When I think of my favorite characters, the ones who I enjoy watching, identifying with and just find the most interesting, there are few who hold a candle to Lelouch vi Britannia from Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion. Often compared to Light Yagami from Death Note, he is a much more fascinating character. I did a post describing how Lelouch is the more interesting, so I won’t go into that. Instead, we shall discuss what is so fascinating about Lelouch and really dive into one of the most complicated characters in all of fiction.
Lelouch is the son of the Emperor of the totalitarian nation of Britannia. After his mother is killed and his little sister blinded and crippled (which he believes to be psychosomatic, since she was believed to have been there when it happened), he was sent to the nation of Japan as a hostage. He ends up under the care of the leader of the nation, until him and his little sister can escape. After Britannia invades Japan, fearing that they will again be used as pawns, he hides his little sister with a Britannian noble family, the Ashford’s.
With everything that has happened in his life, seeing the corrupt and violent nature of the royal family, the death of his mother and the uncaring nature of anyone who he comes across, Lelouch feels that the world has betrayed him. His little sister is the only person who matters to him, at first. However, there is a burning hatred inside that demands that he get revenge against Britannia and destroy the entire nation. Something that he is very much intending to do.
See, Lelouch is a brilliant young man. He has a strategic mind that is almost unmatched, even among the Britannian royal family. He had a great deal of siblings, and each and every one of them regarded him with respect. Many hated him, given the fact that his mother was not of noble birth. However, they respected his intellect in a profound way. His oldest brother, Schnizel, says that Lelouch was a brother who “I both loved and feared.” He was the only one who was able to stand tall to his intellect in games like chess. His brilliant mind is his most valuable asset, but it is not his only one.
After the initial invasion and conquest of Japan, there is a lot of rebellion against the Britannian military. One day, Lelouch just so happens to get caught up in a battle and finds a young woman by the name of CC (referred to as C2 in the show). She is shot and Lelouch is about to be killed. As he is about to die, she grabs him and makes a contract with him. She will give him the ability to save himself, if he does something for her. The terms are unclear, but he accepts. Thus, he is granted a talent called a “Geass.” For each person, this talent is different. For Lelouch, it allows him to have absolute power over a person he gives a command to. They cannot disobey that command. However, this talent has limits. For one, he has to have direct eye contact. He can also only use it on a person once. With this talent, he is finally able to begin his revolution to bring down Britannia.
Lelouch does this through a masked persona called Zero. He never shows his face to his allies, since he knows that they wouldn’t trust a Britannian. And if they ever found out that he is a Britannian prince, they would likely kill him. Thus, his masked campaign to bring down Britannia begins.
So, how to talk about this character. The biggest thing about Lelouch is that he is torn in a lot of ways. The further he gets down the path of destroying Britannia, the more he realizes that the reasons he starts out – to make a better world for his little sister, are getting lost among the battles and the choices he is having to make.
See, there is a constant battle within Lelouch over how far to go with his revolution. As he goes further and further, he is having to make harsher and harsher choices. But what sets him apart from a character like Light Yagami is that while he does do horrifically awful things and uses people in cold ways, he has an awareness of his actions and it does cause him a lot of inner turmoil. Something that gets harder and harder to deal with as he is having to make more of them over the course of the series. It makes his character growth that much more fascinating, as he is having to choose where his loyalties lie.
Another interesting aspect with Lelouch are his personal relationships. While he bitterly hates his father and the nation of Britannia, there are a lot of mixed feelings about members of it. For instance, one of his half-sisters, Euphemia, was who he considered to be the first girl he genuinely loved. He also had a fair amount of respect for Schnizel and Cornelia, the siblings who were a genuine threat to his intellect, though for very different reasons. Cornelia was the lesser threat, as she was just about vanity and destruction, being big about offense and going all-out. She only becomes a threat to him in actual battle. Schnizel, on the other hand, is a mental threat in the highest. He always seems to predict his moves. Lelouch once mused about the fact that growing up, he could never beat Schnizel at chess. Ever. Had things not worked out the way they had, who knows what their relationship would have been.
The biggest relationship in his life is with his little sister, Nunnally. He believes her condition to be psychosomatic, due to the trauma of seeing their mother killed. Having been her sole caretaker for a long time, he has a deep bond with her that makes the points when he has to use her trust in him that much harder for him. However, this ties in to the fact that he is having to make harsher decisions as he goes along. As the series progresses, you see the relationship become more and more strained. Eventually, he comes to realize that he can’t continue to look after her, with his chosen path antithetical to her vision for a better world.
Another important relationship in his life is CC. She becomes his closest ally, though they were initially distrustful of one-another. Both are using one-another, but it becomes clear that CC has genuine affection for him. She states as much several times later in the series. CC is an immortal who cannot be killed or affected by Lelouch’s Geass. This fact becomes important as his Geass becomes more and more powerful as time goes on, with him eventually being unable to turn it off. Thus, the two are all they have. Eventually, it is revealed that she has real feelings for him, but the reality of their situation has both of them understanding that they can be nothing more than allies.
Then there is the head of his personal guard in the force the Lelouch starts, the Black Knights. Her name is Callin. She is an ace pilot of the Zero Squad and his closest ally. Callin starts out with admiration for what he can do and quickly finds herself falling for him. However, she doesn’t know that Lelouch is Zero, but knows him outside of the Black Knights. When she finds out the truth, it is a powerful moment. She confronts him about it later, remarking that she would have done anything for him, even becoming his slave. Callin is cursed with a very low opinion of herself, with her self-esteem tied to her skill as a pilot and a solder in the Black Knights. Her loyalty to Lelouch becomes unshakable over time. She is also one of the few people who actively knows his true identity within the organization. The relationship between the two is actually pretty complicated, yin-yanging from professional to personal. It is clear that Lelouch has some affection for her and keeps her close for a reason. After his identity is revealed to her, it grows. The two are often very close to kissing, but are continually interrupted. However, since she is aware of how close he is to CC, there is a constant jealousy of that relationship, which puts them at odds.
The last relationship worth talking about his oldest friend, Suzaku. The son of the late Japanese ruler, he was the first person that Lelouch genuinely regarded as a friend. It was a friendship that was destined to be hurtful, to both of them. Without knowing it, the two of them were fighting against one-another. Suzaku is an ace pilot in the Britannian military. He becomes the most dedicated enemy to his friend, once the truth is known. Indeed, after figuring out that Lelouch is Zero, the two have a very powerful hatred for one-another. Yet the connection between them is still there. It makes for some pretty powerful moments as they are having to figure out how the feel about each other over the course of the series. How that ends is actually kind of interesting, considering what led up to it.
An aspect that I always liked about this character that set him apart from others like him was his weak physique. Lelouch is a little too frail for his own good, relying on his brain to be his best weapon. While it is often used comedically, there are quite a few points where it works against him, given what he is trying to do.
There are a lot of interesting revolutionary leaders, but the thing that gives Code Geass the power it has is the nature of the person leading their revolution. Lelouch is a complex young man with a lot of forces pulling at him. He is continually having to work around them and it often works against him, sometimes with disastrous consequences. However, he is still pretty damn cool, which is why we like him so much. This is a prince who definitely has it all.
Until next time, quote,
“Before you dispose of me, there is a question I’d like you to answer for me – if being powerless is so terribly wrong, does having power make you right?” -Lelouch vi Britannia, Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion