So let me preface all of this by stating that, since the third and final compilation film has yet to release, there is still a chance the trajectory of the films story could be corrected to line up with the television series. However, the changes made in the second film specifically have given me cause for concern, and that is mainly what this article is about. So just as a warning, there will be spoilers for both the decade old TV series and the new compilation films. If you haven’t seen the TV series yet, then I highly recommend you go watch it as it is easily one of the best anime out there even with the faults of the second season. Do not pass the line below if you don’t want spoilers.
The Code Geass series follows a boy named Lelouch who attends Ashford Academy in Area 11(Japan after it was conquered by Britannia which is an alternate history United States essentially.). Outside of school he tends to gamble and loves chess. One day, he gets tangled up with some Japanese terrorists and meets the mysterious girl known as C.C.(Pronounced “C2"). As he is about to be killed by Britannian soldiers, C.C. bestows upon him the power of Geass, which gives him the power of absolute obedience. By looking into someones eyes and activating the power, he can command them to do anything he wishes, and they cannot disobey. Revealing himself to be the 11th prince of the Holy Britannian Empire, exiled at a young age alongside his sister Nunally, Lelouch uses the power of Geass to stage a rebellion against the empire using the alias Zero.
Throughout the series, Lelouch gains many allies, but betrays just as many and loses both family and friends, both to the war and his own ambitions. One of these casualties is the woman he loved, Shirley Fenette. They went to school together and Shirley developed a crush on him. Lelouch reciprocated these feelings, but never acted upon them, only realizing just how much she meant to him when it was too late. He was forced to erase her memories of him after she learned his true identity, following the death of her father which was inadvertently caused by Lelouch.
Fast forward to the second season and she falls in love with him again despite the loss of her memories. Thanks to the effects of Jeremiah Gottwald’s Geass Canceler, she regains her memories and tries to get in contact with Lelouch again to declare her feelings for him and be by his side despite the fact that he’s Zero and her fathers murderer. However, she is intercepted by Rolo, Lelouch’s “younger brother,” who kills her to protect Lelouch. She dies in Lelouch’s arms and her death has a profound impact on him.
Prior to her death, it wouldn’t have been farfetched to assume that her and Lelouch would end up together by the end of the series. Out of all of Lelouch’s relationships, Shirley had the most time and development. With her death, other characters like Kallen were able to step in and take over as Lelouch’s love interest, despite the point being somewhat moot as a result of his supposed death at the end of the second season.
However, the second compilation film has thrown a wrench into all of this. Unlike the TV series, Shirley survives past where she originally died, and did not die by the end of the film. At the same time, Kallen’s role was pulled back, and her love for Lelouch is downplayed as respect. This opens up the possibility that the third and final film could diverge even more from the established story of Code Geass R2. While it’s likely that Lelouch will still die by the end of it, as it would ruin one of the greatest endings in anime if he didn’t at least fake his death, it’s entirely possible that Shirley will continue to live and Kallen won’t get her time with Lelouch which made for some emotional moments in the TV series.
And these differences come to a head when you remember that the third season, Code Geass: Lelouch of the Resurrection, is on the horizon. The title “Resurrection” locks in Lelouch’s fate at the end of the original series regardless of whether it’s the TV series or the films. The real question is whether or not the third season will be a sequel to the films and their revised continuity, a sequel to the TV series with the films simply being a condensed version of the story with somewhat different events that ultimately lead to the same place, or a sequel to both that doesn’t acknowledge the specific parts of the plot that differ despite ones importance to Lelouch’s character arc.
It’s my understanding that a lot of the changes made in the movies weren’t really due to a desire to change the story. They were instead made with the films runtime and goals in mind. As an example, some school scenes were cut from the second film due to the fact that it was a complete tonal shift from the first half and would have been jarring for viewers. When trying to fit something as large as a 25 episode season into a film typically between 1 and a half to two hours long, it’s not uncommon for things to get cut. Though dramatic changes to the story usually aren’t on the table.
Regardless of why they changed the story we’ve known for a decade, the fact remains that these movies are meant to refresh viewers on the story prior to the third season, and provide a quicker version of the story for newer fans who don’t want to sit through 50 episodes. This will inevitably cause a conflict when the third season does finally air, a conflict between those who started with the films and those who started with the TV series. The two groups will have differing memories of the story and the paths the characters took, and it could certainly come back to bite the production team.
Of course, part of my concern stems from the fact that I’ve always been a bigger fan of Kallen & Lelouch rather than Shirley & Lelouch, and the compilation films have poked a hole in the ship that may or may not get patched up in the final film, while simultaneously resurrecting the Titanic only to potentially sink it again. At the end of the day, I’ll follow the story wherever it goes, but for the multiple reasons I’ve given above, I’m concerned for the direction of the story.