It’s been a while now since the series ended, but on reflection I think the many failures of Sunrise’s 50 episode long Pizza Hut commercial deserve another look. The mistakes the show made are in a lot of ways representative of larger problems in modern TV anime (although honestly I can’t think of any other series with such gratuitous product placement). Obviously anyone who expected a giant robot series to take the genre anywhere it hasn’t been already was fooling themselves, but what makes Geass interesting is that it was actually a rather ambitious show in its own way (not that its ambition did it any good).
The series sprung fully-formed from the brow of Ichiro Okouchi. Don’t feel bad if the name isn’t familiar, he’s a screenwriter and hasn’t written an original story before or since (for my money he’s never really written one at all). Despite Code Geass not being based on an original comic or novel and not being part of a popular franchise like Gundam, the show’s creators were determined from the outset to turn the series into a money-maker. To this end they garnered corporate sponsorships from several large companies, turned character design over to the well-known fujoshi circle CLAMP, and hired the famous Norio Wakamoto to play the series’ royal antagonist. I don’t think mecha anime have ever really been about much more than selling toys, but Geass was conceived with very high expectations, and the writers took pains to stretch the already dangerously thin plot concept into a sickeningly broad appeal.
In terms of the basic structure of the plot, Code Geass is in many ways similar to Death Note. A bored genius is granted a supernatural power that allows him to control others, which he decides to use in order to change the structure of society. Along the way, he loses some of his humanity and are eventually defeated by his close friend and rival who adheres to a stricter moral code. From there Geass’ writers strove to attach as many tropes as possible, like lucky charms to assure commercial success. First, an alternate history that makes the show a nationalistic tale of revolutionary freedom fighters (that the downtrodden Nipponese are lead by a British aristocrat is never questioned). Next, the critically un-moe Ryuk is replaced by a buxom witch, and a smattering of weirdness about a race of psychic, immortal aliens and the collective unconscious is tacked on. An imperious prince with a tragic past and a classically lanky CLAMP body is added to win over the fangirls. Mecha are put into the mix to bring in the giant robot crowd. A score of almost entirely useless tertiary characters are created and given intimations of romance for no particular reason. And finally and most ridiculously, the show asks us to accept the idea that while this band of teenagers are directing a war that kills hundreds of thousands of people, they are all coincidentally attending the same high school, where they have wacky student council adventures. Thus is born the world’s first alternate history, supernatural drama, high school comedy, royal succession, lesbian romance, mecha war tragedy anime, and its identical twin second season.
Obviously, taking bits from every sub-genre and mashing them together doesn’t make Code Geass greater than the sum of its parts. To start with, the morality of the show is completely flawed. Although Death Note isn’t innocent of glorifying its murderous antihero, the impression you’re given by the series (hopefully) is that, visions of a perfectly just society aside, you probably shouldn’t just kill everyone you don’t like. Light begins the show with pure intentions and is forced to give up more and more until the horror of his ‘end justifies the means’ philosophy is exposed. By contrast, although Lelouch is also driven to increasingly horrible acts, the show’s ending seems to suggest that he was in fact justified in killing and deceiving all those thousands of people, including the ones closest to him. There’s something a little creepy about the moral of the story being ‘it’s ok to mind-control and murder anyone up to and including your own family as long as you’re working to bring the world under the control of a single government’. Not to mention his conflict with Charles in the not-very-well-explained Sword of Akasha, where he opposes the plan to merge human beings into the collective unconsciousness because he feels they should make the choice themselves. Which is all well and good except that the show ends with him forcing the world to unite by fooling them into hating him. That is to say, he uses deception to force his views on them after all. It’s silly to expect ethics in a TV anime deeper than ‘the power of friendship and love triumphs over all,’ but if the show could avoid directly contradicting itself it would be a lot more enjoyable.
Of course, even if you wanted to take the show’s themes seriously, you’d be hard-pressed to reconcile them with the absolutely retarded school subplot. It’s hard enough to believe that the incredibly talented teenagers who are responsible in large part for the upcoming wars just happen to attend the same private high school, but what really damages the show’s credibility (such as it is) is the zany hijinx they participate inbetween battles of their guerrilla war. Did these episodes add anything to the show? Did anyone who really appreciated Code Geass actually enjoy the idiotic filler? How can you take the show’s drama seriously when halfway through both seasons they take a break from fighting over the future of mankind to cook the world’s biggest pizza?
Oh man, don’t forget the pizza. Somewhere along the line, Pizza Hut must have dumped a million dollars into this show and they got their money’s worth. If there’s anything that distracts more from the plot (again, if you can call it that) than the moronic high school antics, it’s the constant, unrelenting stream of advertising. Anime is hardly above product placement, but C.C. spends half the series acting cool and mysterious while lugging around a huge plushie of Pizza Hut’s mascot. This shit is creative brutalism, blatantly displaying the show’s function (make a ton of money) where a more tasteful writer might have thrown in some authorial buttresses or facades to hide it. By the way, after the first season’s aforementioned ‘world’s largest pizza’ contest, the writers went ahead and duplicated the same damn episode for R2, because it was just so great the first time. I guess the one addition to the second version would be the references to Mahou Sensei Negima, and the only thing more embarrassing than retreading your own stupid filler has got to be realizing that when it comes to meshing together different genres and presenting a wide variety of interesting characters you’re seriously outclassed by Ken Akamatsu (manga version only). You know you’ve hit rock bottom when the Love Hina guy can write a cooler action story than you.
That’s not an accusation I throw around lightly by the way; the characterization of Negima‘s cast of one-dimensional loli archetypes was almost as flat as their chests, but Geass still beats Negima out for lamest because of the show’s major failures in illustrating motivations. Any given character might end up switching sides (without ever looking back) several times per season, and they all tended to fall in love at the drop of the hat. Characters and their actions were ridiculously contrived to meet moe quotas and the weird, undulating course of the plot. What was the point of the ninja maid? What on earth was up with that Diethard guy (literally a rebel without a cause)? What happened to Kallen’s loyalty? Hell, why did Lelouch make those bumbling advances towards her? Perhaps silliest and most shamelessly nonsensical was Nina’s crazy one-sided lesbian crush; if ever the Oxford English Dictionary comes out with an electronic edition that supports Youtube embeds, this will be the entry for gratuitous:
Last time I saw actual masturbation in anime was Eva, and for all Eva’s weirdness, it still made more sense there. It’s not like Nina’s affection for Euphimia wasn’t already made crystal clear, Geass makes its viewers voyeurs for no good damn reason. Note that this is the broadcast version of the scene; DVD owners are privileged to see the table’s corner covered with a thin sheen of Nina’s shameful secretions.
Probably my biggest complaint about Geass as an anime though is how incredibly weak it is as an action/drama show (probably the sub-genre it fits best in of the many that could describe it). It offers a few lukewarm mecha fights, which I don’t know enough about giant robot shows to judge, but I suppose they are okay if you’re into that kind of thing. But while Death Note and even more pedestrian shounen shows usually delve into the tricky plans and tactical reversals of individual conflicts, Lelouch’s genius manifests itself throughout the show in exactly two brilliant stratagems: predicting his opponent’s words and using the terrain against them. The first time he anticipates and pre-records a conversation in order to trick Kallen into believing he wasn’t Zero, it isn’t exactly a genius masterstroke, but the viewer is suitably impressed by the delayed revelation of how he pulled it off. When he uses the same trick to beat C.C.’s jilted ex-boytoy, it’s not as interesting but still a valid tactic. But in the show’s finale, when Lelouch at last topples his greatest foe by using the exact same trick he did in the third episode of the first season, I think it’s fair to say that the deception has worn a little thin. The old Sun Tzu standby of turning the terrain against his enemies is similarly overused, especially in episode 10 of R2, when after the Black Knights gain the upper hand by employing the terrain against the Chinese forces, they are defeated by the enemy general’s use of precisely the same strategy.
A good example of the show’s lack of strategic intrigue is its failure to ever really expand on the chess motif. Although Lelouch is purportedly a grandmaster-level genius and several times uses a king-shaped control device, at the several points in the story where characters are playing chess the layout of the pieces is never shown. It’s pretty amusing that the writers of a show with a prominent chess theme couldn’t even be assed to google ‘chess stalemate’ or something to find a suitable scenario to rip off for Lelouch’s tie with his brother Schneizel in R2. When chess pieces do accidentally end up on-screen, their positioning generally appears to be nonsensical and random.
But by far the lamest dramatic turn the show takes is Lelouch’s accidental hypnosis of his beloved sister on the eve of peace. With all the pieces in place for a complete end to hostilities and plans made for a restoration of the Japanese citizenry to equality and self-determination, Lelouch pisses the whole thing away by accidentally making a poorly-chosen example of a horrible command binding to his sister. Of course, I could forgive that the show’s plot tips on such a flimsy fulcrum if maybe Lelouch’s mistake were symbolic of the irresponsibility of absolute command or something, but that doesn’t seem to be the lesson that Lelouch takes from the disaster. He just keeps on hypnotizing people willy-nilly including, at one point, all of humanity’s collective unconsciousness and keeps on fighting the war for which he personally ruined the best chance of winning. The entire plot of the rest of the show can be said to have sprung from that one comedic screw-up that looked like it was straight out of a 4-koma comic.
