Anime Movie Review — Code Geass: Lelouch of the Resurrection (Sunrise)

Just how much Sunrise is too much Sunrise at this point?

Note: Please do not read this review if you do not intend to be spoiled for this movie. Because I will not be holding back on what happens in this new Geass installment.

I have a question for people who are in the know: what exactly is Sunrise doing these days? Because it feels like it’s been a long time since I’ve last heard from them, even though their recent iteration of Love Live wasn’t that long ago. And the reason I feel that way is because they have had a really hard time as of late staying relevant within anime fandom’s cognition, mostly because nothing they’ve released in the past few years has been all that fresh or all that good. Double Decker is practically the only new anime they’ve produced in recent memory, and how many people can even remember that show existed, let alone how hard it flopped? Everything else they’ve made has just been more Gundam. More Love Live. More Gintama. They even have a new City Hunter film coming out, but lord knows most fans as of today even know who Ryo Saeba is, let alone are going to bother seeing that.

Not sure if it’s accurate to say that Sunrise is as bereft of new ideas as Disney is these days, but you’ve got to be pretty desperate for attention if you’re resorting to milking Code Geass in this day and age. Did you know that this new movie is apparently supposed to be the start of a new ten-year long project within the Geass universe? Yeah, that doesn’t ring warning bells in today’s climate, does it? Especially when it’s freaking Geass of all anime. Wasn’t one of the biggest things that made Geass so special in the eyes of many was that it had a definitive ending with that Zero Requiem plan? Please explain to me the logic of bringing something back that people loved by retroactively destroying the thing they loved about that product in the process.

I mean the subtitle alone pretty much spoils the perfect blend of “anime” that is GeassLelouch of the Resurrection? So you’re just going to give away that Lelouch is going to come back before we even get to seeing the movie, Sunrise? Or was that subtitle meant to be a troll move in order to bait people into wondering whether you’ll actually be stupid enough to ruin Lelouch’s sacrifice from R2? Well I guess you succeeded in that regard, because it got me curious. But I figured that if he did come back, he’d do so in the final act of the film. Not within the first five fucking minutes!

But I’m getting ahead of myself, aren’t I? I haven’t even explained what Code Geass is, although I refuse to do so because if you’re an anime fan and you don’t know what Geass is, then you’re obviously more sheltered than a car crash victim who experienced some really bad plastic surgery. Instead, I will say that it’s kind of amusing to look back on how wrong I was regarding Code Geass and its continued existence within the fandom’s minds. You know how Haruhi is almost never talked about anymore beyond an extremely minor group of vocal people who continually insist that the series hasn’t aged incredibly poorly? I figured Geass would get the same treatment since a large portion of its fanbase grew up with the show back when it was on Adult Swim and it hasn’t exactly aged well either compared to its spiritual cousin, Death Note. There are a lot of good things about it like the robot animation and some of the battles, but the Sunrise humor and huge chunks of the second season have only gotten worse over time.

I’ve seen a lot of people praise Geass for how “anime” it is (in other words, they love how it caters so hard to specific niches and fetishes that most anime fans enjoy), but that’s not unique at all anymore. Between Kill la Kill, Symphogear, and even fucking Highschool of the Dead when you get down to it, being “anime” isn’t that hard. In fact, Geass is more “Sunrise” than “anime” in my mind, and being “Sunrise” isn’t all that hard either given the number of shows they’ve made. But what do I know regarding what anime fans want? SuperEyePatchWolf recently released a video praising “battle of the minds” as a sub-genre like it’s one of the greatest things in the world, but if you read my review of The Promised Neverland, you’d know that I don’t hold particularly strong feelings for that niche. Or at least the shonen-y kind that Death Note set the rules for and Geass indulges in to an extent.

Either way, I accept that fandom is not ready to let Geass die as of yet. What I don’t accept is the creators not being ready to let Geass die as of yet with this new sequel film just because they haven’t been relevant in years and those Akito films weren’t as well-received as they had hoped. While Lelouch of the Resurrection is technically a sequel to the recent recap film trilogy where Shirley is still alive at the end of everything rather than the original series, so the creators are covering their bases in regards to ruining how Geass originally ended with the “alternative universe” excuse, it’s still jarring to watch a continuation where Lelouch survived because of some C’s world bullshit regarding taking in a code that gave him incomplete immortality. Yes, that’s literally the explanation given in this movie regarding how he survived Suzaku shanking him. Using plot points from what’s universally considered the worst part of the original anime’s narrative.

