Jake: Alright. I’m Jake.
Trevor: No you’re Patrick
Jake: Best start to anything ever, Trevor. Hey, that rhymed.
Anyway, Trevor, I’ve invited you here, to this extra-planetary mindscape to discuss something with me, yes?
…I’m not really sure why I’m asking because that’s what I did.
Trevor: Yes, indeed you did and your wish to break the 4th wall has also happened.
Jake: 4th Wall Smorth Wall.
Anyway, I invited you here to discuss the interplay between the climaxes and conclusions of the anime Code Geass, and the endings of Mass Effect 3.
Trevor: And I’d be willing to say that we’re both experts on both topics.
Jake: Not to toot our own horns, but yes I would be willing to say that, though I believe you are far more knowledgeable than I when it comes to Code Geass. Why don’t you tell the readers what it’s about, to give a brief refresher or summary?
Fair warning: spoilers for both media to follow
*Pulls up PowerPoint from project last semester
**Really did this too
*is subtly impressed
• 3 Major Empires in the world: Britannia, E.U., Chinese Federation
• Son of Britannian Emperor (Lelouch) is exiled to Japan
• Britannia conquers Japan
• 10 years later, Lelouch assumes leadership of the Japanese resistance as Zero
• Zero begins eliminating the Royal Family, AKA his step-siblings
• Zero, now leader of the Black Knights, leads a push on the capital of Japan
• During the battle, he is drawn away from the front lines
• Zero is captured and brought in front of the Emperor
• Lelouch’s memories of his sister, heritage, Zero, and the “Power of the King” are erased
• End of Season 1
The “Power of the King” (Geass) is a supernatural power obtained by making a contract with an immortal, C.C. or V.V. Lelouch has “The Power of Absolute Obedience”, which basically means mind control.
You see, Lelouch is trying to figure out why his mother, Lady Marianne, was killed and who did it.
Jake: And he wants to protect his physically disabled sister, Nunnally, right?
Trevor: Yes, protecting Nunnally, who is blind and forced into a wheelchair for the rest of her life because of their mother’s assassination, is Lelouch’s other motive.
Jake: Lelouch sounds like a pretty nice guy. Is he a nice guy, Trev?
Trevor: Depends, are we talking about Lelouch Lamperouge, Lelouch vi Britannia, or Zero?
Zero, Lelouch’s terrorist persona, is a “Knight for Justice”; defender of the oppressed and nightmare of those with power.
Jake: And he’s pretty ruthless, right? Lelouch is a master of strategy and, as Zero, he uses is cunning to outmaneuver superior foes and force them into unwinnable situations, often sacrificing pawns along the way
Trevor: Excellent input. Lelouch is a chess master. Zero’s first appearance forced the Britannian military to crumple devastatingly. He managed to hijack an enemy Knightmare, fighting robots/exoskeletons, using his newly obtained Geass.
From there he used the IFF/radar to give information to the terrorists and beat the Britannians.
Jake: And on the other side of our coin, we have the saga of Mass Effect, a video game series centered on Commander Shepard
Jake: Right. So Commander Shepard must save the galactic civilization from the Reapers, towering bio-mechanical death ships that return to the Milky Way galaxy every several millennia *fact check* (fact checks are for whimps) to catalogue and cleanse all sentient life in the galaxy, due to a programming error (seriously, that’s what it is). Mass Effect is a game where the player’s choices affect the story. You can play as a benevolent paragon, out to do good all the time, or you can play as a merciless, win-at-all cost Renegade. You either unite the galaxy or marshal specific forces to attempt to end the Reaper threat. At the end of the game, in order to stop the Reaper threat once and for all, you are presented with 3 solutions. You can essentially destroy all the Reapers (and possibly other cybernetic life in the galaxy). The threat will be ended but the person presenting the choices warns you that in time, your descendants may make their own Reapers and the cycle of death and destruction will begin anew because it’s depressingly inevitable. The second option is to seize control of the Reapers, overriding their collective conscious with that of your own. You will lose any semblance of your humanity; however, the compulsions that guided you through your life (benevolence, close-fistedness, ruthlessness) will now govern the Reapers. Importantly, the choice-giver tells you that it’ll stop them from killing everyone. The third option, which you can only access if you’ve done enough throughout the game, is synthesis. The Reapers were created because organics would always build sentient technological life, which would eventually surpass and then destroy their creators. The Reapers were created by godlike squid-ish aliens
who observed this cycle for millennia and built a computer program to find a solution to the problem. Their hubris blinded them, believing themselves above the conflict they had witnessed. They were rudely told otherwise when the Program turned on them, deciding that, since organics could not be saved from themselves, it would have to do so, storing all species DNA in the Reaper ships until a solution to the organic-synthetic problem could be found. As it could never ascertain a solution, the Program began the Cycle, a violent culling of all organic life in the galaxy every millennium. Circling back to the ending, you, as Commander Shepard, who was brought back from death by organic and synthetic means, present the Program with a new variable. The third option, Synthesis becomes available. By essentially casting yourself into the system, the Program recreates all life in the universe as a blend of both synthetic and organic. Because space magic. With the unification of organics and synthetics, you are presented with a galaxy whole and at true peace.