Considering the ridiculous number of advantages Geass should have had over other anime, it was not only a creative failure but a commercial one too (it did move some DVDs, but its ratings were fairly low for the money involved). What lessons should animators take from Code Geass’ lukewarm reception? First and most important: that shoving together conflicting elements to increase viewer appeal will badly damage a show’s credibility and overall quality. It’s certainly not impossible to have comedic moments in a dramatic show, but making the plot bend over backwards to accommodate a ridiculous school setting can only damage the viewers’ suspension of disbelief. Second: if morality is a strong theme in a show, that morality shouldn’t contradict itself. Moral ambiguity is certainly a powerful artistic device, but if you want to paint characters as being entirely good, having them act directly against the philosophies they espouse confuses the story’s message. Third: half-assed characterization and half-assed plots make for half-assed anime. No matter what the quality of the CG, or the pedigree of the voice actors or the previous successes by the character designers, the story just won’t be interesting if it’s populated by characters whose motivations we don’t understand or if it just plain sucks. The progression from comic to anime usually helps weed out the weakest stories, and I think Code Geass’ in-vitro creation was part of what led it to being such a poor show.
And finally: if a show has characters with foreign names, they should avoid syllables that don’t exist in the voice actors’ native language. Really now; Lelouch? Rolo? Charles? Villeta? V.V.? Japanese doesn’t even have a voiced labiodental fricative (the ‘Vee’ sound). Whoever’s responsible for these names must be some kind of linguistic sadist. I’ve got to hand it to them though, listening to Jun Fukuyama struggling with his ‘L’s was the only thing that kept me going through 2 seasons of Geass. In any case, given the series’ poor ratings, my hopes are that next time a large studio decides to put together a surefire moneymaker they’ll more carefully consider the show they invest in.
I rather enjoyed both seasons of the show a good deal. I think I enjoyed most of the things you stated to justify how much it sucks.
Perhaps this isn’t conducive to discussion, as your (stated unnecessary) abrasiveness (in your about page) will lead you to say that my taste sucks, or say something not nice about my credibility.
The show gave me thrills, filled me with awe, titillated my fancy, and generally engaged me emotionally (including hate: for characters, mecha, plot turns, quirks, etc etc). All in it’s a net positive experience for me, and I will enjoy it again soon.
To each his own. I don’t presume to question anyone’s taste, the points I made were to point out how the show objectively didn’t meet certain standards, if you enjoy it in spite of or because of those failures that’s your prerogative. And you have as much credibility as anyone else who watched the show, as that same about page you mentioned says I’ll respond to your comment in the same spirit you posted it. Though I can’t say I engaged with any of the characters or the plot, for reasons I go into in-depth in the post itself, so if you want to explain why you thought they were effective that might be interesting.
Thank you. My reasons vary from character to character (to stick to one element of the show), from the superficial — Kallen’s powers of fighting, to the meta — the reference/reverence of older Sunrise shows via the same character (Kallen, and her Gurren KF heavily reference Mobile Fighter G Gundam). The camp of Emperor Charles and the over-the-top performance by Wakamoto, to his ludicrous demise when he turned into something that references Mobile Suit Gundam’s Zeong mobile suit.
Less superficially, I enjoyed the character turns of Cornelia li Britannia who can be said is totally wasted on R2, and yet provided one of my memorable moments: when she counsels Viletta that there are more important things in life than peerage. Indeed I enjoyed this growth.
This is not to say that there aren’t hordes of wasted characters in the show, but in my experience the highlights that the main characters provide overshadow the poor handling of the lesser ones.
Outside of characters, I did enjoy things like this 
The Narita writeup is pretty impressive, but I can’t help but think that you may have put more effort into your analysis than the writers did into the battle’s creation. I’m no judge of mecha action, so if you say Geass is relatively high quality I’ll take you at your word (and the meta stuff is definitely way over my head). But I wasn’t seeing a lot of interesting strategy, and as I mentioned the repetition of ‘using the terrain’ got pretty stale.
I remember Cornelia’s advice, and I remember thinking how hollow it sounded set against the cast of characters. Lelouch and Suzaku are both children of heads of state, as are Schneizel, Cornleia herself, and Euphemia. Jeremiah is a nobleman, Kallen is the illegitimate daughter of aristocracy, Shirley and the Student Council prez are both daughters of nobles. I can’t think of man major characters who aren’t part of the nobility, except for C.C. (witch), Rolo (essentially adapted into nobility by the end), Nina (worships royalty), and Villeta herself. Despite Cornelia’s words, the show is pretty virulently anti-proletarian (I’m leaving a lot of people out of this analysis because there are so damn many of them but you get the idea).
Also while Norio Wakomoto was a pleasure to listen to, he would be pretty incredible in anything ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_lzG9MnkVlA ). e: fixed url
“The Narita writeup is pretty impressive, but I can’t help but think that you may have put more effort into your analysis than the writers did into the battle’s creation”
Prejudice much? Just because it did nothing for you doesn’t mean they didn’t actually put effort into it.
“Despite Cornelia’s words, the show is pretty virulently anti-proletarian”
It’s just fiction. It doesn’t need to promote any class struggle or what have you.
The mecha action is just okay, if a lot flashy. As for strategy, terrain sort of always is a factor but yes it should’t be such a surprise every single time for us viewers.
Cornelia’s turn comes at an epiphany, and peerage isn’t criticized here as a system, but rather it’s a comment on bending out of shape to win peerage and find oneself among mostly ignoble nobles. Cornelia has then doubted the wisdom of ‘manifest destiny’ of Britannian royalty/nobility to rule. But yes, it’s less a commentary on class.
I see what you mean, Cornelia herself didn’t think much of the aristocracy she belonged to, but in the end it’s those people who the show paints as being responsible for shaping the world, with very little help from commoners except as foot soldiers. And I think you’re right about Cornelia’s role being downplayed in R2, it’s a shame that she and a lot of other minor characters were never really developed or given much dimension, it would have made for a much better show.
It is like a B-Horror movie, so bad that its good.
With the amount of money and talent that went into the show ‘so bad it’s good’ is pretty weak. Besides, that kind of thing can be entertaining once in a while, but these days it seems way too prevalent in anime. It would be nice to see a show that’s good because it’s well-made or clever, not because it’s comically awful.
“And finally and most ridiculously, the show asks us to accept the idea that while this band of teenagers are directing a war that kills hundreds of thousands of people, they are all coincidentally attending the same high school, where they have wacky student council adventures”
Welcome to anime.
“Did these episodes add anything to the show?”
They provided contrast and developed a couple of ideas, here and there.
Not that it couldn’t have been done differently, but you did ask.
“By contrast, although Lelouch is also driven to increasingly horrible acts, the show’s ending seems to suggest that he was in fact justified in killing and deceiving all those thousands of people, including the ones closest to him. ”
Suffering and punishment is equal to justification now?
“Which is all well and good except that the show ends with him forcing the world to unite by fooling them into hating him. That is to say, he uses deception to force his views on them after all.”
If you ignore the central difference between Lelouch’s plan and those of Charles and Schneizel, that is, but never mind.
“It’s silly to expect ethics in a TV anime deeper than ‘the power of friendship and love triumphs over all’ but if the show could avoid directly contradicting itself it would be a lot more enjoyable.”
Not quite. I would say that, in this specific case, your particular interpretation of the show is what creates the contradiction.
“Considering the ridiculous number of advantages Geass should have had over other anime, it was not only a creative failure but a commercial one too (it did move some DVDs, but its ratings were fairly low for the money involved) ”
I think your use of the word “some” is…extremely conservative.
Just as your idea of “commercial failure” is rather liberal.
You also seem to be blind to the existence of merchandise too.
Ratings aren’t the only factor though, and there have been statements that go against your all too negative assessment.
Not that this means anything unless either of us actually had the concrete numbers about the “money involved”, but whatever.
Oh, what the hell. bye.
And? So the fact that other anime are terrible makes it okay for Geass to be terrible?
You keep harping on this contrast thing in every post you make but who cares? Contrast for contrast’s sake doesn’t make an anime any good. Great, those wacky high school episodes showed contrasts in Lelouch’s character. It doesn’t make it any less ridiculous that these world-changing fighters on both sides of the war also happen to go to the same high school, make pizza and chase cats. Eureka Seven’s band of counter-culture surfers saving the world is easier to swallow than Geass’ tripe. Oh I guess I just don’t “get it.” Feel free to keep hand-waving any argument off as people not getting your singular interpretation of the show. By the way, regardless of the tone in Fin’s massive essay, she was cordial to you in reply, all things considered.
No, it just means that you probably shouldn’t watch shows where the premise itself is going to make you pull your hair out, since it’s so automatically “terrible” and impossible for you to suspend enough disbelief. Whatever else happened, you knew that’s what you were getting into.
It’s like complaining about the antics in Higurashi, to name another example. Oh wait. You people do.
“It doesn’t make it any less ridiculous that these world-changing fighters on both sides of the war also happen to go to the same high school, make pizza and chase cats.”
I already answered that above. In your position, I wouldn’t even bother watching the show in the first place since that’s made clearly very early on. Kinda defeats the purpose. That goes for Eureka 7 as well, now that you brought it up.
Considering how my own points are being handwaved, let alone stuff that the show itself spells out on occasion, what else did you expect?
