Code Geass - Lelouch of the Rebellion (or just Code Geass for short) is the phenomenon of the anime world in 2006-2007. It has reached the position of a noteworthy anime series: praises and criticisms, ardent fans and equally passionate haters, a sea of doujinshi, fan fiction and fan arts. It is probably also one of the series that torment the fans the most with cliffhangers and long waits (the two last episodes were aired about 4 months after the rest of the series).
Code Geass represents a "new" approach to the genre mecha, namely the catering to a wide variety of tastes. There is mecha for hardcore fans of the genre, there is romance both explicit and implied of all directions possible plus "school life" for the girls, there are somewhat elaborate political intrigues (and something both amuses and annoys me: there is also TONS of fanservice). The creators themselves say that they've broken many conventions and pushed many limits with this series. Perhaps that's why this series was aired in late-night time slot in its original run.
For more information on Code Geass, visit its wiki here: Code Geass Wiki
About the people making this series
The staff of this series is interesting, I promise. That was one of the reasons I'm intrigued by Code Geass in the first place. Sources are Wikipedia, Anime News Network and fan communities.
- Director: Goro Taniguchi (director of GunxSword, s-CRY-ed and SoltyRei). This man likes to shock audience: he is (in)famous for strange stories and unexpected plot twist. So brace yourselves!
- Writer: Ichiro Okouchi (writing screenplay for Turn A Gundam, Wolf's Rain and Eureka Seven). The resume of this guy can impress any otaku. I enjoy all three of the series mentioned above.
- Character design: CLAMP (this name speaks for itself!). The resume of theirs is impressive enough, the question is why they're invited in a MECHA project. This move makes purist mecha fans lament but delights other fans.
- Mechanical design: Kenji Teraoka (OK, this is someone I don't know).
- Leading seiyuus: Jun Fukuyama (Kimihiro Watanuki in xxxHolic, Albert de Morcerf in Gankutsuou), Takahiro Sakurai (Fakir in Princess Tutu, Ray Lungren in GunxSword)
Let the Game Begin!
Once the pieces are moved, there is no turning back
Like many other anime series, Code Geass takes place in an alternate world. So it is purely fictional and not meant to be taken seriously. Let's see how the game is set (the following paragraph is taken from Wikipedia after being checked by me):
On August 10th, 2010, a.t.b., the Holy Empire of Britannia overpowered Japanese forces and conquered the country with their robotic weapons, the Knightmare Frames, in less than a month. Japan lost its freedom and rights and was renamed Area 11. The Japanese people, renamed as "Elevens", were forced to survive in ghettos, while Britannians lived in first-class settlements. Rebel elements persisted, however, as pockets of Japanese organizations who struggled against the Empire for the independence of Japan.
The Britanian Empire is based on an extreme version of Darwinism (i.e. survival for the fittest). This policy, which is applied not only to the people of the colonies but also the Britanians (the royal family included) makes it very strong but at the same time very corrupted. A nice setting for any drama.
The Chess Pieces
a.k.a The Characters
Chess is the metaphor frequently used in the series, which IMO is really suitable for its scheming atmosphere. The main character, Lelouch, is also a more than competent chess player. Therefore I associate each character to a chess piece basing on my view of their position in "the game" (not necessarily leading - supporting position).
Note: due to the intentional moral ambiguity of the story, the colours black and white have not any other meaning besides the ally - opponent one. The main character's side is black because he is often shown holding the black king piece. The characters presented here are only those directly involved in the "plotting" aspect of the show so yes, I have left out a lot (and the list is still LONG, LOL).
