I was able to attend the US premiere of Code Geass: Lelouch of the Re;surrection at Sakura-Con and I wanted to share my thoughts on it before the film gets a limited theatrical release this week. The sequel film was presented with the Japanese audio and English subtitles and played to a packed house of enthusiastic fans, many of which whom had been anticipating a continuation to Lelouch’s story since 2008. It has been roughly a decade since the last time I watched anything related to Code Geass and at this point, I am not sure what I wanted out of the next chapter in the franchise. In my opinion, the second season’s ending concluded Lelouch’s journey rather well but I was open to seeing other ideas explored. I am of the opinion that the death of one person is not the end of any world’s story. The story can continue for as long as the writer has something more to say. The question is if the writer Ichirō Ōkouchi has a story to tell that is capable of following an act like Zero Requiem.
Please note that this review does discuss important moments that happened in the Code Geass anime series and I would recommend you finish watching the series and/or the revised film trilogy before reading further. This is a sequel film after all.
Two years have passed since Lelouch vi Britannia sacrificed himself to bring peace to the nations however that peace is shattered when Nunally and the hero Zero are abducted by an unknown Knightmare Frame from the warrior kingdom of Zilkhstan. Kallen, Llyod and Sayoko infiltrate Zilkhstan and cross paths with C.C. who is traveling the territory looking for a gateway to the World of C in order revive Lelouch vi Britannia.
Re;surrection’s trailers and the very title of the film do nothing to hide the fact that Lelouch has been brought back to life. The how and the why may prove to be sticking points for some viewers but nothing feels like its cheating the rules of the reality presented in Code Geass. At the beginning of the film, Lelouch is already alive but throughout the events of the film, it remains ambiguous as to whether or not his revival will be temporary or not.
Re;surrection is not exactly a sequel to the original anime but rather a sequel to the Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion film trilogy and it should be noted that story of the film trilogy does have some notable differences to the original anime. However, there’s really only one change that plays a small part in this film’s story and it is that Shirley is still alive. She plays a part in reviving Lelouch after he is assassinated by Zero but in this film, she is only mentioned twice and gets two on-screen cameos. I’ve got to say that keeping her alive seems downright superfluous and it cheapens a devastating death but this is just another undone consequence which may or may not settle well with fans of the original series. Unless they do something significant with Shirley in future installments, I feel like they should not have rewritten that part of the original anime to just keep her alive.
This film is the definition of fan-service, though it is actually very light on provocative imagery. What I mean is that it excels in the interactions between the core-cast. There’s a good mix of sentimental and comedic moments between Lelouch, C.C., Kallen, and Suzaku to balance out dramatic turns and action beats. Kallen, Suzaku, and Cornelia all have very different reactions to seeing Lelouch again. Cornelia’s is particularly interesting because she doesn’t seem phased in the slightest. Naturally, Suzaku has more than a few words for his old friend. Most of the characters that see Lelouch is alive react with a mixture of joy and grief. I imagine many Code Geass fans can relate to such mixed feelings.
If you came in hoping to see Lelouch and C.C. outwitting opponents and Kallen and Suzaku showing off their fighting prowess, you won’t likely be disappointed by those aspects. The film features three exciting mech battles and several hand-to-hand combat sequences where Kallen and Sayoko pull off impressive displays. Many of the supporting cast members also get some time to shine but others are relegated to cameos and cutaways. I feel that’s more than acceptable but it would have been great to see more characters actually taking part in the conflict of the film.
Code Geass is a story where Lelouch was pitted against worthy adversaries and the stakes were always personal. Unfortunately, this film uses antagonists that don’t feel well fleshed out and are largely forgettable, similar to those found in other side-story films for franchises like Naruto, Sailor Moon, and InuYasha. Zilkhstan is a country with limited resources which relies on exporting their soldiers as mercenaries. It is interesting to see how lasting peace can actually have a negative impact on some nations. While that is an idea worth exploring, the siblings leading the country and their henchmen don’t leave a lasting impression. Having Zilkhstan tied to the Geass Order feels like shoe-horning in mythos to justify Zilkhstan’s prominence in the narrative of Code Geass but I would not be surprised if the country is never mentioned again.
The film feels like a side-story of little significance despite some of the events depicted in the film potentially having a long-lasting impact for whatever comes next. Those kinds of side-stories work fine in series that are largely episodic or span long arcs but they feel out of place being included in a series with a denser narrative like the one found in Code Geass. The battles are visually impressive but do not have much, if any, weight to them. The third act drags on a bit due to the way it is presented to the viewer. I did like the concept of the antagonist’s power and how creatively it could be used but I felt the gimmick overstayed it’s welcome and needlessly extended the final battle.
There is more flash than substance here and it is a shame because Code Geass and its somewhat convoluted narrative, is renowned for its substance. I don’t think it is unreasonable to have expected more given the same writer: Ichirō Ōkouchi and director: Gorō Taniguchi, were both involved in this production. At least from a visual perspective, this is the Code Geass you remember. Rather than updating the designs and making use of more modern animation techniques, the film does its best to recreate the visual aesthetic of the original anime.
I believe the film is attempting to kick-start a new era for the franchise in a similar vein to Battle of the Gods for Dragon Ball, where a sequel film is used to expand on mythos of the franchise, but it ends up feeling more like an extension to the ending of the original anime like The Conqueror of Shamballa was for the 2003 Fullmetal Alchemist anime. In both cases, the films brush aside a poignant ending to squeeze out another story before leaving the characters in a more desirable state than where the original series left them.
As a side-story in the universe of Code Geass, it is an average and inoffensive film that looks fantastic but as the first new chapter in Lelouch and C.C.’s journey, I feel it is stumbling out of the gate. Ichirō Ōkouchi probably should have written something more ambitious and I wish he did. However, if I look at Re;surrection as an appetizer rather than the first real course in what looks to be a ten-year plan, I feel adequately satisfied with the production as a whole. It would be too cynical to just look at this as just blatant fan-service and a cash grab to sell more model kits and figurines. Re;surrection did manage to recharge my interest in the franchise similarly to how Battle of Gods did with Dragon Ball and I look forward to whatever comes next. I just wish the first new chapter for Lelouch had more meat to it.
I wouldn’t recommend Re;surrection to anyone who has not already watched Code Geass because the film was clearly built with existing fans in mind. However, if you are a fan and you want to spend more time with the cast of Code Geass, then I would say it is worth your time despite any short-comings. I did enjoy watching it with a room packed with Geass fans. The reactions from the crowd were resoundingly positive.
You can experience Code Geass: Lelouch of the Re;surrection in select theaters presented by FUNimation Films on May 5th in Japanese with English subtitles or on May 7th and 8th dubbed in English. Johnny Yong Bosch, Kate Higgins, Yuri Lowenthal, Karen Strassman, Liam O’Brien and other members of the original dub cast will be reprising their roles alongside the new characters voiced by Elizabeth Maxwell, Patrick Seitz, Jared Gilmore, and Christopher R. Sabat.
In preparation for the film you can stream the original series on FUNimation.com, Netflix, Hulu, and Yahoo View, purchase the series digitally or on home video, or purchase the revised film trilogy digitally or as a premium Blu-ray set.
You can purchase tickets for Code Geass: Lelouch of the Re;surrection at the FUNimation Films website.
Pros: Lots of great character moments and fantastic animation that looks just like the original Code Geass anime
Cons: Forgettable antagonists that drive a somewhat weak plot
Andrew “Sketch” Hingson is the editor in chief at ToonamiFaithful.com. Feel free to follow Sketch on Twitter @Sketch1984