This is so pointless because it applies to the history of any criticism whatsoever. Don’t like Freddy Got Fingered? WELL MAYBE YOU SHOULDN’T WATCH SOMETHING YOU KNEW WOULDN’T LIKE. You’re just being a troll at this point and so I’m going to ignore you.
And you’ve spoken your mind on this topic and have made your opinions oh so very clear; it’s time to move on. Please refrain from either attacking Fin in every comment she makes or any positive comments she gets.
Meh, forgot one…
“What happened to Kallen’s loyalty? ”
What, does loyalty equal blind obedience in your book?
Oh, for heaven’s sake…visibly rolling my eyes now. Sheesh.
Why purpose did the contrast created by the filler episodes serve? From my point of view they looked like just that, filler.
Lelouch suffers, but gets his way. His atrocious methods lead to the world uniting. To my mind that’s the show justifying his actions because of the end result.
The principle difference between Charles’ and Schneizel’s plans and Lelouch’s seems to be that the former relied on force and the latter relied on deception. Neither seems like a really praiseworthy method of unification. What difference are you referring to?
Which interpretation do you mean? And how do you think the Lelouch’s words and actions aren’t contradictory?
If you can find something about the costs and profits of the show I’ll edit them in, all I could find out was that R2 had poor ratings and better DVD sales. They don’t seem to report gross like they do for movies in the US so I doubt anyone outside of the people involved really knows how much they made, but from the cast and the studio and the involvement of CLAMP I don’t think it’s unfair to assume that there was a considerable investment.
Kallen changes sides just like every other character, hers just stood out to me because while Lelouch seemed to value her above the goals of the organization, she didn’t reciprocate.
And ‘visibly rolling my eyes’ is a hilariously pointless and petty thing to say, hope this helps.
Alright. Just for the record, not that it matters now, but whatever.
“Why purpose did the contrast created by the filler episodes serve? From my point of view they looked like just that, filler.”
You need to look back and try to understand Lelouch’s character in order to get why there would be a contrast and what purpose it would serve, but going by your other answers that doesn’t seem to be something you want to attempt. Which is fine, do your worst.
In other words, this debate is getting pointless since you’re working from a completely different interpretation of the show and it doesn’t even overlap with mine. Normally that wouldn’t be a problem, that’s life for you and me, but given the tone of your opening post…it is.
One that, in my opinion, leaves too many objective details out in favor of focusing on real or merely perceived things that bothered you, even if the show sometimes actually spelled out that a different logic was at work, instead of yours. So this talk is, again, increasingly pointless.
“Lelouch suffers, but gets his way. His atrocious methods lead to the world uniting. To my mind that’s the show justifying his actions because of the end result.”
Just because he accomplished one of his goals, perhaps the biggest one admittedly, doesn’t mean he was in the right. In fact, I came out of the show with the impression that he had sacrificed far too much, killed far too much, and only came out ahead by process of elimination and the extent of his self-sacrifice, not because he was inherently “justified.”
If anything, I think it shows that those who go down Lelouch’s path will only accomplish something at too high a price, for both themselves and others around them…if they don’t end up lonely, dead or worse in the process. Yeah, that’s nice enough…where do I sign?
“The principle difference between Charles’ and Schneizel’s plans and Lelouch’s seems to be that the former relied on force and the latter relied on deception. Neither seems like a really praiseworthy method of unification. What difference are you referring to?”
That’s the thing. Force goes against free will and all the other plans pretty much remove freedom of choice from the equation (in exchange for being objectively “better” in terms of a lasting peace) while Lelouch’s respects it the most. Comparatively speaking. Lelouch’s plan forces a certain short-to-medium term outcome, to be fair, but it allows free will to continue on in the long run.
Lelouch’s point was not to create lasting “unification” per se, but to create the conditions a “kind(er)” world where people keep the ability to choose to be kind to each other and struggle for their own future. Even if they screw it up, they have the choice to keep struggling for it. Which is all rather ironic, when you think about it, as even Schneizel noticed in the actual show, but makes sense after all the crap Lelouch went through. Poorly executed as some parts where, admittedly.
Yeah…I don’t think you’re going to care about this, are you? That’s swell. I’ll stop there and leave it in whatever shape it was left when I did.
“If you can find something about the costs and profits of the show I’ll edit them in, all I could find out was that R2 had poor ratings and better DVD sales. They don’t seem to report gross like they do for movies in the US so I doubt anyone outside of the people involved really knows how much they made, but from the cast and the studio and the involvement of CLAMP I don’t think it’s unfair to assume that there was a considerable investment.”
I’d love to, if I had them. Sucks. But, for example, we have a statement from last December showing that Sunrise thinks the show did well and they want to try producing something else, and earlier statements about the total number of DVDs (all across the board). Look that up if you want/care. Perhaps it would be more accurate to say that the franchise is doing better than the second season alone though, since you seem to think this is all about R2 and are writing out the first season (and merchandise and etc)…which on its own actually proves you can have low ratings (nope, people didn’t watch the first series more or anything, go look it up if you care enough) and still be surprisingly successful commercially.
“Kallen changes sides just like every other character, hers just stood out to me because while Lelouch seemed to value her above the goals of the organization, she didn’t reciprocate.”
Honestly…you missed that Lelouch intentionally kept her out of the plan, turning her against him on purpose, despite the fact she did everything except beg him to let her be at his side, when nobody else even gave him a chance?
“And ‘visibly rolling my eyes’ is a hilariously pointless and petty thing to say, hope this helps.”
I thought it was appropriate given your amount of venom…and after a short period of doubt, that’s still fair enough.
And now back to…whatever the blogger decides to do with this. Including nothing.
I’ll gladly respond to your points at length later in the day. If you could until then, and also after then, forgo attacking other people who are commenting here just because they don’t hate the post as much as you do, that would be swell. Thanks in advance.
First of all, again, if you disagree with what I’ve written you’re more than welcome to talk directly to me. Don’t harass other people leaving comments just because you disagree with them.
If you think the contrast provided by the filler is important to Lelouch’s characterization and that our interpretations of the show are fundamentally different please explain why rather than assuming I’ll automatically dismiss your arguments. Otherwise you’re right, we are wasting our time.
Given that Lelouch was always willing to die for his cause and in the end he goes out with a smile on his face, I think it’s pretty clear he was willing to pay the price for his kinder world. More to the point, a unification created by deception seems to me to be morally closer to one created through force than it is to one chosen through free will. Lies and violence are just different kinds of coercion. If you want to see it that way then I’ll concede that the flaw I saw in that part of the show is more about philosophy than continuity.
If you have numbers, post them. Nonspecific reports from the company are always going to be positive and are unlikely to fully describe the situation. Again, if you’re right I’ll edit the part about poor ratings, but it won’t invalidate any of the criticisms of the show itself.
I realize Lelouch was trying to make sure Kallen would be in the clear after his death, but that after the relationship they shared throughout the show she decides not to believe in him in spite of his words seemed odd to me. It’s a pretty minor point and comes down to how you viewed the characters I guess.
And no, ‘visibly rolling my eyes’ is still snarky and unnecessary, as is bugging the other people who are leaving comments.
After giving this some more thought…I won’t take back the points I made, because the issues themselves mostly remain what they are, but I can at least apologize for the worst parts of my attitude. Yes, that was rude and probably not what I should have done, in hindsight, but I got carried away.
I don’t think it’s necessary to elaborate on everything though, particularly when the editorial doesn’t go into equal amounts of detail to back up every other statement either. That’s one of my concerns, in fact, in addition to a lot of the content itself, but never mind.
If you don’t mind my doing so, I could go ahead and reply.
I’m asking first, before spending time on a long post for no reason (or even less of one).
I’ll just add that when I provide my own interpretation about something, that doesn’t mean everything about it is perfect or flawless and that everyone should agree with me. It sounds that way, very much so, but that’s not really it.
What bothered me (and I read this editorial before anything else on this blog, so there you go) is the implication that only a skeptical (or cynical) perspective that criticizes a show and finds nothing of value is considered the “thinking” thing to do, while someone such as myself who does find a few interesting aspects to like and could go on about them is, by extension, either “brainless” or “mindless.”
I should have reacted in a calm way, despite the tone of the article not helping, but I didn’t. That’s what prompted me to rudely say that people weren’t getting the point, it’s a sign of frustration to the implication that there is none and that it would be wrong to even try.
I would freely admit that a lot of the show was very uneven and very messy. Not everything works. But some things still had a recognizable purpose in spite of that, which is what can be interpreted, as opposed to just labelling the entire thing as pointless and not trying. Naturally, if you don’t like something that’s already a mess, there’s no incentive to care enough in the first place, but the opposite is also true.
This is getting too long, but that’s probably one of my last messages here, if not the last, so there you go.
You can do whatever you’d like as long as it isn’t name-calling. If you don’t think Fin’s arguments hold up, just explain why. My biggest problem was that Fin attempted to respond calmly in the comments to you, but you maintained your angry tone and then felt it was necessary to address everyone who did give Fin a favorable comment.
No one’s denying this, but having a purpose doesn’t validate the show’s shortcomings. Yes, the high school episodes provided contrast to Lelouch’s character/personality, but couldn’t they provide that contrast in another way? My issue with Geass is that it tried to simultaneously pander to as many anime fandoms as possible, spoiling what I thought was a promising start in the first few episodes. It ruined the tone and feel of the show to me to go from liberating Japan to making pizza in high school even if it provided contrast, but you seem to disagree. Yes, it’s silly to watch an anime where I’ll obviously dislike the premise, but I didn’t watch the entire anime nor does it mean I (or Fin) can’t criticize the anime.
