Acknowledging Our Guilt for Our Choice of Heroes: Code Geass’ Lelouch Lamperouge

code geass r1 op 01 lelouch zero mask removed

I visit my cross with conviction a fourth time: the concept of the guilty pleasure. For those unaware of my previous writing on it, allow me to distinguish my idea of the guilty pleasure from that commonly held one, that exists on the plane of enjoying levels of culture: that is one feels guilty a ‘low’ culture product like anime or manga (especially if such example is a fanservice show such as K-On! or Ikkitousen) as if one should be enjoying ‘high’ culture classical ballet, German opera, or at least Legend of the Galactic Heroes.

This kind of guilt isn’t what concerns me. Culture is flat as far as I’m concerned; subjectivity, taste, and all that. The kind of guilt that concerns me is a moral one. It’s that thing we feel when we take pleasure in something ‘wrong,’ from our relative and individual moral standards. We have such standards to some degree, most of us certainly do. When we think about the things we watch and how we enjoy them, we may not like what we find about ourselves. In this post we talk about Code Geass.

code geass r1 04 zero burning britannian flag

When I watch political rallies here and abroad, I often find myself on the shocked side of amused upon seeing people, voters, constituents get so emotionally worked up for the candidates and public figures that go on stage. I mean, it gets crazy. There are tears and screaming. It’s almost like witnessing a religious experience on a large scale.

I step back a little, and compare this spectacle to females displaying the same behavior in the presence of pop (music) idols. I still remember the Beatles’ first contact with their American audience. It’s one of the most awesome moments in entertainment. The fanatical shrieking, the tears, the grasping hands… it’s a similar spectacle; and it is repeated through the succeeding decades between female fans and their idols.

I don’t want to get much into the higher proclivity of females to display this kind of behaviors, as well as how men become feminine when indulging these. I’m more interested in why this happens in the first place. I’m going to speculate some, and see where I end up.

code geass r1 04 nunally marianne lelouch's goals

Part of it I think is that we tend to cast these individuals into narratives. And these narratives have conflicts: critics panning the musicians’ work, the Man keeping the voice of freedom gagged; almost always the object of fanaticism being unjustly treated, and made to look small, or at least small enough to be cast as the underdog. After all, why cry for giants? Why shed tears for the mighty? The fallen mighty must have a bigger foe that did the felling, to inspire sympathy. Self-destructiveness can be cast as ‘inner’ demons.

Almost always, the evil is externalized. Yes, evil. There needs to be some kind of moral righteousness for the pitying, sympathizing agent. We want to feel good about ourselves especially when we give compassion. It’s a virtuous spiral. But yes it is virtuous in that it must be reassured of its moral righteousness.

If this is so, why the popularity of anti-heroes? Why are Lelouch Lamperouge (Code Geass) and perhaps Yagami Light (Death Note) so popular?

code geass lelouch vi britannia phoenix cc fabulous

Am I mistaken to assume that the people who ‘get’ these characters are people who don’t scream like fanatics during the political rallies of the candidates they support? I posit that the appreciation of anti-heroes comes with an appreciation for evil. Perhaps not just dispositional evil, but rather the evil sustained by exposure to compromise and corruption. After all, sophisticated voters are somewhat aware of how the political machinery works: trading favors, money, compromise compromise compromise.

What about the people who ‘don’t get’ these characters, and yet wildly support them? I imagine these people have a very limited view of these. Limited perhaps by self-delusions including but not limited to personal hopes pinned on the inherent goodness of humans. In political rallies, these are the people who are quick to call critics of their candidate libelous liars, and slanderers. They shout these things with tears in their eyes… righteous rage, and pity for their besieged hero.

code geass r1  08 zero the order of the black knights

Zero, the leader of the Black Knights and the righteous persona created by Lelouch Lamperouge, plays with these dynamics. Always Zero must be the voice of righteousness. People must believe in themselves to be righteous, and that their opponents to be unjust. The citizens of Britannia certainly consider themselves to be righteous; and that it is their right to subjugate the less righteous, the less rightful. This makes for a compelling narrative that Zero plays with: Britannians consider the Japanese not just less than themselves, but they consider themselves not better than humans, but to be the only humans. The Japanese are a sub-human species and are treated as such by their conquerors.

This is why Zero does not endorse the acquisition of ‘Britannian Rights’ or some half-assed citizenship within the empire for the Japanese. It plays within the narrative, the dichotomy of human/sub-human, master/slave, first class/everyone else class of citizens. What was the Japanese assertion? Explicitly or not, they believed themselves to deserve the rights enjoyed by the Britannian, people, the rights enjoyed by any human being or class thereof, because they are righteous. They as a people believed themselves to be morally strong, to be noble and righteous. This it is why the Order of the Black Knights required themselves to behave heroically, to be in the service of justice.

code geass r1 22 lelouch euphemia accidental geass activationZero needed to be a hero. This is the central conflict, the duality or inauthenticity of Lelouch Lamperouge.

  • Lelouch vi Britannia: Vengeance upon the perceived murderers of his mother Marianne. This is the truth in the sense that this is what Lelouch believes in and desires most.
  • Zero: Political leader and militant liberator of the Japanese people. This is the lie in the sense that more than anything it is the means to accomplishing vengeance upon his perceived enemies.
  • Lelouch Lamperouge: This is the vessel that holds both, it is a lie to everyone; nothing truthful or authentic is in this identity.

The Japanese people, the oppressed population of ‘Area 11′ need to somehow believe more than anything that they are righteous, and therefore must be represented by righteous heroes. The resistance, the rebels, both lack a compelling call, a rallying cry that will make the people do more than wait for them to prove themselves. Zero and his Order of the Black Knights provided this call. This is why Britannia did what it could to discredit Zero, to show that he is unheroic, that he is without righteousness.

So how do we behave in following the narrative? What do we enjoy in following Lelouch’s story? Do we want him to win? If we do, WHY? Do we believe in his righteousness, the same way many of the Japanese did when they followed him to China; the same way how the Zero Requiem was designed to recover and then preserve his heroism in the eyes of the people? No. I don’t think so at all. The people who watch this show mainly entertained by the Lelouch narrative are those who are to a degree fascinated by his flawed character; his amoral devotion to his desired ends, his cleverness, and ultimately the strength of his will.

code geass r2 25 suzaku lelouch zero requiem plan

Those of us who ‘follow’ Lelouch, how did we get here? We are shown righteousness first! We are shown how Lelouch is a victim of injustice — from the chess player he defeated (representing adults, Britannians), to the ruthless troops of Clovis, we are shown a weak but clever individual against terrible odds. We are then shown the over matched rebels, and how Lelouch allies himself with them. But somewhere along the way, as early as the second episode of the 50-episode saga, we are shown how Lelouch holds contempt for his enemies, how little he values their lives. This culminates with his murder of Clovis.

This is a decision point for us. If we disapprove of murder in cold blood (and I assume many of us do), we need to ask ourselves if we should keep supporting this character. But at this point, the narrative makes it difficult for us to hold Lelouch in contempt. Clovis is evil. Jeremiah is fascist. It would take Suzaku later on to truly challenge us. And we were! Many of us hated Suzaku, calling him a ‘moralfag,’ as if his stand — to create change from within order and from within the law was despicable; as if Lelouch with his easy manipulation of others — his Geass power is even overtly manipulative, was the hero worth rooting for.

I theorize that this moral problem — the pleasure of rooting for a known murderer; a selfish, manipulating teenager on a revenge streak, does fill people with guilt. What can possibly make this guilt go away? A simple solution is to dismiss the show… and there are levels of dismissal.

The first level is a decisive and telling one: this is just entertainment. It’s just a show. It’s a silly anime with robots and fanservice. We don’t have to think too hard. It doesn’t really say anything about us if we don’t think about it.

code geass r2 25 lelouch zero requiem plan

See what we did there? That would have been enough, to be honest. However, many of us went further.

The second level is to qualify the entertainment: Code Geass is a bad show. It’s poorly written. We who cannot be bothered to think too hard about the moral implications of rooting for a character like Lelouch are suddenly blessed with the competence to dismiss it further as a show with terrible merit. How terrible? We convince ourselves that the best way to enjoy this show; and the only way we are still enjoying this show, is that it is funny unintentionally. The comedy doesn’t exist within the design of the narrative, but is rather outside it. It’s attempts at presenting a narrative is the object of the ridicule which is then the source of the entertainment value.

At this point we find ourselves rather distant from the moral problem. At this point it is easy to dismiss all the characters’ motivations and morals. These issues can’t be real, can’t be taken seriously… because the show is so bad. It’s popularity increasing exponentially, while the viewers keep telling themselves and each other that they’re only watching this because it is entertainingly bad.

I’m not here to defend the quality of Code Geass. I certainly like it, but nobody else has to.

What I’ve sought to map out is a speculative path of conflict avoidance. Very few of us can convince ourselves that the show is outright terrible after 4 episodes. At that point we are already compelled to watch, and chances are we were compelled by Lelouch. And we were all betrayed by him. By we, I mean the viewers who disagree with murder, and manipulative and malicious selfishness. Overtly or not, we are confronted by enjoying these things. Why do we enjoy it so much? And why do we still like this guy; and by like I mean we want him to triumph in the end. I’m sure we wanted him to redeem himself. That’s a carrot that I’m sure led more than a few of us donkeys through the valleys of Lelouch’s depravity.

I suggested earlier that some of us who went this far with Lelouch may have an appreciation for evil. Maybe some of us do, but I find this less interesting compared to those of us who tell ourselves that we don’t, and suffer guilt for indulging ourselves in it.

code geass r2 25 zero lelouch zero requiem close up

Some of us are reassured by his death. His death bought him redemption since it was in the spirit of sacrifice. There was no selfishness left: no legacy to build, nothing to clear or clean his name in history. He wanted to do right by everyone, and to a degree, he did — those who were left. But what of us who insisted that he was alive? Why do we want to keep him alive? Where is the justice in that? Have we distanced ourselves so thoroughly from the moral issues of his narrative that it’s okay for him to get away with everything he has done? All the blood on his hands, and perhaps more damning, all the lies.

Liars, even to themselves can probably go easier on a liar like Lelouch.

But if we acknowledge the lie, did the pleasure we took from watching Code Geass disappear? No. We already had it, enjoyed it. We already defended the show against trolls, or even endorsed it to friends whether as a ‘good’ show, or as a delightful pile of terribleness. It doesn’t matter. We had our fun. Only the guilt remains.

Further Reading

My own ‘fanaticism’ for Ikari Gendo of Neon Genesis Evangelion [->]

Narutaru turns the screws harder and deeper [->]

About ghostlightning

I entered the anime blogging sphere as a lurker around Spring 2008. We Remember Love is my first anime blog. Click here if this is your first time to visit WRL.
This entry was posted in Guilty Pleasures, showing a bit of character and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

101 Responses to Acknowledging Our Guilt for Our Choice of Heroes: Code Geass’ Lelouch Lamperouge

  1. Maybe I don’t have the proper perspective for this post, because from the first episode of Code Geass I saw Lelouch as a godsend when it comes to anime characters. I had yet to see Legend of the Galactic Heroes (nearly impossible for me at the time since Code Geass was one of the first fansubs I kept up with straight out of Japan, it would be miracle for me to find LOGH at the time), nor Death Note (was that out at the time?). And it was probably the first mecha show I watched after I had completed SEED Destiny. I was bitter around that time. He was my anti-Kira. Not blessed with custom machinery, or “holy” piloting skills. And he definitely didn’t play around with that moral high ground that I found so annoying at the time. He had been wronged and he wasn’t going to let the unfairness of life stop him. I didn’t even know I wanted a character like that at the time, but I knew it was a perfect fit when I saw him.

    I view Code Geass as a modern masterpiece. I got my fair share of LULZ out of the experience, but I would be hard pressed to find a show that got me as invested and spellbound in a narrative. Take for what you will that my viewing experience by the end of R2 could be likened to that of a pro wrestling fan on Monday nights, but that the show accomplished something that many shows don’t. There’s no guilty pleasure seeping from my psyche except the slight embarrassment I feel over watching Kallen mount that motorcycle styled seating for her Gurren. But that’s definitely not the guilty pleasure you’re speaking of in this post.

