The Nihon Review - Anime Reviews & Editorials

Charlotte

Title: Charlotte
Genre: Drama
Companies: P.A. Works
Format: 13 episodes
Dates: 4 Jul 2015 – 26 Sep 2015

Synopsis: During puberty, a small percentage of adolescents develop the ability to use special powers. One of these users, Otosaka Yuu uses his power of slipping into other people’s minds and controlling their body to attain top grades and achieve social status through devious means. One day, a girl Tomori Nao catches Yuu in the act and coerces him into transferring to Hoshinoumi, a school for students with supernatural abilities. There, he is forced to join the student council and track down other users like him who abuse their powers.

The Highlights
Characters: Uncharacteristically underwhelming cast for a Key production.
Jun Maeda: Simply incapable of writing television anime that fit within the scope of 13 episodes.
Emotional Climaxes: Ineffectual, predictable, and dispassionate.

Charlotte is the second original anime produced by PA Works in collaboration with the visual novel studio Key and their esteemed script writer Jun Maeda. Their first collaboration, Angel Beats, could best be described as an entertaining mess. With an enormous cast of characters, a manic tone that flipped between comic and tragic every few seconds, and an overly ambitious storyline for a mere thirteen episodes, Angel Beats failed to meet its true potential. No amount of laughter generated or tears shed over its best moments could absolve it of its glaring faults. These missteps were something that hopefully would not be repeated in the making of Charlotte. Unfortunately, Charlotte has all of the flaws of Angel Beats without any of its charm.

To begin with, Charlotte’s cast is quite underwhelming compared to what we typically get from Key. Most of the side characters are severely underdeveloped, and practically every relationship in the show is as thin as paper. The lone exception to this being the interactions between Yuu and Nao, but there are too few of them to ever feel satisfying. In this respect, Charlotte is not much different from Angel Beats, but what is different is its inability to mask it with really fun and lively character interactions. This makes the early episodes of Charlotte particularly egregious since they are mostly episodic and do little to further plot or characterization.

None of this would matter much if it came together in any meaningful capacity, but if Charlotte is supposed to be Jun Maeda’s realization of lessons learned from the failures of Angel Beats, then it is quite clear that he should stick to writing visual novels. Maeda has showcased an ineptitude for adapting his writing to the television screen both in his inability to use the visual medium to his benefit, and in his storytelling structure. While he is afforded all the time in the world to explore whatever he wants and build up his story in the visual novel format, television simply does not have that luxury. Maeda gets lost in too many unrelated tangents and struggles to get to the point, which is exasperated by his penchant for heavy character dialogue instead of directly showing what he wants on screen. By the time he gets to the most important reveals of Charlotte, the show itself runs out of time to work with and to say that the final episodes are a disaster would be putting it generously.

The one typically consistent feature in a Key work made by Jun Maeda is that it would make you feel something when it counted the most. Maeda has always been supremely talented at delivering emotional wallops to the gut with pinpoint accuracy by pulling the right strings at the right time. The most damning aspect of Charlotte is that it fails miserably to string together one of these truly memorable, emotional climaxes that Key is known for, and it is not for lack of trying. Any attempts to engage the audience came off as clumsy, run of the mill, predictable and impassive. This is a shame because Charlotte has the outlining of a compelling story, but in the end all it induces is apathy.

The Rating: 4
4/10

Reviewed by: Reckoner

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