Director: Yoshiyuki Asai, Script/Original Creator: Jun Maeda, Character Designer: Masahiro Fujii, Art Director: Kazuki Higashiji, Original Character Designer: Na-Ga, Music: Jun Maeda, Anant-Garde Eyes,
Voice Actors: Kouki Uchiyama (Yuu Otosaka), Momo Asakura (Ayumi Otosaka), Ayane Sakura (Nao Tomori), Maaya Uchida (Misa Nishimori, Yusa Nishimori), Takahiro Mizushima (Joujirou Takajou),
Studio: P.A. Works
Airing Date: July, 2015
As far as I was concerned all the signs going into this anime were not positive. The creator of this is Jun Maeda, a man famous for creating visual novels and his work (writing and music) on anime shows like Air, Angel Beats, and Clannad. The style of these shows is moe and melodrama and that aesthetic and style is a massive turn-off for me. Also a turn-off is the generic concept of the show which is all about teens with super powers. Colour me surprised that three episodes in and Charlotte has turned out to be more amusing and different than I could have guessed…
People with special abilities exist in our world but these special abilities only occur among a small percentage of boys and girls in puberty and when they mature into adults their abilities disappear. It’s not commonly known yet but the number of people with powers is rising.
Our main protagonist is the handsome and seemingly perfect Yuu Otosaka and his ability is to possess people for five seconds and do whatever he wants.
It’s not much of a power but it can still be useful. It’s such a shame that, beneath the gorgeous exterior he is a slimy cheat.
Already a generic idea is given a little nuance since Yuu Otosaka manages to prove himself to be something of a low-level scumbag starting fights, peeking up skirts of pretty girls but he is no idiot and has figured out that he can cheat on tests by looking at other people’s answers. That way he can enter the most prestigious school in the city but rising to the top of society isn’t where he’s going to stop, not when he can get the most beautiful girl in school to fall for him!
Proving himself to be a psychopath with hare-brained ideas Yuu goes further into more dangerous territory as he almost gets said girl knocked over and a man killed by possessing a truck driver and swerving at the prettiest girl in school so he can “save” her and impress her.
What a complete b*stard. I must admit that I watched this part almost stunned and smiled at how preposterous and violent it became. So much fun to watch.
Just before he actually gets someone killed (because miraculously nobody dies in that stunt) he is discovered by Nao Tomori who knows all about his powers and threatens to expose his misdeeds to the school unless he transfers to her school, Hoshinoumi Academy.
Yuu refuses to take this threat lying down but when he gets beaten up and terrorised by Nao Tomori (who can turn invisible) and her schoolmate Takajou Joujirou (who can “teleport”) he gets the message and transfers schools where he finds out about the others with superpowers and Nao’s mission to save them…
So this show has a generic story and a not so generic hero. His initial b*stardry was funny to watch and while I have no doubt he will “reform” the fact that he maintains his cynicism and some of his bad ways makes him fun to be around. His power is a flawed one (since it lasts only five seconds) but he is not alone in being imperfect. Nao Tomori may be able to become invisible she can only become invisible to one person at a time which means everybody else can see her and security cameras pick her up. Takajou Joujirou can “teleport” which, in this anime, means that he can rocket from one location to the next with no way of controlling his speed or direction so he ends up crashing and limping away a bloodied but unbowed mess.
This leads to some rather funny situations where he tackles people and rams them into rivers or he cuts the lunch line at school and destroys part of the cafeteria.
While the three can use their abilities to beat up opponents they have to be very smart in how they do it since their powers have limits so they work together in what become complicated routines.
Invisibility, mind-control and teleportation sound cool but some powers are useless and pervy and in keeping with the teens with powers theme like a guy who takes psychic photographs of girls in their underwear without the need for a camera.
There’s a line of darkness running through this story as parents abandon their children and even sell them off to scientists to pay debts. Kids are very much on their own including Yuu. He is the older brother to Ayumu and the two look after each other.
Seeing this humanises and makes sympathetic Yuu’s character. The fact that these kids are broke is how they are strong-armed into going to different schools.
Aside from the main protagonists and their broken powers there is the well-handled sense of threat from the world. These teens aren’t acting in isolation or with impunity. There are shady scientists (downright evil, actually) hunting them for their abilities and subjecting them to cruel experiments. This is detailed in Nao Tomori’s backstory where we see her and her older brother Kazuki sold off to a false academy by their own mother and getting put through tests and mind games. While the cute moe style of character designs doesn’t work for me when seeing the more dramatic moments such as these, I thought the writing was pretty good since it used simple narration and snippets of scenes to get across how bad the kids had it.
This danger prevents the show from subsiding into a moe comedy and one can guess from the OP with its crying characters that there will be some tragedy thrown in at a later stage. The whole special school for mutants’ set-up has been done to death and comparisons to things like X-Men are justified but Charlotte’s execution has proven steady and I like that it has an easy-going sense of humour when it doesn’t dive into darkness. The dangers surrounding these kids is going to have to figure more prominently for this series to really make an impact and I might hazard a guess that lead protag Yuu’s sister Ayumi.
She’s cute and, in small doses, a tolerable presence in the cast. Apart from screaming “kyaaah” and other moe cliches, her character also screams plot device since she is a loving sister and Yuu is a doting brother who loves her. The fact that Yuu has powers means that Ayumi will manifest some powers sooner or later and that will make her a target of the evil scientists.
This being a P.A. Works animation means that it looks really gorgeous. Their slice of life shows are stunning to watch at times and it works well here. The music is also top-knotch.
So yeah, I’ll continue watching this even though I dislike anie that leans heavily on the moe aesthetic. I can see myself not caring too much about events and just watching it for the sake of finishing it but I’m still prepared to spend some time on this.
The Charlotte OP is my favourite OP of the season:
The first ED is no slouch:
My bad-tempered review of Sora no Woto should show how much I despise the moe aesthetic.