(4 50-minute episodes ; next one’s out in March or something)
What’s it about ?
This is a side-story to the main Code Geass anime, apparently set at some point between the two seasons. Remember how that was mainly a struggle between the Brittanian Empire and occupied Japan, with the Chinese Federation meddling in ? Well, there was also a third superpower that was supposed to be kinda equal to those two, but never really got any screentime : the EU. The point of this story is to shed some light on those guys.
The titular Akito is one of the many Japanese people who fled to the EU when Japan got conquered by Brittania. Unfortunately, the EU is about as racist a society as Brittania, as it keeps them into camps where they barely survive and uses those non-citizens as cannon fodder for its war. Akito himself is an unbelievably talented mecha pilot, and has a bit of a death wish.
Our actual protagonist here is Commander Leila Malcal, who leads his unit. Because we can’t have an EU character who isn’t a jerkass, she’s actually adopted from a disgraced Brittanian family. She’s a tactical genius, sympathetic to the Japanese plight and all-around awesome ; her main flaw seems to be a tendency to avoid confrontation until it’s a bit too late (she lets another commander nearly botch the opening mission and get about her whole squad slaughtered before she takes the initiative to have him removed ; and then there’s the issues with her adoptive brothers…).
We also meet a group of Japanese gunrunners/terrorists who are very angry indeed. Predictably, Leila recruits them after they try kidnapping her mentor figure for ransom.
Our top villain for the overarching story seems to be Shin Hyuuga Shaing, who takes over the closest Brittanian outpost by the episode’s end. That he shares a last name with Akito is probably significant. To make things worse, he’s got exactly the same Geass as Lelouch, which feels very strange to me (didn’t every Geass user in the original series have a completely different power ?).
None of the characters from the main series have shown up so far, although the next episode preview already promises appearances by C.C. and Suzaku. From what I vaguely remember of the original plot, there’s a strong possibility of the latter slaughtering everyone at the end (which would explain why none of those new characters have any impact on R2).
This doesn’t deviate much from the Code Geass aesthetics : noodle people, and baroque costumes.
The one big departure is for the mecha fight scenes : they’re fully CG animated now. They might have been rendered a bit too dark, but the animation is a thing of beauty, making the OVA worth watching on its own. Akito’s spider-mecha is dancing around at high speed, with a level of detail to every single movement that forces the admiration ; the camera’s wild movements and the spastic jazz soundtrack make it even more dynamic and enthralling.
(And as logic made me wonder why we didn’t see any of this fantastic mecha action in R2, I remembered that most of mecha combat has gone airborne by then, making such ground combat obsolete.)
A lot here depends on how much time you have for Code Geass‘s glorious dumbness and awkward Japanese nationalism. If you didn’t enjoy the ride then, there’s little chance you’ll appreciate this, as it’s pretty much in the same vein.
The big question mark on this OVA series was that, well, it focuses on the part of the setting nobody cared about the first time around, and doesn’t feature Lelouch at all (as his charisma held the original show together). The good news is that it does work and feels like a worthwhile addition to the story, instead of just a random cash grab (hello, Nunnally in Wonderland !).
I’m definitely on board for whenever the next instalment comes out.