Not Much Brightness Left in The Akito the Exiled Series

The poster for Code Geass: Akito the Exiled From the Memories of Hatred.

The poster for Code Geass: Akito the Exiled From the Memories of Hatred.

Someone on the Code Geass: Akito the Exiled production team must have seen an early preview of the film Mad Max: Fury Road featuring the Doof Warrior because who else would think to place a Knightmare Frame on the nose of a plane?

When Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion R2 ended in 2008, I was at a loss as to why the series was so popular among anime fans. While I still don’t understand the wide appeal of the franchise, I believe my confusion partially stems from not having watched the first half of the series. I mention this because I find myself mystified as to how the Code Geass: Akito the Exiled series has gained some traction among fans. Yet, trying to compare the two series is not the way to understand the success of the franchise as a whole as the series are radically different from each other. That being said, as the Akito the Exiled series progressed I found it became much weaker. For example, while I may not have enjoyed the character exploration in the third installment of the series, I could appreciate how the production team felt it was important for the audience to become further attached to the characters. In spite of this, the fourth installment of the OVA (original video anime) series, Code Geass: Akito the Exiled From the Memories of Hatred (コードギアス 亡国にアキト 憎しみの記憶から Code Geass Bokoku no Akito Nikushimi no Kioku kara), lacked the sharp writing seen in previous installments. Granted, there was one character who certainly stole the show, but the rest of the characters were, as always, tiresome to watch. The action scenes also left much to be desired and paled in comparison to those seen in the previous installments. Yet, what upset me the most was how plot twists came out of nowhere. I don’t want to insinuate plot twists were unwelcome in this series, but rather they made little sense within the narrative the audience had been exposed to.

As I progressed through the Code Geass: Akito the Exiled series, I found the material engaging at times, but there were still some sections that felt pretentious. Mind you, I don’t mean to say the series was overly pretentious, but it’s as if the production team wanted to write something clever or shocking, yet what they came up with was poorly delivered and hardly insightful in regards to the characters and setting. The third installment of the series, The Brightness Falls, or rather the second half of it, suffered badly from this shortcoming, especially the inclusion of Julius Kingsley and Suzaku Kururugi. I say this because their appearance in that installment certainly advanced the plot and cemented Shin Hyuga Shaingu as a deranged villain, yet, it felt as though this twist was forced rather than brought about through a natural progression of the narrative. As such, the total effect made certain aspects of the third installment unbearable to watch.

Unfortunately, this highfalutin writing bled into the first half of From the Memories of Hatred as well. To be clear, and I want to emphasize this, both the third and fourth installments weren’t unwatchable because of the writing, but rather they were obnoxious to watch because of the bad writing. Of course, the cause of insipid writing was different in both installments, but in From the Memories of Hatred it was rooted in predictable plot elements and uninspired dialog. Looking at each individually, the plot elements appeared in the opening action sequence and relied heavily on the principle of a strong bond between comrades. Naturally, seeing this used here certainly isn’t obnoxious, rather it’s just another instance of an overused trope in Japanese fiction. However, taken in the context with certain rules dictated by the creators of the series, particularly surrounding the geass, it seemed as though the writers had to place additional emphasis on camaraderie by focusing on the interactions between the characters. Thus, what could have been an easily addressed issue became an overly complicated plot element.

The Ahura Mazda firing on Akito's Alexander.

The Ahura Mazda firing on Akito’s Alexander.

The use of tired plot elements was the lesser issue surrounding the writing of From the Memories of Hatred as the latter, the uninspired dialog, played a larger role in shaping the plot. I’ve stated in the past, but will say it yet again, the heroine of the Code Geass: Akito the Exiled series, Leila Malkal, was an idealist and a humanist, making her an uninspired character. Regrettably, this made a great deal of her dialog tedious to listen to. I am willing to admit there were instances her dialog was riveting in the series as a whole, yet in this installment it was practically insufferable. While I can forgive bland dialog, it was the speech about freedom interwoven into the first action scene that failed to impress me. There are many ways to approach the philosophies of freedom, such as free will in regards to religion, which were ideas postulated during the European Enlightenment movement, and even the modern principle of “Don’t tread on me”—there goes America again, providing the world with some wonderful, yet rash ideas—however, it never felt as though Leila was adding to those ideas. Rather, she was restating the ideas of scholarly minds and not that well. Mind you, there is nothing wrong with reaffirming past ideas, but for a series such as Code Geass: Akito the Exiled it would have been interesting to see the writers attempt to advance the conversation, or at the very least, what freedom meant in greater detail to Leila and the people of the European Union.

Though this speech was unappealing to listen to, it still upheld the idealistic and humanistic values of her character. Again, while this was an issue in the first half of the installment, it was also an experience hardly worth wading through for the better and far more appealing content in the second half. I am referring to the commanding performance by Masaya Matsukaze, the voice actor for Shin Hyuga Shaingu, as we had the opportunity to glimpse the psyche of Shin in this installment and receive a much better impression of his character. This was presented in two different and unique scenes for the series. The first came when he was hallucinating about the people close to him whom he had killed. This was a powerful scene as it provided the audience with an understanding of what motivated his decisions. While certainly not surreal enough for me, it conveyed a great deal more about his character than many of the scenes involving the protagonist, Akito Hyuga. However, it was the second scene that left a lasting impression on me in regards to the entire installment.