But I don’t think Fin did that. And others (who are strangers to this blog–we’re a month old so I doubt we have many regular readers so nevermind “sycophants”) have agreed with Fin’s points so the article can’t be as worthless as you seem to be implying. I agree somewhat with you that Fin maybe went too far in declaring the show “unsuccessful” with no concrete sources to back it up. I’d be surprised if it didn’t sell a lot of DVDs. But I don’t disagree with Fin on some other points and if you do, feel free to discuss it.
It can’t be any longer than Fin’s article.
I know, this isn’t exactly going to be of much interest by now (or to begin with). Still, after taking a break for a few days…I just felt like addressing some of the issues that were left hanging, given my own silence, so if nothing else this will attempt to accomplish that much.
Do I expect anything else? No, not really. I could also have made this longer and more comprehensive, given enough time and motivation, but for now this is it.
Picking up where things left off, more or less…here goes nothing.
1. The school sequences may not always be fun to watch and some of them were frankly too ridiculous for me, the worst being the second festival in R2, but that doesn’t mean they were all equally pointless in purpose.
The character dynamics involving Ashford at one point or another, such as Lelouch/Suzaku, Lelouch/Nunnally, Lelouch/Shirley and so forth, if you are able to think about them without dismissing the whole thing as shipping material, can actually be fairly interesting at times, mainly during the first season (objectively less so in R2, but there are still a few moments that qualify as such). I won’t go over each and every one of them right now, but here’s an overview of the main point involved.
Lelouch is obviously a student, not a 24/7 rebel, as much as he might want to be. He doesn’t want to stay at Ashford and do nothing, of course not, but his quest isn’t merely one of a young man seeking revenge for its own sake. He’s doing it for Nunnally, or rather for what he thinks she wants, and that’s why he was living at Ashford to begin with. Through her he also developed an attachment to the Ashford gang as a whole. All those ridiculous stunts aren’t of much value in and of themselves, but they are one of those things that brings people together.
The basic idea is that doing the stupid school stuff at Ashford comes to represent the kind of happy life Lelouch could have had and what other people actually wanted for him, such as Shirley and Nunnally herself in particular.
At one point in R2 Lelouch even fools himself into thinking that he can have it all and makes that his revised reason for fighting (going back to Ashford to share a ridiculous display of fireworks with his friends, etc.), after getting over Nunnally trying to play the role of Euphemia (even though he doesn’t get over her in general, until the final arc). It doesn’t work out that way, as everyone knows. His friends get involved or he finds out that they already were, they die or end up turning against him, he blames himself or suffers because of it and ultimately loses any opportunity to go back to that carefree life of festivals and time wasting.
2. I would not say Lelouch wasn’t willing to sacrifice himself, but The Fin seemed to think he didn’t lose a lot by doing so -maybe even more than he was originally prepared to lose- and was somehow rewarded just because he’s satisfied that his last plan is finally working out. His smile doesn’t mean he had no other desires and hopes. Those had been denied to him, both out of choice (it was his own plan, after all) and out of circumstance. He was a man who, in a sense, ultimately never got over his own suffering and the weight of his own sins, despite playing the role of both a rebel and an evil emperor, and came to seek punishment. He just didn’t want to go out without making his efforts worth something, as opposed to Suzaku or C.C. who had a more direct death wish.
There’s a difference in philosophy, but even the deception itself is only of limited effect as coercion. It’s the kind of deception that still allows people to make free choices on their own afterwards. Lelouch isn’t in control of the world’s entire destiny nor does he think there will be a permanent peace for hundreds of years. The world is still quite free to fall into chaos and probably will, in fact, tend to, but people will continue to struggle on their own.
Lelouch came to understand, in the end, that he can’t force his will on others forever (and that he had to pay a price for what he had done before). He re-arranged the world map and set up some favorable circumstances using deception, but it’s up to others to decide what to do next within the new status quo. That’s something they couldn’t even hope for under Schneizel (behave or get nuked) or Charles (we are all going to be one, like it or not).
3. I wasn’t suggesting sales invalidate all criticism. That’s what arguments do. I am not thinking that commercial success/value is equal to critical success/value, but then again I usually don’t bring the issue up myself. None of us can, really, hope to “fully describe the situation”…although I did mention other factors that can be looked up and which are involved.
If you want some numbers, it’s probably easier to post links.
TV ratings for many anime series, including Code Geass, by year/month:
There are more, certainly, but that should suffice at the moment.
Ratings for the first season in its after-midnight slot weren’t exactly high, but the show became a best seller easily enough. The second season had low to mediocre ratings (the last few episodes actually showed some improvements and raised the average) too, but still did a lot better than most other anime out there when the discs came out and people paid for them.
Unless we have an idea of the total production costs involved, we can only say that the series was a commercial success, in terms of sales, but it’s not necessarily clear that either season was or wasn’t “in the red.” Which also goes for a number of other shows, including critical successes praised on this blog, whose commercial status is…uncertain at best, some mainstream exceptions aside.
Btw, take into account that BD/DVD sales for Code Geass R2 were simultaneous, so double-dipping is going to be rare (many will buy DVDs and not the BDs, as well as vice versa). Bandai seems to have started doing that relatively recent.
I do wonder, as an aside, what would The Fin say about something like Gundam Seed Destiny, which not only was more commercially successful than Code Geass, both in terms of disc sales and TV ratings (probably merchandise as well, given the Gundam brand power), but also was more flawed and unsatisfactory in critical terms, for reasons both common and unique. In other words, this isn’t about teaching the industry a lesson about quality shows being commercially successful, as proven by a number of counter-examples (and, of course, it is also unfortunately true that many critically acclaimed shows can be commercial failures, regardless of all the praise).
4. It wasn’t a matter of belief for its own sake. Kallen believed in Lelouch because she thought that what he was doing was right. And loved him too, but that wasn’t everything. She had some doubts, but was still willing to die for his sake back in R2 19. What happened in R2 22 was that, given how his actions were apparently the opposite of what Zero stood for (it’s not like freedom-seeking terrorists usually become all-powerful Britannian emperors, or at least people don’t want to think they will), Kallen was asking for something, anything that would confirm she wasn’t wrong about him.
She wanted to be part of the plan or to get at least a “trust me” in return. The guy does nothing, on purpose, sets the world up against him and invades Japan. How exactly does anyone expect Kallen to accept that without a single word? Believing in him was what she had always done or tried to, outside of her moments of doubt, but this was a matter of actions and not words.
5. Finally, some words about the “lessons learned” that The Fin included as a conclusion to the editorial.
a)Conceptually speaking, I don’t think that’s an inherent problem as much as it is an issue that depends on specific execution and planning. I know that The Fin is referring to Code Geass in general, both seasons included, but I feel that if the show had followed a more natural progression *after the end of the first series*, which could have happened if circumstances related to production and programming had been more favorable…even the continued existence of all conflicting elements would have made for a better show.
I can tell that The Fin would probably disagree, from what I can gather, since this is a criticism directed towards the premise as a whole and not just any particular season or set of episodes.
As it were, the particular mix of elements Code Geass was employing during the first season didn’t really break my suspension of disbelief, and even during the second season the problems I had with the show (for there were several of them, just not to the point of being absolutely overpowering) did not involve its nature nor its premise….but rather the presentation and execution of the same.
b)Morality is certainly muddled in Code Geass, right from the beginning of the show, but I don’t believe Lelouch was painted as being entirely good, nor was hypocrisy something his character was unfamiliar with. He was obviously placed in a sympathetic position, to be honest, but that doesn’t mean he was morally right or not deserving a lot of what he got, whether you want to call it karma or something else. The show punishes him for that and while some individuals will value his sacrifice, for the purposes of history his own name will permanently live in infamy. Other than that, this also refers to what was previously discussed, so I won’t repeat the other side of the issue.
c)Not really or perhaps not necessarily. Even if I admit, and will proceed to do so quite openly, that there are many other shows that are much better than Code Geass in terms of both story and characterization, as is evident…there are enough flawed manga-to-anime adaptations and enough admirable anime original productions to prove that this line of thought is at best incomplete or even misleading at worst.
I think that a number of the problems with Code Geass, particularly those I see as opposed to those The Fin sees (only partially overlapping), have a lot more to do with production issues and behind-the-scenes decisions that may or may not have been avoided under more favorable circumstances, as opposed to being inevitable or related to the show not being literally based on a preexisting work. Having something to work from helps, but it guarantees nothing either way.
The rest would be a matter of going over all the specifics and adding examples upon examples, which I could do, but perhaps it would be both redundant and unnecessary for the limited purposes of this reply.
Your message had multiple links and it was marked as spam by WordPress. I hadn’t found it till now so you’ll have to pardon us if you didn’t see the message right away.
I’m still digesting this article. Quite hefty, and assumes knowledge of the show that I’ve long since forgotten. But this:
“A score of almost entirely useless tertiary characters are created and given intimations of romance for no particular reason.”
I don’t know why, but this sang to me as the most damning criticism. It’s just so horribly true. Of COURSE the creators would assume that shippers are tools and exploit those angles as much as possible. How could they not?
