The world is carved up between Britania, the Chinese Federation and the European Union. Years ago Japan was overtaken by Britania and designated Area 11. Years later, Lelouch lives in Japan as a political hostage. While he is a prince among the many children of the Emperor, his mother was murdered and his sister crippled. Lelouch lives a privileged life, but beneath his normal exterior lies a brooding mastermind waiting to enact revenge on his father: the emperor of Britania.
Lelouch ends up in the middle of a fight between Britanian and Area 11 resistance fighters. Here he encounters a secret weapon in the form of a young girl known only as C2. She gives him the power of the Geass. The Geass allows Lelouch to give any person a single command that they must obey without question, but only one. Lelouch adopts an alter ego named Zero, and begins his quest for revenge. The fall of the Britanian Empire has begun.
Code Geass is a popular series I could easily sum up with: it's flashy, and entertaining as hell. It took me while to warm up to this show, but I have to admit it grew on me a lot. It looks like the standard fare with giant robots, but much of it is based around Lelouch, and his power of Geass. Geass allows him to issue one command to a person which they must obey. I'm like, "uh.. That's it?". Yes and that's the genius of it. His power is strategic and limited, which puts all the more emphasis on the plot. It's also an amazing slight of hand. While Lelouch is presented as an amazing tactician, looking at the details he rarely does anything clever (not from the viewer's perspective anyway, it's more inferred). If you're expecting an intelligent chess like plot (ala Death Note), Code Geass doesn't really do that. The main reason to watch the show is the drama.
Lelouch ends up with an alter ego known as Zero, leader of a rebellion against Britannia. Keeping his identity secret, while trying to maintain his high school persona gets complicated. Sometimes things go well for Lelouch, but often they don't. And when things go wrong for Lelouch, it explodes in a drama storm that is a joy to watch. This isn't quite as smooth as it sounds though. Many pieces of the story are connected by unlikely events, coincidences and plot devices.
Lelouch drives the show. He's driven to accomplish his goals, but ends up in situations where he finds can't abandon his compassion. This especially becomes hard for Lelouch as his best friend ends up his arch enemy, and eventually even his sister (the one he wants to protect most) is pitted against him. Like other devices, characters are often used only to invent more plot points (poor Yufi!), but its easy to forgive Code Geass because everyone and everything is put to good use.
Season 1 is slowly builds until it's a show that's hard to put down. This culminates in the ending which turns out to be a cliffhanger. Season two picks things up in a way many didn't like: the dreaded reset button. It's not surprising Code Geass does this, because it had essentially painted itself into a corner. In order to maintain some of the fluff fun, it would certainly have to back down from where it ended up. This is a little annoying because the fluff pandering almost seems inappropriate considering there are other things the show ought to be doing.
Season 2 (R2) gets really annoying with plot convenience. In season 1, Lelouch at least APPEARED to be clever with increasing complexities in his situation. About 3/4 of the problems in Season 2 are solved by a super mecha never encountered before, or uber upgrades to existing ones. While the second season starts a bit weak, it gets interesting as Lelouch finally confronts his father, and concludes with an ending which is pretty freaking awesome.
Taken in parts Code Geass is a good production. What makes it excellent is how those pieces are put together in a way that is so fun to watch. Anime often regurgitates the same old same old, which makes it surprising when Code Geass does nothing new but manages to be so entertaining. Good stuff worth watching.
Code Geass has an interesting relationship with Pizza Hut sponsorship. This wasn't simply characters on pizza boxes and sodas, Pizza Hut logos were inserted into all sorts of conspicuous places in the anime itself, and C2 herself orders pizza on a regular basis. In the domestic release these logos aren't visible, and some people feel these were purposely removed. I believe the reverse is true, and that the Pizza Hut stuff was specifically inserted into the Japanese version. American companies don't have the time nor budget to remove that stuff. Also other anime series don't bother removing product placements for the likes of Pocky and Honda, so seem unlikely the Japanese really care what comes over here. Anyway, depending upon the version you see, you may or may not get bombarded with Pizza Hut ads. "Pizza Hut Supports the Rebellion" was part of the ad campaign printed on Japanese Pizza Hut boxes.
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