Monday, April 9, 2012

Guys, Don't Make This So Hard On Me



This focuses on two major characters of "Code Geass" and my feelings towards them.  There are five characters in the main cast: Lelouch, Suzaku, CC, Kallen, and Nunally. I've mentioned before how I love three of them...so where does that leave Suzaku and Kallen? Well quite frankly, they piss me off. A lot. And not because they're unlikable, but because they are likable.  I want to like Suzaku and I want to really like Kallen; in fact, I do.  But whenever I actually watch the anime, that becomes kind of hard at times because clearly the writers of Sunrise never quite "got" how to handle these two characters, especially when "R2" came around, the series got re hauled and all sense of direction was lost. Personally, I think the manga adaptation and comedic outside material handles these two better, but this is about the original anime and what problems plagued their characterizations:

  KALLEN - We'll start with poor ol' Kallen seeing as she gets it a good deal better than Suzaku.  She's a very likable character overall but her major problems in how she was handled were:

- "I'm Japanese! Go Japan!": Yyyyeah, this was dumb. Kallen may have Japanese heritage but she's technically half Japanese/half Britanian. But because Kallen detests Britannia (and with good reason), she denies that part of her heritage and insists that she's just Japanese instead. I personally think it would show much better character if she knew and embraced full well that she was half Britannian but cursed that part of her because Britannia oppresses her other home nation. But as
it stands, her assertion that she's Japanese and proud of it seems to be there so that Kallen can be
a mouthpiece for Japanese nationalism. Yes, Badass Motha Kallen is fighting for poor, oppressed Japan! Rise up and fight, Japan, because you're Japanese!  Ugh, see why this is stupid?  Maybe this is part of her being a gender-flipped Domon Kasshu, but with Domon, it was clear that the only real pride he had was in himself before his Character Development. We're meant to take Kallen's gung-ho Japanese pride seriously and find it honorable. Which it simply is not. There's a line between "freedom fighter" and "social justice warrior" that Kallen, of all characters, should not be blurring.

- The Family Issue: We have her dead big brother who's set up as a major part of her character arc...but that arc got aborted so nothing came out of it.  In episode 9, we also have Kallen acting like a vulgar bitch to her own mother due to anti-Brittanian, pro-Japanese issues. Not only does that lose the audience on her, guess what? Nothing comes out of it! By the end of the episode, Kallen learns the real deal behind what her mother's been doing and makes a resolve to keep serving Zero and fighting for her sake. Did she...really need this development? I mean, we all know she would've kept fighting for Zero anyway, and the whole drama with her mother is never spoken of again. So what was the point? It did nothing but make Kallen look like a total ass who was too idiotic to love and trust her own mother until the truth of the matter was spelled out to her. That really pissed me off. Thankfully, the manga omitted all this mother/brother wangst. If it never amounted to anything, why even bother?

- She's an overpowered ace pilot: I mean, good God. I know she's sort of "the hero" but they went WAY overboard in making her all but invincible in her Gurren Knightmare. She only really lost one real fight in the entire series, and in all the fights she won, she was boring invincible. There was barely any tension whenever Kallen was in a fight. In fact, the only one who could ever really give her a good fight is Suzaku, who the show likes to constantly pit against her for whatever reason even though he's supposed to be Lelouch's rival. And even the way these fights are animated...all of her moves and especially her kills are so brutal. I don't mind Kallen slaughtering her enemies but couldn't she do it in a less horrific way?  When you keep on pulling this shit, it veers from "Badass" territory into complete "God Mode Sue" territory. Again, this is something the manga fixed by removing the giant mechas altogether and keeping Kallen with more vulnerability.

- "Why So Serious?": I mean, lighten up, bitch!  I love Kallen's emotional wildness but there are too many times when Kallen, who was made as a hot-blooded teenage mecha fighter, takes herself
way too seriously. And that just makes me wonder...why? There's great potential for comedy in
this character, why not use it more? Take, for instance, any scene with Kallen and her trusty pocket knife. She's going undercover as an ill, weak Britannian civilian who attends Ashford academy all the while secretly working in a terrorist movement against Brtiannia. So if any Britannian comes close to blowing her cover, she reaches for her knife and gets ready to gut that person. She almost did this with Lelouch and Shirley. This sounds so strange that you think it would be played for some awkward laughs...but it's not. Kallen seems seriously ready to stab someone in cold blood without a second thought.  What the hell? Contrast with the manga, in which we hear Kallen's thought process and it's all "oh crap. I'm gonna have to kill this guy, aren't I?" And when it turns out that she doesn't, she's relieved. In fact, we see the "inner Kallen" quite often in the manga, which makes for some very funny moments from her.  She's hilarious in spin-off material as well. Why couldn't she been like this more often in the show? And of course, R2 made this issue worse, playing up her constant anger.

