Steins;Gate 0 (2018, White Fox)
As with the visual novel game released about 3 years ago this official Anime sequel also takes place just before the prequel's ending about midway through episode 23 so, you could kind of call it an extended version of the original Steins;Gate too.
After many attempts Okabe has given up hope trying to reach Steins Gate and save his beloved Kurisu. He has now returned to the Beta World Line and undergoing treatment to help cope with his traumatic experiences. One day he meets Kurisu's senior colleague Maho Hiyajo as one of the guests giving a seminar on the revolution of AI in Akihabara. They had both worked together at the same university in the Neuroscience Institute, researching whether it was possible to backup and restore the human memory as you would with data. Building on the foundations of Kurisu's research, the team had now begun project "Amadeus", a system that allowed these memories to be transferred to an AI avatar so that they maintain the person's personality and more importantly emotions. Their ultimate goal was to reach the stage where they could restore memories to the human brain but before that, they must test whether memories are fully functioning properly.
When Okabe reveals he was a friend of Kurisu, Professor Leskinen leader of the Amadeus project decides he would be the best candidate to help test drive another set of data which Kurisu herself had volunteered her own memories for before she had met Okabe. Just as the Amadeus version of Kurisu becomes a part of Okabe's daily life and also his salvation, "Reading Steiner" suddenly starts triggering again - an ability that allowed to him to sense when someone has tampered with time while retaining his memories before history changed. As he finds his friends endangered once again, Okabe is forced to relive his nightmares and must find a way to stop whoever's responsible for the series of strange events they are caught up in.
I'm not that much of a visual novel fan but I enjoyed the prequel show so much I ended up playing it so this time, I already played the game before watching. What made the prequel great was the impressive amount of detail that backed the sci-fi part of the show and, it was intense watching the drama unfold as Okabe desperately tries to prevent his friends' deaths despite all the odds that were against him. It had a great cast of characters too that isn't just your cliche Anime personalities so it's great seeing them back again, supporting the now depressed Okabe who is a shell of his former self. The show does a good job of making you sympathise with him when you see AI Kurisu and the flashbacks of all the tragedies he has repeatedly experienced.
Okabe's no longer the fun "chuunibyo" he once was i.e. someone with the delusion they are the hero that'll save the world from a consipracy only they are aware of. He's now just your regular uni student working hard to graduate but despite the grim start showing Okabe and his troubles, the show shows it can still be amusing as it can be brutal. It starts off quite dark as it shows more insight into a future full of doom and gloom but, it's definitely toned down a lot compared to the visual novel game with certain scenes left out or cut short. The show knows when to break up the tension with a bit of humour or a breather episode.
New characters are developed well such as the "qualified loli" Maho who constantly gets teased by both the AI Kurisu and her professors or, the mysterious Kagari who has lost her memories but physically resembles the late Kurisu. As it's a different timeline from the prequel, old characters also play a different key role in the show but still their lively selves. As with the prequel, the sci-fi, mystery and drama will keep you watching as Okabe has to faces new challenges that threaten both his old and new friends alike. The romance in this sequel is heavier too. Despite having different directors and scenario writers, the story build-up is still really well-done. It's just a shame it cut out the layman's look at how AI works whereas the prequel spent a lot of time on time travel hypothesises.
It's good to see they hired the same singer for the opening theme, Kanako Itou but I don't think it can beat the prequel's OP theme although the lyrics suit the show well. As far as art is concerned, it's the same studio as the prequel but again, Huke's unique style from the game is better in my opinion which you see a hint of in the OP. Anime's style is a lot simpler but the quality's consistent so that's good. The team also paid a lot of attention to detail too because if you if you fall back to previous episodes after a big reveal you can see the same art was used before, possibly as a hint. I also think it was a good decision to use a 3D model for AI Kurisu so that she looks like the "live portrait" tech used in a lot of visual novel games these days. It also has its fan service scenes from the ladies just like the prequel but they're also just as rare so it's not enough to ruin the show. Soundtrack is a mix of the prequel and new tracks but they're all good to listen to. It was hard to recognise Kana Hanazawa's voice as Mayuri who also plays Naho from Orange. On the other hand, it's hard not to think of Okabe as Ryuuji from Persona 5 or Dazai from Bungo Stray Dogs since they're all played by Mamoru Miyano and sound alike.
