Endings, proper conclusive endings, are hard to come by in anime. When most series just end after one series, and therefore seem to only serve as a long advert for the original source material (manga, light novel or otherwise) it’s always a joy when an anime goes out of its way to actually finish its story. Whether it’s by finishing in the same way as the source material, by devising its own conclusion or, if it’s an original story, given time to end, it provides something that can feel hard to come by in anime – a sense of closure. So, of course, when a film is announced that takes place after, or in some cases, re-writes the original ending, it can come across as a quick cash grab from the fans rather than something that the original creators were passionate about. Code Geass ended explosively back in 2008, until Sunrise announced that not only would it create a new trilogy of films that retell the series with a few changes, but also create a sequel to the new timeline created. All three films are now out in the UK, and finally, Lelouch of the Re;surrection is out too, but does it ruin the original ending? Or allow for some open doors to finally close after all this time?
It’s been over a year since the death of Lelouch Vi Britannia and with him the reign of the Britannia Army, and peace is finally known across the world. But for the kingdom of Zilkhistan, where its main export is mercenaries, the conflict is far from over, as they kidnap not only Nunnally but also Zero, now Suzaku Kururugi. Meanwhile, C.C. has an alive but mindless Lelouch with her, travelling the world trying to find a gate to C’s world and somehow restore Lelouch’s mind.
I want to get one major gripe out of the way first, and this will spoil the trilogy that came before, so you’ve been warned. There was absolutely no reason for most of the story changes made in the trilogy because this film could have easily taken place in the original canon with a few minor re-writes. The main change, the fact that Shirley lives in this series of events, is completely and utterly wasted here; there’s one scene where she’s briefly mentioned to have discovered Lelouch alive, but it’s so quickly said and it’s never shown on screen that it’s almost inconsequential. Shirley herself doesn’t even appear on screen until the latter half of the movie, and plays no part in the plot, so I do not understand why so much effort went into changing the story in minor ways for it to not have a major impact later.
In the first act of this movie, I was reminded of Martian Successor Nadesico’s film Prince of Darkness, of all things, in that we have the main character from the TV series side-lined for the film and when he is on screen, he’s a shadow of his former self. Luckily, this movie does not continue this downward spiral, Lelouch returns (mostly) to his arrogant but more wise self and the film picks up massively, mostly because, unlike Prince of Darkness, it knows exactly what made the original series so beloved: fast-paced story, lots of action, large cast of colourful characters led by a lead who can ham it up with the best of them, whilst firing off complex plan after complex plan. Almost all of the cast from the original series make an appearance here, even some dead ones make brief cameos. But the fast pace that the series is known for sometimes works against this movie’s best interests,. Because this film contains new information and canon, the dumping of exposition can be so clumsily and hastily done that it doesn’t register properly before the movie tries to rush us on to the next plot point. Also, there’s many instances where a tender, gentler character moment is interrupted by loud, explosive action sequences, and vice versa. So, the emotional reunions Lelouch has with the cast fall flat more often than not, but at least the action scenes are decent with a nice mixture of Mecha battles and hand-to-hand combat.
The highlight of the movie actually turns out to be the new Geass members and how Lelouch faces off against them. We meet two of them: the first one gets a nice introduction and demonstration of powers but sadly is side-lined later. The second, Shamna, has a unique ability that is demonstrated excellently in a twist leading into the final act, and it’s fun to watch how Lelouch and C.C. try to figure out her plans via trial and error. It was also a smart move to have the villains’ motivation be a product of the new world Lelouch created, rather than being someone who was ‘there all along’ and just now decided to appear, as other series try to do.
Unlike the recap trilogy, this film contains both the Japanese and English dub, with the original cast returning to voice their roles, as if it was just yesterday that they concluded the original series, with Johnny Yong Bosch doing a great job of portraying a new side of Lelouch whilst still maintaining elements of what we loved about the character, even though he’s changed quite a bit since. The music (again by Kotaro Nakagawa) is also very reminiscent of the original soundtrack but with a more grounded and emotional tone; for example, the opening and closing songs are uplifting ballads, whereas the TV series favoured more high-paced J-pop/rock.
Animation is once again provided by Sunrise and doesn’t immediately look too different from the trilogy movies that used a lot of recycled scenes, but there are a few noteworthy scenes where the budget can really be seen. For example: midway into the movie where the team are having one last drink before the battle, the starry sky is just stunning, and in the climax C.C.’s expression at Lelouch’s confession really feels like every frame of her face was carefully considered to make sure her overwhelming emotions were conveyed to the audience. It should be noted however that there are a lot of flashing images in this movie, including one with lots of intense flashing red, in the final part of the climax, so carefully consider it if you’re epileptic.
On-disc extras include visual commentary, commercials plus a conversation with Donald Shults (ADR Director) and Elizabeth Maxwell (voice of Shamna). The standard edition also comes with a reversible cover, whilst the collector’s edition has additional soundtrack disc, rigid case, duel disc format of the film plus a 32-page art booklet.
Code Geass; Lelouch of the Re;surrection doesn’t ruin the original ending, or improve on it in any meaningful way, it sits comfortably in the middle; a ‘take it or leave it’ film that’s entertaining in its own right, and could pave the way for more sequels if interest was there. It’s a fun way to kill two hours, and a decent way to reunite our favourite characters one final time.