Not This Fan’s Service: An Alternate Viewpoint on Code Geass S1 22-23

I avoided watching Code Geass for a long time, partly because I am picky about character design in anime (I happen to like my characters to be somewhat under eight feet tall), and partly because I had watched two episodes without beginning to care about any of the characters. In the end, two things made me change my mind. One came from the preparations I made before creating my anime fanart group at deviantART, in which I learned that Lelouch Lamperouge ranked third in the Anime-Planet poll for character all-time popularity (an influx of votes for Kakashi-sensei has since lowered Lelouch to fourth place). Granted this is not the most scientific poll in the world (nor does it claim to be), but when over twenty thousand named characters got ranked in that poll, scoring so high must mean something.

The other reason I gave Code Geass a second chance was TWWK’s earlier post on this series, in which he was clearly quite exercised, even appalled, at the violence later on in the series. I couldn’t help being curious about the show that elicited this response from him. Of course, since TWWK wrote this essay with a backdrop of real violence happening too close to home, and since he didn’t know Code Geass would go in that direction whereas his post gave me the benefit of being prepared for it, there was no possible way I could react as he did. Still, I am holding off watching the last two episodes in the first season, so as to put myself in as similar a position as possible to TWWK’s when he wrote his post.

(SPOILER WARNINGS for Code Geass, Death Note, and Steins;Gate below!)

The word fanservice is not uniquely defined in anime. Ordinarily we associate it with suggestive depictions of female characters, but it can also be associated with violence, or even with big robots. Thus shows like Berserk and Viper’s Creed can be considered as fanservice to their respective fan bases. Perhaps part of the reason that Code Geass has such a large following is because it contains all three kinds of fanservice (four if you count male fanservice as a separate entity). In any case, writing as I am from the perspective of looking ahead to the last two episodes of the first season of Code Geass, I am as disturbed as TWWK by this latest twist in the plot, but for a different reason.

Since the moment early in the series when C.C. granted Lelouch the Geass power to command any person to do his bidding once, Lelouch comes across to me as a brilliant young man gradually decaying in his very soul. Little by little, he sacrifices everything to his goal of achieving a liberated Japan under his rule. In order to keep his double life as Lelouch and Zero a secret, he lies, murders, and even uses the people most important to him. When Britannia offers through Euphemia to create the “Specially Administrated Zone” of Japan, Lelouch rejects an opportunity to have a good laugh at everything at his own expense, and lay down his weapons. He can accept no outcome without himself ruling over a liberated Japan. He has long since left that kind of humility behind.

To me, the most horrible crime against human nature in Code Geass occurs before the violence that rightfully enraged my colleague. It is when Lelouch issues the command that forces Euphemia to commit that violence. Lelouch acts surprised, but he has no excuse, as he has known for a while that he is losing control of his Geass power, and that this loss of control is inevitable for anyone who has been granted such a power. His crime is all the worse for causing Euphemia to do something so diametrically opposed to her very nature. When Lelouch accepts even this outcome as a necessary sacrifice for the sake of his aspirations, I can come to only one conclusion: justice must be done on a person who has so sealed his fate. I too would have difficulty accepting the violence that follows if it were real rather than fictional, but as I type, I find Lelouch’s loss of humanity more disturbing than Euphemia’s rampage.

This moment is, perhaps, the worst crime of Code Geass

Anime gives us the opportunity to explore “what if” questions. Death Note asks: what if a person had the power to choose who lives and who dies? Steins;Gate asks: what if a person had the power to travel through time and alter history? Code Geass asks: what if a person had the power to command anyone else, even if only once per victim, to do anything he wanted? Perhaps one lesson we can take from all these series is that there may very well be a reason that, in God’s wisdom, we have not yet learned how to make life and death decisions, control time, or exert absolute authority over the actions of others, merely at a whim.

When Yagami Light comes to justice at the end of Death Note, we may feel sorry for him, but it would be hard to think that he has received anything other than what he deserved. Okabe Rintarou manages to get out of Steins;Gate with his life, but has to go through a lot of trouble to undo the damage he brought upon the flow of time. Like Yagami Light, Lelouch Lamperouge embraces his newfound power with all his heart; unlike Okabe Rintarou, he never pauses to feel remorse or regret over any event that ensues from his choice.

It has taken some self-control to hold off on seeing those last two episodes of the first season of Code Geass, but I am ready to discover what becomes of Lelouch Lamperouge. I know what I am hoping will happen. But then, I am usually pretty obvious about things like that.


15 thoughts on “Not This Fan’s Service: An Alternate Viewpoint on Code Geass S1 22-23

  1. While it’s true that CC told Lelouch that Mao lost control of his power, I was always under the impression that Lelouch truly believed that he was strong enough to maintain control over his own. You’re basically saying that because he could lose his power at any time (mind you, it could have been years from that very moment), he should have watched every word he said. But it’s not like he can always be vigilant for that one moment in time that he didn’t even think would ever come.

    1. Maybe I am being too hard on Lelouch, and certainly you’re right that he believed he’d maintain control of his power. That, I believe, was his downfall. In fact, I think he’s very much like Yagami Light in that sense. Great power brings great responsibility, and maybe that degree of vigilance is just impossible.

