Thursday, April 28, 2016

'Akito the Exiled' Wonderfully Enriches 'Code Geass'

I’m a huge fan of Code Geass.  It’s my most favorite anime series of all time.  And through the years, I’ve re-watched it many times over.  However, despite my fandom for it, it’s just this year that I learned that there’s such a thing as Akito the Exiled, a spin-off OVA.  It has already been around since 2012, thus, it came as a surprise to me that it took all these years before I encountered it.

But that just might be as well.  Code Geass: Akito the Exiled is a five-part movie series (which are theatrically released in Japan).  That means one movie came out annually from 2012 to 2016.  Waiting for the next installment would have been torturously frustrating if I got to start with it in 2012.  Catching it in 2016, I was able to pleasurably watch all five movies successively in a short period of time.

Code Geass is a thrilling, cerebral anime.  The storytelling is immersive, and the character arcs are terrific.  It has unique mechas (called Knightmares), complex themes of morality, fascinating alternate history, thought-provoking politics, and elements of the supernatural (e.g. Geass).  It’s a fantastic mythos.  And Akito the Exiled wonderfully adds and expounds upon it.
Code Geass: Akito the Exiled takes place between the two seasons of the anime series.  Instead of the conflict between Brittania and Japan, it focuses on the conflict between the European Union and Euro Brittania (i.e. Russia, the part of Europe controlled by Brittania).

In Code Geass’ history, the French Revolution expanded to other European countries, exiling all European nobles to America (which turned into the Holy Brittanian Empire) and resulting to the creation of the EU.  However, the rich and powerful have become as corrupt and conceited as the nobles of old.

Japanese – or Elevens – refugees, who fled to the EU after Brittania conquered Japan, are discriminated upon and quartered in horrible slums.  They are only granted citizenship and rights if a family member joins the army and dies in battle.  So while the EU’s elite are enjoying parties, Elevens are dying in the frontlines.

This is where we find the titular character, Akito.  He serves in a special unit that goes on high-casualty missions behind enemy lines.  His commanding officer is a young but brilliant tactician named Leila, who employs unconventional strategies hinged on technological innovations built by the unit’s scientists.  Unlike most European citizens, she – being a non-natural European herself, the daughter of Brittanian defectors – shows respect and care to the Elevens under her command.  She strives to bring a happy life to her friends, while Akito struggles to overcome his brokenness and face the burdens of his past.
Code Geass characters Lelouch and Suzaku are in it as well.  But though they have some significant contribution in moving the plot forward, in the end, their presence doesn’t really make an impact.  Still, it was nice to see Lelouch – a favorite anime character of mine – scheming once again.

Akito the Exiled notably features what likely looks to be the most badass mecha battles I’ve ever seen.  Seriously.  The action scenes are mesmerizingly fantastic.  I also appreciate the jazzy music that accompanies them – the visuals are truly enhanced by it (worth mentioning: a present awesome mecha mini-series, Gundam Thunderbolt, has a closely similar visuals-music technique in its action scenes – will also review that anime once it’s done).  The new Knightmare designs are pretty cool – especially those from EU that can crawl like spiders and the Brittanian main villain’s centaur-like one.  However, the innovative capabilities and designs are somewhat problematic in respect to fitting them to the original series’ continuity, since, during season two of the series, the Knightmares weren’t that advanced.
Overall, I immensely like Akito the Exiled.  It’s an amazing anime.  Just like the original series, this OVA has powerful drama, compelling characters, and an endearing narrative. But not only did it gave me a chance to see something new about a universe I love and miss, it’s also an excellent anime production by its own.   It successfully manages to capture the familiar appeal and tone of Code Geass and, at the same time, be something distinctive and original.

Now, because of this, I would love to see more of the Code Geass universe.  I terribly wish they would do another spin-off or a sequel.  I will delightfully welcome either one.

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