- The Romance Angle: This one surfaced in R2. After spending the entire first season crushing on her boss Zero, she finds out that he is in fact a rich, arrogant Brtiannian prince that she's long despised in the finale and that he's been using her and the others' services for his own selfish goals all along! Where does her character head from there? Well in R2, it turns out that she's still loyal to Zero: she just has a hard time accepting the idea that he's Lelouch, whom she still does not care for.  So she just loves the alter-ego...okay, that works.  And then she starts to fall for Lelocuh.  What? NO. You cannot ship these two characters now when there's been a severe lack of true romantic chemistry between them thus far, and still isn't, which makes these romantic shipping scenes come off as really forced. I mean, most times they get closer to one another, their romantic exchanges are interrupted anyway! So it shouldn't have ever been attempted in the first place! Perhaps the writers realized this, which is why the gave Kallen some Ship Teases with...Gino. Uh...NO. That's even worse! Gino's a Britannian knight who loyally follows the side that Kallen hates, he barely does anything for Kallen to warrant any romance with her seeing as he flirts a bunch of other girls too, and he's not even an interesting, developed, or noteworthy character! He doesn't deserve anyone.

- Execessive Fanservice: Again, this was something that really surfaced in R2. Kallen was already Ms. Fanservice in the first season, but it was kept reasonable. The fanserivcey situations she was placed in made sense in context. In R2, however, she's working as a playbunny night club waitress in the first episode! It just goes downhill from there. The fanservicey moments she got became tired and contrived, with her boobs, butt, and body getting shoved in our faces all too often, and in the end it pretty much became a major part of what her character was. Which is just plain shallow.

- Her R2 Role, period: It seemed like even the writers didn't know what they were doing with her and why she was even here anymore. Poor Kallen was handled so badly here. For the start of R2, she was just there for Fanservice. For the middle, she was taken out of commission and reduced to
a dumbass in distress. Then when she was free to fight again, she was more powerful and invincible than ever before!  She was damned if she did and damned if she didn't. The only redeeming thing about her role was her part in the final episodes, where she showed her admirable commitment to
her ideals and fought against Lelouch when he became the emperor of Britannia.

- A Lack of Friendishness: Why couldn't we see her interact with characters aside from Lelouch, Suzaku, and her friends at Ashford more often?   Why not some talks with Nunally?  Why not further animosity and/or a friendly relationship with Euphemia?  And we especially needed more Kallen/C.C interactions 'cause they're so amusing and weird together. 

 SUZAKU - Now let's cover Suzaku.  I like him okay overall 'cause he's too virtuous a person to hate, but GOD, he was the worst written main character on the show.  His crippling problems were:

- Mr. Perfect: That's what he came across in the first few episodes of the show and it was really irritating.  Always all "knight-in-shining-armor prince-charming nice-guy" all the time. Yawn. Now, halfway into the season it's revealed to all be a ruse and the real Suzaku's more complex than we thought he was, but that doesn't make the way his initial disposition came across any less annoying. If you set up a character as major in role as Suzaku, you oughta make him intriguing. It's what L Lawliet in "Death Note" did right but Suzaku did wrong. You'd much rather focus on Lelouch than him. The manga actually makes Suzaku more likable from the get-go 'cause it's a little more apparent that he's being fake, which makes that eventual revelation more satisfying.

- "I'll change the system from within!": Except...he didn't. At all. It was naive and foolish of him to
even think that joining the army of the empire that oppresses his own race in order to "change it from within" would possibly work, but it's made even worse by the fact that we don't actually SEE him doing anything to further this goal nor do we get an explanation as to how he'd ever plan to do it in
the first place. Practice what you preach, Suzaku! What the hell were you thinking?

- He's an overpowered ace, too!: He always pulls a Big Damn Heroes moment with his Lancelot
even when it's not necessary, he can rival Kallen in being overpowered in a fight, and he's even superhumanly strong outside of his mecha too!  Does the "Spinzaku" thing even need mention?  Sorry Suzaku, but being good at athletics doesn't mean you should be super strong and near unbeatable.  That is just forced and unbelievable. Not to mention it pits him against Kallen far too often even though, again, he's supposed to be Lelouch's opposite number. Like Kallen, though,
the manga makes this whole problem better by taking the Knightmares out of the story.

