Review for Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion: Complete Series Collection
For someone who has often expressed disdain for the giant robot genre, I’ve watched an inordinate amount of Code Geass since its UK Blu-ray debut. Back when Kazé released it, I watched both the Blu-ray and the DVD versions for review (apparently I had something called ‘free time’ back then) effectively watching the show twice. I then found time to re-watch the Blu-ray a few years back. The last couple of years have seen the movie compilation trilogy come to the UK, and it’s just been a few months since I last saw Lelouch’s story, albeit in radically abbreviated form. And here I am again, about to watch the fifty episodes of Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion once more.
It’s all down to the Kazé release of course. I’ve often whinged about their releases, and Code Geass was no exception, where they crammed 12 episodes per disc, left half of the extra features out, and had their usual issues with poor quality subtitling. They also had a tendency to issue small print runs. With Code Geass such a bona fide classic, it’s no surprise that Manga want to keep Code Geass in print in the UK, only this time they have the Funimation masters to work with. That means episode distribution that makes better use of disc real estate, doubling up on the disc count, proper subtitling, and all of the extra features. This time Manga are releasing a 50 episode complete series Blu-ray collection, although the DVDs are still split across two collections.
If you’re interested in my thoughts on the series, I’ll link to the old Kazé reviews further down. This review is just to see how the new release differs from the old.
Manga Entertainment present the 25-episode Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion Season 1 across 4 Blu-ray discs, and the subsequent second series, Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion R2 Season 2 fits on another four discs.
Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion Season 1
In an alternate world, 10th August 2010 saw the invasion of Japan by the Holy Empire of Britannia. The giant walking powered suits known as Knightmare Frames quickly overwhelmed Japan’s conventional defences, and the nation fell in the space of a month. Re-designated as Area 11 of the Empire, its very identity erased, the Elevens became second class citizens in their own home, ruled over by the aristocratic Britannians. But as with every ruthless overseer, resistance soon developed. Lelouch Lamperouge is an exiled Britannian prince with his own grudge against the Empire, as well as a desire to fulfil his promise to his crippled sister Nunnally, to create a peaceful world for her when she regains her sight.
It’s a terrorist attack that gives Lelouch the weapon with which to advance his timetable. Terrorists steal and make off with a container of poison gas, and the Britannians mobilise a force to hunt them down. Lelouch, playing hooky from his prestigious school gets caught up in the mayhem. It isn’t gas that has been stolen though; it’s a secret for which the Britannians would indiscriminately kill to protect. It’s a green-haired girl named CC. CC senses that Lelouch is the one that she has been waiting for, and bestows a gift upon him, the ability to force anyone to obey his will, a geass. With his keen strategic mind, and his vendetta against the Empire, Lelouch now has the tools to take the fight to the invaders. All he needs now is to find the resistance.
1. The Day a New Demon Was Born
2. The White Knight Awakens
3. The False Classmate
4. His Name is Zero
5. The Princess and the Witch
6. The Stolen Mask
7. Attack Cornelia
8. The Black Knights
10. Guren Dances
11. Battle for Narita
12. The Messenger From Kyoto
13. Shirley at Gunpoint
14. Geass vs. Geass
15. Cheering Mao
16. Nunnally Held Hostage
18. I Order You, Suzaku Kururugi
19. Island of the Gods
20. The Battle for Kyushu
21. The School Festival Declaration
22. Bloodstained Euphy
23. At Least With Sorrow
24. The Collapsing Stage
Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion R2 Season 2
At the end of the first season, it seemed that Lelouch was about to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, as when his plan to take Tokyo from the Britannians unfolded, he got pulled away at the worst possible moment when his sister was kidnapped. The series climaxed with a cliff-hanger, with his identity revealed to Suzaku and Kallen. The second season catches up to the story a year later, and it seems that the world is back to normal. The Black Knight Rebellion has been forcefully put down, its ring-leaders arrested, but Lelouch is back at the academy, going about his everyday school life, acting as if nothing ever happened. Or is he acting? Lelouch is back at school with his younger brother Rolo? Viletta Nu is his Phys Ed teacher? He doesn’t remember being Zero and leading the rebellion? He doesn’t even remember Nunnally? He’s back to his normal self, escaping his ennui by gambling with nobles, but it’s one such outing at the Babel Tower casino that gets interrupted by a terrorist attack. Leading the attack is a certain green-haired girl who has a reminder for Lelouch.
