Code Geass Episode 23
-Shine On by Freedom Call
-Nightfall on the Gray Mountains by Rhapsody of Fire
Code Geass’s latest episode has come out, and unfortunately it’s the last we’ll be seeing for a while. We won’t have 24 and the finale until summer (In Japan). That’s still a few months away. Regardless, I have to say that Code Geass is the best anime I’ve seen in a very long time, and I might have to rethink my standards when it comes to critiquing anime after this.
I’ll be including a lot of spoilers in this post, so I’ll break the post here.
Lelouch Lamperouge: One might be tempted to think that he is just another Shinn Asuka. He’s bitter about the death of his mother and the crippling of his sister, and so he wants to take down Britannia, the empire that vomited him and his sister out. However, as the episodes go by, one begins to see that Lelouch is actually a classic Aristotelian Tragic Hero[wiki]. He has all of the major characteristics listed on that article, as well as most of the minor ones. How?
1. Nobleness: Lelouch is noble by birth. Not much needs to be said here.
2. Hamartia/Tragic Flaw: Lelouch is a rancorous young man who is very firm in his convictions. In fact, he says early on in the series that he was planning to destroy Britannia anyway, the Geass only expedited his plans. However expedient the Geass may be, though, it represents his tragic flaw: his desire to control and manipulate. He wants to manipulate people like chess pieces (in the second episode, he sees that humans are not as obedient as chess pieces and that real-life tactics is rather different from chess).
3. Peripetia/Tragic Error: This happens in Episode 23 quite clearly. He ironically loses control of his control Geass, and due to his own foolishness and the influence of the Geass, his sister commits political suicide by publicly ordering the massacre of the Japanese people. (Chillingly, she goes “To all the Japanese, I have a favor to ask. Could you please die?”) Lelouch was on the verge of giving up his crusade, but unfortunately the events end up pushing him further in the direction of completing his coup d’etat.
4. Anagnorisis/Realization of Error: Lelouch obviously realizes his mistake right away. In Episode 22, as an old Japanese woman dies at his feet, she cries out to him, calling him the Messiah of Japan. Lelouch denies this internally, knowing that it was his fault they were being slaughtered. As such, he realizes, with great pain, that the best thing to do at this point is to assassinate Euphemia himself. (Lelouch is wearing the Zero mask in this scene, and I don’t think it’s an accident that his face wasn’t shown.) The massacre is averted a little too late, but it stops. He regains control and is seen by the Japanese people as a true savior just as Euphemia slips away in her hospital bed, completely unaware (due to the Geass’s memory loss effect) that her plan for the Autonomous Region has utterly failed and that her name will forever be remembered with hate by the Japanese people. The massacre galvanizes the people with hate, and they go all out under the banner of the Black Knights. The coup d’etat quickly pushes its way to the Tokyo settlement, and the episode ends with Lelouch setting off a timed hacking program to cause the entire Britannian district to literally fall apart. Yes, he realized his error, and used it to his advantage.
Lelouch is a tragic hero in the most classic sense.
Suzaku Kururugi: From the outset, people have been grossly mislabeling Suzaku as the Kira Yamato of Code Geass. While he outwardly shares the same ideals (“I fight so that they might not die”), Suzaku’s character is just so different from Kira’s on so many levels.
Kira Yamato of Gundam SEED is a very angsty character, but he bottles it all up and the anime hardly ever explores his anguish (which is mostly about being better than everyone else). Suzaku, on the other hand, is revealed to have very sinister reasons for being such an ideal knight—he has a deathwish. He hates himself completely for killing his own father, and therefore always pushes himself into dangerous situations where he might get killed—and atone for his sins. However, he is redeemed when Euphemia dubs him as her knight. He finds a reason to live as he knows that Euphemia loves him, and chooses to continue living.
Although I found Suzaku’s blind virtue very grating throughout a lot of the series, eventually I came to sympathize with him as he sees himself as a sinner seeking an atonement that he can never get this side of Eternity. He also brought the more traditional image of a knight serving his princess (although this is shattered very quickly in Episode 23).
Euphemia li Britannia: Although at first I didn’t think she’d be a very important character, I came to realize that she is now the most important female character in the story thus far. Like Suzaku, she suffered some unfair comparison to Gundam SEED’s Lacus Clyne. Pink hair? Check. Princess attitude? Check. Love interest of the foolishly idealistic character? Check. But this is completely superficial.
