Friday, 30 September 2011

Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion R2

Title: Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion R2

Distributor: Sunrise
Genre(s): war, drama, supernatural, mecha, action
Age Rating: TVMA (violence)

Episodes: 25
Aired: April 6, 2008 - September 28, 2008
Official Site: at

Authors Rating: 9/10

One year after the Black Rebellion, Lelouch Lamperouge has gone back to his normal school life, seemingly with no memory of his past exploits as Zero or as a former prince of Britannia. However, Lelouch is soon reunited with C.C. and his memory as well as his Geass is restored. Realizing what had happened to him; Lelouch once again takes on the persona of Zero, reforms the Black Knights and continues his war against Britannia.

The sequel to Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion, the aptly named 'R2' (I assume that the 'R2' has mecha connotations behind it) is both more of the same and yet a departure for the series in several ways. On one hand, it’s often even more ridiculous and over the top than its predecessor, and on the other surprisingly dramatic, with an emotional resonance not found in the first season. This show, itself, feels more like a rebirth of the series rather than a simple continuation of the storyline. It has a 'stand alone' property which adds depth to the series as a whole. Now to be sure, many of the classic Geass moments of the first season are present, however, this time around things feel very different both stylistically and thematically in ways that are superior to the original even if R2 itself can't quite top the overall impact of its predecessor.

Code Geass R2 continues the story of Lelouch Lamperouge (a.k.a. Lelouch vi Britannia, a.k.a Zero) and the Order of the Black Knights as they continue their fight against the Empire of Britannia. As is typical for a sequel, we are introduced to more characters including new allies, enemies, and Nightmare Frames. The long list of new characters includes Rolo, Lelouch's "brother" who turns out to be an assassin that also possesses a Geass power, Li Xing-Ke, who is a military officer in the Chinese Federation who is fighting to reform his corrupt government, and V.V. (who was briefly introduced during the first season), a mysterious boy with close ties to Emperor Charles di Britannia. As the series progresses new factions are introduced and new alliances formed, with plot twists abound. The plot twists in R2 are even more abundant, and at times even more implausible and unexpected than the first season, with every episode essentially ending in a cliffhanger compelling you to watch the next. However, the characters this time around are far more likable, even if they are so numerous that many of them, unfortunately, end up being underdeveloped. And while the show starts off slow, the plot eventually moves forward at a lightening pace and while stumbles somewhat near the climax, manages to pull off a remarkably well-crafted resolution at the end. Fans who were disappointed by the way the first season ended will undoubtedly be satisfied with the ending of R2.

Yet, like its younger sibling, Code Geass R2 sometimes can't help but fall into similar plot holes. Indeed there are moments during R2 that are even more incredulous and melodramatic than the first season. Lelouch/Zero's antics are much greater in scale and much more ridiculously unbelievable and grandiose than ever before. The battlefields are filled with even more over-powered mecha, the back-story becomes even more intricate and convoluted, and the storyline and premises are as cheesy as ever. At times the characters themselves seem to be in as much consternation as the viewers must be, and perhaps we shouldn't blame them. In many ways R2 is a super sized version of Code Geass with scenarios that make the absurd nature of the first season seem to pale in comparison, for action fans in particular, R2 is like the original Code Geass on steroids.

Looking past the outer shell, however, reveals an inner core that’s very different from what we've come to expect: a series that has real emotional depth and dramatic resonance. Now to be clear, by no means is this a primary focus of R2, however, the actions and motivations of the characters and the events themselves seem to have greater meaning and purpose. The range of emotions felt by the characters is better conveyed: we feel their desperation and determination, their sadness and joy, their anger and regret. Characters that seemed so empty or clichéd in the first season are given greater depth and expression, with exceptions of course. Lelouch, in particular, is a far more interesting character this time around, and his inner conflict and desire for self-resolution as well as his changing relationships with his comrades and enemies alike act as a drive that propels the show from a mere continuation into a rejuvenation of the series.

Conversely, many a cynic would deem the dramatic aspects of 
R2 to be nothing more than empty tear-jerker material, worthy of ridicule but certainly not acclaim. And indeed for merely suggesting that R2 has a deeper emotional reservoir than it seems may be the results of my own brain being influenced by the mayhem conveyed onscreen. Others would question the purpose of trying to find meaning in a show that is so clearly superficial. It's not hard to agree with such arguments as R2 is in many ways very one-dimensional, but it's at least able to have an emotional impact on this reviewer, regardless of whether or not such a response was expected or intended. 

Production wise, SUNRISE has definitely outdone itself. The visuals of R2 are not only significantly better than the original, but are also arguably some of the best I've seen. Even flashier and more colorful than ever before, the high quality of the visuals consistently impresses from one episode to the next. The characters and backgrounds are incredibly detailed and the large-scale action sequences are spectacular to watch. And while SUNRISE doesn't quite stand at the absolute top-tier level in terms of overall animation quality, R2 represents arguably their best work since their golden age of shows like Cowboy Bebop.

Code Geass R2 is a series that almost every Geass fan will be delighted to watch, for newer viewers watching the first season is recommended. While its approach is often divergent from the first, it shares enough absurdities and overindulgences that those who didn't like the first series will most likely detest this one. Yet for all its flashiness, its superficiality and its dangerously complex back-story, this is still a far more entertaining series than most of the other shows out there. If nothing else, Code Geass R2 again proves that entertainment doesn't always have to be meaningful, just enjoyable, and this reviewer can assure you, will keep you guessing right up to the very end.

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