With Brittania ruling a third of the world, the focus is on the country formerly known as Japan and now known as Area 11.
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!
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 96kbps.
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 5/4 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 limited edition release of this set is pretty top quality as is to be expected after seeing some of the similar style releases from Bandai Entertainment in the last year. Mirroring their Lucky Star box, it’s a good heavy chipboard piece that has a side panel that latches magnetically along the side with a small ribbon that you can use to pull it open. The two main panels feature really beautiful dark pieces of artwork with a glossy finish for the character artwork itself that allows it to stand out strongly. The other panels are kept to either the series name or the Geass logo along with the “mental pathway” imagery that’s used from within the show. The box has a very solid feel to it that gives it a certain heft which adds to it’s feeling of being a quality product.
Within the box are a fair amount of goodies, including the two keepcases that are identical to the single volume releases. The first volume has a good striking image of Lelouch against a white background with other characters and some of the Knightmare Frame’s while the second cover is that of Suzuki and the special group that he’s working with. 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. I’m still disappointed that Bandai can’t seem to do a proper technical grid to explain what their discs are like however as it doesn’t list what kind of audio is on here or that it’s a widescreen series.
The Limited Edition comes with a few extra goodies that are certainly worth checking out depending on how into the show you actually are. The first is the inclusion of the Sound Episode 1 CD which covers various pieces within some of the episodes from this set as well as some from the next set. This one is in a proper jewel case while the second CD included, the first OST, is in a cardboard case with a great illustration of Lelouch and Suzuki.
As much as I like CDs, the best included extra are the four booklets that are here. The first three are full color pieces which break down the artwork and designs of the world alongside with interviews with the Japanese staff. There are episode summaries as well as little history lessons of how Britannia came to be. I’ve only skimmed them a bit however since I don’t want to potentially spoil much of the actual show itself. The fourth booklet is a smaller black and white piece that details the character designs since CLAMP is obviously such a big selling point to the show.
The last item included in the box is the first volume of the manga which works from the show by telling certain parts of it and emphasizing others, which is a fairly standard practice for books like this. This release marks another instance where Bandai is working to release manga for shows it’s working on and marketing them together. Similar to their previous releases, they’re of pretty good quality and hold up well against what other publishers release.
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 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 but they’re nicely done as a series of stills with dialogue over it and they’re even dubbed. And yes, one of them is a bath scene with the young women of the series so it’s pure win there for us dirty old men. The other sizeable extra is the inclusion of several 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. And naturally, we also get the clean versions of the first opening and closing sequences.
Code Geass is a twenty five episode series that’s directed by GorÅ Taniguchi and written by IchirÅ Åkouchi with character designs by CLAMP. All three of these things together marks this as a series with a lot of strong credits behind it that manage to pull it off incredibly well for the first nine episodes that we get here. The credits of the writer and director alone, both of whom collaborated on Planetes not long before this, are ones that would have me eagerly anticipating what they’d be involved in. Code Geass seems to be a fascinating fusion of different ideas that the two men can give a lot of strength to.
Alternate history is something that has always fascinated me in the realm of novels. It’s not something that’s been used too awful strongly in the anime world on a global scale. There are numerous re-imaginings of Japanese history in series and explorations of that past with the supernatural or giant robots. But there are few shows that tackle the present and recent history in this particular fashion. Britain has successful taken control of a third of the world and America is known as Britannia. In its conquest of other nations, Britannia renames them to specific area numbers and subjugates the citizenry while ruling them as the elite class. In 2010, Japan finally fell to the push of Britannia against what the Euro Universe was doing as well as the Chinese Federation. Now known as Area 11, the country is trying to find the balance between what they were and what Britannia wants them to be.
Enter into this a surprisingly complex tale about revenge and family. The capital of Area 11 has been devastated and the central part of it is now made up of a massive Brittania stronghold. The areas surrounding it are in ruins and are being demolished to make way for new expansions and to push down the Elevens even more. Only Britannians can live within the stronghold but others are allowed in for work and there are a small but growing segment of Honorary Britannians that have come up through the ranks to collaborate with their new rulers. The general population has given in and lives in relative fear but there are still those that struggle against Britannia in hopes of bringing themselves under self rule again one day.
Within this world, the story is focused on that of a Britannian named Lelouch Lamperouge. Lelouch is an exiled prince from Britannia who has been taken in by the Ashford family in Japan after the death of his mother. Along with his younger sister Nunally who has gone blind after being injured in the murder of their mothe, the two have grown up in relative obscurity in Area 11 after the invasion of the country and attend events and school within the Britannia section. During all this time, Lelouch has been waiting for his chance to begin his true mission of finding out who had killed his mother and to exact his revenge. Patience is the name of the game but sometimes plans can get accelerated when an unknown element comes into play.
