Charlotte is an original anime created by visual novel veterans Jun Maeda (who also did Angel Beats!) and Na-Ga (who… has an annoying pen name!), and a brief look will make you think it’s just another school set, super-powers, light-hearted affair, but in just these first seven episodes you’ll see there is a lot more under the hood of this series than meets the eye.
In the world of Charlotte, a small percentage of children manifest super powers when they reach puberty, but said powers vanish when they become an adult. Due to this there are sinister scientist groups that experiment on or use children with powers until they are of no use, and conversely, there is a school called Hoshinoumi Academy that takes in children who have powers and hides them from such people… so, kind of like X-Men, though X-Men if Professor Xavier were a Japanese high school girl named Nao Tomori. Nao is the student council president and it’s her job to find people with powers before the scientists do, and then they’re either told to stop using their abilities, or transferred to the school, paid for by an unknown benefactor. Nao’s power is to become invisible, though with the catch that she can only become invisible to one person at a time.
That’s a recurring theme for a lot of characters, their powers often have set backs or limitations. The lead protagonist, at least in the way that he is the viewer’s eye in discovering the laws of this universe, Yuu Otosaka, has the power to transfer his mind into someone else and take over their body, but only for 5 seconds, and during those 5 seconds his body collapses unconscious. Yuu uses this ability to cheat his way to a top school and even to try and pick up the most attractive girl, but it’s these actions that lead to his discovery by Nao and the school. Despite his unpleasant use of his power and his inflated ego, Yuu has a little sister called Ayumi that he is the sole provider for, and it’s the scenes at his home that show he’s actually a nice guy. It’s a good contrast that the lead isn’t one way or the other, he’s a complex person.
Other members of the lead cast include Jojiro Takajo, who is also a member of the student council in charge of finding powered people, and has the ability to “teleport”, as he describes it, but actually he can just run extremely fast in one direction and is unable to stop at will, meaning he more often than not crashes everywhere. Pop idol Yusa “Yusarin” Nishimori eventually joins the council as well; she has the power to become possessed by the dead seemingly at random, which at the moment means she is often possessed by her deceased sister Misa, who has, or had, I guess, the power to control fire, or Pyrokinesis, and is the opposite of Yusa’s kind and naïve personality. The last member of the council is Kumagami, who just comically appears in the room, soaking wet, and uses his power to find a powered person on a map by letting a water droplet fall, and then leaves again. The reactions of the other cast members and the odd music that plays in the background made these scenes a comic highlight for me.
As I alluded to in the opening paragraph, this show seems like a fantasy slice of life comedy type show, and while a lot of it is, Episodes 6 and 7 get very heavy on the drama. It’s a very heavy and noticeable shift in tone, but the previous 5 episodes made you like the cast enough that they really have an impact. I’ll leave it at that so as not to spoil anything.
The opening theme is “Bravely You” by Lia, whereas the ending is “Yakeochinai Tsubasa” (or “The Wings that Won’t Be Burned Down”) by Aoi Tada, though “Rakuen Made” (“To Paradise”) by How-Low-Hello (the pop band created for Yusa in the show!) plays for Episodes 3 and 4. The extras on this set are clean endings for Episodes 3 and 4 (I guess the regular clean opening and ending will be on the discs for Part 2), a feature called “Beginning of a New Destiny” which runs down the show’s characters and premise, as well as tours of the studio and talks with the staff, plus web previews and some trailers. The actual physical extras are a nice fold-out case and some art cards. I’m sure people are annoyed that the series has been split in two (the regular way a 13-episode series gets released is in one two-disc set), but at least you get some nice goodies spread over the two releases. I’m sure it’s something that was out of Anime Limited’s hands anyway, given their tendency to release complete sets.
It’s not hard to recommend Charlotte if you’re a fan of their slice of life comedy-dramas, but if you’re in it for the super powers rather than the more silly or dramatic beats of a story, then you may want to give it a miss. I haven’t actually watched the series before this review, so for all I know the next 6 episodes could go in the other direction and become more focused on the powers, but I tend to doubt it. Charlotte so far has explored some serious themes (not to mention the on-the-nose analogy to what teens go through during puberty) and shown good comedic timing while creating a genuinely likable cast. Highly recommended!