Lelouch of the Rebellion: A Code Geass Review

Lelouch's Eye

Image Credit: the Wikipedia
Image Credit: the Wikipedia

What if Japan were conquered by an empire of English speakers of British descent whose base of operation was in North America? And what if these conquerors did not stop at conquest? What if they insisted on humiliating Japan, robbing it of its flag, and completely reorganizing its government? That is the topic of the exciting anime series named Code Geass.

Code Geass is just a work of romantic fiction that helps us to pass the day. But in real life, that could never happen, right? Well, actually, it already did. And that is part of the genius behind Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion. The reason everything in the series seems so familiar, and the reason it stirs up so much emotion, is because it is just a little embellishment on a structure of cold hard facts.

The Japanese Imperial Flag

Photo Credit: The Wikipedia
Photo Credit: The Wikipedia

I am not Japanese and I was born long after WWII was over. For most of my life, when WWII was mentioned, I automatically thought of the Western front and pretty much ignored the role of Japan. If we think in terms of Nazi Germany, WWII seems almost like a moral fable about good versus evil, in which the moral is that good always triumphs. After all, the allies didn't start the war. They merely responded when attacked. The war was conducted by a genocidal maniac who made countless strategic mistakes. Germany deserved to lose the war, on so many levels. It seems inconceivable that it could have won.

But if you examine the war from the Japanese perspective, things don't seem all that clear cut or even fair.

Of course, I am not completely blind to the fact that the Japanese ruled conquered enemies with an iron hand, that they forced prisoners of war on long death marches, or that they kept women and children who were enemy aliens in inhumane living conditions in internment camps.

Nevertheless, as hard as the Japanese were on others, they held themselves to an equally tough standard. The Italians pretended to be fascisti, dedicated soldiers who lived for their nation. This was merely a pretense. The Japanese actually lived up to those standards. One by one their allies deserted them. The Russians and the Italians changed sides. The Germans were defeated. Still the Japanese fought on. Valiant pilots threw away their lives on one way missions. The entire Japanese population soldiered on. They might never have surrendered. Except for one thing.

The atomic bomb!

Was that fair? Did the best side really win? Or did the Americans use a dishonorable technological trick, because they could never have beaten Japan otherwise?

Well, it all depends on your point of view. We might argue that all is fair in love and war. We can argue that technological advances count just as much as dedicated troops and selfless civilian populations. But... look at the world today. And think how different it might have been had Japan won the war!

When the Japanese surrendered, they gave up their empire, their form of government, and even the rays emanating from the rising sun on their military imperial flag. How did that feel? Well, watch Code Geass, and you might have some idea.

Code Geass Opening with Italian Subtitles

The opening to Code Geass shows two little boys climbing up from a valley filled with sunflowers and looking up at the sky through the trees at something horrible and ominous. There is no sound, until the narrator tells us: "The date was August 10 in the year 2010 of the imperial calendar. The Holy Britannian Empire had just declared war on Japan. The far east Island nation held fast to its neutrality, and now Britannia looms as the world's only superpower. Rights to Japan's underground resources became a hotly disputed issue, straining the already deep-rooted diplomatic tensions between the two sides. In the deciding battle for the mainland, Britannian forces introduced into combat the humanoid autonomous armored knight known as the Knightmare Frame. The enemy's forces were far greater than anticipated, and the Knightmares obliterated the Japanese line of defense on the Mainland with little effort. Japan became a dominion of the Empire. Japan was stripped of its freedom, its rights and its name. Area Eleven. The defeated and once proud nation of Japan was rechristened with a mere number."

Then one of the little boys says to the other: "I swear! I swear, Suzaku, so help me, I will one day obliterate Britannia!"

I have to say that I don't really understand the Japanese animators' interest in "humanoid armored vehicles" or machines that turn into people and people who turn into machines. However, if we simply accept that this is a metaphor for a high tech method of winning without actually engaging in direct, conventional person to person combat, then we can move on and discuss what the show is really about.

The show is about fascism, nationalism, resistance groups, the will to power, the thirst for revenge and other Wagnerian themes of the highest order.

It even touches quite explicitly on social Darwinism and the way that different levels of ability and personal achievement are accomodated by society.

The story follows Lelouch Lamperouge, a Britannian prince in exile who is helping the Japanese resistance for some convoluted reasons of his own, not the least of which is revenge. After Lelouch kills his half brother Clovis, the crown prince, we get a speech from the Emperor of Britannia himself that pretty much spells out the Britannian take on social equality.

The Emperor's Speech: Social Darwinism or just a parody?