    By the way, good luck with all the fanatics that this post is going to attract. :-)

    • Your context is decisive.

      However, as harsh as I can sound (by my logic, if not my writing) in these posts I don’t really judge people in the sense I think worse of them for liking what they like. I work hard to put things into a conversation of self-reflection first and foremost.

      At the end of it all, I like Code Geass very much and I don’t get carried away with paying attention to all the hate it attracts.

  2. The topic is an interesting one, but I don’t think I can relate to some of the specifics as much as the average Code Geass viewer because it didn’t take me long to go from an initial support of Lelouch to favoring Suzaku and Euphemia, and thus opposing Lelouch/Zero. After a couple instances of Lelouch purposefully destroying civilian buildings just for the sake of his battleplans I dropped my support for him and became especially anti-Lelouch once a viable alternative started being crafted by Euphemia. I certainly admired Lelouch’s abilities, but I don’t really feel any more guilt about that than I do for admiring the Nazi German military in WWII or the extremely effective but often extremely harsh long term program of China to subdue and ultimately culturally obliterate the Uighurs in Xinjiang. Skill, ability, and the talent to implement one’s plans are something I can guiltlessly admire even if I might not agree with them. It’s more of a ‘beauty of effectiveness’ looking at it from a morally neutral perspective. Actually the Xinjiang example I have very mixed feelings on, since the end result would secure stability, improve quality of life, and prevent terrorism or war in the long run, at the cost of human rights abuses, lack of any sort of civil liberties, and long term one culture being forcibly assimilated into a larger monoculture. I also tend to feel the sympathy for giants that you dismiss, since giants tend to bring peace and order and can pool resources. You might be starting to see why I supported Suzaku, heh.

    However, with Lelouch and other anti-heroes I do feel somewhat torn, depending on the situation, with the way they carry out just acts. I didn’t really have a problem with Lelouch killing Clovis and others early in the series on an individual level. Killing them was justified by my standards; they did what they did out of their own free will and deserved the consequences. Where I sometimes get uneasy with anti-heroes is on an institutional and rule of law level. Lelouch’s early murders don’t quite fit into this as there was no legitimate, fair system to perform justice. However he never really tried to form one later on, since his revenge agenda didn’t permit anything from even delaying his vengeance. Justified killings or not, I looked down on him as a leader for that. It’s enjoyable, but at the same time it could lead to more misery than that inflicted by the slain. Not sure if it’s guilt exactly, but definitely some unease.

    • I appreciate your candor in talking about ‘justified killings.’ That to me is still quite the frontier of moral and ethical discussion (as opposed to LOL gay marriage LOL). If you feel justified in the actions of your Suzaku, whose conscience is pretty compromised as well, then you have interesting standards indeed.

      FWIW Lelouch isn’t really much of a leader beyond his strategic ability and guts in general. He never really has the best interests of his constituents, does he?

      It must feel good to easily compartmentalize or distinguish what one admires in people. I suppose I get to do it often too, but I must admit that I am a sucker for charisma as well, and that Lelouch guy has it in spades.

      • Suzaku, even when he became more of an anti-hero himself in R2, was still someone whose cause I could get behind, warts and all. Like you mentioned with the quieter people at political rallies, I was aware of the compromises he made, the areas where he fell short in terms of holding onto complete moral righteousness and the parts of his policy he had to sacrifice to keep the larger goal alive. And even though Suzaku turning in Lelouch to Emperor Wakamoto was presented as some sort of terrible betrayal in terms of how the scene was shot, the music, and Lelouch’s recollection of it, being opposed to Lelouch as I was I was quite celebratory about it (even if I knew it wouldn’t last because the show is subtitled Lelouch of the Rebellion for a reason.) Other acts done by Suzaku that were portrayed as terrible I also didn’t find so bad. Taking Nunally hostage, for example. Taking hostages might be distasteful, but considering that she wasn’t in actual danger and Suzaku didn’t have an equally effective alternative I felt the moral compromise was not sufficient to fatally compromise the entire cause/character of Suzaku. By that point she wasn’t on Lelouch’s side anyway, and was in on Suzaku’s plan. Holding Kallen as a POW was also visually and musically shown as dark and horrible, but as long as Suzaku was in charge of the operation she also didn’t have anything to fear other than wearing a frilly dress since he did pull himself back from the edge when he considered using Refrain on her. I don’t think Lelouch would have in the same situation. Suzaku wasn’t perfect, but I see his transgressions as much lesser than Lelouch’s and in service to a goal that was more likely to be good for the world. And that’s what I enjoyed the most about Code Geass, that neither side was perfect, neither goal (if achieved) would be a perfect GOOD END.

        As for compartmentalizing, I probably wouldn’t be able to enjoy most of the antagonist characters in fiction that I do without being able to stand off and admire their capabilities or style even if I didn’t admire their goals. As you had mentioned in regards to Imee Marcos, it’s about an effective enemy you can respect instead of the usual idiots. Sirocco in Zeta Gundam, Gul Dukat in Deep Space Nine, Lelouch, and others are all characters I might disagree with intensely, but definitely fall into the category of ‘deliciously evil.’ It’s just impressive watching them do their thing so well.

        • Suzaku is meant to be sympathized with because of the moral conflicts he had at this point of the narrative. It just so happens that Lelouch’s amorality is far more seductive. Look at the scenes you mentioned, how Suzaku is served up as a hypocrite on a platter by the show!

          Suzaku is meant to be hated too.

          The show is really character driven, and this is evidenced by the tremendous sympathy the show generates from viewers despite all the yelling about plot and such. Part of this is due to how viewers are more and more becoming database animals, and thus media caters to this, but I think CG transcends that.mp

          In narratives, the structure of conflict is usually strength vs. strength, skill vs. strength, luck vs. strength, etc. Often, in a conflict of non-equals, skill is pitted against strength (inclusive of numbers, resources, etc.). The skillful is often the underdog as is Lelouch here, and therefore easier to sympathize with.

          This occurs in many skillful villains, whose reliance on skill makes them a bit of an underdog and easier to sympathize with compared to all-powerful overlords who are unilaterally hated.

          No one sympathized with Dr. Hell, but Baron Ashura has many fans.

  3. Baka-Raptor says:

    The existence of dark and grey characters who can be taken seriously is the #2 reason I watch anime. If I wanted to watch the good guys win, I could watch any American cartoon in existence.

    • And the number one reason is?

      American cartoons are very rarely, if ever at all, meant to be viewed by people older than 12 I think. Anime not only has a young adult demographic, but a very adult one as well. This I feel is why these kind of characters exist and I’m glad for it since I may not be anywhere as old as you are, but I am much older than most anime viewers.

  4. Owen S says:

    So what you’re saying (part of, in a nutshell) is that the ‘trainwreck’ memeshit was born out of Freudian purposes. Did I get that right?

    • No, I can’t take credit for that one but there’s something in what you’re saying, even though the memeshit bandwagon isn’t very thoughful as a group. Then again that’s pretty reductionist or lazy Freudian slipping into conclusions too on my part.

    • I thought it was more Lelouch’s ambitions that were born out of Freudian influences. Personally though I like the whole theory of conflict avoidance amidst the viewership.

      When faced with a conflict of interest in a character or situation that a person cannot resolve for themselves by confronting the source of it directly, what other solution is easier, what other path the quickest way out but to reject and denigrate the challenge altogether?

  5. foomafoo says:

    Eh? I don’t think it’s poorly written, I do think though that it indeed challenged us who to support in this kind of situation, Suzaku (the moral fag, as you’ve said) or Lelouch.

    It’s a matter of empathy perhaps? Because I think that if that happened to me, I might do the same or perhaps parallel thing, which is to resort to violence(this is an extreme worst case scenario though). I’d say that it is probably the reason why Lelouch got me rooting for him, regardless of the indiscriminate killings he had done.

    But I’m also one of those who wanted him dead at the end, so maybe that at least lessens my guilt? But yeah you’re correct, I doubt the guilt of rooting for a murderer will never completely vanish.

    • I had caught the shitstorm that went about R2. The whole english speaking anime discussion scene was a TRAINWRECK.

      The finale takes away a lot of things, like issues and concerns about plot points and other things, but as in your case Lelouch’s sacrifice made it easier to absolve ourselves for rooting for him most of the time.

      • foomafoo says:

        Oh yeah, the incidents where those who supposedly died actually lived. How come I forgot that. There is shitstorm indeed. I guess I should take back the not poorly written part.

      • Robert Weizer says:

        I was around the more mecha and 4channy (but never directly 4chan, crappy IRC rooms on Rizon) parts of the internet around the time of TTGL and Code Geass, but I didn’t really watch any anime at that time. I sorta remember the bigass shitstorms. I was also around a bit for 00, but left after I got tired of shitstorms.

        Now I hang out with people, although you will get some crazy ranters, like how “the Zeta movies aren’t canon so they suck”. I was hanging with some other people and had some good discussions about really old shows like Baldios and other SRs, but after a while due to factors I left, abandoning my hope for discussions like that again.

        Someday I’ll be able to find a forum dedicated to mech anime that I can fully stand and not get banned from.

  6. animekritik says:

    Hmmm…the ending is kind of a cop-out, yes. It reminds me of the ending of Dorian Grey. Have the evil guy run amock and then have him get his just desserts in the last 2 pages, to preserve the moral standards.

    I think some of us like Lelouch because he gets to act out some of our destructive fantasies against the world.

    “culture is flat..taste” do you think ethics isn’t?? and if you actually think it is flat, then where does that leave your guilt??

    • Just desserts are best served over a long course? I sympathize with this. It brings us face to face with how much we enjoy dishing out punishment too. It juxtaposes our supposed sense of justice with our will to power-based slave morality.

      Morality and ethics can be flat, sure. But I’ve found no way to practically live like this. It’s easy to conceptualize that my actions or decisions aren’t universal or even recommended as some kind of standard; for me anyway. But there are wrinkles to this.

      Guilt is supposedly a socially triggered feeling, and I still think so. But the guilt in my case is when I feel incomplete — meaning my intended behaviors, public statements, or how I should or want to be don’t match my actual feelings and behaviors.

      There results a breakdown of integrity. Even when no one’s looking, I know I made certain promises to myself that I’m not keeping. I want to trust myself and others to trust me. Guilt gets in the way of that.

      This is how I think guilt operates in a flat ethical dimension. It’s relative to the self, sure. But the self wants to have predictable behaviors too, so unwanted and unpredicted behaviors can be the source of the guilt feelings no matter what ethical point of reference used.

  7. Caraniel says:

    I have a strange fascination with anti-heroes and outsight antagonist characters. Their motivations and thought processes are generally just so much more interesting than those of the ‘good guys’. In Lelouch’s case I was completely drawn into his charisma – he demands your attention in a way very few other characters can.

    I also admired his talent – both oratory and tactical. Sure the later half of R2 was a bit of a mess, and there are definately massive plotholes, but I was still entertained and completely sucked into the series. The ending in my eyes was prefect, I always thought Lelouch would die in the end – he needed to die really; there was no way he could have lived on with all the blood on his hands.

    I don’t really feel much guilt about the pleasure I derive from cheering for the ‘evil’ guys though – in my mind they generally make a series great. Maybe its just because I know that they will always get their comeupance in the end; tis kind of like cheering for the underdog!

    • Yeah, the fact that they get their comeuppance in the end sort of makes it okay, right? But what if Lelouch did succeed in all his plans and got away with it? He’d be distasteful right? He’d be a ruling god among humans, and we like our gods moral.

      He certainly won’t be the underdog anymore.

  8. digitalboy says:

    I think I have pretty weak moral fortitude. I have actually looked at many things in wonder of what does offend me. Those things are very context-based. So far, it seems like the only thing that truly bothers me is someone giving up on their children. I have a sort of moral sense that when you’ve had children, then your life is no longer as important as the life of your child, and therefor abandoning them is the worst thing that you can do. I don’t really know why I feel that way, though.

