Code Geass is a two-season futuristic anime series about a Japanese rebellion against an occupying Britannian Empire. The Empire's leadership consists of an Emperor who is pro-discrimination, believing that it fosters competition and evolutionary progress; and viceroys and sub-viceroys of varying degrees of benevolence. The Japanese have been reduced to the status of "Elevens," who are subject to persecution at the hands of the Britannians, but those Japanese who show loyalty to the Empire have an opportunity to become honorary Britannians. There are limitations on how high an honorary Britannian can rise in the Imperial system, but in practice many of those limitations are waived for those who render outstanding service and devotion to the Empire, most notably by demonstrating willingness to sell out even their friends for an opportunity to advance.
The main ideological struggle is between Britannian Lelouch Lamperouge, who favors the use of violence, if necessary, to achieve full Japanese independence; and Japanese Suzaku Kururugi, who favors working within the system and obtaining the respect of those in power in order to rise to a high position and persuade the rulers to grant the Japanese some measure of autonomy and equality within the Empire. Kururugi states, "You have to gain society's approval in order to change it!" Apparently, it does not cross his mind that the kind of people who would be approved by society will be precisely those who agree with the system and therefore lack the intention to change it should the opportunity arise.
Kururugi tells a rebel fighter, "You could have tried to work within the system!" and receives the retort, "And what about the people who can't get into the system?" Kururugi fights to suppress Lamperouge's rebellion, believing it to be counterproductive since it could provoke the Empire to crack down harder on the Japanese and take away their privileges. Among the questions debated by the rebels are whether the Empire will grant concessions to appease the rebels, or whether reprisals for the revolt will tend, overall, to harm the Japanese; whether concessions granted are meaningful in the long run or just a deceptive tactical ploy; and whether full independence is really needed in order to safeguard Japanese interests.
In this series, the Americans are depicted as colonialist aggressors and high-ranking Chinese officials are depicted as buffoonish eunuchs whose attitude toward the common people whose well-being is to be sacrificed for political gain is summed up in statements such as "Zero, when you walk on the street, do you watch out to not step on the ants?" and "You throw away the paper that clings to your rear, don't you? This is no different!" and that "commoners will always breed like insects!" The concept of choosing the lesser of evils is presented in the form of political schemers saying, "The masses who suffer . . . tyranny will have no choice but to cling to something slightly better."