Code:Realize: Guardian of Rebirth Review
Warning: The following review may/will contain spoilers of the anime adaptation for Code:Realize: Guardian of Rebirth. If you wish to stay clear of what happens in this show's story, please exit the tab, and join me once you've watched said show. Or, you know, you can take that warning with a grain of salt, and still read on anyway. Whatever floats your boat.
Anyways, with that said, thank you, and onto the review:
I've always had a guilty pleasure for reverse harem shows. I like seeing where each journey will lead me and which boys I'll take a liking to. Since harems now seem to be regulated to LN adaptations (and they are very flimsy harems at that), becoming nothing but a barrage of tropes to clear off a specific checklist, they seem stale and boring compared to the vast field of concepts I see here.
Going into this show excited me. I've had my run of great reverse harems and my run of bad ones (and when they're bad, they're really bad). I've even seen one show fall to pieces due to its longevity. But the Code:Realize franchise would hopefully prove different. I saw some gameplay of the original game a few years prior, so knowing what this was immediately when I saw a PV floating around on ANN, I felt confident I would get an entertaining adaptation.
That, and I needed another show in a similar vein to Dynamic Chord since that anime bombed for me after only four episodes. Geez, that show wasted so much of its potential. But back to Code:Realize.
That I got quite easily. It only took a few minutes to be immersed into this world and adore all that was offered.
It's that feeling I got when I watched Katsugeki Touken Ranbu, young Leonhard. That and other anime I know will live forever in my memory because I appreciate them so damn much.
Code:Realize: Guardian of Rebirth may not the best reverse harem adaptation you will ever see, but it's a pretty dang good one. With an interesting story, strong characters, lovely animation, a great OST, and voice acting that is very strong in both languages, this always put a smile on my face when it was happy and left me on the edge on my seat when all hope was lost.
BASICALLY, THIS SHOW IS ANOTHER ONE OF MY PRECIOUS CHILDREN I DIDN'T EXPECT TO LOVE AS MUCH AS IT DID BUT IT SNUCK UP ON ME! IT GAVE ME A LOT OF EMOTIONS I TELL YOU, EMOTIONS! IT MOVED AT THE RIGHT PACE AND WAS SO ENJOYABLE AND EVERYTHING I WANTED BUT NEVER KNEW I NEEDED!
Sorry. One second while I get my composure back:
There, all better.
Time to talk about the story before I lose myself in my fanboy feels:
For as long as she can remember, Cardia Beckford has always been alone. Shut in a room in an abandoned mansion, her father, Issac Beckford, gave her a simple demand before he disappeared: You must never leave this place. The reason behind this warning is that Cardia carries deadly poison in her body that can melt away anything she touches if someone were to come into contact with her bare skin. Because of this, the local town has declared her a monster.
One night, the British Army breaks into the mansion to take her back to the palace, because the poison flowing through her veins is caused by something valuable. Embedded inside her chest to the point where it took over her actual heart, the Horologium promises infinite power to whoever has control over it. As such, the Royal Guard is interested in it, the terrorist group Twilight is interested in it, and one gentleman thief, Arsène Lupin, is interested in it, but he's also curious about the girl.
As the Army takes Cardia to the bustling streets of London (even though it's the dark of night), Lupin intercepts them, and with the help of a fancy speech and sleep powder, successfully retrieves the girl who he promises to "steal the heart" of. When she wakes up the next day in a steam-powered car compared to a carriage, she meets Impey Barbicane, a skilled mechanic who promises to be the first man on the moon on their way to their mansion hideout in the forest, and Victor Frankenstein, a renowned scientist, once they get there. The owner of said mansion, Count Saint-Germain, is met the following day after Cardia gets settled (for the most part).
While out in steampunk-powered London, Lupin asks what Cardia desires most. Up until this point, the latter hasn't really thought about it, but she realizes she wants to feel the heat of someone else's skin without being inhibited by her poison. Our gentleman thief promises to make Cardia's wish come true, and the gang fully comes together when a former member of Twilight, Abraham Van Hellsing, agrees to join the others as long as he gets to take the life of Finis, the leader of the organization, who is the literal embodiment of a terrifying demon.