    When Lelouche killed Clovis, I loved it. It was a moment that tied me much closer to this character rather than repelling from it. It was a moment that made me more sure that I would enjoy this show. Is it an appreciation for evil? I don’t think so, because I don’t see killing as evil. Sad, perhaps. A waste, perhaps. Evil? no. And in this context, I really enjoyed it, because there is nothing I support more than ambition. I consider myself a social darwinist to the max – the strong will live, and the weak will feed the strong. He who pursues his ambition, regardless of what he may have to do to obtain what he desires, is my true hero.

    Does that mean I am unsympathetic to the weak? no. I fully understand the weak – why they do not understand their power, and why they do not have the drive to do anything. In my view, strength is merely happiness – strength is being satisfied with yourself. I will celebrate the person who is satisfied as well as the person who will not give up in chasing the thing they need to get satisfaction. I understand why the others aren’t satisfied, but I nonetheless do not mind seeing them get crushed underfoot by the satisfied, because every satisfied existence is powerful and worthwhile. Even if one man’s success is crushed by another man’s, it only means that the other man’s success was more powerful.

    I guess the reason I support people who are satisfied or seeking satisfaction is that I am doing the same. My dad often talks about how he surrounds himself with things that will help him – he reads tons of books by rich people, or by fit people, because his two ambitions are to be wealthy and fit (and he has fuckin succeeded), and by constantly surrounding himself with and thinking about those things, he always pushes himself more towards them. I celebrate characters like Lelouche and their ambition because it helps me to be inspired for my own ambition.

    • digitalboy says:

      I feel the need to add to this. Perhaps the reason that I refuse to be disturbed by a man killing for his ambition is that I really feel I am doing the same. Ultimately, in the name of comfort, I am doing my part to destroy the world and humanity. I am wasteful. I waste food, money, I create radiation, I help to wreck the Earth, and unlike many people who try to donate some money or conserve or not eat this or that so that they can feel better about themselves and sleep at night, I can’t hide from these facts. Every time I waste, I think about the lives that are being lost somewhere as a result of my actions and the actions of my society. And then I think ‘which do I care about more, there lives, or my comfort?’

      I care more about my comfort. If that weren’t true, I’d be a monk. I wouldn’t support companies and products that ultimately lay waste to the world. I don’t believe in the half-assed ‘doing your part.’ My mom ultimately thinks that she is morally superior (though she’d never think so outright) because she recycles, is a vegetarian, and supports helping the world ‘go green’ or whatever, but that doesn’t stop her from driving fancy, gas-blowing cars and wasting electricity and generally not doing as much to help the world as she is to hurt it.

      Some would say that if your actions don’t have malicious intentions, then you aren’t morally at fault. I think that’s shit. I am killing people, and there is no two ways about it. I can either decide that it is wrong and that I am a bad person, or I can decide that I am okay with it. I have made the decision of the latter – I care more about myself than the rest of the world, and if I said any less, I’d be a flat-out liar. If anyone thinks I’m a bad person because of it, then, well, have fun, because I don’t care – my own moral code will ultimately decide what matters in my world.

      • So you’re aware of your irresponsible actions and care enough to make a decision that you won’t let it matter.

        Evil, as its basest or purest form, is suffering. Moral evil, is the willingness to inflict suffering on others either by intention or negligence.

        You admire Lelouch for his ambition, but the moral evil in him is his acting on his ambition at the cost of others, paying no respect, executing them at his arbitrary whim. Based on your reasoning, you are prepared to do the same. When the time comes when your dream, your goal, whether it is completing a film or winning an award for it, you are perfectly okay doing it underhandedly?

        I don’t think you are, but you may be. You may expect people to not trust you after making these revelations.

        People failing at being moral, by whatever system they follow, isn’t the same as being intentionally immoral. I think there is merit in giving it all you’ve got, even if you fail. It is as virtuous an ambition, if not more so, than achieving wealth, glory, or what not.

        I think your mom may fail in some ways, may be ignorant in some ways, but I think no less of her for that. Giving up on her though, despite one’s apparent wisdom about what works and what doesn’t, isn’t very cool. I’m not saying you’re giving up on her at all, but you may be thinking it.

        • digitalboy says:

          I don’t know if I’m ready to kill someone, but I by no means think I am opposed to underhanded methods. I am known for my manipulation, almost on an automatic level. Sure it’s mostly minor shit, but I manipulate my brothers and friends into doing things for me every day. It’s like I consider my own effort a ‘plan B’. When there are people around me and something to get done, my mind immediately switches to ‘how do I make someone else do this besides me?’ it sounds shitty, but the reason I haven’t done any housework in a long, long time is that people got so used to me manipulating other people to do it, that no one ever expects me to do anything for them anymore, so they don’t even ask. It’s even had the strange effect that now I actually do anything on the rare instance my dad asks me to, and as a result, I get this weird backhanded praise that ‘wow, conrad is actually helpful!’

          That all sounds awful, right? Lazy, silly, a dick move, maybe even evil. I get called those things all the time. When anyone makes a deal with me, my mom calls it ‘a deal with the devil’, because more often than not, I will be the only one profiting from it. I’ve heard it all, but it doesn’t change what I do, or make me feel bad about it. You’d think that people would loose trust in me, and they will about things, but then they will also believe me again and again because I speak with such honesty about myself. I will be so flooringly honest that it surprises people, which is why I can also pull off big lies behind everyone’s back, disguised as the usual truth that they expect from me. I honestly think Im pretty good at the manipulation business, and it helps that I’ve been doing it for literally as long as I can remember. Even I sometimes have difficulty telling how honest I am being to other people, and how much I am manipulating their thoughts.

          I am a liar, cheater, and a stealer. I never lost a match of yugioh cards, because I cheated every game. I have no reservations about using a strategy guide to beat a video game. However, I will always be selective about these things. I don’t think I’ll ever betray my moral righteousness. for instance, I firmly believe in protecting my friends. I would never betray a friend, even if it meant I could attain a goal. instead, I will find a way to abuse the system to get what I want without loosing a friend. Like Lelouche, my schemes are grand and ridiculous. Sure, Lelouche would kill Clovis, but if someone held up Shirley and said that they would kill her if he didn’t do as they please, would he let Shirley die? No, he would find a way to resolve the situation without her dying (unless that’s actually how she died, I wouldn’t know, I didn’t get that far LOL). what I’m trying to get at is this: I will never betray my own morals in my quest for triumph, but I will walk all over everyone else’s morals.

          I don’t think any less of my mom either for what she does. I have found that I don’t really have he capacity to think less of people, because I can always tell why people act the way that they do. I can tell what led them to where they are and why none of their decisions are likely their own fault. My mom is happy with what she does and how it makes her feel about herself, so good for her. I am not going to criticize her or tell her that she has to think like I do, and I’d much rather she just be blissfully ignorant than have to think about anything like this.

          • So you’re a professed liar and a cheat and utterly vain and selfish. Trusting you would be an obvious risk, and anyone who deals with you have no one else to blame when you screw them over amirite?

          • Yeah, it does sound about right. Though the only thing I can tell people is that if I care about them, I won’t screw them over. I might abuse them a little, but I will not ultimately screw them over.

            Such as you, GL, I could never cause harm. :D

          • Robert Weizer says:

            I used to think a lot like that to a degree. That I was highly manipulative, an evil dick, and if it were possible wouldn’t support evil in the world. This was during High School and many subsequent years. I could write a damn book about my school experiences.

            Then I got arrested a few times and sent to juvie and dropped back down a thinking tier to angry at the world and irrational as hades with frequent apathetical spells. Went like that a while, then a few days after Thanksgiving while I was moving back in last year I chucked a pumpkin through my parents window and spent a week in County. Hopping between places to live and a wonderfully crappy month in a men’s mission (that was ran by worst. christians. ever.) i now live with my old roommate and attempt to find a job and get financial aid for going back to college.

            the only thing I can say is it helps a lot to be capable of critically analyzing yourself rather than in-depth analyzing. i’ve gone from perpetual serious business to lolrandom almost-retard (with minor exceptions, usually involving drama) random iming people. i got my old sense of humor back from when I was younger (a love of puns and bad jokes, mainly) and I find that while I may or may not be happier, I’m damned glad I’m not in the mental state I was in that lead me to spend a week in county jail listening to infinite spanish works

          • drmchsr0 says:

            Shit mang, digi. Compared to a few other bastards I know of, you’re probably the only bastard I could never bear to hurt. Okay, I might just land you in a hospital for a few months due to broken ribs and such, but well, I have certain issues and you probably are overdue for a royal spanking (with INTEREST![cue hyperbole]), but I don’t think I could ever hurt you after that one time.

            I’d like to think of myself more like Domon Kasshu and Guy Shishioh (especially the screaming bits). Good dudes who do good things for people, no matter what. Even Domon believed in his master, no matter how horrible Master Asia was to him and the world. And Guy had the balls to admit wrongdoing.

            In fact, I’m such a shocking paragon for good (no joke, it’s the truth), that even when I do mess up, I don’t get royally screwed over. (I still get screwed over, but only because I probably broke a rule somewhere.) And for some reason, it makes those that do evil mad. Again, no joke.

            I’m more than ready to flip out and kill people for doing wrong, make no mistake. I’m painfully aware of it, and I take great pains to not do it.

    • animekritik says:

      some deep thoughts in here..

  9. Crusader says:

    I agree with the seductive amorality of Lulu, seems every halfwit with a chip in his/her shoulder would like to screw other people over for some perceived unfairness, but few have the stomach nor the intelligence or means to do it.

    I can admire competence and take great interest in the Operations of many German Generals of WWII alongside the Allied Generals. Even if the goals were bad nothing can change how the Germans influenced armored warfare and forced changes in the Military Doctrine of all the Major Allied powers. Even if they were assholes it doesn’t stop the continued teaching of their theories and operations in War Academies that are intent on producing an officer corps of quality.

    I think that we are more likely to find anti-heroes like Lulu than we are likely to see guys like Domon Kasshu or Schwartz. Even if Lulu was an anti-hero he had an idealistic agenda. Still the series was shit, Cornelia was about the only good thing it had going for it.

    • Nah man, I don’t think the series is shit. I love it, but I’m not saying it’s excellent in a formalist and technical sense either. So let’s leave it at that since this post isn’t a defense of the show.

      Competence is amoral, and can easily inspire. I admire a lot of ‘great men’ who must have been utter assholes to the people who paid the cost of the success of these persons. I particularly enjoy the careers of Gaius Marius, Lucius Cornelius Sulla, Julius and Augustus Caesar. They were ruthless, and they were very competent and I see that it’s very easy to admire them for these.

      • Crusader says:

        To be fair Marius and Sulla were by and large assholes to each other. Of the ones you mentioned Sulla was the weirdest one since he walked away from the dictatorship despite setting the precedent that a Roman General could march on Rome and get away with it. It’s hard for me to see the the guys you mentioned as assholes since within context it was considered by and large to be “politics” which is rarely tasteful.

        Augustus was certainly had the most interesting career, I remember him not only because he was the creator of Pax Romana, but also because the story goes that he interfered with True Love when he made Tiberius divorce his wife and marry his daughter Julia. It was an interesting story.

        Goals are mutable, one might acceptable at one time may not be acceptable in another. It’s kind of hard to really hate the Romans since the people they screwed no longer really exist. The ancient world was not a nice place and tales of palace intrigue are rather interesting if sordid. Still we live in a broken world now it should be no surprise it is filled with broken people.

        • Well, it’s hard for me to compartmentalize asshatery as ‘just politics’ — their reasons for doing things are filled with ambition at the expense of others. I’m not disrespecting them or criticizing them, it’s just how I look at their behavior.

          If I want pure doucheyness, I’d easily find them among the Rakes of England from Charles II’s reign up to the rise of Victorianism. I truly struggle to find redeeming values from any of them (I’m reading some nonfiction about this subject and my god they are distasteful).

          Don’t worry, I don’t hate or hate on anyone, even if I categorize their behavior as a kind of evil. This is all just interesting discussion for me, and I’m glad for your indulgence.

    • Oh Stanley, your grumpy tough guy talk always makes me feel so warm inside. :)

  10. SVince51 says:

    I’ve nothing to add to this discussion, only to say that posts like this makes We Remember Love my favorite blog.