The Britannian flag and the Britannian national anthem

All Hail Britannia

words by Damian Broomhead
music by Kotaro Nakagawa

Truth and hope in our Fatherland!
And death to every foe!
Our soldiers shall not pause to rest
We vow our loyalty

Old traditions they will abide
Arise young heroes!
Our past inspires noble deeds
All Hail Britannia!

Immortal beacon shows the way
Step forth, seek glory!
Hoist your swords high into the clouds
Hail Britannia!

Our Emperor stands astride this world
He'll vanquish every foe!
His truth and justice shine so bright
All hail his brilliant light!

Never will he be overthrown
Like mountains and sea
His bloodline immortal and pure
All Hail Britannia!

So let his wisdom guide our way
Go forth and seek glory
Hoist your swords high into the clouds

Hail Britannia!

Copyright reserved to the original copyright holders.

The Emperor's Speech

"All men are not created equal. Some are born smarter, or more beautiful or with parents of greater status.Some, by contrast, are born weak of body or of mind, or with few, if any, talents. All men are different. Yes, the very existence of man is discriminatory! That is why there is war, violence and unrest. Inequality is not evil. Equality is!

"What became of the EU that claimed all are equal? It is in constant conflict because its tenets go against human nature! The Middle Eastern Federation, which harbors similar sentiments, is constantly mired in sloth. But our Britannia is not like them! We put an end to wars and evolve with every conquest! Britannia alone looks forward and moves toward a better future.

"The death of my son Clovis is yet more proof that our empire is evolving. Fight! For the future rests in the hands of its rulers! All hail Britannia!"

Why does social Darwinism seem to always come up in these situations where different people, and different peoples and nations, vy for supremacy and dominon over the same natural resources? The reason seems to be that we need some sort of justification for the successful party. The justification runs along these lines: "Our weapons are better because we are better, and it is the natural order of things."

How then can someone resist the conqueror without rebuilding himself into the oppressor's own image? That is the universal problem that is at the heart of this series. This is why it appeals to so many across the globe, and this is why the Chinese government has pulled the videos from the shelves of some of its stores.

The growth of a small group of people into an empire is not inevitable. Growth is not the only way of life. It is possible to maintain a stable population in a limited area without depleting natural resources. Many peoples have maintained a natural equilibrium since their group evolved. The problem is that once another group of people whose way of life requires constant growth shows up, then the People of Exponential Growth are bound to overpower the stable group!

In order to beat the Britannians, you need to become like the Britannians! When this happens, everybody loses.

Interested? You can watch the series for free in the location linked below!

(c) 2009 Aya Katz

Fascism at work! (Notice the cognates in the German captions.)

Comments 44 comments

mayhmong profile image

mayhmong 7 years ago from North Carolina

I love this anime series!

But if Japan was to be under control

by any of them other than Princess Yuffie...hmmm.

I still don't think it was necessary for the U.S to

drop the atomic bombs there and leave innocent people

in a nutshell.

Aya Katz profile image

Aya Katz 7 years ago from The Ozarks Author

Mayhmong, thanks for your comment! I very much admire princess Euphemia, too. The whole atomic bomb issue is one fraught with moral ambiguity.

mayhmong profile image

mayhmong 7 years ago from North Carolina

Sorry, I didn't know how to spell her name Euphemia!? I just thought I could get away with it using the FFVII Yuffie Kisaragi. LOL

Aya Katz profile image

Aya Katz 7 years ago from The Ozarks Author

Mayhmong, that's okay! Her nickname is Yuffie. But I get a kick out of the fact that her formal name is related to the word "euphemism"!

nhkatz profile image

nhkatz 7 years ago from Bloomington, Indiana

I watched the first two episodes of Lelouche with Dagon. He said, unprompted, that the whole thing makes no sense because obviously one moves pawns and knights before one can move the king. (He didn't seem to recognize that the game started in the middle and I could not explain it to him.)

Aya Katz profile image

Aya Katz 7 years ago from The Ozarks Author

Nets, I'm glad you and Dagon got a chance to watch the first two episodes. I don't necessarily think the chess moves are the best part of the series. Perhaps Dagon will have other comments about some of the non-chess related scenes.

Teresa McGurk profile image

Teresa McGurk 7 years ago from The Other Bangor

You got me thinking: the words to the song "Rule Britannia" are really pretty offensive now, or at the very least politically incorrect ("Rule Britannia!/ Britannia rules the waves./ Britons never, never, never/ Shall be slaves!") I'm still trying to get into anime, but for some reason it seems so. . . homogenized? (visually, I mean). The subject matter of this one seems really interesting, though, so maybe I'll give it another try. Thanks for your candid review (I don't see the attraction of transformers, either. . . ).

