Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion R2 [2008-2009] Season 2. 25 Episodes

code_geass_zero_01

Code Geass returns for a second season with a twist -actually with too many twists.  Those of season one were balanced out by moments of release.  A roller coaster’s twists are fun because there are contrasted by sections of straight track.  Constant twists would be little more than nauseating.  In Code Geass R2 the constant twists served to detract form the overall experience encouraging less investment and eventually mild apathy for most of the characters.

Does she really like him?  Or is her secret wish from season 1 a desire to be likked by LeLouch.

Does she really like him? Will they smooch?  Or is her secret wish a desire to be killed by LeLouch?  Sadly it is a the latter, and the kind of downer twists you will get all season long. (You need counseling girl.)

Now a challenging one-sentence synopsis:  In a world dominated by the empire of Britainia a young prince of that empire fights against it for revenge and the hope of a better world for his sister with the aid a mysterious power that bends people’s will but along the way his rebellion will cause millions of deaths and the destruction of nearly all he holds dear as the price for freedom.

Just another day striving for world peace.

Technically Code Geass R2 is high quality.  The mecha are reasonably consistent, evolve and engage in action usually fun and interesting especially earlier on when supported by plot you could get behind.  The battles often made strategic sense for that was one of the selling points of the series and its lead character’s abilities.

More infrequent that season 1. the episodes still occasionally excelled at compelling strategic battles.

Less frequent than season 1, Code Geass R2 still occasionally excelled at compelling strategic battles.

While you may have been a strategic genius LeLouch, you really need to hit the cardio harder.

While you may be a strategic genius LeLouch, you really need to hit the cardio harder.

Artistically the character design is top notch.  The female characters were a pleasure to behold and the male characters varied and interesting.  The outfits were flattering and sometimes quite detailed.

Kallen seen here in one of the only shots not depicting her brows knit together in anger or intensity - or both.

Kallen seen here in one of the only shots the entire season not depicting her brows knit together in anger, intensity – or both.  (If the latter sounds like one of your dates, it is time to break up.)

Check out the detailed braid in Cornelia's hair.

Check out the detailed braid in Cornelia’s hair.  (Those hair twist products you see advertised on daytime TV really work!)

The animation quality is superb for a show of this kind.  Non-mecha action scenes were smooth and the characters moved with a well planned grace.  High kicking knights and fast moving ninja were all handled with equal aplomb.

Your secret is finally out Sayoko.  You are not just a maid, you are a - ninja!?

Your secret is finally out Sayoko. You are not just a maid, you are a – ninja!?

However those good qualities could not staunch eventual frustration as one character after another was twisted, killed or both.  Some were brought back amazingly -and killed again, yet sometimes still not dead.  Others died unexpectedly, quickly or ingloriously (sometimes all of the above) which left you wondering whether to cheer or mourn.  Some of us eventually did neither, but rather grumbled at the constant “gotcha” moments.

We liked Diethard.  He was different.  A savvy media thinker.  The fall and inglorious death of this character was uncalled for.

We liked Diethard. He was different. A savvy media thinker. The fall and inglorious death of this character was uncalled for.  (Even for a network executive.)

Toudou was the stoic no-nonsense character you could get behind.  Not only did he have the squintiest eyes in the series, but he died twice and still lived to have a happy ending.

Toudou was the stoic no-nonsense character you could get behind. Not only did he have the squintiest eyes in the series, but he died twice and still lived to have a happy ending.

Good characters you got behind turned bad and bad characters good.  However they were at least understood.  Many others went back and forth so many times that we just did not care anymore.  Characters that were sympathetic became less so until so unlikeable that you actually wanted them to “get it”.

While the emperor was always a baddie, we believe they actually wanted us to feel sympathy for LeLouch's mother Marianne at first.  Before they turned her unsympathetic.

The emperor was bad, but even Lelouch’s mother turned out to be an unsympathetic disappointment. At least the two were atomized from the bottom up, insuring a contrived but dramatic exit.

code_geass_guren_missile

The episodes started fun and went downhill from there.  Nearly every episode’s victory was stepped on by an undermining twist.  The formula of establishment, tension and then release was interrupted too many times and eventually we grew weary of the manipulation.

Zero gets the award for most dramatic pose since Ash Ketchum won his first Pokemon gym badge.

Zero gets the award for most dramatic pose since Ash Ketchum won his first Pokemon gym badge.

ash badge

The additional evolutions and additions to the mechs kept them fresh and exciting.

