Archive for August 9th, 2008

Code Geass R2: It’s Safe to Say That We are Most Certainly in a Handbasket Now

I don’t know if it’s just because it’s been a month since I last touched a Code Geass episode (no, I was not skipping it on purpose due to the loss of my beloved Shirley [although when I saw that coffin I was saddened all over again]), or if it’s because of the “give Sunrise series more than 13 episodes to set themselves up and get awesome” rule, but I’m pretty sure I’m not alone in saying that watching episodes 14-17 was a feeling that I will simply, at the risk of making crude sexual humor, call a “Geassm”, all the more intensified by watching them all at the same time. Some short observations:

  • Apparently Britannia, when they capture a high-profile female prisoner of war, instead of throwing them in dank dungeons and letting them rot, they give them amazingly hot dresses that overemphasize their cleavage and let people come and talk to them just to chat. I like this approach to prisoners.
  • Neo-C.C. (Retro-C.C.?) is amazing. I wasn’t ever really a huge fan of C.C. in the first place (at least from the viewpoint of “favorite girl” in the cute/hot department; she is, of course, pretty awesome, as 15 proved), but even my cold icy heart was warmed (or made more cold and icy) by her own brand of cold and icy. And then Neo-C.C. comes in and it’s like “where have you been all series, honey?” But, then again, Neo-C.C.’s personality is the type that makes me want to sit down and give them a hug. Completely platonic. And not in the Platonic sense.
  • There is blood on the black king on the chessboard. This is SYMBOLISM.
  • Charles took some lessons from his own son. It was hilarious seeing Diethard react to the hacking of their transmission like everyone else reacted to his hacking of theirs. Two can play at that game, apparently.
  • For a brief moment, Code Geass turned into bizarro Legend of Galactic Heroes, except with more lolis. More girls, in fact, period. Code Geass has girls like Legend of Galactic Heroes had men. They just don’t put their names on-screen to helpfully remind us who they are.

These episodes summed up what I think is great about Taniguchi Goro–he’s capable of amazing and “honestly good” work like Planetes and Infinite Ryvius (which I have not had a chance to see, yet, sadly) and maybe Gasaraki if you count assistant directorship on that, but he’s equally good at just being plain entertaining. I know people who complained about the early episodes of Planetes, probably because they weren’t the later episodes of Planetes, but part of what I think made Planetes such a good series was that it was willing to kick back and relax sometimes and just be plain silly (the NEET moon ninjas were great, and, sad as it was, the fact that they all died when the plot kicked into full gear was astounding), but even when Planetes was silly, it never really lost its focus. And Code Geass, despite all the “pandering” (which, honestly, helps the series far more than it hurts), and despite sometimes ridicukous smoke-and-mirrors “logic”, manages to be serious and hard-hitting in its emotional weight at the same time that it’s willing to be light and fluffy. Code Geass wouldn’t be popular if it only did one or the other–but, since it does both, it’s got multi-level appeal, which, of course, is Goro’s specialty.

Of course, what is really going on here is the fact that everything Lelouch planned is falling apart around him, and even when he tries to make amends to Suzaku and honestly seems to want to change himself for the good, zing goes the bullet and any hope of a moderately happy ending is cast off into the dark bowels of Sunrise’s script recyclers. This is, of course, what Code Geass has always been about–the bait-and-switch, both of the viewer and of the characters, and, more frequently, both at the same time. It’s obvious that Lelouch planned for this contingency before he set off to meet Suzaku, but, given his reaction at the time, I don’t think he really expected his friend to betray him. We kept seeing his thoughts via internal monologue for the whole scene, and Suzaku clearly had no idea he was being followed either.

Television is scary, Neo-C.C. It invades our homes with mindless rot broadcast over the airwaves! Enough television, and we will all become tasty vegetable toppings on the pizza you so dearly love! So, remember, kids: take a lesson from Neo-C.C. and cower in fear when the television is on. Most important, however, is to cower in fear cutely.

