It's nice when a show lives up to the hype.
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. Operations were completed in one month thanks to Britannia's deployment of new mobile humanoid armor vehicles dubbed Knightmare Frames. Japan's rights and identity were stripped away, the once proud nation now referred to as Area 11. Its citizens, Elevens, are forced to scratch out a living while the Britannian aristocracy lives comfortably within their settlements. Pockets of resistance appear throughout Area 11, working towards independence for Japan. Lelouch, an exiled Imperial Prince of Britannia posing as a student, finds himself in the heart of the ongoing conflict for the island nation. Through a chance meeting with a mysterious girl named C.C., Lelouch gains his Geass, the power of the king. Now endowed with absolute dominance over any person, Lelouch may finally realize his goal of bringing down Britannia from within!
We watched this show in both English and Japanese. Both casts do an excellent job overall. The audio is a nice stereo mix with a good amount of directionality and some really great points, especially during action sequences. I didn't notice any distortion or dropouts in either language track.
First airing in 2006, this is presented its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1. Since its so recent, the transfer is very clean overall, and overall very good looking. The color palette is vibrant but not too bright. Cross-coloration and aliasing are mostly absent. Other than some noise in the backgrounds, this is a solid looking release. Unfortunately, the disc is plagued with playback and video problems related to the way it was authored. It occasionally wouldn't play at all, or would skip and pause at random points. Bandai is offering replacements, but it's still disappointing to see problems this widespread make it past QC.
The coverart here is a little busy, with Lelouch in the foreground, a larger image of Suzaku behind him, and Lancelot even further in the background down in the corner. Add in the series logo in the upper left, and you've got something that's attractive but jam-packed. The back cover has everything you'd expect - disc summary, episode listings, DVD features, and so forth. No insert is included. Overall, this is nice but fairly basic packaging.
The menu is dramatic and active, with an image of Area 11 centered in what looks like electronic sights. The flashing blue in the background, the rotating sights, and the windows that pop up with scenes from the show make this one of the busier menus I've seen in a while. Navigation is fast and easy, and response times were good.
There are some really great extras here, with three audio commentaries with the Japanese cast, a textless opening, previews for the next disc and other Bandai shows, and the first episode of the picture drama. The picture drama is a neat extra, but some might be put off by the fact that it's dubbed only.
The Holy Britannian Empire has taken control of much of the world, managing to defeat Japan in just a few days with formidable mechs known as Nightmare Frames. Now known simply as Area 11, Japan is a defeated colony, stripped of both identity and pride. "Elevens," as the former Japanese citizens are now known, are second-class citizens at best. It's not a peaceful situation, but in the face of Britannia's might, even so-called terrorist freedom fighters are forced to hide in the shadows and make do with what weapons they can scrape together or steal.
Lelouch is a unusual student, skipping classes to fleece the wealthy by gambling with the force of his formidable intellect on his side. On his way back to school one day, he and a friend witness an accident. When Lelouch attempts to make sure that nobody has been hurt, he inadvertently gets caught up in a nightmare. The crashed truck is driven by a pair of Eleven terrorists, who have stolen some sort of poisonous gas that they plan to use against Britannia. Suddenly finding himself a victim of circumstance, Lelouch is taken to be a terrorist himself and is almost killed, only to discover that the soldier sent to kill him is a childhood friend. Reunions are put on hold, however, when the pod containing the supposed poisonous gas opens up to reveal a strange green-haired girl.
The cruelty of the Britannian soldiers is highlighted in the aftermath of this discovery. Despite his best efforts, Lelouch and the girl are captured, but a strange series of events leaves him with the power of the king, the power to command and absolutely dominate anyone he makes eye contact with, although that power isn't without a price.
This was where things got really interesting. Lelouch isn't slow to pick up the implications of this newfound power, and realizes that his long-cherished dream of destroying the Britannian Empire might finally be in his grasp. He seizes control of the situation and directs the terrorist group by radio, controlling them and anticipating the moves of the Britannian forces like it was a game of chess. While things don't go precisely as he had planned, Lelouch does succeed in attaining his objective.
Things change when Lelouch's childhood friend Suzaku is accused of high treason. Lelouch creates an alternate identity, Zero, a masked and cloaked man who takes control of the terrorist group to further his plans, and to rescue Suzaku. But not everyone who shares his goals approve of his methods, and the reappearance of a familiar face promises to complicate matters even further.
What makes this really fun is how it plays with the tropes and cliches of mecha anime, and completely turns them all upside down. Lelouch isn't your typical angsty teenage robot pilot, despite coming with a tragic past preinstalled. Instead, you get a young man who doesn't bother wasting time whining about his existential angst to the world, a revenge-driven genius who will stop at nothing to tear down his enemies, and a pronounced flair for the dramatic. The ease at which he pulls off a double life is rather disturbing, actually, although a few flashes of weakness come through at a few points to make him a slightly more sympathetic character.
The rest of the supporting cast is just as interesting, from Lelouch's little sister Nunnally to Kallen, who lives as much of a double life as Lelouch, although she doesn't seem to find it quite as easy. There's a ton going on in these first five episodes, and the pacing is rapid-fire. Add in a truly epic stage, some awesome battles, and just a dash of comedy to keep things from getting too dark, and it's really hard to see where this show can go wrong from here.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Picture Drama Episode, Audio Commentary, Clean Opening 1, Collectors Booklet 1, CLAMP Character Sketch Booklet 1
Panasonic DVD-S25S Progressive-Scan DVD Player and Panasonic TC-26LX85 26" Viera LCD 720p HDTV (Component Connection)