Focusing on so many pointless minor characters led to pretty much all of them being under-developed, I think. You never understood why half of them were doing what they did, they were just there for eyecandy or to explain away what would otherwise be an inconsistency in the plot. And, as you say, shipping of course, God knows 20-something factorial is a lot more pairings than 10 or 12 factorial (and that’s excluding threesomes and genderswaps).
This ensures instahits and flame war. Although I need to finish watching this…
I will confess to loving the views, but not the flame wars bit. Life’s too short to spend it arguing about anime on the internet without at least some pretense of civility. And I’m dead serious when I say I think the show was really bad (I can’t promise finishing it won’t leave you disappointed).
What’s wrong with shows giving us lessons in bad morals? It’s sort of why people like GTA. People have caught on that, in mainstream entertainment, evil is good and anarchy is king.
Good or bad, I would settle for consistent. If Lelouch plans on forcing the world into uniting against him anyway, why not just let Charles force them to unite by awakening the collective unconsciousness? Or let Schneizel create peace with military force? The show’s portrayal of good and evil is less important to me than the way the main character seems to directly contradict his own beliefs.
TheFin: That complaint is largely misleading though. They are not equivalent moral options at all. For a start, Lelouch never had a big problem with “forcing” people, so that’s not his basic objection. All three of the plans require using force to some extent, but with different methods and results.
Schneizel would kill billions and threaten to kill even more to maintain the peace. Everyone would live in constant fear of being bombed. I don’t think it’s too hard to see why allowing him to get away with massive genocide and ruling through fear isn’t a real possibility. All the damage Lelouch caused throughout the series would comparatively be a drop in the bucket.
Charles would change the nature of reality and make life on Earth radically different. It’s a fundamental rejection of human individuality in favor of metaphysical satisfaction. Personal experiences, identities, struggles, and free will would become meaningless if they were all part of a single unified collective, so it’s not too difficult to see why this isn’t a welcome proposition.
Compared to those ideas, Lelouch’s plan causes the least harm. The sacrifice of human lives is limited. It still allows everyone else to keep on living freely, without turning the world into a metaphysical collective. Yes, he has to use force to take over the planet, but that is only a temporary step and he will nevertheless be punished for his own sins. That’s a fundamental distinction. Once you look at those details, I’d say that his beliefs are actually rather consistent and there’s no contradiction, at least if you’re able to look past the surface similarity of using force.
I’ve got to say it’s nice to see an (exhaustive) post on Code Geass which isn’t trapped in memes, and I agree with much of your criticism. That said, I reckon the distracting in-jokes in the community do serve to kinda put the show in its place as something best enjoyed as exaggerated silliness.
The one thing which surprised me though was your mention of an ‘identical twin second season’. Now perhaps this is just because of the gap between my viewing the first and second runs, but I thought that the first was noticeably better. Partly I guess the gaps in coherence were less troubling when the overall story was still moving fast, and far from conclusion, but also I found the action more fun, the cast tighter, and the schemes more entertaining.
I don’t think it’s really what I’d call “exhaustive” as opposed to a rant, considering all the things it graphically waves away in order to make the author’s points, dripping with venom more than it really needs to.
And that’s the one thing that surprised you? I thought the post was “exhaustive” or was it not? Surely the author couldn’t have missed that!
Oh wait…given the track record, I don’t think that’s surprising.
You’re right about that last part, but give me a break. “Exhaustive.”
Which reminds me…
Hey, glad you liked it. I agree that the show was more enjoyable as exaggerated silliness than it was at face value, but I’m not sure that’s what the creators were actually going for, and it’s pretty ridiculous that with the talent and cash that went into Geass that exaggerated silliness is the best they can do.
As for R2, I think you’re right about the quality, I was talking more about the way they recycled things from the first season. Lelouch’s tricks are all rehashed versions of ones he used before, and the school festival thing was done over in much the same way. For a while at the beginning, when the first two episodes perfectly mirrored the first two of season one, I thought they were doing it on purpose, but on reflection I think they just copied and pasted a lot.
“I don’t think mecha anime have ever really been about much more than selling toys”
I raise in objection, Gunbuster, Diebuster and King Gainer, all mecha anime with little, if any merchandising (particularly noteworthy given that Gun and Diebuster were made by Gainax, the that shameless of cash cow milkers).
That said however, I’m in agreement with pretty much everything else in this article; it’s rather refreshing to read anything about CG that’s not written by a gushing fan.
By the way, I know this is off topic, but I loved your old article about the rape simulator ban
Refreshing? Glorified raging and bashing is refresing?
When it’s just a more wordy way of making the same fallacies and missing the same points as people who just rage blindly?
Whoa, talk about refreshing. New and interesting too.
I’m not gushing over the show either, believe it or not, if you ever saw what I rate it as….but there are well-written criticisms of it out there.
Just not this one. This is venom and not even particularly well prepared one at that. I’d pick a different poison.
And just because I agree,…Gunbuster is great. I can do without Diebuster, really, and Overman King Gainer has issues, but I don’t want to get “exhaustive” about it in a “refreshing” way.
Did you really feel the need to reply to every single one of Fin’s comments?
I have to admit, I just don’t know enough about mecha anime. When I get a chance down the line I’ll definitely check out the ones you named, my perception of the subgenre is hugely tainted by Gundam and Geass.
And I’m glad you liked this and the rape simulator post, I caught a lot of shit for that one. Of course, the Diet broke up for elections without voting on the legislation they were all freaking out about, I’d bet dollars to donuts that it gets sent to committee and/or tabled when they re-convene.
You seemed very well versed in the Japanese legal system. I believe you mentioned you are a fellow law student, so mind if I ask which system of law you are schooled in?
And yes, Gunbuster, Diebuster and King Gainer are all very much worth watching ^^ Also, I would suggest Gurren Lagann for its sheer manliness.
Just a prospective law student, I am still just a baby undergrad. I try to keep up with the news and I read some wikipedia before I wrote about Japanese law just so I wouldn’t embarrass myself, but I’ve still got a year or so before I start worrying about where I’m applying.
I’ll give those all a shot when I’m done with my current lineup of stuff to watch and write about, I feel like I’ve seen half of Lagann already just from parodies though.
Holy shit, 34 comments in like, two days? I knew you’d get a lot of hell for this post. :P Maybe I’ll set aside reading all the comments for later because Maximilian’s posts are really tl;dr.
I mostly enjoyed Code Geass, although it was more for the “so bad it’s good” trainwreck factor. So much of it was unintentionally hilarious, I think I ended up watching it more as a comedy than a legit drama/mecha/romance/’insert other genre CG tried to cover here’ anime.
And… ugh. Nina. That scene makes me depressed as hell. It didn’t help that after the whole table-kun incident, all she did was try to blow shit up. Psycho lesbian to the rescue!
I had a feeling this would stir some people up, but who knew Geass of all shows would have fans this fanatic? I can’t recommend reading Maximilian’s comments though, he never really substantiated his points and he seems to have given up.
You’re in the majority about the unintentional comedy it seems, and I did pick up on a little of that, but for me it was still disappointing that with all the talent and money they brought in, the best thing you can say about the show is that it’s so bad it’s funny. Trainwreck is a good word. As for Nina, I wish http://tinypic.com/r/316b77d/3 weren’t too long to have included in the post itself, it’s probably my favorite Geass-related image. Poor Nina, Euphemia’s ‘real’ love interest gets to live happily ever after as the new Zero and she has to live a life of suffering because she got all mad and created some crazy bomb.
Speaking of which, did you see Aoi Hana 3? I’m not ready to withdraw my initial assessment, but we asked for mature and out of the closet, and the show seems to be willing to deliver. I’m actually kind of psyched for episode 4, hopefully they won’t mess this up!
Well I guess fanboys/girls are the same in every fandom. It is a bit mind-boggling, though. CG is like, one of THE most favorited shows on MAL, and Lelouche is one of THE most favorited characters there too. What a popular asshole! I suppose I just went through the show only dealing with the part of the fandom that also found it to be a funny, funny trainwreck, and not the diehard fanboys/girls that seriously liked the show. The talent/money factor is unfortunate but nothing new… CG keeps reminding me of bad Hollywood movies, though. Star vehicles and things like that.
And yes, I did see it (been sick and lazy, so no blogging lately). I also read up to the most recent chapter in the manga after my rather harsh commentary on the second episode; I kinda stupidly wrote it off as boring, but the manga really picked up after the introductory chapters. I think it certainly delivers as far as mature and out of the closet, though; I’m looking forward to future chapters/episodes. It’s definitely a step up from most yuri turning a blind eye to the elephant in the room, anyway.
Oh jeez I just finished the fourth one and now I want to take back the nice things I said about episode three. My opinion about this show is just on a rollercoaster it seems, I’m going to go ahead and read the manga to see whether knowing the whole story will change my mind about the series yet again, and then write it up.
Really? I’ll have to check it out. If episode four dipped in quality again this show really is on a rollercoaster. :/ I think the manga was more consistent after a bit, but hopefully it won’t nosedive like the anime has. Augh.
I’ll just say that I only rate the show as 7/10, overall, when taking everything into consideration.
Surprised? Maybe not, that’s probably too high.
But if saying things that aren’t exclusively negative about it makes me a fanboy. then I don’t know how you’d described those who give it a 10/10.
