So I just crossed the boundary between Code-E and its sequel, Mission-E, and I have to say: What the hell?! No, seriously, WHAT THE HELL?!
I can honestly say I have never seen any direct sequel that has a more drastic mood and thematic change than these two series. I can’t even think of anything that comes close. The Empire Strikes Back and Ewoks: The Battle for Endor are practically twins in comparison. This is one of those situations in which, when you describe it, statements like “That was incongruous!” should include the common adjectival modifier beginning with F, which I have chosen not to use on this website. It’s not just warranted, it’s practically required.
See, Code-E is an unusual little story about a nervous girl trying to work out how to deal with a superpower—being a walking EMP weapon whenever you get excited—whose main effect is making life difficult in the modern world. It technically qualifies as high-school slice-of-life comedy/drama, with a touch of low-key romance. In practice, its defining feature is low key. As in, that series has less excitement than anything this side of Someday’s Dreamers. The episodes have a leisurely pace, the comedy is pleasant and mild-mannered, the drama is incredibly mellow, the romance is even more subtle, and there is absolutely no action at all until the last five minutes of the final episode.
Mission-E is essentially Read or Die with more electromagnetic fields, less paper-based magic. As in, people with crazy superpowers ninja-jumping across rooftops, wicked martial arts knife fights, driving a classic Cobra Mustang through roadblocks, secret organizations, glowy super-suits, and basically a whole bunch of wicked superspy action. In the first episode. Meaning that the mood and onscreen action is the polar opposite of anything in Code-E. Heck, it has more action in the first five minutes than the entire 12 episodes of its prequel.
It’s not that either of these things is bad; quite the contrary, Code-E was enjoyable and Mission-E looks all kinds of interesting. And it’s not that the transition doesn’t make sense within the story—Code-E kept hinting that there were spies (though all we saw were comic relief) and evil organizations at work trying to harness the power of the gifted Type-E people, so it’s no particular stretch to assume five years later (that’s how much time has elapsed), once they got out of school and into the real world, the characters would start to use their assorted talents (both superhuman and not) to do good in the world and take the fight to the bad people. It’s not even that I have a problem with one segueing into the other.
It’s just that calling the change of pace extreme is an understatement. I feel like there is an entire transition series between the two that somebody forgot to make. Maybe two of them. I fail to see how somebody goes to a production company and tells them “I want to make an incredibly low-key high-school slice-of-life series that’s set-up for a raging superpowered action-thriller-comedy.” Who funds that?!
Aside from being completely broken, mentally, by the utter and complete theme reversal, I am enjoying it, and I like the idea of getting attached to some kids in a relatively normal environment then get to see the super-spies they grow up to be (it’s also, come to think of it, pretty unusual to have a series about kids and a sequel about the same people as adults in which the former kids don’t transition to a support role, a la Allison and Lillia or Record of Lodoss War). In fact, it gives you a much better hook into them as adults, and less need to spend time on things like building romance (we’ve already seen that stage, so it’s ok to just start out in a stable, committed relationship, with children in at least one case).
I just feel like I had spent enough time with the characters that I kind of wanted to see some of that transition, rather than having it do a several-year jump just when things were starting to get exciting. Still, very interested in seeing where this is going.
Also, Code-E had a massively incongruent intro theme—exactly the flavor of hyperactive jazz that opened Read or Die, except the accompanying visuals are as everyday and non-active as the rest of the series, and it has nothing to do with the feel of anything else. It would fit perfectly with the sequel, though, and though Mission-E gets a new theme, it’s similar and this time works.
Incidentally, as of this writing all of Code-E and all but the last episode of Mission-E has been fansubbed, but neither are licensed. If that’s still the state of affairs when I get to ep 11, I’m going to have to fansub the last episode so my anime-buddies who don’t speak Japanese can enjoy it, too. If anybody knows how to go about distributing such a thing once it’s finished, drop me an email or leave a comment so I can share. Either that or somebody get around to licensing this thing already!
(Non-sequitur aside: In general description, there are several parallels between Code-E and Code Geass. Both have the word “Code” in the title, both take place in a near-future world in what would geographically be Japan, both star a high school student with a subtle superhuman ability in a world with very few other people with superhuman abilities, and both eventually work toward their protagonists being heroes trying to change the world. It would be difficult to come up with two series that have that many particulars in common that are more diametrically opposite than Code-E and Code Geass. Also, if you took Lelouch and created his exact opposite, you would not get Suzaku, you would actually get Chinami.)