Charlotte is an anime about kids with superpowers. Surely you know what to expect right? Well, not exactly. You see, in Charlotte, teenagers are – seemingly randomly – developing superpowers that last until they’re finished growing, usually vanishing around their 18th or 19th year.
These aren’t the perfect superpowers we see in comics though, these are superpowers that are inherently more realistic than that, featuring flaws and not necessarily accounting for the consequences. As an example, Yuu Otosaka (our protagonist) has the ability to take control of someone else… except his own body becomes unconscious as a result and it only lasts 5 seconds.
These kids are not left in peace though, as organizations are interested in researching – and exploiting – them. To counteract this, the Hoshinoumi Academy student council finds such students and coerces them into transferring to their school for protection. Nao Tomori, the female lead, is the head of the student council and forces Yuu to not only transfer to Hoshinoumi, but also join the student council. And that is where it all begins…
Charlotte has an amazingly strong cast. The character design is fantastic, although that’s no surprise as this show was made by the same creator as Angel Beats. The protagonist, for example, starts off as – to put it bluntly – a complete and total jerk, a lowlife. He is caught using his powers to cheat his way into the High School of his choosing, for example. His growth, through the show’s trials, is fantastic and great to see.
But he is far from the only great character. Nao is easily one of my favourite characters of the past several seasons of anime with her intelligence, temper, and narcissistic tendencies. She is probably the main reason the show works, as without her unique personality the plotline’s eventual resolution would make no sense.
You may recall Ayumi from my recent Shadow’s Six list where she held a prominent position, so I won’t discuss her too much here. Jojiro is, essentially, comic relief – but even he has a pretty interesting personality to couple with that. And the dichotomy between Yusa and her dead sister Misa (no, I won’t explain, watch the show if you want to know more) is fantastically handled to round out the cast.
Sadly, there is one huge flaw that is somewhat hard to overlook. There is one episode in which a random terrorist subplot is introduced, developed, and resolved in an incredibly awkward fashion. Now, this does help to set up the rest of the series, but it felt so out-of-place and at odds with the rest of the show that I can’t help but feel it was the wrong decision. Fortunately it is only one episode, and it immediately returns to form afterwards… but that one episode still does a lot of harm to the show overall.
The show’s writing is, for the most part, fantastic. There are several parts where things will happen that won’t entirely make sense at the time, only for some later reveal to make you think back and go ‘oooooh… THAT is why they did that’. And the show’s ending is strange, but fantastic. It would’ve been easy for them to go down a route that would’ve just spoiled everything. It would’ve been just as easy for them to keep going down the path of the awkward terrorist subplot. But they didn’t. They went in a strange direction, and ended in an awesome place. Oh, and it features the best romantic confession ever. You’ll know it when you see it.
Charlotte’s core focus in on this strange mystery surrounding the powers and the gradual unfolding of the characters affected by them, but what superpower show would be complete without some action? They do a good job of letting the action serve as a platform to develop and augment the show’s storytelling. These scenes flesh out the world and enhance the characters, while providing dramatic moments that allow for the downs needed for the story to feel complete.
This anime is an instant classic, much like Angel Beats before it. While I don’t know that Charlotte necessarily lives up to its creator’s legacy… it is certainly a fantastic show that evokes many of the best elements of Angel Beats with a different subject matter. And the soundtrack is so good. So very awesome.