Code Geass launches into a huge sea of changes only to end on the biggest cliffhanger possible.
What They Say
Despite his status as an Eleven, Suzaku Kururugi has been granted the title "Knight of Honor" by Princess Euphemia. Fearing that others might follow Suzaku"s example of living peacefully within the Empire, Zero and his Order of Black Knights devise a trap for the Lancelot. While Euphemia and her entourage attend a welcoming ceremony during the arrival of a Britannian aristocrat, the Black Knights stage a surprise attack. With the Lancelot surrounded by enemy forces, Suzaku receives an order from the arriving aristocrat to maintain position in an effort to trap Zero in a fiery barrage, at the risk of losing his own life. Will Suzaku sacrifice himself despite Euphemia"s objections?
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 late 2006 and into 2007, 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 nine episodes across two discs in a 4/4 format which works out pretty well. 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 double disc edition for this release is like the other two disc releases in that it’s a slipcover holding the two regular sized keepcases. The box is a pretty dark affair for the most part with the front cover having Lelouch in the center with his cloak flowing around and covering a good deal of space. There’s some vibrancy to be found in the other character artwork, but it does come across as a dark piece. The back panel is kept very simple with the series logo on the white background which is very stark. One of the center strips has a good collage of character pieces while the other breaks down what’s in the set in a very clear and easy to read format, including all the discs features.
Within the slipcover is the two individual keepcases which mirror the overall design from the previous releases. The fifth volume of the series is given over more to the mecha of the show as it has the new prototype in the enter with some key character artwork along side it. The sixth cover is character driven with a beautiful shot of Euphy with her hair and dress flowing that’s contrasted by the serious looks of the supporting Brtiannian characters on it. The back covers are done with a little bit of elegance as it has a lot of empty space but some good framing for the summary of that particular volume underneath the logo. Below that is a nice strip of images of various characters and scenes from within the show and then a really nice breakdown of the discs episodes, features and extras for that respective volume. Unlike the first two volumes, these two discs have a really solid technical grid that breaks down exactly what’s on the disc for audio and video specs which is wonderful to see.
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 pretty solid once again though they do favor the Japanese more than the English side. The best extra are the three picture dramas spread across the two volumes. They provide a bit more background for the characters with little side stories that fit in between particular episodes. Some are more lighthearted than others, such as the cross dressing piece, but they’re nicely done as a series of stills with dialogue over it and they’re even dubbed. The other sizeable extra is the inclusion of two of the original Japanese audio commentaries with their respective episodes. These are fairly lighthearted since they often involve the Japanese voice actors who are having fun with it all as they talk about their roles and how much they enjoyed working with each other. There are a series of four English voice actor interviews as well, averaging around eight minutes or so, and these are fun little pieces with a couple of the key players talking about their characters and the approach they took. And naturally, we also get the clean versions of the new and unique opening and the second closing sequences.
As the first season of Code Geass draws to a close, it is for me a very strong reminder of why I enjoy anime so much. And at the same want to throttle the creators as well as they bring it all to a big ending but with a cliffhanger. This set covers a whole lot of ground in the eight episodes we have here and the story moves quickly with a lot of shifts, much like we've seen in the previous episodes. Code Geass to me straddles the line of going over the top so well that I can't help but almost giggle as they run through some of the key moments that they have plotted out. And like any good original series not based on the premise of being the next big weekly manga serial, they take chances and are a lot freer when it comes to making radical changes.
The finale to the first season ups the ante a fair bit when it comes to the intrigue and how it wants to pit the various sides against each other. The smaller character stories are still very engaging, though sometimes they get a bit comical. Ohgi and Chigusa's story is almost sweet to watch as the two may find something really important between each other, but the situation that the country is in is only going to make it more difficult. And if her memory does actually return, things could go very badly for both of them. The comedy side comes from the way that Lelouch is trying to hide his Zero identity but events always seem to push close to it. There's a very amusing segment during a school festival event where so many different people are converging together and if any of them see the other, it'd all spill out pretty quickly. It's an obvious setup but I have to admit to laughing and smiling during it.