  11. KrimzonStriker says:

    There are a lot of things about Lelouch that one can admire and be inspired even without the moral questions you’re proposing here, but I’ll get to those in a second. As many people pointed out, he’s charismatic and talented, intelligent, and determined, all personal qualities people aspire too, along with the audacity he has to stand against the injustice inflicted upon him. If we talk about the moral question, then I will simply bring up the practical one, i.e the question of do we simply follow a moral code simply because it is right? Morality is in an of itself a lie, only true based upon an individual or societies perception, there is no physical law that makes it so whatever humanities ego may say. If that is the case, then why have morality in the first place? Because it is based on the foundation of every decision people initially make, it’s practical, it keeps societies together and affords a greater chance of survival. If ones morality loses that practical application, then what is the point in the end? That question made me distance myself from fanciful moral preachers like Suzaku… or religion. I admired men like Cesare, Alexander the Great, Napoleon, Reinhard von Lohengramm etc because they were able to mix personal ambition, practical if harsh methodology, and transform all that into practical accomplishments that pushed their respective civilizations to greatness and the benefits from that, like those of Lelouch’s, can be trumpeted as being morally good in the end.

    • I wouldn’t call morality a lie, but rather self-righteousness is a dangerous thing. animekritik above suggests that morality like culture, is flat. This means there is no objective hierarchy of values that objectively form the correct moral code for all people at all times.

      To insist that there is, could be construed as a falsehood of some kind. Maybe this is what you mean by saying morality is a lie.

      Personally, I think that people — bad faith notwithstanding — do attempt to act on what is ‘right’ -by other people. There is a strong desire to act in a way that benefits others, that is fair to others. This is the foundation, or at least the building blocks common to most if not all moral systems. Within such codes there are even conflicts between values of what is just against what is merciful. In any case, this tells me that we do mean well to others — not all the time, but I think more often than we mean harm unto others.

      When we act against these desires, combined with our socialization and culture, we do feel guilt. The guilt is a result, a byproduct perhaps of the conflict between the existence of desirable traits and the exhibition of dangerous behavior within an individual/character and the viewer’s willingness to esteem the same.

      • KrimzonStriker says:

        If you’re discussing some kind of basic foundation for morals, then that I believe does exist and is something that is shared amongst people, the emotions of empathy, compassion, affection, etc. are very much real alongside all the negative emotions as well and I’m not discounting them. I suppose it wouldn’t be fair to call it a lie, more like it isn’t the truth, it’s more along the lines of what people make it out to be or interpret it as, like the laws by which societies are governed, morality or more precisely moral rules are a bunch of concepts and ideas that people tell others to follow.

        Ah, but do they do what is ‘right’ simply because it is ‘right’? Moral rules are restraints and directions to influence behavior that proves beneficial. If being ‘right’ didn’t help anyone, like say I will not kill but because of that I didn’t stop someone else from being killed, does that somehow suddenly seem ‘right’? I for one always stood fast behind Reinhard during LoGH, and though I admired and respected Yang I could never agree with his inaction and unwillingness to do more to protect and advance his cause at times. Anyway, doing right by others is doing right by yourself, we work together in societies for mutual benefit, just as we often do wrong to others for self-benefit. After all, people will often go to war for some strategic interest and then sue for peace to avoid further harm or damage etc. If say everyone could cooperate, trust, and understand each other then it’d be a virtually perfect world, but we can’t and we don’t so we build general ideas and rules or concepts to try and enforce it, as lacking as they may be.

        It’s more like we think we should feel guilt rather then we simply do, because there are those who don’t or won’t, or will simply rationalize it away. If you’re asking if I feel guilty of certain events or actions undertaken by Lelouch then yes, I do, just as he did as well at times. But I compare that to the similar guilt a commander makes when sending troops who gladly follow him to fight and probably die, like say Yang Wenli for example, Siegfriend Kircheis. Like them I would take it as a personal lesson, where the individual in question would curse their own inability and mistakes for being unable to avoid those kinds of loses or sacrifices, but that doesn’t dissuade me or them from believing in the overall worth of the goal they’re working towards or cause me to ignore the stakes should they fail. If anything any guilt one feels for their actions makes me respect the individual even more, because we all know nobodies perfect enough to not make mistakes or hard choices, because they have the ability to accept and acknowledge it while continuing to strive forward. Such actions or sacrifices should always be the exception, not the rule or the overall goal. Just because I advocate for flexibility to carry out noble or moral ideals does not mean I disregard them, as I said before I acknowledged them as also being of practical benefit as well. I simply have no patients if they don’t and will advocate for how they should.

        • This is very interesting. I think feeling one should feel guilty when one doesn’t particularly feel guilty is a form of guilt.

          Sure it isn’t the crushing guilt people like me (who grew up Catholic) still occasionally feel despite distancing myself from dogma, but it’s still there. One doesn’t feel particularly willing to share with people that they like Reinhard for his ability to pull the trigger on Westerland (Oberstsein notwithstanding).

          I too, am behind Reinhard throughout Legend of the Galactic Heroes, despite sharing a temperament with Yang Wenli who I found quite very easy to relate to (though not the genius in tactics part). Despite being a fan of Reinhard, it’s not very easy for me to lionize him without guilt.

          This does not mean I don’t respect him or Lelouch. I think my respecting them goes without saying. But is it easy to respect or admire Heidegger for his participation in the Nazi regime? How about Hitler himself? I doubt that there are many Gihren Zabis among us who would admire him. But I think many of Reinhard’s, Lelouch’s, or Napoleon’s admirable qualities are in Hitler.

          Who could admire him without any shred of guilt? When they do, I’m almost certain there are numerous qualifications, rationalizations, and disclaimers. Sounds suspiciously like guilt to me, in any case.

          • KrimzonStriker says:

            That’s generally the guilt society or culture or background usually evokes or places on you, not to say that you shouldn’t or anything, as its much like with laws and such.

            I liked his ability to make tough choices, choices that made great headways, the proof is in the pudding given that westerland was swept under the rug in face of Reinhards accomplishments. That doesn’t mean I like or don’t feel guilt that Westerland actually happened, in fact I endorse that moment when Reinhard was self-reflecting about it whole-heartedly as a way for people to moderate restrain themselves, and very much the reason why he never fell into the mistake of tyrants like Hitler or the much despised personally despised Rudoplh von Goldenbaumm by Reinhard himself.

            Reinhard deserves whatever credit he earned in my mind, good or bad, and I make the judgement that for the most part it was good, good enough to outweigh the bad as it did, but of course not to ignore the consequences in any event. But that doesn’t mean I don’t also stick by my conviction of the worth of his positive accomplishments either.

            I didn’t respect Heidegger, Zabis, or Hitler because I didn’t believe in their goals or what they were setting out to do. The thing that separated Reinhard, Lelouch, or Napoleon was that they remembered to take their people with them, that they sought to accomplish personal ambition alongside noble goals that I think you and I can agree were worthwhile pursuits. To be sure there is a fine line between a leader and a tyrant, LoGH itself makes that reference numerous times with Reinhard and Rudolph, those that manage to walk it and lead their people to a prosperous future instead of self-destruction deserve the admiration they garner. That Lelouch and Reinhard remembered this didn’t try to justify their wrongs to themselves at least, but accepted them regardless, helps to serve as the difference for me, unlike with say Hitler or Zabis who gloried in it.

            I don’t regret my admiration for the persons or types of characters that you’re referencing too, the controversial but effective anti-heroes like Lelouch or Reinhard, I tend to isolate whatever regrets I may feel to particular events or actions, like Westerland or the massacre by Euphemia, but continue to place my faith in them to do better by these tragedies and as long as they continue to do that then I remain resolved. At the very least I won’t feel like I’m suffering a slow and painful death watching buffoons and hypocrites like Suzaku or the Free Planet Alliance government at work and failing miserably at it, the difference between standing on your feet or on your knees once again.

          • The critical thing here is the faith to do better. This assuages the guilt, and the payoff is in the finale — wherein Lelouch sacrificed future happiness for peace on Earth/or equivalent.

            Hope manages guilt quite well. The dead tyrants, traitors, and hypocrites will never enjoy such hope from readers and students (or scholars), unless triggered by clever narratives like a biographical fiction or what not.

            Unless, they were running for office or something, mud will be slung like a barrage from Bittenfeld’s best.

          • KrimzonStriker says:

            Well I made that clear quite in the beginning that there had or should be a practical payoff or result, that’s primarily what I’m most concerned about, what everyone is concerned about for the most part. If Lelouch or Reinhard hadn’t then there would be little point, which is why I don’t follow indecisive and weak-willed individuals like Suzaku etc, because I felt they ultimately betray their moral compass more so then any unsavory actions Lelouch or Reinhard undertook, because they killed off any meaning or worth too their morals in my opinion. Like with Napoleon, I’d have lived with the choice of him as Emperor over the Reign of Terror, and because of that the true ideals of the French Revolution were able to endure and survive in Europe, even after his defeat.

            Well that’s true of everything, morality is put in place to manage impure impulses, the world revolves around diametrically opposed forces and the struggle between them, both internally among individuals and externally between groups. If they did something worth remembering to be admired then they will, many of those people you just described didn’t or failed to take the chance and they are remembered accordingly for that. And really, that’s true of any past person, no matter who they are, good people with great deeds to their name can still face revision and distorted retelling, the main thing is to build a legacy that will endure that test of time and carry on after you’re gone. Doing right by your people is generally the main way of setting up a wall against such a barrage, whether they know it or not they will live with your legacy and feel its results if you are able to truly accomplish something that validates your life and how you lived it in the end.

  12. itsubun says:

    A couple of fellow bloggers have recommended your blog to me in the past, I’m just sorry it took so long to finally get around to reading your stuff. Your writing really is as good as the hype built it up to be. I was pretty much won over when you made the point that culture is flat and brushed off the dichotomy of high vs. low culture. This is a point that I’ve been pushing in all of my studies and research.

    Im very relieved that someone finally acknowledged the guilt of empathizing and even idolizing an anti-hero. Ever since the series blew up and attained a mega-fandom, I’ve been harboring the belief that nobody actually thinks Lelouch is doing anything wrong. “The ends justify the means,” goes the common saying. I was worried that idol-worshiping had blinded the fandom to the flaws of a very complex man and the moral ambiguity that Code Geass definitely left room for. But I’m very glad to read that you did take a critical eye to Lelouch and took the time to reflect on your feelings toward a multi-faceted character. Very good entry, you will definitely be going in my feed reader.

    • 2 Christmases ago lelangir made this post about representations of Christmas/religion in anime and you were invited. Unfortunately you couldn’t join us then. We would have been acquainted sooner. I’m very interested in your research work now that you’ve mentioned the similarities in some of our ideas. I have this habit of using ‘amateur’ research in my amateur writing (I make no significant valuations for the professional v. amateur dichotomy) especially since this is a blog for fun. With your permission I would gladly refer to them since this guilty pleasure obsession of mine is far from exhausted as a subject at least to me.

      Feel free to browse through the archives, and I hope it’s worth your time. Thank you very much for the vote of confidence. It really made my day.

  13. itsubun says:

    Please, by all means feel free to refer to anything that you’d like. I anticipate many interesting discussions between the two of us in the future!

  14. KrimzonStriker says:

    I wouldn’t say we… or at least “I” don’t simply ignore Lelouch’s flaws, in fact I’d say I pretty much accept and even embrace them, partly because its realistic, and as often and callous as the saying ‘the ends justify the means” it does hold a lot of sway, and given that I agreed with the overall ends, it just tends to work out like that for the most part.

    • Yes, indeed. I for one don’t think that I’m alone in accounting for Lelouch’s flaws. If anything, I’ve abdicated on rendering final judgment over his character. I account in myself a fascination for the whole history of his life, and acknowledge the guilt feelings arising from such.

      I don’t actively judge anyway, but I think a lot of people intentionally do so.

      • KrimzonStriker says:

        I still think you’re not placing enough acknowledgment or giving enough credit to his accomplishments either, or the validation it brings too a lot of people that did believe in him to the end. Certain actions and events on his part should be regretted, I’ve made that clear, but if the overall result should prove to be worthwhile I don’t see why it would be wrong to embrace his character as the means which brought it about.

        Well, I don’t imagine most people can really claim otherwise, judging things and putting them into certain categories helps people make sense of the world, thus creating a sense of order in their minds.

