Review for Code Geass: Akito The Exiled - OVA Series
It’s not just stories that demand sequels; some creators put so much effort into building their worlds, that fans simply demand more. When it comes to something like Star Wars, you can see why. Code Geass is another story where the world is so brilliantly drawn, the back-story so intricately constructed, that 50-odd episodes of the main series still doesn’t feel enough, despite how conclusive the ending is. Apparently the ending wasn’t conclusion enough, given that in 2019, the Lelouch of the Re:Surrection feature film was released, but prior to that, the obvious solution to the problem of a story that was done and dusted, was to tell a side-story, another tale set in the same universe with a different cast of characters. So from 2012 to 2015, a series of five theatrically released OVAs came out telling the tale of Code Geass: Akito the Exiled.
The original series was a little more traditional a mix of light and dark as it developed its amazing story, but the OVA format demands a different take, a more consistent tone, and with just five hours of content, more focused storytelling. For the OVA, the director is Kazuki Akane, who is better known for directing Escaflowne, as well as Heat Guy J, Birdy the Mighty Decode, and my personal favourite of his output, Noein. I’ve been looking forward to Akito the Exiled, set between the R1 and R2 series chronologically...
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.
This is also a world where the balance of power shifts not just on technology, but on the mysterious mental abilities known as Geass. Thanks to this, Lelouch Lamperouge was able to foment rebellion in Area 11 against the Britannian overseers. Yet while this developed, conflict also blossomed in other parts of the world. The Europian Union now butted heads against the descendants of the aristocrats defeated and exiled during the Revolution centuries previously, in a simmering war that alternated hot and cold in Europe. And the Europian elites have no problem spending the lives of Japanese exiles against the Britannians, The ‘Elevens’ volunteer to fight for the Europians to purchase citizen rights for their families. But one exile, Akito Hyuga is a terror on the battlefield, and a preternatural survivor. For one Europian commander, Leila Malcal, he will be the heart of a Knightmare unit, The Wyverns that will shift the balance of power on the battlefield. But Akito Hyuga’s past will come back to haunt him on that battlefield.
Five hour long episodes of Akito the Exiled are presented across two Blu-rays released by the then UK branch of Funimation.
1. The Wyvern Arrives
2. The Wyvern Divided
3. The Brightness Falls
4. Memories of Hatred
5. To Beloved Ones
Code Geass: Akito the Exiled gets a 1.78:1 widescreen 1080p presentation on these discs. The image is clear and sharp, and colours are rich and consistent. There is no sign of aliasing, compression or the like, and digital banding is unobtrusive enough to be practically absent. If you’ve seen the original Code Geass, you won’t be surprised to hear that Akito the Exiled shares a character and world design style aesthetic with the original, even more understandable when characters start to crossover from the original story. But when it comes to the action, the OVAs push it by more than a notch, naturally making use of the then best CGI to realise the giant robots. The character animation too gets a theatrical level of attention to it.
You have the choice between Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Surround English and Japanese, with English subtitles and signs, locked to the appropriate track during playback. The Japanese surround is very welcome, and presents the action, effects, and music with the proper degree of ambience and immersion. The dialogue is clear throughout, and the subtitles are timed accurately and are free of typos. There’s this dissonant jazz style that comes up during the battle sequences that is very effective, while the end theme comes courtesy of Yoko Kanno.
You get two discs in a BD Amaray style case with one held on a centrally hinged panel. There is inner sleeve art to enjoy, and the whole thing is wrapped in an o-card slipcover. I suppose at this point the included digital copy is pointless. The discs boot to animated menus.
Disc 1 autoplays with a trailer for Dragon Ball Z Kai.
There is an audio commentary for episode 1 with the English language ADR Director, Donald Shults.
Disc 2 autoplays with a trailer for Outlaw Star.
There is a video commentary for episode 3 with Donald Shults, Aaron Dismuke (Akito), and Jeannie Turado (Leila).
There are trailers for My Hero Academia, Kan Colle, Dimension W, Pandora in the Crimson Shell: Ghost Urn, Gangsta, and Endride.
The Code Geass series is a curious viewing experience, stylistically very much an anime of the old school in that it throws everything in there, drama and comedy, light and dark, and a convoluted story that goes round the houses before it makes its point. It hits more often than it misses, but you can’t avoid the fact that, brilliant though it is, it is uneven over its fifty episodes. Indeed it’s the lengthy run that is its saving grace, giving it the space to tell its story. Akito the Exiled doesn’t have that luxury, five OVA episodes, just five hours to tell its story and develop its characters. It has no time for an uneven tone, it can’t afford to hit or miss, and it has to tell its story coherently and concisely. It doesn’t quite manage that.
With the amount of world-building and development the main story got, it’s clear that the Geass storyverse is wide enough for plenty of tales, and shifting the story to Europe gives the potential for something different and new, even if it’s still the Elevens at the heart of the story. We get some added history for context, with the French Revolution actually the key moment in the formation of the Britannian Empire, as those aristocrats that got kicked out, went to the New World and flourished. With France, and indeed the Europian Union a republic, it sets the stage for conflict, given the Britannians are back and proverbially knocking on the door.
Given what happened in Japan, conquered by Britannia, the Europians are happy to use exiles as cannon fodder as they skirmish against the invaders. And that’s where Akito and his compatriots come in, battling against Britannia in order to earn citizenship for their families, despite the Elevens being considered just as second class in Europia as they are back in their conquered home. Despite this vibrant set-up, the story boils down to the contentious relationship between Akito, and his estranged older brother Shin, who somehow is a leader in Britannia. With the two brothers on opposing sides, conflict is inevitable, but given they have a relationship cribbed straight from Sasuke and Itachi’s fraught brotherhood in Naruto, it doesn’t exactly feel fresh.
Much of Akito the Exiled’s problems come from it telling its characters back-stories through exposition, rather than integrating it into the narrative, and despite its more even tone it fails to develop its characters in a satisfying way. It’s not helped by the pointless presence of Suzaku and Lelouch, who add nothing to the plot, instead just eating up precious screen-time and making it feel like “small-universe-syndrome”. And suddenly, the rationale for Geass powers, who gets them, and how they work is thrown out of the window. It struggles to find the story it wants to tell, especially early on, and just when you think that it’s found it, it disappears up its own fundament for its conclusion. Yet having said all of that, Code Geass: Akito the Exiled has more than enough crash, bang, and wallop to hold the attention for the runtime, but it’s not really a patch on the original series.
Code Geass: Akito the Exiled is available from Anime on Line, Anime Limited, and United Publications, as well as mainstream retailers.