*WARNING – SPOILERS BELOW*
For the purpose of the anime challenge, I consider Code Geass and Code Geass R2 to be the same “series.” Code Geass is rare in the anime world as being an “anime-first” series – it didn’t start out as a light novel or a manga or a visual novel (video game). I saw this anime back in 2007 or early 2008 and then I saw its sequel, Code Geass R2 in 2008. About 7 years later, it still remains my favorite anime series.
It’s a dark/psychological anime with some mecha elements – situated perfectly in my favorite “strike zone.” It’s very melodramatic, but also an extremely intense spiral of ever greater tragedy. I still remember watching the first episode, which ends with Lelouch using the Geass power to force several soldiers to kill themselves. I thought “this is going to be good,” and boy, was it.
There are a lot of things I count as my “favorite” about this anime, but a couple things really stand out. The protagonist was a genius, but a highly flawed character. He makes serious mistakes that have actual consequences both against him and within the world. Really, this anime was an example of consequences – things that characters did had very real impact on everyone else. To accomplish this, the writing was exceptionally well-put together. There’s a dramatic principle called Chekhov’s Gun: “If you say in the first chapter that there is a rifle hanging on the wall, in the second or third chapter it absolutely must go off. If it’s not going to be fired, it shouldn’t be hanging there.” – Anton Chekhov. In Code Geass, the rifle was fired.
I would be hard pressed to find many extraneous things in there – even the silly school scenes had important parts to play. One of the really interesting parts was how it used comedy to rest and reset from the tragedies, which otherwise could have been overwhelming.
I’m a fan of endings other than happy endings, if done well. If you take Code Geass as a standalone, it’s a very dark tale of a boy who tries to change his fate/ place in society but ultimately fails, getting everyone killed. Code Geass R2 goes further and takes on a somewhat redemptive nature that is still very tragic. I won’t spoil the interpretation of the end of Code Geass R2, but if you are paying close attention, you know exactly what happened. That ending is one of the strongest scenes I have ever seen.
I have to admit that Code Geass is probably tied here, but since Akko has pretty much said it all for our mutual love of Code Geass, I figured I might as well slide into my other favorite.
There are so many varied elements in this anime, the superb balance of which really makes it solid. It is a story with deep, meaningful purpose told through the ups and downs of the brothers’ journey to get their bodies back. There are intense sequences where they literally fight for their lives, emotional moments to make you cry, and ridiculously funny scenes where one is reminded that they really are just kids. But it’s not just the Elric brothers—there are so many deep characters to get to know, and by the time that final season’s theme song comes around, those aren’t just a bunch of faces that it pans across…that is everyone you know and love.
The animation style in Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood feels as if it was designed with my preferences in mind. There is a certain soft roundness to it, every face is unique and wonderfully expressive, and the style changes to fit the mood. It is smooth and dynamic in fight scenes, amazingly subtle and detailed in the tender moments, and then flips out into the wildly expressive cartoonish style for the comedic parts.
It is this masterful balance of these three areas (not only reflected in the animation, but the story, as well) that keeps it moving without getting bogged down in any one element, and puts one on something of an emotional rollercoaster by the end (I cried for probably the last four episodes). It lends credibility and multi-faceted personalities to each character, all backed by a strongly-built world with a great amount of detail and wonderfully convoluted elements that I simply love.
On a final, brief note: the Japanese voice actors really complete the characters with supremely expressive voices and delivery that really complete the experience and demonstrate just how well-rounded this show is in its execution.
Full marks, Brotherhood. Zenko signing off.