        • It’s difficult to account for accomplishments when they are results from malicious and underhanded actions. Granted Lelouch wasn’t a malevolent entity like some cartoony evil overlord, but rather a single-minded creature of vengeance who will accomplish his goals at the expense of all others.

          This is why I am hesitant to dwell on his accomplishments. And I didn’t think it necessary anyway since I assume that there are many viewers who lionize Lelouch already and I need not make a case for the hero in the anti-hero.

          • KrimzonStriker says:

            Then I don’t think it’s really being fair or putting things in the whole picture, if we must judge things then it should be on what they are actually worth in my view. Between underhanded actions that bring tangible results vs. reassuring but ultimately meaningless methods, I would stand by the former because that I feel is what it ultimately means to stand by your convictions. To do otherwise I feel is a travesty and betrayal, which is why I think Suzaku irritated me and others to no end in the beginning. And he wasn’t that single-minded, nor did he fail to at least account for the consequences of his actions, to be fair.

            Well, they are there and regardless of what people think about it, the proof is still in the pudding, I say. Still, I think you should remember to take into account the good with the bad when making these analysis, it gives greater perspective. And if affords some insight into that bit about acknowledging quote unquote ‘evil’, which I do, and I think it is foolish and ignorant for people not to acknowledge it btw and falls much in line with my previous acknowledgment of ‘morals’. I’m of the mind that ideals can must be implemented in a realistic manner in order to bring tangible results, otherwise people are just deluding themselves for the most part.

          • Ahem.

            The premise is Lelouch is already accomplished, that in the end he saved the day. There is a hero in the anti-hero etc etc. (also, I am a fan of Lelouch, if that isn’t obvious)

            After all, the purpose here is to acknowledge guilt among viewers, not a comprehensive character evaluation of Lelouch.

            The analysis is on reader/viewer reactions.

            I don’t mind indulging this digression in Lelouch’s character because it is relevant and interesting. But it’s really not the point.

            It would be remarkable if there was an irredeemable psycopath that people truly stand behind. But I don’t think people still stand behind Yagami Light the way they stand behind Lelouch.

          • KrimzonStriker says:

            Alright then, I’ll let it drop in any event.

            Light was a pretty big guilty pleasure for me in the beginning I will admit. Then he stepped on the mistake many a dictators made, they made it all about them in the end. You know their a lost cause when their ego steps into the realm of godhood, which is just delusional for any individual human. I will admit that he or more precisely the Death Note series had me on my toes a lot of the time and drew my attention. It might be that perversity that was once said by the narrator when Reuenthal and Mittermeyer fought one another, one that doesn’t just apply to military commanders, though I do think it is more prone to people who on some level can admire violence and action in general

          • Yep, yours represents my own experience of Death Note rather well.

            But you know, I really wanted Light to win, no matter how wrong it felt (maybe it’s because I didn’t feel anything for the successors of L). And this was a very guilty pleasure indeed.

            In the end, I’m rather glad Light lost the way he did, though I would have preferred that there was more dignity to his end, but that’s because I sympathize with him way too much.

  15. itsubun says:

    @KrimzonStriker: I don’t agree with the philosophy, “the ends justify the means” because the means can be cruel and inhumane. Realistically, more often than not the ends result in a Pyrrhic victory. Look at the Vietnam War & the Iraq War, both fought under false pretenses and both resulted in the unwarranted (when is war ever truly warranted?) death and exploitation of different populations who did not present an economic or military threat to the US. Vietnam was fought under the misguided notion that we were waging a war on communism. We blamed 9/11 on Iraq even though they had nothing to do with the attack, and then invaded their country and raped their natural oil resources. Do the ends justify the means? And after all, Lelouch started out not really giving a shit about either the Eleven or the Britannian. The world was just a stage for his personal trauma to play out. And this is a very, VERY flattened world that the anime is presenting to us. The way the anime ended, in which the political (the crisis) is embodied in the personal (the martyr) and then purged from social consciousness (the jesus sacrifice that redeems all of mankind), is not an ending that – in my eyes – justifies the means.

    Personally, I think Code Geass deals with a lot of surface philosophy and it is actually the fans that expand on these elementary theories and turn them (via active discourse) into living theories that evolve and become nuanced through the many lenses that it comes under. I was expressing my anxieties at what I perceived to be a pattern of people glorifying Lelouch’s flaws (even his martyr death absolves him – or as ghostlightning would suggest, our own conscience of him) without being critical of those flaws.

    • drmchsr0 says:

      And when someone mentions Jesus and sacrifice, especially in the context of Code Geass, I get a little mad.

      Lelouch isn’t a hero or an antihero (but then again, I never really watched all of Code Geass, so sue me). He’s a manipulative bastard who personifies “the ends justifies the means” very, very well.

      And forgive me for going on a mild evangelical bent, but the whole damn reason why Jesus had to die was because He loved us so much. Lelouch, on the other hand, didn’t care about the Japanese, the Empire or anything.

      And to take the Jesus thing even further (forgive me, GL, but this to me, religion is serious business), the most violent thing Jesus did was cause that ruckus at the temple. And while people can go about a hundred ways about the whole event, let’s just say this: It’s not about the incident.

      He criticized the religious leaders of his day while showing authentic religion, showed extreme compassion for the poor and needy, and even when Judas came with a band of men to arrest Him at night, He presented Himself and healed the guy who got his ear cut off. Do you see Lelouch showing compassion on his enemies? At least Suzaku did.

      As for Suzaku and his perceived hypocrisy? Well, guess what? Everyone does it from time to time! Idolizing Lelouch? Well, I firmly believe that all humans are attracted to evil like flies to honey. The fact that people condone gossip and allow tabloids to exist is probably the best example of what I have to say.

      To say you have noble ends, that’s one thing. To say the ends justify the means, well… … …

      That’s royally fucked up.

      • Morality and religion are cultural artifacts, and are pretty much flat. Any hierarchy imposed on these is a matter of arbitrary preference e.g. for you, Religion is srs bsns while anime isn’t. That’s for you and is valid for you.

        However it doesn’t invalidate a juxtaposition between the cultural/mytho|mythical artifacts Jesus and Lelouch automatically. This is as serious or whimsical as you want it to be, or as anyone wants it to be.

        The historical Jesus’ life is positively represented by his advocates. They wouldn’t be much in the way of advocates if they didn’t sell him as the best thing since God the Father. The wonderful thing is that a whole lot of them died horrible deaths to promote this historical Jesus.

        As to your point about ends justifying the means, God does it. Choosing to die in order to save is poor decision making, but since Jesus did it it’s okay? How about making bets with the devil and basically killing and destroying everything Job cared about just TO MAKE A POINT?

        “My ways are not your ways, etc etc etc”

        I don’t think the ends justify the means as a statement that is always true. But I don’t think God and religion are necessarily against the notion. This is consistent with other religions too IIRC.

    • KrimzonStriker says:

      Now you’re missing my point entirely in that none of those ends justify those means of the examples you just gave, Vietnam was a false pretense as was Iraq and they didn’t advance any of their apparent causes. As to the actual worth of the causes and ends, would you have rather we not fought off the expansion of communism in the Cold War and possibly been subjugated under it? Or that we should have ignored the loss of 3,000 people in the worst terrorist attack in history on 9/11? How is that suddenly acceptable or morally right in that context? If we’re going into what kind of ends justify the means then lets look at say, the Civil War. Grant and Sherman implemented the concept of “total war” and devastated the South and its population and partly because of that ended up making the civil war the most costly in terms of American casualties. But in the end though they proved victorious, preserved the Union, and effectively ended slavery on the North American continent. At the same time, in terms of the individual whose instigating all these actions and movements based on personal ambition, the general populace must also be accounted for, and what overall effect would have transpired. Even if Lelouch wasn’t personally committed to any of the Japanese resistances causes, it doesn’t mean he didn’t care in his own way, given how disgusted he was at the abuse of the current Numbers system, how the weak were constantly abused by the strong, which was I admit brought about by his personal experiences, but still you can’t also disregard his philosophical beliefs either which he did implement and embody in his policies.It isn’t also like the Japanese weren’t getting exactly what they asked for, they chose to follow him in the end and as Lelouch pointed out to Kallen whatever his lies were he did intend to deliver on on their bargain. Not to mention his own turn around towards the end of the series. Disavowing his success in light of his personal flaws and ambitions is like disavowing the Napoleonic Code even though Napoleon crowned himself Emperor. Or disavowing Reinhard’s reformation and unification of mankind even though he ended up destroying democracy in the process.

      Its not as if CG wasn’t already using ideas and concepts that were already there. Lelouch’s ‘flaws’ were realistic, and believable, in my view, they made me believe that what he could do what he promised because he was ready to implement and do what needed to be done in order to succeed, verses the empty promises of say Suzaku who always held himself back in order to remain ‘right’ even when it wasn’t helping anyone in the end. By that measure, is a Machiavellian figure like Lelouch or the self-proclaimed righteous saint Like Suzaku a greater traitor in the end. Its like comparing Otto von Bismark’s unification of Germany to one of those Christian leaders whose trying to combat AIDS but preaches against using protection despite its effectiveness.

  16. itsubun says:

    @KrimzonStriker: Woah, thank you for taking the time to respond to me! I really appreciate it when another person makes the effort to engage me in active discussions like this one.

    First of all, the threat of being overtaken by communism is an alarmist perspective pushed by the conservatives in order to justify the domino effect theory. Communism in Vietnam was never a real threat to us, economically or politically, and this was proven by the outcome of the Vietnam War in which we used their country as a playing field and ultimately devastated the land, destroyed the economy, and lost countless lives to the war effort only to ultimately lose Vietnam to the North anyway. I don’t remember any commies trying to take over America afterward. Life just went on for us, whereas their people had to face the reconstruction of their entire country since we bailed out without bothering to stay and help them. As for 9/11, of course I don’t think that the casualties of 3,000 lives should just be ignored. But the attacks on 9/11 were orchestrated by the Al-Qaeda, which is a terrorist group that had nothing to do with Iraq, and yet we decided to wage war against them anyway. That would be like if the US were to suddenly bomb North Korea and then they decide to retaliate by invading and raping Canada… where’s the logic in that? So in both cases – at least in my opinion – the ends do not justify the means.

    It’s important to understand that the Civil War was not fought to free the slaves. It was a war between 2 economic systems, a war for power and control of the US by 2 separate factions of the ruling class: rich white Southern slave owners, and rich, white Northern industrialists. The battle was between a plantation slave economy and an industrial manufacturing economy. Lincoln attacked slavery because slaves were the fuel for the Southern plantation economy, which he aimed to destroy because he wanted all the states in the union to be united under the same economy (industrial). After the Civil War was won by the North, the slaves never got the 40 acres and a mule that they were promised by Lincoln. The freed slaves also faced discrimination in the North, as they did in the South. In fact, Jim Crow laws kept them oppressed and segregated for at least another century until the Civil Rights movement made any real progress toward equality. So I wouldn’t idealize the Civil War as being the great event that brought an end to the horrific institution of slavery, so much as it was just tactically convenient to “free” the slaves. Black people went on being oppressed for much longer than that. Hell, institutional racism still exists today in the practices that keep black people down and prevent them from having any kind of social mobility. So I don’t know if the ends justify the means here either.

    I’m sorry if I misread what you meant in your last comment. The point that I was trying to make is that in reality, the means often do not justify the ends when you look at the long-term consequences of certain decisions and actions that were taken during times of crises. I understand that this is not the case for Code Geass, which admittedly does give us closure at the end of the series with the death of Zero and the unification of the people. I completely agree with you on the point that those who take action should be account for above those who stubbornly hold onto their morals and are too scared to do anything to help the situation. However, I question whether or not Lelouch’s decisions and actions could be validated by the conclusion of the series. My criticism of Lelouch would probably require an entire entry on its own, but basically what I’m trying to say is that because the whole show revolves around the antics of a charismatic individual, it presents to us a world in which all of the political and social issues are flattened and dumb down to fit into the mechanics of a shallow battle between evil and a lesser evil. The Lulu Parade takes the social and political responsibility off of everyone else and at the end of the day it’s just a show about aristocrats playing their dirty games while the fates of the people lie in their hands. The people are presented as merely pawns in the mind games of the elites and it is the elites who ultimately have the agency to save or condemn the world based on their whims. Isn’t there something wrong with glorifying this kind of set up? Is it okay for us to sit back while morally-questionable leaders air their dirty laundry out in public and engage in their petty drama at the cost of our own political agency as citizens/subjects of a nation or empire?