First of all, Euphie is an awful politician. She cares very little for politics and prefers to be a philanthropist instead. Of course, her duty as a vice-governor (more a decorative post than anything else) requires her to perform actions that carry a very heavy political weight. Early on she’s already shown to be torn between her love for the Japanese and her duty to uphold Britannia’s imperial policy of discrimination. All her political actions are driven by her deep crush on Suzaku and her desire to see people happy—as such, she declares Suzaku, an Eleven, as her knight. Her most foolhardy (and last) political act is the establishment a Japanese autonomous region, where Japanese are called Japanese and Japan is called Japan. This did not sit well with her sister Cornelia at all, and the only reason why this proposal saw the light of day was because Prince Schneizel saw it as a great opportunity to further his own agendas (which are currently still very ambiguous, though we know it involves overthrowing the Emperor).
Second, her love for Suzaku actually changes him. In Episode 20, Suzaku was fighting to the death and ready to die (his energy filler had run low due to the Float Unit’s power requirements), but Euphemia’s intervention caused him to realize that life had more to it than punishment for his parricide. The episode ends with Suzaku redeemed, in a way—he accepted knighthood once more and we are tempted to think that he will have a fruitful relationship with Euphemia. Of course, this is dashed on the rocks and cut to pieces as Lelouch assassinates Euphie in Ep 23.
Third, Euphemia serves as the galvanizing factor for both Lelouch and Suzaku. Because of Lelouch’s mistake with the Geass, Euphemia embarks on a massacre of the Japanese people. This expedites Lelouch’s coup d’etat, allowing him to harness the hate of the Japanese to successfully push all the way to Tokyo. Euphie almost convinced Lelouch to abandon his crusade given the ideal situation the Autonomous Region presented, but after Lelouch assassinated her there was no more reason for him to hold back. Britannia had made him a crusader, but Euphemia ironically turned him into a monster. With nothing to hold him back, Lelouch can now see his rebellion to its bloody and violent end.
Suzaku, on the other hand, now has yet another reason to fight—apart from avenging Euphemia, he now truly and completely hates someone—Zero. Her death transformed Suzaku into an even more dangerous enemy for Lelouch. With Britannia’s authority in Japan crumbling and his princess dead, Suzaku no longer has anything to lose, but he has every reason to kill Zero. It remains to be seen how this conflict will end.
We really cannot know what will happen within the next two episodes, but here is my prediction:
Suzaku will gain a Geass power, care of V.V. At this point I would like to say that “geas[link]” means a vow or obligation, or a taboo. This is why C.C. keeps mentioning a “contract” which has to be fulfilled. We do not know the terms of the contract, but we do know that this vow can send one on a quest. It expedited Lelouch’s quest to bring down Britannia—for all we know, it might send Suzaku on a quest as well.
Lelouch, being a tragic hero, will eventually die in his attempt to bring down Britannia—at Suzaku’s hands. Lelouch will reveal his identity that he is Zero as he dies, and Suzaku will be torn between his ideals and his remorse at the death of his friend. This will cause Suzaku to stop seeing things in black and white (since his faceless nemesis now has a face–that of his best friend), and he will eventually point all the blame back at Britannia. They were the ones who had made Lelouch into a monster; it was the Emperor’s belief in strength arising from conflict that murdered Empress Marianne, crippled Nanaly, and turned Lelouch into a being of cold, calculated hate. Suzaku will complete Lelouch’s rebellion for him, and he will be the one to take care of Nanaly as Britannia self-destructs. He will become the ruler of Japan in honor of his father. In the process, the following characters will definitely die:
-The Emperor, Schneizel, Cornelia, and a lot of the Britannian Imperial family.
-Darlton, Gilford, and other Cornelia loyalists
-Toudou and Ougi might end up getting killed as well, at Suzaku’s hands.
-Even now, it looks like Viletta is going to die. (Please don’t kill her, she’s so much more likable now. >_<)
I really don’t expect everyone to die in a cataclysm like in Ideon or Evangelion, but at the very least, Lelouch will die. At worst, this will end like Hamlet: Nanaly, Cornelia, Schneizel, the Emperor, and Lelouch will die, and Suzaku will do a Fortinbras and gain a position of power.
Code Geass has got to be the most exhilarating ride of an anime I’ve ever seen. Its vicious plot twists, all-too-human characters, and downright stylish visuals and music have all satisfied me. It also gets points for speaking a lot about human questions regarding politics, the balance of power, the use of armed might, the importance of humanity in the face of gross violations thereof, and the abuse of power. Its story is heavy with irony, symbolism and depth (which is more than I can say for a certain orange-clad “ninja” and his sell-out contemporaries), and it stands out as an anime that answers all the questions it asks (eventually). Its 23rd episode was the most emotionally-jarring anime episode I’ve ever seen, beating out even other anime endings. I can’t wait to see Eps 24 and 25. If you have not seen any of it, a recommend it completely and utterly. You will not be disappointed.