Aya Katz profile image

Aya Katz 7 years ago from The Ozarks Author

Teresa, thanks for stopping by! Yes, of course, I did think of "Rule Britannia" as I listened to "All Hail Britannia". I think old fashioned patriotic anthems are almost all like that. The high points of this series are really not about Britain specifically, though. They are much more general. If you can overlook the huge eyes and the transformer-like technology that seem to be mandatory in anime, you will find that this is high class literature on important and universal themes!

ledefensetech profile image

ledefensetech 7 years ago from Cape Girardeau, MO

I must be getting something totally different from this. Most of this just seems thinly veiled Japanese nationalism. Japanese weren't as evil as the Nazis? Don't ever say that to a Chinese or a Korean, you might be surprised at the reception you get. The reason the atrocities there didn't get the ink the Nazi's did was because the Nazi war machine came from a cultural meme that the US and her Western Allies could understand, after all the same foundations that underpinned German society underpinned our own as well. I will give the Germans their due, since the War they've striven mightily to atone for their sins during the war. Japan and the former Eastern Bloc nations cannot say the same.

Part of the difficulty might be that we need a new definition for war, or at least types of wars. Wars are things between governments. They marshal their forces and attempt to destroy the opposing force. This is markedly different from an insurrection. Vietnam is a great example of this incompatibility. The US saw it as a war, our government vs the soviet government. The Vietnamese, however, saw it as a war of national defense or national liberation depending on the side you were on. A civil war in other words. In attempting to fight the war as a politician's war, strategic blunders were made leading to the withdrawal of US forces and the continuation of the civil war until it ended at Saigon in 1975.

Aya Katz profile image

Aya Katz 7 years ago from The Ozarks Author

Ledefensetech, I hope you're not accusing me of Japanese nationalism! First of all, I'm not Japanese. Secondly, I have read what the Japanese did to people under their power, including stories by women who were interned during the war. I have read Nevil Shute's A TOWN LIKE ALICE, the first half of which describes a sort of death march based on a true story. I've also lived in Taiwan, where the Japanese occupation is still remembered. You might read my hub "The Once and Future Nanny" to understand how deeply those memories run for some.

Secondly, I don't think Britannia in the CODE GEASS universe really stands for Britain or the US all the time. If you watch the emperor's speech in the original Japanese, you can see how easy it is to see him as a Japanese emperor, with ancient Japanese values.

There is some depth to this series that goes beyond any specific nationalism to describe how all patriotic people feel when their own country is occupied. I think that's why it has international appeal.

It's also about what happens to individual people when they pursue power.

ledefensetech profile image

ledefensetech 7 years ago from Cape Girardeau, MO

And that perhaps is the point I was trying to make. If you think back to films in the 50's with their giant bugs and 50 ft women that is a reaction to the development of nuclear weapons and nuclear power.

One problem with nationalist works is that they often act as apologist works for atrocities in the past. Heck look at "Birth of a Nation", that's one of the most jingoistic works out there. But then again, I'm not a big fan of TV or other visual media and their propensity for propaganda.

And, no, I'm not calling you a Japanese nationalist, I just thought it strange that I noticed it and nobody else seemed to. Of course that could be because I have a nasty suspicious mind.

Aya Katz profile image

Aya Katz 7 years ago from The Ozarks Author

Ledefensetech, this series is really so much better than a story about giant bugs! But if you are not into Wagnerian opera, it might not be the thing for you.

ledefensetech profile image

ledefensetech 7 years ago from Cape Girardeau, MO

Well Wagner is a bit overrated. But my point is that in visual media the concerns of society seem to be explored. Stephen King did a very good write up on it in his book Danse Macabre. And I have to admit that I find Anime to be a bit juvenile, sometimes. Still I may have to give it a shot and see what's what. I mean otherwise I'm just talking out of my rear end.

Aya Katz profile image

Aya Katz 7 years ago from The Ozarks Author

Ledefenstech, great! Let me know what you think after you've watched some of it.

Jerilee Wei profile image

Jerilee Wei 7 years ago from United States

Very interesting peak into the whole Anime popularity, might have to check it out closer. Thanks for enlightening me.

Aya Katz profile image

Aya Katz 7 years ago from The Ozarks Author

Jerilee, thanks! Let me know what you think if you get a chance to watch an episode or two.

andrewagmacker profile image

andrewagmacker 7 years ago


Have watched the Code Geass, and I consider the list of 5 best I've seen.

