A lot of us mistakenly compare Code: Geass to Death Note, thinking that both anime are very similar. But the difference between them cannot be greater.
The fundamental values that each one is trying to share are unique and come from rooted psychological beliefs that the main characters are upholding throughout the story.
Some of those beliefs grew due to past traumas where others are just the consequences of the rotten society we live in.
To support my theory, we will talk about each aspect of both anime separately. When I say aspects, I mean the Main Characters’ respective powers, their personalities, and the goal they are trying to achieve.
We’ll finish by debating which one is better than the other.
Please keep in mind that this is my personal opinion on the matter.
Major Spoilers Ahead!
Read More: Code Geass Watch Order- Easy To Follow Guide
Table of Contents
Code: Geass - A Must-Watch Series for Anime Fans
Code: Geass is set in an alternative world where the only superpower is the Britannian Empire. Diplomatic conflicts with Japan over their natural resources pushed the Empire to declare war on the small country. Using a new weapon called Nightmare’s, they started their attack. The Japanese didn’t stand a chance and became yet another Britanian territory.
The Japanese had to forfeit their rights, their dignity, and even their identity. Area 11 was the name given to Japan after its defeat and its inhabitants were renamed Elevens. Now considered a lower race, the Elevens are discriminated against and live in constant fear.
But even after the Japanese themselves lost all hope, one young Britanian still had the ambition to destroy the great Empire.
That boy’s name is Lelouch Lamperouge. From the outside, he is nothing more than an ordinary student attending Ashford Academy but his true identity is that of a Britanian prince, Lelouch Vi Britanian. A prince who swore to take revenge on his father, the Emperor, after failing to protect his mother from a terrorist attack that also led his younger sister, Nanally, to lose her ability to walk and see.
After the incident, Charles, the Emperor, unable to tolerate weakness, decided to trade Lelouch and Nunnally as diplomatic hostages to the Elevens.
Many years later, when the boy became a man, he got caught up in a terrorist attack in Shinjuku where he met a girl named CC. Trying to escape the area that turned into a war zone, the two of them finally got cornered and were going to meet their death. CC was shot and with her last dying breath, she grants Lelouch the power of Geass, the power of the Gods. The Geass given to Lelouch offers him the ability to impose one order on any person. Using his extraordinary intelligence and his newfound power, Lelouch starts executing his plan to extinguish Britannia by taking the alias Zero, a terrorist and leader of the Black Nights.
Death Note - A Badass Series for Intellectuals
Death note is set in a realistic world, in our world. A world filled with criminals, corruption, and injustice.
In that unfair world lives an A student named Light Yagami. Considered a genius, his deductive skills, and his intelligence are off the charts. Turns out that Light is also an idealist with a delusion of grandeur and a God complex. He wishes for a world free of criminals, a Utopia ruled by one God, him.
A dream completely out of reach until he happens to pick up a notebook that he saw falling for the sky.
That notebook was actually a Death Note dropped on purpose by the Shinigami Ryuk into the human world.
Now in the possession of Light, he discovers that the Death Note has real powers and starts learning how to use it.
The conditions of use are simple, you have to know the real name and the face of your target and write that name in the Death Note. Within 40 seconds, if the details of the death are not specified, the person in question will die of a heart attack. This is where the purge begins. Killing criminals after criminals the public and authorities realized that a higher power, an inexplicable power is killing every bad individual. They ended up giving him the name “Kira” meaning killer.
Now on the police’s radar, Light is facing an incredible enemy, a mysterious detective named L whose intelligence rivals his. Living a double life, Light has to fool his father who is chief of the police, and L who is already suspecting him to keep moving forward.
Powers in Death Note and Code: Geass
Both main character’s powers have the ability to kill although Lights’ power is much more limited than Lelouche’s making him face more difficult obstacles and still thriving as if his supremacy was absolute.
Light can only define the actions that his targets have to undergo just before their death or just kill them. His only obligation before doing so is to know the name and face of the target so that people who share the same name will not be affected. When those conditions have been met the target can no longer escape him.
Lelouch on the other hand has the option to keep his targets alive and use them even in the long-term. He also has the option of using it on himself if necessary. His only constraint is that he has to see his target directly without even the interference of glasses and he can use Geass on a person only once so he has to use it very wisely. Once Geass has been cast the target no longer has the freedom to refuse him.
Each skill has its own perks and drawbacks, and each hero learned how to adapt to use each ability to their full potential.
Light even discovered ways to use the Death Note that even the Shinigamies didn’t know about.
Furthermore, both main characters believe that their intelligence is also a powerful weapon, maybe even as powerful as their ability which is not wrong at all. Lights IQ is 211 and Lelouches is 210, all their plans are carefully studied, some of them didn’t even need the use of their special ability and both of them would have been Game Over pretty fast, despite their powers, if they were not as intelligent and resourceful as they are.
So when it comes to the Main character’s respective gifts and overall strength, they are very similar indeed.