Black King: Lelouch Lamperouge/Lelouch Britania
Nickname: Dark Prince
Besides being a pure-blooded Britanian (i.e. belonging to a privileged class), there seems to be nothing special about this guy: a bright yet apathetic student who prefers to invest his mental energy on gambling and a member of the Student Council who is constantly teased by his friends. However, he is a prince-in-exile of the Britania Empire. After his mother being assassinated and his sister Nunnally being crippled (plus blinded due to psychological shock) by the same incident, he was sent together with his sister to Japan as hostage after a fiery confrontation with his father the Emperor in the Court (this guy deserves respect, he was about 8 then). The siblings are thought to be dead during the invasion while they survive and change their surname in to Lamperouge. Lelouch has no love for his living family besides his sister. He vows to crush the Britania Empire (and together with it the father he hates) to create a better world in which his sister can live safely. Given his position, that seems to be a out-of-reach goal until the day he receives a special power, the Geass, from a mysterious green haired girl.
Lelouch is best described as an anti-hero. He is the disciple Machiavelli would be proud of. However, he is also a "good person" who cares deeply for his sister and to some extent the people he regards as friends. Possessing the mind of a genius, Lelouch is a formidable strategist both in long termed policies and battle tactics. However, in contrast to the mecha tradition, he is a bad pilot and a loser in physical fight. Well, no man is perfect. A side note: Lelouch's bishounen appearance makes the fangirls melt.
Zero: When Little Sweet Lulu Goes Rogue
The secret identity of our protagonist
Zero is the number one headache of the Britanian government in Area 11. He is the founder - leader of the rebellion force named Order of the Black Knight whose members used to be members of the Japanese resistant forces. But the Black Knights do not aim for the independence of Japan only. The ideal of this group is Robin-Hood-like: to fight the oppressors and protect the oppressed. Thus the charisma of Zero is great. But he is also a mysterious man who always wears a mask when he is in presence of others so that his real identity is concealed.
Not coincidentally, the man behind the mask is Lelouch Lamperouge. The Order of the Black Knight is his means of realizing his goal. With the identity Zero, Lelouch leads the ultimate double life, which is the source of many funny as well as dramatic scenes.
White Knight: Suzaku Kukurugi
Nickname: "White Knight".
Suzaku is the stark opposite of Lelouch. Lelouch possesses great intellect, Suzaku has a superb physique (he takes down an automatic MACHINE GUN in one episode. I'm not joking). Lelouch is calm and quite calculating, Suzaku is impulsive and somewhat naive (but they're equal in moral terms). Lelouch looks down on all rules and authorities (but to his credits, he won't defy them needlessly), Suzaku obeys them to the letter. Most importantly, Lelouch is the prince of Britania yet he seeks to destroy that empire. Meanwhile Suzaku is the son of the former Prime Minister of Japan before the invasion (thus a prince of Japan in a way) yet he joins the Britanian Army and his duty is to protect the empire. Yet the two young men are childhood friends and in a way best friends. They both realize the corruption of the Britanian Empire and pursue the same goals: to make the world a better place. But the difference in methods (Lelouch wants to destroy the system, Suzaku seeks to reform it) means they are bound to clash.
Besides being a fine athlete, Suzaku is a good pilot (he is the only one in the army that can synchronize with the newest unit Lancelot). His skill helps him find recognition in the Britanian Army which is highly racist. Despite being a soldier, he avoids taking lives to the surprise of his superior. That comes not from his quite kind nature but also from a terrible secret of his past.
Black Queen: C.C.
Nickname: "Gray Witch"
If her green hair and weird clothes don't tell you that she is not normal, that she survives from a shot in the head will. For reasons unknown, she became a top-secret research subject of the Britanian Army and accidentally met Lelouch. Besides being virtually immortal, she has ability to "grant" a special power called the Geass. The one who receives this power has to accept to enter a "contract" with her the conditions of which are still unknown. Lelouch is the currently her contractor but they never bother to soften their tongues when talking to each other (that is not improved by the fact that C.C. hides at Lelouch's place). Yet she is perhaps his best partner-in-crime. She's the only one who knows he is Zero and has more than once saved him from sticky situations. C.C. is also able to "mind rape" i.e. force the person she touches (even indirectly through a cover) to relive the worse moments of his life.
