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DVD Review

DVD cover

Code Geass
Lelouch of the Rebellion Complete Season 2


Starring (voice): Jun Fukuyama, Takahiro Sakurai and Yukana
Manga Entertainment
RRP: £29.99
Certificate: 15
Available: 11 March 2013

On August 10th of the year 2010 the Holy Empire of Britannia began a campaign of conquest, its sights set on Japan. In the span of one month the island nation was conquered. As a dominion of the Empire the newly acquired territory was named Area 11, the rights of its citizens were severely limited and an economic depression followed for the Japanese, now known as Elevens. Just as things seemed at their bleakest one man chose to stand up and fight, the masked crusader Zero. Leading his Order of Black Knights, Zero instigated a full-scale revolution against Britannia culminating in one final battle, the Black Rebellion. Heavy casualties were seen by both sides but ultimately Britannia stood the victor resulting in Zero's execution. And thus history was written. The year is now 2018. With Zero dead and the remnants of the Black Knights being swept up by Britannian forces, a forced state of peace settles over Area 11...

Less than two months after their excellent release of Code Geass: Season 1, Kazé and Manga bring us the second 25-episode season, the oddly subtitled R2. It's an appropriately swift release given that R2 begun its run on TV in Japan less than twelve months after the first season's end, having been greenlit while in its closing stages. With the climax of season 1 reaching nearly unbearable levels of melodramatic audacity, it was hard to imagine what could follow. Truth to tell, season 2 doesn't quite equal its predecessor and goes some very daft places on its way, but it's still tremendous fun.

With the ambitious mastermind Lelouch, known to the world as Japan's would-be liberator Zero, and his best friend-turned-enemy Suzaku last seen pointing guns at one another as the credits rolled on series one, R2 cheekily resumes a year later with Lelouch back at school, all memory of his revolutionary goals seemingly forgotten; his beloved sister Nunnally, the symbol of his desire to forge a better world, has vanished to be replaced by a mysterious boy named Rolo. It's not giving much away to say that Lelouch swiftly shakes off his apparent amnesia and resumes the role of Zero, reassembling his loyal Black Knights for a fresh assault on his hated father's all-powerful empire.

Code Geass R2, in its early stages at least, seems puppyishly eager to retain its audience's loyalties, retreading several key scenes and plot points from the first season to muted effect. Complicating matters are a large number of additions to an already expansive cast, many of whom add little to the plot; most of those who reach beyond the status of eye candy or window dressing only do so by means of dramatic contrivances that come off as overdone even by this show's standards. A sojourn to China and a plot involving intrigue in the imperial court forms a weak conclusion to R2's first half, and only the outrageously silly twelfth episode Love Attack!, where Code Geass' elements of high school hijinks and romantic farce reach their peak and expend themselves once and for all, provides unalloyed entertainment.

It's after this point, following a pair of ugly deaths in the cast that inject a sour note, that R2 picks up the thread of Lelouch's unshakeable destiny as the saviour and potential destroyer of the world. Code Geass' thematic ancestry in the Gundam franchise comes through fully here, with leaden mecha battles - most of which, given the producers' decision to give every unit flight capability, come off as weightless and uninvolving compared with those in season 1 - overlaid with boilerplate dialogue about the nature of war, humanity, responsibility, destiny and so on. It's only the unceasingly charismatic Lelouch himself who holds the series together, continuing to control everything around him even as his plans fall to pieces; his gambits, played like magic tricks and superbly directed, are always arresting. His enemies' ambitions, whether mystical or military, come off as trite or clichéd by contrast, and the final execution of Lelouch's master plan after all the fights and battles have come to an end is simple and devastating. It's a marvellous finale that could only have been achieved with a character as memorable as Lelouch.

In the end Code Geass R2, despite its flaws and patches of scrappy animation, is a fine sequel and stands with its predecessor to make up one of the most enjoyable blockbusting series the last few years have had to offer. Kazé's release is as handsome as the first series', although the picture dramas and audio commentaries that were a highlight of the first set are a regrettable absence. The series itself is unrivalled fun, though, and absolutely essential if you enjoyed any part of season one.


Richard Hunt

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