There's no Dr. Pepper sponsor this time but if you enjoyed the prequel, you'll enjoy this. Even if you've played through every branch in the visual novel, it'll be a good watch too. It's that good and extends on the true ending a bit that ties up well with the prequel. There are the odd scenes after the credits too so don't miss out. Then there's also a bonus OVA released with the blu-ray which takes place after episode 10 but it's missable because it's a fan service "Valentine's Day" episode with your usual girls can't cook joke.
Out of interest, did any computing enthusiasts amongst you or those who still remember their computing classes notice the number for the Steins;gate world line 1.048596 is almost exactly the number of bytes in 1MB, 1,048,576? I somehow doubt it was a coincidence that number was chosen given the way parodies and the real world is used as a reference in Japanese fiction but, I'm not sure about the numbers used for the other world lines.
Worth A Watch
Hakata Tonkotsu Ramens (2018, Satellite)
First off, if you think this is a show about ramen noodles then nope, best looking elsewhere. It's a trap.
The Hakata prefecture in Fukuoka was famous for its Tonkotsu ramen and looks like your regular city but it had its own underworld where 3% of its population were killers for hire. Some called themselves "avengers", people who can be hired to get revenge for their clients. Baseball loving Zenji Banba is a private detective out investigating a murder of a fellow detective who was murdered by a local hitman. As such, he also ends up being targeted for nosying around. Rash Lin Xianming on the other hand, is a highly skilled hitman who had sold himself off as a kid so that his family could live a better life. Now he was trying to buy his freedom back from a Taiwanese gang so that he can return home to his sister and ends up being assigned to the job. However, he refuses and decides to protect Zenji instead - at least, until he gets paid properly. Laid back Zenji goes with the flow and it just so happens Lin was part of the organisation he was investigating. When Lin's sister ends up abused and killed by the very same gang, they end up working together and Lin ends up seeing a different side of the underworld including a close encounter with the Niwaka Samurai, a hitman that kills hitmen.
Background art's quite good at times while others they over diffuse the lighting so much they look overly blurred. Otherwise the overall quality of the show stays consistent even though it's not great. As far as presentation goes, I think the instrumental pieces of the OST is the best part of this show including the upbeat ending theme, "Dirty Bullet".
I assume the show got it's silly name from Zenji's favourite food, instant Hakata Tonkotsu ramen which is about the only thing linked to ramen. As if the title itself wasn't enough to hint at it being a bit of a silly show about the life of underworld criminals, they throw in a cross-dressing hitman and a kind of superhero who goes around slaying hitmen just to be sure so don't expect a Black Lagoon. In a way it kind of reminded me of Samurai Flamenco because the characters all have the same silly, easy going personality as they fight crime dressed up except here, they're not playing superheroes or fighting the supernatural. Instead, it's mostly a group of criminals who end up being the good guys. This show can be a lot more violent too where people are mercilessly tortured or killed with lots of blood and some gore. Even then they can still laugh and joke as they are surrounded by corpses. Of course, you also end up with brief scenes involving the abuse and exploitation of ladies. It's not a show for the young audience that's for sure.
Instead of going for your usual cast of cliche Anime personalities it feels like the show just tries to make all the main characters look cool with the only exception of Lin. It's a character driven show since it's fairly much lacking a main plot and for the most part you're watching how Lin finds a place in his new circle of friends. When the show's not busy slaughtering people it does have it's fun moments as the gang spends time playing baseball matches together or, when you watch the odd relationship between Zenji and Lin playout. Even though everyone's buddy, buddies some don't hesitate to sell each other out when their professional career in the underworld calls for it. Eventually you get some more insight into the character's pasts too. Well... One or two of them anyway.
I think the show does a fair job of bringing characters together through coincidence with only 12 episodes to do it in although I don't know how faithful it is to the 8 volume light novel series. In that regard I think a show like Durarara or Baccano pulls it off much better with its alternating POVs and equally silly characters. Funnily enough the original author Chikai Kisaki did do a collaboration with Ryougo Narita, the author of those two titles at one point, "Durarara x Hakata Tonkotsu Ramens".
If you like action character driven shows with a laid back cast and don't mind the underworld violence you might like this. There's the odd episode with extra scenes after the credits so don't miss out.
