The year is 2017. The Britannian occupation of Japan, or Area 11, is still ongoing and unrest is stirring. Zero may be gone, but his ideals remain.
It’s another day, and another war for Europia. Tension is running high in the command headquarters with the E.U. officers desperate to reclaim St. Petersburg from the Holy Britannian Empire. The 132nd Regiment fails in their attempt and a controversial withdrawal strategy is set in motion. Over the last seven years, the E.U. has collected Japanese asylum seekers to enlist and supplement their struggling army. These ‘Elevens’ were placed in a unit reserved for suicide missions, and this unit is sent in to rescue the Regiment, with Akito Hyūga piloting the Knightmare Frame, Alexander.
This spin off is set in between Code Geass and R2. Because of this, Zero is believed to be dead. There is no-one to fight for the Japanese, and many migrate to Europia to escape. But Britannia is close behind, seeking to spread their empire to the European countries having already invaded Russia. Unfortunately for the Japanese, they aren’t treated any better outside of Britannian rule, being put into refugee camps and subjected to prejudice from the native Europeans.
Like the original series, Code Geass: Akito the Exiled deals with heavy topics such as racism, patriotism and colonisation. The prejudice against ‘Elevens’ is shown very early on. The commander justifies his use of Japanese people in low-survival operations by playing on stereotypes, saying that they should feel honoured to be ‘following in their ancestor’s footsteps’; following in the traditions of seppuku and kamikaze fighter pilots. Pairing that with blatant racism towards Akito himself and the internment camps for Japanese citizens in Europe, Code Geass is definitely not subtle.
Akito’s character arc involves him attempting to find a place in the world. Japan is now Area 11, and no longer exists as he knows it. Europia failed to provide a better alternative, rife with the same racial discrimination evident in the Holy Britannian Empire. He has a choice: to fight for the E.U. army and live freely in a land that hates him, or to be sent to a refugee camp to live as a prisoner until he dies. This is an interesting development from the original series, as while we did see Suzaku adjusting to life in the new Area 11, it was more of an aside to Lelouch’s rebellion. This goes into more detail, especially as Akito doesn’t have the connections and social standing that Suzaku had as the son of the prime minister. Here, we can see how colonisation has affected those less fortunate.
While my expectations for Akito the Exiled were tentative at best, I was pleasantly surprised that it was almost as interesting and engaging as the original series. Despite not having any of the same characters, the new cast is likeable enough. The same ideals are evident and it fits well between the two seasons. Because it’s set in Europia rather than Area 11, it’s distant enough to not have an effect on the main plot but still serves as an interesting side story. Comparing the art styles between Code Geass and Akito the Exiled, the majority was consistent with the same distinctive character design. However, more CGI was utilised this time, most noticeably during Knightmare Frame battles. This makes some sense due to the increasing prevalence of CGI in anime, but my personal preference lies in the more traditional animation of the original series. After a short while, the contrast in aesthetics seemed normal as I grew used to it.
It was quite obvious that the first part of Akito the Exiled was intended to be part of a larger series. While it does well to set up the storyline, not a lot happens and not much is explained. Because of this, it isn’t watchable as a stand-alone movie, unlike many films and OVAs. That being said, it did make me want to watch the rest of the series.
So far, this spin off has not completely lived up to the reputation of its origin, but that was expected. However, it does come pretty close. The use of Geass was minimal, which gave the characters time to develop before the supernatural element was re-introduced. There are many similar aspects between Code Geass and Akito the Exiled, such as underground rebel organisations and mecha battles. This makes it feel familiar and roots it firmly in the same story. The fact that it’s set during the time skip between Code Geass and R2 is a good choice, as anything after the ending of R2 could detract from the drama. Because of this, we get to re-visit the Geass universe without interfering with the main plotline, and we get the chance to see how the Holy Britannian Empire has affected other parts of the world.
I will be watching the rest, and hopefully the quality will remain consistent.