KiraKira Treasure Box

Review: Charlotte (Anime)

You were supposed to be my sanctuary this season...

STUDIO: P.A. Works
ORIGINAL RUN: July 4, 2015 – September 26, 2015
GENRES & THEMES: Drama, Superpowers, Espers, School Life. Comedy
SOURCE: Original anime project
Special abilities occur among a small percentage of boys and girls in puberty. Yū Otosaka uses his power without others knowing, and lives a fairly normal, average school life. Before him suddenly appears a girl, Nao Tomori. Due to his meeting with her, the fate of special power-users will be exposed.
Source: ANN.

Feel welcome to express your thoughts and disagree (politely) in the comment section (discussion is always fun!!), but no opinion bashing will be allowed! Do remember the final verdict is my own opinion, which may differ from yours! 

The summer season anime come to an end, along with the two-cour animes that began airing in spring, and some of the stuff in the lineup looked promising. Charlotte, with a story by kleenex sales booster Jun Maeda, was undoubtedly between the most anticipated shows of the season, automatically earning itself a fanbase before its plot was even revealed. It boosted of high budget animation by a studio that has earned a reputation for clean productions, and a story by the mastermind behind everything Key Visual Arts has ever produced and the famous tear-jerking Angel Beats! that had grown ass men sob with an ending sequence five years ago. Hell yeah, move over losers, I'm getting on this bandwagon with you!!

... Little did I know it wouldn't be as fun of a ride as it promised to be.

The Story&Themes

There seems to be no grey with Charlotte: it's either black or white from the reactions I've seen on the internet. Opinions are divided between those who loved the show, and those who downright would like to scribble a big F on its poster (in case I haven't made it obvious yet, I'm of the latter half). Though Charlotte does show a lot of promise and presents us with a story that is in its nature interesting, it fails to understand what sort of series it should've aimed to be.
Yuu Otosaka has good looks, but doesn't have the brains to go with them. Fortunately for him he has the perfect substitute: a power that allows him to take over someone else's body for 5 seconds, abusing it to cheat on tests and get himself into a prestigious high school. His carefree life ends suddenly when Nao Tomori and Joujirou Takajou, high-schoolers with similar powers as him, catch him and force him to transfer to Hoshinoumi Academy. In this school everyone is like Yuu: they have powers, or the potential to be carriers. Now he must help Nao and the student council do as they did with him: find teenagers abusing their powers and get them to stay put until they wear away once they reach adulthood, effectively protecting them from the many organisations after them.
Charlotte mixes the usual Key drama cake disguised by a very heavy dose of comedy that had me slapping my knees in laughter. If you're familiar with this recipe, then you know all too well how this works: make your audience laugh as hard as they can, for then the soon to come fall into despair shall seem greater. And to be honest, it works out very well at first. Charlotte exploits its school life theme to the max, makes good use of its oddball  group of characters, and presents a fairly enjoyable set of first few episodes, occasionally throwing in hints that there's something bigger cooking... until it falls prey of trying to stuff in too much story into a 13 episode anime, abandons all hope of character development, and goes for TWO half-baked story climaxes and ruins it's entire potential.

With great power comes great responsibility... and danger.

Okay, come on, I'll start with the good stuff. If there's anything I must praise Charlotte for, it's for its unusual view on supernatural powers. Though most shows that go for this sort of sci-fi setting like to walk down the superhero path —perhaps misunderstood at first, but eventually revered—, Charlotte describes these powers as an illness, not just because of their nature —for they manifest themselves throughout puberty but disappear once you reach adulthood—, but because they drive children into committing sins. Much like Yuu, all the other characters the school council deals with are abusing their powers in some dangerous way or other. They don't have a particularly malicious intent; they're not trying to take over the world or become Gods (I'm looking at you Light Yagami); but they're inevitably committing little moral crimes with them, and that's what our main cast is here to stop. However the series isn't trying to set up an Avengers team, and the characters never even think about using their powers for a greater good: it's a survival game, and the objective here is to lie low until this illness wears out.
It's an interesting take on the subject, and with it Charlotte reviles the unfortunate truth that political power is greater than physical power, and how little children are in control of their own lives.
Which is, essentially, one of the three themes the show boils down to: the defence of free will, and the courage to do good.

Supervillain potential

The temptation to do evil, and the difficulty being lawful presents. How many times have we come across a fork in the road of our lives were doing what isn't socially acceptable is easier than doing what is? Cheating on tests is perhaps a minor crime when compared to the many horrors we see on TV, but a crime is still a crime. Throughout it's thirteen episodes, Charlotte attempts to show that its characters are, in fact, potentially evil. There is nothing there to assure you they wont abuse their powers to destroy the world, other than the fact that they want to lay low so they don't get experimented on. The theme is particularly channelled through Yuu, whom we watch consider the option of falling into depravity more than once, and take it. It's an interesting take on human nature, because, in the absence of laws and in possesion of strength, it questions whether humanity is naturally good, or naturally evil. Which shall it be?
It ties in to the presentation of the powers our protagonists posses as illnesses, not blessings, and further exposes them as beings outside the natural flow of the world, effectively presenting them as monsters. Unfortunately Charlotte isn't good enough to exploit this theme properly...