Aya Katz profile image

Aya Katz 7 years ago from The Ozarks Author

Andrewagmacker, thanks! So Code Geass made your list of top five? What are the other four? What do you consider the strengths of the series? What do you think is its greatest weakness?

Nadia080 7 years ago

Hi There...

Love the Anime & this Artical...though in my opinon doesn't say it all.

But am so so Wondering..... 'is there Season 3'? plezzz tell me there is :(

Aya Katz profile image

Aya Katz 7 years ago from The Ozarks Author

Nadia, thanks for your comment. As far as I know, there is no third season. Season 2, Episode 25 was the last.

anime_nanet profile image

anime_nanet 7 years ago from Portugal

Yo Aya, once again you show your love for anime!

Interesting point of view to Code Geass. But what if Japan had invaded America as winner of WWII? That is what "The man of the High Castle" of Phillip K. Dick, proposes. I recommend you to read that book!

I spoke all I needed of Code Geass and Social Darwinism in my own review hub of Code Geass series and on my comments to my Anime Quotes hub.

It's always great to see people enjoyng the same shows as I!

Hope your fans become Anime fans as well!


Aya Katz profile image

Aya Katz 7 years ago from The Ozarks Author

Anime_nanet, thanks for dropping by. You were actually the one who introduced me to Code Geass through your hubs on anime!

What if Japan had won WWII? Good question. I haven't read the novel by Dick, but it sounds very interesting. I might give it a try.

Yes, it would be nice if I could convert all my hubpages fans into Code Geass fans!

anime_nanet profile image

anime_nanet 7 years ago from Portugal

I'm glad you got to know Code Geass through me!

It made such an impression you wrote an whole hub about it!

This is the power of a good anime show! For all the people that read this hub, check it out! This one dismistifies the mith that anime is just for kids.

Code geass is for a mature audience. It's not overtly violent or lewd. It's the complexty of some themes it aproaches that makes it more enjoyable to adults, altough it can be very entertaining to teenagers as well... but not for kids!

Enjoy ^_^'

Aya Katz profile image

Aya Katz 7 years ago from The Ozarks Author

Anime_Nanet, yes, anime is one of the few places where complex themes are explored. I find Code Geass much deeper than most movies and television shows made for adults.

Having said that, I'd like to add that some children do enjoy it, too. My daughter is ten, and she has watched many of the episodes with me. In the scene where Euphemia made her announcement at the school festival, my daughter observed: "See how angry Lelouch is at his own sister. I bet he's mad at her, because he wanted to do that himself!"

anime_nanet profile image

anime_nanet 7 years ago from Portugal

10 years old? What did she said of the mass suicide Lelouch induces in the first episode of the anime? Or him killing his own brother Clovis with a cold-blooded shot in his eye?

Even if the gore isn't explicit, the idea of killing is still there...

Scenes like this are the main reason I would not recommend this for series for kids... And I won't even go as far as mention the mind-boggling events in the stadium during the ceremony to create the independent state...

Aya Katz profile image

Aya Katz 7 years ago from The Ozarks Author

Anime_nanet, my daughter hasn't seen the whole series. She stopped watching when the online episodes were no longer dubbed. However, the idea of killing, and that the pursuit of power, even for a good cause, requires it, is not new to her.

If we deprive children of all meaningful literary experiences, how are they supposed to mature? I don't like modern movies in which the blood, the gore and the sex are graphic, but Code Geass isn't like that. It deals with ideas behind political violence, and I think this is a good thing.

It also got my daughter and me to talking about WWII. "I didn't know Japan and America were not friends in that war," she told me.

"But didn't they teach you about WWII in school?" I asked her.

"Yeah," she said. "But they didn't talk about which side anybody was on."

anime_nanet profile image

anime_nanet 7 years ago from Portugal

Peace Aya :)

It's nice you take the chance for educative learning out of anime ;)

Hugs to you and to your daughter that should be lovely, for sure ^_^

Aya Katz profile image

Aya Katz 7 years ago from The Ozarks Author

Thanks, Anime_Nanet!

kallesh 7 years ago

I do not feel that a song like "Rule Britannia" is politically incocrrect. I is a simple statement of what Britain once was, and why Briton's should be proud of it.

Briton was the world's most populous Empire, and argueably the world's greatest. It stood for both its appalling deeds and its great successes.

It does not in anyway represent Britain now. Britain has virtually no nationalism, even less that the relatively unnationalistic european states.

Russia, China and America are countries where there is very strong nationalism; in Europe no one feels that the colonial history or glory has any relevance to them.