The additional evolutions and additions to the mechs kept them fresh and exciting.  (And knowing how to strike a pose in one’s mech is key to being an ace pilot.)

However we were invested in many of the supporting cast, so could not help but still care as they were forced into contrived alliances which pitted them against others you also were once behind. When determining who to root for requires a guidebook, calculator or star chart a drama is too muddled for its own good.

Fetching Villetta wonders which side she is on.

Fetching Villetta wonders which side she is on.

Enigmatic Zero actually wonders which side HE is on.

Enigmatic Zero actually wonders which side HE is on.

When you take the desire to root for one side out of a otherwise great action scene you rob it of the key ingredient that makes it memorable and exciting,  Without it the scene just becomes a technical exercise.

When they wanted they could sure build up the enjoyable tension in a mech battle.  This one from season two episode 6 is well worth watching.

On occasion they built up the enjoyable tension in a mech battle scene like the days of old. This one from season two episode 6 is well worth watching.  (Ace pilot Kallen doing what ace pilots do – striking a dramatic pose in her mech Guren.)

Sometimes the plot bogged down in pretentious philosophical nonsense, other times strange occurrences were poorly explained.  Many people ( perhaps too many) now had different versions of geass powers, and there was a geass realm -neither of which were explained to clarity.

They did spend a lot of time with Milly.  It was one of the few characters that got treated consistently and consistently well.

They did spend a lot of time with Milly. It was one of the few characters that got treated consistently and consistently well.  (Being a class president in Japan is akin to ULTIMATE POWER!)

Code Geass often still manages to entertain despite many characters taking turns annihilating huge numbers of people.  It mattered little if they were “bad guys” or “good guys”.  Those who enjoyed season one view season two with caution.

Ocean one; Battleship zero.

The score?  Ocean one; Battleship zero.

Check out our take on Code Geass R1 (season one).

See more Kallen in Top Ten Animated Pics Vol 01.

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19 thoughts on “Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion R2 [2008-2009] Season 2. 25 Episodes

  1. Season 2 of Code Geass actually took the series to its conclusion, the conclusion of its theme, which is not the theme of the first few episodes of season 1, they’re the build-up.

    The premise of Code Geass is “At what cost victory?” and it should be judged when looking at it through these lens.

    • There is some validity to your point, but at the same time you do not want to leave your audience feeling ripped off for the sake of a message. Additionally, is it not like bait-and-switch to bring people in under one premise and then sock them with another very different one?

      “At what cost victory?” is an interesting analysis, fitting in many ways. Thanks for the intelligent comment.

      • It is a form of bait-and-switch. I may address it when I cover the series, probably sometime in September.

        And you’re welcome. I believe in intelligent comments, and if they’re not intelligent, it’s because it’s just someone posting to alleviate the mood, which can also be kosher 🙂

  2. First off, thanks for commenting on my post but I have to disagree that my “synopsis” was good as it was nothing compared to what you have written =) I was merely promoting the characters and trying to get people to watch it with little info mentioned. The thing I hate most is spoiling it for people like what wikipedia does, people just publish almost everything there… where’s the fun in watching something when you know how it’s gonna end?

    I have to agree that the twists in the 2nd season were too much to handle sometimes. The twists just leave you confused on how you feel about the characters in it. It did have a good ending though.. even the ending left fans speculating things.

    No matter what Lelouch does the girls DO love him, my best friend is so crazy over him she’s even looking around for his figurines which I think are not worth the money.

    • Girls in the show falling for Lelouch is one thing, but girls in real life doing the same is indeed troubling. Let us hope those same girls give guys a break the next time they go moronic for some tattooed, gun-wielding, skinny-as-a-rail, big boobed female anti-hero. 😉

      With a 599 word limit, we really do not have the space to spoil details like wikipedia does. (Although we do not hold back on crucial info that we think is important.) However we do manage to squeeze in a lot more wit, and hopefully a few smirks.

      We are gratified you agree regarding the R2 over-twist factor. One should not need a GPS just to find where one is in relation to the oversized cast. While we are grateful for the happy little character round-up epilogue you mentioned, we wish they had taken equal care with the main plot thread.

      Thank you for stopping by and weighing in. We hope to hear from you again.

