The cliché best-friends-turning-enemies trope might be overused by now, but let’s face it, it’s still one of the dynamics inviting people to like and ship, what with the contrast between the characters’ desire to protect each other as well as to hate and maybe kill one another. One of Sunrise’s long-standing franchise, Code Geass, is one of the anime with this clichéd trope—and while it’s not hard to find mecha anime with similar tropes, Code Geass is probably the one presenting the most frustrating best-friends-turning-enemies ship: Lelouch vi Britannia and Kururugi Suzaku.
The complexity of the main characters in Code Geass is just the beginning of why; when it comes to the relationship between Lelouch and Suzaku, there is really no way to look at it just from one angle and dimension; they are simultaneously complementary and polar opposites, so much alike and different from one another that it’s difficult to summarize what their relationship dynamic is like. Do they love each other—as best friends or maybe more? Or do they hate one another’s guts, with all the murders they scorned? Their relationship is not even as simple as love or hate; it’s also loyalty, betrayal, hypocrisy, denial and lies, both to people around them and to themselves.
If you ship Lelouch and Suzaku, most probably it is your most frustrating OTP, especially if you’re still watching the chain of Code Geass movies; the last Code Geass: Boukoku no Akito had just been screened by the end of last month, and well, let’s say that even when Lelouch and Suzaku are not the main characters nor the focus of the movies, their relationship would still make you want to bang your head against something solid in frustration.
To summarize, here are at least five reasons that would prove how frustrating it is to ship Suzaku and Lelouch:
1. The Black Prince and White Knight (or is it White King and Black Knight?)
From the very beginning, Code Geass approached Lelouch and Suzaku’s characterization through the usual simple comparison: black and white. Even the official arts usually depict them in black and white. After all, opposites attract—or do they?
Except it turns out that they both were never as simple as black and white.
Lelouch, portrayed as the exiled Prince who roused and later led the rebellion against Britannia in Japan’s favor, even though he was no Japanese. He was ruthless, very manipulative, and would do absolutely anything to find out who his Mother’s killer was, and to create a world that his sister, Nunnally, wished for. It was clear from the early episodes that Lelouch was not the hero-type main character—even his charismatic persona, Zero, embodied this image perfectly; an all-black costume that commanded both fear and respect. The Black Prince, if you would.
In contrast, Suzaku was portrayed as the antithesis of Lelouch. He was what the hero should be, a perfect image of a white knight in shining armor (or on a white horse, take your pick). He was the kind of person who would pause in the middle of battle to save a civilian in danger, the one who would be the first to raise his hand when it comes to protecting those who are innocent and powerless, to support peace and justice. The symbolism gets even more perfect once he was appointed as an actual knight by Euphemia and his knight costume consisted of pure white robes—a clear contrast to Lelouch’s black Zero.
But it has never been that easy. With Lelouch, we were shown clearly the ‘grey areas’ in his personality—the Lelouch out of the Zero mask was not a lie. He genuinely cares about his friends, he cried when he made the decision to kill Euphemia and grieved for the loss of his friends throughout the series, most notably for Shirley and Rolo’s deaths. Lelouch knew his methods would kill people and never denied that he sullied his hands, which is an honesty in itself. Gradually, as it was more prominent in R2, Lelouch changed the definition of black and white in the audience’s minds, especially after the events in the Sword of Akasha, and Lelouch willing to take the responsibility for the world’s tomorrow. In the end, Lelouch closed the story as a King clad in white, a clear opposite from how he’d been wrapped in black in the beginning of the series.
On the other hand, with Suzaku, breaking down his character isn’t as easy as it is with Lelouch. The White Knight in question, as the story progressed, turned out to be the one filled with lies, to the world and to himself. His hero-complex is such that his actions are always impulsively self-sacrificing, bordering on suicidal, as he so often put himself in dangerous situations that might get himself killed. Unlike Lelouch, Suzaku never stopped to question himself, he just went with whatever happened. It’s after Euphemia’s death that we began to see how shrewd Suzaku really is; he lies, to himself and the world, how he wished for redemption and how he justified the murder of his father. And in a true opposite of Lelouch’s White King in the end, Suzaku’s stage closes with him putting Zero’s black cape and mask.
2. The Loyalty and Betrayal.
Suzaku and Lelouch are two best friends who, despite betraying each other repeatedly, kept their loyalty to one another in one way or another—sometimes quite ironically. It was clear that they were both intended to be two-sides of the same coin; what they’re doing, what they wish for, is essentially the same, but their reasons for doing it are completely different.