Personalities - What sets the two MCs apart?
Now for their personalities, it is true that both characters have a god complex and an inflated ego. They are viewed as Anti Heroes and want to reform the world the way they want. The major difference here is why are they doing it. And the why is directly related to their personalities.
In Lights’ case, he personally rejects the way things work and took it upon himself to reconstruct the world free of criminals. He wants to build his own utopia where he will rule as a God. In general, he is doing a favor to the world but it comes from a place of selfishness to satisfy his own ambitions.
To achieve his goals he is ready to sacrifice everyone around him even if they were family, dear friends, or innocent people and that act turned him into the very people he was trying to eradicate.
On the other hand what Lelouch wants is a world deprived of inequality, a world where the weak and the strong have the same opportunities. He never intended to rule over the new world that he was creating, he wanted to prove that the weak are not to be trampled upon by putting his crippled sister in a position of power. He wanted to create a world where she would not have to suffer.
He made sacrifices, cruel choices and was labeled as a villain but would always draw the line when the lives of his loved ones would be in jeopardy.
He did what he did in the name of love and not for himself even if everything started only for the sake of his sister, he will end up having a change of heart after realizing how many people are now depending on him.
Goals - Different Ideals
As for their respective goals, they are also very different. Light intended to keep on killing every single criminal until he completely eradicated crime. The logic behind his action is that if people know that something or someone is killing wrongdoers all over the world and they have no way of defending themselves they will be too scared to dare commit any kind of crime no matter how puny. Not even a week after Kira had officially acknowledged the crime rates in every country dropped considerably so his plan worked perfectly.
However, Lelouch wanted to destroy the current world and create a new one.
A world where the resources were not used to fund new weapons or wars but were used to solve hunger and poverty. For this he deviated all the hatred of the world unto himself so when he would die the world would finally be freed of that vicious circle and start moving forward to the future. Everything went according to plan as expected.
Now the styles of both anime are very different, Death Note goes beyond the concept of good and evil, it’s very psychological and forces you to reflect on yourself while trying to deduce if Light became a real Villain or is still on the side of justice. There is not much action, it’s more of a game of deduction between two great minds trying to corner each other. The ingenuity that Light and L will demonstrate will keep you on your toes and surprise you when you least expect it.
Code Geass vs Death Note
Code Geass is more on the Heroic side offering great battles, duals, and excitement. It will feel like each side is playing chess and the board is the entire world. It also has a comical side since Lelouch has absolutely no physical abilities and his friends tend to take advantage of that fact.
As the storyline is very different and the overall mood of these anime are also incomparable since one is on the brooding side and the other much more cheerful, to determine which one is better I will focus on each anime’s second seasons.
You all know that it is very difficult to pass to season 2 while keeping the same level of quality, interest and excitement felt in season 1. The biggest challenge for any manga is to make Season 2 as good or maybe even better than season 1.
Well sorry to disappoint but both anime failed that test, however one crashed harder than the other and it would be Death Note.
In Death Note, they killed off the most loved and interesting character L, and introduced new enemies that just didn’t meet expectations. They were unable to replace the charisma of L even less to fill the gap left by his death. The chemistry felt between Light and L and the fact that they were working together is what made the first part so exciting since the faintest slip-up would ruin everything and that was something that disappeared entirely afterward making the second part kind of boring.
Also, Light becomes a bit psychologically unstable and is regarded more as troubled than the unstoppable genius he previously was.
As for the second season of Code Geass, it was just not as well polished as Season 1. You just don’t get the same satisfaction felt before. Too many new characters were introduced stealing the spotlight from much more interesting ones. The plot suddenly became a bit expected but they still did a good job by making us want to come back despite the shortcomings.
The mystery of Zero’s Identity was also gone at this point and no surprises were to follow, it was just the unfolding of a plan.
However, the ending saved the Second Season since it didn’t follow your typical cliché. And also revealed a continuation that all the fans were looking forward to.
In terms of ingenuity, deductive skills, and battles of wits, Death Note is one step ahead of Code Geass, by offering much more interesting strategies and more elaborate plans and tactics. The development of the story is way less predictable and surprises you in each episode.
I would say that fans of detective work and investigations will enjoy watching Death Note more than Code Geass, which focuses on physical battles and wars between armies. For fans of action, anime Code Geass would be the right choice.
We established that those two anime don’t really have much in common, but determining which one is better will actually depend on your own personality and taste. Both anime can be considered masterpieces but following the general opinion, Death Note is still way more popular than Code Geass and is considered by many people the best anime. However, that may be the case because it was a very popular manga before getting an anime while Code Geass wasn’t based on one. So it can be considered a real achievement for Code Geass to be compared to that Iconic anime.
Death Note is also actually considered the perfect anime for beginners, an anime that will surely get you hooked.
I would personally recommend Code Geass since I enjoyed it more and because of the recent movie that was released that was really well made.
There is also a side story available called Akihito the Exile that is not bad at all for a side story with completely new characters.
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