  3. Absolutely right! The second season of code geass was simply far too convoluted in plot and character points.

  4. Nice personal analysis of the 2nd season. I liked such funny subtitles for the pics 😉
    Unfortunately it’s hard to do it without spoiling the story. As I’m concerned, most of times I prefer the 1st seasons of the animes… but Code Geass is an exception : I prefered R2 ’cause it was still intense as the 1st one and it ends well.

    • We understand where you are coming from because you put a higher value on straight intensity. We would only argue that it came at too high a price. We do not think in terms of spoilers for our takes. They are more about comparing notes with others.

      Pleasantly, we both agree on the epilogue portion of the ending. We often like to see a bit into the future to know how the characters we have been following end up.

      We are gratified that you got a few chuckles out of our take. Comment any time.

  5. While I still enjoyed the show, I agree with the main argument of thie review. It could also be pointed out that there were simply too many twists for a 25 episode season, not necessarily too many twists in general if we consider the scope of the premise and the size of the cast.

    If the second season had been 35 or even 50 episodes long, while still keeping the exact same basic storyline, I imagine that would have helped made it an easier watch and the twists would be easier to digest instead of being almost relentless.

    After all, more than one staff member has acknowledged that the season, particular its second half, had to be compressed, suffering from both unplanneed cuts and changes in the process. It may be pointless to speculate about what could have been, but there you have it.

    On a more personal note, I managed to generally sympathize with Lelouch’s overall goals if not his specific actions and even when there was a sudden shift shortly before the final arc I still gave him the benefit of the doubt. I could also understand at least a couple of the characters who opposed him, so in my case there was always a bit of emotional investment even during that final rush towards the finale.

    • That is a good point. They were driving at about 65 TPH (Twist Per Hour). If they had just slowed the pace a bit the twists would have been a little easier to digest. Still, we think there were enough to give indigestion no matter the reasonable pace.

      We are not surprised to hear of the some of the internal strife and problems going on during the production of R2. It showed in the final product. The plot was thin and they seemed to fill it with twists instead of substance. We understand your emotional investment too. Heck, you had been with that character through think and thin for 50 episodes.

      Stop by any time.

  6. Well, a lot of the criticisms you raise are very incisive. I agree with the general sentiment here that the latter half of R2 had enormous pacing issues. The Emperor’s arc, in particular, came across as rushed. The concepts of “C’s World” and the “Thought Elevator” were extremely convoluted, and could have used a good five more episodes of exposition. But instead, the writers decided to shoehorn it all into a single episode. I was totally shocked when Lelouch was not only able to untangle all of this metaphysical nonsense in the span of two minutes, but then USED it to defeat the Emperor. (I guess that’s why he’s a genius and I’m not.)

    Narrative issues aside, however, I think that the show managed to be thematically-compelling all the way through. I’ve also really appreciated Geass for its dramatic touch. Some of the more tragic elements even came across to me as almost Shakespearean in scope. Also: most of the main cast (save maybe Kallen) was complex enough to warrant discussion. Lelouch was especially dynamic: his struggle to find self-purpose after repeatedly losing it was enough to carry the show on its own.

    I would love it if Sunrise revisited the series in a couple of years,

    • Good points. The better narrative, pacing and stronger characterizations from season one are what kept us going through season two. You are right, some of the elements were almost Shakespearean. We think season two was too many things. Spread so thin and not giving anything the treatment it deserved brought the whole down.

      We like your intelligent take on it. However we wonder of we really want to see more Geass. If it is like the more fun season one than yes. If it goes down the season two road, then perhaps it is better to let this sleeping dog lie.

  7. (SHIT, I accidentally hit “submit” before I was done! This is the full comment):

    Well, a lot of the criticisms you raise are very incisive. I agree with the general sentiment here that the latter half of R2 had enormous pacing issues. The Emperor’s arc, in particular, came across as rushed. The concepts of “C’s World” and the “Thought Elevator” were extremely convoluted, and could have used a good five more episodes of exposition. But instead, the writers decided to shoehorn it all into a single episode. I was totally shocked when Lelouch was not only able to untangle all of this metaphysical nonsense in the span of two minutes, but then USED it to defeat the Emperor. (I guess that’s why he’s a genius and I’m not.)

    Narrative issues aside, however, I think that the show managed to be thematically-compelling all the way through. I think that series did a great job of reflecting the disillusion of my generation. We want to change the world – to destroy all those archaic power structures that make everyone miserable – but we’re powerless to do it. And in the end, even Lelouch had to rely on a supernatural intercessor like “geass” – telling us that perhaps “changing the world” really IS nothing more than a distant fantasy.

