I seem to remember writing a first impressions review back at the start of the summer being really, really excited about Charlotte. Jun Maeda, Key, P.A Works and super powers – what could possibly go wrong? Three months later, I’m here to tell all.
Background and plot
The premise to Charlotte is a simple but very good one: a proportion of adolescent teenagers have (albeit somewhat limited) superpowers, ranging from flight to telekinesis. The show follows the student council of a school full of such teenagers who are out to protect other ability users that are at risk of being caught and experimented on by evil scientists.
The show runs for 13 episodes and initially sets a very good pace, using the first five or so episodes getting to know the members of the student council, Nao, Joujirou, Yusa and Yuu as well as the laters younger sister, Ayumi. Charlotte really excels in the middle episodes where the development from the opening really pays off with plenty of really enjoyable, well done drama and action.
There are couple of gaping problems in the plot however: firstly, an event occurs which in many ways makes a lot of things that happen in the show pointless and makes no effort to rectify the issue later on in the show.
Unfortunately, that’s not the biggest problems. It would seem that when writing the show in the first place, the producers forgot to tell Jun Maeda that it was going to be 13 episodes long, with the result being a whole separate show being squeezed into the final three episodes. Now let me be clear here, there is nothing wrong with the content of any of Charlotte’s thirteen episodes – in fact I enjoyed all of them. However, after watching the final few episodes I couldn’t help but feel I’d been sold out for watching a show that had been created by a big studio with a big name writer.
In the first half of the show Charlotte focuses on the five main characters I mentioned earlier, which, particularly in the case of Nao and Yuu is done very well. Yuu’s backstory as a prolific cheat who loves his sister is ironed out nicely while Nao’s more traumatic history is explored in plenty of depth.
One of the issues with trying to be encompass many genres into a show (Charlotte could easily be called a supernatural-action-drama-comedy-romance before you start stretching the boat out) is that some of the characters aren’t explored as thoroughly as you might want them to be. For example, look back to another of Maeda’s work’s Angel Beats!. One of the most popular characters in the show was the witty dancer TK, but apart from his occasionally humorous remarks we knew nothing about him – he was essentially a form of comic relief (much like half of the characters in Angel Beats! but that’s for another article). The same can be said to a lesser extent about Joujirou and Yusa – though we do get more dialogue than we did from TK, I felt I knew nothing much about either at the end of the show.
Later on in the show more characters are introduced which in this case is for the purpose of forwarding the plot rather than anything (for the most part at least). Though I think these characters were generally good for that purpose, there did seem to be more than needed for the second half of a seasonal anime.
Sound, Artwork and Animation
I’ve done a bit of reading of the reviews for this show already and some of the suggestions seem to be that though the artwork is good it’s quite plain. I’m afraid I have to vehemently disagree. Charlotte is way up there in the top three prettiest anime I have seen. The character designs from Na-Ga are interesting if not all that unique, apart from perhaps Tomori, but where you really see the difference between Charlotte and most other shows is the attention to detail in the background shots.
Oh and by the way, don’t get me started on the opening animation and art. Just watch it now.
The music is typical of Jun Maeda: very, very good. With two fictitious music acts in the show plus the exceptional opening, you can’t help but wonder if Charlotte was in fact produced to sell it’s music.
Episode 7: The End of the Exodus
Now, I’m not going to say much about this because it’s so spoiler heavy. What I will say though is episode 7 gives you everything you like about Jun Maeda’s work and Charlotte as a show. It’s horrifyingly sad, but makes you feel immensely satisfied by the end.
Favourite piece of music
Honestly, I have no idea. I probably should post three tracks here because it’s unfair on the songs I don’t choose that they’re not here. That said, I’ll stick to routine and choose the opening. Besides accompanying the best opening animation I’ve seen since I watched Guilty Crown (if you haven’t read my review and want an episode by episode synopsis and spoiler heavy review, click here), Lia’s- Bravely You is just a fantastic J-Pop song.
If I was reviewing Charlotte up until the middle of episode 11 it would be getting an uninhibited recommendation and a score of at least 9. Imagine that were the case: the two MC’s are developed very well, there is a good level of comedy, the show is very sad but resolves itself in a sensible manner leaving you feeling largely (though not completely – I’m looking at you Nao’s brother) satisfied.
Now let me add my assessment of the final two and a half episodes in: too many additional characters are brought into Charlotte for no apparent reason – but far worse than that is the show’s criminal lack of pacing. The last episode in itself could constitute a whole twenty four episode season.
So where does this leave Charlotte? The show is without doubt very enjoyable, even with it’s appalling ending and there are some really great characters involved (Nao is particularly great). The sound and art are about as good as they could be. All of that said you can’t forget the problems and Charlotte will, sadly, always be remember for it’s tragic weaknesses rather than it’s many strengths. I recommend you watch this, but be warned, the ending might just ruin it all.
7.5 (graphic to follow)