As I’ve said before, Charlotte marks the first entry of Maeda’s work for me (most notable for the one behind Angel Beats and Clannad), but I’m already quite familiar with how his writing works thanks to to several people in my social circle. His character writing, his pechant for melodrama, etc. So it does quite surprise me to see Maeda’s writing kids-with-superpower story considering its not exactly the usual vehicle for the things that’s often found in his writing.
And after watching all 13 episodes, its….I’m not going to use the word good, but its certainly an interesting thing.
Charlotte’s starts off strong with the introduction of our charismatic villanous protag, Yu, doing various shenanigans with his newfound superpower before he was caught red handed by a special school student council members, Takajo and Nao. After that, he was transferred to said special school and got forcefully joined into the student council. What’s entertaining about this intro is how campy everything and with such flair everything executed.
From then on, at least for few episodes or so, Charlotte was structured as sort of slice-of-life episodic cases with each week we got introduce to a new power user, Yu and his friends confront them and told them to stop using their powers, and conflict resolved. That is of course until both drama and dark twists occurs surrounding the origin of Yu’s special academy.
The episodic cases themselves are generally solid and well-made, if a bit formulaic and repetitive on the comedy front (the slapstick is hit and miss), but drama often fell pretty short. Often feeling unearned and emotionally lacking because the culprit in these cases often lack characterization themselves. Opting to just dumping the entire motivation right in the end of the episode instead of subtle characterization.
There’s also problems on both how the twist and few of the singular dramatic moments. The former lacks foreshadowing, build up and it undermines the series any meaning both in thematic and in emotional resonance, while the latter starts of well with slow development but becomes slightly too overblown. But both suffers through the fact that it ultimately doesn’t mean a whole much in the place of overall story, which arrive at an ending that’s……..like the show itself, I could only describe as a thing. Why? Because it seems like it was made for entirely different shows and heck, you could create an entirely different show through that ending alone.
I’m trying hard not to give spoilers, but to talk about this more accurately, while I’m afraid have to give an example, so
———————————Mild Spoiler Alert———————————-
In the middle of the anime, through a very contrive drama, someone important to Yu, died. And in the following episode we see Yu going through mourning/grieving period. The moment starts off well with Yu beginning to withdrawn from the world. But as the episode goes on, Yu began to starts to channel his sadness into aggression. First, through shooting game, then to beating up thugs, and before he descend further, he was stopped.
Logically speaking, the way Yu act may well understandable, but the portrayal of the act are too overblown and slightly exaggerated to take seriously. He wasn’t portrayed as channeling aggression, he was becoming a straight-up psychopath.
And ultimately, it was all meaningless, because through series of twists (that, like I said, lack foreshadowing and build up), that someone important was brought back to life just because. This undermines any emotional development Yu’s going through before.
As for the characters that you’ll be seeing, they’re at most endearing, but not exactly memorable nor given much development. The most stand outs being are our main protag Yu and our main heroine Nao.
Nao, in my cynical interpretation, are pretty try-hard subvertion of Maeda’s female character writing. In what I’ve heard, Maeda often wrote female characters as either solely as being love interest or just baby in a teenage skin. But in here, Nao’s competent (overly so), always in control, and pretty non-chalant. So while that’s plus point for her, is she actually well-written? Eh…..not really? Her core personality are three characters trait that barely have anything to do with one another. Sometimes she’s a hardass no-nonsense lady, sometimes she’s overly fangirl-ish, and her tragic backstory doesn’t seem to matter much to overall character.
As for Yu, well all I could say that he was wasted potential. His charisma and supervillain-ish tendency are underutilize in the cases (Nao took the spotlight, most of the time), and his development from selfish jerk to a nice guy feels unearned. While we were told and shown his development, the how of his development isn’t clear. He just sort of hang around with his friends, we were never shown how that influence him.
The rest of them are mostly two dimensional.
On the aesthetic front, Charlotte has a pretty gorgeous production, as expected of P.A Works. Bright and vivd colors. Lots of pretty singular shots and background. The animation are fine, consistent and pretty expressive, especially in the facial. The character design are also distinct. So if you’re in this for the eye candy, Charlotte got you covered. The music are mostly pleasant and enhance the atmosphere in many case, but otherwise not particularly stand out.
So while Charlotte are an anime with many flaws, the passion and the earnest behind them are undeniable. The drama can dragged off, but its certainly an interesting watch, even though it wasn’t particularly good.