Worth A Watch
Persona 5 The Animation (2018, CloverWorks)
For those who haven't played the PS3/4 game, the story is about the MC (Ren Amamiya) who was expelled for allegedly assaulting a man of high status and ends up having to move school as part of his one year probation period. One day, a strange app appears on his phone and he discovers he has the power to summon "Personas", spirits that dwell within people. He could enter the twisted hearts of others known as "Palaces" and steal the treasure from their Shadow that represent their inner dark desires that will give them a change of heart. As he does so, he soon meets others that possess the same power and forms the "Phantom Thieves", convinced they can make the corrupt world of adults a better place by hitting out at criminals that are out-of-reach from the law.
It's basically Atlus taking a stab at bringing about awareness of the problems in modern day society in Japan. The OVA "The Day Breakers" which acted as a prelude to the game didn't really impress me. Art was off compared to the game's cutscenes but fortunately the TV series gets off to a good start. Since the OVA, A-1 Pictures has branched out, rebranding one of their studios as CloverWorks in an effort to create a better brand and the art quality for this show is kind of better than the OVA efforts. Characters still look off sometimes like the quality suddenly drops and it's obvious the artists still aren't very good at using and blending 3D animation into their shows as you can see a lot of models walking around rigidly. As with the game Ann remains your main fan service character although they added some new scenes in while excluding some from the game so, you more or less have the same amount of fan service. Kawakami fans should be pleased. There's still your obligatory beach episode (or two) of course and the camera can be asset keen at times. Backgrounds on the other hand are a mixed bag because some such as Leblanc looks great but others such as the common shop you can see there was less effort.
The show stays faithful to the game with a few changes (particularly Futaba's story) and extra scenes added which I'm sure will make fans of the game grin - not just for Persona 5 fans but also for people who have played the other titles in the franchise. Some help clarify the story more too such as how the app records what they're saying before reaching the first Palace so it's good in this regard. There are brief side camera shots of the other characters so it feels less of the JRPG it was where you only focused on one character. That said, the show's not afraid to go back to its roots because there's so many scenes that will remind you of what made the game fun - negotiations with Shadows, transition scenes, mystery gear drops, confidants etc. They even put in the All Out Attack finishing screens but I don't quite get why they start out horrifically plain before they decided to use the game screens later on. Maybe Atlus stepped in. They also chose to skip most of the dungeon crawling but pick up the key parts that will probably make players who finished the game think, "Oh! I remember that part!" Boss battles are also play out the way they did in the game.
There are two OP theme songs like most series that end in the mid-20s but the first OP for the show actually has two animations, one for first two episodes and then one for episodes 4+ before it changes again at episode 14. The first OP animation actually uses an animated version of the artbook's cover too just like when they first teased the Anime. Third OP animation looks better quality than the others and the fourth one during the last episode is probably visually the best in terms of design. There's also a slightly different ED animation in episode 17. Episode previews are also stylish, done in a similar style to the game.
Most of the music is the same as the game too which is great because the game already had a really good OST. Hearing familiar tunes like "Beneath The Mask", "Layered Cake" or "Tokyo Daylight" playing is awesome. Voices are the same as the game. The show is so faithful to the game you have to wonder how many lines were from the game or if they actually re-recorded the show. As a bit of trivia, Ren's voice happens to be Jun Fukuyama who also plays Lelouch from Code Geass and Satsu-sensei from Assasination Classroom while Morgana is played by Ikue Ootani who also plays Chopper in One Piece. And of course, we have Mizuki Nana as Ann, best known as the first voice actress to top the weekly Japanese Oricon JPOP charts.
On it's own, I don't think Anime fans will enjoy it that much because it does show its roots from a video game where you're just jumping from boss to boss or, you might just enjoy it for the character driven stories as they overcome their troubles. For fans who enjoyed the game and want to re-live the experience through a different format it's worth a watch. Unfortunately, it does go the same route as the Persona 4 Anime where they don't air the true ending... Other than that, as a show for Persona 5 fans it's really well done despite the inconsistent art quality. It's fun watching the gang get together again and there's plenty of material in it that'll remind you of the game. Don't miss the extra scenes after the ending.
Worth A Watch
Full Metal Panic: Invisible Victory (2018, Xebec)
For some reason I always end up thinking "Full Metal Alchemist" when I think of this show's name... I like how they decided to turn the Roman numeral for IV (4) into an acronym although I don't really count Fumoffu as a season because, it was based on a separate light novel series comprised of light-hearted comedy short stories (still a fun show).
