36 CommentsCode Geass / By Scamp /

Code Geass episodes 1-4: The modern classic serious war drama

serious code geassCode Geass was a very serious war anime from 2006 about the morally grey area of terrorism.

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.

geass 1Since 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.

lancelotWhich 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”.

dad suzaku assI 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.

Suzaku is mai heroRandom 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.

OrangeThe 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…

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  1. lmm
    Posted April 16, 2015 at 10:38 pm | Permalink

    I’m trying something vaguely similar, rewatching and writing about Gundam Seed which was my first proper animé. http://m50d.github.io

    (And this reminds me I’m way behind. Bah. This weekend, episode 6, for sure. Maybe.)

  2. Posted April 16, 2015 at 10:41 pm | Permalink

    Ah, the Orange scene. Since you’re talking about “first impressions,” and wondering when you knew you had something special, I’ll share my moment, which I still recall, though it’s been many years since I’ve watched Code Geass, and it’s one of my most rewatched shows.

    Amusingly, it came at episode 4, and it came from me disliking that moment, disliking the show. That segment just felt slow and interminable, after how fast-paced the early episodes had been. But it wasn’t that which bugged me, but Lelouch as Zero.

    I heard “Zero” speak in his resonating voice, I heard him, and even though I didn’t know the term or idea of “chuuni” at the time, I knew he was it. It just seemed so overblown, so melodramatic, so stupid.

    So, what made me like the show so much? It was that very same moment, it was the realization that not only is it the voice actor who’s playing Zero as an overly dramatic buffoon, of sorts, but that Lelouch is playing a role as well. And from then on, I was hooked. It helped that the episodes following it returned to the Shinjuku ghetto level of fun shenanigans.

    • Scamp
      Posted April 17, 2015 at 9:16 am | Permalink

      Zero wouldn’t work in-story if he wasn’t stupidly over the top. He has to be Chuuni to capture the imagination of the people.

  3. Posted April 16, 2015 at 10:52 pm | Permalink

    Only seen two episodes, due to my steryotypical waifu-loving weeaboo friend asking me (pestering me FOR A MONTH WITHOUT FAIL) to see it. I guess I might as well leap back into it.

    • Scamp
      Posted April 17, 2015 at 9:17 am | Permalink

      Now is a good time as any =D

  4. Madonis
    Posted April 16, 2015 at 11:25 pm | Permalink

    But my dear Scamp, intelligent analysis does not have to conflict with looking at Suzaku’s ass.

    In fact, the opposite is true. You want proof?


    That ridiculously long essay is, as the author quite openly acknowledges, both super gay and super academic, including the obvious objectification of Suzaku as a reflection of how he is a literal “tool” of Lloyd and the Britannian state, in the context of a very sharp analysis of the most important dynamic of the show. In short, just because something is totally gay doesn’t mean you can’t write intellectually about it.

    To put it on my own terms, the secret to the best possible enjoyment of Code Geass is to watch the show with a flexible mindset that can approach it in multiple ways at the same time. Not everyone can -or even wants to- do that, but the rewards are worthwhile in my experience.

    Also, one should never lack the ability to merely chill out and laugh along with the silliness that even the creators themselves found amusing, which led to numerous in-jokes between the main staff and voice actors alike.

    • Scamp
      Posted April 17, 2015 at 9:17 am | Permalink

      I’m sure I will be able to do both. But boy is Code Geass silly

    • fifteenth
      Posted April 17, 2015 at 9:42 am | Permalink

      “In short, just because something is totally gay doesn’t mean you can’t write intellectually about it.”

      You said that when anime that spring to my mind when talking about heavy discussions and tl; dr fan theories are all gay anime to variable degrees.

  5. quantumrei
    Posted April 17, 2015 at 1:20 am | Permalink

    I just spent two hours going over how CG’s shenanigans might fit into a narrative theory story form (purely for amusement) and then I ended up spending another hour or so reading about CG because I forgot a lot of R2.
    I went here to look up the posts about Akito and was pleasantly surprised to see this post instead! I’m actually excited to see you watching this again, because I found this blog right after finishing CG back in 2008 or 2009 (it’s not hard to guess what words I google searched) and I loved reading the posts about Code Geass.

    • Scamp
      Posted April 17, 2015 at 9:36 am | Permalink

      Wonder when Akito will finish. Part 3 is supposed to be in theatres in a month or two. They claimed the next episode will come out a month after that but I seriously doubt it

  6. Rihan
    Posted April 17, 2015 at 1:30 am | Permalink

    I noticed that you rated the first season of Geass higher than the second season on your MAL and was wondering why? Actually, I also enjoyed the first season more tbh

    • Outcast
      Posted April 17, 2015 at 4:04 am | Permalink

      Oh, thank God. I was starting to believe I was the only one.

    • Wodes
      Posted April 17, 2015 at 6:13 am | Permalink

      it’s well documented that while the first season at least had a semblance of legitimacy to it, the second season discarded all desires to suspend disbelief (hence the nickname code trainwreck). That’s probably why most people enjoyed the first season more than the second one.

      • Outcast
        Posted April 17, 2015 at 6:40 am | Permalink

        That’s the thing though, there’re people I know who look at me and go, “You crazy bro? Season 2 was the best!” And they’re not the kind of people who’d go “FUCK YEAH! HE EXPLODED A VOLCANO!”, so the only reason they probably like it is because of Zero Requiem; but that’s hardly enough to carry all the dumb shit in season 2. Not to mention it’s still more highly rated on MAL.

