Jun Maeda has had a hand in a lot anime adaptations of visual novels from KEY. Shows such as Air, Kanon, Clannad, and Little Busters come to mind, but this time, Maeda set off to create an original story about a boy who goes through the trials and tribulations of life. Before you think that I just described Clannad, I did, but the difference here is that this one has a bit of a supernatural twist to it. Welcome to Charlotte!
Charlotte is about adolescent youths who develop special powers as they progress through puberty. Although these powers will, eventually, fade once they reach adulthood, it can still be a bit of a problem to society. One day, a boy named Yuu Otosaka is revealed to have the power to take over someone else’s body… but only for five seconds. He is discovered by Nao Tomori and Joujirou Takajou… members of a student council for a school built specifically for youths with powers. They convince Yuu to join the student council and as such Yuu and his little sister Ayumi begin a new life.
Okay… so the above is the non-spoiler description, but it’s kind of hard to talk about Charlotte without spoiling some aspects of it so this review will contain some spoilers… some of them pretty major! You have been warned.
The story, I thought, was kind of flat in the beginning. The opening episode raised a lot of intrigue, but in typical Jun Maeda fashion, the first half of the show was dedicated to goofy antics and tracking down other children who had awakened their powers. The true story didn’t really start until half way through the series and when it did, it immediately grabbed your attention because at this point, you’re finally given a bit of hope that it’s actually going to get better.
With the turning point, you would think that the series would turn to a much darker state and in reality.. it did… until they pulled out one of the most convoluted plot devices in the history of anime to try and make sense of everything… and this is where I spoil things because this was the part of the story that really made me dislike this anime.
So.. the big turning point is when Yuu’s sister Ayumi dies after awakening her power known as Collapse. Every power has a drawback and Ayumi’s is that when her emotions run rampant, the world around her breaks down. The downside is that she is always going to be the epicenter of the destruction and she gets caught in her own Collapse and ends up dying. This sends Yuu spiraling into a manic depressed state. He even goes so far as to roam the city picking fighting with anyone and anything that gets in his way just because he wants to. At one point, he’s about to turn to drugs when Nao shows up and brings him back to reality.
But that’s not the plot twist. The plot twist comes when Yuu meets his older brother Shunsuke who tells Yuu about his true power. It’s not to take over other people’s body’s for five seconds.. his power is Plunder. He can steal other people’s abilities and use them as if they were his own. It is the strongest ability in the world because Yuu could became that which is equivalent to a god with this power. Yuu’s brother just happened to have the ability to Time Leap… yeah.. you see where this is going.
So Yuu ends up plundering his brother’s power and time leaping to save Ayumi. Yuu then learns that these powers are a disease brought on by falling particles from a comet named Charlotte and that these particles manifest in humans and awaken at puberty, thus giving humans their powers. Yuu believes he can stop everything by Plundering every single power in the entire world from both people who have awakened their powers and those who have powers laying dormant inside of them…. and he does… but doing so has a huge drawback.
Yuu ends up deranged and the more deranged he becomes, the more he begins to lose his mind… and not in a psychotic way, but in a way where he can’t even remember who anyone is and at one point, he can barely even remember himself or why he’s doing what he’s doing. That’s pretty much how the anime ends… with Yuu coming back and not even knowing who all of his friends are and not even knowing who Nao is.. the one person he fell in love with.
Yeah.. that is a whole mess of spoilers, but it had to be said because I get where Jun Maeda was trying to go with this, but when you have to pull out time travel and falling comet particles to get there… I’m sorry, but that ruined the ending for me. Telling Yuu that his power is Plunder makes sense.. you could have left it at that without the whole time travel thing. You could have had Ayumi’s death be the reason why he decides to rid the world of these powers.. so what happened to Ayumi doesn’t happen to anyone else.. and that would have been a noble deed. Then to have Yuu end up like he did.. in the same state, would have given viewers a tragic ending.. that he sacrificed his own memories.. his own sanity so that nobody else in the world had to go through what he did with Ayumi.
I think THAT would have been a much better story to tell instead of pulling all of these sci-fi aspects from, seemingly, out of thin air and try to pass it off as drama.
Let’s just move on to the characters before I end up banging my head against a wall…
Our main protagonist and right off the bat I loved his character because he’s not your typical “nice kid” main character. He was kind of a cocky, arrogant prick, to put it mildly, but as soon as he was recruited by the student council, he just became Random Main Character A. The entire interesting aspect of his character literally flat lined into generic mediocrity. It wasn’t until he lost Ayumi that his character started to show his dark side, which I really enjoyed. Then he pulls another 180 and snaps out of it, only to do something noble, revert back to darkness and then loses his memory.
I have never seen a character take as many wild turns before in my life and I’ve seen every face/heel turn by The Big Show in WWE. Yuu’s character development was just an absolute mess from beginning to end. I honestly don’t know how Maeda could think this was a good idea.
Okay.. she tries to be a tsundere, but completely fails at it. Yeah she as the attitude problem and that little hint of sweetness buried underneath all of it so by technical definition, she is a tsundere, but the only problem is… she’s not really all that believable as a character. Her power is to turn herself invisible, but to only one person at a time. She uses that power in conjunction with a camera in order to video tape others for the purposes of finding others with these powers.