The only people who even call themselves British are from Northern Ireland, and thats only because of the constant semi-cold war against Irish Nationalists.

I live in London; I regularly indulge in black humour, making disparaging jokes about my area, different parts of london, of england, of the UK, or the EU and the commonwealth.

British nationalism is dead, which is why the BNP pose no threat.

Aya Katz profile image

Aya Katz 7 years ago from The Ozarks Author

Kallesh, thanks for your comment! I enjoy listening to "All Hail Britannia" precisely because that type of nationalism is no longer available in real life. If you are interested in the old glory of the British Empire, you might like to check out my hub about Kipling, too.

jianok 7 years ago


Aya Katz profile image

Aya Katz 7 years ago from The Ozarks Author

Jianok, it's hard when something ends. But sometimes when a character is revived, the result is not so good. You can keep watching the old episodes and maybe write fan fiction!

dijones profile image

dijones 7 years ago

I am definitely going to check it out. I have been having some serious anime withdrawal symptoms of late.

Aya Katz profile image

Aya Katz 7 years ago from The Ozarks Author

Dijones, thanks for your comment. Let me know what you think after you have seen it!

Tensai 6 years ago

hello code geass fans!!code geass is one of the best animes i hv ever see!!!if u luv animes like Code Geass u ll definitely love Deathnote...nd yes theres another season of code geass coming up..The Revenge of Nunally i think..better watch out for it!!

Aya Katz profile image

Aya Katz 6 years ago from The Ozarks Author

Tensai, thanks for your comment! I've seen Deathnote, and it was a little bit too dark, even for me. However, I look forward to "The Revenge of Nunnally". When is it coming out?

Ommadon 6 years ago

There's no such thing as the Revenge of Nunnally, I'm afraid.

In addition, I'm glad you liked this show but bringing WWII into it doesn't exactly sound very convincing or accurate for that matter. It's just a lot of fun, like most anime out there, not an attempt at serious political commentary.

Aya Katz profile image

Aya Katz 6 years ago from The Ozarks Author

Ommadon, I'm sorry to hear this. I was definitely looking forward to seeing "The Revenge of Nunnally", if there were such a thing.

I agree. Watching anime is just for fun, and any historical parallels that I tried to draw are mostly beside the point. It's the romanticism of the stories, even the darker ones, that appeals to me. I would like to think that we all matter, and that there is a heroic struggle going on somewhere in our lives.

Susan Ng profile image

Susan Ng 6 years ago from Cebu, Philippines

Code Geass is just about the only anime my husband has admitted to liking. He even watched it with me without falling asleep! Haha! :D

Aya Katz profile image

Aya Katz 6 years ago from The Ozarks Author

Susan Ng, that is high praise for Lelouch of the Rebellion. Whenever someone who doesn't normally like anime is attracted to an anime show, then you know it is strong material.

Shinigami 5 years ago

Great look on things related to Code Geass. I am sorry such discussions appeared in the comments... Opinion is an opinion and everything about war depends on the point of view. Naturally. I wouldn't comment on wars since it all depends from which side you look upon facts.

I stumbled upon this review from Google when I was sarching to see what other have written about the anime. Decided I should also share my own review: http://shinigamilist.com/2011/09/29/code-geass-rev...

Aya Katz profile image

Aya Katz 5 years ago from The Ozarks Author

Thanks, Shinigami. I agree with your observation that every war looks different depending on which side you are on.

I will take a look at your review of Code Geass as well. Thanks for sharing!

Hazzabanana8 profile image

Hazzabanana8 4 years ago from Southern Realms of England

I'm looking to watch some anime and delve into the anime world.

This sounds just the ticket.

Anything else you could suggest for me? Preferably aimed at adults/mature teens, political messages perhaps, elements of comedy, battle sequences or involving romantic sequences.

Help would be much appreciated.

Aya Katz profile image

Aya Katz 4 years ago from The Ozarks Author

Hazzabanana8, I'm not really an expert on anime. For romance, I highly recommend "Whisper of the Heart", which is my all time favorite anime movie. It is a coming of age story in which a young boy and girl have to decide about their future vocation and also fall in love in the process. I wrote a hub about it a while back:


Code Geass is good for nationalism and the will to power and the convolutions that people go through when their loyalties are divided.

An old series that I used to like many years ago was Starblazers. It's patriotism was perhaps simplistic, but at the time it beat any American series for its romantic optimism.

The series Bleach, despite its supposedly occult themes, is a nice mix of comedy and action, again with a romantic heroic slant.

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