That element is something that a terrorist group has stolen that Lelouch has come into contact with. Originally thought to be poison gas, it turns out that what they stole from the stronghold was actually a container with a mysterious young green haired woman known as C.C. who finds Lelouch to be exactly what she needs. Lelouch enters into an agreement with her that gives him the power to accomplish his mission, the ability to control the minds of others. Lelouch, a highly intelligent young man, realizes how quickly he can take advantage of this and of the terrorists that are throughout the country to begin his master plan. Everything is accelerated by this as he takes on the persona of Zero, a very theatrical masked man who pushes through to the highest levels of Britannian royalty in the country and makes his mark known.
Code Geass is a rather well layered series as it tackles a lot of different things. The main thrust is that of revenge for Lelouch but it also works through the political level as it delves into the structure of the world and the royalty of Britannia. With numerous relatives all competing to take on the title of Emperor, there are a lot of different things that slowly come into play as more of them are introduced. Lelouch’s role is one that introduces a lot of chaos to the mix early on as he deals with Prince Clovis who is ruling Area 11 for his father. Quite a lot is revealed about the landscape of the series in how the royal family deals and interacts with each other.
Code Geass also tackles a lot of social issues as it runs through having Britannian’s living in the city. Their interactions with Eleven’s brings in a good bit of class warfare, though it’s not exactly the lower class trying to fight back at all since they’re rather docile. The non-docile element with the terrorists are rather scattered in what they’re trying to accomplish and that’s something that Lelouch is able to use to his advantage since he needs to bring them under his control to work through his vision. Some are more organized than others though and they provide a bit more of a challenge.
Not everything revolves around serious material however as there is a school setting mixed into this as well. The Britannian’s have their own academy within the city and a good chunk of time is spent there, especially since Lelouch is one of the student council members as is the daughter of the family that took him and Nunally in. With a few other friends brought into play because of this, there is a very light and fun aspect to it, especially once Lelouch has to start concealing his Zero identity. Even more fun is that one of the terrorists that he uses ends up as a student there as well with her own cover story and they start to dance around each other for a bit. There’s tension to be found but also a good bit of humor as everyone wants to try and live their lives as best as they can.
With the show being produced by Sunrise, it features some very striking and beautiful animation. There are certainly plenty of scenes where they’re done to minimize costs, but it’s done in a way that keeps the flow of the show working and doesn’t actually make it look cheap. This is a very quality looking production through and through with some very fluid scenes and great mechanical design, which isn’t a surprise considering the backgrounds of those involved with it. The character designs are also equally beautiful, which doesn’t surprise me since I am a fan of CLAMP and their designs. There’s a certain lightness to them in how they’re built which adds to the theatrical feel that Zero in particular exhibits. Everyone is distinct in this and nobody really looks like anyone else which certainly helps. If there’s an area that does bother me, it’s that since they do push the entire class issue based on ethnicity, there should be a bit more distinction between the Elevens and the Britannians. That’s sadly not here and would have added a bit more to it I think.
Code Geass is made up of pure win. It’s very easy when watching this to see why it’s become massively popular and has such mainstream appeal. While it has all the elements to be successful to a wide audience, it also dabbles in a number of things that are definitely aimed at a much smaller audience. The bits of alternate history are fascinating to those that will get into them and the booklets help to cover a lot of this in more detail. What’s most striking about this series is that Lelouch has such a sense of purpose to him and sets out to accomplish it without having to fall back on seemingly standard story setup ideas. The simple fact that this isn’t based on a manga and isn’t working from the usual chapter by chapter design helps to give this a much greater cinematic/serial feeling than it would otherwise. The first nine episodes provide a wonderful storyline where things don’t always go as you expect and nobody seems to be safe. That gives the show a bit of an edge which when combined with such sharp writing and great animation allows it to stand out above most other shows out there at the moment. Bandai Entertainment has put together a solid release in every aspect for the most part which will appeal across the board. Very recommended.
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles,Picture Drama Episode,Audio Commentary,Collectors Booklet 1 and 2 and 3,CLAMP Character Sketch Booklet 1,LE: Collectors Artbox,LE: -Code Geass OST 1,LE: -Code Geass Sound Drama 1,LE: -Code Geass Lelouch of The Rebellion Manga: Lelouch V.1
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