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Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Code Trainwreck Part 2

Episode 20 contained more set-up but man did R2 jump the shark with Episode 21. Three words. Neon. Genesis. Evangelion.

So apparently, the Emperor and Marianne’s (I’m still dumbfounded as to why they even bothered to write her in) plan was Instrumentality. That’s it! It was literally Instrumentality! I’m still having trouble believing that the creators were so desperate for ideas that they casually ripped-off one of the most infamous mecha franchises ever just to try to be theatrical and (huge airquotes) “cerebral.” It felt like they were contractually obligated to fit something Evangelion-y into the show somewhere, so they shoved it in by the most insultingly obtuse and ham-fisted method imaginable.

Likewise, the rest of the series can be summed up in three simple words. Too. Freaking. Fast.

I’ll revisit what I wrote way earlier about how disjointed pacing ends up being nothing short of a catastrophe in retrospect. Since the beginning of Code Geass, Lelouch had been unsparingly trapped in the center of a very ostensible harem consisting of plucky everygirl, Shirley; right-hand lieutenant and ace-combat pilot, Kallen; and mysterious, pizza-loving accomplice C.C.

Throughout all of the first season, the relationships between these three female characters and Lelouch developed and were eminently compelling to follow. It certainly helped that all three were strong complex characters in their own ways, and each girl’s life was profoundly affected by Lelouch.

Now, Shirley’s relationship with Lelouch began and finished strongly with the aforementioned brutal heartrender of a death sequence. The frustrating problem encountered by the end of R2 is that neither Kallen nor C.C. have any sort of significant emotional closure with our protagonist whatsoever.

Sure, Kallen gets a sensuous kiss, but it seemed too much like a formality and even a bit, dare I say, compulsory? It was so out of place and abhorrently insincere that I almost cried at such a savagely abrupt ending to a relationship that was meticulously erected on such scenes such as the beautifully penetrating heart-to-heart between Lelouch and Kallen from season one. You know, the scene in the hangar in Episode 13.

So now that Kallen has been effectively Put On a Bus, I guess the time is right to sever the bond between Lelouch and C.C. as well. Admittedly, LuluxC.C. carried on all the way through to R2’s overwrought finale. However, it still wasn’t as anywhere near as pronounced as it should have been. Oh sure, she cradled Lelouch’s head and comforted him when he was having doubts about the Zero Requiem and yeah, she let loose a sparkling stream of tears for his death, but I wanted something memorable.

As I mentioned in a previous blog post, the cave scene from Episode 11 of Code Geass will forever be etched in my memory as one of the sweetest and most powerfully heartwarming scenes ever, if only because it was one of the first I had witnessed. Add to that the “If you’re a witch, then I’m a demon” bonding that took place in the first season’s finale and that whole business with Lelouch entering C’s World (as slipshod as it may have been) and I really was expecting something more satisfying. Instead, while C.C. clearly came out the winner, it was arguably only out of obligation.

So, basically, two recklessly rushed relationships turned out to be devastatingly disappointing. Again, this may have not been the case had there not been so much attention and care put into forging said relationships in the first place. At least make the effort to finish strongly if you’re going to start that way.

The final causality I will add to this dizzying trainwreck is one last woefully ruined relationship, which is the one between Lelouch and Suzaku.

While I agree it was handled much more elegantly than with Lelouch’s (other) love interests, there was still quite a bit of polishing that could have been done. It was pretty hard to accept the fact that the two bitter rivals made amends in the time after they had defeated the Emperor, but I expected that the Unspoken Plan Guarantee aspect of the plan they had collaboratively conceived was too difficult to avert. Having said that, I expected their little conciliatory chit-chat to be revisited before the series was over. Problem was, we were given too little material. Again.

It was nice to see the origin of the Zero Requiem as Suzaku was on the verge of skewering Lelouch in a wonderfully heartfelt scene, but, as with everything else, I wanted to see a bit more. How about the moment right after they had stopped the Emperor? Did they just kiss and make up on the spot or something?

It was clear that the Zero Requiem flashback occurred after Lelouch had already taken the throne so what happened between the two of them during the two months leading up to the usurpation? The relationship between Lelouch and Suzaku up until they met in front of the Emperor was as fascinating as it was complicated. It was brimming with deep-seated feelings of betrayal, grief, and soul-piercing scorn just begging to be explored. And yet, that two-month span where the true reconciliation occurred was nonchalantly glossed over with nary a backwards glance.

As I was intentionally being negative about R2, I’ll admit that anything I didn’t mention was just fine and more than likely highly enjoyable. I did like the ending (as aggravatingly stodgy and ambiguous as it may have been) and the series was wild, unpredictable, refreshing, and, most importantly, fun throughout. It may have been unable to hold a candle to the original and ultimately turned out to be a triumphant train-wreck but isn’t it awfully difficult to not stare in awe at the sight of a major-scale disaster?

The slickest, most stylish trainwreck imaginable.

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