As Cardia becomes more useful and comfortable with herself with these men by her side, she learns more about her past and her father's ultimate motivation. As Twilight begins their most ambitious plan yet to send London (and eventually, the rest of the wold) into turmoil, it's up to our heroes to stop them from conducting the worst of Code:Realize. It's not going to be easy, but can they build momentum with new allies once thought foes and yet another organization?
I was very surprised by how this anime adaptation handled the original story. Most reverse harem adaptations (along with adaptations of eroge or BL games I've seen) focus on events in the main story (also known as the common route) with glimpses into the romantic interests along the way. Code:Realize has that, but it brings a key element. That, my friends, is an end game.
Sorry, sorry. I couldn't help myself.
Anyways, I've never seen this before. Sure, we do get that sweet gravitation toward our favorite boys (and the ones we don't like as much or are just meh on), but they are just left with background development or further expansion on their personalities. With Code:Realize, that isn't the case. It does come at a cost (my two best boys don't feel developed compared to the rest), but that's a tiny complaint in the light of everything else. It works because the writers were smart enough to build chemistry between the two leads so their relationship doesn't come out of nowhere or has too much mud on the road.
Yes, I'm talking about Cardia and Lupin. They are cute and adorable and I ship them with all my heart. Even though Lupin isn't my best boy, it's clear they both liked each other from day one and I can still get behind it when they have many moments made for them. By Episode 9, it's basically set in stone, and by then, I was cool with it. There's no jealously when it works compared to...well, I bet you know by now.
Moving on to the actual story, this s**t was great. I love plots where characters live in an alternate version of a place, like 19th century London that's heavy on steampunk. I felt the pace was perfect (though I can see where people familiar with the game would say this was rushed at places), it had plenty of moments that kept me grinning or on the edge of my seat, the reveals were genuinely surprising from someone who wasn't too familiar with it, and some of the cliffhangers were EVIL.
How am I supposed to live for a week when a bombshell was dropped or when a character's life was threatened? How? JK I'm patient.
Also, CAN WE TALK ABOUT THE ENDING AND HOW F**KING SWEET IT WAS? I'M STILL NOT OKAY BY WHAT HAPPENED! CARDIA AND LUPIN GOT MARRIED AND I WATCHED IT FOR THE FIRST TIME ON CHRISTMAS EVE AND I COULD HAVE SWORN I GREW WINGS! JUST...I LOVE IT WHEN MY HAPPY SHIPS ARE HAPPY, OKAY?
So even though the staff didn't delve into as much of the story and some of the characters as some viewers would have liked, I'm still happy by what we got. I never felt bored when the show focused on quiet times compared to its moderate action or romantic tension, plus it delivered when it came to its main couple with actual development being given to them rather than having it come out of the blue. I want more reverse harem series like this, because it would make them stand out from the ones that are too trashy for their own good or are just notoriously bad.
Time to move on to the characters:
The cool thing about the majority of the characters in this franchise is that they are based off of historical and literary figures from around the same time period. From Dracula to Frankenstein, heck, even Sherlock Holmes, it offers a wide range of characters you could have heard from in English class.
Akin to my other reverse harem reviews, I will be going over the main female character, as well as her love interests (though Lupin is the main one here). This means Cardia will be up first:
Cardia was created by her father, Issac Beckford, after his scientific career ended in shambles. He was trying to find a cure for the plague in the town he lived in. This supposedly caused the deaths of his wife and children, Cardia being one of them. She came to being after much trial and error, as according to the Code:Realize Wiki, the number 666 is drawn faintly on her left shoulder. Also signifying the devil's number, she is the 66th being of her kind to be created, thus being a homunculus.
Prior to staying in the mansion permanently, Cardia lived with a mother and daughter named Elaine and Etty, who kept her safe from the angry townspeople trying to hunt her down. Eventually, they find her, and in doing so, take Etty captive after burning Elaine's house down. Cardia and the latter hold out in the rubble of the house, where Elaine passes away due to being infected by the small amounts of poison Cardia's body occasionally releases. Cardia tries to help her by melting the debris, but to no avail. When the high priest and other townspeople come back to the wreckage the following morning, Elaine is dead. This caused our main protagonist to shut in on herself, believing it was best to stay away from civilization so she couldn't endanger anyone else.
