Geass is a show with an identity crisis. It has no idea if it wants to be a highschool drama, a war drama, a story about morality, a story about freedom, or just about fifteen other things it tries to roll into its subplots. The show is scatterbrained at best, but still has its definite merits. It’s critically praised and has a substantial following, but after 25 episodes, I have to be honest…I’m just not seeing it. I thought that maybe there was something I wasn’t getting. Maybe there was a formula for success hidden within this muddled, messy story…but I just couldn’t find one. The show definitely does a lot of things right, but it also does quite a bit wrong.
The plot is intricate, but pretty easy to understand. The world is split up into three major superpowers, and Japan was captured by Britannia. Britannia wanted the Sakurite minerals that Japan produced, and Japan fought back rather than submit. This caused them to become an outcast country, or a “Number”. Japan is referred to as Area 11, and Area 11 is a ghetto. While going through this ghetto one day, Lelouch accidentally gets caught in the Japanese Liberation Front’s plans, and ends up acquiring the power to control people’s minds through sight from a mysterious woman called C.C. It’s through this that we find out Lelouch is a former prince looking to create a new world and crush the Britannian empire as it stands.
To start with what I like, I really enjoyed the show’s animation. I felt that fights and characters looked slick as they moved about the world, and it had an oddly retro feel throughout the series. Reminding me of a style similar to Inuyasha, I quite enjoyed Lelouch and Suzaku’s relationship as well, and had a lot of fun with the Knightmare combat, even though it felt extremely out of place. They do their best to establish it in the story, and at a certain point, I got over how out of place they felt. The show also doesn’t hold your hand, it allows you to draw your own conclusions and make inferences based on the presented facts, much as Lelouch does throughout the show.
When the show is a war drama, it’s very good. The tactics and the military operations are really enjoyable to watch and provide a very interesting story, and watching Lelouch move his forces like chess pieces is brilliant. I’ve always been a sucker for excellent military generals, and Lelouch’s abilities are really cool to see in play. However, it’s after these battles stop that things start dragging, and its in the exposition that the story shows its weak points.
Too many subplots ruin the story. At all times you have at least four pointless subplots like Nina wanting to meet Euphemia, The Earl of Pudding’s engagement to the Student Council President, Lelouch’s school life, Mao, and so much more. All of these subplots have ridiculous, and pointless ends. Also, the idea that Lelouch wouldn’t be outed as royalty is ridiculous. He literally kept the SAME NAME as when he was a prince, and changes nothing but the last name. So does his sister. To think that not one person would recognize his face is absolutely ridiculous.
At the points when it switches over to Lelouch’s high school life, the show loses all momentum. It slows to a crawl and becomes extremely boring. The stupid and often careless actions Lelouch makes typically make no sense, and his motivations as well as plans change every two episodes. There’s never a central train of thought to follow, and character deaths seem to be pointless, or make no sense. Also, C.C is the definition of an ex-machina as she literally saves Lelouch every time he’s in danger, thus removing all tension.
The high school kids are all extremely annoying, and I’m not sure why they were introduced. They become irrelevant two episodes in, and ultimately make no sense. I don’t understand why Lelouch would continue to go to school and try to needlessly rule a rebellion. If he wanted to take care of his sister, he’d just hide her away with his military force, rather than just abandon her in enemy territory. It’s completely brainless.
Ultimately, the show can be fun when its about war…but it doesn’t make a lot of sense most of the time. Plot lines come and go, and most are pointless and irrelevant. The show feels disconnected from itself, and sometimes can’t establish a clear enough narrative to follow. Most characters are so irrelevant you forget their names, and its hard to keep track of the thirty or so supporting characters. If you like high school dramas mixed with war anime, this may be for you. If not, it’s hard to recommend, as I don’t find it particularly strong compared to other anime available currently.
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