On the fun side, C.C. is very fond of pizza to the horror of Lelouch (the pizza money is his). Her fine appearance (and a fine body) is an endless source for fanart (which is not always innocent).
Black Knight: Kallen Stadtfeld/Kallen Kouzuki
The daughter of a prestigious Britanian family, Kallen is good-looking and seems to be very fragile. Citing her health, she seldom attends classes but she is one of the top students of the school. No one knows that during those absent times, she runs around wildly in a Knightmare fighting against the Britanian authority alongside members of the Japan Liberation Front, a resistant organization.
Well, in fact, Kallen is a illegitimate child of a Britanian noble and a local woman. Though she is (or at least seems to be) officially accepted into the family of her father so she can live in luxury, Kallen resents the way her mother and other Japanese are treated and chooses to fight against the Empire that creates such discriminatory system. With her fiery nature (which is strongly opposite to the fragile appearance she puts on at school), she is a formidable fighter with considerable skill. Kallen is one of the most loyal followers of Zero (who she doesn't know is Lelouch, the classmate she has some problems with) and the ace of the Order of the Black Knights. That means she constantly clashes with Suzaku...
White Queen: Princess Euphemia Britania
I feel that "Queen" is not the right position to describe Euphemia (but I keep that decision as she is more or less the female lead on the "opposite" side). That is because in stark contrast to other princes and princess, she is very innocent and good-natured, characters that harm more than help for someone who is more or less born to play some political role like her. She is the Deputy Vicereine of Area 11 and wishes that Britanians and Japanese to live harmoniously together. She truly works her best for that goal but good will is not enough to change the world. At least, her dream moves Suzaku (another naive one) so he swears his absolute allegiance to her (and she makes him her knight in return of his loyalty and piloting skills). Those two meet in a quite unusual situation and have a romantic relationship.
Euphemia is described by Suzaku as "unpredictable" (that coming from him). She often does unexpected things, which brings her troubles. Befitting her bloodline, she is quite fearless and can stand up to challenges.
White Bishop: Lloyd Asplund
Lloyd fits the "scientist" stereotype to the letter. All he cares about is his invention and what matters to him is the Knightmare Frame, not the pilot. Therefore Suzaku Kukurugi to him is more of a test subject than a subordinate. His eccentricity is also shown in his somewhat inappropriate behaviours people around such as proposing to a girl just because of the Knightmare her family owns. The person closest to him is his assistant Cecile who also "corrects" him for his behaviours.
Black Bishop: Lakshata Chawla
The techie of the Order of the Black Knight, this lady has greatly improved the quality of the Order's Knightmare Frames. It is implied that she used to work with Lloyd and was probably friendly with him in the past. The Knightmare she creates for Lelouch is called Gawain while the one of Lloyd's (not coincidentally piloted by Suzaku) is called Lancelot. Reference to Arthurian legend cannot be clearer :).
White Rook: Prince Schneizel Britania
One should definitely keep an eye on this guy. He is the only one who defeated Lelouch in chess when our hero was still living with the royal family. In the present of the show, Schneizel is generously sponsoring scientific research in military (he is the one who commissioned Lloyd to create the Knightmare Frame Lancelot). It means his intellect matches that of Lelouch and a showdown between the two would be epic Regrettably, that is yet to come.
White King: The Emperor of Britania
The candidate for the final boss of the show but it remains to be seen. This gentleman is caring father who encourages his children (he has many, I have to say) to fight each other (to death, possibly) for the throne and when they are of no political use, sends them as hostages to the enemies. He is also a wise king who follows extreme Darwinism i.e. he tolerates no weakling in his realm. Our Hero, Lelouch, has no other wish than to eliminate his dear father and the empire (I have already said this but it is worth mentioning twice since it is the main motion of the show).
To tell the truth, I don't really like the mecha design of this series (except the Lancelot). But the robots (called Knightmare Frame in the series' context) still play an important role in Code Geass (this is still a mecha anime, is it not?).