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A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this dark sci-fi anime series is part of Cartoon Network's Adult Swim lineup. It's very violent, with people getting shot point blank with pistols and machine guns, as well as lots of blood splattering across walls, floors, and bystanders' faces. There are references to terrorist attacks, including bombings and flooding subway tunnels with poisonous gas. There's also some language (words like "bad ass") and brief references to drunk driving.
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What's the story?
CODE GEASS: LELOUCH OF THE REBELLION follows Lelouch Lamparouge (voiced by Johnny Yong Bosch), who as a child witnessed Japan being conquered by the (fictional) Holy Empire of Britannia. After years of being raised in a country destroyed and rebuilt under Britannian rule, Lelouch receives the power of Geass from C.C. (Kate Higgins) -- a mysterious young woman murdered by Imperial forces -- after agreeing to grant her greatest (but unknown to him) wish. With her ghostly guidance and protection, Lelouch secretly becomes "Zero," an elusive masked man crusading to bring down the Britannians and restore what's now known as "Area Eleven" back to its former Japanese glory.
Is it any good?
This allegorical story promotes Japanese pride as Zero and other rebels fight to bring down their Western conquerors and drive them back to the region once known as North America. Zero and bands of insurgents launch terrorist attacks against the Empire in hopes of weakening its power, sometimes blowing themselves up in the process. Imperial Forces retaliate by ruthlessly shooting innocent Elevens (former Japanese citizens) to maintain control. Britannia's fleet of Knightmares -- giant automated robot-like warriors designed to destroy everything in their path -- also contributes to the brutality.
Although the series contains some extremely violent imagery (like blood spattering and people being gunned down at point-blank range), these actions take place within a specific context, often forcing characters -- especially Lelouch's best friend, Suzaku (Yuri Lowenthal) -- to question the ethical appropriateness of terrorism and crossing moral boundaries in the name of freedom. Even Zero finds himself grappling with these issues as he tries to establish a peaceful world for his injured sister while also attempting to find a way to avenge his mother's death at the Empire's hands. It's a bit too mature for tweens, but the combination of action and psychological questioning will score big among teen and adult manga fans.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the cultural differences between TV shows in the United States and in other countries. What are the distinguishing characteristics of Japanese anime/manga series? Do any U.S. shows that deal with the same topics in similar ways?
Discuss the use of violence as a way to fight oppression. How does the media generally depict this kind of violence? Can violence really ever lead to a greater good?