Andrew Osmond on the permanent revolution of Code Geass
Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion R2 (released on Blu-ray and DVD) is the sequel to the original Code Geass, and like most sequels it can be justly called more of the same. Unlike most sequels, this means it has a crazily unpredictable story where you just can’t tell what the next episode will bring, where it’s heading or how it’ll end. And that’s a lot of the fun.
We should warn you that R2 very much assumes you’ve seen the preceding Code Geass, already on Blu-ray and DVD (if you want to know about it, click here. That’s not immediately obvious, because the sequel starts with a massive non sequitur, designed to make fans wonder if the whole story has been rebooted. The original show ended with pretty much everyone on the brink of life-or-death cliffhangers. R2 starts with a resounding ‘huh?’
Most obviously, Lelouch is suddenly an ordinary schoolboy again, with no memory of being a rebel leader called Zero. Indeed, Zero is officially dead, and it’s been a year since his revolution failed. Moreover, Lelouch no longer has a sister called Nunnally (whom we saw being abducted in the first series finale) but an affectionate brother called Rolo, while familiar faces turn up in strange guises. Hold on, why is she a teacher now – and what on earth is she doing in a bunny-girl get-up?
Code Geass isn’t a show which hangs around. In the first two parts, we get the lowdown on what’s happened (well, some of it), and the action kicks off in a familiar way – Lelouch is reinstated as Zero, and sets about his interrupted liberation of Japan. Most of the huge cast returns: there are far too many to go through, but the girl Kallen gets an especially central role. She’s one of Zero’s very few allies who now knows who he is under the mask, giving her emotional conflicts that would blow Lois Lane’s mind. The green-haired ‘witch’ C.C. is back, of course, and we learn more about the nature of Geass and its owners. And Lelouch is rocked to the fundament when a certain character reveals a red glint in the eye…
Naturally, there are new players as well. There’s Rolo, for one, who has an, ahem, extreme personality. There’s also a raft of players from China, including a sinister crowd of eunuch generals and a swashbuckling knight; as with many of the players, the knight finds his political allegiances sliding here, there and everywhere. Even for attentive viewers, it’s often hard to follow everything that’s happening, unless you’re keeping a scorecard. Lelouch is the kind of bonkers strategist who’d get dizzy if he walked in a straight line. Then again, you can watch the show just for your favourite character plotlines, or for the endless mecha battles, which regularly introduce snazzy new robots and killer-diller superweapons.
In general, R2 is a heavier show than its predecessor. When things get intense, the narration goes kaleidoscopic, racing around the multiple characters and subplots with brutal speed, while the story mutates faster than Tetsuo in Akira. An emblematic scene has one of the main characters being hit with nasty recovered memories that cause a psychotic meltdown, turning friendly faces into leering stage masks. There’s still some lightness in the show, though, including another giant pizza episode (you can never have too many giant pizzas!), and Lelouch’s exasperation at being the kind of girl magnet that’d put most boys in seventh heaven.
Later episodes play fantasy world politics, as Japan becomes the most crucial country on the planet. There are more ghastly unintended consequences coming round to bite Lelouch on the bum, and what looks like a sly parody of a rival SF anime, as Code Geass takes a trip into metaphysics that promises liberation from the self, only for the show to argue passionately that it’s all totalitarian b***ocks. On at least two occasions, the series seems to reach a “final” conflict several episodes too early, only for the story to fling another curveball or three, exploding into massive fights (often in the heavens) to light up Lelouch’s red eyes.
Don’t worry, there’s not another cliffhanger conclusion to make viewers gnash their teeth. The last episode is a very definite (and satisfying) end, though the Code Geass world continues in anime in the form of side-stories. At present, a four-part OAV serial (Code Geass: Akito the Exiled) is being released in Japan; it has a different cast of heroes and shows what happened in Europe while Lelouch launched his revolution. But will it show us what the Code Geass Blighty is like? After more than twenty hours of anime about the evil Britannian empire, it’s high time that we know!
Code Geass season 2 is out on UK DVD and Blu-ray from Manga Entertainment.