    Machiavelli sounds like a narcissist who lived in his own bubble of court intrigue and political warfare that is very much detached from reality, just like Lelouch, but does his “calculated coldness” or “detachment” really make him a good leader? These are qualities that a lot of people seem to be glorifying, which I find very problematic. I’m more of a grassroots thinker. I believe that change happens from the bottom, and it is up to the masses (the people) to affect change because only they can decide for themselves what it is that they truly want or need. And I don’t believe that real people are truly happy with a monarch representative who makes all of the decisions for them from his place at the top.

    P.S. – Good call on the reference to religious leaders trying to combat the spread of AIDS and yet denouncing the use of contraceptives. I was horrified when the pope made that comment about how condoms are not the solution to AIDS, but just make it worse. Think about all of the people in Africa who are under his influence! What would happen if they actually listened to his advice DDDDDDD:

    • itsubun says:

      I want to thank you again for your thoughtful contribution this discussion. It has given me a great idea for a new entry that I would like to write about my criticisms of Lelouch. With your permission, may I please use some of the contents of our discussion in my entry?

      • KrimzonStriker says:

        If my response is to give a fair representation of my viewpoint and intention then go ahead. Just saying since I am on the side that does support Lelouch after all.

    • KrimzonStriker says:

      Once again, I’m not arguing for the War in Vietnam or Iraq, I’m talking about the general context and ends they were fought under, which I did think was worthwhile. In terms of the fight against Communism I was referring to the bigger context of the Cold War in general, and I find it rather difficult to see that we’d have been able to help them after the war was over seeing as how the North Vietnamese basically took over afterwards, it would take several years before we managed to reconcile with Vietnam, which I think is somewhat understandable, that and the Vietnamese people would have probably distrusted any aid given right after anyway. And once again I agree with you on what happened in Iraq, that illogical response is more then anything the antithesis of what I mean because that distracted and harmed the pursuit of the ends or the desired results.

      If you’re pushing that the reasons or stated reasons behind the Civil War weren’t for altruistic reasons then you haven’t been reading my responses carefully enough, actions or overall reasons do not cancel or disavow the overall result. Whatever drawbacks the Civil War and Post-reconstruction might have had its still undeniable that the event did dismantle slavery in the end, and by that measure made a huge step forward as whatever subsequent civil rights movements was afforded the chance to make progress and allowed us to at least combat the issue, then and now. Also, Sherman enacted the whole 40 acres and a mule thing as a military tactic to relieve needing to support the local and now freed slave population. We never got to see how Lincoln would have dealt with Reconstruction since he was assassinated, and the more pro-south Johnson replaced him. I don’t idealize the Civil War just for the sake of idolizing it istubun, what I’m most concerned about first and foremost is tangible results, which it did make in the end.

      What we’re diverging on his whether one can say the ends were worthwhile to begin with and if they were achieved, if that is not the case then of course the argument loses any justification too it. If and when it does however, it should be acknowledged and not simply discounted because it was personally unsavory, proof being in the pudding once again. If you’re attacking the stand-point of power of a few over the many, then I’ll simply counter that such a system in and of itself is not the problem but on how people handle or mishandle it. Whether it be democracy or autocracy any system of government is about setting about order and stability on the basis of coordinating power and decision making, because quite frankly its untenable to communicate and build the type of consensus in making those decisions among so many people otherwise. What separates a good government from a bad one is what kind of result its working towards and how well are they accomplishing it. On the flip side is what I think a misguided idolization of the people or general populace you’re making there. For the most part, governments come into power or stay in power because of the support of the people, who are indeed fallible and often push/support poor ideas or decisions as well. Take the citizens of Japan and their continued support of whaling. Popular support and the general wishes of the people should be accounted for of course though. Ideally, obtainably, and effectively in my mind is to have a leader that does work on the basis of popular support and towards the general benefit of his/her society as a whole.

      Whatever qualms about the personal characteristics of Machiavelli, the fact that he is still regarded in such infamy speaks to at least a certain degree of effectiveness and understanding on his part, especially in spite of the controversy surrounding him. It takes a strong-willed kind of character to survive in that kind of environment at the very least. Really though, what makes characters like Lelouch attractive as leaders is that they can put their money where their mouth is. I won’t say you’re necessarily wrong, societies are built around people first and foremost and any leader or commander is ultimately nothing without people. And discontentment amongst the masses is indeed the basis for any revolution, but as far as I’m aware of all major movements have also required refinement in order to take form, which comes from individuals in the end, going back to the mess of the French Revolution and the subsequent rise of Napoleon as an example once again. Napoleon certainly didn’t start it, nor was he responsible for all the reasons why it occurred but he brought it into focus after the initial chaos and power struggles. Napoleon himself makes a good summary of my point actually “I closed the gulf of anarchy and brought order out of chaos. I rewarded merit regardless of birth or wealth, wherever I found it. I abolished feudalism and restored equality to all regardless of religion and before the law. I fought the decrepit monarchies of the Old Regime because the alternative was the destruction of all this. I purified the Revolution.” Well, doesn’t that depend if they make decisions that the people already agree with and benefit from? One of the more pronounced questions of LoGH was that if democracy reflected the will of the people, what happens when the people want or welcome autocracy, in regards to the rise and popularity and beneficial reforms of Kaiser Reinhard von Lohengramm in comparison to the frustration at the corruption and ineptitude of the democratically elected government of the Free Planet Alliance.

      Well I try in any event, I do hope the damage is somehow mitigated regarding AIDS in Africa and am glad other people do at least see reason in that regard.

      • itsubun says:

        @KrimzonStriker: I am more and more impressed as our discussion progresses. I must confess something at this moment: I often don’t run into too many people in the anime fandom with much common sense or critical capabilities, therefore I am greatly shocked whenever I do encounter someone who has these qualities and manages to maintain a very compelling and thought-provoking argument. I admit that it’s a flaw of mine to be so paranoid about strangers on the internet turning out to be Neo-Nazis or Fox News fanatics, so I’m usually skeptically on the defensive when I interact with new people for the first time. I didn’t mean to sound like I was lecturing you about things that you already knew. I’m sorry if I gave you this impression. And I want to sincerely thank you for taking the time and effort to flesh our your argument so that I can properly understand your points.

        You are right about the Civil War ultimately achieving more good than bad results. Yes, the Civil War did end slavery and paved the way for the Civil Rights Movement to take root much later on in the next century. And yes, I should not denounce the entire event in letting my own personal misgivings about the morals in operation take center stage when I judge the ends and means.

        Unfortunately, I have not seen or read any of LoGH. But what was the proposed answer to the question that you raised? Did the people end up accepting an autocracy? And if so, was it for the better? I have a hard time reconciling this logic with my own experiences of living through the rampant religious fervor and capitalism-driven corruption of the recent Bush administration. It’s hard for me to imagine an autocracy that is not somehow corrupted or oppressive to its people. But you are right, I should not be idealistic in crediting the people with the best of judgment either. I watched “The Cove,” which was a documentary about the mass-killing of dolphins in Japan and it made me grapple with the question of just how far should we go to respect the cultural sensitivities of a different people before we are able to condemn them for certain acts that are morally wrong (but wrong by whose standards?).

        P.S. Do you have a blog? I’d be interested in reading more writings from you because I think that you’re a good writer and you can hold a very persuasive argument.

        • KrimzonStriker says:

          Well thank you for that in any event. I spent quite a bit of time refining my online debating skills on the animesuki forums. That and I got WAY too into philosophy during school and college. Certain morally conflicting animes ala Gundam, LoGH, and more recently Code Geass just helped bring all these elements together. Nah, I get what you’re saying, I’ve had some rather heated back and forth exchanges on youtube and the huffington post at times.

          Really now? If you’re this interested then that would have been the first anime I’d have recommended you go see. People generally accepted the autocracy of Kaiser Reinhard, the original citizens of that autocracy known as the Galactic Empire gladly lauded and loved him for his reformation of their formerly oppressive society. Forgive me if I spoil, I didn’t know you hadn’t seen it, but I’ll just go right ahead and say he managed to win over a large degree of the democratic elements and his rule was generally accepted, though they won autonomy and set into motion a combination of autocracy and democracy through the suggestion of adopting a constitution alongside the established power of the Kaiser after Reinhard’s passing. That put a check on the worry about his successors not being a beneficent and as good a ruler. Not to say Reinhard isn’t without his moral controversies, which is why I bring him up. Reinhard is generally compared to Alexander the Great, but I’d put him closer to Napoleon as he focused more on establishing a meritocracy, abolishing the old aristocracy, and affording equal rights and opportunity to his citizens, a government for the people if not by the people as the show once said. Well, just a reminder that all that rampant religious fervor, corporate corruption and the Bush administration all happened under a democracy technically. And democracy itself is a rather new in comparison to things like monarchies and rule by one person, there should be quite a few examples of actually good governments/rulers among them and one can’t really deny the general efficiency of that system with less checks on power and decision making. That’s one of many examples, another problem is uniting peoples viewpoints given how many various constituencies and special interests are out there, its hard to please some without offending others and harder to turn them down even if the effects could be hazardous because you stake your career on their support.

          I did post a on my college blog one time, but I generally prefer to observe and make critiques, though I am thinking about archiving some of my thoughts for future uses.

          • itsubun says:

            I see the 2006 presidential campaign as being an example of democracy being duped by the powers that be, or the failure to adhere to the proper protocols of democracy. Technically, Al Gore should have been president if only the Supreme Court had agreed to a recount of the votes in Florida, where there were reported corruption and fraud in the voting process. Not to mention votes for Ralph Nader were basically wasted votes being leech away from the democratic party.

            Technically speaking, Bush was NOT our rightful president chosen by the people (Al Gore won the popular vote) and he went on to prove that again and again throughout his years in office. In Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 9/11, Bush was shown as being the only president in history to have been greeted by mass protest on his inauguration day. Although I should also acknowledge that Bush isn’t the only one on the chopping block since his whole administration was run by leaders of big business, whose interest became transparent in the following economic policies that were implement through his administration (de-regulation, privatization, tax cuts, all for the benefit of big business). In my eyes, the Bush administration is a plutocracy, a system that I believe to be inherently corrupt and flawed.

            I agree with your criticisms of democracy, it is a type of government that can prove to be ineffective and much too slow in its responses to the immediate needs of its people. But I would still prefer a democracy, no matter how inefficient or vulnerable a system it might be, over an autocracy because I don’t place much faith in the individual/elites who are given free reign over the people. I think it’s much too easy for a corrupt government to abuse its powers without the right checks and balances.

            But you know what is a very bizarre monster? A corrupt communist government: Vietnam, wherein the majority of the population are living in poverty while all of the riches are going into the pockets of government officials using the doctrines of communism to fabrication the illusion of equality. Now that’s a mess.

          • KrimzonStriker says:

            Well yeah, I just used that as the main point, any government or system can sound and look good on paper but is often subject to abuse, democracies and autocracies alike etc. etc. But I don’t want to bog us too much into real world politics on an anime blog.

            I’m not trying to outright attack democracy and feign being a supporter of autocracy, there are simply drawbacks to both alongside all their merits. Generally I prefer living in a democracy as well, but if there was ever a time I actually could believe in a person who could rule fairly and well, I wouldn’t be adverse to letting him do so. And both democracy and autocracy should always have the best interests and involvement of the people if they are expected to function as they are proposed. I rather like the combination of the two honestly, a strong executive body with constitutional limits based on a full implementation of meritocracy as well. Overall, I still think it comes down to whether or not a society/government is serving the best interest of the people, firs and foremost and why I generally prefer ends rather then means.

            That said, you have to give some credit to effective communist governments, as bad a mess as Vietnam, or even worse North Korea is, China has proved rather resilient nowadays. Russia too after the post-Cold War turmoil.