It's been over a decade since both the main light novel series ended and the last season "Second Raid" was aired. This season picks up from there and covers volumes 7 - 9 of the 12 volume main light novels or, volumes 4 - 11 of the 19 volume "Full Metal Panic: Sigma" Manga published by Dragon Age Comics. Obviously since it's been so long I was a bit hazy about what the show was about and this new season doesn't waste any time on recapping the prequels unlike say Code Geass that got movies for a recap. It's quite odd they chose to pick up on the series again when most fans will probably have forgotten the story already and, the light novel series was finished about 5 years after Second Raid in 2010 so that might have been a better time to pick it up again.
The story tells of a young man named Sousuke Sagara who is assigned by the secret organisation Mithril to protect a game named Kaname Chidori who is known as a "Whispered" which allows them to subconciously possess extremely advance technical intellect that can turn the tide in modern day warfare and naturally, there are organisations out there that want her just for that talent. After things looked like they were settling down again, Sousuke is reminded that it's unlikely Chidori will ever have a normal life. As if on cue, their school is suddenly under attack the next day. Not wanting anyone else to get hurt, Chidori allows herself to be taken away while Mithril is almost obliterated. However, that wasn't going to stop the highly skilled, one man army Sousuke in pursuing and finding a way to save her.
You might know the studio from their classics such as Martian Successor Nadesico, Love Hina and D.N. Angel or you might be more familiar with their more recent fan service filled shows such as Triage X and To Love-Ru. FMP has a fair bit of fan service too but I it's not quite as intrusive, just your usual extra shower scenes instead of being bombarded with awkward scenes or camera angles. Animation quality can be a bit rough at times but the art looks like its prequels. This is also probably the first short series that still had to have a recap episode even though it's only 12 episodes long which probably shows how much of a budget or time constraint the studio was on.
For fans of FMP this will be a great throwback to the series including theme songs by Mikuni Shimokawa (great lyrics and tunes). It's a fun action comedy and this season is more romance focused in my opinion. It has it's share of intense action scenes as Sousuke pushes himself to track down Chidori but, I think the main idea is to wrap-up the relationship between Chidori and Sousuke - maybe for the rest of the characters too as they are constantly caught up in secret warfare. In that sense I think it did a good job so it's definitely worth a watch for FMP fans. It's good to see the gang back again even though the scenarios themselves are harsh with little comedy. If you haven't watched the prequels, then I suggest watching them first although you can skip Fumoffu by KyoAni (unless you like a fan service filled comedy) as it's more a fan service comedy show than adding much to the main plot.
Hopefully they will finish off the series and cover the rest of the novels.
Worth A Watch
Grand Blue Dreaming (2018, Zero-G)
Twenty year old Iori Kitahara is about to start his new college life. Excited to make the most of his youth he decides to move in with his uncle who happens to run a scuba diving store named "Grand Blue" nearby. Living together with him were his beautiful cousins Chisa and Nanaka Kotegawa. All seems well until he enters the store and finds a gang of macho guys partying naked and drinking. Amongst them, Shinji Tokita and Ryuujirou Kotobuki turn out to be instructors at the store and also go to the same university. Hearing that he was a new fresher to the uni he ends up relunctantly getting dragged into their Diving Club "Peek-a-boo" club activities. Unfortunately, the club was still lacking members on fresher's day and Iori ends up dragging a classmate along too, Kouhei Imamura, a handsome guy who catches the attention of many women except his open Otaku way of life ends up keeping everyone away from him. As the new semester begins, the odd mix of personalities ends up leading to a variety of weird and awkward situations.
This show revolves around the college life of characters with quirky personalities that leads to some funny or odd interactions during their everyday lives. You've got a bunch of guys that enjoy drinking and being naked while the girls around them treat it as the norm. Nanaka doesn't mind them that way around in the store but she has a sister complex and gets sexually obssessed with anything Chisa has body contact with. Then you've got Tokita and Ryuujirou's friend Azusa from the all women university who happens to be bisexual, energetic and very open minded. The list goes on... The only people that seem to be normal is Chisa who does her best to ignore it all but that doesn't stop her from being dragged into their activities since they're always around. Iori always ends up with the short end of the stick as he becomes friends with the weird bunch and ends up with all sorts of misunderstandings pinned on him.
