I simply adore military tactics- it explains why I’ve played through each 3DS release of Fire Emblem a handful of times (I’ll admit, however, I’ve never beat any of them on the hardest difficulties). It usually surprises friends (and even family) that I have such an interest thanks in no small part to my usual tired eyes and aloof nature. I guess where my liking would differentiate would be because compared to most, I had to actually get an extensive education on it. When I was in my program that eventually gave me my Associates degree for the line of work I was in at the time, I had to memorize dates, people, and tactics used in various conflicts.
All of this transitioned into anime would mean I was naturally drawn to a series like Code Geass, of course. While I haven’t finished Iron Blooded Orphans and don’t want to undercut it, Code Geass was the best mecha anime I had seen since Eureka Seven. The story of a young man who set out to use everyone and everything to make the world better for his little sister is an incredible journey with gut wrenching turns. I always wanted to write about the dub, but to capture such a wide range of characters represented so excellently would be an exhausting task. It still tops my recommendation lists for those who I know can handle the length a little steep for beginners of anime. I have been going through my third time through the series, and I still HUGE Code Geass spoilers cry every time /HUGE Code Geass spoilers.
When I first heard about Akito the Exiled, it was getting put through the wash for pacing issues and overall how it wasn’t the original Code Geass. I know that last assessment sounds off base, but most arguments I hear for why sequels and spinoffs aren’t good usually boil down to that. It was far on my back burner until I started paying for a FunimationNow account and found it finished on the catalog. I went in with low expectations, and while a lot of it wasn’t great, it had its moments.
Starting with what went poorly, however, while everything a viewer came to expect of the series is here and is bolstered with that sweet movie budget, there is quite a bit missing from this film series right away. There are a handful of good tracks, but something that strikes me as a little unusual had to be that these tracks were recycled throughout all five of the films. I wasn’t expecting a full score for each of the films like most unreasonably do, but it would have been nice to hear something besides the exact same jazz track over every battle that took place. Heck, there isn’t even a change to it in the slightest. The same ~hour of tracks are played over the course of the entire five hour series. I just don’t really get when there is so much time to work on separate projects like these why there couldn’t have been a little bit more of the budget allocated to the score(s).
Next, there was a surprising drought of action scenes for something so well known for being in that genre. I watched the films over the course of a week or so, but I could only imagine the disappointment of waiting years for a film to come out, going to see it at a limited release, then getting five whole minutes of action in an hour of content. I get the middle film is meant to be character exposition, but there really isn’t much of it and it is really questionable. Home viewers who are streaming the series might just have a lull in their viewing, but it is hard to ignore the comments of the pacing issues with something like that in mind.
Finally for the negatives, there just isn’t the same charm that the original series had with how the story goes. I hypothesize this is because this is more about a specific conflict over a very specific time frame as opposed to a gigantic rebellion that takes an entire world built to tell. The characters are kind of half baked, and it is even stranger to think there was around five hours to develop them at that. Yes there are a few big moments for two of the main characters, but the rest is kind of “I feel this way about humanity” turned into a “I don’t feel this way about humanity because friends.” Maybe I should have expected more from anime, but this bites on the trope hard. To make matters worse, the plot that links the films to the original series are dreadfully unimagitive.
With all of that said, this series is simply gorgeous. The animation is very intricate and fluid, and it honestly makes good on 3D animation. The big beef I always had with 3D animation was that it didn’t really move smoothly, but the Akito films actually pull off hectic high speed fighting action better than some 2D action series do. The mechas don’t exactly scream “wild and innovative”, but it is a good time nonetheless. Some people very well may be tuning into this for the sole purpose of seeing fights, and if they can endure some sluggish pacing, they are in for a few good fights for sure.
Minor Spoilers Start Here
In a bold move, the military tactics in these films borrow a lot of beats to the Hundred Year War between France and England with some mecha action sprinkled in. I was even more surprised by the creative decision to actually have the aforementioned analogy spoken by the characters, removing any doubt this was intentional. One character uses the story and a particular figure famous for her leadership at the time to shift the public opinion. I’m not sure where I stand with the writing being so cheeky like this, but I decided to give them credit for it.
Minor Spoilers End Here
I wanted to put it in here at the tail-end of my assessment since I know it isn’t everyone’s thing, but for what it was worth, I really enjoyed the dub here and I think it convinced me to watch all of this, especially Jeannie Tirado as the main character, Lt Col Leila Malcal (her French accent was ridiculously convincing).
Overall, I think this series is a beautiful contradiction; it is somehow both sloppy in how it is made and yet absolutely stunning when it finally hits its brief moments of stride. If you’re a gigantic Code Geass fan and can endure a drop in quality, I say go for this. It is hard to sell this one on even the biggest hardcore action anime junkies without saying “You’re probably better off just YouTubing the fights”. Ultimately, I’d say give the first two films a sample if you’re interested, and if the animation was enough for you then, keep going. Don’t expect much else from that though.