Movie Review: Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion 1 - Initiation

By Drew Hurley 21.03.2018

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Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion 1 - Initiation (UK Rating: 12)

Experiencing anime on the big screen is something that has always been quite rare in the UK, limited to either specialist screenings, film festivals, and the rare big mainstream releases over the years. That's begun to change recently. Thanks to the folk of Anime Limited and the organiser of the Scotland Loves Anime, plenty of big releases have received nationwide screenings. The latest in that line is a fresh look at a modern classic; made as part of the 10-year anniversary celebration for the original anime, Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion 1 - Initiation takes the original series and combines them with some new scenes and an entirely new performance from the original cast for a fresh take on this acclaimed story. Anime Limited is making the film available in cinemas across the UK from 21st March and tickets are on sale now.

For those who missed out on experiencing Code Geass in its original release ten years ago, it is an original story from the minds of writer Ichirō Ōkouchi and director Gorō Taniguchi, and if those character designs look familiar, they should as they are from renowned group, CLAMP. The series was massively popular and has spawned numerous OVAs, along with the two full anime series that add up to 50 episodes, along with light novels, manga, and games.

The story is set in 2010, in an alternate world. This Earth has been carved up into three world powers. There is the European Union, the Chinese Federation, and the Holy Britannian Empire. There is a surprisingly deep and complex back-story put into the history of the world, the nature of the empires, and there are some surprising facets; for example, The Holy Britannian Empire doesn't actually contain Britain. Queen Elizabeth III fled to America and created a new capital there, which became the heart of this new Empire. This was 200 years before the anime series and only explained in spin-off Light Novels.

Britannia is central to the story of Geass, with the titular Lelouch a prince of Britannia, son of its emperor Charles and his fifth wife, Marianna. He was the eleventh child and seventeenth in the line of succession until tragedy robbed him of his birthright. When he was ten years old, his mother was gunned down in the palace and his sister, Nunnally, crippled in the crossfire. Lelouch confronted his father, who seemed completely unconcerned and banished Lelouch, along with his now wheelchair-bound and blinded sister, to Japan as a political hostage. Japan, at the time, was completely independent of the great empires; small, but powerful thanks to its wealth of a highly coveted mineral known as Sakuradite. Lelouch's presence was to give Japan a sense of safety from British invasion, but his father cared as much for his children as he did his dead wife and the country was attacked, then subjugated with little effort, thanks to a new weapon developed by Britannia, known as Knightmare Frames. Japan becomes just another part of the empire, now known as Area 11, and its people known as "Elevens," just more peons for the pure-blooded of the Empire; a new kingdom for one of the many sons of the Emperor to rule over.

With the stage set, the story picks up when Lelouch is 17 years old. He hates Britannia with a passion and plans to one day crush his home and his family, mostly to receive vengeance for his mother and sister, and to give his sister a happy life. He gets his chance when some terrorists for the people of Japan steal what is thought to be a poison gas bomb but turns out to be a beautiful girl. This girl grants Lelouch a power he comes to dub Geass that allows him to manipulate anyone just with eye contact and suggestion. What follows is a young, genius boy taking the rebel forces of Japan in a fight against the Empire of his home. Lelouch is similar to Light in many ways and the battles often play out in cat and mouse style intellectual battles. The Knightmares are quick moving mechs and the movie is filled with some great, dynamic battles that are elevated with the smart strategies. Coming from studio Sunrise, despite the age the series it still looks great, and the battles especially so.

This first film clocks in at a little over two hours, and covers some of the content from the first seventeen episodes of the first series of the anime, although there are, of course, some major cuts to fit it all in. This is mostly for the good, removing numerous parts of the Slice of Life stories around Lelouch at school that while giving some extra dimension to the star that aren't particularly essential to the story. The other supporting cast aren't quite so lucky, getting all of their defining moments cut out, yet are still included in the film, some are necessary to at least introduce the characters for future films but they feel so out of place if the viewer has no frame of reference from the original. Regardless of these cuts, the film still feels a little bloated. It definitely feels like numerous episodes stuffed together, meaning that the flow of the film just doesn't work. Not every film needs a three-act structure but this just feels a mess, there are plenty of exciting moments but they are stitched together with strange detached moments.

Rated 6 out of 10


This really is a companion piece and should be treated as such. It's enjoyed more by those who have seen the original and want to re-experience the beloved story before the promised third season finally arrives - now announced as another trilogy of films as opposed to a new season of anime. It's not visually impactful enough to truly benefit a big screen viewing and the best version is still the original. That being said, for fans of the series this is well worth a watch.

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