Long-winded as hell, but there it is.
These three solutions are also present in Code Geass, but in reverse order of “correctness,” for lack of a better term. Trevor, do you want to explain the set-up and idea of Emperor Charles’s solution?
Trevor: Let’s see…
Charles wanted to use the power of Geass to defeat the collective unconscious of humanity
To do so, he needed his 5th wife, Marianne, Lelouch, C.C, and V.V.
All of them combined activate a mythical weapon called the Sword of Akasha.
Akasha will return the dead to life, nonzombie-ish. There will be no war and everyone will connect, subconsciously, as one being.
Jake: Because with the unconscious destroyed, only truth will remain, right? Humanity loses its ability to lie, which, Charles says will end all conflict right?
Trevor: Lies and deceit is the whole underlying theme of Code Geass. As seen by the main character Lelouch.
Jake: Right! Lelouch critiques Charles’ solution, correct?
Trevor: Yep! Lelouch believes that people lie to protect the one’s they love. He lies to protect Nunnally and his friends. He also proves that neither Charles nor Marianne cared if Lelouch or Nunnally died because they would return to life. Pretty harsh to tell your parents that they don’t care if you died, right?
Jake: Right. And doesn’t he also claim that total unity will stymie and stagnate the human race or something?
Trevor: “That … I … I reject you, and I reject everything you believe. Why do people lie, it isn’t only because they struggle against each other, it’s also because there is something that they’re seeking. You now want a world without change. How stagnant, you could hardly call it life. The same as a world of memories, just a world that’s closed and completed, that’s a place I wouldn’t want to live in.”
Jake: Exactly! Which is an interesting critique of Mass Effect 3’s synthetic ending, the “good” ending. With synthetic and organic life unified at the cellular level and ostensibly, living forever, what advancement needs to take place? What does sentient life do at that point when they don’t need to do anything?
Trevor: Most would assume live peacefully, but there are always something to fight about and a need for advancement. Kind of like how in Mass Effect, Shepard is warned that your ancestors might recreate the Reapers.
Jake: Right, but if all life is congealed (trapped) in collective understanding, needing none of the necessities humans require to survive, why would they do anything? Every single human advancement can be attributed to fulfillment of the necessities of life. Sustenance, shelter, survival and procreation. If those requirements are removed, there’s no reason to do anything!
Trevor: Very true.
Jake: I’m not saying that’s exactly what happens in the synthesis ending. The endings are a bit ambiguous like that. But it’s certainly an interpretation that leaves it open to Lelouch’s criticism.
So on to the next ending: Control. Which is similar to the plan of Prince Schneizel.
Trevor: Prince Schneizel, Lelouch’s elder brother, wanted to control the world’s population. He was going to use a flying base/station called Damocles. Damocles is used to house F.L.E.I.J.A warheads, which are kind of similar to nuclear weapons. Those who disobeyed his rule would face an F.L.E.I.J.A. warhead. This route ends in a world ruled by fear. A forced peace that may or may not last.
Jake: Indeed and if I recall correctly, Schneizel tested Damocles on the Imperial City murder thousands, yes?
Trevor: Indeed. The first test of Damocles was on Pendragon, the capital of Britannia. He killed everyone in the city claiming that they did not need to live under the control of Geass. He even lied to Nunnally by saying he evacuated the city.
Jake: There’s an interesting parallel between Schniezel and the Shepard who chooses the Control ending. Throughout the game, the secondary antagonist is the Illusive Man, the leader of a human supremacist group, seeks to control the Reapers through his own means to establish human dominance over other species. Unbeknownst to him, he is already being subliminally controlled by the Reapers, which prevents him from ever being able to control them. When the Program presents you with the control option, Shepard brings up this fact, but the Program assures you that you would be in control. The after-decision scene implies that you certainly are. Moreover, the citizens of the galaxy seem content under watch of the machines that were so recent trying to violently harvest them. Admittedly, the methods and circumstances of control in the two stories: Schenizel was dealing with adversaries who wanted to stop him, where Shepard was trying to end a war with the total support of the people.
Trevor: Which is the main difference in the two stories.