Sometimes it feels like the jokes are stretching it a bit - a lot of times they don't stray far from macho guys drinking and getting naked or running around in their underwear. However, the jokes do get a bit more interesting in the second half of the show. It also has its rare more serious slice-of-life moments when it's not being silly and fooling around so that the growing Grand Blue gang end up watching out for each other.
There's no shortage of fan service scenes. Character designs are aesthetically pleasing although their angry serious expressions remind me of Attack on Titan. You'll see the girls in swimsuits quite often since it's a scuba diving club... and the naked macho guys. I don't think there's a single episode where the guys don't strip naked or are at least half naked - it's the norm for the guys. And where there's alcohol involved in any story there's usually sex too and the show isn't afraid to make a joke of out it either. Certain scenes can be... brutal. As for the music, I didn't find anything that stood out other than the odd karaoke style ending theme although, the OP "Grand Blue" fits in with the stereotype image of summer - blue skies, blazing sun and going all out with passion.
It's a weird lively summery, slice-of-life comedy show full of nudity aimed at the young male adult audience, with the odd serious moments that barely touches on scuba diving. It's all about drinking and partying nude - your whole summer YOLO attitude. At least after watching this you'll be a bit more knowledgeable about scuba diving if you weren't already and know what an "Old Man" or "Hamasaki's Wife" can mean in Okinawa.
Worth A Watch
Chio's School Road (2018, Diomedea)
Chio-chan no Tsuugakuro
In case you haven't guessed from the title already, this show is about Chio Mayumi's daily adventures of going to school. Her over-active imagination and hardcore passion for playing games into the early hours of the morning, leads her into some very weird and hilarious situations as she meets various people along the way. Especially when she's with her friend Manana who's always looking for mischievous ways to mess around.
I think that's all I can tell you without spoiling the jokes although each episode she makes two trips. They're not self-contained episodes as you'll see previous events carried over to the rest of the show. It has its own bit of fan service where female assets are given the odd bounce or flashing, groping etc but, it's aimed at the young male adult audience so it's pretty much a given. The odd episodes it can be really excessive...
Some of the jokes also kind of go overboard, reminding me of the toilet humour from more mature Western cartoons like South Park which I didn't like but, most of the show is fun. If you like the kind of humour from Crayon Shin-chan like the prominent butt jabbing pranks or, if you play Western action video games you might be able to get into it because there's a lot of references in it. It's got a fun wrap-up too.
And yup, "Kabaddi" is a real sport.
Worth A Watch
Classroom of The Elite (2017, Lerche)
Youjitu / Youkoso Jituryoku Shijou Shugi no Kyoushitsu he [Welcome to The Classroom of The Elite]
Tokyo Metropolitan Advanced Nurturing School is a special campus run by the government to improve the country's outlook. Only a select number of students are permitted at the school which guarantees a 100% rate of employment. Kiyotaka Ayanokouji who had poor social skills and had little interest in anything, was one of those select few. On the first day of school, he finds their class is granted a generous allowance of points worth 100,000 Yen each month. However, no students from the school are allowed to leave the campus which has facilities serving everything they'd ever need. What's more, no one seems to be punished whenever they do anything that would usually be against school rules such as talking in class or missing classes. As such, many started a very care-free and luxurious lifestyle given the generous allowance they had.
However, a month later they discover the government wasn't really that generous much to their dismay. The school's "S-System" ranked classes based on their students performance as a whole but the exact conditions are unknown. It's hinted their over-negligence in class meant that no one is granted any points for the new month. Not only that, they were also ranked as class D because they were considered the worst kind of people in society. Now together they must get work together and gain the class points they need to get back up the ranks. Unfortunately, not all get along including the smart but outspoken lone girl Suzune Horikata who for her own reasons, wasn't just aiming to get out of class D, She wanted to reach class A too. Kikyou Kushida, a seemingly cheery friendly girl who wants to make friends with everyone, finds Suzune's the only one she can't befriend. As each discover their own shortcomings, Kiyotaka, Kikyou and Suzune find themselves working together to bring unity to the class as they are faced with various trials.