01. The Day a Demon Awakens
02. Plan for Independent Japan
03. Imprisoned in Campus
04. Counterattack at the Gallows
05. Knights of the Round
06. Surprise Attack Over the Pacific
07. The Abandoned Mask
08. One Million Miracles
09. A Bride in the Vermilion Forbidden City
10. When Shen Hu Wins Glory
11. Power of Passion
12. Love Attack!
13. Assassin From the Past
14. Geass Hunt
15. The Cs’ World
16. United Federation of Nations – Resolution Number One
17. The Taste of Humiliation
18. Final Battle Tokyo II
20. Emperor Dismissed
21. The Ragnarok Connection
22. Emperor Lelouch
23. Schneizel’s Guise
24. The Grip of Damocles
Code Geass gets a 1.85:1 widescreen 1080p transfer on these discs, and if there was one thing worth having in common with the Kazé release, it was the video. Thankfully, these Funimation sourced discs are just as appealing when it comes to the image, making the show look excellent in high definition, even if there is a degree of scaling up. Detail levels are good, the colours are excellent, and the animation comes across without flaw. CLAMP’s character designs are still just as distinctive, while the mecha designs are very effective. I did notice one episode in season 2 where the Pizza Hut logos snuck through, but generally it’s just as shorn of advertising as before. And once more, there were no issues with aliasing, compression or banding, which coming from Funimation is a definite plus point.
The previous UK release only offered stereo audio, but this collection from Manga/Funimation now has Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Surround Japanese, as well as 2.0 Stereo English and Japanese, with player locked subtitles and signs. Such an action packed show really benefits from the surround mix, while the Japanese audio is still my preferred way to watch the show. The subtitles are accurately timed, and other than one error in episode 2 of R2, they are free of typos and timed accurately. Most importantly, and a big selling point for this release is that the screen text is all translated, and presented as it should be, reason alone to throw out those Kazé discs and get these instead.
The discs boot to animated menus.
Disc 1 autoplays a trailer for Funimation Now and has the first three commentaries.
The episode 1 audio commentary features voice actors Jun Fukuyama (Lelouch), Yukana (CC), director Goro Taniguchi, and screenwriter Ichiro Ohkouchi.
Episode 4 sees Jun Fukuyama (Lelouch), this time joining actors Ami Koshimizu (Kallen), and Ken Narita (Jeremiah Gottwald) along with Sunrise producer Kawaguchi.
Episode 5’s audio commentary has Jun Fukuyama, Yukana, Goro Taniguchi and Ichiro Ohkouchi.
Episode 8 sees Jun Fukuyama, producer Kawaguchi returning, this time with Mitsuaki Madono (Kaname Ohgi), and Kazunari Tanaka (Tamaki).
Jun Fukuyama and Yukina this time join Character Animation Director Yuriko Chiba, Knightmare Designer and Mecha Animation Director Eiji Nakada, and Associate Director Kazuya Murata for the commentary on episode 11.
The commentary on episode 14 sees Jun Fukuyama and Goro Taniguchi with Animation Director Seiichi Nakatani and voice of Shirley Fenette, Fumiko Orikasa.
Episode 19’s commentary sees the return of Jun Fukuyama and Ami Koshimizu, this time with Takahiro Sakurai (Suzaku), as well as Assistant Series Planner Hiroyuki Yoshino, and Character Designer and occasional Chief Animator Takahiro Kimura.
Episode 21 sees Bandai Entertainment’s Yukawa join Jun Fukuyama, Takahiro Sakurai and Yukana.
Oh dear! You’re going to have to hold onto the Kazé release. The episode 25 audio commentary is missing on the Funimation release.
But you do get the Picture Dramas. There are 9 in total, set at various points in the series, and comprise the voice actors performing short sketches against still images. These vary from comic sketches to character backgrounds and episode prequels, and are well worth watching. There are 38:18 worth in total here, presented in 1080p HD, which is a step up over the Kazé release.
Also a step up over that first release, we get the US Actor Interviews in SD format, Jonny Yong Bosch (7:56), Yuri Lowenthal (7:21), Kate Higgins (6:16), and Karen Strassman (5:11).
Also new are the textless credits, 5 openings and 3 closings, albeit with locked subtitles. There are also Funimation trailers for the Attack on Titan live action movie, Escaflowne the Movie, Seraph of the End, Strike Witches the Movie, and Ghost in the Shell The New Movie.
Disc 1 autoplays a trailer for Funimation Now. And given that Season 2 from Kazé was completely barebones, all this stuff is new to UK Blu-ray (although there might be things missing from the original Beez DVD release that I’m not aware of).
The first disc has audio commentaries.
The one on episode 1 features Jun Fukuyama (Lelouch), Yukana (CC), Ami Koshimizu (Kallen), scriptwriter Ichirou Ohkouchi, and producer Kawaguchi.