    I also really appreciated Geass for its dramatic touch. Some of the more tragic elements even came across to me as almost Shakespearean in scope. Also: most of the main cast (save maybe Kallen) was complex enough to warrant discussion. Lelouch was especially dynamic: his struggle to find self-purpose after repeatedly losing it was enough to carry the show on its own.

    Oh, and I personally thought that the ending was awesome. It was very well-executed and surprisingly moving.

    I really, really loved this series – even if it was seriously flawed in some ways. I’d say it’s my second favorite anime ever, behind Naoki Urasawa’s brilliant “Monster.” I would love it if Sunrise reinvented the series in a couple of years. Maybe could preserve the general story arc and made it about 30 or so episodes longer to flesh out the underdeveloped bits.

    Yikes…sorry if this was a bit longwinded.

    • We also replied to your other comment thinking this from someone else. Responding to the additional points here, that is an interesting take about the disillusionment of a generation, and perhaps true. However we think every up and coming generation feels that to some extent. That is why these themes keep resonating over the years.

      We like your ability to acknowledge the flaws and still like the anime. Like many of the shows, book and movies we may like, flaws abound (some more than others). If we only enjoyed the most perfect forms of entertainment, we would enjoy very little.

  8. There are a fair number of valid points in your review, particularly because the second season of Code Geass was in fact weaker than the first and far more rushed, but I’m not entirely in agreement since my own views on R2 have actually become a bit more positive over the years and upon rewatch, when it’s entirely possible to look at the big picture of each season and of the story as a whole, without feeling much frustration and without going through knee-jerk reactions to the twists of the moment.

    For all the surprises and cliffhangers, I think thematic analysis can prove the existence of a method to the madness. There’s a lot content in the second season that I didn’t personally like at the time, but which I believe does serve a more useful or interesting purpose in retrospect. This even extends to the “back-and-forth” in character loyalties or attitudes, which might have benefited from a bit more spacing out and better explanations, but which is far less inconsistent than what it initially seemed.

    “Who should I root for?” is one of the questions the show asks, in various ways, right from the start. After all, Lelouch/Zero himself was an icon of absolute evil from Suzaku’s moralistic point of view. It’s oddly fitting that the conclusion turns things upside down, both for the characters and the audience, not just to cause shock but also as the consequence of Lelouch’s own internal conflict.

    I also think one of the elements that still works in favor of Code Geass in the long run is the fact that there’s more self-awareness and even occasional self-mocking to the material than some tend to assume. Many overly cynical critics tend to miss this much far too often, in my opinion, and don’t realize that Lelouch being dramatic or pretentious about everything is part of his inherent personality, even in ridiculous situations that both the creators and the audience find to be funny.

    Having said so, there will always be some things I’d rather change. There was more to be done with many secondary or tertiary characters, yes, but I didn’t universally dislike them by the end either. Sometimes one has to grudgingly accept that even likable people will not make the smartest or best possible choices under certain circumstances.

    Finally, I dol respect your short yet critical take on the series for remaining within the borders of reason. Code Geass is definitely the sort of show that tends to divide people into those who either love it or hate it, which I’ve always found quite unfortunate since you end up with a room full of angry individuals who scream at each other, whether literally or figuratively, over just about everything.

    In contrast, I’ve always found that those opinions with a certain level of reason and nuance, which is not measured by sheer length nor by use of complicated vocabulary, make for more interesting reading and constructive discussion than just unilaterally saying “Code Geass sucks” or “Code Geass rules” to draw some attention. We all have different views, but extreme ones are rarely correct.

    • What a fine comment, Fellow. Well said.

      In truth, the faults of Code Geass have faded with time for us too, and our memory is of some fine strategic battles. That is what appealed to us most about the whole series. So you are right, history is being kinder to this series than perhaps initial reaction.

      Interesting point about the “self awareness” of the series. Thinking about aspects of the show now, with that in mind does seem to be getting traction. Some creations are just not going to be appreciated at the time of their release. This can be for various reasons. Code Geass R2 shot itself in the foot a little, and did not help its own cause.

      We try to have fun with our takes. We are not the type to just say something stinks, and most of the time, if it makes the cut to even get a take, it has some entertainment value in the first place. (Although, that is not always the case.) So your point regarding crazy critical bombardments and equally crazy love fests has merit.

      Your comment was interesting, insightful, and entertaining in itself. Thanks for dropping by and adding it.

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