Lelouch was almost painfully honest of his own feelings, doubts, misgivings, and sins of his own. Rather than tell Suzaku that Geassing Euphemia was a freak accident (who wouldn’t have believed him anyway) he instead states that he did it on purpose, that he did everything on purpose to acheive his own end. Suzaku points out that, by creating Zero and leading the rebellion, Lelouch began to go against what Zero stood for. Zero, of course, stands for fighting justice and tyranny, but it’s clear that somewhere in the middle of the first season (and for the whole of R2 for certain) the whole idea and concept of Zero began spiraling out of control–rather than doing what he claimed he was doing, he simply started reacting to events as he saw fit in manners that would give him the best tactical advantage, rather than manners that would actually let him live up to what he claimed he stood for. Either the whole conceit of Zero consumed him such that he actually believed that what he was doing was for “justice”, or else the situation simply spiraled too much out of control for him to remain focused on the path of “justice” without making terrible sacrifices along the way. I’m inclined to believe the former, honestly–Lelouch got quite full of himself recently, but effectively losing C.C.–who, up till that point, had been the closest thing he had approximating a “friend”–obviously set him on edge, hence breaking the plate of pizza in Neo-C.C.’s hands for probably the best scene in the series thus far: Lelouch’s own realization that he can’t fight his fight alone and needs support.

Which, of course, makes the Brittanian army’s betrayal of both Suzaku and Lelouch soul-crushingly depressing–and, of course, excellent (melo)drama. Lelouch admits to himself all the terrible things he’s done, in the name of his own, personal, sense of justice, while Suzaku fights against these efforts with his own, personal, sense of justice. The difference between the two isn’t so much their sense of justice–since both, effectively, want the same outcome–but rather in how they apply their sense of justice. Lelouch is bitter over the death of his mother, and turns his own personal vendetta into what is essentially a sham of a revolution; Suzaku calmly accepted the death of his father and joined the Britannian military in order to effectively carry on his father’s last wishes (I might be wrong about this; memory’s fuzzy at this point). Lelouch acts for himself, Suzaku for the good of all. I don’t think either is really wrong, as there’s a clear, definite, and justifiable reason for Lelouch to be Lelouch, and Suzaku is, well, Suzaku.

The downward spiral of the world’s situation (a bad situation made even worse through Lelouch’s interventions for his personal reasons), of course, continues, and, to make a bad thing worse, Lelouch now can’t trust anyone if he can’t trust Suzaku, and, of course, whatever fate awaits Britannia (and Lelouch) will be one they brought upon themselves. Everything starts to converge, and there are eight episodes left.

Lelouch’s eye twitches involuntarily.

Where do we come from? What are we? Where are we going?

Well, I don’t know about you, but reading otousan’s post on this topic, the similar top-10 post he linked to (you know, the one that wasn’t me), and realizing that this is August, which makes this the six-year anniversary of my friend finally magically convincing me to watch Cowboy Bebop which opened up a floodgate that led directly to where I am today, made me ponder the infamous question posed by Paul Gauguin. So, I figured, why not jump in on the “exploring your roots in anime fandom” deal?

It, uh, didn’t work the way it was supposed to.

I started checking my list for series that could serve as series that left a deep and impressionable impact on me, and discovered two things: one, there weren’t really a lot of them, and, two, the ones that seemed to leave an impact that resonates to this very day aren’t the ones everyone else attributes the same to. Cowboy Bebop is, of course, my first (and you never forget your first) and it indeed was pretty amazing (or else I had nothing better to do since I watched it all in one day, God help me) because I sobbed like a baby when Ed and Ein left, but revisiting the series later (in, admittedly, a terrible setting to do so) I was struck by the realization that I didn’t really understand why this was the work that got me into anime. I don’t know if it’s just that my tastes shifted, the fault of the setting in which I rewatched it (although I did grab Mushroom Samba that night and watched it, and was also much less amused by it), or the fact that I’m just delusional as hell and like to fabricate elaborate ways to not like things, but something felt missing. The same went for a lot of “classic” series that I jumped into at that point in time: I watched Slayers all the way through and forgot that I did so a year later, I suffered through a library-owned VHS dub copy of Ghost in the Shell and sat there and said “why do people like this movie?”, I watched (possibly only the vast majority of) Neon Genesis Evangelion in an entire day (I went to class that day too!) and wasn’t really moved to massive fanboyism or anti-fanboyism, and I found Princess Mononoke boring (that was another “I watched it dubbed” thing, though, so who knows). The fact that none of these really grabbed me in the way they grabbed everyone else baffles me as much as it does you, and is probably indicative of a taste deficit in my part, although, for the most part, I wouldn’t say I actally, physically hated any of above mentioned series–it’s more a lack of true, amazing, heartfelt devotion to one or all of those series. Not really apathy, but just “it’s there, and it’s good, and that’s it.”