This show covers 4 of the 9 volume light novel series which is basically the first semester in the story's timeline. It starts off quite boring as you can guess from the synopsis but it's actually quite an interesting show. Just as you're getting into the flow of the story it likes to spring a surprise at you. There's a lot of rivalry going on that leads to some dirty scheming. After the first twist you kind of get everything is mostly just a facade and there's always something else dark happening behind each character but, it's still entertaining to watch and guess what class D ends up struggling with next. Or more specifically, Kiyotaka who takes a laid back stance on everything yet he's observative, considerate and sharp enough to pick-up on unspoken situations. He's a bit like Hotaro from Hyouka except more athletic.
I like how they show you how many points each student has in the ending credits although I don't know if the points actually hint at who's helping the class the most. They also have a different character showing the app each time too. Aside from that, the art's not really that impressive to look at. OP theme song is pretty catchy. I think Kiyotaka's voice is overly monotonous... Kind of like listening to a boring lecture.
Unfortunately it's one of those shows with potential but has a fair bit of intrusive fan service, ruining it with awkward camera angles pointing at the wrong places. It's also chosen to go with your "ero-kawaii (cute face, sexy figure)" female character designs as is the trend with most shows these days. Oh, and your obligatory episodes of girls in their swimwear, changing room scenes etc of course with new physics. Either way, it does end up breaking the initial good pacing of the story. The light novels might have been better off but I can't comment on them since I haven't read them..
The show will probably keep you watching wondering whether class D will ever make it to the top as one by one characters reveal a different secret side of themselves. You end up guessing who's up to what. It's good as it is but I think it could have been a lot better if they used the time spent on fan service to flesh out the story even more and cut out the instrusive camera angles that ruin the direction. Such a shame.
With all that said, I still look forward to a season two to see how the story pans out without picking up the novels.
Worth A Watch
Restaurant to The Other World (2017, Silver Link)
The kind but stern Master runs a Western Restaurant "Nekoya [Cat Shop]" in Tokyo but during the night something odd happens. Once every Saturday, portals appear in another world that allows its inhabitants to access his restaurant and they are all captured by the taste of the dishes that are completely foreign to them. Even one of the Seven Ancient Dragons that was feared by all. One night, a hungry homeless young girl Aletta who lost her job because her horns gave away her demon blood lineage, ends up wandering into his restaurant attracted by the aroma of some potage he had cooked. Thinking it was a dream she helps herself and ends up falling asleep there. When the Boss discovers her, he offers her a job and so together, they continue to welcome inhabitants of all manner from the other world to the restaurant.
Based on a light novel series of the same name, I thought it'd be somehow related to another show with a similar title, Isekai no Izakaya "Nobu" but it's not. Both are very similar though - instead of a restaurant you have a pub. Granted, Shokudou's light novels came out a year before first so maybe it inspired the pub series.
As with most food focused shows, it has it's over-exaggerated way of praising food but it's not done in a fun hilarious way like the classic Mr Ajikko or the more recent fan service heavy Food Wars: Shokugeki no Souma. The camera just focuses on the food as we hear lots of words of praise. Art's not bad so it might make you hungry and while the fan service isn't as heavy as Food Wars, it does have your share of brief cleverly censored nude fan service scenes from the pretty ladies. A lot of the cuisine's very common and familar such as omrice and curry you often see in Anime shows. It's quite fun watching the expressive characters from the fantasy world show how impressed they are with the modern day world food. Outside of that, each episode gives you a bit more of a glimpse into the vaguely named "Eastern Continent" fantasy world and they also act as an intro to each of the other worldly patrons too but, the desire for food always ends up leading to Nekoya so it's kind of a rinse-and-repeat formula.
So you could say this is a slice-of-life show set in a fantasy world with everything you'd expect from the world setting being the norm - your usual dwarves, elves, dragons and other familiar mythical beings. The only twist is that instead of an inn they use the modern day restaurant Nekoya to rest up. It's not as fun as say Working! or Blend S because nothing really eventful happens. Nothing really stands out be it the music, world setting, visuals or scenarios. There's no drama and little comedy that was laugh-out-loud good but, it doesn't feel boring either. There are the odd moments that make you smile and it has a good wrap-up to say the least. It's like being a spectator of daily fantasy life as you learn more about the other world which isn't a bad thing.
Code Geass Movie Trilogy (2017 - 2018, Sunrise)
コードギアス 反逆のルルーシュ 興道 / 叛道 / 皇道
Code Geass Hangyaku no Ruru-ju: Koudou / Handou / Oudou
It's been over a decade since Sunrise's original Anime screened. The show wrapped up well with season two but also left fans wondering if that was all there was to it. Now we have a film trilogy that both re-tells the story and gives fans the long awaited "season 3" in the form of a film.