      • Xander
        Posted April 17, 2015 at 6:17 pm | Permalink

        The first series is certainly better than the second. But, in this case, I think the show in general does come around quite well. The ending actually puts the crazy narrative of the second season in a much clearer context and enables people to make sense of a lot of what had come before. It even connects back to things that happened in the first season too, so I like how the most crazy events still have a purpose.

        In a general sense, I tend to prefer shows that pick up at the very end rather than those that fail in their conclusion. So the question of “suspension of disbelief” was never an issue for me, personally, because the series was always deliberately theatrical and artificial in its own presentation.

    • Scamp
      Posted April 17, 2015 at 9:48 am | Permalink

      I remember the second season being weak from about episodes 18-24. We will see though. Doing this rewatch so plenty of time to change my mind

    • Mormegil
      Posted April 21, 2015 at 3:27 am | Permalink

      People liked S1 more because S2(especially the last couple of episodes, like Scamp pointed out) was BATSHIT INSANE. Well, more insane than usual.

      Honestly, because of that, S2 was very entertaining, but S1 was just better written in general.

  7. Zephex
    Posted April 17, 2015 at 2:00 am | Permalink

    I hope you are gooing to blog every 4 episodes, Scamp. I would follow your if I hadn’t rewatched CG a few months ago.

    • Scamp
      Posted April 17, 2015 at 9:48 am | Permalink

      I am indeed. Might make it just 2 for the last episodes of each season.

      • DarkEnergy
        Posted April 19, 2015 at 8:52 am | Permalink

        Episode 22 deserves a post all by itself.

  8. Ramiel
    Posted April 17, 2015 at 2:15 am | Permalink

    A while back I tried rewatching show with my wife, in order to introduce her to it. I was a semi-fan of the show and remembered it being so thrilling and entertaining.

    Rewatching it however, it feels less smart than I remember, and more cringingly ridiculous. We kind of fell off the rewatch wagon after about 6 episodes, mostly because she wasn’t that interested in it.

  9. Posted April 17, 2015 at 3:50 am | Permalink

    Who wouldn’t ogle that fine ass?

    Code Geass rewatch? You, dear sir, are BRILLIANT. As much fun as it it to watch all of these new and shiny anime, there’s something awesome and wickedly fun about going back to revisit one’s favorite anime of all time. You never really watch a show the same way as you did before but the good favorites are the ones that stand up to the test of time.

    • Scamp
      Posted April 18, 2015 at 10:30 pm | Permalink

      The thing is I’m not sure if Geass will stand the test of time. That in itself makes this journey quite dangerous

  10. Anon
    Posted April 17, 2015 at 4:23 am | Permalink

    I’ll sum up in one sentence what got me hooked to this series back in 2012 and after seeing the first episode:

    “OMG he’s playing 3D chess using robots! This guy is so cool! Imma keep watching.”

  11. Posted April 17, 2015 at 6:11 am | Permalink

    I only got the Orange thing in the next episode, when Jeremiah actually suffers the consequences ; that’s when it’s explained how deviously clever it is.

    • Scamp
      Posted April 18, 2015 at 10:40 pm | Permalink

      I don’t think I properly got it at the time, but I was very stupid when I was younger

  12. Wodes
    Posted April 17, 2015 at 6:16 am | Permalink

    For me the great beauty of the show was how it does LOGH-style space opera while being dumb enough that you don’t have to pay too much attention to it. It’s made for the masses, but there’s something endearing about that campy style, especially in the genre they applied it to.

  13. Clarste
    Posted April 17, 2015 at 10:52 am | Permalink

    I wrote about the use of montage in Code Geass for my Film Theory class back in college. Got a good grade for it too. It’s just a really fun show. It’s only after seeing all the other failures coming before and after it do you realize what a tightrope it was walking on though.

    • Scamp
      Posted April 18, 2015 at 10:55 pm | Permalink

      Haha that’s pretty great. I wrote about the movie Superbad and alcohol culture in university and got a really good grade on that.

      Good point about Geass follow ups. When you see things like Guilty Crown it does make Geass stick out far more.

  14. Erif
    Posted April 17, 2015 at 4:14 pm | Permalink

    This might just get me to finally watch Code Geass


    • Scamp
      Posted April 18, 2015 at 10:56 pm | Permalink

      Give into the peer pressure

    • DarkEnergy
      Posted April 19, 2015 at 8:54 am | Permalink

      Do it

  15. Shinmaru
    Posted April 17, 2015 at 7:24 pm | Permalink

    Lelouch playing with his chess pieces as he directed the terrorists in ep2 had me straight up cackling. I am going to enjoy this rewatch so much.

  16. arcanes
    Posted April 18, 2015 at 2:07 pm | Permalink

    Slightly off topic – did you download a new version for the re-watch or are you watching the tv-rips? because I remember that I downloaded the bluray version for archiving and never got to watch it. Maybe now’s the time :)

    • Scamp
      Posted April 18, 2015 at 10:56 pm | Permalink

      I’m watching my own DVD sets

  17. Canary Paint
    Posted April 20, 2015 at 7:46 am | Permalink

    Okay… I am in on this. Left a comment on this blog some time ago about watching Code Geass because of this blog’s top lists and thus getting an extra little boost when I saw where this blog’s name came from… I guess I better push through four episodes pretty quick.

    I tried Code Geass at least twice and couldn’t get past two episodes. Then, something changed. That third attempt, there would never after be the slightest trouble with “suspension of belief.”

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