By Kathleen Townsend
As a sibling haver, I can resolutely say that siblings are the best! And, well, they can sometimes be the worst. (Sorry, little bro and sis).
They’re automatic best friends, someone who gets you like no one else does. But when there’s only one TV in the house and a Cowboy Bebop marathon is on, the remote is mine. Want to watch reality TV? It’s war.
But in anime, the stakes are often much higher. From the Kamado siblings of Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba to the Elric brothers in Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood, siblings are thrown into difficult situations in rather unfair worlds.
But Lelouch and Nunnally from Code Geass might have it the toughest.
Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion is the story of Lelouch and, well, his rebellion. Lelouch and Nunnally are two of the Emperor of Britannia’s dozens of children, so a life of luxury as prince and princess isn’t in the cards.
Their mother was murdered when the two were young, with Nunnally witnessing the act, leaving her blind and confined to a wheelchair. And their father? Well, he didn’t seem to care what happened, and the two were banished to Japan until war reached them.
Lelouch and Nunnally go on to change their names to Lamperouge and enroll at a Japanese school, using the fact that their real names were listed among the dead to their advantage.
With their old lives discarded, the threat of facing their own assassination was lessened. But their mother’s killer still roamed free, and only two things kept Lelouch moving forward: the need to make the world a better place for Nunnally; and his desire for revenge.
And so, Lelouch takes up a mask and costume, bears the name Zero and leads a group of revolutionaries against his estranged family in an effort to free Japan from their rule.
A shining example, but nobody’s perfect
Sometimes, Lelouch and Nunnally are the best examples of siblings, and a pair we can all aspire to be. Sometimes.
Lelouch adores his sister. She’s his whole world, and the reason he keeps going when things get hard. He dotes on her, ensuring that she has someone to aid her whenever she needs it. At school, they have their own special quarters to make this even easier.
And, of course, Nunnally cares for him in return. He’s her one constant, the person who is always there for her. All she wants in life is to live peacefully with him. That’s certainly understandable for someone who’s experienced such violent loss in early life.
As long as these two have each other, they’re happy.
In truth, though, things get a bit more complicated. While the two care for each other, it’s not exactly healthy. They don’t always have each other’s best interests at heart.
For example, they’re essentially diametrically opposed on many issues. In one case, you could say that throwing a couple of sci-fi nuclear warheads at your brother isn’t the best idea if you want to maintain a healthy relationship.
Completely ignoring what your sibling actually wants in favor of what you want to do for them might not be the greatest idea either, and in the case of Lelouch and Nunnally, comes at the risk of death.
Different ideas of peace
Before political violence comes into play, we can look at how Lelouch treats Nunnally when the two are attending school. Let’s just say he goes a bit overboard, and clings to his sister.
Nunnally has her own thoughts and needs, and Lelouch isn’t the best at listening to those, or in general. Throughout this early time, he doesn’t really let her make her own decisions, leaving her to be a bird in a cage.
Thankfully, he sees a bit of her own strength when he finds the mysterious C.C. making paper cranes with her. We blatantly see their half-brother Schneizel lie to Nunnally, but Lelouch does the same thing, even if he doesn’t mean to. She never asked for him to change the world.
But let’s be honest. Nunnally has her own troubles. She’s cut from the same cloth as her siblings, and she sports plenty of Lelouch’s stubbornness and Euphemia’s ideas of creating a gentler world through “gentler” means.
All she wants is a quiet life with Lelouch, but that means she’s also turned her back on the rest of the world. Gentle and kind as she is, she runs a selfish streak. While Lelouch seeks to make the work a better place (via some questionable means), Nunnally doesn’t always align.
And as things escalate, the siblings’ philosophies further collide. Nunnally wants to lead by example, and Lelouch by force. He wants to tear down the old world and build a new one upon its ruins.
For many of us, in the end, we’re all a bundle of contradictions. Sometimes we mean one thing but say another. Other times, we try to keep our siblings safe by keeping secrets. It’s a balance.
In Code Geass, what starts as a simple, loving bond between siblings becomes hopelessly more complicated as the ghosts of the past, the duty of royalty, the wish for a better world, and revenge plague them.
As much as we’d like them to, quiet days from school don’t last forever. Lelouch makes mistakes—sometimes grievous ones—but he never stops loving his sister and trying to bring about a better world.
And despite everything? She still cares for him. Through political violence and revolution, we’re still left knowing that these two truly care about one another. And for some? That’s all they can ask for.