Yes we’re doing this. Code Geass rewatch blogging project is a go. I did name this whole goddamn website after a small moment in the series even though I haven’t seen the episode in question since 2008, and the original anime series since 2007. I call it one of my, if not my all time favourite anime, yet I haven’t seen the thing since my formative years of fandom. Everything was shiny back then. I used to think Chobits was one of the best anime ever and boy did a rewatch ever put that idea to bed. But I knew Chobits wouldn’t hold up. Code Geass I’m less certain on. Will I still love the hell out of it or will I have to change the name of this blog in disappointment?
Instead of delighting or suffering in silence, I felt like sharing my journey. Join me won’t you in rewatching this modern classic totally serious war drama that is in no way incredibly silly and definitely did not make me guffaw regularly over these 4 episodes.
Since I was in first impressions mode coming out of the spring season, I was watching Code Geass with the idea in the back of my mind “at what point could one realise that you had something special here”. Sunrise farts out original giant robot shows regularly, many of which are not very good. The early and mid-00’s in particular were awash with them. Sure this one had Goro Taniguchi directing but his last series was the forgettable Gun X Sword. The early parts of Geass are promising without exactly being groundbreaking. It’s notable how lines of dialogue aren’t wasted, with each one intended to imply something about the character saying them. It’s hammy and many of the lines are quite silly and a touch comedic but said with an almost-but-not-quite straight face, but in a way that’s what starts to set it apart.
The point I feel where I first started to see this winking hammyness in action was when our lord and saviour the wonderful Prince Clovis gave the most ridiculous of speeches to the nation about how awful and terrible he felt about the recent act of terrorism and oh how it almost makes me swoon, only for as soon as the camera to turn off you hear a bloke say “oh how wonderful Prince Clovis, nobody would be able to tell you were at a party”. The presence of the media bloke at each significant plot event is the show’s clearest way of drawing this all to your attention. This is a show. We know it’s a show. We are going to put on the finest show you have ever seen.
Which is why I very quickly found myself stopping taking it seriously. I went into this intended to try break down the major themes in Code Geass. Character motivations, symbolism, things like that. All of which are indeed present in the show. But by about halfway through the second episode I instead found myself disappearing into a wave of fanboyism. This show is so fucking silly. What’s that? We lost an important hostage in the middle of a Japanese slum. Quick, kill EVERYTHING!!! The nationalism in particular is so overblown it practically comes off as parody. My favourite might be Nunnally who, upon having her maid make a paper crane for her, goes “OMG Japanese people are so amazing”. Considering she’s a foreigner in the first place, I believe she qualifies as a weeaboo. I can just see her now at an anime convention, rolling around in her wheelchair wearing a Naruto headband and yelling “datebayo”.
I found my intelligent analysis turn into gawping at Suzaku’s fine ass as he prepared to get into the Lancelot. Also man Lancelot, what a great goddamn robot. They sure spent a while on the start up sequence, but it has an appealingly low-fi feel to it. Trapped in the back of a van on a severly damaged road, pulling a sheet off their brand spanking new robot and having it launch by shooting away on a pair of roller blades. There’s neat little musical cues in all that as well just as it launches that makes the whole scene. I even love the dumb little internal consistency with the fighting styles. And by that I mean Lancelot does the spinning kick on Lelouch’s robot the exact same way Suzaku does it to Lelouch in the first episode. Spinzaku is a certified fighting style that crosses all technologies and disciplines.
Random little thing I did notice though. In this scene the box holding the random green haired girl in (who after 4 episodes we still know eff all about, interestingly she doesn’t appear and is presumed dead for a long time after) had just opened. Suzaku, believing the box to contain poison gas, leaps forward with a gas mask. But notice that he uses his only gas mask to protect Lelouch, not himself. Gives you a little idea of this guy’s shtick.
But back to Geass being hammy and silly. The absolute highlight of all of this is episode 4 with the grandstanding to rescue Suzaku. Everything about it comes together. The fact that only two people are there to follow Zero with Kallen and Ougi. The long buildup to the scene, making sure everyone is watching on TV. The heightened role the TV dude takes in proceedings. The dramatics of Jeremiah as he takes centre stage. It builds the whole thing perfectly, with people commenting on each move Zero makes. The gritted teeth and fear on Kallen’s face as she’s just waiting for the whole thing to go to pot. The fact that Zero reveals himself on this cobbled together Popemobile by setting the Britannia flag on fire. It’s just perfect. The whole scene is so wonderfully grandstandy in its audacity.
The Orange thing was particularly brilliant. At the time I don’t think I really got it and how it went onto become both a fandom and in-series joke. Lelouch saying “do you want me to tell the people about Orange” was a nothing statement. There was no Orange. But because Jeremiah was Geass’d right after that and let them escape, the world now thinks he let them escape because he didn’t want them to know he was planning to retire as an Orange farmer or something like that. I genuinely don’t think I got that first time around. Then again there were many things I didn’t get first time around. Don’t talk to me about my young self completely missing Table-kun…