On episode 4, Jun Fukuyama and Kawaguchi are joined by the unit director Miyake, and Takahiro Mizushima (Rolo).
Episode 6’s commentary has Jun Fukuyama and Ami Koshimizu with unit director Toba and Kenji Teraoka, mechanical designer.
Here you’ll find two audio commentaries, one on episode 8 with Jun Fukuyama, Yukana, Kaori Nazuka (Nunally), Ichirou Ohkouchi, and Kawaguchi.
The one on episode 12 has Jun Fukuyama, Satomi Arai (Sayoko Shinazaki), episode director Akitaya, and producer Kawaguchi.
There are three commentaries on this disc beginning with one on episode 15 with Jun Fukuyama, Yukana, 2D CG Director Miyoshi, and Kawaguchi.
The episode 19 commentary has Jun Fukuyama, Mitsuaki Madono (Ohgi), Takahiro Mizushima (Rolo), Assistant Director Kazuya Murata, and Character Designer Takahiro Kimura,
Episode 21 has Jun Fukuyama, Takahiro Sakurai (Suzaku), Unit Director Makoto Baba, and Kawaguchi.
The final episode 25 gets two commentaries, one from the cast features Jun Fukuyama, Takahiro Sakurai, Ami Koshimizu, and Yukana. The crew commentary has director Goro Taniguchi, writer Ichirou Ohkouchi, and chief animators Seiichi Nakatani, Yuriko Chiba, Eiji Nakida, and Kana Ishida.
You get 10 Picture Dramas on this disc, running to a total of 58:45.
Extra Flash: Baba Theater Redux has nine short pieces of humour running to 12:22.
The Broadcast Version of Next Turn (1-24) offers 6:02 of next episode previews.
You get the textless credits, three openings and three closings, as well as the US trailer for the show.
Finally there are Funimation trailers for Seraph of the End, Maria the Virgin Witch, Blood Blockade Battlefront, Yona of the Dawn, Garo the Animation, Ghost in the Shell: The New Movie, and Strike Witches the Movie,
It’s worth reiterating that the Kazé release of Season 2 had zero extras.
In every way, this release improves on the original Kazé Blu-ray release of Code Geass, so it goes without saying that you should double-dip. Code Geass is an exceptionally strong title as well, great animation, a compelling and binge-watch-worthy story, and some memorable characters. Just like any popular franchise, it is prone to fatigue through over-exposure, and with this being the third time that I have experienced the story in various forms over the last twelve months, I could begin to feel the temptation to autopilot my way through some of the lesser episodes this time, but you could say that about anything. Give it the proper respect, and leave sufficient distance between re-watches, and Code Geass will be a perennial favourite.
Code Geass came out in 2006, and that’s the year that Death Note was released, and despite the obvious difference, the mecha series and the cerebral mystery series, the two actually have a lot in common, not least their anti-hero protagonists, both hyper-smart and fiendishly clever, both gifted preternatural abilities far beyond human ken, and both embarking on schemes for global domination. Code Geass has the production values and scope that make it truly epic, whereas Death Note always feels somewhat static and low budget in terms of its animation.
But watching Code Geass again, I realise that the two shows have something less desirable also in common. They both jump the shark in their second halves. When Light was fighting L in Death Note, it was indispensable anime, compulsive viewing, but once Near and Mello appeared, the quality of the storytelling plummeted. Code Geass isn’t quite as bad, but there is a marked difference between the two halves of the story. Season 1 is nigh on perfect. I can’t really fault it, and it progresses with pace and with a logical progression that follows from its fantastical premise.
However Code Geass R2 requires a whopping great reset button so that it can have its cake-and-eat-it 25 episode run, much of which replicates the first season, set in Ashford Academy once more. The potential for Geass powers gets blown out of all proportion, and in the end, Code Geass R2 repeatedly falls into the trap of trying to one-up itself with increasingly ridiculous plot twists and revelations. Characters switch sides so often that by the time the final battle comes around, I don’t know who is fighting on which side against whom. However, Code Geass R2 fares better than Death Note in that it has oodles of momentum on the goodwill generated by the first season to coast on, more than enough that you forgive its daft excesses, and it also delivers a wonderfully apt and effective final episode that certainly leaves me feeling positive about the whole experience; positive enough that I don’t see why they bothered with the continuation Code Geass: Lelouch of the Re;Surrection, other than the obvious cash-grab
But that’s a matter for another review. As I’ve said, Manga’s new release of Code Geass puts to bed the misstep that was the previous release, and it’s a show that belongs in every anime collection.