Not long after the end of the first black rebellion, Euro-Britannia is still at war with Europia. Euro-Brittania stands as a powerful royalty based authoritarian government. The EU on the other hand, is a democratic government primarily focused around a strong legislative branch. Euro-Britannia while still under the Britannian empire, for the most part is still largely in control of its own affairs, and doesn’t have that much of a stomach for truly fighting an all out war with the EU, but still has many soldiers willing to risk their lives for the honor and valor that comes with knighthood. The EU too has no stomach for war, nor do they truly possess much in the way of concepts such as honor, and hence have few that want to risk their lives. Hence, they bolster their troops by using refugees, primarily from Area 11, formerly Japan, who are promised citizenship for their families upon their deaths. This policy is primarily pushed forward by populist politicians, who make the European people look down on refugees and not view their plight as a negative, hence allowing them to continue fighting in the war and gaining the popular sentiments from it, while also being in a position where losses does not result in losing enough public support that could cost them their political seats. And hence the war is ultimately at a standstill, being more for show than anything.
Leila Malcal is the daughter of a noble from Brittania that opposed their system of government, and hence defected to the EU. However, her family was murdered, and she ended up being taken in by a wealthy family in the EU. She grew up to be incredibly intelligent and kind, however also highly naive, believing far too much in others. Still, she had a mind for strategy and tactics so she began a military career, primarily leading the W-0 unit, a secret commando unit composed of only refugees from Area 11, and hence one deemed expendable by higher military command, leading it to be sent primarily on suicide missions, but they have a number of powerful technologies within their unit, such as powerful Knightmares called Alexanders, as well as an orbital drop system, and hence are capable of far more than people expect, hence gaining the nickname “Hannibal’s Ghost”. The star of this unit is Akito Hyuuga, who has an incredible bloodlust and skill, but is otherwise largely mysterious in terms of motivation and character. Eventually, a group of Area 11 refugees who choose to become terrorists, Ryou Sayama, Ayano Kosaka, and Yukiya Naruse, are stopped by Akito when attacking a motorcade Leila is, afterwards being given an offer to join the W-0 unit by Leila. This inevitably results in a unit with a lot of friction between its members.
Still, the war doesn’t stay dead locked forever. Shin Hyuuga Shaing, a man who ends up leading one of the most powerful forces in Euro-Brittania, the Knight of St. Micheal, is very interested in having this war progress. Furthermore, the Knight of Round, Kururugi Suzaku, by direct command of the Emperor of Brittania is escorting a mysterious figure, Julius Kingsley, to take control of and win in the war between Euro-Britannia and the EU, who turns out to be quite possibly the most competent person in the world in doing so, though with a number of mental stability issues.
Akito the Exiled is midquel that takes place in between the two main seasons of Code Geass, and hence will inevitably be compared with such. From that perspective, there’s a lot that it gets right. The character designs and general art style are all top notch. Code Geass has always had a unique blend of historic elegance, brought forward to be more modern and even futuristic that is gaudy but still feels clean. This is something I have always felt works incredibly well and I feel they did even better than with previous entries here. The soundtrack and first ED also play into this well, though I felt the second was lacking. Furthermore, the action is all around incredible, though with somewhat different aesthetics. I’ve always felt that the addition of flight, while making for some fantastic set pieces and moments, along with many more tactical options, ultimately made the core battles a bit weaker, with the ground based ones in R2 for example being the ones that stand out the most. The mech battles here are almost all entirely ground based, and are very well choreographed and amazing to watch. The world too has a tremendous amount of depth. This should come as expected, in that it’s the same world as the main series, but the EU and related conflict got fleshed out very well, which contributes strongly to world building in the series as a whole. So the world very much does feel like Code Geass.
However, holistically, there are a number of major issues that drag it down. First off would be that ultimately the characters are a lot flatter. There is very little given in terms of motivation for why they became who they became, how they got to the point they were at in terms of character development, and hence everyone doesn’t seem to have much purpose. Leila is an incredibly kind and naive character, but there isn’t any reason for her to be that way beyond that she just is, and hence the fact that she simply chooses to run away from the overarching conflict at the end with her friends doesn’t gather much admiration from me, rather the feeling that the creators meant to foil her with what Lelouch did seems down right ridiculous. In a way I get what they were going for, for her to be the opposite of Lelouch, someone that cares about being honest and kind rather than having a Machiavellian appraoch to achieving an end by all means possible. But the end results of that approach result is nothingness. Her impact on the world is minimal, ultimately meaningless, and the end result of the entire series on the overall story of Code Geass is negligible. This has a major negative effect on the series as a whole, because it means that many of the major staples of Code Geass, epic finales, major world changing strategies and tactics executed flawlessly, etc. simply aren’t present. Moving on, Akito’s issues arise from the fact that he has little reason to fight, and the rest of the group has even less so, but they all end up loyal to Leila. She has a certain amount of charisma from her kindness and forthrightness in a way, but it still feels random and off. The villain’s motivations too are hollow, in that he simply wants to create chaos for the sake of it, with some hand wavy nonsense leading up tot hat point. All around, the new characters were a step back. Now, I would be willing to look past this to a degree if the returning characters picked up the slack. Two of the main characters from the main series, Lelouch and Suzaku are in the series, but ultimately, there is little to no purpose to their existence. How meaningless their impact was after a pretty large build up felt like a major let down, and was honestly worst than not having them at all. So all in all, the characters were a let down.
The next issue is that they broke the fundamental rules on what made Geass in the main series such an amazing concept. In the main series, the powers associated with each person’s Geass were almost explained pretty clearly, either by the creator, or Lelouch quickly figuring them out, and there were very few out of left field surprises of them not working according to the previously set out rules. However, in this series the rules are never made clear for anyone, and seem to change arbitrarily and work in an unpredictable fashion. Furthermore, super natural elements are pushed in unneeded ways. Another aspect I really liked about Geass was that it for the most part the power was entirely mental, which made it unique as compared to various other series. Here, elements related to Geass can do everything from go back in time to teleport to other dimensions. There is also an attempt at trying to explain where Geass comes from at its root that goes beyond the minimalist explanation in R2, but it ultimately falls flat.
A series that is very much Code Geass that manages to do tremendously well in terms of style, action, and the world at large, but doesn’t do so well at some core aspects such as the characters, world impact, and Geass itself, that while still decent, feels like a waste of potential, and makes me even more appreciative of the main series.
On another note, Code Geass R3 HYPE!!!