Jake: Shepard is always seen as a hero (or anti-hero, depending on play style) where Schenizel is a perpetual antagonist to Lelouch. However, everyone’s the hero of their own story. While ME’s credit scene paints a peaceful picture, who’s to say some people didn’t accept Shepard’s (possibly benevolent) despotic rule.
Trevor: If I recall, you encounter some of those people early on in the series.
Jake: Oh yeah! What must those people be thinking? “Yo, Shepard, I’m real thankful you saved us and all, but I’m not really 100% down with you being a near-omnipotent god.” Because that’s essentially what the control ending establishes you as: a god, watching over all the little sentients who scurry about in admiration and/or fear. It’s what Schneizel on Damocles would have been.
Trevor: Why don’t you tell us about destruction in Mass Effect, Jake?
Jake: Whoa whoa, you can’t change the formula in the third act Trevor. This isn’t a Shyamalan movie. Tell us about Lelouch’s solution.
Trevor: Ugh, fine. Lelouch wished to destroy evil, by becoming an even larger evil. To do so he killed his rivals and became the Emperor of Britannia. He destroyed the old systems and ensured no one within the country will oppose him, by the use of Geass. When he gained control Damocles, he successfully became the enemy of the entire world. To end this evil he had Zero assassinate him publicly, leaving the world to be ruled peacefully by Nunnally and Zero.
Jake: And Lelouch presumes that since everybody saw how freaking evil he was, nobody would ever want something like that again, that generations would know the evil came from giving a sole human so much power over everyone else.
Jake: This is the interesting point in the relationship where Mass Effect critiques Code Geass, rather than how it’s been for the past two examples.
I fooled you!!! It’s Shamalaynian after all!!!!
Jake: There is no extra planetary mindscape. It’s just two dudes their computers!
Bruce Willis has been dead this whole time!
Aaaaanyway, while the Big Bad in Code Geass turns out to be Lelouch, the Big Bad in Mass Effect never ambiguous as it’s always the Reapers. The Destroy ending is the only ending that allows Shepard to survive in his current (admittedly beat to crap) state. So, presumably, he can tell the galaxy the lesson of the Reapers, how organics shouldn’t build synthetics (as all the current ones are destroyed with the Reapers). Much like the lesson the World learned from Lelouch. BUT! The Program warns him that, many generations down the line, Shepard’s descendants will forget the tale of the Reapers, chalk them up to boogeymen that couldn’t possibly be real and, in their hubris, will create their own synthetics and the Cycle of violence will begin anew. This, arguably, is a future that is in store for the world of Code Geass. Sure, Nunnally and Zero may benevolently guide the world for a time, but they’ll eventually die, as will their descendants and the lesson of Lelouch will fade into memory, into history, into legend. And legends, by their definition, cannot be real. And so the world will forget the terror of Lelouch, a human will be given great power, abuse it and the cycle will begin anew.
My, that’s bleak isn’t it?
Post-conclusion, Lelouch’s mortality (a semi-common debate among fans) doesn’t matter because he’s not in a position to stop anything.
In fact, if anything does occur, it proves the Program right.
Trevor: All he could do is reappear as Zero or something.
Jake: But if he needs to that means the Program was right.
Trevor: Which is why the viscous cycle of WWII happens.
*2017-2018 ATB is like 1944-45 AD
Jake: If immortal Lelouch has to reappear, that means something’s gone wrong, which proves Mass Effect’s critique correct.
Trevor: Which in theory is very strange.
Jake: How so?
Trevor: If Mass Effect is right, then Code Geass will be happen, then the cycle repeats.
Jake: Which is why it’s a critique and not a handshake, where’s the strangeness?
Trevor: The way I see it, this is the only one that is cyclic.
Jake: Oooooh, you’re still operating under the assumption that I was going to reshape one of your favorite video games with one of your favorite animes. Turns out, I’m reshaping your one of your favorite animes with one of your favorite video games!!!!!
Trevor: Charles makes the entire human race into shiftless automatons, one mind, and different bodies
Schniezel’s ending is like if the Illusive Man controlled the Reapers.
Jake: Right and the ending of Code Geass is the “bad” ending from Mass Effect. Bad in that it’s not the “eternal peace” ending.
Which can be a good or a bad thing depending on your point of view.
Which is why the series complement each other the way they do. They’re written with an inverse of ideals. However, it is only in Code Geass, an anime released six years prior to ME3’s release, that one finds a suitable point-counterpoint system of the two media’s philosophies.
Anyway, I think this has been a very informative and thought-provoking discussion, don’t you Trevor?
Trevor: It has been one of the best conversations I’ve had in a long time
Now only if others would be willing to voice their opinions on the topic
Jake: Aw, you’re such a sweetie. Yes, if you’ve thought up something we’ve missed, feel free to leave a comment below.