What it’s about: Japan is subjugated by the oppressive Britannian Empire, its name changed to the Orwellian “Area 11” and its people treated as second-class citizens. One day, a hyper-intelligent school-boy serendipitously receives the supernatural ability to enforce obedience to a single command on anyone he sees. With no other resources, how can you leverage this power into toppling a world-spanning empire?
Why you should watch it: Going by the numbers, the standard protagonist for this setting would be Suzaku, an optimistic, “things will change if I try hard enough!” boyscout of a character. This is not his story. Instead, the focus is on Lelouche, a scheming, underhanded plotter who is entirely willing to justify his means by his ends. Unlike a lot of action-heavy shows, the primary focus of Code Geass is at the strategic level – the protagonist is explicitly *not* a fighter but a thinker, a planner. And the plots just keep getting crazier and crazier as the series progresses. The finale is widely regarded as one of the most cathartic in any anime, though the story contorts itself at times to get to that point.
Caveats: The fighting is based on mecha, which automatically turns some people off. The school-based sections are blatant filler and often feel a little forced. The level of fan-service is quite high, with more than a few extraneous lingering boob shots. The “twists upon twists” can break suspension of disbelief, if you’re not willing to extend much of it. Finally, the character designs are pretty stylised – you get used to them, but they’re pretty noticeable at the start.
Themes: How best to fix a broken system: Reform vs Revolution. Do the ends justify the means?