      All I know is I’m glad I don’t have a power like that. I could never handle it. 🙂

      1. I don’t think it’s quite right to say he’s so much like Light. Light was given the complete specifications of his powers basically from the very beginning. The entire series of Death Note is Light against the world.

        But Lelouch, on the other hand, is given a power and absolutely no knowledge of what it does. He has to figure out the limitations of it, but even then he doesn’t understand everything about it. It’s almost as if the power controls him.

        What’s the difference between these two? In Light’s case, he completely understands his actions because he is in complete control of his actions. This creates a scenario where he can’t be redeemed, making the series proceed the way it did (which was rather disappointing). Basically, his mind decays to the point where it can’t be repaired. In Lelouch’s case, the power is decaying, so he has the opportunity to redeem himself in the end if he’s not actually a bad person. I believe this makes the ending of Code Geass the way it is.

  2. When I first watched Code Geass, I missed two episodes, the first one and the one where Euphy dies. I think that changed my view on the show some. I am not a fan of the fanservice. I think what I like about the series is the difference in the first series between Suzaku and Lelouch. They have the same goal, but different methods. In the second series, I hate it when this line is blurred. I also love the mechanical design. This was my first anime, so it has a bit of nostalgia to it. I also enjoy the complexity of the setting, but I much prefer the first season.

    1. I sorta knew you’d chime in eventually on this show. 😀

      You bring up good points, especially about Suzaku, who is my favorite character in the show. I cannot believe that he didn’t score in the top 120 most popular anime characters, especially when Lelouch is #3/#4 on that list, and C.C and Kallen Stadtfeld both made that list too.

  3. Good post, and overall I’d agree except for one minor point:

    >”He can accept no outcome without himself ruling over a liberated Japan.”
    I’m not sure personal rule is his motive so much as a combination of two other things, the first being an obsession with vengeance against his father, and second, which you did touch on, pride. To accept a peaceful resolution would be to admit that he was wrong, and that Suzaku was right, about the feasibility of working from inside Britannia. He also clearly feels some remorse over dragging innocents into his war, Euphemia and Shirley especially, but cannot bring himself to change course.

    I am curious to see what your take will be on the ending of the series – including the second season, of course. I won’t spoil anything except to say that I liked how Lelouch tried to resolve his conflicts, though I did have some problems with the logic of it.

    1. You’re right that I neglected to mention the vengeance aspect in Lelouch’s motives. It will be interesting to see what I feel is the inevitable clash with Suzaku in these last two episodes of the first season. As I just mentioned to Zeroe4, Suzaku is my favorite character in this show. Since you say that Lelouch tries to resolve his conflicts, there may be more to this character than I realized. 🙂

  4. I enjoyed Code Geass immensely. I agree with Marth, that for Lelouch, the power controlled him and he had no idea what it fully was and how to properly use it (if that was possible). I saw his torment throughout the show even when he was making horrible decisions. But I thought about the world he lived in where he felt drastic means were necessary. Light on the other hand, decided to go willy nilly with his power and he really had no goal but satisfaction of his ego. Great analytical breakdown of the Code Geass. It would have been nice to see more about how you felt Steins;Gate tied in to this.

    1. I think Marth analyzed the distinction between Light and Lelouch better than I could have. As for Steins;Gate, this was one of those anime series (everyone has some) that was uncomfortable for me to watch. But I seem to be in the majority opinion, which is that it was an extremely well done show. It makes me think that I should go back and watch Chaos;Head, although I’ve heard some say that this show was nowhere near as good as Steins;Gate.

      1. It’s quite true that Chaos; Head is not nearly as good as Steins; Gate. Steins; Gate is practically a masterpiece, while Chaos; Head is merely above average. But, if you want a show with some great “anime lines” (you know what I mean), plenty of quirkiness, and would enjoy watching a hero who’s nearly a hikkikomori and addicted to anime and video games break out of his shell and save the world, you’d probably enjoy this title. I found it to be a lot of fun, but you may find it mediocre.

    1. It’s not fudged in the slightest.

      “Long full shots of robots in mecha shows, sexual elements, long fight scenes and violence can all be considered fan service as they are specifically aimed at pleasing the fans of any given show. Christian McCrea feels that Gainax is particularly good at addressing otaku through fan service by adding many ‘meta-references’ and by showing ‘violence and hyperphysical activity’. Japanese baseball teams provide fan service events during baseball games such as dance shows, singing the team song or a performance by the team mascot.”

  5. Interesting analysis, but believe it is worth pointing out that Lelouch does pause and feel for what he has done, like during the scene in episode 23 (I think it that one) where he explains to C.C. what has happened and shows obvious signs of feeling personally disturbed about it, even if he still chooses to move forward and bear the weight, so to speak, until his goal is achieved.

    1. Now that you mention it, I do remember that moment. Perhaps I wasn’t paying enough attention at the time. Or perhaps it was because I was hoping that Lelouch would come to his senses and rethink his goals, even then, just like the earlier moment when he first found out about the “Specially Administered” zone.

      The more I think about it, the more I realize I’m pretty hard on Lelouch. 🙂

Leave a Reply