There is a discussion in the fandom ("Lelouch, alive or dead?") which has been raging for a decade, but unfortunately this discussion has been muddied by a tidal wave of misinformation and falsehoods, especially concerning what was or wasn't officially stated by the show staff. Therefore it is very valuable to create a list of all the official statements which have been made in regards to the topic of Lelouch's true fate at the end of R2, accompanied by links and sources which verify the veracity of these statements.
Interviews and Articles
- Ichiro Okouchi, 'Continue' vol 42, (October 2008). "Lelouch dead!? Was it a good one or a bad one!?"
- Still, isn't it possible that defeating the wise ruler Schneizel, the person who was supposed to have brought order to the world, might lead to some [viewers] interpreting it as a Bad End?
Okouchi: That's true. There are probably a lot of people who think of it as a Bad End, a tragedy, considering the protagonist's, Lelouch's end as well. However, Lelouch says in the first episode: "Only those prepared to be shot are allowed to pull the trigger themselves." If you were to think of that as his pride, then I think his getting shot (killed) in the end was a logical end. Of course, I understand that not all of the viewers will accept this ending. There were people who wanted a happier ending, after all.
- Was there a dispute among the staff members regarding the ending?
Okouchi: No. It was decided fairly naturally. During the "Code Geass" script meetings, there are many cases in which there were a number of disputes, but there were barely any when it came to the scripts for (the previous series's) episode 25 and the final episode. I think everyone felt the same when it came to the end of the character that is Lelouch.
- Why were you so bold as to choose this ending when the viewers might see it as a Bad End?
Okouchi: Bold... yes, we were so bold as to chose this ending. Perhaps the show that is "Code Geass" ending up this way was decided the moment Director Taniguchi and I teamed up. I suppose you can call it our sense of aesthetics, or perhaps a part of our psychological makeup.
- I see. So Lelouch's decision was also your, Mr. Okouchi's, and Director Taniguchi's decision.
Okouchi: Which is why I think of both our and Lelouch's decision as Happy Ends. I believe that there will be better things in the tomorrow awaiting Nunnally, Kallen and the rest who have been left behind. And surely Lelouch, who was able to make this into a reality, can only be happy [about this].
- Some unresolved mysteries still remain.
Okouchi: From the very beginning, [I/we] never planned on explaining everything. In fact, if you ask me, I think we might have overdone the explanations. While it's undeniable that Lelouch's story has ended with a full stop, the other characters' stories are still on-going, and it's not like the world [of Code Geass] itself has come to an end either. [I/we] didn't want to end it by closing it up for good."
- Animage Nov 2008, cast comments
Floating text: "C.C. - Her wish was to die as a human, but after spending time with Lelouch, C.C. also wished for tomorrow. She made up her mind to ensure the tomorrow of the world that Lelouch had left."
Animage: The ending's outcome turned out as such, but do you think Lelouch was happy?
Okouchi: I think that this (work) was not a bad end, but a good end. This already appeared in Lelouch and C.C.'s conversation in Stage 7 of S1, but people who are 'just' living their lives are uninteresting. Lelouch saved his beloved sister and made the kind world that he envisioned, a reality. His life was not in vain. That's why, Lelouch was smiling in the end."
- C.C.'s profile on the official GeassNet (mobile) website
"..Knowing that Lelouch does not hate her for giving him the Geass, she is now able to show her true feelings. With the realization of "Zero Requiem", her time with Lelouch, who was able to forgive and accept her, came to an end, but the memories created with him has, without doubt, saved her from eternal loneliness."
- Some people claim that "they said he died, but they didn't say he stayed dead, maybe the code just brought him back to life".
That is a fallacy. These interviews were given BEFORE the airing of the final episode. The anime magazine Continue (Vol.42) was was lying in the shelves of shops about 2 weeks after the final episode had aired and it is not logistically feasible to shedule interviews, write the article, edit it, sort the layout, make it fit in the magazine, print it, etc so shortly before nationwide distribution. On top of that whenever they speak about the fanbase and its reaction, they talk in the future tense. It's unreasonable to expect the creators to foresee and predict all possible fan reactions, of course they didn't say that Lelouch didn't have the code or didn't get back up after dying, they never expected that to be the thing that fans came up with. For them death is final, so they didn't say what happened after death, because there's nothing there. Who would expect someone to say "he died and after that he stayed dead"? That's just not a natural thing to say! Furthermore, the tweets (see below) also repeat that Lelouch is dead and they are VERY explicit. Also, contrast this with the fact that there is not a single official statement which has ever said that Lelouch was immortal or had the code.
- Some claim that Code geass was intended to be open ended. This, however, is false. This was a (deliberate?) misinterpretation of an interview. The interview said that they would understand if not all fans would like the ending, and that people were free to see Lelouch's death as a happy or a sad ending. Lelouch's death itself, however, was not open to interpretation. Not everything in an anime is open to interpretation, for example Lelouch being a Britannian prince and not a Japanese schoolgirl, likewise with his death, it is set in stone.
- Some claim that the show staff were internally divided on the issue and that's why the anime ended ambigiously. This, too, is false. the interview says very clearly that even though there were disagreements on some story elements there were none when it came to the death of Lelouch, his death was unanymously decided. this was later repeated in one of the tweets (see below). They even explained how they added foreshadowing about his death to the show with Lelouch's famous lines about killing and being killed. Lelouch ays this in the very first episode, repeats this sevral times throughout the show and says it one final time right before he gets stabbed. This demonstrates there were no disagreements at all and that the ending was not intended to be ambigious.
