I think I posted a rant about R2 a year or so ago except I can’t find it so I’m starting a new topic. I just feel the need to get some thoughts off my chest because I got rather into this show and thus need to analyse. Sorry for the rambling thoughts :)
Finally got around to finishing this, having stalled mid-season 2 with the sheer number of super robots becoming too much for me to bear. I find the description I read online of Code Geass being Death Note with robots and tits to be disturbingly accurate.
In the end I think it wasn’t quite as good as Death Note, but it also wasn’t as bad as part of R2 suggested it would be. I thought that after it used up its repeats of season one ideas that the series was taking a turn for the worse falling into a typical anime trap of confusing “more” with “better”, more robots, more powers, more people wielding geass.
The joy of this kind of series to me is the establishing of a ruleset early on and then seeing how the characters work within that ruleset to play the game. We see LeLouch get geass and then he sets about changing the world using it. OK, someone else gets geass and I felt a tingle of worry go down my spine (Mao), but it was used as a means to reveal more of the backstory of CC so panic over. But series two makes geass no longer special, everyone and their mum has it and it I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the series got a lot better towards the end when almost everyone with geass was out of the picture. It wasn’t just that they gave out geass like candy, it’s that they did it so pointlessly, I mean, did Knight of One really need it?
At times though the attention to detail was a little lax. I never, to the end of the program, understood why erasing all Shirely’s LeLouch memories made sense. Why not selectively erase? So she turns up and no longer recognises LeLouch and that’s not going to be suspicious? Ridiculous. Perhaps the plan was to ensure Shirley could never be put into harm’s way again, but it was done so ham-fistedly and I don’t recall them ever putting that idea forward.
One of my favourite dynamics of the show was LeLouch and CC. Two people who were alone even when surrounded by others, only they knew the secret of the other and thus, despite there being no bond initially beyond the pact, grew to like each other to the extent that LeLouch would try to avoid putting CC in danger and CC suicided for LeLouch (first season). Though her comment doesn’t make much sense considering it’s later revealed she’s immortal, and I’m unsure whether this was a retcon as she’d already been shown to survive things that should kill her. Still, there was a good dynamic there and it’s why I’m disappointed that she was sidelined for so much of R2, content to sit on the ship and do nothing, not really returning to the show until right near the end.
R2 introduces a number of pointless things, we had the Knights of the Round who end up being irrelevant to the story except by giving Suzaku a position to aim for. They never achieve anything, change the outcome of anything, and the confrontation of Suzaku and Knight of One is a damp squib.
The entire cult sub-plot was dreadful and again, pointless. Again, they do nothing that couldn’t be done without them, they change nothing and then they’re destroyed almost as soon as we learn about them. Why bother?
The ret-con of Jerimiah into Marianne’s bodyguard felt very clunky. Didn’t we already establish Cornelia to be performing that sort of role as head of the household guard? Still, I did like his character, though it didn’t seem to bear much resemblance to the original.
I think the last of the big mistakes was revealing Marianne to be alive because, firstly it required another geass deus-ex mechanica, and secondly because it simply wasn’t necessary at all. She’s brought back and then tossed away almost in one episode so why bother? It means we’re expected to buy a lot of ret-con for no real reason, why not have the exact same plot except she DIDN’T make it, and then accomplish the same end-goal? The only reason to have her there was to confuse LeLouch, which it didn’t, so it ends up being a huge ""AH HAH! BS moment. At least when Nunally returns there’s a good explanation for it which makes perfect sense.
Thankfully, the series recovers at this point. LeLouch is betrayed and everything changes with a neat step from leadership of one organisation to a nation and it feels really natural and provides a much needed change of pace. Finally, it puts in motion the end events which show him to be a man who will accomplish his goals by not only sacrificing others but also himself. He moves from a ruthless and ambitious man of dubious heroics to a martyr. The ending episodes move to the strength of the program, pitting the mind and not the super-robots of LeLouch against an enemy in battle.
In the end the positives of the program outweigh the negatives, I love the layers of plans on top of plans, the introduction of the odd farce episode to give us a break and the way the relationships between the characters developed over the course of the series. Despite all the stumbles, I think it was worth perceiving to the end. The ending was truly excellent.