The actual plot is hardly worth going into detail about because it’s basically every throwaway franchise story ever except in the Geass world, complete with forgettable gimmick villains, too many pointless cameos that only amount to a few seconds of screentime, and a strict adherence to the status quo. Basically, a brand new antagonistic country decides to disrupt the peace given by the Zero Requiem after two years by kidnapping Nunnally and Suzaku. Kallen and some other returning characters end up running into C.C. and Lelouch, who has been reverted into a childlike state as a result of his previous death, whilst looking for them and they end up breaking into a prison that contains both Suzaku as well as a portal to C’s world, where Lelouch’s soul (or whatever) is apparently trapped in.

Lelouch eventually comes back and teams up with more returning characters in order to rescue Nunnally one last time. However, it turns out this new country also possess the power of Geass, and thus Lelouch’s usual tactics might not be enough to turn the tables. Of course he wins in the end, the bad guys are defeated without getting properly characterized, the protagonists don’t go through any real growth themselves, and everything goes back to normal except Lelouch is a now a wandering hermit traveling with his immortal waifu so as not to have his survival revealed and ruin everything his death accomplished. There was also a post-credits scene that confused the fuck out of everyone who bothered to stay after the movie ended, which turned out to be half the audience in my theater. Guess the other half wasn’t having anymore of this mess.

But it’s not just the plot itself that’s throwaway. You remember how the Geass recap films received criticism for trying to cram 50 episodes worth of material into six hours, even if you take into account that Mao doesn’t exist in this universe? Well, Lelouch of the Resurrection is like that, except there is no actual series to watch as an alternative. So many of the scenes are incredibly rushed to the point that I felt like I was watching the first Iron Man film edited by someone experiencing a seizure. With the exception of Suzaku and Kallen, everyone reacts with no surprise to Lelouch being alive. Ohgi and Tamaki even redeclare their loyalty to him from out of nowhere, even knowing how much he’s screwed them over whilst they served under him, let alone when they opposed him. Little screentime is given to establishing who these bad guys are and why I’m supposed to care, and Lelouch himself barely interacts with anyone aside from his two established lovers at this point: C.C. and Suzaku (because I guess Kallen realized that she and Lelouch don’t have much in common anymore).

In short, we have a franchise film that’s told in the style of a recap film. That’s like overcooking tonight’s dinner, and said dinner happens to be actual dog shit.

I guess Lelouch of the Resurrection might be worth watching if you just want to revisit the Geass world and don’t care that it’s basically cheap setup in the same vein as the first Iron Man film as long as you get to see Lelouch commanding people to die, as well as seeing the Guren and the Lancelot make their grand returns. You’ll also probably be pleased to hear that the animation used for the mecha are the same high quality they were in the series…until the last act where some of the enemy mechs are animated with obvious CGI that looks like the Akito mechs are making cameos. But if I’m going to be watching something in theaters, I’d expect the animation to at least be movie quality. Not pull a Two Heroes and just make it look the same as the series, except with more off-model shots of characters drawn at a distance in order to save money.

Yes, I’m fully aware that Code Geass is one of those series where the fanbase knows how plot-holed it is, but they’re so entertained by charisma on screen that they don’t care. But I still don’t see how I’m supposed to see Lelouch of the Resurrection itself as a good movie if it can’t stand on its own like a good movie, flow naturally like a good movie, or have the visual production of a good movie. Reviving Lelouch was always going to cause problems, but with how long it took for this film to come out after announcement, was expecting something more stand-alone too much to ask, Sunrise? Or at least have the characters go through something really important rather than just reaffirming everything they’ve already learned?

