Animania: Code Geass: Lelouch Of The Rebellion R2 (Review)

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Photos are used for purely review purposes and are not owned by CulturED World. All credit goes to their original owners and copyright holders. Use of these photos is protected by the Fair Use Act.

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2 Comments Add yours

  1. Hunter says:

    Right from the first paragraph, it seems we will have to agree to disagree. Frankly, I think the underlying problem was that you were hoping the series would suddenly become a completely different type of production.

    Contrary to your statements here and in the previous post about the first series, the staff behind Code Geass were absolutely aware of what their goals and methods would be. To make a long story short, a lot of the elements you may consider to be “flaws” were, objectively speaking, part of the whole game plan and thus reflect precisely what they wanted to make.

    There wasn’t much confusion in practice. Code Geass was, right from the beginning, intended as a multi-genre show created for the primary purpose of providing mass entertainment through an over-the-top narrative told in a very theatrical manner, where tragedy and comedy were simply two sides of the same coin. Entertainment, not realism, was always the main goal. Within that general framework, both ridiculousness and seriousness had their respective place.

    As part of that effort, the staff introduced and employed multiple elements such as drama, humor, fanservice, mecha, school life or politics. You might personally feel that the series should have avoided certain aspects, because they weren’t what you were looking for as an individual or a critic, but removing them would change the intended experience.

    Take the high school antics. Not the most interesting parts of the show, but I still found them rather amusing as a way for the characters to relax and have fun. The show openly embraced its own ridiculousness during those sequences and that, in my opinion, provided a nice change of pace.

    Furthermore, the school scenes did occasionally result in a little bit of added characterization or even plot development. I definitely don’t agree with your earlier statement that portraying the student life served no useful role.

    Same with the plot twists. I’d argue many of them did make a fair amount of sense, at least in terms of the internal context (not when considered from the perspective of realism, which in my opinion never even needed to be a priority while watching this series), and did have a point (whether it was a particularly important one or not, since varying degrees would apply, that doesn’t equal having no meaning).

    In other words, the series was meant to be a rollercoaster that can take the audience along with it through a full range of emotions, including sources of amusement or shock and various degrees of interest. I won’t claim every single aspect was handled perfectly but, needless to say, I’d honestly argue the lasting popularity of the resulting production suggests it was far more of a success than a failure.

    In fact, beyond the purely superficial madness, I would also argue that it’s rather simple to figure out the underlying point of the story. Lelouch was always the consistent focus. The idea was to portray his internal and external struggles as a trickster who wanted to change the world. In retrospect, it’s even quite simple and predictable on a structural level.

    This does mean, mind you, that viewers need to both understand and appreciate Lelouch as a character in order to get the most out of the show. Even though every individual fan might not necessarily care for him as a person, because Lelouch does have several character flaws and questionable attitudes or beliefs, I would say the vast majority of them did find him to be both interesting and entertaining.

    In particular, I disagree with your stance that Lelouch’s development was “wishy-washy” at the end of the day. I’d say it was all part of his personal growth and inner conflict. He had good intentions and a basic sense of justice at his core, but also felt that extreme means were justified in order to produce a better result. That was the key issue. Unfortunately he wasn’t initially prepared to go far enough and that reluctance caused Lelouch a lot of tension and trouble.

    During R2, chaotic events increasingly pushed him to the edge and there was a gradual progression on that front. The last arc was where Lelouch could finally abandon all of his previous inhibitions and take the final step, thus reflecting how the ends can justify the means as long as you’re prepared to pay a heavy price in the process.

    To a lesser extent, the same thing applies to Suzaku. He was a living contradiction for most of the first series and the second season simply caused him to break even more, until he finally snapped near the end. Which actually served to overcome the ideological gap between him and Lelouch and thus made Suzaku less annoying. I think his ultimate outcome tied quite nicely into his own personal aspirations too.

    1. Appreciate your feedback. Differing opinions absolutely welcome, and discussion is always appreciated. Hope you’ll come back in the future to check out more of our opinions.

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