[Short aside for the purposes of providing visual relief from text: The first time I was ever labeled a “pedo” (that infamous universally applicable and frequently totally inaccurate pejorative for anime fans) was when I declared to a friend that I thought Edward Wong Hau Pepelu Tivrusky IV was constructed of pure awesome and win. The second time was when I told a different friend that Margie from Xenogears was cute.

She still is, damn you all]

What did seem to grab me? Totally random and bizarre things, apparently. I picked up Figure 17 fairly early on and loved it to pieces (even if I did suffer the Figure 17 Effect), and I do count it among the main series that I think showed me what I liked about anime and why I kept coming back for more. Kokoro Library is another one, although that attachment is more sentimental (and occupation-related) due to a massive catharsis while watching it. Beyond that, I really have no clue which series (especially series viewed early on) I can attribute to helping me solidify myself as an anime fan. I can rattle off a list of series I assigned 10s to and say it’s their fault, but I don’t really know if that’d work right. I don’t even know if I can really assign the reason as to why I’ve stuck around so long (when other friends of mine fell away, or have other interests that don’t involve animation but still involve Japan, or involve animation but not Japan, or involve neither) to any one specific group of series.

I almost want to say that what happened was that, simply because of my habit of getting interested in something and basically diving headfirst into it and starting to root for stuff evolved into a kind of holistic passion for anime. In 2002, when I started out, I downloaded anything and everything someone, somewhere, said was good. This is why I have Star Ocean EX CD-Rs and about 50 zillion others that sit collecting dust because I can’t throw them away because I might need them someday. It didn’t always work out with me in the right way, but, generally speaking, I enjoyed a lot fo what I did end up watching–and some of it stuck, and some of it I remembered existed only when I browsed through ANN when compiling my first collected list of series I’d seen a couple years ago. It’s always a weird feeling to go “wow, I forgot I watched this series and that it even existed” and remembering that you had fun watching it.

What came out of this insane, almost suicidal exploration (it could easily have backfired on lesser and greater men than me, resulting in early burnout) was, perhaps, not a passion for anime as a genre of media (or whatever you want to call it these days; I remember people arguing that it was a medium and not a genre years ago) but what I think is best described as a passion for anime as anime. It’s weird–instead of subconsciously comparing anime to other media/genres of media, as many people seem to do, I think I do the opposite, at times. It might not be a better position (I’m tempted to argue that it’s a worse position, honestly), but it certainly is a different viewpoint from the ones I’m used to seeing from a Western audience.

Also I am certifiably crazy. Which I think we’ve established.

Also, because I didn’t quite think it needed its own post, but I wanted to mention it anyway, because, well, I mustn’t run away: I bought the thinpack of Neon Genesis Evangelion today, for no other reason than I hadn’t bought it in six years, and I figured that if I didn’t buy it while I was thinking about it, I wouldn’t remember to buy it for another six.

I think I need to join the Human Instrumentality Project now. Also I have listened to Cruel Angel’s Thesis (残酷な天使のテーゼ if you’re a stickler for kanji you can’t read like me) far, far too much today. I don’t know why. It is, however, an awesome song.

(P.S.: Who the heck is Paul Gauguin anyway?)


I cannot understand those that take anime seriously, but I can love them, and I do. Out of my love I warn them to keep clear of this blog.

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August 2008