          • drmchsr0 says:

            Russia, as pointed out in Jane’s, is too unreliable a partner when it comes to issues of global scope, like nuclear arms and resources. That, and communism officially died out after Mikhail Gorbachev abolished the Communist Party in Russia. Putin’s basically the Russian Lee Kuan Yew with more power. So Russia isn’t a communist country anymore.

            And of course, communism without it’s economic system is little more than a rather oppresive autocracy. China ditched the communist economic system for a more capitalistic system.

            And of course, with that said, any form of government is only as good as the people in power, and since I subscribe to the notion that every human is royally fucked from day -270 till death (from conception to death), there’s no such thing as a perfect system. It doesn’t mean we cant try though, but to not be too depressed when systems fail.

            And since this is way too overdue, welcome back, itsubun :3

          • itsubun says:

            Thank you, drmchsr0. It’s good to be back! I’ve missed the discussions.

          • KrimzonStriker says:

            Well, I was leaning more towards the authoritarian aspect of those countries rather then their economic ones. That and Putin likes to nationalize stuff, not saying he was wrong to do so (stupid oligarchs), just that he does…

            That being said you’re seeing my point about that system being more effective to meet the countries needs and still retaining popular support because of it.

            But yes, it goes back to the fact that all humans are fallible, citizens and leaders alike. No systems ever really going to be perfect, what it really depends on in order for it to survive is whether it works first and foremost.

          • I second the recommendation to watch Legend of the Galactic Heroes. I third, fourth, and fifth it.

          • If you don’t want to commit to maintaining your own site just yet, you may post as a guest here in WRL. I’d be happy to play host to you, as I’ve done for a few others ^_^

          • itsubun says:

            @ghostlightning: Legend of the Galactic Heroes is officially going on my list of things to watch. Thank you for the kind offer to host me on your blog! As of right now, I’m committed to revitalizing my own blog, but I might just take you up on your offer some time in the future. Another idea would be to collaborate by choosing a common topic or theme and then the both of us (and whoever else wants to join) can blog on said topic and then link to each other :D Lemme know if you have get any ideas!

          • Oops, I invited Krimzon since he didn’t have a blog yet, but collaboration with you would be awesome. I have an idea that may be right up your alley, but I’ll send it via email. Look out for it!

          • itsubun says:

            Oops! My bad ^_^ Please do email me your idea. I’m sure it’ll be an inspirational one!

            Also, Krimzon, you should think about blogging! Put that sharp rhetoric to use!

          • KrimzonStriker says:

            Oh, you’re inviting me? Let me check me e-mail and see if I can make some time and to think about it. to be honest I’ve never really done anything like this so it could be a bit of an awkward transition, but I am interested actually.

  17. Nanaly says:

    I’m one of those people who supports Lelouch, although my reason lies with the fact that morals are illusions created by men to contain society. His amorality was something I became fascinated with throughout the show even the 2nd season’s plot did put me off it all just a little bit. I used to find Suzaku annoying, as well some of the characters like Euphemia and Nunnally, but I think that was just because they were threats to Lelouch’s success and since I prefered the subbed versions and I didn’t watched it carefully enough, I ended up only seeing just Lelouch rather the other characters, too. I wouldn’t go as far as calling Suzaku a moralfag, though. I do think that just sounds silly.

    Even though I found his death heartbreaking (to be honest, Code Geass was the only anime that ever effected me so much and I still cannot understand how it does it), I think it was a justifying end.

    I daresay that I have more of an appreciation for amorality rather than evil, unless of course, if one considers amorality evil, which I do not. My appreciation started when I read ‘The Outsider’ by Albert Camus. I found the concept fascinating and Lelouch really enforced it well.

    Even though the 2nd season disappointed me a little and I find the sense of fashion is this show absolutely ridiculous, I still say it’s one of the best animes ever created.

    • While I am partial to the idea of morality is flat, it’s a very difficult thing to operationalize in my life. I am more moral than I am amoral, though I don’t think of amorality as immoral.

      I too, enjoyed The Stranger (as the name on my copy states), I still think that there is an ethical realm worth considering, though I am very much sympathetic with Meursault. I think Camus’ The Plague better portrays the moral and ethical realm in his thinking and philosophy.

  18. Pingback: Girl Friends + Vicarious Escapism + An Otaku Au Naturel: SO RONERY « Fuzakenna!

  19. fadi says:

    Hi, may i ask about the 4th pic (where Lelouch wears white clothes with a pink bird on his hand); does this pic refer to any anime? I mean is it a crossover of Code geass & another anime? and if so; what’s the name of that anime? ^^

  20. Pingback: A Criticism of (My Own) Critical Approaches | We Remember Love

  21. Pingback: The Best Anime Experiences Shared with the Best Person to Share Them With | We Remember Love

  22. Yossarian says:

    Ok, I’m kind of late to the party, but I figured I might as well pitch in for posterity’s sake. I take this argument from a fundamentally different track than most people here, however. In my mind, the Empire is a rotten institution, it is a corrupt and evil edifice that is systemically broken and has to be destroyed. Therefore, I always saw Lelouch/Zero’s role fundamentally as a cleansing force–the person who was to tear down an irredeemable evil so that society can move past it and aspire to something better. To rise up like the phoenix from the flames.

    I also saw Lelouch as part of a much greater tradition, so thus he became more sympathetic. Lelouch is Paul Atreides, Judah Ben-Hur, and Alan Moore’s V all rolled up into one hot mess. Well, Lelouch and Zero–each of his aspects embody different narratives. Lelouch is fundamentally the spurned prince a la Ben-Hur and Paul, motivated by revenge and hate, but importantly also by real, though perhaps selfish, desire to see what is best for his Sister (cf Ben-Hur’s mother and sister, Lady Jessica. What’s with the mother/sister infatuation? There has to be some silly psychoanalytic reading for this archetype). I think people here have really ignored the divided nature of Lelouch’s motivations, focusing only on his desire for revenge and ignoring his equally real and important desire to protect his family, which would ultimately become his redemption, whatever little of that he earned.

    Zero, on the other hand, is a much different beast. Zero is V (or Zorro, if you will), Zero is Maud’dib (and through Maud’dib, he has shades of Jesus, but I agree with an earlier commentator who pointed out who the comparison isn’t really apt): the insurgent messiah who comes to reign down fire and destroy the old order to bring in the future and give voice to the oppressed. Does it matter if Zero is real or not? Zero gave people something to believe in, made them aspire to something better. He gave them hope that the Empire could be cast off, that a new world was possible. Not only that, more importantly he gave them a way to make that new world possible. But as the destroyer, he has to destroy himself in order for his actions to mean anything, just as Paul learns in Children of Dune. Not only that, he had to realize and accept his own evil before his sacrifice would be meaningful.

    But I’m not completely convinced on this issue. Perhaps like Moore’s V, Lelouch is really nothing more than a revenge blind madman, with no real concern to the number of people he destroys in pursuit of his revenge. Or perhaps even there was some hope for the Empire–this is what the liberal humanist in me thinks, as opposed to the revolutionary. That it was Lelouch’s own hubris that destroyed any chance for peaceful change, in possibly what is one of the greatest moment in any Anime, the perfect definition of Poetic justice and classic tragedy.

    Do the ends justify the mean? I say not–means change ends. Was the ends that Lelouch achieved the “best”–I honestly can’t tell, but I can say it’s one I’m decently comfortable with.

    • I can only commend you for the great work you put in this character study you made. I’ve never closed comments here on WRL, so yours is most welcome. You’ll always have a responder in me.

      The uncertainty in pegging Lelouch/Zero as you portray him in your penultimate paragraph is part of what makes him fascinating, no doubt. You ended with your own preference of feeling, which is a great way to wrap things up. I don’t think I’m truly comfortable with it — hence this post… but more like, I’m actually quite happy with how it all ended but I am quite disturbed at my own pleasure about all this.

      • J. Marshak says:

        I think the biggest difference in our readings is probably my belief that the systemic evil of the Empire is on a magnitude that a single man could never match. I also have a very strong Revolutionary streak, which I think makes me more accepting of drastic action when its called for. I have a sympathy for revolutionary action that makes me support it perhaps more than I should, considering how it often turns out.

        • Let me put it this way:

          In a pinch, I’ll cast my lot with Zero. When the parades are out and the hero songs are sung however, I can’t join the festivities because it will never feel right with me. We went too far and did too much, even if the final balance on the ledger puts the welfare of the world in the black.

    • J. Marshak says:

      Also, I’,m afraid remembered my Herbert wrong. Paul embraces the desert in Dune Messiah, not Children.

  23. Pingback: J. Marshak on the Means and Ends of Zero (Code Geass) | The Ghosts of Discussions

  24. Pingback: Tiger and Bunny is an Anime for Old Men that Kids Should Definitely Watch | We Remember Love

  25. You forgot a major point of Lulu's character... says:

    Totally late on this one, but it’s an interesting discussion. I loved both Code Geass and Death Note, but I loathed Light Yagami and supported Lelouch so much that I was really sad when I saw his death flags raise one by one as the series progressed past episode 3. So much so, that I was in actual denial and argued with friends, hoping that he would not have to die at the end of the show. Ultimately, there are huge differences between Light and Lelouch imo.

    The problem with Light was that even though his desire was commendable and even shared amongst a lot of people (even me in a way), the thing is that humans aren’t so honest. There is always someone out there who gets falsely accused and those who can not afford good lawyers. Those who are innocent, but get screwed by officials who have ulterior motives. I feel that in Light’s attempt to clean society of its imperfections those people would become victims as well. The thing is that I think that his line of thought kind of falls in line with Japanese thinking when it comes to criminals. You are guilty and if you got accused in the first place then you are good as guilty. Even though I was upset with him killing the FBI agents and L (I don’t think that these can be considered spoilers anymore) I could understand, they were in his way and he had to do what he had to do. That being said, I think it was that black and white attitude that he had of the world is what bothered me the most. Also, he saw his family as no more than mere pawns. He cared for no one more than himself. He could not even be bothered for those who worked for him. It was terrible. He had turned into a deranged serial killer. Be the 3rd volume of the book I was having a hard time even empathizing anymore.

    Lelouch, was a completely different story. While I do agree that he killed way more people than Light ever did, it not as if Lelouch was only thinking about himself. He had a little sister that he loved and a mother than he wanted to avenge. He had friends that he wanted to protect and was, absolutely, floored when he realized that he had hurt the father of someone he held dear to his heart. As human beings who have friends and family, I felt that we could all empathize with the feeling of wanting to protect those who are dear to us and using whatever means to do so. If you saw a man coming at your child, wife, and/or mother with a knife, would you not try to protect them as well? Even if it meant killing the attacker? Even though he exploited what happened to Euphie to his own advantage, it’s not as if he didn’t regret it for the rest of his short life. Upon his shoulders he burdened a HUGE sacrifice for the people that he loved most, all so that they could live in peace. A peaceful world that he promised his little sister.

    I believe that seeing it as “people supporting a murderer” is no different from Light’s problem in seeing the world as ‘black or white.’ Nothing is that simple and there are bunch of grays in between. While it would have been best if lives didn’t have to sacrificed for it to happen, but so is the nature of what was going on. There was a revolution going on and, unfortunately, people will die. Even while saying this I have not forgotten about how upset I was when I learned of how much Clovis loved his little brother only to be shot point blank by him. Yet, I understood. When you have a goal, you do what you must to achieve that. I would not expect any less.

    • You forgot a major point of Lulu's character... says:

      Actually, now that I think about it, this was his major flaw & strength.

    • Your presentation is reducible to “the ends justify the means” which is far more simple than the complexity you suggest.

      Lelouche’s motivation has some doublespeak:

      He said he wanted to “create a world” where things like what happened to Nunally won’t exist, but as you said, he also just wanted revenge for her and Marianne. These aren’t the motivations of a public hero. One can sympathize with him, but to support him as a fugitive from justice is a reasonable source of guilt which is my thesis in this post (to a simplified degree).

      Thank you for re-opening the discussion. I truly appreciate it.

  26. Pingback: Forever Young | We Remember Love

  27. I realize I’m coming late to the party, seeing as this article is about two years old now, but I’ve just recently discovered your site.

