Thursday, February 11, 2010

Japanime: Code Geass: Lelouch of The Rebellion

In the various fictional worlds of superpowered individuals, there has been one seemingly mundane human trait that can overwhelm even the most powerful of paranormals: the human intellect. That is why, in the DC Universe, Batman is easily the most dangerous among the “gods” who walk among men. That is why, in the Marvel cosmos, Captain America, a mere man, has led teams of heroes that include antediluvian gods, cosmic-scale beings, and humans with massive and astonishing power. And on NBC's Heroes, Noah Bennett, the former Company Agent who is fully human, is considered superhuman because of his extensive knowledge of the enhanced humans that he has hunted in his previous life.

Lelouch Lampange, the title character of this anime, can literally control the mind of anyone he comes across simply with direct eye contact, thanks to a power called “Geass”. However, as Lelouch demonstrates well throughout the first season of Code Geass(25 episodes), it is not the power itself that is dangerous...but the cunning human intellect that can point it in the right direction.

Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion is an epic war story set in an alternate universe, 17 years in the future, where Great Britain, as the Brittanian Empire, is a massive superpower that has taken over much of the world surface. In fact, in the prologue scenes, it is clearly implied that Brittania's seat of power is an alternate universe United States. The nation of Japan, in 2010, had been conquered by the Empire, and renamed Area 11. Already stripped of their nationalistic identity, the native Japanese(dubbed Elevens) are treated harshly as second-class citizens, and regarded by most of the Brittanians with extreme prejudice.

On the eve of the conquest of Japan, our title character, then a young boy of ten years old, vows to his Japanese friend Suzaku Kururugi to destroy Brittania. His motivations are not selfless heroism or naviety, however; years ago, his mother, the fifth wife of Brittania's Emperor, was murdered violently before his younger sister Nunnally, rendering her unable to walk and open her eyes. Lelouch, then a Prince of Brittania, fled with his sister to Japan before the conquest, hooking up with the the son of the Japanese Prime Minister, the aformentioned Suzaku.

The series itself begins 17 years later, where Lelouch has assumed a new identity, and attends a prestigous school where he and his young sister also live. His friend Suzaku has become an Honorary Brittanian in the Brittanian Army, a position held by Elevens that are deemed worthy by the Empire. The two old friends meet in an incident, where the Army is tranporting a secret project, publicly described as gas. However, said project is revealed to be something entirely different...something that will reignite Lelouch's passion for destroying Brittania through the spectacular masked alter-ego known as Zero.

One of the wonderful things about this anime is its uncompromising portrayal of war. War is dirty and nasty, and usually, it is not divided so neatly between the traditional lines of good and evil. As Zero, Lelouch gets his hands dirty in a lot of situations, which often leads to unexpected twists. The cast of characters, on both sides of the conflict, add to the great story...from the stoic devotion of Suzaku to "change Brittania" by following the rules, to Kallan Stadtfeld's iron devotion to Zero and his rebellion. And it being a Sunrise production, there is that subtle nod towards the "Gundam Role"...i.e. the character with the biggest, baddest robot that can almost singlehandly shift the tide of war. This is embodied in Suzaku's Lancelot's experimental Knightmare Frame, with its powerful Yggdrasil Drive.

I'm currently in Season 2, and man...what a doozy. There are even more twists and turns...spoiler....keep your eyes on the Chinese Federation. And Lelouch/Zero...the intellect is awesome in action.

This is one of the best anime I've ever seen in my life so far. Check it out, seriously.

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