Well, this was an experience. Code Geass R2 is above all a boisterous and exuberant show. The energy level of this series is astonishingly high, and it surprisingly maintains this over a full 25 episodes.
By and large, R2 remains faithful to the spirit of its predecessor. The animation has been marginally improved – while the material doesn’t lend itself to truly showing off the benefits of HR, the shift is still more than welcome. Character designs retain the same elongated forms; while this has drawn some criticism and may have been chosen to reduce costs, it’s a defensible visual style and never looks cheap. Special effects are employed extensively for special powers and robot weaponry, and to good effect, but the series strikes a good balance and doesn’t let them overwhelm the rest of the animation, at least outside of battle scenes. The voice acting has retained its quality, and the show has done very well to find distinctive voices for new or expanded characters; to have individual and representative voices for a cast this large is no mean feat, but Code Geass R2 has managed it superbly. The music is well chosen, though the price of the distinctive character of the opening and ending themes is that they occasionally clash with the tone of a particular episode; however, this decision pays off handsomely in the episodes where they do fit.
The greatest weakness of this show is in characterisation; while Lelouch himself manages to be believable (in his motives if not his abilities) and is developed superbly through the series, even the basic motivations of the rest of the main cast can seem flimsy, while those of some minor characters seem to be lacking altogether. This is perhaps a predictable result of the large cast and a fast-moving plot which leaves little time for character development episodes, but can still grate at times. In particular, many possible romances are hinted at just enough to tease, but never taken far enough to even confirm their existence, yet alone offer any resolution.
The story has been affectionately (and perhaps not so affectionately) described as a “trainwreck”; the plot executes a series of dazzling twists that range from mildly silly to utterly ludicrous. A viewer who tried to predict the way the plot was going based on what seemed important five episodes ago would doubtless become incredibly frustrated and give up in short order. But for a viewer who’s willing to suspend disbelief, sit back, and go where the series takes them, it’s an exhilarating ride – though I do fear the reliance on convoluted and unpredictable twists means the replay value would be small, with a large number of plot holes that would expose themselves to a viewer who knew what was coming next.
On a first viewing, Code Geass R2 is close to flawless – for the kind of series it has made itself. The only thing it has lost on the original series is any tendency to take itself seriously, and the show is much better off without it. Substantial chunks of plot are there for no reason other than giving the fans what they want, and the objectives seem to change with every episode, but doing this allows this series to keep its momentum up throughout the middle section where the original struggled somewhat.
I would say that this show demands a certain viewer mindset, and this is true, but anyone who hasn’t given up in disgust after a handful of episodes is likely to have developed it. While it remains to be seen whether Code Geass R2′s unique style will become an influential part of anime history or be forgotten in time, it is undeniably an immensely enjoyable show to watch.