I’ve written a great deal before about how a dialog heavy scene can be as action oriented as any traditional action scene and the second scene to which I’m referring in From the Memories of Hatred was possibly the best I’ve witnessed in any anime I’ve ever watched. Not only was it a confrontation between two radically different philosophies, Leila’s idealism and Shin’s want for destruction, it came at a time when Leila was at her weakest. Thus, while she could voice her opinions to Shin, Shin would turn her words against her. For example, Leila said she believed Akito was alive even though the airship the W-0 unit was attacking was destroyed with him on it. Yet, Shin retorted by pointing out her blind optimism led her to the situation she was in. Although I don’t want to claim Shin was the ideal foil for Leila, in this particular scene he made a wonderful and charismatic antagonist. The moments that featured the magnetic personalities of the different characters in Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion made it shine and it’s no different here. So, while Leila, Akito, and a few other supporting characters were flat, we had the chance to see one truly captivating personality here.

Sadly, this may have been the only positive aspect of From the Memories of Hatred. Aside from the relatively poor writing outside of Shin Hyuga Shaingu, the action was also monotonous. This was due to the lack of movement during each action scene. Yes, the Alexander Knightmare Frames were maneuvering around an empty airship in the first action scene and Shin’s Vercingetorix nimbly navigated the forest around the W-0 unit’s base in the second. But, what made both scenes tedious to watch was how they were essentially a charge towards the enemy. I can understand the tension inherent in a charge, but when only four units at most were assaulting a well-armed single target it removed much of the suspense. Sure, it was exciting to see Akito maneuver the scaffolding in his Alexander and fire on the Ahura Mazda in the first scene or the Vercingetorix outmaneuver well placed defenses in the second, but only for the first few seconds. This is because previous installments had the Knightmare Frames engage each other in both gun play and hand-to-hand combat, and this installment didn’t

The Vercingetorix charging towards the W-0 units base.

The Vercingetorix charging towards the W-0 unit’s base.

Looking at the second installment, The Wyvern Divided, the combat began in a forested area and then moved to an abandoned city. This allowed for a number of different situations to play out between the characters. Yet, by comparison, because both action scenes in the fourth installment mirrored each other in that the one side was charging the other, neither was engaging to watch. Examining the first action scene, all the Ahura Mazda did was stand in one location unloading rounds from multiple chain guns. True, Akito’s Alexander was moving about the airship, but the lack of movement from the Ahura Mazda made it not only an easy target, but uninteresting for the purpose of an action scene as well. I’ll admit the second action scene with the Vercingetorix was more a battle of wits, giving it some weight, but again a stationary and hidden opponent hardly made for visually stimulating action. While ultimately disappointing, the action scenes in From the Memories of Hatred maintained the same cadence seen in other action scenes of the franchise, making them at the very least bearable.

Though the dialog and action were subpar, both had aspects that were tolerable at a minimum. However, there was one aspect of the direction in From the Memories of Hatred that upset the narrative of the series. It came from two plot twists in the installment. As always, talking about these in great detail removes the charm inherent in them, however, suffice it to say they appeared with little rhyme or reason. Granted, plot twists often appear out of the blue, yet as an audience we can always look back on the mannerisms, dialog, decisions, and other aspects of a character or situation that propagated the plot twist. Yet in this OVA, almost no information was given to the audience before the plot twists were sprung on us. Please don’t misconstrue my words as my meaning to say the plot twists were unwelcome in this series—in fact, I feel a great deal of the Code Geass franchise was built around interesting narrative twists—but the two presented here were at odds with the narrative of the series. On top of this, their presence wasn’t for the sake of shock value, though one could argue the first had some, but rather they served as a device to advance the narrative for this installment, albeit in a forced manner. Thus, not only were the plot twists out of context for the series, they suffered from poor writing as well.

One would expect better from the production company that made such a highly acclaimed franchise, yet here we are with a subpar installment of the Code Geass: Akito the Exiled series. That’s not to say there weren’t well done segments of Code Geass: Akito the Exiled From the Memories of Hatred, as there were a few. However, many of the flaws in the series began to come through in this installment, such as poor writing and repetitive action scenes. Yet, I can’t deny how much I enjoyed the development of Shin Hyuga Shaingu. Compared to the other characters, his dialog was incredibly well written and we were provided with an interesting look into his character. Though I’m looking forward to the final installment of the Code Geass: Akito the Exiled series, I can’t help but feel it will go the way of Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion: a strong opening with a weak ending. For the sake of deriving full enjoyment out of the final installment, I would suggest watching From the Memories of Hatred. But unless you are a devout fan of the franchise, you may find this installment dull.

Work Info
Title:
Code Geass: Akito the Exiled From the Memories of Hatred (コードギアス 亡国にアキト 憎しみの記憶から Code Geass Bokoku no Akito Nikushimi no Kioku kara)
Under: Sunrise Inc.
Official Site: http://www.geass.jp/akito/
More Info: http://ja.wikipedia.org/wiki/コードギアス_亡国のアキト

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