I can’t deny the first two episodes of the first season was slick as hell and the ending made me interested again, especially the face off between Lelouch and Suzaku. Everything just bored me to tears in the middle, however, much for similar reasons provided by Fin. Except for the Battle of Narita, that was pretty fun. I watched like maybe half of season one to be honest. After maybe three episodes into season two, I didn’t like the direction the show was headed and just dropped the show altogether. Is Geass the worst thing ever? Nah, but I wouldn’t call it good. If 5 out of 10 is average, then between 3 or 4 for me.
Yo yo, any personal attacks from here on out will be considered spam. I’ve already put one away as spam. If you don’t like Fin’s article, disagree calmly like Ghostlightning please and don’t resort to ad hominem attacks, i.e. if you think she’s being condescending, don’t be the same jerk in response–be the bigger otaku (ho ho ho… impossible, no one’s bigger than Fin). If you think it’s silly to criticize an anime that pisses you off, take your own advice: don’t bother reading a blog post that pisses you off.
Uguu, you too. Don’t bait the guy.
Everything else aside, that would have been the wise thing to do.
Unfortunately, I let myself get carried away.
Quite a long and interesting commentary. I enjoyed Code Geass – well more so the first season, but its flaws, quirks, constant twists and strange characterizations also do not sit well with me. Especially the plot undermining, triumph squashing and never ending second season twists.
You are right about their ambition. I think they went so far that it undercut many of the very things we enjoy about good anime.
While I did enjoy the look of the CLAMP designed characters, you make a great point about this anime trying to be everything to everybody, including a “zany high school adventure” anime. It cannot do each genre to the depth they deserve – and sometimes need to be viable.
Yes, the cast. The tertiary characters were sometimes interesting, but with so many of them it did get confusing and the romances, while nice, never seemed to go anywhere. (Toudou was cool.) What was up with Nina? That character was just annoying.
I did find the ultra-serious and the ultra-comedic a poor mix. They did that better in Full Metal Panic. Yeah, the pizza thing (as in making the largest and in the Pizza Hut product placement) was strange. Also, how do high school presidents wield such power? See Regios.
I enjoyed some of the strategic mech battles in the first season, only a couple in the second. The whole show leaves me with a funny taste in my mouth. Not satisfying or happy.
Thanks for saying it all like your did. I weighed in on both seasons in a shorter way with a bunch of pics. Please check them out if you have the interest (while I know where you stand with your thorough statements above, comments are always nice):
Not as hard-hitting as yours, but entertaining none-the-less.
Oops, sorry this sat in the approval queue so long, I hadn’t been checking my comments.
I read your takes on Geass and it seems we picked up on a lot of the same things, i.e. the weaknesses of the plot and the nigh-pointless minor characters. Honestly I found the mecha strategies you liked to be one of the show’s weakest points, everything seemed to be explained by magical “prototypes” suddenly tipping the scales or a deus ex machina use of the battlefield (Lelouch’s ridiculous tanks of gas on the bottom of the sea made me laugh aloud when I first watched R2). The rest was just arbitrary lights on some huge tactical display blinking off interspersed with pictures of machines exploding. But it’s nice to see someone who can articulate an opinion about Geass (or any anime) without drooling all over every single aspect of the show.
Anyway thanks for the kind words, I’m too eager to leave Geass behind me to comment further but I will definitely check out more of your blog in the near future.
The reason I liked Death Note’s ending is because by the end, I felt like Light deserved to die like any other criminal, and he did. The reason I didn’t like Code Geass’ ending is because I felt like they just completely overlooked how messed up Lelouch was. By the way that they did the ending, it made it look like he was getting what he deserved, but they added all that, “throw all the sins on me like frigging Jesus” crap and made it heroic. Usually I’m able to keep my morals out when I’m watching a show, but just the way they glorified most of the mass murderers deaths in it just kinda ticked me off a little.
Oh and I’m sorry if this brings up bad memories and whatnot, but you mentioned it in the Twitter post and I just finished the series a few minutes ago, so I thought I’d comment.
Kizuku, I think you ought to take a look at some of the Death Note forums, start a thread saying ‘Light deserved to die’ and watch the drama that unfolds.
Yep, we anime fans are one cynical bunch that apply very loose morals when it comes to shows.
Although I too have a beef with Lelouch’s matyrdom. Not because he has been glorified since I admire revolutionaries but the fact that it’s been played out as one dead tyrant can mean a lifetime of peace.
I highly doubt with the racist tensions from the past hundred years, a resentful aristocracy as well as three superpowers is going to lead to ‘peace in their time’ anytime soon.
Thought I mention that Basquash! has beat Code Geass in the product placement category.
I mean, sure everyone ate pizza here, but Nike saved the freaking world! I was on the ground on that last epesode when the sales rep brought out the box with the “Swoosh”
What didn’t you like about Code Geass? I for one thought it was quite good. You forget they had a huge cast of characters so not everyone could recieve character developement although three characters annoyed me: Tamaki, Nina, and Shirley. Tamaki because of his “Zero and me are tight” crap, Nina because She was an insane racist, and Shirley because of her constant jealousy issues involving Lelough and other girls.
Here’s the thing: Zero Requiem happened because Lelouch had jumped the Despair Event Horizon following Nunnally’s apparent demise and the Black Knights’ betrayal. The latter of which owes a lot to Ohgi and Viletta, who unjustly got the happiest ending. For her part, Viletta, on top of being a constant thorn in Lelouch’s side throughout the series, quite possibly knew more than she was letting on about Geass in her part of the testimony, given that she was part of the security detail following the Black Rebellion, making it seem as if she was playing a Wounded Gazelle Gambit. As for Ohgi, he was so whipped by Viletta, he all too easily went along with her story. Not to mention that he also as such bought into Schneizel’s half-truths too easily. The worst part was his hypocrisy. He took issue with Lelouch abandoning the BKs during the Black Rebellion and using them as pawns, when he himself had just abandoned his own BK post to meet Viletta, who wanted to kill him at the time so that she could get out of the blackmail she was caught up in (which Lelouch did only to escape Viletta’s grasp), and was now using Kallen to lure out Lelouch and would have had her shot down with him if not for Lelouch’s fake confession of evil, and last but not least of course, there was the deal for Japan in exchange for Lelouch made without the UFN’s consent, which would have left the UFN and its nations abandoned in their fight for freedom from Britannian supremacy. Not to mention that nobody from the Black Knights paid no mind to Ohgi’s or Viletta’s tryst, even though the latter was a Britannian agent, and that they were all hypocrites for their revulsion over Lelouch’s history as a Britannian prince, given that they were trusting the word of the most dangerous present Britannian royal, Schneizel, not to mention Viletta. In the end, Viletta joining the Black Knights was nothing more than an inexplicable Get Out of Jail Free Card for her.
I will agree that Cornelia didn’t get enough development during R2, but I still think they could have done more to redeem her character, like make her atone/repent for the atrocities against non-Britannians she had committed, because she came across as another Karma Houdini in the end.
who did you think was most suited to be with Lelouch?
Well, that’s just like, your opinion, man.
To be honest though, I dislike your constant reference to themes and symbolism and the such. A huge number watch for a good story. I could care less to what Code Geass is an allegory for, to be honest. That stuff needs to be left in English class, and there’s a reason why English majors don’t tend to really accomplish anything. If the purpose of Code Geass was to symbolize or support the theme of the ends justifying the means, then that would’ve been fine. However, you’re somewhat jumping into conclusions and expecting for everything to stand as a symbolic message. So, honestly, I don’t get the entire rant about themes. I thought it was a great story. Not many of us like literary fiction, and it’s worse when those who do try to push it onto others; not that I’m saying you’re doing that.
Now, addressing your complaints about realism, I can only say one thing: If you want realism, walk out the door. The rest of us will be enveloped by the world of fiction.
While I did notice many faults in Code Geass while watching the show, few of them really disturbed me for more than a short moment and Code Geass still remain one of my favourite animes.
The casual high-school day episodes were pretty terrible and probably my biggest issue (aside from the part in R2 where C.C suddenly goes “super-shy girl”). But those can pretty much be skipped trough without missing out on anything important, so even those didn’t weight down the series too much for me.
And as totally embarrassing as the placement of the chess pieces is the few times you get to see them (I doubt the animators has ever played chess for real), among a few other details like that, I don’t really let small details like that drag down my enjoyment of the series as a whole.
Things such as “the message/moral of the story” are extremely far down my personal priority list. If the good guy turns bad, and is more successful while being a jackass, I really don’t mind at all. If the cause the good guy fights for, ends up being the cause he fights against and vise versa, that may even be a plus as long as there’s a decent reason for it (even if it’s a totally immoral reason) etc, etc.
And the shameless pizza-hut advertising? Well, an immortal witch ordering pizza from pizza-hut doesn’t bother me more than an immortal witch ordering pizza from a completely made-up pizza resturant. So, no big deal there.
In the end, I think the countless nail-biting cliff-hangers (and the awesomness that is C.C =D) weighted up the flaws many times over.
“I have to admit, I just don’t know enough about mecha anime. When I get a chance down the line I’ll definitely check out the ones you named, my perception of the subgenre is hugely tainted by Gundam and Geass.”
What Gundam series did you see? The 80’s series were awesome :D
Oh, and I agree with this article for the most part, I’m more so in the middle, because I can shut by brain off and just pretend this isn’t some big budget commercialized series, but then again a quality show wouldn’t have to make me do that.
The chess match was so ridiculous that itself made me not like the show.
