Code Geass – LeLouch Of The Rebellion Complete Season 1 (Cert 15)
2 Discs Bluray /6 Discs DVD (Distributor: Manga Entertainment/Kaze UK) Running time: 602 minutes approx.
Chances are Code Geass will be a very familiar title to many of you, being one of the most popular and successful series of the past decade. Some of you may have even bought it when first released over here with surprisingly little fanfare by Beez back in 2009. Now Manga and Kaze have rescued this show from the archives and given it a well deserved HD makeover as a part of this re-release which hopefully should see a resurgence of its popularity here in the UK.
Covering a multitude of themes and incorporating many favoured anime genres including action, comedy, romance, Mecha and political drama, the story is set in an alternate futuristic world in 2017, seven years after the Holy Empire of Britannia has conquered Japan with their advanced Mecha weapons called Knightmares. Renamed Area 11, the Japanese are stripped of their rights, liberties and identities and are henceforth known as “Elevens”. Small pockets of resistance fighters exist but their success has been limited, affording them terrorist status in the eyes of the Britannian Empire. The fortunes of the Elevens are about to change when precocious student LeLouch Lamperouge, the disowned son of the Emperor of Britannia, Charles zi Britannia, is inadvertently caught up in a botched terrorist attack by an Elevens terrorist group. The truck they are driving crashes inside of which is a large metal sphere supposedly a chemical bomb but instead contains a small green haired woman named C.C, who is shot by the Britannians.
Before she dies, C.C transfers a mystical power to LeLouch called Geass, giving him the ability to control any human being through eye contact and follow his orders. With this new power at his disposal, and fuelled by vengeance against his father for her murder of his mother and the handicapping of his sister Nunnally, LeLouch reinvents himself as the masked resistance leader named Zero and forms the Black Knights comprising of the Elevens freedom fighters and spearheads an all out attack on the Britannian Empire to overthrow the current regime and create a new and peaceful world for Nunnally to live in.
And that is just the half of it. Over the course of twenty five episode we are taken on a – pardon the cliché – true rollercoaster ride of action, emotion and moral questioning in what is a truly unforgettable experience. Certainly it has its flaws with some niggling plot holes, while the show has received some criticism for its blending of many styles and genres, but the reality is this gives it broad appeal, engaging the audience on different levels while providing something for everyone. This also ensures that there is never a dull moment and keeps things moving at a swift pace whereas other shows of this length have a tendency to run out of steam before their time is up, something Code Geass cannot be accused of.
The cast is quite extensive as you can imagine and while the main players are easily recognisable and identifiable, some of the supporting cast occasional confuse the viewer as to which of the many factions they belong to. To counter LeLouch and providing a dynamic intrigue to the story is Suzaku Kururugi, LeLouch’s best friend since childhood, whose family took Lelouch and Nunnally in after the murder of their mother. The son of Japan’s last prime minister, Genbu Kururugi, Suzuka has his own cross to bear when he murdered his father after he refused to surrender in war, which has haunted him ever since. Suzuka later became an honorary Britannian and a top Knightmare pilot for the Empire, chosen to take on the newest model, Lancelot. Unaware that LeLouch is Zero and that Suzuka is the Lancelot pilot, the pair frequently clash in violent scuffles yet remain firm friends away from the battlefield. What would happen when the truth comes out?
With a genuine siblings at war tale featuring Lelouch and Nunnally’s half brothers and sisters leading the Britannian attack and Zero the resistance, forcing both sides to make difficult and controversial decisions, caught in the middle are their Britannian school friends, such as Shirley has a crush on LeLouch, and the sickly student Kallen who is in fact an Eleven freedom fighter, something she keeps hidden from the others. While she despises Britannian LeLouch, Kallen buys into Zero and his leadership hook, line and sinker, adding another layer of tension to the already fraught proceedings. Such duplicity is par for the course in Code Geass and it is not limited to secret identities either as we soon learn courtesy of the political aspect of the show which is ever present but never dominant.
The animation from Sunrise with character designs from CLAMP doesn’t disappoint – the latter’s spindly, sharp featured figures well suited for this show – and looks glorious in HD. For anyone concerned that cramming thirteen episodes onto one disc will mean a reduction in quality, fear not – it’s perfectly fine and there is room for the extras from the original DVD release too. Manga/Kaze will also be reissuing the second series which is a relief as this one concludes with arguably THE most heart stopping endings ever seen in anime.
Code Geass is a show about which many essays could be written on its well crafted and tightly woven storylines, its successful blend of humour, violence, Mecha, politics and drama. Admittedly it sometimes a little too bombastic for its own good, and is unquestionably a very partisan in its rhetoric of Japanese oppressors fighting against the nasty British, but there is little cause for offence on the part of us Brits. This is a series that demand your full attention and rewards it with one of the more intense, intelligent and involved stories seen in a long while.
A stunning and welcome reissue to start off the year and a highly recommended title to boot.
Japanese Language with English Subtitles
Audio commentary on Episodes 1, 4, 5, 8 & 11
Audio commentary on Episodes 14, 19, 21 & 25
Picture Drama – Stage 1
Ratings – **** ½
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