Flawed as a net trying to be an umbrella

For everything right with Charlotte there's two other points that set it as a terribly flawed series. Hype was real as P.A. Works worked us up with visuals that mislead us into believing this was going to be a creepy anime on human experimentation a la Zankyou no Terror.
Well, experimentation was part of the formula (what with all these creepy scientists going after these kids to turn them into guinea pigs), but it is clumsily portrayed and nowhere near as stunning as it promised ↑↑↑, nor as striking as it should have been. In the end Charlotte's "the bad scientists are coming for us" falls flat on it's head and never becomes the menacing threat it was originally intended to be... which ultimately leaves the series with no major antagonist. I guess you could argue that they are fighting against fate (drama drama drama), but that's giving the series a bit too much credit.
Misleading marketing aside, Charlotte's major flaw is its extremely sloppy pacing. It rushes through events you'd think should be allowed to be savoured, and eventually ties off all its major plot points in awkward, speedy knots. And added to this careless pacing is the horrendous fact that the show is extremely episodic. The first few episodes consist of the student council "enlightening" the teens they encounter who also posses supernatural powers. Fun stuff, you'd think, if it wasn't because it's basically the same stuff over and over again. It's monotonous, and it becomes quite boring. The series hits us with a plot twist that could prove definitive from episodes 7 to 10, but then it turns around, laughs in the face of danger, and plunges into the abyss as it heads into a disastrous finale where it returns to its episodic origins, discards the possibly incredible climax chance it had between 7 and 10, and decides to end with something that is far too complex to solve in just 3 episodes. The result is a bunch of characters we care little about, and little to no actual emotional development.
Charlotte laughing at your failed expectations and not giving a shit.

Heck, even the the revelation behind the show's title is awkwardly put together and forgotten in T minus 10 seconds! I'd go on and on about everything that I found disagreeable in the show, but I'd need a new blog just to do that.

The Characters

Charlotte's cast has a certain potential. Teens with superpowers? You can take this in a million different directions, especially when you've decided that these superpowers they have are bad business for them, and when they could be potentially used for evil. And the truth is, Charlotte didn't make a bad choice: Yuu doesn't start off as your usual hero of justice, Nao isn't your cliché tsundere girl, Yusa didn't turn out to be the cute idol who's actually a rude piece of meat on legs, Misa added spice to the formula, and even Joujirou's character had interesting potential beyond being the clown of the series. 
It's a pity P.A. Works decided to halfway through introduce a whole new cast, effectively dooming the possibility of getting any emotional reaction out of me throughout the entire last 5 episodes. The result is that you end up not really giving a shit about anybody, because the new guys don't get enough development (heck, their names barely get mentioned) and aren't around long enough for you to care, and all the main characters get half-arsed resolutions to their stories. Nao becomes your ordinary damsel in distress and loses all her personality, Misa gets an awkward, misplaced ending that didn't even last two minutes, and the Joujirou&Yusa combo gets forever reduced to just comedy extras.
To top if off, the rather promising buddy relationship Nao and Yuu build up during the first half of the series gets completely ruined by an awkward half-baked romance that fits as badly as oregano does on a strawberry cake (and if you think oregano goes well on strawberry cake, well, I guess there's as many different tastes as stars in the sky then), topped by a "supposedly" emotive ending that moves you as much as an ant pushing the sole of your shoe does because YOU JUST DON'T CARE ABOUT THE CHARACTERS (#WTF MAEDA).

The Animation&Sound

Story-wise recent P.A. Works animes have left me rather unsatisfied (Glasslip HAHAHahaha hahahaha... ha.... haaaa.... kill me please), but through projects such as Another, Hanasaku Iroha, or even earlier shows like True Tears, the studio has proved it can do its shit quite well when it comes to animation and scenery porn. Though perhaps not on the same orgasmic level as Makoto Shinka's works, P.A. Works manages to play around with it's animation, paying particular attention to the lighting, and is always a pleasure to watch. The quality never dropped in all thirteen episodes, and though there isn't any particular scene that stood out from the lot, there wasn't a single one where the budget was cut either. Visually, Charlotte is everything you want from a good anime.
Musically, it wasn't so fortunate. I found the opening "Bravely You" by Lisa quite addicting, but the main ending theme "Yake Ochinai Tsubasa" by Aoi Tada didn't have my heart going doki doki much. There were other endings that made temporary appearances in other episodes, but they weren't particularly memorable either. There was also a sort of attempt to add insert songs like they did back with Angel Beats! (you know, with Yusa being an idol and all), but to be honest they weren't very outstanding either. Soundtrack wise, though, I did enjoy quite a few pieces that played, though not enough to point any particular ones out.


I was about to bump up the rating to a 5, seeing as I've watched my fair share of terrible anime and I know there's far worse things out there, but the fact remains that this was a Jun Maeda work. And as a Jun Maeda work, it is a straight failure and uncharacteristically messy. He might've not been the one behind all the decision making, perhaps he wanted to make it a double cour anime, but it doesn't change the fact that it's his story, or the fact that it wasn't adapted to more appropriately fit a 13 episode show. I won't say it's pointless to watch, for if anything Charlotte serves to make us appreciate the better stuff that's out there and reminds us that promising directors don't mean a show will success, but I'm afraid it's not going on my list of recommendations...


Well, maybe if you're drunk?

Out of all the animes that were coming out this summer season, I never expected to fail Charlotte...

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