I just couldn’t get into her character at all. She’s basically just Generic Tsundere A that gives you very little reason to care about her. The only real development she gets is when she talks about her brother which sets up a bit of a dramatic side story about scientists and researchers collecting people with powers in order to perform not-so-pleasant experiments on them. I guess you could also count the time she pulled Yuu out of his darkness after losing Ayumi, but that wasn’t really development on her part as much as it was a plot device to move Yuu in, yet, another direction.
Oh well.. not every tsundere can be Taiga.
He is the third member of the quadrafecta that is the student council. His power is rapid movement, but his drawback is that he can’t stop and usually crashes into things such as walls.. or crashing through windows. Because he injures himself so much, he wears body armor under his student uniform. Joujirou also has an unhealthy infatuation with an idol which sets up a running joke where Nao will always say “That’s such a turn off!” It gets old fast… trust me.
Yusa Kurobane Misa Kurobane
She is the fourth member of the student council and the object of Joujirou’s infatuation. Why? Because she’s an idol… but because she has a power, she’s been recruited into the school, but because she’s an idol, she gets placed on the student council. Her power is to be possessed by the dead, but the only spirit which seems to possess her is her sister Misa. Misa also had a power… the power to conjure fire so when Misa possesses Yusa, she can use her powers once again.
Ever have a little sister that was just the most annoying thing on the planet? No? Well just watch this show and thank the Lord that you never had to experience that. I get that Ayumi is a young child and young children are full of energy, but Ayumi is just over the top annoying to the point where I was actually happy when she died. Call me cold-hearted, but it’s true. When they brought her back thanks to Yuu plundering Time Leap, I let out a huge sigh of disappointment. Oh, and she also sets up another running gag throughout the series: Pizza Sauce (IT’S SWEET!)
He’s kind of sort of part of the student council, but kind of sort of not. He just walks into the room soaking wet, drops a bead of water from his finger on a map, tells the council that’s where their next target is and what power they have and then walks away. He plays a much more prominent role in the show later, but at first, he just seemed like a throwaway character… and I guess in the end, he became just that so mission accomplished. Once you learn a bit about Kumagami’s history and what his role was with the student council, his character does develop a bit more meaning to the point where you finally get behind that character, but in typical Jun Maeda fashion, he teaches you never to get attached to any of his characters…
He is Yuu’s brother and his ability is Time Leap. His drawback is that each time he uses Time Leap, he loses a portion of his eye sight. If he were to become blind, he would never be able to use Time Leap again. Shunsuke helped create the first safe haven for those with powers and that was his entire mission… to protect those like him until their powers naturally disappear. Something goes wrong each and every time so he ends up having to Time Leap over and over again to try and reshape the future. He eventually does go blind until he is reunited with Yuu. Shunsuke then serves as the information dump character and then becomes completely useless to the series
All in all, I don’t believe that these characters are developed well… and those that did receive development did so in the most generic ways. Maybe it’s because I’ve watched a lot of anime in my time, but when you see the same character types over and over and over again, it’s hard to get excited about any of them. If you’re just starting to get into anime, you may enjoy these character types because they may be new to you and if that’s the case, then the show develops them just enough for you to understand what each character type is about which means you’re more likely to recognize similar characters in other series.
Art, Animation, and Sound
The character designs were flat, generic, and boring. Typical school uniform and hair styles lead me to believe that P.A. Works just wasn’t even trying. P.A. Works is known for some very good artwork, so it’s really sad that the characters just didn’t really look all that good. Backgrounds and such were magnificent as expected from the studio and the animation quality also met my expectations based on past works by them
What is it with Jun Maeda and Stars? They’re like in EVERY one of his adaptations
The only thing about the OST that stood out was the opening theme and even then it was your typical upbeat new age piano theme with female vocals complete with string instruments because that’s pretty much the only musical style Japan knows to fall back when generic rock or pop things don’t fit the mold. Heaven forbid they take a chance and try something new.
A main character whose development is all over the place… shallow and non-inspiring characters that make up the rest of the cast, bland character designs, and a really convoluted story make Charlotte an anime you can freely skip because you won’t be missing much. If you want to look forward to something Jun Maeda had a hand in, then just wait for Rewrite, but that show is being developed by 8-Bit, so I wouldn’t hold my breath there either.
I think one of the problems with shows like this was that Clannad was a very good drama that could even make grown men cry and KEY has been heralded for their work on that Visual Novel. So when anyone who has any affiliation with KEY sets off to produce original content, that bar is set pretty high and expectations of greatness fill the minds of those waiting to see the show unfold. Could it be that we expected more from Maeda and just didn’t get it that we, as a viewer base, felt so let down by this show? It could have been part of the problem because when you sit back and look at the big picture for Charlotte, the show wasn’t an abysmal failure… but, make no mistake.. the show wasn’t all that great either.
It is a show you can skip, but it’s not bad enough to be a complete and total waste of time as it did actually have it’s good moments even though those moments were few and far between.
If I could hold Charlotte’s script in my hands I’d…
Pizza Sauce Really Isn't That Sweet, You Know...
Flat Characters and a Convoluted Story easily make this a show you can skip
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