You have a point, but personally I love this anime… XD
So glad to see a valid point of why this show is not worthwhile. Watched literally the first 3 episodes of season and already I knew I would hate it.I Hate Lelouche (Ledouche as I call him) as a character and the fans that worship this “50 episode commercial” as you call it. (in which I agree) Maybe I’m too picky with anime but this one isn’t even considered mechs in my book. (fights were meh..)
Season 1* (typo my bad)
Holy shit, why on earth did you ever consider yourself good enough to write such a lengthy review, touching in on the structure of the plot when you apparently have no knowledge or background in it? Every point you make here seems like you’ve been second-guessing your gripes with the show, without actually remotely basing yourself on film theory. Some of your “logical” reasons for the shows incoherency showcases your ignorance of deep structure, spectacle as an agent, the logic of desire and so many more basic components of narrative.
You really shouldn’t pretend to know what you’re talking about, merely to justify your dislike of something. Be honest about it instead, and keep it to “I like/dislike the show because of x”, as a review should, instead justifying your contempt as an objective thing by randomly using “convincing” terminology you obviously know nothing about.
Man, this is why I hate reviews. Why can reviewers never understand that their work can never go beyond subjective?
Why can people never get that these aren’t reviews?
… Then what’s it supposed to be? A rant?
I sincerely hope you don’t think you’re practising de-constructive analysis here. If you think this is any form of analysis, you clearly have no clue. Your deductions are far too superficial and impressionist to be viable as attempts at objective and critical thought ( though not even analysis can be objective, it’s just a more sincere and less pretentious attempt than a review is).
At a loss for words?
That’s a pretty quick reply. Did you subscribe to the comment section just to see if you got the author riled up?
Even if I did, it’s irrelevant in regards of the disputed topic.
Three years later, this article is the gift that keeps on giving. I had to reread this to even remember what my arguments were, but I think I’ll stand by them. Geass was a thin, ugly little thing, with lots of sound and fury and little or no significance. If you have some fancy-ass defense cooked up out of your film theory class, feel free to post it. Your response to the show is as valid as mine. Otherwise I’ll assume your leap to ad hominem means you’re just another fanboy who’s angry I called out their favorite show for being stupid and incoherent.
I have no problem with the article itself, you’re free to have an opinion and I see you provide many reasonable defenses for it; what I reacted to was a comment you made, where you claimed you highlighted objective flaws, implying your article was the absolute truth. As a film scholar, and academic analyst, I can think of many ways to conclude that this is a functional narrative.
In addition, it’s now clear to me that this is supposed to be an analysis. This is far from being an analysis, and it’s highly subjective. You have supplied many reasons for why YOU have gripes with the show, but a proper analysis shall always base itself on a theory and then decide how the show answer to that theory. For example, you could analyze it psychoanalytically, you could base yourself on feminism, or cognitivism, or structuralism etc.
To provide an example, I’ll base myself on the masturbation sequence of which your “analysis” in essence has this to say: “Last time I saw actual masturbation in anime was Eva, and for all Eva’s weirdness, it still made more sense there.” I’ll analyze it basing myself on how this works as a classical narrative (the most common theory, as it is directly derived from the Aristotelean theory of rhetoric and dramaturgy).
“The show majorly adheres to the classical narrative structure, in that it deploys thematic repetition to achieve a unity in its major themes. Nina’s masturbation sequence is a typical display of repeating certain motifs to support the major theme of the story. The struggle for the unattainable is arguably the primary theme of the show, being displayed in several characters (Lelouch’s struggle for world peace through world domination, Mao’s struggle to retrieve his true love C.C., Euphemia’s struggle to merge Japan and Britannia etc.), and here displayed in Nina’s lesbian desire towards Euphemia. A common trait to these struggles is that they early on all seem pitiful due to the mental state of the struggling character, and thus also seems like a lost cause from the get-go. This repeating theme thematically unifies the narrative, and thereby showcases a professionally written script as the thematic structure is solid.”
That is an analysis, where I take units of the show and evaluate it according to a specific film theory (in this case classical narrative, as made famous by Hollywood). And make no mistake, there are several other theories which would also conclude that Code Geass is highly functional. Deconstructive analysis would be the only theory I can think of where Code Geass would be displayed as dysfunctional garbage, but judging from your “analysis” it becomes clear that you definitely do not adhere to this method of analysis.
By all means, you’re entitled to not like the show and have gripes with it, but if you are serious about writing, whether it be ranting, reviewing or analyzing; never claim to have discovered the objective truth, because you haven’t. Not only is this highly subjective, but as an analysis, it is clearly analyzed in terms of the authors idiosyncratic set of values, thus rendering it arbitrary. It’s completely viable as a review though.
In addition, you are right that my response to the show is just as valid as yours, but this does not qualify it as an analysis, seeing as analysis is an academic and heavily theoretic thing.
Oh, and please spare yourself the embarrassment of jumping onto the “Ad hominem” bandwagon. It’s saddening to see everyone jumping onto this trend of using a fancy latin term for “You’re too aggressive” as a viable argument. I’ll admit, you used the term without resting your entire argument on it, which automatically makes you more intellectual than 90% of everyone else who use it. Just do yourself a favor and get in the habit of discarding the term, as it more or less NEVER contributes anything of value in a debate.
If you feel like seriously writing analysis though, then by all means keep writing and explore the field. If you don’t mind heavy literature, reading “Studying Contemporary American Film” is a great place to start indulging yourself in proper and academic analysis. If not, just stick to calling these articles reviews, because they are extremely poor as attempts on analysis.
I assume you’re talking about this comment: “I don’t presume to question anyone’s taste, the points I made were to point out how the show objectively didn’t meet certain standards, if you enjoy it in spite of or because of those failures that’s your prerogative”. The objective standards I had in mind were things like “minimal product placement” “actually show the chess games” “don’t reuse plot points over and over”. It’s true that most of what I wrote was not at all objective, so maybe I should have made it clearer. But there are elements of the show that the vast majority of its viewers would probably agree were problematic. You can argue nitpicky semantics (what about the guy who really likes Pizza Hut??), but for my money that makes them objectively flaws.
The kind of “analysis” you’re looking for is meant to reveal something about a piece of art, and what I was suggesting throughout the article is that Geass isn’t really coherent enough for that kind of interpretation. The plot is messy, the characters contradict themselves, and it stinks of being a commercial moneygrab. I never even used the word “analysis” except in a comment where I was talking about a very specific point that actually was an analysis, with a proper analytical mode and everything (it was some Marxist take on the predominance of the nobility in the cast). I wasn’t offering something you would read in an academic journal on film or literature. If anything I was pointing out why you won’t read about an anime like Geass in those journals: because it sucks.
As for masturbation scene, I didn’t think that I needed to write a paragraph about WHY Nina’s masturbation scene was creepy and unnecessary, because I thought it was clear without explanation. The level of sexual imagery was way out of line with the rest of the show, it in no way advanced the plot, and to me looked like just more fanservice. I’m sure your analysis of the scene is valid, but it doesn’t talk about the gratuitousness, which is what I was highlighting, and I don’t think I needed an intellectual framework to do so. Do you think that scene fit in with the rest of the show? That it couldn’t have just as easily been less sexualized and served the same purpose? Again, I’m willing to bet that if you do, you’re in a very small minority, and as a rule I’m not going to formalize my argument for the odd contrarian.
Regarding ad hominem, “too aggressive” isn’t a problem for me. I wrote an article called ‘Code Geass Sucks’, for a blog called ‘Moe Sucks’. Confrontation is fine, talking about me instead of my article is not. I’m glad you brought down the tone and started talking content in your last comment, but you started off by asking me why I thought I was good enough to write such a lengthy review, and didn’t engage with the actual substance of what I wrote until now. Combined with the emphasis you put on formal film analysis and your own academic qualifications, you seemed to be implying that I’m an amateur and therefore my article is bad. The term might be overused, but we see a lot of ad hominem on this site, and we know what it looks like.
Since we’re giving advice, here’s mine: don’t think your film scholar credentials mean shit online. At best they’ll be ignored, more likely they’ll be resented. If you have some formal or academic background that gives you insight on something, post the insight, don’t couch it in technical terms that don’t mean anything to your audience. And don’t hold blog posts to the standard of publication-ready analysis unless that’s what they claim to be.
Finally, I probably would have enjoyed the book you recommended when this article was published, but I haven’t written anything for this blog in over a year. The editor and main author is E Minor. If you want to talk about something a little more timely and maybe more relevant to your interests you should read his much more recent posts (maybe not the harem hill ones).
I like your reply, and I don’t really feel like further arguing the points I disagree with. Thanks for taking the time to answer me seriously, despite my hostile first approach.
TheFin: Product placement isn’t much of an objective flaw, and neither is not focusing on the chess games. In fact, those are almost perfect examples of subjective flaws. Most viewers don’t care or find it mildly amusing, which goes with how the whole Pizza Hut presence was treated as an in-joke here, and the show itself never presented chess as anything more than a visual motif with a couple of metaphorical implications. Right from the beginning the series was never interested in the real rules of chess as a game. It was just an easy to understand symbol that ties into the pseudo-medieval presentation and its anachronistic sensibilities. Which is why it seems so narrow-minded to criticize that sort of thing from a cold, rational and modernist perspective that is so alien to the very nature and tone of the production.
