By Andrew Osmond.
Following last month’s Titan spectacle, Anime Limited is releasing another cinema edition of a much-loved TV epic. On Wednesday 21st March, there will be nationwide screenings of Code Geass: Lelouch of the Revolution I – Initiation, and you can find the venue details and booking links here. If you know Code Geass already and just want a summary of what to expect from this new edition, then skip down below for some specifics. If you need a reminder of what Geass is about, then read on…
The 130-minute film is a compilation of the celebrated 2006 Code Geass TV series with big robots, secret identities and an alternative history in which Japan was conquered by the monstrous “Britannian” empire. Made by Sunrise, which is the home of the big robot franchise, the ginormous Gundam, Code Geass re-permutates some Gundam themes, tailored to an audience that was then devouring Death Note.
The hero is a schoolboy, Lelouch. He was born a prince of Britannia, but angrily rejects his heritage and supports the oppressed Japanese. In the opening episode, he witnesses the hijack of a strange metal container, which turns out to contain a girl with emerald-green hair, apparently the subject of a secret experiment. To his astonishment, Lelouch’s contact with the girl gives him the power to control people’s minds (with some pesky limitations). His first use of it is to make a troop of murderous Britannians commit mass suicide in front of him. Now he has power to lead the revolt of his dreams…
Much of the story’s fascination comes from its power fantasy a la Death Note (for an in-depth comparison of Death Note and Code Geass, see here.) Lelouch is also a master strategist with a vengeful agenda against his royal family, which makes him very like the antihero Char in Gundam. Like Char, he also has a more straightforward male rival, the Japanese youth Suzaku, though even this relationship is complicated. Lelouch and Suzaku are actually dear friends, yet they end up fighting in masks and robot suits without knowing each other’s identity.
One of the closest parallels between Geass and Gundam is when Lelouch’s royal father, the Britannian Emperor, delivers a bloodcurdling speech to his vassals about the glories of cruelty and competition. It seems designed to parallel the memorable “Sieg Zeon” speech in the original Gundam back in 1979. Amusingly, the Geass speech has this quasi-Nazi Britannian ruler mocking the European Union which, he says, “made equality a right.” Regardless of your politics, the moment plays rather differently in 2018 than it did in 2006!
The new Initiation feature film is a recap of the saga’s earlier episodes, but with some new scenes and re-recorded dialogue. If you don’t want to know any more than that, then look away now…
Most of the film retells material from the first eleven TV episodes. In fact, about the first 80 minutes of the film recaps the first six parts, and especially the first four. Those set up most of the basic elements of the conflict, and saw the dramatic beginning of Lelouch’s campaign. The early episodes are kept largely intact in the film, though the antics of Arthur the cat are one sad casualty.
After that, the film skips most of the next three episodes (so that, for example, we don’t have Lelouch’s classmates getting taken hostage in a hotel by a Japanese resistance group). Instead, the story goes straight to the show’s first big battle, on the slopes of Narita. Here, Lelouch is up against the fearsome Princess Cornelia, his half-sister, who’s surely related to Kycilia Zabi, the chief female adversary of the original Gundam.
After all that battle is resolved, the film has an extended coda of about 15 minutes, dashing through extremely abbreviated plot points from the next six episodes (12 to 17). It’s here that several new scenes come in to fill the gaps. One female character, for example, is shot in the film version by an entirely different character from the one who shot her on TV. Another woman gets an alternative introduction scene, while Lelouch has more dialogue with his green-haired confidante, C.C., to cover parts of the story we don’t have time to see.
Obviously a great deal is deleted here, including one very major enemy character who dominated this phase of the series but is not even mentioned in the film version. The story-arc of Lelouch’s classmate Shirley also goes west. Other sacrifices in the film include Kallen’s mother (the “Refrain” drug story) and much of the development of the gentle Princess Euphemia, which was bound up with the deleted hostage story.
More generally, there’s less of the school side of Lelouch’s life, and much more of him commanding warriors in robot suits. The film gets as far as a pivotal confrontation that happened in part 17 of the TV series, while the post-credits preview of the next compilation film suggests it will race well into the second (“R2”) TV season.
Code Geass: Initiation is screening around the UK on 21st March.