Due to her inexperience with the outside world, Cardia isn't very expressive (though is perceptive of what others are feeling). She also isn't aware of social norms, such as when she abruptly unbuttons her blouse in front of Lupin to show the Horologium's symbol on her chest. She is curious to learn more about her past and her father's whereabouts, and views herself as a monster, like so many people believe her to be. After all, the Horologium did cause her to have the ability to melt or rot anyone who touches her bare skin (causing her to wear gloves and have clothing and other items tailored to make sure they don't disintegrate). It also fused with her heart. So if anything goes wrong in removing it, she dies. Not a good way to go.
Over time, Cardia's confidence begins to grow. She realizes she wants to be helpful and resists being walked on again, so the guys train her to fight and look out for herself. Along with a cute new outfit, she becomes more in touch with herself emotionally, questioning whether or not she can actually experience genuine feelings. Cardia also begins to care for her comrades and hopes they can be successful and make her wish come true. She's done with being told she's a monster and a tool in Issac's plan, a girl who causes pain and torment to those around her. She's ready to fight, and we all should watch out.
I couldn't help but be drawn to Cardia immediately upon seeing her. She has such a pristine beauty, but that beauty did not come without a price. Though she starts off meek, her growth is very inspiring to follow. Her character arc reminds me of Juliette Ferrars from the Shatter Me series by Tahereh Mafi. Both start as characters who are cursed with a power they can't control and don't know anything about the world around them. However, as time goes on and they learn new skills, each girl is confident to face whatever comes her way with head held high and people by their side. Yet Cardia's growth as a whole is stronger.
No, she may not be strong enough to get out of sticky situations on her own, but she opens up and starts to have faith she's not a ghastly abomination. She's not taken advantage of or belittled by her comrades, and she's pretty smart. She knows when something's amiss and gets in touch with a wider range of emotions. At the end of it all, when coming face-to-face with a projected image of her father, she knows who the real monster is, and it isn't her. All in all, Cardia is a stark contrast compared to Yui (not the Yui that Saori Hayami voiced), the last reverse harem heroine I've seen, because at least the writers don't put the former in situations where they can't do anything about what will happen.
Now onto the boys, starting with Lupin:
Let me tell you guys something interesting. Thanks to the Dub Talk team (more specifically, Gigi), Lupin's route is the secret one (or the true end). You must fall in love with the rest of the boys before you can woo this boy's heart. Not in this adaptation, though.
Anyways, Lupin is based off of the fictional character created by Maurice Leblanc. He is the Gentleman Thief, who steals from people he thinks really deserve getting things stolen from. He's also pretty good at it, so the confidence in his success plays well into his character. Being the charismatic man that he is, he immediately takes a liking to Cardia and resolves to make her wish of feeling someone else's skin without the burden of her poison a reality.
Lupin was trained under a man who he claimed "held a deep amount of regret in his heart." This is because he knew of Issac's plan to torment the city of London, yet did nothing to stop it from proceeding. When he passed away, Lupin decided to see that goal through. Cardia was a part of that goal, but he realizes she's more than just something for his plan.
For me, Lupin was immediately likable from the start. Granted, he does have one iffy line in Episode 1 (after he is startled by Cardia trying to show him the Horologium, he remarks on what would have happened if it was someone else she did that too. The undertones are icky), but he's pretty respectable for a love interest. He's well-mannered, generous, very charming, and it's clear he cares so much for Cardia to the point where he can't imagine living without her. His interactions with the others are pretty great as well, plus I love how he gets easily flustered (I don't see that in a lot of reverse harem guys). It makes for some great moments and a love interest. He and Cardia will do just fine anime-wise.
"But what about the other love interests?" I hear you shouting from the back. Don't worry, I have you covered. Let's continue with Van:
Based off of Abraham Van Hellsing from Dracula, Van is a former highly-ranked member of Twilight. Renowned for his ability to hunt and kill vampires (as well as his general strength in combat), he is called the Human Weapon. He is looking for a way to kill Finis after being ordered to kill Delacroix I and his wife (otherwise known as Dracula) after spending time with his family. Delacroix I was one of the few vampires that survived the Vampire War, where the British Army fought against this race. As Lupin describes in the series, it was a war in name only, as it was really a mass eradication of the creatures.