While the character back and forth aspects are fun, especially the real periphery characters who get caught up in events bigger than themselves, it's the big moments that have me so engaged with it. Revelations are abound here during an incident that causes a fight to go badly and several characters end up on an island and discover who they really are. Suzaku finds out that Kallen is part of the Black Knights while Euphy confirms that Lelouch is truly Zero. This starts an interesting angle of trust among them as Suzaku, only increasing in rank in general much to the dismay of Britannians, gives Kallen a pass while on campus. He wants to try and persuade her there with words as opposed to the fighting on the battlefield.
The more dangerous revelation is the one between Lelouch and Euphy. She's such an open spirit but one that will keep a confidence that Lelouch isn't all that concerned. What surprises him though is that Euphy comes up with a plan to create peace in the country that will also slowly give back the name to Eleven's that it throws his plans off completely. The idea that Euphy has is one that she sees as a good path, but Lelouch understands that it's a false peace and one that will ring hollow and be a bigger problem in the long run. It also completely destroys his plans as his base of support will disappear if it goes through. With plans within plans, he does his best to meet Euphy head on and try to show her the error of her ways, but it goes so disastrously wrong, yet so right in his favor, that the balance of everything changes because of it.
And it's from that point, that confrontation that the two have, that Code Geass becomes a series that became quite memorable for me. With Lelouch taking his role of Zero to a new level, his war on Britannia and the changes that are going on within him with his Geass becomes intense. Accelerating everything, he sets things up to take on the Tokyo compound itself in order to protect Nunnally from all the bad things in the world and trying to give her a life of peace. But that life comes at a huge price and he's willing to pay it. He almost comes across as a little insane at times, but that just makes him all the more engaging to watch as he pushes hard and plays just about everyone as he pleases. There's a certain beauty to his attack on the Tokyo compound both from the layout of it all to the visuals.
Code Geass juggles a lot of balls throughout its run and it doesn't try to wrap all of it up here at the end of the first season. The show has such a good sized cast to it that there isn't a forced feeling of working through each of the pieces to make sure everyone gets their time here and that every little nugget is covered. On the flip side, because its an original show, you can't be sure what'll happen as it starts to reach its high points. There isn't a sense of killing off characters for the hell of it, but rather that they're in these situations legitimately and the outcomes feel right. The one forced trigger moment is out of place, but it's intentionally so and it's done to reveal that new twist to Lelouch's Geass. Each moment that involves someone being killed off makes for a great visual but it also fits into the story and there's an emotional connection as well.
I love this show. Great character designs, a wonderful setting with an intriguing premise and a storyline that continually raises the stakes. Lelouch is the kind of lead character that doesn't come along too often as he's essentially the villain but he doesn't see himself that way. And as he works his plans, we can sympathize with him because he has honest goals in mind but is going through reaching them in a less than honorable way. Each episode of the show brought out a new twist and added more intriguing layers to it. As it reaches a high point here throughout all eight of these episodes that close out the first season, Code Geass has quickly become one of my all time favorite shows. It's straddling the line of being completely over the top and it steps over a few times but that only made me love it all the more so. This is a pure big budget guilty pleasure and I can't get enough of it.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Picture Drama Stage 9.33, Audio Commentary Stage 19, Audio Commentary Stage 21, Textless Opening "Kaidokufunou" Version 2, English Voice Actor Interviews, Pictrue Drama Stage 22.25, Picture Drama Stage 23.95, Audio Commentary Stage 25, Textless Ending (Special On-Air Version Stage 23) "Mosaic Kakera", Textless Opening (Stage 24 and 25) "Hitomi no Tsubasa", Special Opening with Japanese Text (Stage 24 and 25) "Hitomi no Tsubasa", Textless Ending (Special On-Air Version Stage 24 and 25) "Colors"
Limited Edition: Code Geass OST 2, Code Geass Sound Episode 3, Suzaku of the Counter attack Vol.1 Manga, Character Sketch 2, Clamp Comic 2, Code Geass Booklets 7-9
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.