The two personas that Lelouch had, Lelouch Lamperouge and Zero, were both himself but kept separated by Lelouch himself, not only to keep himself safe, but also to not accidentally dragged his sister and friends into the messy situations Zero got himself into (or created, most of the time). This gives the audience two types of interaction when it comes to Suzaku and Lelouch’s screentime together: with Lelouch Lamperouge, Suzaku treasured him—all smiles, wishes for Lelouch and Nunnally to stay happy, and an utter trust to the point that he refused to entertain the idea of Lelouch being Zero—while with Zero, Suzaku showed frustration, rage, hatred and vengeance for Euphemia. For the bulk of the first season, this was what the Suzaku/Lelouch shippers had to deal with, because it really was only a matter of time before Suzaku finally found out who Zero was, and as it was shown in the last episode of the first season, his reaction was, least to say, explosive.
In the face of betrayal from the one he trusted the most, Suzaku shot. More than that, Suzaku, who had refused the order to kill Lelouch in the first episode, who had come to Lelouch’s, he brought Lelouch back to the Emperor, let Lelouch’s memories be completely wiped out and replaced, and in the course of the movies, simply watched at a suffering Lelouch, whose mind unstably switched between ‘being Lelouch’ and ‘being Julius Kingsley’. Even so, as he escorted the unstable ‘Julius’ and facing Shaing, Suzaku protected Lelouch. Even after all the betrayal, Suzaku couldn’t let go of the loyalty and trust he had for Lelouch, no matter how much he hated Lelouch for being a murderer.
R2 later verified this loyalty further—the fact that Suzaku trusted Lelouch enough to come and talk in episode 19 could be expanded later, but after confronting Charles and Marianne at the Sword of Akasha and choosing the future of the whole world, Suzaku returned to Lelouch’s side as a trusted friend, confidante (and perhaps more?), and his Knight, fulfilling Lelouch’s orders and wishes to the very end.
As for Lelouch? Even after the many rejections he faced from Suzaku from early first season episodes (and considering the promise they made as children, to Lelouch, these rejections are Suzaku betraying him), Lelouch trusted Suzaku still—to save him, to take care of Nunnally, to have Suzaku by his side. Suzaku was the one person Lelouch never wished to use Geass on, and when he had to resort to it, it tore him, even if the order was simply for Suzaku to “Live!”, which was also the only Geass order Lelouch had ever done impulsively. It was to Suzaku that Lelouch’s desperate question of “What do you want?!” was directed to. R2 took this further with Lelouch returning to lead the Black Knights, knowing he’d be going to face Suzaku on the other end of his metaphorical sword. And yet, in the end, it was Suzaku that Lelouch trusted to carry on his plans and legacy.
3. The Extremely Intimate Official Arts
Well, let’s take a break from the long meta and focus on the lighter reason on why Suzaku and Lelouch is your most frustrating OTP: the ridiculously intimate official arts.
As the two main characters of the series, there is no lack of official arts in which they’re depicted together. Most of their official arts together depict Suzaku and Lelouch, in either, Ashford Academy uniform, or contrasting black and white garbs—Lelouch in Zero’s cape and Suzaku in his Knight uniform, in season one, or Lelouch in his Emperor robes and Suzaku in his Knight of Zero attire for the second season, or really, even in any other costumes, one of them would wear white and the other black.
Knowing the character designer is CLAMP and everyone who’s into CLAMP would definitely know their tendency to queer relationships, it was to be expected that Suzaku and Lelouch’s official arts drawn by CLAMP would have a lot of ‘more intimate’ vibes, alongside wicked symbolisms. CLAMP’s Code Geass arts portray Lelouch and Suzaku’s loyalty and trust to one another with Suzaku kneeling and worshipping Lelouch’s sword, or Lelouch draped over Suzaku’s lap, smiling with his eyes closed.
Except it really isn’t just in official arts drawn by CLAMP—most of Suzaku and Lelouch’s official arts depict a lot of unnecessary touching, closeness, and poses. Sharing a scarf or a microphone, hugging, going to the beach, doing stretchings together, feeding each other cake, various alternate universes or Halloween celebrations, clad in wedding suits with flowers, holding Arthur the Cat and leaning into each other’s private space, a happy family photo with Nunnally while C.C photobombs on the back? You name it, there’s probably some sort of a Suzaku/Lelouch official art for it.
Well, at least the shippers still get the Suzaku/Lelouch lovey-dovey vibes from the official arts to counter the their tragic canon story.
4. The Numerous Tease of Reconciliation
And this is the most frustrating reason of all, because for a show with best friends-turned-enemies trope, Code Geass is a huge tease when it came to Suzaku and Lelouch’s reconciliation.
Throughout both the first and second season, there were multiple times when, despite their masks and lies to each other at first, then hatred and anger later, Suzaku and Lelouch seem to be able to reconcile. There were a bunch of points in both seasons where the audience would think, this is it, they would go back to being friends and face the world together. It even began in the early episodes, where, after he saved Suzaku from being court martialed, Lelouch offered for Suzaku to join his cause, only to be rejected.
