I won’t mince words: this was painful.
The Power of Kings
Everyone and their second cousin has been comparing Guilty Crown to Code Geass, as have I. So let me clarify: I don’t object to the fact that Guilty Crown resembles Code Geass. I object to the fact that Guilty Crown doesn’t resemble Code Geass enough! (Thanks to animekritik for leading me to realize this.)
“What?” you ask. “Why would you want to see something that’s already been done? Just go watch Code Geass!”
“Ok,” I answer. I go rewatch Code Geass. And it is @#(&#^ awesome! (note: This is not a figure of speech. I literally did rewatch it this past week.) Since Code Geass is so great, why wouldn’t I want more of it?!
What has been will be again,
what has been done will be done again;
there is nothing new under the sun.
— Ecclesiastes 1:9
Every work is built on other works. Sure, there are “original” ideas which set things apart. But nothing is created in a vacuum. Just go read tvtropes for five minutes.
The thing is, a story isn’t just a result of putting building blocks together to construct a narrative with. It’s about how you tell the story.
Let’s take an example from anime. Rahxephon is heavily influenced (to put it mildly) by Evangelion. Plenty of people dismiss Rahxephon as a mere “copy” of Evangelion. But I greatly prefer Rahxephon. It took the same components, and told a better story. I expect to hear a ton of objections that Evangelion is better, but if you think so, please try to tell me with a straight face that the ending of the Evangelion TV series was good storytelling.
Let’s look at another example, this time from the realm of literature: the Belgariad. If you haven’t read it (you should!) it tells the story of a farm boy who meets a princess, learns he is a king, and becomes a sorceror. It is as strait-laced as fantasy stories come. The same story has been told thousands of times before. But David Eddings tells it better than anyone else ever has.
So back to Code Geass. Throughout each episode of Code Geass (on my sixth rewatch!), I was jumping up and down screaming with a big grin plastered on my face. After the second episode of Guilty Crown, I was left pondering what I should whine about first on my blog. Guilty Crown has all the trappings of Code Geass: a boy from an oppressed Japan who gains magic powers, a revolution led by a mastermind, school life segments, and much much more. The more interesting question is: what does Code Geass have that Guilty Crown lacks?
- Lelouch. We could compare him with Gai, but…
- The sense of excitement. Code Geass never fails to leave you jumping up and down waiting for what will happen next. And when Lelouch’s plans work, it’s bloody awesome. On the other hand, here’s how Guilty Crown reveals that Gai is a military genius: our lead couple declares, “Right on schedule. Wow, it’s all going according to his plan!” Needless to say, this does not pack the same punch as unexpected, massive destruction coupled with a flourish of Zero’s cape and Lelouch’s maniacal laughter.
- Moral ambiguity. Is what Lelouch is doing right? Is what Britannia does wrong? Sometimes, but often not. Guilty Crown has none of this subtlety. Let me quote fatty: “We will never give in to terrorism! If you don’t show yourselves, we will blow up the whole city!” How subtle. After Guilty Crown’s battle, cue the somber music and a survey of the destruction. Right, like anyone cares.
- Interesting villains. I have never hated a fictional character as much as Suzaku. The villains from Guilty Crown are a spoiled teenager and a bald “fatty”.
- Side characters. Code Geass has Lloyd, C.C. and Diethard. Guilty Crown has a pilot who orgasms to robots, a cat-eared DDR player and a girl who gets a sword pulled out of her chest. ‘Nuff said.
Code Geass and Guilty Crown may tell a similar story, but while Code Geass makes it exciting, Guilty Crown makes it boring, silly and pandering. See below.
P.S. I am only talking about Code Geass R1.
Keepin’ it Classy