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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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”.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.