Afterwards, there were several other instances that would lift the audience’s hope for Suzaku and Lelouch’s reconciliation. Lelouch’s hope for Suzaku to be Nunnally’s Knight was one instance. Another would be when the two worked together against Mao to save Nunnally in the first season’s episode 16. There were also times when Lelouch tirelessly tried to get Suzaku to his side, clearly unwilling to keep going against Suzaku in his missions.
But the most frustrating one would definitely be R2’s episode 19, where Lelouch and Suzaku met up at the Kururugi Shrine. For once, and for the first time since they accepted their betrayals to each other, Suzaku and Lelouch willingly try to talk with Nunnally’s life on the line—Lelouch ready to humble himself and accept Suzaku’s anger while Suzaku honestly unleashed his rage at Lelouch and pushed for answers. And even if Lelouch was unable to tell him the truth because of the mounting guilt he bore, Suzaku was able to tell that he was lying. This was them both laid bare for each other to see—Lelouch’s desperation and Suzaku’s willingness to trust, again.
Suzaku, for once, was the one who offered his hand to Lelouch. Zero had to end the war, and if he did, together with Lelouch, Suzaku would save Nunnally. It wasn’t an impossible feat, Lelouch knew. “The two of us together… we can accomplish anything!” With these words, Lelouch reached out to take Suzaku’s hand.
Except before he could take Suzaku’s hand, a bullet cut in and Schneizel’s people rushed towards them to detain Lelouch, leaving Lelouch to scream at Suzaku, enraged because he thought Suzaku had, once again, sold him out and betrayed him.
No one would blame you if your first reaction was to shout at your screen and curse at everything—this is why Suzaku and Lelouch are incredibly frustrating.
5. The Zero Requiem
After fifty episodes of frustrating relationship dynamics and character developments for Suzaku and Lelouch, one would probably hope for a happy ending. For Suzaku and Lelouch to forgive each other, and forge their friendship back, stronger than ever. For them to fight on the same side—their abilities are, after all, extremely complementary and worked flawlessly together.
And the audience was given that, for the last five episodes. Which, compared to the rest of the series, seem too short-lived, especially with Zero Requiem in the end. But for the last five episodes, it was almost a dream come true for the Suzaku/Lelouch shippers—Suzaku standing as Lelouch’s Knight, and together, they brought changes in both Britannia and the world. Lelouch as the brain and Suzaku the brawl, Lelouch giving orders as a King and Suzaku carrying his will as the Knight of Zero, protecting Lelouch and his wishes. It should have been the perfect ending.
But considering Lelouch is making enemies out of the whole world, and Suzaku is supporting him, it was clear from the very beginning to the audience: Lelouch was planning something else. Zero Requiem, to be exact, but it wasn’t until the last episode we actually found out the actual logic and plan behind those two words. By piling the world’s hatred onto himself, making himself a symbol of a Demon Emperor, Lelouch planned to free the world and let the people began anew—gathering the world through discussions instead of armies—at the cost of his own life on Suzaku’s hands.
At Lelouch’s request, Suzaku took Zero’s role as a symbol of freedom and savior, and became the messiah who saved the world from the Demon Emperor. He stabbed Lelouch with Zero’s sword under the eyes of thousands of people, listening as Lelouch slumped against him and smeared blood on Zero’s cape and mask, for the last Geass Lelouch cast on him: “This, then, shall be your punishment.” Suzaku would no longer live as Kururugi Suzaku; but as the knight of justice Zero, sacrificing all of himself for the world forever from under the mask.
Suzaku, with silent tears the moment his sword pierced Lelouch, accepted the Geass.
And on top of fifty episodes of frustration, you have no happy ending!
One of Code Geass’ best point is its timely, great element of surprise. The ending would have been annoying if Code Geass itself wasn’t executed in an amazingly detailed way, storytelling and development-wise. As it was, though, the ending was a proper curtain call to close the stage—a tragedy that worked miracles and renewed the world, just as Lelouch wished it.
For Suzaku/Lelouch shippers, it only cemented further the trust and loyalty between Lelouch and Suzaku. No matter how shrewd their relationship was, no matter how much they both hated each other, they still held each other dear. To the very end, Suzaku was the only one Lelouch could trust with such a heavy task. Suzaku, on the other hand, believed in Lelouch and stayed loyal as his sword, as his Knight, even if it meant killing Lelouch himself. A complicated and frustrating OTP, indeed, but a very fulfilling, beautiful story.
Have some more frustration about Suzaku and Lelouch’s relationship? Do you think the fan theory about how Lelouch was probably still alive thanks to inheriting C.C’s Code is true? Or simply wanting to cry over how much Suzaku and Lelouch ruin you? Vent below in the comments!