For those unfamiliar with the story, Lelouch Lamperouge is one of the princes of the Great Britannia Empire. One day, when his mother is assasinated and his sister Nunnally is both wounded in the process, he protests how to his father how uncaring he was. Lelouche gives up his right to the throne, fed up with the internal fighting and as a result, both he and Nunnally are sent to Japan as political hostages. Not long afterwards, Britannia invades Japan for its rare resources of Sakuradite renaming the country as "Area 11". When Lelouche and Nunnally are both caught up in the attacks, Lelouch vows to bring down the Britannian Empire so that his sister can live in a world of peace. Some years later while out for one of his regular chess matches, Lelouch finds himself caught up in a terrorist attack which is when he meets a green-haired girl named "C.C." who grants him the "Power of Kings, Geass" that allowed him to command anyone to do whatever he wishes. And so, Lelouch rises as the masked man "Zero" leading the Japanese resistance as "The Black Knights" to achieve the dream he had long been waiting for.
The first movie "Awakening" is a re-telling of R1's 1 - 17 with quite a lot of content removed. A number of scenarios both minor and major have been excluded such as how Mao doesn't make an appearance, the amusing filler scenarios that take place at the academy such as the stolen mask are gone and Shirley loses her tragic role. Kallen also gets less of a reason to be fighting Britannia compared to the TV series since the scenario that introduces her mother hasn't been included. Even C.C. has less of an active femme fatale role she had in the original.
That said, the drama, action and pacing is still really good with the odd changes and new scenes introduced to help continuity. The main element that made fans rate it as one of the best shows at the time along with Death Note is all the scheming and grand stunts Lelouch manages to pull off which is mostly all there. It doesn't deviate from the key parts of the story and I think it chose the right scenes for the approx 2 hour movie considering that's only enough time for around 7 episodes worth. The exact episodes used were 1 - 5, 8 (start), 10 - 12 (start), parts from 14, 15 (midway) and 17.
Presentation wise you can see a bit of 3D CGI introduced and fans of the classic will have a blast from the past hearing familiar theme songs again including OST tracks such as Hitomi Kuroishi's "Masquerade". I think one major difference will be Pizza Hut's brand no longer makes an appearance so I guess Sunrise lost their sponsor - at least on the blu-ray release. Not that they need them any more with the success of the franchise... It's also very odd hearing Yukana as C.C. but also as Tessa from Full Metal Panic. I'd say there's pretty much none of the fan service from the TV series too such as shower scenes which makes sense considering the already tight time constraint they had to re-tell R1.
While the first movie was a great re-telling, the second movie, "Rebellion" wasn't so great covering episodes 17, 21 - 24, parts of 25, parts of 27, part of 31, end of 37, 39 - 41. Again, some scenes were cut short while a one or two were extended.
After the first third of the movie. There's the big twist which came from the the TV series but then events afterwards just felt pointless. Other than the fan service episodes being excluded, nearly all the episodes with the Chinese Federation, missing memories, battle with the knights have been excluded and it feels like there's a sudden big rush to give the viewer as much information as possible. In the first movie, Shirley hardly got any focus and her tragic experience from R1 was excluded but then they hint something did happen to her in this movie so, unless you watched the TV series you'd have been left wondering what happened to her.
It felt like they went about too leisurely with the first movie and had to make up the pacing here with a poorly organised and selected scenes. It was fairly much a sleeper unfortunately...
However, sacrificing the second movie seemed to worth it since the pacing and drama is back up to pace for the third and final movie "Royalty". Probably because it only had 10 episodes left to re-tell. It's good to hear my favourite Code Geass theme song playing again.
I'm going to have to put the trilogy under a miss because while the selection of scenes chosen for the first and third movies were well done, it still can't beat watching the 50 episode TV series. R2 pretty much wrapped up the story well as tragic as it might be as Lelouch achieved his objective so, it was debatable whether Sunrise could continue it or not. In the end, there is nothing new.
So if you've already seen the TV series but want a recap, you might like the movies but you know how it'll end and no, there's no new material afterwards - slightly different scene with C.C. but nothing major. You're not missing out anything. Otherwise if you haven't seen the TV series, I suggest spending your time on those instead. It's an epic show.