Code Geass: Z of the Recapture is slated for release in late 2022 or early 2023. In anticipation, fans are revisiting previous Code Geass installments, and some have questioned whether the original anime was as good as they remembered it to be.
While audiences consider Code Geass to be a revolutionary series, it still uses a lot of clichés. Furthermore, it relies on old character archetypes such as exiled nobles (Lelouch Lamperouge) and supernatural guides (C.C.). Using exaggerated tropes, familiar plot points, and generic anime motifs, Code Geass proves that it’s not above cliché.
A common Shonen trope is competition between friends, and in Code Geass, circumstances pit Lelouch Lamperouge and Suzaku Kururugi against each other. Lelouch is an exiled Britannia prince, who colonized the country of Suzaku, Japan. However, Lelouch defended Japan, and Suzaku fought for the Britannia military.
Tragic and doomed rivalry is nothing new. For example, Naruto and Sasuke were forced to opposite sides of the Naruto conflict. Shonen anime overwhelms fans with competition, turning the entire plot set into a cliché. In this case, however, it made for one of the best relationships in Code Geass.
Many genres feature vigilante tropes hiding behind a mask.
Besides Batman, The Legend of Korra’s Noatak is another rebel character who thinks vigilante is good. This anime villain hides his true appearance behind a mask and moniker, Amon. Lelouch’s decision to assume Zero’s coat is just one drop in a much larger bucket than the masked guard in the anime.
Chess symbolizes strategic genius in TV and film. It’s an easy scene to juggle: a tactician challenges their foe to a chess match, signaling their greater conflict.
In Death Note, Light Yagami and L Lawliet compete in chess to demonstrate their deductive skills. Another show uses a similar game, shogi. Shikamaru Nara Naruto used it to plan his fight against Hidan. In Code Geass, Lelouch plays Shneizel in chess to prove his wits to the audience. The strategy-laden anime uses this imagery as often as one would expect. However, few anime strategists are better than Lelouch, and this is a cliché way to visually represent mind games.
The Exiled Prince is a fictional figurative character that has been used for thousands of years, from Shakespeare’s Prince Hamlet to Princess Mononoke’s Ashitaka. Lelouch from Code Geass is an English prince who was exiled to Japan, and he turns against his family after seeing the dangers of their conquest.
Especially in the anime, characters like Avatar: Prince Zuko from Last Airbender or Yona from Princess Dawn Yona fall into the trophy of fugitive nobility. Lelouch is one of a long line of royal protagonists who bring to life the authority that expelled them. This is a classic trope, but by definition it’s a cliché.
Suzaku’s Struggle To Be A Perfect Warrior Is Not A New Thing
The perfect soldier must follow the orders of their leader regardless of the ethical implications, which often leads to internal chaos. In Code Geass, the British military forces Suzaku Kururugi to turn against his homeland, even ordering him to kill innocent people. This causes cognitive dissonance.
Many anime characters struggle with this inner conflict. Even though it was before the start of the series, ALTA’s Uncle Iroh was the perfect Fire Nation general but was forced to come to terms with the horrors he committed. These cliches provide the basis for more interesting stories, but they’re nothing new.
The Hero-To-Villain Plot Is Not Unique
Absolute power corrupts. The protagonist of Code Geass finds this through a downward spiral of becoming a villain. Lelouch more than spoiled his liking when he used geass to force Euphemia to kill innocent people. He shows little remorse for death throughout the series.
Other anime have used this storyline. Death Note, a contemporary of Code Geass, features a self-righteous hero whose powers turn him into a villain. Light Yagami is a genius whose quest to stop evil leads him to become a serial killer. The hero-to-villain trope is easily identifiable as a cliché throughout Code Geass and anime in general.
Even The Occasional Fan Service Is Too Much
Some anime reduce characters to fan-service trappings rather than reflecting the people their characters actually represent. Code Geass does this often, but exploits Kallen Stadtfeld more than anything else. The show constantly brings her to life in suggestive positions and revealing outfits.
Gray Fullbuster Fairy Tail and One Piece Nami are two prime examples of fan service characters in other anime, as they are often depicted wearing small clothes. Fan service was so common that there was widespread protest among the audience. This cliche is both redundant and offensive.
All Mecha Anime Genres Are Cliche
The harsh reality of mecha anime is that many mech designs are similar, and the plot points follow a clear pattern. As such, the genre has become a cliché because fans know exactly what to expect from it.
While still a mecha anime, Code Geass chose to focus on political intrigue. However, it still retains many of the genre’s clichés (from pilots in tight suits to super robotic weapons). Lelouch’s strategy paired with Knightmares is reminiscent of fans of Gundam’s Char Aznable and other strategy-oriented mecha anime. Mecha anime isn’t bad, but being part of the genre is a cliché.