For me the Nina scene was more funny than sexy, although the series does indeed have plenty of regular fanservice, because it show she’s a weird obsessive kid, but in a hilarious manner that many people find entertaining. Which is also an objective of the scene. Honestly, a lot of the criticism here comes from approaching the show through a lens of expecting absolute realism and complete self-seriousness, when the whole thing isn’t really aiming for this.
Code Geass seeks to provide over-the-top entertainment as an escapist fantasy and had a whimsical tone combining operatic melodrama with slapstick humor, which even indulged in a fair bit of self-parody from time to time. If anything, the silly school antics serve to highlight that the universe -and the creators, by extension- aren’t above making a mockery out of Lelouch’s tendency to be dramatic and dead serious about everything. It’s a sign that the best way to enjoy the series is to sit back and relax, experiencing the manic rush ahead. Something hilarious happens even while Lelouch is depressed? That’s alright, you should probably chuckle and embrace it. The staff certainly likes to joke about many things in the series, quite a number of which are there for no good reason other than hilarity, from the Emperor’s hair and voice onward.
In terms of ethics, the show isn’t trying to convey any truly deep, complex message. But I wouldn’t call the ending arc a contradiction either. Lelouch was always a believer in the ends justifying the means but was also internally conflicted about it. He is, after all, something of a romantic villain. He rejected his parents not merely because they were lying or manipulating people, which is exactly how Lelouch behaved throughout the entire show, but because they did cause real harm to him and Nunnally, expecting to get away without paying any price. That’s what separates Lelouch’s lies and manipulations of free will from those of his parents. He played the Evil Emperor role and, unlike them, punished himself for it. But of course, he also won in the process. It’s not a profoundly enlightened concept or anything, the show’s quite blatant about being a sympathetic and idealized portrayal of a picaresque figure who fights the world. It’s not supposed to be a goody-two-shoes morality tale like what happened to Light Yagami. The only positive thing about Light was that he reduced crime. In every other respect, the man instantly became a sociopath with delusions of godhood right after receiving the Death Note and the story always treated him as such, aside from the memory hiccups. That simply wasn’t the objective here.
Greetings. We left a comment and links to our takes on Code Geass way back in 2009 (see it way up the page?). We remain subscribed to comments on this post, and they continue to come in some three years later. The last set with The Fin and Marius were intense, but also intellectual.
It is interesting how in modern society our web presences evolve and move on. The Fin mentioned that they had to reacquaint themselves with their own article, not having contributed here for some time. We think the title, “Code Geass Sucks” is provocative and attracts an audience, apparently still.
Code Geass had style, good artwork, and high production values. (That may have interested us enough to do our two takes.) But those things fade when looked at through the hindsight buffer of three years, leaving many of the weaknesses mentioned above even easier to see.
Thanks Fin for keeping up with your comments on a three-year-old article that continues to generate them, and to Marius for having passion about a topic, some intellectual thoughts, and a contrite final comment.
I’m impressed with how you ellaborated your point of view regarding the show. And….. I kinda agree with you in so many ways. The thing I hated bout’ code geass is that people or fans especially on MAL tend to overglorify or gave the show too much credit. But what bothers me is that the reasons they pointed out why it is good are the elements which geass copied from other shows. Seriously?
I always viewed Lelouch as a mere shadow of Deathnote’s main hero, Reinhard of LOGH or even Char Aznable of UC gundam. Yet many fans claimed that lelouch is the archetype of protagonist/ antagonist role or simply being an antihero.
Am I wrong to say that its a subcollection of cliches and famous tropes? Is it okay to say that it is batter with the pedestals like gundam, macross and evangelion in terms of meccha? Is it okay to say that this is better than Deathnote, LOGH or even Monster in terms of psycological and showcasing dark human nature? Is it the best school life or romance? My answer will always be a big NO. Yes, geass did a presentable job in combining elements from this animes- but it fails to outclass or pull off a better show or genre as a whole. I didn’t even know until now what does it specialize.
Although I’m entertained with lelouch’s struggle with the circumstances or his genius looking strategies, the dilemna of the show’s morality is still there. Yet, there was a time that I believed that it did deserved its spot in popularity polls and top anime list. I defended it from trolls who bashed Lelouch’s metrosexual looks or the flaws of the show. But after watching other shows, and rewatching geass……
Blah. I hated the show for getting too much credit. =P
“In any case, given the series’ poor ratings, my hopes are that next time a large studio decides to put together a surefire moneymaker they’ll more carefully consider the show they invest in.”
El oh el, Valvrave the Liberator.
Ironically enough, Valvrave would be far more deserving of most of the criticisms in this blog post and wouldn’t even exist if Code Geass hadn’t been so successful in the first place.
But the newer Sunrise/Aniplex show in fact failed, quite spectacularly, while Code Geass itself still remains a viable property, both commercially speaking and in terms of a more posiitve audience reception. I think time has proven it’s much easier to copy the flaws of Code Geass than to copy the things it did right.
Uh, that was the joke, bro – that they opted to make Valvrave.
Someone had a lot of time on their hands…I didn’t know people analyzed anime this critically. The point of all entertainment is to entertain, not to follow a “objective” rubric on what a good show is. Code Geass was a great show because it hooked the viewers and made them enjoy the show until the very end. The time people invested into watching the show paid off, at least for most of us. I watched this anime several years ago and have never seen a better anime since, and I have watched at least 30 different series. I don’t care about the Pizza Hut advertisements and some annoying characters or the implausibility of some scenarios, it’s a fictional show! Honestly I never even noticed the Pizza Hut stuff until you just mentioned it. I doubt most people were distracted by something so trivial. I personally enjoy it when real life companies make it into anime. And what is morally good or bad is intrinsically subjective, so there’s no way to objectively criticize that. I disliked the ending of Death Note because the main character I supported throughout the whole series as a viewer dies like scum. Lelouch, on the other hand, achieves his intended goal, reconciles his sins in reaching that goal, and made the world a better place in the end (or at least the story suggests). That is a way more satisfying ending than “everything Light did was for nothing, and he dies.” Lelouch isn’t a complete villain like Light or a cheesy protagonist like Naruto. He is a mix of good and evil, and I liked that he did horrible things at times to get what he wanted. Maybe if you didn’t spend the entire time watching with a grading rubric attached to a clipboard, you could have actually enjoyed the show. I’ve recommended it to many of my friends, and every single one of them have told me it was a great show. It has the action, suspense, thrill, romance, ecchi, and mystery. What more could you ask for?? In the end, there is no one rubric to judge any anime, it’s all about your personal taste. But if you spend too much time trying to criticize trivial things like a food critic, you might never enjoy something you would have otherwise. Most people who have watched the series have thoroughly enjoyed it. Maybe you are just too old for this stuff.
Ii think this commemt made me retarded
Finally. Someone who saw that we are all diehard idealists. Someone who analyses the analysers.
Machiavellianism is what you’re referring to. End’s justify the means. He’s not too old, he lacks capacity.
Stick to writing and avoid analysis. You have exemplary writing skills and are quite eloquent. While I don’t disagree with everything you say there were many points during your analysis where I felt your suggestions or interpretations showed a blatant misconception on the piece. I realize it’s an opinion, but… For example, your interpretation of Lelouch’s morality and how he loses pieces of himself all the while deceiving the world in order to unite everything under a single government, You do realize first, Lelouch planned it all from the beginning. Indicated by the reference to “those who fire, should be prepared to be fired upon” as well as the authors comments. Second, “Zero” killed him, thus ‘destroying’ Britannia and then it mentions Suzaku would work towards peace by diplomacy and discussion rather than oppression between the states of the world. Anyway, there are many many more base-level misconceptions. Honestly, if I saw what you saw when you watched this anime I’d probably dislike it as well. Also I find it insanely odd you claim the series has poor ratings.. Even the worst ratings I’ve seen put it 8/10 stars, the Bayesian chart places it at 5th at the time of this posting, and I know it held first for at least a year (I believe it was much longer, but I know it was AT LEAST a year).
I realize I will probably get ‘flamed’ for saying this, but in my experience with Code Geass, most people simply cannot grasp the depth for lack of cognitive ability, and blame their own faults in so-called logical inconsistencies or plot holes. I mean most people are still arguing about whether Lelouche is dead or alive. Seriously. (I’m not explaining this) Even if you disliked the anime, even if it doesn’t suit your fancy, claiming its anything less than brilliant falls on you. I think Hitler was an absolute monster of a human being but DAMN was he a brilliant manipulator and information controller. Anyway, out of time, gotta get back to bar review.
I know this is two years later, but I just had to reply to this anyways…
/r/Iamverysmart fits you perfectly.
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You said enough for the both of us, so I’ll just add that I didn’t like Code Geass either.
I know this is an old article and way after the fact, but I really enjoyed reading it. It did a great job on pointing out how Lelouch’s plans were nothing but hypocritical when comparing his words to his father, and in the end he used the same means. Yes, people like to say his means weren’t as bad, but that’s a pretty low bar. Also, him using his Geass does remove free choice on people., so the whole argument about him giving people free will isn’t 100% valid.
Also the fact that he didn’t even try to do things using peaceful methods as an emperor really doesn’t justify his actions. I would have praised the ending much more if he was trying to do everything the right way once becoming emperor, but upon learning Nunnally was alive and being manipulated by schneizel, he decides to play the role of a villain one last time to save everyone.