- Far too often, he's a self-righteous hypocrite: He's so firm in his belief that Zero and the Black Knight's methods are wrong while his way is the right way, even though as I mentioned above, he doesn't really DO anything to change the system from within. At least Lelouch gets shit done, pal!
He preaches about how the Japanese deserve to be treated with fairness and justice, but then why has he joined with their oppressors at all then? And in episode 9, he has the gall to call the Black Knights self-righteous for their actions and behavior, and true though that may be, he never stops to consider that maybe, just maybe, he suffers from the same problem just as bad or worse than they do? But no, he's never called out and he only gets worse from there as the series progresses, making him really hard to agree with and hard to like.

- He's a bland Sasuke!: Okay, maybe not too much, but being a generic looking pretty boy with the voice of Yuri Lowenthal and some parallels to your average Gundam hero does not do him any favors as a character. Again, I can't help but negatively compare him to L: L was equally as fascinating and compelling as Light was. With Suzaku, that's not the case. And that really puts a damper on the show as a whole 'cause it makes it easier to root for Lelouch when it should not be.

- The Heel Face Revolving Door he kept going through in R2: First he turns Lelouch over to the evil Emperor to get a position of power, then he tries to help Japan again, then he joins the Knights of the Round, then he tries to make emends with Lelouch, then he opposes Lelouch again, then he joins with Lelouch to take down the Emperor, then he serves Lelouch when he's the Emperor and even participates in Lelouch's plan that involves him killing him, as well as slaughtering thousands! Aargh! Whose side is he on?  What are his allegiances here?  Be more consistent, damn you!!!

- His Character Derailment in R2: My brother covered this in his entry on Character Derailment
but this deserves some elaboration: the first thing he does in R2's time frame is turn Lelouch over to Emperor Charles. Charles, whom he should know damn well is responsible for everyone's suffering, Lelouch's included, which makes everything that happened that led to Euphemia's death ultimately HIS fault! And now he's deliberately serving this person and ensuring that his plans go unopposed? Worse, he forces Lelouch's eyes open himself when the Emperor mind rapes him into becoming amnesiac. That is just cruel and wrong. Then, along with all the chronic backstabbing he does,
he turns into a stuck-up, ruthless cape-wearing villain who STILL refuses to acknowledge how bad he's being and keeps up his self righteous attitude. It isn't until Kallen beats the crap out of him that he starts to realize what a heel he's been, and even after that, he acts needlessly mean-spirited towards Lelouch and blames him for things that were his fault. He never truly owes up to his own incompetence, making him that much more repugnant. Again, like Kallen, he really benefits from the manga cutting down on R2's plot altogether.

- His Wangst. In R2, he kept on brooding over all the bad stuff that was happening that he contributed to in the first place, being obsessively resentful towards Lelouch, and bemoaning Euphemia's death, which, like Nina's obsession with her, sort of makes you lose the sadness you had for that disaster to start with and pisses on Euphie's memory in general. His angst was just forced and unsympathetic, and his acting like a prick the whole time ensures that he gets no pity.


All in all, these two characters deserved better than what the writing they received in the anime. Even though the story in the manga has an uneven pace and only lasted for eight volumes, it's incarnations of Kallen and Suzaku hit closer to the mark than the anime's. For what they lack, they make up for in what they have over their originals. Kallen's more lovable in her demeanor and Suzaku's more consistent in his character arc.  More reason why the manga's my favorite "Code Geass" of all. Though for what they were in R1, they were still loads more preferable to what they became in R2.  But then again, wasn't everything?

2 comments:

  1. Suzaku and Kallen were really badly handled in the anime. They were so often jerks, idiots, or plot devices when they needn't have been that I found it hard to care about them. That the manga fixes mostly ALL of the problems listed here does definately make it preferable in this regard.

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    1. Yes, exactly. There's alot of flak that Kallen and Suzaku get that's just nitpicking from fans ("Kallen's such an inconsiderate bitch!" or "Suzaku's a moron for opposing Lelouch!") but the stuff I listed are what I feel are genuine hinderences of their characters and it's for the best that the manga adaptation did away with all that crap.

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