I wanted to believe in this show. I wanted to believe in this show with all of my heart. The first few episodes were so promising for R2, I thought that the sequel was going to fix the issues of the first, ramp things up to eleven, and become a smarter version of itself. It was clear from the get go that things such as the animation, writing, and plot had immediately improved after the success of the first series, and with the terrible ending that the first series was left on, they had to do something pretty heavy to compensate for an awful cliffhanger ending.
A word of caution, there will be heavy spoilers for the first series of Code Geass, so if you haven’t seen it, please turn away now, and come back when you’re done. With that out of the way, we can get elbow deep in this mixed bag of goodies that is Code Geass R2. R2 is simply a sequel to Lelouch’s tale in the first series. It’s been a year after the failed Black Rebellion assault. Lelouch has no memory that he was ever Zero, and subtle differences have occurred throughout. He is awakened by C.C and Kallen as Zero once again, remembering the war he started, and beginning a new path for conquest.
To start, this series made Suzaku into an absolute idiot. Really, I’m not quite sure what they were going for with his character development, but I guess I have to commend them for basically slapping away his virtuous stance on the world. Lelouch is as unlikable as ever. I think the thing that ground my gears the most throughout this series was Lelouch’s wishy washy character development. For two episodes, he decides he’s the conquering king. For two more episodes, he decides that he’s a super villain who must destroy the whole world. For two more episodes after that, he’s a whiny teenage brat that isn’t worth two minutes of screen time. Really, the two of them are almost Naruto and Sauske levels of annoying.
They’ve toned down a lot of the boring high school aspects, which I think is a great stride. The show is at its best when Lelouch is a charismatic strategist, and it’s carried by its excellent writing during these sequences. However, the show falls into so many of the tropes that the first series continually perpetrated. Plot twists for the sake of plot twists are abundant. Most of them don’t even make any sense at all. The twists never lend to the plot, they only muddle the main narrative. Characters are killed off or taken captive and ex-machina-ed away over and over again, to the point that you almost have to roll your eyes at a certain point. Man, for all the planning Lelouch seems to do, he sure gets taken by surprise ALL THE TIME. He actually comes off as pretty stupid the majority of the time, and I think that draws down the show’s momentum and moments of awe quite a bit.
The other thing that kills me is that there are so many pointlessly explored plot lines. Once again, we have fifteen to sixteen subplots going on all at once and by their resolution its hard to care anymore because we just want to see more wartime action. Some are interesting and pay off quite well, but others are very stupid and leave you feeling like you wasted twenty minutes of screen time. Oh, and by the way, the last act of this series is atrocious. It jumps the shark in fifteen different ways and makes absolutely zero (pardon the pun) sense.
So, all in all, it’s definitely better than the first series. The action is solid and the intrigue is mostly there, and we don’t have to build up Lelouch or Zero as a character so much. On the other hand, it’s still just as bad when it comes to the writing, and also when it comes to character development and general plot points. Often, I find myself more confused, or rolling my eyes at a twist for twist’s sake, because everything is so convenient. I get that the whole show is about no easy answers. I get that it’s supposed to be about no black and white, and Suzaku and Lelouch are the black and white that come together to represent the gray area. Unfortunately, it’s all done so confusingly and dizzily that there’s no time for awe. If you enjoyed the first one, this is for you. If not, this whole series is worth a skip, it’s okay, but nothing beyond that.
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