Because with or without the context that there’s going to be more stories later one, Lelouch of the Resurrection feels incredibly unnecessary, and I doubt I’m the only one who’s getting reminded of Disney’s Star Wars series when I look at what Sunrise is currently doing with the Code Geass property. I don’t care about Lelouch and C.C. hunting down more Geass users because the part of the story surrounding the Geass cults was never very engaging. I don’t care about other countries threatening the peace brought upon by Zero Requiem because where does that end? And more importantly, I don’t care to watch anymore of these characters because they’ve already gone through all of the character development they can possibly get to the point that Kallen can’t even speak with Lelouch anymore aside from when he gives her orders. It’s like being trapped in a stale relationship that’s no longer fresh and fun because you have nothing new to share with each other.

From what I’m seeing as of this writing, the majority of the Geass fanbase seems to like this movie. Guess we’ll see what happens when more people are exposed to it and the hype inevitably settles down. But to me, this movie seems to think that Geass was only good because of the mecha fights, the Geass lore, and Lelouch just being there, and I’m going to be very disappointed if the fanbase ends up proving the creators right. Because all I’m seeing from that relationship is inevitable betrayal, just like how I realized what Aldnoah Zero was going to turn into super early and thus I ditched that turd fest before the Slaine memes picked up steam.

======================================================================

  • Was Lloyd’s Japanese voice always that annoyingly high-pitched? I don’t know because I only watched Geass in Japanese once and switched to the dub every other time.
  • Also, if you read UQ Holder like I do, you’ll probably be very underwhelmed by some of the methods of immortality explored in Resurrection.
  • I don’t think Arthur showed up in the film now that I think about it.
  • Pizza Hut couldn’t make a return either, but there is a certain pizza-related mascot that Sunrise still has the rights to.

16 responses to “Anime Movie Review — Code Geass: Lelouch of the Resurrection (Sunrise)

  1. I was kind of interested when I heard Code Geass was coming back, mostly because I wondered if they’d bother to justify ruining the ending of a series that definitively ended. Fortunately you’ve answered that question for me and now I’ll never have to go through the frustration of watching this. Thanks.

  2. This isn’t going to shock anyone, but I had a more positive experience.

    I would say this movie reminds me more of something else. Dragon Ball Z: Battle of Gods. That film was also, strictly speaking, extremely unnecessary and primarily had the virtue of both providing entertainment value and letting people see familiar Dragon Ball Z characters in action once again. Just as well, it has also allowed Toei to make more additional content after the fact. There are other examples, but Sunrise is simply playing by the rules of the modern anime business.

    First, does this movie really ruin the ending? I don’t think so. I am quite used to Japanese media properties creating multiple variations and versions of themselves over time and across different formats. I can appreciate the single best version, so to speak, without disliking the others or not finding any value in them.

    One kind of appropach would be the Fate Stay Night property and its seemingly endless spin-offs…some which have involved still keeping around several popular characters that had already either completed their arcs or died. There’s also far too many other visual novels with all of their varying paths, so I won’t try to make a list.

    Another related approach would go back several decades. Was the ending of Farewell to Space Battleship Yamato (a movie) forever ruined because they later made Yamato II (a TV series) with a different conclusion? Perhaps some people may think so, especially those who watched it happen in real time as young viewers, but I am old enough to accept both versions of the story as valid.

    Second, there’s the question of the mechanics. I won’t dig into it too much, don’t worry, but here’s the basic idea. Immortality was already an existing concept within the world of Code Geass. I can acknowledge that was not the most interesting part of the original show for me, but it’s not coming out of nowhere. Lelouch did mess up the Collective in that other realm, the World of C, so the explanation that the rules of said realm have changed because of his interference makes sense to me. Is it retroactive? No doubt, but it merely recontextualizes an event we knew about. I won’t discuss the so-called code theory here yet that was also nothing new.

    Third, I think we have relatively different views about the original characters as well as regarding how they were portrayed in the film. I was actually pleasantly surprised by a lot of the smaller character moments and interactions in this film. Are they short? Yes, but the sum of their parts made for an enjoyable return to familitar territory. Beyond that, they also had some characters interact who hadn’t had the chance to do so back in the original TV series, which was neat to see. Not to mention that, frankly, I found the intentional humor (much of which was dry, though some physical comedy was involved) to be reasonably amusing. Humor is very subjective, of course, but I chuckled and smiled a fair amount during this movie.

