From the mind that brought you titles such as Angel Beats and Clannad, comes an amazing story that, whilst filled with clichés, is one of my favourite anime of all time. 10/10, more baseball than Little Busters. Yes, it is surprising that after reviewing another Key title and rather disliking it that one of the main creators on that project also is the creative lead on Charlotte. Be warned that my opinion on the show has been swayed by the second half not included by this release.
Charlotte begins itself with a monologue from our main character Yuu Otosaka, played by Koki Uchiyama (Amagi Brilliant Park, Haikyuu, and Nisekoi.) He explains that he doesn’t see just himself as himself, but everyone else is also himself too, a bit confusing I know, but because of this he has somehow gained the ability to take over people’s bodies. The catch? He can only do it for 5 seconds at a time, and his body is lifeless for the duration. He then uses this power of his to cheat at every test, granting him access to the best high school possible.
The day after he uses his powers to scheme himself a to-be girlfriend, he is called into the student council’s office and has to prove to he hasn’t been cheating on all his tests. Under the pressure, he uses his ability to try and cheat, which is somehow caught on camera by a mysterious girl from another high school named Nao Tomori, played by Ayane Sakura (My Hero Academia, Psycho-Pass, and Your Lie in April.) She also has a special ability with a catch and is trying to save all the adolescents who have these strange abilities, as they disappear after puberty. Yuu is then forced to join her group, the student council of Hoshinoumi Academy and stop teenagers around Japan from using their powers.
From this, the premise of the show starts; we find out there is an ability user, the main characters go out and find them, and convince the person not to use their ability ever again. The first 6 episodes of the show are each dedicated to one of these cases. Each one of the six cases is different enough from each other, from a person who can shoot fire from their hands to a guy who can fly in the air. Each case also develops the bonds between the members of the student council, establishing how they play off from each other and feel about the situation they are in.
I would like to address something about this anime that a lot of people disagreed with when it was airing, so skip to after the next image if you wish to avoid episode 6 & 7 spoilers.
Yuu’s little sister Ayumi, played by Momo Asakura (Monster Musume and Sakura Trick) plays an important role during the first 5 episodes, as a stable position for Yuu to return home to since their parents got divorced and is in charge of all the household budgeting. In episode 6, it is revealed that she has the power of ‘collapse’ which, when activated, causes all structures around her to break apart. The first time she activates this ability, Ayumi dies tragically, with no way for Yuu to save her, but he still feels responsible for her death.
Episode 7 is then a slow story about how Yuu is unable to cope with her death and he slowly loses his mind, shutting out everyone from his life, starts getting into street fights, and almost taking drugs to feel happiness. The problem critics have is how this is resolved by the end of the episode, by Nao feeding him omelette rice, filled with the Otosaka family’s secret sauce. He breaks down crying and is then able to come to terms with Ayumi’s death, to the point where he is able to continue his life at the academy. From this sequence taking place in a single episode, you may think that it feels rushed, as a lot of elements and scenes are handled in this short amount of time, and as you can tell by how I started this review, I can say that this couldn’t be further from the truth. By using these long, drawn-out scenes, with Yuu speaking in this slow un-emotional voice as everyone tries to reach out to him, speckled with montages of him engorging himself on piles of junk food, adds weight to each moment, making great use of every frame, having emotional beat after beat. Then in the final scene, when he takes the first bite, and a flashback appears to him smearing out the message on the last ever food Ayumi prepared for him, creates one of the most emotional scenes I have ever watched. I was sat there crying with Yuu, as I could fully understand his pain, and it reminded me of when it first sunk in that my grandmother had died. It’s not the death itself that has an effect on you, it’s when you realise that you will never see the person again.
The soundtrack of the show is also gorgeous; composed by unit AVANT GARDE EYES. The quirky sounds during comedy scenes stand out among the crowd, whilst still having coherence during the really serious scenes. The OP ‘Bravely You” by Lia is also an amazing song, that when accompanied with the trippy visuals and washed out rainbow colours, makes you understand the show is both mysterious and bright but has an undertone of something amiss.
As with any English dubbing, I always go in with a mindset that it’ll never be as good as the original Japanese VAs; but I was pleasantly surprised to find how much effort was made to create an enjoyable and accurate experience. The only time I found myself disliking it, was at times when the lip flaps wouldn’t at all fit what had to be conveyed in English. Tonally, Yuu’s voice actor, Ray Chase (AnoHana and One Punch Man) had an amazing performance and was able to clearly convey the rainbow of emotions required for the role. Even considering the negative opinion of Bang Zoom’s dubs I’ve heard in the past, I would fully recommend trying the dub as well.
Included in the package is episodes 1-7 on Blu-ray and DVD, with both English and Japanese audio, English soft subtitles, with a separate sign track to complement the dub, web previews and a clean version of the ending 3 visuals. A Blu-ray exclusive featurette entitled ‘Beginning of a Destiny’ is also included but sadly it had miss-timed subtitles which make it unwatchable for someone that doesn’t understand Japanese, as I had to give up about 7 minutes into the almost 30-minute runtime.
Charlotte was, and continues to be, one of my favourite anime of all time, with its lovable characters that can handle both ends of the emotional spectrum I would recommend everyone who has yet to see it pick it up right away, even acknowledging the fact that Anime Limited had to split up the release into two halves. Even with this review copy in hand, I will be picking up the Collector’s Edition day one to support it