The Code Geass spin-off “Akito the Exiled” was its perfect successor
The following article contains major spoilers for Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion, as well as Code Geass: Akito the Exiled, which is currently available on DVD and Blu-ray.
Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion is a popular sci-fi fantasy anime set in an alternate history where the racist and expansionist British Empire has annexed Japan. Lelouch, an exiled British prince raised in Japan, uses his unique manipulative power “Geass” to lead a rebellion. The series has particularly silly comic relief and hopeful moments and themes, but a dark central thesis about the human condition.
Code Geass: Akito the Exile is the OVA follow-up to the series, released on Japanese home media from 2013 to 2016. Set between the television anime’s two seasons, the story is dark and morally ambiguous enough for a series about war and death. However, there are some ways to challenge the pessimistic fatalism of the original classic.
The story takes place in Code Geass‘ alternate version of the history of Europe, whose army is reluctant to fight against Britannia. Leila Malcal is a French military commander who offered to hire Japanese soldiers to fill the ranks. Because the Japanese are treated like second-class citizens in the world of Code Geass, Leila’s “wZERO” squadron is soon used for suicide missions, much to her chagrin. Leila’s admitted complicity – and the resulting guilt that leads her to personally accompany the squadron on future missions – makes her a worthy protagonist in a world where there are no true heroes.
Akito Hyuga is the sole survivor of wZERO’s last operation and the exiled brother of the series’ British antagonist, Shin Hyuga Shaing. Shaing’s Geass power is to compel others to die, but Akito unexpectedly survived when he used it on himself as a child. His stubborn and reckless approach to battle as a soldier is his belated way of accomplishing the Geass: he has accepted that his destiny is to die. Outside of battle, Akito keeps his righteous fury hidden beneath a stoic veneer, which makes his slow-burn romance with Leila all the more compelling.
One of Code GeassThe most incredible moments came when Lelouch accidentally used his Geass on his stepsister Princess Euphemia. Lelouch described her supernatural powers of persuasion, absentmindedly using “killing all the Japanese people” as an example of something he could theoretically force her to do.
Much to her horror, he lost control of his power and Euphemia went on a genocidal rampage until he reluctantly killed her. Lelouch’s inability to take back what he said – and Euphemia’s pacifist nature trying and failing to deny the order – empowered the Geass’ unassailable cosmic power to override the human will.
In one of Akito the exileIn the most tense scenes, Shaing ordered Akito to kill Leila with his “Knightmare Frame” mecha suit. Even though Shaing’s Geass didn’t allow him to control people as directly as Lelouch’s, Akito still moved to crush him in a suggestive reverie. In another series, Akito killing Leila at this moment would have been absurd, but fans who remember the twisted brutality of the Euphemia incident know that Code Geass could just pull the trigger. Instead, Akito challenged the Geass and carried Leila away from Shaing, carrying her in his mechanical arms in a surprisingly romantic scene.
This is just one example of how Akito the exile challenges Code Geass‘ Emphasis on the fragility of the human will. It was revealed that Leila had been given her own Geass power; the mysterious CC warned her that if she chose to use it, she would be isolated from humanity, echoing the similar warning she gave Lelouch. Given that he ultimately gave his life for his cause, fans take the warning Leila received at face value and assume she will meet an equally tragic fate.
Just as Shaing was about to defeat her brother in battle, Leila chose to use her Geass power to psychically summon the pleas of Akito’s wZERO comrades, who begged Shaing not to kill him. Leila’s use of Geass for love rather than power delayed Shaing long enough for her brother to survive. After Shaing’s defeat, Leila left the military to live in peace with Akito and the other members of the wZERO unit. The finale showed Leila and Akito finally kissing as they prepare to join the community of Polish travelers they met in Episode 3. Leila proved CC’s grim ultimatum about Geass wrong. .
Likewise, Akito was certain that he had no choice but to die – not only because of his brother’s Geass, but also his role as an expendable soldier. Instead, he chose to live and love, defying not only the expectations of Shaing and the European military, but also the expectations of the OVA genre. The ending might seem incredibly upbeat considering the main series’ dark tone, but its change also reflects Akito’s shift in perspective.
Akito the exile has many more surprises, but Leila and Akito’s happy ending epitomizes how the OVA’s emphasis on free will, community, and the importance of life seems like a counter-argument to the Code Geass‘ dark conclusion. Although Lelouch sacrificed his relationships and even his life, he ironically did so to preserve peace and freedom in the world. In this way, however Akito the exile approaches them with more optimism, the themes of the series are ultimately not so different.
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