As Finis holds the weight of Van's family in his hand, Van has no choice but to go ahead with killing Delacroix I. His son, eventually known as Delacroix II, sees the man standing over his father's body, and bears a grudge against him until they cross paths once again (which is after he joins up with the main crew). Despite completing the task and being renowned as a hero of the war, Van's family was still killed in cold blood. Since all of the evidence points in Finis' direction, Van decides he will stop at nothing to get his revenge.
Cardia is a start to use as bait to lure him out of the shadows, but Victor encourages Van to join up with them instead since their end goal is identical: stop Twilight from terrorizing the city of London with their schemes. With some trickery from Lupin, the man accepts, only if he can kill the leader of Twilight.
Outside of that, Van is typically serious and cold. It takes him a while to warm up to the others, but he knows it won't be for long. When Delacroix II and him brawl, Van understands the extent of the pain he inflicted. He promises the former he can take his life once Twilight is defeated. It further proves he could only think about going after Finis once that mission ended and have the satisfaction of killing him. Those thoughts change as the series goes on, of course, but initially, Van's got a lot of regret and pain in his heart.
Ah, Van, the guarded man who literally shoots salt pellets from his gun. Despite being prickly, you're actually pretty nice. You got a more compelling backstory than I thought you would. Having to go ahead and kill Delacroix I despite knowing this family wasn't as bad as they were claimed to be was really hard on Van, so it's understandable he didn't hold as much enthusiasm for his life. But as more time is spent with the others, Van warms up bit by bit, and he realizes there's more to his string of fate than being the one that puts a bullet in Finis' head.
Maybe being used as a human cannonball during the Black Gathering wasn't one of them (though it was pretty funny), but he does begin to care for Cardia. He's not my best boy, unfortunately, but he's still likable enough to the point where he deserves a hug. I'm not sure if he would like that, though.
Next up is Victor:
Based off of Victor Frankenstein from, you guessed it, Frankenstein, Victor is a former member of the Imperial Court. He served as the Head Royal Alchemist who developed a nasty chemical named Zicterium, which was used to fight the vampires in the Vampire War against his will. It came about on accident while Victor was trying to create the Philosopher's Stone (oh, hey, I know that term. Thanks, Fullmetal Alchemist), but Issac later used this to create the Horologium, which the former feels guilty for.
Since he abandoned his post, he is considered a terrorist by the English government and is on the Most Wanted list. After a harrowing attempt to capture Finis on a train (which fails), the entire gang is put on the list except for Cardia. Knowing he once held the Queen's respect, Victor wants to bargain with her in order to have their names cleared. He comes prepared, threatening to blow up Buckingham Palace, which in turn will release all of the incriminating information about Zicterium. He proves to be successful, and is now a criminal no more.
Despite being incredibly knowledgeable about a lot of things, this scientist doesn't let that define him. Rather, Victor is kind with a good head on his shoulders. Despite appearing fragile, he can hold his own in a fight and is the general peacemaker in the group. Game-wise, he is said to be self-deprecating, and his self-esteem improves over time as you go through his route. Other personality "faults" include him being shy and easy to embarrass.
Victor is another sweetheart. For me, it was hard not to love him. I always like a love interest who is more soft-spoken compared to the rest, and Victor definitely fit the bill. He also had the backstory that went the most in depth (which makes sense, since according to the Code:Realize Wiki (again), Victor's route is the longest), and I found it to be interesting in further cementing his ties to the British government and also creating ones for how Cardia was made. His interactions with Cardia are holy and pure and I liked what he added to this story. If the writers of this adaptation went in another direction for Cardia's romantic interest or cut it out entirely, I would not be mad if her feelings were hinted towards Victor. He's cute and nice and deserves the best.
Are you guys ready? Because next up is the one, the only, IMPEY BAR-BI-CANE!
Based off of Impey Barbicane from From the Earth to the Moon, Impey is an energetic bundle whose primary skill is engineering. His goal is to be the first man on the moon, which was inspired off of seeing a steam engine train and working under a teacher who taught him everything he needed to know. He takes a liking to Cardia almost immediately, occasionally hitting on her probably too much for his own good.
