Sunday, 1 March 2009

Code Geass: Friendship, betrayal and the end of Rebellion

It took me a long time to decide on a picture that represents Code Geas: Lelouch of the Rebellion, despite a huge cast, I wanted to select an image that represented what the show meant to me. In the end, I choose this simple image of the two best friends turned enemies, Lelouch and Suzaku, because despite the epic storyline about justice and politics, Code Geass for me, was fundamentally a story about friendship, betrayal and atonement. This post will look at the friendship between Lelouch and Suzaku and asks the question: Can enemies ever become friends? It will also contain spoilers for the ending, so if you don't want to know how the series ends, turn away now.

Code Geass follows the story of Lelouch, a high school student in Britannia who inherits the power of Geass from a mysterious witch called C.C. Lelouch uses the power of Geass, the ability to control others, in order to create a peaceful world in which his sister Nunnally can live. In order to do this he becomes Zero, a masked hero (or villain, depending on your interpretation), the leader of the Black Knights, a rebellion group who are trying to reclaim Japan from the clutches of the Empire of Britannia. Doing so, however, brings him up against his childhood friend Suzaku.

As young boys, Lelouch, the thrown away prince from Britannia, vowed to destroy the empire whilst Suzaku wanted to change the world from within, by joining the Britannian army. Years later the two become enemies, as they are not always aware that they are in fact fighting each other.

But the path of friendship is never a smooth one. Lelouch, as Zero, offers Suzaku a chance to join him but their conflicting ideologies mean fate takes them down different roads. It's not until the start of the second season, R2, that we learn that Suzaku sells his best friend to become a knight of Britannia. But sadly, this becomes the first of many betrayals for Lelouch as the series progresses.

So what is the meaning of friendship if it only leads to betrayal? Lelouch begins to loose his faith in people, seeing them as pawns for battle. However, in a touching scene further into the series, Lelouch asks a young C.C how to heal the pain one feels inside. And her surprising response is with the help of allies, her alternative name for what we would call friends.

In a heart breaking telephone call, Lelouch calls Suzaku and begs him to protect his sister when he realises he cannot, and despite the increasing space between them, he agrees if Lelouch meets him in person. But this encounter leads to another betrayal, Lelouch betrayed a second time no longer believes in friendship and with a fierce determination finally conquers Britannia but at a price- losing the trust of his sister. Alarmingly, Lelouch becomes Emperor after killing his own father, but instead of creating a better world he appears to be following in the footsteps of the father he despised, making a world full of fear.

But it's not until the shock ending that the truth is finally revealed. Emperor Lelouch has ordered the execution of his former Black Knights, but before this can take place a masked man appearing as Zero kills Lelouch. In flashbacks we find out the truth- Lelouch tells Suzaku that in order to create a unified world, he must become the enemy of the world. Only after he is gone will there be the peaceful world that he wanted to create. With tears in his eye's, Suzaku, dressed as Zero, kills his best friend. Lelouch's final words to his friend are that Suzaku can no longer exist, he must live on as Zero.

The series in no small way, blew me away: The bond of friendship that bound Lelouch and Suzaku to the tragic end. Suzaku's struggle to isolate his conflicting feelings for his childhood friend, as he tries to stop feeling nostalgic about Lelouch. Of hope and of sacrifice, and Lelouch's realisation that he must sacrifice himself to create the better world that he wished for. That even when he was feeling hurt, the one person he could talk to, was his sworn enemy.

Lelouch and Suzaku are only one small part of the Code Geass story, but over the last few days watching this series has made me rethink about the nature of friendships. Friends do betray each other and the longer two people know each other, the more they will know how to hurt the other and be hurt themselves.

But it's that basic understanding that can change a friendship, in essence change enemies and save friends even if you can't forgive. Although much of what Lelouch did would be considered unforgivable, the showdown between the two at the temple, saw an angry Suzaku demand that Lelouch continue until the very end, which he does. No one would want their best friend to become their enemy, but Code Geass paints an interesting portrayal of how two best friends who walk down opposing paths can one day become friends again.

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