the remaining 2 Akito the Exiled episodes. Will people still care about Geass then? I know I will, but I named an entire website after the franchise. So if you’re wondering whether you should get into Akito now, I’d recommend waiting 3 years for it all to come out so you don’t lose focus halfway through.
For those who did watch it though, didja see that gold centaur knightmare with the absurdly large sword made of clockwork and blades? Didja? Because I can still barely believe it.
I was surprised by how easy it was to pick up again after 18 months. If you’ve followed my blog for any amount of time you’ll know I have a terrible memory, and Geass is packed full of characters. Part of the ease was giving us that quick little recap at the start (little lesson Attack on Titan, you’re allowed do a recap before the start of each episode if there’s an 18 month gap, not 7 day gap). Mostly though it was because there’s only a handful of characters that are important to the story. What gives the show the impression that there’s way more characters than you actually need to keep track of is because they all have unique character designs. Geass has always been the kind of show where even the most inconsequential of side characters who might appear for literally 1 scene and have one line of spoken dialogue and never be seen again after their 5 second cameo and they’ll still look totally unique from everyone else. Well, totally unique insofar as they still all look like noodle people.
Maybe this is why these episodes take so long to come out. They’ve got Clamp locked in a room churning out character designs for every single new character that appears in the show. They’re going to run out of character designs soon. This episode had a skinny black dude with a ginger afro and a giant scar down the side of his face. He appeared for less than 5 seconds. There was the above bald dude with eyeliner and a weird tattoo on his forehead. He disappeared 5 seconds later. It’s commendable in a way, and shows up every other anime in that regard. You know the way you can normally tell who is going to be an important character in an anime because their character design is way more elaborate than all the blandys standing next to him? Can’t do that with Geass.
One area where Akito the Exiled really differs from Geass proper is it’s a lot less flamboyant and a lot more angry. Not necessarily a good thing that it dropped the silly, giant golden centaur mecha notwithstanding oh my god I can still hardly believe that was a thing. I think most people who liked Geass liked its extravagance. This did mean though that the story about the dirty Elevens feeling resentment never really came across particularly strongly. In Akito it most definitely does. The Elevens in this show are Mad. They’re quite busy pulling the classic Geass wide-eyed psychopath grin as they contemplate destroying those around them in a sort of wild vengance. Not constructive destruction, but just a desperate attempt to lash out at the people who wronged them. It’s a shame though that the characters lack the charisma of the main characters in Geass proper. Sure having another grandstanding egotistical maniac as the main character would have struck a little too much of trying to copy themselves and I commend them for going a little different, but Akito just doesn’t have much of a personality.
The directing is really good though. Like, really really damn good. They’re getting a lot of mileage out of that swooping camera now that Orange are apparently the only animation studio that can do CG animation right. Yes in case you’re wondering, the 2D stuff is all usual Sunrise but the CG work is contracted out to this studio called Orange. They also did the mecha battles in Majestic Prince and let’s just say they embarrass every other CG animation studio in Japan when those CG studios aren’t too busy embarrassing themselves. But back to the directing, I really liked how they very deliberately contrasted the calm of space before the giant battle began. Geass hasn’t really been one for accurate science. They did just catapult their pilots around the globe so they could land somewhere about 1,000km away. But what it did to provide this calm before the storm was really brilliant. Plus there’s a load of little things I like, such as the Elevens vandalising their own room to make it theirs, or the commander pouring whisky into his tea before starting commanding. I was a little less keen on that silly Russian Roulette scene though.
But that mecha battle. Oh god that mecha battle. The future is here. CG animation has killed hand drawn animation. The battles in Gundam Boyfriend don’t hold a candle to the one in this episode. The problem with CG animated robots is they’re way too floaty. It’s why I’ve never really been a fan of those in space pew pew pew battles. I don’t really like the Majestic Prince mecha battles for that reason, as have I never really cared for Macross or Gundam space battles. I want robots physically hitting each other. I want Evangelion, Big O or Break Blade. Where the space battles tend to excel is being more dynamic. Akito the Exiled combines the two. The robots actually feel like they’re made of metal. A very lightweight metal that means they can jump and spin and act like the scrawpy ninja spider robots that they are, but robots nevertheless. The fights are a million times more dynamic than any fight I’ve ever seen, with those spinning camera angles doing a wonderful job at both making the fight exhilarating and disguising the moments CG animation can let them down.
Plus the whole fight had great pacing to it. It was a classic shounen formula where you introduce something new every time it looks like one side is losing to dramatically alter the face of the battle and hike up the stakes even further. First the infighting and artillery strikes, then they escape and reach deserted town. Then in comes the crack squad to wipe out the drones and it all looks bad until ohsnap Geass activates. Then it looks like they’re going to destroy them until suddenly golden centaur mecha shows up and the tables switch again. Let me repeat that again. Golden Centaur Mecha. For all my nonsense about this being a much more serious take on Geass, up shows quite possibly the most ridiculous thing in Geass ever. That sword was even more nonsensically designed that Lelouch’s emperor hat, and that’s saying something. At least that hat wasn’t intended to be used in combat. What are those gears even for? What are they connected to?
Look at that sword. Look at it. I couldn’t even find a screencap to fit the entire thing in. I don’t think there was a scene where the entire sword could fit on screen. And I took a lot of screencaps. I want to find some use for them so here’s a bunch with me making silly comments.
I see someone’s not too pleased about being made get some water. Nice to see everyone’s favourite character return. Oh wait no, I forgot it wasn’t Suzaku that anyone liked. It was his fucking awesome robot.
I normally don’t class myself as a ‘mecha fan’, but for how ridiculously excited I got to see Lancelot pull his signature pose I perhaps might be a mecha fan after all. Oh god I just realised we’re going to see Lancelot in Orange CG battles. I am so fucking pumped. All those losers watching hand-drawn robot battles are just living in the past. Get with the times people.
Oh right yeah, then this guy appeared.
Lelouch Lamperouge Lelouch vi Britannia Lulu The Cart Driver Julius Kingsley. Now before some people start getting it into their heads that this proves the cart driver theory, GAWD YOU DWEEBS KNOW NOTHING OF GEASS CANON! This is CLEARLY between seasons 1 and 2 where Suzaku went to Europe to crush the rebellions. So since Lelo-err Julius Kingsley is here that means he’s CLEARLY being used by Fluffy as a vital asset to crushing Europe. GAWD IT’S SO OBVIOUS! It’s like you guys didn’t even pay ATTENTION to ANYTHING that happened in Code Geass. This is a COMPLEX and DEEP story. A complex and deep story with golden centaur mechas fighting ninja spider robots.