Sprung from the mind of the same man as Valvrave the Liberator, Code Geass is an alternate history show with absurdly awesome plots, mind-destroying black comedy, and some really fabulous main characters. Sound bad? It's not, it's amazingly insane.
Let's be honest here, the similarities between Valvrave and Code Geass reach pretty deep. Both series have the main character igniting a "revolution", using a special power to do it, and using meticulous Xanatos Speed Chess maneuvers to carry it out!
At the storytelling level though, the shows are definitely different. Code Geass takes place in an alternate modern day timeline where the world is split between three superpowers: the Holy Britannian Empire, the Chinese Federation, and the European Union. But wait, this sounds too normal and modern, this is a Sunrise show!
You'd be right, since Britannia just introduced the Knightmare frame (oh ho! Good one Sunrise!), which is essentially a giant mecha. Alright, now it's a Sunrise show!
Back on topic: the story follows a Britannian named Lelouch living in Japan. This isn't just any Britannian though, this is the former prince of Britannia Lelouch vi Britannia! He's out to get his hands on some sweet revenge on his social Darwinist father Charles vi Britannia (the emperor) for abandoning him and his blind sister Nunnally in Japan when it was invaded.
Oh yeah and did I mention that Lelouch is a flawless strategist?
Much like the aforementioned Valvrave the Liberator, Code Geass has some absolutely fabulous characters. It piles on intentional hilarity on top of what seems like serious subject matter. I mean, let's be honest, the emperor of the biggest country on Earth went on international television and basically said, "All of you are terrible humans. You're weak and pathetic! You should be more like me and less pathetic!". There was no way that it wouldn't be hilarious in some capacity. Adding to this was the over-the-top way he delivers it.
This thought would not be complete without mentioning the character that spawned an entire meme: Lelouch. From his ridiculously dramatic international broadcasts to his extremely elaborate hand movements, he will never miss an opportunity to rocket the show past absurd and into "this is awesomely terrible!" territory. No wonder everyone in the world loves him, he could practically replace the television industry with his televised antics. You are truly the Prince of Fabulous Lelouch.
The rest of the cast is pretty well put together too, although they aren't nearly as... erm... flamboyant as Lelouch is.
That all aside, Sunrise shows off a surprisingly strong animation style in Code Geass. Everything is crisp and looks pretty (especially Fabulous Lelouch). The action scenes in the show are definitely up there with some of the best that I've seen in practice.
Maybe we should just have FLOW do the theme songs for everything. It would save us some time.
Code Geass gets some credit for swapping out the usual "white knight" hero character (see Lancelot and Suzaku for massive irony) with a massive jerkass with good intentions. Yes, the main character is the cool and manipulative Lelouch and not some cool hero character that's going to save everyone. He will use anyone (but Nunnally) to get to his goal and it doesn't matter if they die or not. He's a gigantic jerk of epic proportions and it is awesome to watch.
Speaking of Suzaku, it bears mentioning that whenever him and Lelouch team up in any sort of capacity, the result is absolutely awesome. They are the best frenemies ever.
In the same train of thought, Code Geass is practically overflowing with awesome. From the amazing dynamic entrances to the insanely awesome strategic Xanatos Speed Chess that Lelouch has as a hobby, you'll never be at a loss for moments that ooze awesome in bulk.
While we're on a roll, let's talk about those totally insane plans that Lelouch has that drive the plot. He's just too damn good at making this crap up as he goes along and he's fabulous when he's doing it (have I mentioned this yet?). This should be firing off every warning flag in my analytical mind but it isn't. They managed to pack so much awesome into it that my relatively high rule of cool threshold is actually being met.
Lastly, Code Geass' ending managed to connect with me on a level that I really haven't seen in this marathon so far. It was the logical conclusion to the series, but it was pretty emotional and both heartwarming and sad at the same time. It was really well done.
The biggest problem I have is probably that the second season's plot barely makes any sense up until the finale arc (which is considerably better). It goes pretty firmly into crazy territory and I'm not sure that was a particularly good idea.
This isn't too bad on the first viewing since the show is awesome, but I can see it being a big problem on subsequent viewings since that awesome factor will be considerably lower.
I feel a very specific need to point out that the last few episodes of the first season will screw you up badly. They are chocked full of craziness and black comedy that will leave you staring at the screen in complete disbelief and horror. I had the unfortunate accident of watching both these episodes and Valvrave's very similarly styled episode in the same night and it ruined me. The image accompanying this text is basically how I probably looked at the end of that night.
Get something very happy ready to watch after you get into the season one finale to offset it. I think every Code Geass watcher is going to agree with me here, you need something happy.
I could probably copy and paste some of the text of Valvrave's review in here if I wanted to since the reasons you should be watching it are similar. I'll make it original just for kicks.
Code Geass is a solid show that has just enough awesome on its side to offset its over-the-top craziness. It's pretty crazy at times, there's a little campiness here and there, and it is definitely hilarious. The hilarity is magnified by the fabulous characters like Lelouch.
It experiences a few of the same mood swings that Valvrave has. There several times in the series where the episodes will be absolutely mind-screwing crazy and slowly rip you to pieces. The plot goes along with this by being pretty insane and over-the-top on more than one occasion. It is mostly covered for by the overt awesomeness that the series exhibits though.
The main character is a complete aversion of the usual hero character because he exhibits far more traits of an anti-hero. This was an entertaining exploitation of this plot device because his jerkness completely blindsides you sometimes. It mixed up the formula and I liked it.
This is good for someone looking for a series that bleeds craziness and awesomeness into a mecha show at the same time. This means that if you liked Valvrave the Liberator, you'll probably like this. It digs a bit deeper than Valvrave and the ending is better. Generally speaking, everything in Code Geass comes across more seriously (but more flamboyantly) than it did in Valvrave.
Pretty good mecha show overall. Thanks Sunrise.
As usual, I claim no ownership of the images herein.
You can bet on Spice and Wolf next time.
This is part of Anime Marathon 2014, a continuation of Anime Marathon 2013 by popular demand. I'm on a mission to review every anime I can for the TAY community and anyone else that wants to read it. I can never guarantee when these reviews will be posted, but I'll do my best to keep it consistent.
You can see all my articles on Dex's Corner.