Charlotte is an ongoing manga from Maeda Jun, the same writer as Angel Beats. He also did some work on Air, which was considerably less impressive. Last year, Charlotte got a thirteen episode anime adaptation from P.A. Works. The same studio behind both Angel Beats & Another. Knowing nothing else about the series, that’s a couple of good signs. We’ve got a writer who’s shown skill in another work and the same studio that worked with him on it. On the other hand, Penguindrum also had a writer and studio that had both shown great ability before and we all know how that turned out. I’m still cautiously optimistic for this one, so let’s take a look.
We open with our protagonist, Otosaka Yuu, explaining that he has the power to take control of other people for five seconds when he’s within visual range of them. He uses this power to cause trouble for people he doesn’t like, peep, manipulate events to his advantage and cheat at school. With the only disadvantage being that his regular body slumps over while he’s doing it. One day, he’s approached by a member of the student council who sits him down to retake a test. Otosaka tries to take control of him to get the answers, only to find that the supposed answer sheet is something entirely different. He finds himself being chased by two students from a different school, Tomori & Takajou. Both of whom exhibit strange abilities like his own. They explain that the abilities manifest at adolescence, like Marvel’s mutant powers but, unlike those, they fade away with time. The two compel him to join them at their school. That’s where the meat of our story begins.
There are a few points that act to the series’ detriment. The first is that it has some tonal problems. We start out with things keeping a fairly light-hearted and kind of silly tone but, not quite halfway through, things suddenly get pretty dark and a lot more serious. It’s more than a little awkward. The second issue is with the very final episode. This episode crams in enough material that, well-paced, should be at least three or four episodes. As a result things that should get developed more strongly or that should be built up or that should have some time to develop tension, end up getting rushed through as everything gets wrapped up. Finally, we have a slight problem with the romance. To Maeda’s credit, I do like that the main romance in this is built on mutual respect and that it does drive both characters involved to be better people. However, the romance arc itself unravels in a pretty clichéd way and it’s not one that develops particularly naturally.
That being said, there are a lot of strong points to the series. The more light-hearted moments are really enjoyable and funny. There are also some really strong emotional moments. If the series had done a better job of integrating both from the get go, both would be handled nearly flawlessly. As is, the execution is still very impressive. The story itself is also strong at introducing hints about the main narrative throughout the more episodic content, which allows for some strong tension as things progress further and you get more curious about where they’re going with certain things. I also do like the way the series handles its super powers. It’s a refreshingly unique and clever take on the way those kinds of stories are usually done.
Maeda actually takes a pretty significant risk in introducing the main character in this series. Namely, there’s nothing likeable or even that interesting about Otosaka in our initial look at the character. He’s petty, pervy and just generally terrible. Only after we get this initial, bad impression does the character start getting fleshed out and his positive aspects start coming through. First impressions mean a lot and this could have, in the hands of a less skilled writer, killed any potential for us to identify with him. However, in this case it works. For one thing, the first positive traits we’re exposed to are the result of his affection towards his little sister, which does have verisimilitude. We also see the character gradually change as a result of his interactions with the student council. Not only that, but his negative traits are still present, just less pronounced. He also does suffer consequences for all the nasty things we see him do. The other major characters are pretty compelling and developed as well. There are some really strong interactions among the characters in this. The side characters vary quite a bit. Some are pretty fleshed out while others are stagnant and flat.
I have to give P.A. Works credit on this one. The animation in this is pretty fantastic. The backgrounds are very nicely detailed. It’s a very nice looking series.
We get some really strong vocal performances in this. Especially coming from Sakura Ayane, Uchiyama Kouki, Uchida Maaya & Ono Daisuke. The music from Anant-Garde Eyes & Maeda Jun is really well done. Which isn’t really surprising since they also worked on the music for Angel Beats.
There is a little bit. When Yuu’s sister, Ayumi, talks about Yusa she tends to get hearts in her eyes and nose bleeds which kind of indicate that she has a crush.
So, with everything said and done this anime is great. There are a lot of narrative and character strengths with really strong acting, music and artwork. While there are a few factors that do hold it back, it’s still a great watch. If you were a fan of Maeda’s work on Angel Beats or the premise sounds good to you, check it out. My final rating is going to be a strong 8/10. Next week, I’ll look at another requested anime with Rakudai kishi no cavalry.