Charlotte Review - Tears, Fears, and What the Heck Happened?

  • Episodes : 13
  • Genre : Drama, Supernatural
  • Airing Date : July 4, 2015-September 26, 2015
  • Producers : P.A. Works

Preview (No Spoilers)

On the surface, Yuu Otosaka is a model student with a bright future ahead of him. In reality, he is a simple cheat with the supernatural ability to possess someone’s body and mind for 5 seconds. Using this power for his own selfish purposes, Otosaka climbs academic and social ladders until he is stopped by the Hoshinoumi Academy student council lead by Nao Tomori. Forced to transfer to Hoshinoumi Academy, a school built to protect teenagers with special powers, Otosaka joins Nao and fellow student council members Jōjirō Takajō and Yusa Nishimori as they search for and protect other teens plagued by powers.

Who should watch Charlotte?

Anyone who enjoys a nice, hearty cry and watching human lives spiral out of control should hunker down with Charlotte. Crying and human tragedy aside, if you liked shows like Angel Beats and Mawaru Penguindrum, Charlotte should be right up your alley. With its comedic highlights and school life setting, Charlotte aims to please those craving youthful drama.

Charlotte Main Characters

Yuu Otosaka

As mentioned before, Yuu Otosaka is a good-looking high school student blessed…or should we say cursed with supernatural powers. Despite being narcissistic with a self-destructive streak, Otosaka loves his younger sister, Ayumi, the only family he has. Or at least, that he believes he has.

Nao Tomori

The president of Hoshinoumi Academy’s student council, Tomori has limited invisibility powers. She is strongly influenced by her older brother’s life and is determined to help other teenagers with supernatural powers. While she has her own past trauma, Tomori has a special benefactor helping her along the way.

Contains Spoilers

Review (Spoilers Ahead!)

Given that this is a Jun Maeda show, crying is the name of the game. A creative descendent of such tearjerkers like Angel Beats! and Clannad, Charlotte is an anime formulated to make us care, fondling our hearts only to then crush them.

Charlotte does not only break our hearts; it also unfortunately shatters a great deal of narrative and thematic potential run due to its haphazard pacing. This pacing issue sadly manifests itself most prominently in the final episode of the series, ending the show on a happy, but deflating note.

This review will be divided up into two broad categories divided along lines of narrative and aural/visual elements: story and character development, and animation and music. Additionally, this review will be both qualitative and quantitative for those who like description, grades, or both.

Story and Character Development: C

First, let’s take into account the basic elements of Charlotte’s scenario: high school setting, supernatural powers, and adolescent anguish. Foundationally speaking, Charlotte is not unique. On the market now are dozens of shows with any number of combinations involving these core features – including shows even created by the same studio and writer as Charlotte. What saves Charlotte from being forgettable right from first episode, though, is the introduction of the antiheroic protagonist, Yuu Otosaka.

Though it might still be hard to tell him apart from our friend Otosa– I mean, Otonashi.

Selfish as he is borderline annoying, Otosaka creates an intriguing juxtaposition between his rotten personality and the gravity of his power, setting up Charlotte for what could have potentially been an exploration into the dark side of human nature. We are granted a taste of this exploration during the moments that we see what I will dub “dark Otosaka,” a destructive, yet striking display of wanton hedonism that emerges during moments of extreme emotional and physical stress (such as when he mourns the death his younger sister in episode 7 and as he plunders all the powers in the world in the final episode). Despite this, Charlotte refuses to further examine “dark Otosaka,” instead setting Otosaka on a narrative track of becoming the “ideal hero” and “savior character.”

He’s so much more interesting this way.

This type of character development is all fine and well on its own. Yes, Otosaka is a less-than-ideal “hero” character, and watching him become selfless and courageous would not make for a terrible story. If only it was paced better! Unfortunately, Otosaka’s growth as a “savior character” suffers because it occurs in a montage within a 20-minute span of the very last episode.

At least we get to meet Dark Otosaka again right at the end

As if to tie up all loose ends for a tidy, complete, and on-time finale (as if to prevent another Kekkai Sensen-level fiasco), we have a rushed last episode that renders Otosaka into a heroic, but empty protagonist. Not only is Otosaka bleached of everything that made him an interesting character to begin with, previously important plot points and characters (such as his returned-to-life younger sister Ayumi, his time-traveling older brother Shunsuke, and his future lover, Nao Tomori to name a few) are left on the sidelines. What could have easily been an entire series on its own, the final episode of Charlotte limply concludes a series that had a promising cast of characters and premise, reducing it to a thematically lost, lukewarm anime with too many ideas and too little time to develop them.

Animation and Music: A

While pacing and narrative development may be Charlotte’s weak points, animation and music are by far its strength. With consistent quality animation every episode and music crafted by the show’s writer Jun Maeda as well, Charlotte is both an aural and visual pleasure reminiscent of Angel Beats!. Enough said here.

C’mon, look at how realistic that window seems against her face!

Overall Grade: B-:

Concluding Remarks

Overall, Charlotte is a show with a definitive aftertaste of “what if” and “if only.” This does not take away from the immediate entertainment value of the show. Without a doubt, Charlotte does have an above average, and less than predictable plot. Taken episode by episode, Charlotte does provide glimpses of anime at its finest as it delves into overwhelming pathos. Yet, sometimes the parts cannot surpass the whole, and when considering the overarching development of the show, one cannot help but leave with the bitter flavor of disappoint. All in all, Charlotte is not terrible. It just could have been better. So much better.

Charlotte-dvd-300x424 Charlotte Review - Tears, Fears, and What the Heck Happened?


Author: Emma

Emma is beginning her career as a writer and academic on anime, manga, and contemporary Japanese culture. After she finished her senior thesis on fujoshi, Boys Love manga, and media consumption, Emma is currently studying Japanese and conducting research in Japan. Beyond anime, her interests include podcast listening, cooking, and (attempts at) writing. Her favorite quote: “Boys, be ambitious!”

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