(This review may contain spoilers for the following series. If you have not seen the series before, please exercise caution before viewing this post. You have been warned.)
Since my first exposure to their work back in 2004, KEY continually remained one of my favorite visual novel creators for years. Due to that, I also loved (most) adaptations of their works, mainly those animated by the great folks over at Kyoto Animation. Granted, there were issues, but the stories conveyed by Jun Maeda definitely got through to many of those watching said adaptations.
After Kyoto Animation stopped animating KEY works, many key staff (including Jun Maeda and Na-Ga) pursued an anime original collaboration with P.A. Works. This lead to Angel Beats!. While this series developed characters and a story that hits many heart strings, I was not able to join the masses and call this series ‘fantastic.’ After experiencing previous works such as Clannad and Kanon, how could I? This leads to my dissatisfaction as to how Angel Beats! soon overshadowed what I would consider better works, but following this thought would lead to a discussion for a later time. Now, 5 years after the release of Angel Beats!, Jun Maeda and P.A. Works once again collaborated to create Charlotte, and I hold mixed impressions on this new series.
Charlotte follows Yuu Otosaka, a boy with the ability to possess a person for a total of 5 seconds at a time, and let me tell you, he’s an unlikable piece of shit in the first couple of episodes. There were countless times near the beginning where I wanted to slap the shit out of him. After cheating on tests to reach a prestigious school, and winning the most popular girl in school, (all using this ability, mind you) Yuu later meets Nao Tomori and Takajou Joujirou, two students at another school who know his secret ability. After discovering there exist others who hold special abilities as Yuu, he finds himself recruited into the student council of this new school, where he, Nao, and Takajou must find others with special abilities and bring them to this school before the government can bring them together for testing and guinea pig purposes.
Charlotte confused me for the longest time. Where was it going? Was the true purpose really to just meet and convince everyone to remain hidden or at this school? Being a one-cour show, I tossed that idea aside and just continued to watch, with the first few episodes following a monster of the week formula, or rather, a special ability user each week. This continued until we meet Yusa and Misa Kurobane, two sisters who each hold special abilities. Unfortunately, we learn that Misa had passed away prior to their meeting, and Yusa merely holds an ability to be possessed by the dead. After we meet the sisters, however, the show takes an interesting turn, and where things get fun.
The show takes a dark turn, and secrets of the world and fantasy elements soon reveal themselves. While the show later leads to a rather happy ending, it definitely rushes itself toward the end, and brings up my point that Jun Maeda cannot create a story that revolves around 12 or 13 episodes. The final episode contained enough content to fill at least 3 or 4, and the episodes preceding it needed a couple more episodes to slow the pacing down. There’s such thing as moving too slowly, but again, shows that have explanations required to allow the viewer to understand what’s going on need this extra time, or else the show becomes a convoluted mess. Charlotte needed to be 2-cour, the same syndrome that Angel Beats! fell into 5 years prior.
However, while the story may have fallen short, the series itself still remains a good watch. The characters all hold varying characteristics, and they feel dynamic to a point. Each established character (Yuu, Nao, Takajou, Yusa, and Ayumi) felt like people. I could relate to many of them, and I feel like I actually got to know them. However, the anime soon follows Angel Beats!, and begins to add many characters that I really couldn’t develop a relationship with, nor could I get to understand their reasoning. While a few characters introduced later were properly developed, many remained underdeveloped and flat.
Once again, Lia and marina bring their musical prowess into the world, and I absolutely loved it. Bravely You once again brought the lovely voice of Lia back into my ears, and the insert songs by marina really tickled my fancy. I can’t express how much I love each of their voices, and I was genuinely happy to hear their return in this series. Other than the vocal songs, the OST never felt out of place, but nothing really stood out either. The OST can merely be considered ‘mediocre.’
All in all, while Charlotte contained many elements that heightened my enjoyment to the series, it fails to top Jun Maeda’s previous works. I wouldn’t say to not watch it, but I can’t wholeheartedly recommend it unless you’ve seen his previous works. Kanon and Clannad easily top Charlotte, and I would recommend one watches those prior to watching Charlotte. If you liked those two series, then Charlotte will tickle your fancy, but it won’t blow you away. Check it out if time permits.