An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth. Such is the law of retaliation and the belief that injustice should be repaid in kind. An objectively understandable concept. Simple in its message, unforgiving in its execution. But is the world really that black and white? Can such a well defined law exist within an ever changing society? Though what of the inverse? Is redemption and reform more viable an option? Or is seeing life in shades of grey simply ignoring the truth? Well in order to answer these questions and quell your thoughts, let us venture in the complex anime hierarchy that never fails to explain the intricacies of life, death and everything in between: High School.
Sakura Sakurakoji is just your average, everyday, repetitiously named high schooler. Whilst travelling home on night, she happens upon the strangest of sights; a number of people being burned alive by blue fire (I said it was strange, I didn’t say it was nice). Though no evidence of such a horrible event remains when she arrives on the scene, she clearly recalls a boy who stood amidst the flames unburnt. Returning to school life, her life is changed when a new transfer student arrives (I’m pretty sure you can guess where this is going). Not just any transfer student mind you, but the very same boy whom she witnessed standing amongst the burning bodies. Despite his initial deception and “nice guy” act, Rei Ogami (As we now know him to be named) eventually reveals himself as a member of a clandestine organisation who act beyond the scope of the law, wiping out targets assigned to them. Though Ogami possesses a harsh and cold demeanour, Sakura resolutely believes that he does not truly wish to act as an executioner, vowing to save him and prevent him from killing again. Although it is almost immediately shown that, against Ogami’s own strength and ideals, she has very little say in the matter.
As the series progresses, and we are drawn further and further into the world of the Code Breakers, some of society’s darker elements areheld under the light of Ogami’s blue flame. With his sole purpose being elimination and Sakura’s being redemption, it is through these moments that you, as a viewer, come to make your own judgement. Though Sakura’s own belief is typical of an high school protagonist, this series continues to remind you that the world she has entered into is far beyond that. As the lone character who favours such leniency, she is noticeably out of place when compared to the Code Breakers. This isn’t to say that each Breaker is a heartless assassin, merely that in this world they are a necessary force. This point is cemented further via the villains of the series. At no point does Sakura actually try to protect someone all that worthy of redemption. No character appears who has only recently turned down the path of darkness, or has committed a minor offence. No, every single antagonist is mired in sin and shows no remorse. Hell, the first group of villains literally kick the dog…a lot. It’s honestly upsetting. Ok, there is one character who briefly reveals the purpose for their actions and it is tragic, but by the time the Breakers reach them, the crimes committed are truly atrocious. It is at these moments that it is honestly difficult to side with Sakura, her belief seeming far too naive, despite all she has seen. Not that this is a weakness of the series, quite the opposite in fact. Moments wherein Sakura appears almost childish merely showcase that she is truly separate from the lives that the Code Breakers live. Ironically, this also allows her to relate to the Breakers on a friendly level, showing that though they perform such violent tasks, they are by no means monsters.
Code:Breaker has a lot of positive features in regards to its visual elements. As a series revolving around humans with powers, the series does an excellent job of conveying the inherent power and danger that comes with wielding such a force. Ogami’s blue flame never ceases to appear striking against the environment, it’s hue adding to its almost otherwordly appearance. I also found the method which Ogami wields said fire to be very interesting. Rather than throwing fireballs, or becoming a human flamethrower, his power works in brief, explosive bursts.Though it may seem like a minor factor, this method added a certain element of control to what is normally a wild power, fitting for the character. IRonically however,the two most well visualised powers were those that are technically invisible to human perception (As they were to the characters within the series): sound and magnetism. As you might expect, sound was conveyed through the use of shockwaves, though each possessed a red colouration that just kinda made them even cooler. Magnetism stood out in particular through its representation as a multitude of particles circling its user, visually connecting them to the object they were manipulating.
Speaking to physicality, each of the characters enjoys a distinct look that differentiates them from their peers. This is most noticeable in Sakura, whose features appear much softer than those of her Code Breaker companions. Ogami also briefly shows a more compassionate visage, though this act merely serves to make his true demeanour appear all the more harsh. Conversely, the series also possesses some cartoonish elements. Take Dog for example (yes, that’s seriously what Sakura named the dog). Its eyes exist as mere circles and its movement consists of rapidly flailing limbs, though it continues to move at a normal pace. Though certainly a contrast to the whole “eye for an eye” vibe Code:Breaker has going for it, these elements serve to soften series a little, analogous to Sakura’s own efforts in-universe.
As far as the release itself goes, Code:Breaker doesn’t possess anything too extravagant. That being said, there are commentaries of episodes 7 and 12 included that are pretty cool. Apart from that you’ve got trailers, promos and textless versions of the intro and outro themes of the series.
All in all, Code:Breaker was a well executed series. The visuals left nothing to be desired, the dub did an excellent job in showcasing the personalities of each individual character and it held an interesting conflict of justice at its core. That being said, this conflict is inherently one sided in its presentation, with Sakura’s ideals appearing more and more childish in some of the more crucial moments of the series. Additionally, despite all her bluster and conviction, she herself is not above her own emotions, adding another layer to the pro/con justice system the series employs. Though I suppose at the end of the day it’s a personal choice as to who you side with. Do you believe redemption is a possibility for all? Or are there those who have simply walked an irreversible path of darkness?
An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, and the Code:Breaker Series Collection from Madman.