Aside from tuning up cars, airships, or any other vehicle that drives or flies, Impey is also a skilled cook. If anyone compliments him on his skills, that'll work out, though from time to time he can press his luck. He also has a secret the anime didn't reveal: he is a vampire. He has the slight fangs for a reason, in the end. I'm curious to see how this is revealed in the game, seeing as there is the subplot between Van and Delacroix II. Will it be a game changer and create angst? Or does it not matter as much in the grand scheme of things?
This is my best boy. I said in my Best List from last year that Saint-Germain was also Best Boy Material (he's next), but Impey caught my eye when I first heard about this franchise and he'll now forever hold a piece of my heart. He has the charming good looks of Lupin, the softness of Van, and the good nature of Victor, all rolled into one adorable package. I am disappointed we didn't get as much from him in terms of development, but I can ignore that seeing as HE'S JUST TOO CUTE, OKAY? THIS PRECIOUS CINNAMON BEAN WHO FLIRTS TOO MUCH, ACTS WAY TOO YOUNG FOR HIS AGE, AND IS BASICALLY A GIANT TEDDY BEAR WHO DESERVES ALL THE LOVE HE CAN GET! Whenever I get a PS4 and the original game, I'll play his route first, hands down.
Last but not least is Saint-Germain:
He is beauty, he is grace, he is stunning in every place.
Based off of both a fictional character created by Chelsea Quinn Yarbro and a real historical figure from 18th century France, Saint-Germain is a noble who has offered his vast home for Lupin and the others to stay in. On the pretense of their plan sounding interesting, he helps plan out some of the adventures and is a great source for intel. Though he means well and is a gentleman in heart and soul, he sometimes doesn't show up when the ball gets rolling. This is because he is a member of the organization known as Idea, which is dedicated to preserving the natural flow of history. Any disturbances must be eliminated, and Issac's two children (Finis is the other) just happen to be on that list.
Because of his mysterious background, Saint-Germain is typically shown with his eyes closed. They do open a total of three times throughout the series, but only when the situation is serious enough to call for it. This is why closed eye characters will never get old, folks. They look pristine, yet also have a few secrets inside of them. Don't piss them off, either. One way to make Saint really mad is if you do anything to his art collection.
Despite not having the darker parts to his character like I was expecting (his route SURE looks like fun in the game), I still loved Saint as a whole. Yes, he's pretty, but that doesn't just make a character. His demeanor offers a nice contrast compared to the other characters, plus I liked his subtle cheekiness. He's also very courteous to Cardia, which causes him to form an attachment to her. It's subtly romantic and poses some difficulty to the organization he's a part of. There's a slight conflict for his character as he decides what's more important: his faith to Idea, or Cardia herself. Since this is an otome, I'm sure you can guess what wins in the end. Nonetheless, I enjoyed Saint-Germain's character and I'm curious to see more of him in the future.
I don't think a group of boys has made me this happy since Kamigami no Asobi, which was another great reverse harem I recommend with my whole body and soul. It deals with gods from various mythologies. Trust me, you'll love it. In fact, my first ever review was on it. I hope you all enjoy the cringe of fourteen year old me!
Other characters include this franchise's personification of Queen Victoria, Rempart Leonhardt, the commander of a British Army unit (both start off as antiheroes), Finis, the leader of Twilight himself who Issac also created, Herlock Sholmes (the reasoning behind this name choice has to do with Sherlock Holmes being copyrighted by his original creator when Leblanc created Lupin), a private detective who seems to have a grudge against Lupin.
We than have Delacroix II, the heir to Delacroix I who comes to stay with the group following his duel with Van, Nemo, another engineer/scientist who is the peak of ICONIC, Guinevere, a fellow member of Idea, Jimmy A. Aleister, Twilight's second-in-command, Issac Beckford, Cardia and Finis' father who caused this whole mess, Elaine and Etty, who take Cardia in when she tries to leave the mansion for the first time, and finally, Omnibus, the leader of Idea, who briefly appears in Episode 11.