- These interviews explain what C.C. meant in the epilogue about the power of the king not necessarily leading to loneliness. This will be further discussed below in the section about the remade epilogue on the blu-ray.
In light of the release of the 3 new movies, Ichirō Ōkouchi started a series of tweets called "Geass Memories". In these he looks back at the days when he and his colleagues were making Code Geass and sheds some light on the production process, gives old anecdotes and so on.
In the most recent of these tweets (May 21, 2018), he once again officially confirms that Lelouch's fate had been decided from the very start and that this fate was death.
These are the relevant quotes:
"Before I started writing the story of a person called Lelouch, I confirmed with Taniguchi-director something. That thing was that the end of Lelouch will be death."
"At least he is aware of his sins and pays for them with his death."
"This man called Lelouch will pay for his sins by his death. The story follows him till he finally make this decision."
"Probably this Lelouch we see in the first episode of the series wouldn't choose death. He would try something to avoid it. He couldn't die, for Nunnally as well. But we see him changed in the last episode."
These tweets once again confirm that there was no disagreement between the creators when it came to the death of Lelouch. They also confirm that his death was decided on from the very start of the production process, even before the writing had started. And finally, these tweets are truly very explicit, the word "death" here can really not be interpreted as "death for a minute or so".
The Official Guide Book
The full title is "Code Geass Lelouch of the Rebellion R2 The Complete Official Guide Book Art book", and it can be bought on Amazon.
It's in Japanese (translation taken from here), and states repeatedly that Lelouch is dead:
Lelouch's character profile page (non-cropped picture): "Lelouch, who gathered not just his sister's but the sins of all of his kin, tells Suzaku that he wants him to kill him. And, atoning for his sin of killing his father by becoming Zero and devoting himself to world peace. That is Suzaku's wish. Pierced by Suzaku's sword, Lelouch dies with a satisfied smile on his face. The curtains are lowered upon the history of one boy who performed the perfect 'evil' to the end."
Suzaku's character profile page: "For those two who bear the heavy sin known as killing their fathers, they share the belief that they can forgive each other by imposing the greatest punishments on themselves. Death for Lelouch who wishes for a tomorrow with his sister, life for Suzaku who wishes to atone for his sins through death. Suzaku, who accepts the weight of Zero's mask, gives his gratitude to Lelouch. For the fact that he can atone for his sins. For the results of fulfilling his own wish."
Nunnally's character profile page: "In the end, Nunnally isn't even allowed to bear her brother's sins. Until right before her brother dies, she seems to want to hate him for that. Upon realizing the truth behind her brother's actions, Nunnally clings to her brother's corpse and wails. And then, she succeeds her brother's will and starts walking together with Suzaku, who has become Zero, down the road as a ruler who creates peace. Because that alone is the one and only thing she can do for her brother."
From the time line chart: "Emperor Lelouch, during the parade before executing the rebels in Japan, is attacked by Zero and perishes."
From Turn 25: "However, Suzaku, masquerading as Zero who is thought to have died in the war before, appears and stabs Lelouch to death with a sword in front of the crowd."
The New Epilogue (blu-ray)
The official blu-ray release contains the "Zero Requiem movie" which recaps R2.
This ZR movie is the same as R2 (obviously), but has a 50sec new epilogue.
The old epilogue is dropped, this means no hay cart scene with C.C. This is very important as that scene is a crucial 'clue' for the code theory. If that scene were truly so important to understand the story it wouldn't have been dropped. Since it IS dropped this is very telling. The new epilogue is C.C. narrating to the audience while beautiful art scrolls past in the background. She explicitly says Lelouch is dead and that she's sad and cries at night.
To quote her words:
"A young man dies. He had the power to change the world, to create a new order. The world feared him, hated him. But, I know he died with a smile on his face. Only those who have realised their dream will truly understand that feeling of utter contentment. So, this is not a tragedy. And whenever I feel sad or cry at night, I sing a song. A song of man's making. Zero Requiem!"
Those are VERY clear words and cannot be misunderstood. Lelouch is dead and she is sad and heartbroken about it, but the thought that he died achieving his goal comforts her. It's worth pointing out that this new epilogue fits perfectly with what they said about the ZR and C.C. in an interview (see above).
Unlike the fan-made fake edit of the old epilogue which "shows the cart driver as Lelouch" which can only be found on shady code theory youtube channels and nowhere else, this new epilogue can be found on many places, most importantly its is included on the official blu-ray and anyone can just buy it and see for themselves. It can also be found on various streaming sites which host the entire Code Geass franchise (so not solely R1 and R2). And unlike the fake hay cart scene which has TERRIBLE quality because it's a mere zoom with some edits, this epilogue has beautiful, high quality art and actual voice acting by C.C.
Lelouch of the Resurrection
With the release of the final of the three new movies it was revealed that "the new project" Resurrection will follow the movies and not the original series. These 3 movies largely follow the original series, the differences are mostly minor, a few things less minor, but apart from one thing there's nothing massively different. There is one BIG change, almost all of the original Shirley stuff has been cut, and replaced with new scenes. As a result, Shirley is still alive at the end of the movies.
There are 2 conclusions to draw from this:
- Since "Lelouch of the Resurrection" is now official an AU (alternate universe), it doesn't affect the ending of the original R2.
- At the moment of this writing (after the release of the final movie, but before the release of the sequel), everything shows that, despite being AU, the movies didn't alter Lelouch's fate, i.e the ZR still happens and Lelouch still dies. So that means the discussion about the end of R2 is still relevant for the sequel, until the sequel (potentially) contradicts it. In that light it is clear why the sequel is named "Lelouch of the Resurrection": Lelouch (who is confirmed to be the main character again) will be resurrected from the grave.