A year later and many things have changed but some are still very much the same.
What They Say
On August 10th of the year 2010 the Holy Empire of Britannia began a campaign of conquest, its sights set on Japan. In the span of one month the island nation was conquered. As a dominion of the Empire the newly acquired territory was renamed Area 11. The rights of its citizens were severely limited and an economic depression followed for the Japanese, now known as Elevens. Just as things seemed at their bleakest one man chose to stand up and fi ght, the masked crusader Zero. Leading his Order of Black Knights, Zero instigated a full scale revolution against Britannia culminating in one fi nal battle, the Black Rebellion. Heavy casualties were seen by both sides but ultimately Britannia stood the victor resulting in Zero�s execution. And thus was history written.
The year is now 2018. With Zero dead and the remnants of the Black Knights being swept up by the Britannian forces, a forced state of peace settles over Area 11. The rights of the Elevens remain limited but with no one to lead them and the defeat during the Black Rebellion hanging over them, the Japanese people remain under the boot of Britannian oppression with no hope to overcome.
Bandai Entertainment has a decent pair of audio tracks to it with two stereo mixes encoded at 192kbps. It’s something of a surprise that the English track didn’t get a bump up to a 5.1 mix in order to showcase the solid audio and action sequences though. In general, the stereo mix is pretty strong with some well placed directionality in a number of key scenes and a sense of impact when required during the action. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and free of problems in general. Amusing, the commentary tracks are encoded at an even lower rate, just that if 128kbps.
Originally airing in early 2008, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. The release contains seven episodes across two discs in a 4/3 lformat. The series has a relatively high bitrate to it with a lot of it sitting in the sevens and eights, which is a bit of a change from Bandai’s releases in the last couple of years. The transfer looks really good throughout with the only problem being that the opening sequence sometimes has a little bit of a fuzziness to it due to the high motion and detailed animation that’s used. Beyond that, the transfer looks really solid with clean lines and bold colors. The occasional panning sequence is the only area within the show that introduces any problems and that’s simply source related.
The first installment of this release isn’t anywhere near as impressive as the limited edition of the first season, which is essentially the DVD with a manga. We opted for the regular edition since we’re not reading the manga at all. The cover artwork is really nice with a good image of Lelouch and C.C. striking a pose against a very dark background through which there are shadows and enemy Frames. The colors for it a very well chosen as it gives it a decidedly creepy feeling. The logo looks good with the addition of the R2 aspect as well. The back cover has a good layout to it with a touch of elegance framing the three main sections. The background, which is also used as foreground character artwork in the first section, is a great shot of Zero posing with the cape flowing behind him. The summary deals with the overall setting of the series and the changes since the first season. There’s a small strip of decent character artwork through the center and a section listing the breakdown of the discs. The episode numbers and titles are clearly listed and the discs extras and features are well laid out so you know what’s there, though not the amount of them. No show related inserts are included nor is there a reversible cover.
Bandai has again wisely employed Nightjar for their menus and I find myself very happy with the results. Utilizing the basic imagery of the map outline of Japan and putting it as the center piece of the menu done up as a tactical map design almost, with pulsing purple flowing behind it. The navigation strip along the bottom provides quick access to the setup and other standard areas which load very quickly. As is standard practice for a Nightjar driven menu, our player presets were correctly read and setup so we didn’t have to bother with the setup menu. Submenus load quickly even with a small bit of transitional animations and everything flowed seamlessly.
The extras for this release are spread across the two volumes and there is a lot of mirroring going on, but with differences for particular episodes related to that volume. The broadcast versions of the prologues and next episode previews are provided here for both volumes, there are animation galleries to be found and a few commentary tracks as well. The first volume has an additional extra with the “Baba Theater Redux” which is a brief under a minute piece that has simplistic little gags for some of the characters done in a very rough cartoonish style.
The first season of Code Geass ended in a way that really made you cringe and yell, putting two of the characters against each other in classic John Woo style with guns ready to go. Every second of that final episode built towards a climax, but there was no real moment there of satisfaction. Just pure, simple frustration. So with the start of the second season, I foolishly held hope that it would pick up where we left off and everything would just spiral into something even bigger and more wild. If anything, Code Geass is certainly a ride for the viewer as it takes us all over the place with lots of thrills and surprises. So I really shouldn’t be surprised that this season opens up a year after the events we had just seen.
The first seven episodes of this season take us down a very different route at first, only to become much more familiar towards the end of it. With this building off of the first season, well, spoilers abound simply because so much has changed. In the year since the events between Suzaku and Zero, Area 11 has fallen to relative quiet, even as its status has been downgraded because of the Black Rebellion. Lelouch has continued living out his high school life, but something nags at the back of his mind that has him feeling restless and uneasy. He spends much of his time with his young brother, Rolo, and going through the usual routine of school activities, festivals and so forth.
Everything changes when he takes a bit of a risk and goes to the Babel Tower with Rolo to try and engage some of the big money players with their games of chance. Using the kind of calculation we know, he sets up a chess game with one of the big players there and manages to win with relative ease. Just as its about to come to blows, the entire building comes under attack from terrorists. Those of the Black Knights make their way in to try and shake sense back into Lelouch’s head, but it’s not until C.C. appears and she rewires his head again with the Geass power that everything that he was comes flooding back into him. Abused, manipulated and twisted, Lelouch starts to remember what happened after his showdown with Suzaku and it only serves to anger and embolden him for starting anew.
The twisting of Lelouch’s life is something that brings a really interesting change to the series. While in the first season he was obviously hiding his identity, in this one he’s a known problem by those all the way to the top, but one that they have under control and under watch. He’s been turned into bait in order to capture C.C., one of what appears to be several people who can bestow the gift of Geass of different types on people. When he awakens, he has to avoid revealing that he has wakened while also keeping to hiding that he really is returning to the role of Zero. This can get a little confusing at times – and really strain credibility in certain instances, but it’s the kind of challenge that allows Lelouch to show off his intelligence and craftiness.
Over the seven episodes here, there is quite a lot going on so it definitely feels like a solid continuation of the first season, albeit with the year long gap. Lelouch ends up easily back in the fold with his Black Knights, but many of them have been held for all this time by the government and are about to be executed. Of course, they’re going to be executed because Zero has aligned himself with the Chinese Federation and has holed himself up in their embassy in Area 11. This added complication bring some good new potential to the show since we haven’t seen all that much of the world outside of what the Brtiannia empire is all about. And there’s also the problem of having everyone at school being mindwiped of their memories, which is why nobody outside of Lelouch now remembers Nunnally and accept Rolo as his younger brother with such ease. There are a lot of layers going on here, combined with subplots still dangling from the first season, which means every scene has a lot of relevance and often more than what’s on the surface.
Code Geass is one of the very few shows that I feel like I get all fanboyish about, simply because it’s doing things in a grandiose way. A lot of it stems to a similar love to Death Note where the lead character is simple focused intently on his goal of changing the world and will do it even if it means there’s a lot of pain and suffering along the way. Lelouch is one of many characters that takes on the brunt of suffering and pain in order to bring peace – their vision of peace of course – to the world so that others do not have to suffer. This season ups the ante with what’s at stake and others are able to play more directly with Zero knowing that he may well be Lelouch. That puts a lot more pressure on everyone involve but also means more bit players become key players as it goes along. The opening to this season is chaotic and confusing but the overall batch of episodes is spot on and has reinvigorated my love of the series.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Audio Commentary, Extra FLASH: Baba Theater Redux, Key Animation GalleryLimited Edition: Code Geass - Lelouch of the Rebellion Vol. #4 Manga
Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70" LCoS 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.