The animation for this series was produced by M.S.C, who are most known for their work on the Prince of Tennis franchise. That's basically it outside of a few obscure OVAs and production assistance for a few other shows.
Compared to the art style of the games, the anime does lack a sense of lushness the CGs and character designs have. However, despite being limited in that regard, I still thought the animation was really good. The character designs were translated well, I liked the show's use of lighting, everything looked natural, and despite having a few off moments here and there, there was overall consistency in the production so it didn't fall apart at the seams (like with, again, Dynamic Chord). It felt like the staff in charge actually gave a s**t, and that's always appreciated. I don't like it when my otome-based anime turn ugly.
Not much to say here except nicely done, M.S.C. I'm not sure what you'll do next, but I hope it turns out as charming as this was. I believe in you.
The score for this series was composed by Ryo Takahashi, who is also known for his work on series such as Citrus, Dream Festival's second season (alongside Ken Ito), and Classroom of the Elite.
I liked what I heard for Classroom of the Elite's OST, so I was excited to see what Takahashi would bring to the table with Code:Realize: Guardian of Rebirth. Compared to the former, this series' score is more orchestral in terms of instrumentation. Not only does it suit the time period this series takes place in, but it's also another immersive experience. Takahashi created pieces that not only suited the mood of scenes incredibly well, but he also continues to make ones that are memorable. There was one track that gave me goosebumps, one that was sinister, one that was the right amount of dramatic, and one that left me both hopeful and sad at the same time. It brought out the full string of emotions in me, which is always something I appreciate.
In terms of voice acting, I followed FUNimation's Broadcast Dub alongside the Japanese, and both were great viewing experiences. There were some voices I preferred in Japanese (Delacroix II is the main one), but it wasn't too bad making the jump between the two languages. Finis sounds equally menacing either way (it helps this isn't Diabolik Lovers, so Yuki Kaji can actually sound unhinged and make it work), Jill Harris took a slightly different approach to Cardia but still made her someone to root for, Brandon McInnis was the surprise casting choice for the dub of this show, yet really impressed me as Saint-Germain (woot woot), and the dub script writer (Samuel Wooley) gave everyone the best whiplash known to man when he put in a line that directly referenced Black Butler.
No, I'm not going to tell you what episode it's in, but I'll give you a hint. It's in the first half, and it's said by Lupin, who is played by J. Michael Tatum in the English dub. He played Sebastian in Black Butler, and if you think about one of his catchphrases, that might be the one Wooley referenced. Be prepared, boys and girls!
Highlights from the original Japanese are Saori Hayami, Tomoaki Maeno, Junichi Suwabe, Tetsuya Kakihara, Showtaro Morikubo (his youthful delivery sounds the least forced here), Daisuke Hirakawa, Yuki Kaji, Naomi Iida, Kazuya Murakami (who I was surprised to find out was in a BL game), Yoji Ueda, Miho Ishigami, Go Shinomiya, Rikiya Koyama, and Kanako Akahori.
Highlights from the English dub are Jill Harris, J. Michael Tatum, Ian Sinclair, Micah Solusod, Chris Guerrero, Brandon McInnis, Justin Briner, Stephanie Young (it's been a while), Austin Tindle, David Wald, Daman Mills, Mark Stoddard, Jaime Marchi, Caitlin Glass, Megan Shipman, and Ben Bryant.
I'm glad this show exists. Not only did I cherish it, but it put a smile on my face whenever I sat down to watch it. It had all of the things I like in an anime and more. I hope to see other reverse harem adaptations like this in the future, considering I feel like there's so few of them.
If there's one thing this series will be notable for in the future above all else, it will be for its ending. Having that established romance is uncommon for most otome games turned anime, so I'll be curious to see if this element gets a chance to fly more in the future. I have my eyes on you, adaptations that actually look good.
In the end, I would recommend this for fans of other reverse harems, fans of the original game this series is based on, or for those who are bored on a rainy day with nothing to do. I promise you won't regret every minute. Code:Realize: Guardian of Rebirth is something I'm going to remember for a while.
Has an actual end game.
Great no matter what language.
FLAIL FLAIL FLAIL FLAIL!
Weaknesses of the series are canceled out by all of the positives.