    It’s funny, I really didn’t like “Code Geass.” But it’s not the type of show that I didn’t like, put aside, and then forget about. It’s a show that stayed in my thoughts more than I’d like to admit, often because it made me so angry. My dislike had nothing to do with the main characters or the idea behind the show; I found those fascinating. But I just found the telling of the story and much of the plotting to be unbearable and a gigantic let-down, more so because I wanted it to live up to the premise. I’m not usually the type who gets very heated or intense about a show I dislike. Even if I’m annoyed or angry with something I watch, I get it out of me quickly and then move on with my life. Code Geass, however? That show pissed me off. As in, on-the-verge-of-throwing-the-remote-at-the-TV pissed off.

    And yet… I still like to read about it. And talk about it. And this type of article, that avoids the judgements or examinations of the show’s quality and instead talks about the ideas and the characters and how we engage with them, is the type that’s worth discussing. The “this show RAWKS” vs “this show SUX” arguments are usually pointless: one person says it’s good, on person disagrees; words get heated, caps-lock keys are pounded, and by the end no one has changed anyone’s mind and there’s been no actual discussion, just shouting in the general direction of another person. There’s no accounting for taste, your own or anyone else’s. As you say, “subjectivity, taste, and all that.” Much more worthwhile to discuss what the show’s about, I’d say.

    And on that note, I apologize for making one of my first comments on your blog such a rambling doozy:

    About this passage from your article:

    What about the people who ‘don’t get’ these characters, and yet wildly support them? I imagine these people have a very limited view of these. Limited perhaps by self-delusions including but not limited to personal hopes pinned on the inherent goodness of humans. In political rallies, these are the people who are quick to call critics of their candidate libelous liars, and slanderers. They shout these things with tears in their eyes… righteous rage, and pity for their besieged hero.

    While I think that sometimes this is the case, especially when it comes to fictional characters, there can be another side to it as well. Especially when it comes to shows with political elements like “Code Geass,” for some their refusal to acknowledge the “anti” in the anti-hero has less to do with the hope being placed in the inherent goodness of people, as it is in the faith in the inherent goodness of their own beliefs. For those types of people, the whitewashing comes from the fact that their like and support of the character begins and ends with the character’s cause, and the accompanying antipathy for the people who stand against that character comes from those characters being on the wrong side. There’s a very simplistic but attractive mindset that a lot of people fall into, where the cause a person advocates is the best way to judge their worth and morality. The cause is just, ergo the people who fight for it are good people; and on the flip side, if a cause in unjust, then the people who believe in it are unjust, and therefore are evil people. Personal behavior is subsumed by the grand narrative of Good vs Evil. If you’re on the right side, you cannot do bad because you are fighting for the right. If you’re on the wrong side, then you can never be good because your cause is evil.

    Of course, the world is a bit more complicated than that. A person’s political beliefs are often completely unrelated to how moral a person they are, and being on the right side of history does not make every action you take excusable. And yet when it comes to judging the actions of public figures and characters alike, some people often forget that. The indignation you see over attacks made on people advocating for their beliefs, and therefore represent their beliefs in the public space, starts with their beliefs and works its way down to the person.

    Lelouch is bound to attract this type of following, because his opponent, in the form of the Empire and his father both, is so obviously evil and wrong. It’s easy to see why a racist, war-like, and incredibly oppressive regime like the Britannian Empire should be opposed. Even if you sympathize with the reformist mindset of Suzaku and Euphemia that hopes that the existing infrastructure can be reformed and used to make everyone equal, it’s not hard to see them as being dangerously naive. The show is made for an audience living in modern day democracies; words like “empire,” “colonization,” and “racial superiority” are pretty much automatically going to raise the hackles of the people watching it so much that we automatically feel the Empire to be an entity so rotten and wrongheaded that it is irredeemable. Most people know automatically that empires aren’t in the business of extending the benefits enjoyed by those living in the homeland to the lands they conquer, but to extract resources and gain influence; anything else that comes with it is a side-effect. It’s why Kippling’s “White Man’s Burden” or Rhode’s belief in a Colonialism that would lead to all the lands held by the British Crown being elevated to equal stature with the homeland seem so naive today; we all know that equality for the conquered and colonized was never on the agenda. In fact, it was counter to the Empire’s purpose colonizing those places to begin with. If greater rights and privileges ever do manage to be gained, they are gained only through long, arduous, and often painful steps that are nowhere near as emotionally satisfying to root for as taking up arms for the romantic fight against the grand evil. And so from a political standpoint, Lelouch is automatically ahead. And for some people, the matter is closed right then and there. The Empire is evil, the sooner it comes down the better, and anyone who stands in the way of that is on the side of injustice. And who wants to support the injust?

    But there’s another level to morality, the personal one. Does someone behave honorably and kindly to the people around them? Do they lie, cheat, and steal? Do they show empathy for others? Do they honor the trust given to them by the people around them, or do they abuse it? When looked at as a human being, it becomes much harder to argue that Lelouch is a better person than Suzaku or Euphemia. Hell, he’s not even a better person than Cornelia or Jeremiah.

    Lelouch is, to put it bluntly, a cold-hearted bastard. And it goes beyond just his tactics, which include terrorism that leads to civilian death, betrayal of allies, murder, and casual manipulation of all the people who care about him and follow him. It’s also obvious that Lelouch enjoys being a bastard. Recall that devilish grin on his face when he first uses his Geass power and orders an entire unit of Britannian soldiers to commit mass suicide; that’s the smile of a man who realizes he literally has the power to command people to unquestioningly end their own lives, and absolutely loves the idea. And this isn’t the only scene where he’s like that. He egotistically gloats and laughs maniacally when his betrayals and schemes come together, even as people, even his allies, are suffering, tricked, or dying because of them.

    It’s even apparent in the scene when he kills Clovis. While most people will hardly ever say that murder is a good thing, most of the audience is perfectly willing to enjoy seeing Clovis be killed by the time it happens. Not because we want to justify murder, but because we want to see evil people be punished. Evil people meeting evil ends makes the world seem right; we want to believe that they’ll reap what they sow. Clovis, who had just ordered the massacre of civilians before his death, is obviously a wretched human being (his character only exists to be a wretched human being for Lelouch to dispatch, after all). There really isn’t any punishment other than death that would seem like any type of justice for him. Even those who find murder abhorrent are hardly going to shed a tear for him if someone puts him down, and so we are more accepting of what we know is going to happen to him because his murder is a lesser evil done to avenge his much more numerous and heinous crimes, and stop other atrocities that he was likely to commit throughout his life. But… look at Lelouch’s face when he confronts his brother. The situation becomes much less morally acceptable when you see the protagonist’s expression and realize that Lelouch is enjoying the scenario far too much to simply be concerned with justice being done. He’s obviously taking sadistic pleasure in the thought of terrorizing and killing a man; and not just any man, but his brother.

    And that is another one of the ways that Lelouch is morally compromised on a personal level: it’s all about personal gratification. His cause isn’t really the liberation of the Japanese and the defeat of an unjust empire, it’s getting personal revenge on his family. The liberation movement was just the most convenient way to achieve these goals. He’s a man with no real convictions outside of his own personal wants. He may sometimes justify his actions by tying them to a political struggle, or by saying it’s about making a better world for Nunally, but that often just seems to be the excuses he uses to make himself seem righteous. Even in the case of Nunally, it’s not really about what she wants so much as what he has decided she should want him to give her; he almost certainly never asked her or considered whether or not she would want the things he does committed in her name.

    And so we get back to the question: WHY do we root for Lelouch, who when examined as a person hardly seems worthy of our support. To get back to your statement about those who DO “get” anti-heroes:

    I suggested earlier that some of us who went this far with Lelouch may have an appreciation for evil. Maybe some of us do, but I find this less interesting compared to those of us who tell ourselves that we don’t, and suffer guilt for indulging ourselves in it.

    With a narrative like “Code Geass,” it’s very easy for people who don’t usually fall into the simplistic mindset I talked about above to start to indulge in it. It’s just fiction, after all, and one of the benefits of fiction is that it gives us much cleaner and clearer narratives than the messiness of real life and realpolitik. We may want to see evil punished, but we know that in the real world if we take that responsibility on ourselves we may end up doing evil things. Most of us want to be good people, and many of those who are willing to accept that sometimes you must morally compromise yourself if you want to achieve justice don’t want to personally face the consequences that doing so would bring, whether it be the law, the disappointment of peers and loved ones, or the hurt that our actions may cause to the people who don’t deserve it.

    Anti-heroes give us a vicarious thrill. They are the type of people who have it in them to do the dirty deeds that demand doing, in spite of it all. Yes, they may violate some laws and some ethics, but if their actions punish greater injustices then it’s all for the better. Part of us knows it’s wrong, but part of us thrills at watching it unfold. We the viewer may not support murder or terrorism, but we certainly won’t be sorry for a mad dog like Clovis. Whatever happens to him is surely deserved, he brought it on himself. And the Empire has committed so many crimes, we can hardly be expected to hate someone who actually seems like he could bring it down.

    But a character like Lelouch compromises all that. He’s so driven by his own petty desire for revenge and the closure he thinks it will bring him, it becomes harder to just sit back and vicariously enjoy justice being done through him. Because a lot of his actions aren’t justice, but vengeance. And that’s much less glamourous, especially over fifty or so episodes.

    And so we get back to guilt. Not just our own over still wanting to Lelouch to win (because given his enemy, who doesn’t want the Empire to lose?), but the guilt of the protagonist as well. His hands are very bloody by the end, too bloody for it to simply be written off as necessary evil with a shrug and a wink. And we gain some solace in our guilt from knowing that he suffers from his own. If we don’t want to see him punished for it, we at least want him to attempt to atone. Orchestrating his own death is a concise way to absolve himself, and us, at least a little. It says he at least had the self-awareness by the end to give up seeing the benefits of all his work in an attempt for absolution. That’s why the theory that he has faked his own death seem so wrongheaded and distasteful to me. It would mean that after everything, he’d learned nothing and felt no remorse, and was even to the end doing everything for himself. That much guilt, I can do without.

    • Thank you. You honor me with this involved and lengthy comment.

      Indeed, I believe that it is one of the value propositions of the anime essay/editorial that it can go beyond discussion of the formalist qualities of a work. One can argue that this show did enough in terms of its presentation, storytelling, and assembly of narrative elements to make a discussion like this possible, but I need not take that up.

      You provide here categories of viewers I didn’t consider, and for that I am thankful. Inauthenticity is so pervasive and I am still quite in awe of its many forms.

      But let us discuss the resolution: I was under the impression that faking his own death was him relinquishing his power, and all possibility of remaining with people who may have cared about him intimately. It’s like being in a witness protection program — one gives up an identity, which may mean more than anything else but one’s life. What do you think?

      • I suppose my problem with the idea of Lelouch faking death being him reliquishing his power is that I don’t think he has it in him to do it. He loves being in control too much, even if he was living in some no-name burg under an assumed name he’d still be manipulating things and trying to control the people around him. He’s seen the mountain top, and he’s not coming back down it. And to me that doesn’t seem like Lelouch actually learning anything and trying to make good, and more like taking the escape hatch because things have gotten a little too hot.

  28. Pingback: Adam Wednesdays on The Rejection of Guilt and Lelouch | The Ghosts of Discussions

  29. Napoleon I says:

    For me, I related to Lelouch on a lot of levels. I see the world today, and I want to change it. It’s not right. Lelouch did just that. In the end, the ends justified the means, and although Lelouch had a lot of blood on his hands, I supported him from episode 1 to episode 50. I thought Suzaku was wrong, as his method would be much less effective, take much longer, and actually, it would cause more indirect deaths than Lelouch’s method did. I idolize Lelouch for what he did. And I believe that he DID die in the end, and I’d want him dead. It gives the show closure, and it’s better than him living forever with CC out in the middle of nowhere. Plus, I think him faking his death would ruin the Zero Requiem a bit.

  30. hcoulel says:

    Well done.I like this post very much and I congratulate you.However,there is something extremely wicked in this anime that 99.99% of viewers missed.I won’t tell you what but learning about the true universe we live in will answer it.

  31. Pingback: Narrative Self-Projection and Hypocrisy: Why Suzaku is a Better Character Than Lelouch | Fantastic Memes

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s