14 May 2007
I have a new favourite anime to share with you today. Code Geass. It's effectively Death Note with giant robots. And if Britain ruled the world. HOW CAN YOU GO WRONG?!
Code Geass is a full length anime series, currently in its first season, that is in an extremely interesting setting - a world in which the the United States of America never existed, and the Britannia Empire spans a third of the world's population. Seven years prior to the story's start, Britannia invaded and conquered Japan, and renamed it Area 11. The protagonist is Lelouche, a Britannian prince thought dead with his crippled sister in exile in Japan, who, in a chance encounter with terrorist 'Elevens', acquires the power of Geass from the mysterious girl CC that gives him the power of absolute obedience from anyone he gives orders to. It only works once per person, however, and only with eye contact, so that's when things start getting tricky. In Lelouche's capable hands, however, it's enough to start a revolution.
Simply put, the story is awesome. It's not fair to compare it to the intricately woven tale of Death Note, but you won't be able to resist the temptation due to the number of corresponding themes and the fact that it's certainly one of the first to come close. Tired and jaded anime fans will no doubt enjoy the visceral thrill of actually NOT ALREADY KNOWING WHAT IS GOING TO HAPPEN NEXT. Sure, you can try and predict, but there's always an unexpected twist. Even things you suspect will happen never happen when you think they will, or occur in a way you never expect. It gives the entire anime an air of freshness, despite the surface similarities to others of its ilk. And the momementum continues to build throughout too, so towards the end of the series there's so much going on that you're certain it's all going to explode into one giant spectacular mess of a climax that could go one of twenty ways. Rest assured, however, that you never lose track of characters, but more temporarily forget about them in light of all the other events going on, so it's always a pleasant surprise when other little subplots bear fruit. A bear fruit they will. There's not a great deal of waste in this storyline.
The characters are a real strong point too, for a change - most series you usually only get one or the other. The character designs were done by CLAMP, surprisingly enough, lending an additional air of credibility to the title as CLAMP rarely lends their skill to anything bad. The personalities were all interesting and fleshed out, and most importantly, vital to the story. You're forced to admit that even the characters you hate are necessary and changing them would alter the story dramatically. Lelouche is a particularly strong protagonist, and watching his transformation throughout the series as he slowly becomes progressively more evil as circumstances demand is fascinating. Perhaps more noteworthy is that his character doesn't fall into the same traps so typical of your average protagonist, who so commonly get faced with a personal crisis or moral dilemma and break down for a number of episodes. Lelouche gets upset for a few minutes, picks himself up and soldiers on. There simply isn't any time for the drawn-out pity parties most anime fans have come to expect. As already stated - refreshing.
Continuing with good things to say, the animation is top-notch. There haven't been any obvious displays of cheapness from the series yet - and still no sign of the dreaded recap episode! The consistently above-average quality of the animation may be directly related to the excess of pizza in the series. An interesting piece of trivia: Code Geass features Pizza Hut repeatedly. Pizza is about the only food you see the characters eat, and unlike most other animes, they use the official name and logo, leading one to speculate that it may have been a lucrative product placement deal. Usually brand names are altered in animation to avoid legal problems, so SONY will appear as SQNY and McDonalds will as WcDonalds, and so on and so forth. There's even an episode where they bake a 12-metre pizza for the school festival! That positively reeks corporate sponsorship, and dammit, that product placement is working! Ever since watching Code Geass I've started to crave Pizza Hut. Animators have a way of drawing food that makes it look ten times more delicious that what it actually is. I theorise that this is because most animators fall into the 'starving artist' subset of the population.
With the visuals above average, the audio too managed to rise to the occasion. The voice actors all gave quite excellent performances, and the musical score is extremely good also. The sound effects are of a similarly high quality. Given the overall standard for full-length television series, Code Geass either had an extremely savvy producer or the budget to support some pretty impressive production values.
Out of all of these overwhelming positive endorsements, however, I have to say that the thing that really sold me on Code Geass more than anything else was the editing. It's a fast-paced series - you won't believe the sheer amount of stuff that happens in every episode. The editing style was punchy and interesting, and used some really neat back-and-forth techniques that added a lot of impact to the drama. Not enough series make use of such dynamic editing. Nadesico did it quite well, as did Kare Kano, but there haven't been many recent titles that really shine in that department.
So, anybody who considers themselves an anime fan (and perhaps even some people who don't) would be doing themselves a favour by watching Code Geass. A word of warning though, only the first 23 episodes of the first season have aired so far - the last couple of episodes have been delayed, causing anguish to fans everywhere as they are left hanging on an evil, evil cliffhanger. There is a second season, however, so you can probably assume that despite the promise of rampant killing, the main characters at least should survive. Not that it makes the cliffhanger hurt any less.
After that gush fest, do you even really need to read the overall score?
Here it is anyway. Overall score: 988,788.
If Suzaku dies by the end of the series, you can ramp that up to a 999,900.