    For that matter, I liked the fact that Lelouch initially showed up in a form that wasn’t expected. This establishes he did pay a cost for his actions at the time of the TV show and that Lelouch never had in mind a secret plan to survive. He wanted to die, but didn’t. Thus, when Lelouch actually comes back as himself later in the movie, in a way he’s a man out of his original context and acknowledges as much. In fact, the whole extended bit about the “final phase” of the mission can be possibly read as another indication of change. Unlike the enemy priestess, or even unlike his TV series self, Lelouch can’t micromanage his way to victory but needs to think outside of the box and, indirectly, trust that his team will do the right thing.

    For a film that does try to recapture the feeling of getting the gang back together, there is an undercurrent of this being one last hurrah for the original Zero, not a return to the status quo of either season. Lelouch”s reactions (both by action and omssion) make it clear that he knows people are moving on without him and he doesn’t want to cause trouble for them by his continued participation, once the crisis is over. In that sense, the movie doesn’t so much have character development in the traditional manner as much as it provides an epilogue to the existing arcs.

    Fourth, I didn’t find the film to be mediocre or bad in terms of production quality. Nor did the flow seem wrong to me. Perhaps I am simply far too used to this style of quick editing in both anime and live action films as well as TV series. Unlike one of the Code Geass compilations films, specifically the second since the other two were better at this, I easily kept up with the narrative and the events (including the third act with its Geass shenanigans).

    I will admit the animation quality was not extraordinary in Resurrection, but this is actually becoming increasingly the case with otaku-oriented anime films that aren’t meant for the mainstream market or made by studios with unusually high animation budgets or exceptional talent (plus unknown hidden costs in terms of overtime and low paying animator exploitation, as one has to wonder these days, since the total erradiation of QUALITY would require many sacrifices). I also had a good time with the soundtrack. A couple of the tracks were old, but the new music was quite fitting for the setting and the story being told here.

    Fifth, I think only the future will tell us if all of this was truly a good idea. At the same time, I am fairly certain we will see a mix of outcomes. Some of the new Code Geass productions following this movie, whether that means in terms of continuity or in release order, will surely be unremarkable or worse. Yet I am willing to bet others will turn out to be far more interesting or arguably better than what we’ve seen before. It’ll depend on the specific format and plans in question, since this movie really is more of a stepping stone along the path rather than a destination. Nonetheless, I could easily watch this movie and forget about Code Geass after today and still feel I got my investment’s worth, so Sunrise did get something right by me.

    • I actually do not have any issues with the realism of the immortality. It was more of the complicated lore surrounding something that’s really easy to explain that got me annoyed. That C’s world stuff has always been impenetrable and kinda shoe-horned in compared to everything else in Geass.

      For a film that does try to recapture the feeling of getting the gang back together, there is an undercurrent of this being one last hurrah for the original Zero, not a return to the status quo of either season

      Those two points aren’t exactly separate from one another.

  3. I won’t judge the movie yet. I can’t watch it in theater, and the only version out is crappy camrip. But everything I’ve seen gave me PTSD flashback to Votoms. Remember that time sunrise tried to resurrect Votoms? No? Good, because it was miserable. They brought back characters whose story arc has been completed multiple times, recycled the corpse of old lore and plotline, and generally hoped that nostalgia would be enough to bring success. It wasn’t.

    So yeah, let’s hope code geass will fare better.

    • I had to look up all of those OVAs on MAL and oh dear those scores. Really hope Geass doesn’t turn into that. I can’t speak for the Akito films since I only saw the first one, but I notice the scores for those aren’t great either.

      • Akito is hard to use as a guideline to judge anything else, for better or worse, because it had three particular factors. One, multiple unplanned delays. They missed the officially estimated dates. Two, it was very different in feel from the original with many new ideas, but not suited for the OVA format. It should have been a TV series or at least longer instead. Finally, the Geass powers were more abstract and tied to symbolism yet not explained, which caused confusion. The ones used in this film were relatively straightforward in comparison. I do think people are a bit too harsh on Akito, but it is more for fans of the director, the Noein/Escaflowne/Heat Guy J/Geneshaft person.

  4. Pingback: In Case You Missed It 2019 #15 – 100 Word Anime

Leave a Reply to Ommadon Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.