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The Summer 2015 Anime Preview Guide

How would you rate episode 1 of
Charlotte (TV 2015) ?
Community score: 3.9

Zac Bertschy
Rating 2.5

Unrepentant self-impressed dickhead teen Yu has a secret – he has a very limited special ability that allows him to possess the body of another for 5 seconds. At first he just uses it in all the ways you might expect a teenager to use an ability like that – he possesses girls to see their boobs, possesses bullies to fight one another, that sort of thing. It's only when he gets too ambitious and starts cheating his way up the academic ranks (and manipulating events so the school's most beautiful girl falls for him) that people start taking notice. Unfortunately for Yu, the folks who noticed were Takajo and Tomori, two teenagers with similarly limited superpowers, who give Yu a choice: join them at a Hoshinoumi Academy, a Magic School for Magic Teens™, or they'll expose him. He has to move and leave his old life behind, bringing along only his genki little sister (who he lives with alone, as their parents are nowhere to be found).

Between this and Gangsta, “great premise, questionable execution” is a running theme this season. Charlotte has kind of a cool idea in it – the concept that there are teenagers with superpowers so limited and specific that they're only good for one very small thing and little else. They get right to it, and I admire the show's economy of storytelling in the early going – they don't waste a lot of time explaining why Yu has this ability, he just immediately starts exploiting it. Unfortunately, the rest of the episode is kind of a wash – he hatches his evil scheme to cheat his way to the top of his class and into the heart of the prettiest girl in school, and then it's as if he gets caught by the cliché police who tell him “hey, you can't be out here doing your own thing – you're a teenager with superpowers, so either you need to be fighting a world-threatening evil or attending a magic school for magic teens”. It's kind of a letdown.

Still, the show has enough interesting plot threads going on to hold my interest for now, and it's nicely animated. They're already seemingly dismantling Yu's godawful selfish personality, so that's a plus - when a show presents a character like this and opts to wallow around in his thinly-veiled self-hatred masquerading as righteous anger toward the world, it gets stale quickly, but they're immediately softening it. The next episode will be make-or-break; if it immediately dives into the Anime Hogwarts clichés we've all seen in show after show then it's a writeoff, but given this is Jun Maeda, he of Angel Beats! fame, I'm willing to give it the benefit of the doubt that it'll be more than just your average magic high school show.

Charlotte is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.

Rebecca Silverman

Rating: 3.5

Charlotte has an interesting edge over its brethren: a jerk hero. Yu one day discovered that he could change places with someone else – transfer his consciousness to their body, basically – for five seconds, allowing him to take over their bodies. Being a moody, unhappy teenager, he uses this power for, if not evil precisely, than at least things he probably shouldn't be doing. He starts fights, punishes litterers...and cheats on tests by taking over the bodies of the smartest kids in class and memorizing their test answers. In this way he manages to get into a top high school at the top of his class, and he's on his way to getting the hottest girl in school as well when things go south. Turns out he's not the only superpowered teen in town, and the rest of them would really like him to cut it out. Next thing he knows he and his younger sister Ayu are forced to transfer to a different school and he's forbidden from wandering around alone until his powers fade along with adolescence.

Despite all of this, it's clear that Yu is the protagonist of the story, and equally clear that there's probably some good reasons for him being the way he is. The fact that he, a high school first year, and his middle school age sister are living alone under the supposed guardianship of their maternal uncle is a pretty big clue. Ayu is young enough that she's okay with the situation (although it seems she misses their mother), but Yu is much more aware of the implications and feels abandoned. To him, using his power may seem less an inappropriate invasion of another person's body and more an attempt to make his life better. He can't punish his mother or his uncle, but he can punish the kids with better lives or people who litter. His life is unhappy; he deserves to go to a good school and get the girl, no matter how many trucks he has to crash to make it happen.

The angle of a school with a specific goal of policing teens with magic powers (limited invisibility and high speed teleportation are two of the others we see) is a little more cliché than I might have liked, and the holders of those powers (naturally the student council) are also far more typical than Yu, being the pink-haired girl with a camera constantly in her hand and the unassuming young man. Ayu, with her perky demeanor and happy obliviousness, is also a fairly typical character, although seeing her interact with perpetually grumpy Yu makes her more interesting than she might be. Character designs feel very bland, and the eyes tend towards the strangely bright, which makes for sort of an odd visual experience. It works, but it does take some getting used to. Other than that, the main thing visually is to pay attention to the backgrounds: when Yu takes on someone else's body, his own collapses, often in some pretty funny poses.

Charlotte is definitely intriguing, with its supernatural angle and grumpy protagonist. The hint that there may have been another person around who mysteriously disappeared – a father or an older brother? – is a nice added draw, as is the way Yumi, the girl Yu was angling for, treats him upon hearing that he's going to transfer. Basically it feels like Charlotte takes a fairly common premise and does something different with it, and that's always worth keeping an eye on.

Nick Creamer

Rating: 3

You know, I wasn't planning on enjoying this one. In my definitive listing of anime writers, Jun Maeda falls somewhere below “this author not listed.” Essentially everything I think of as reflective of his style I consider a negative, from his helpless heroines to his overblown drama to his broad slapstick. He and I do not get along.

But this first episode? This was pretty okay.

Our protagonist here is Yu Otosaka, a teenager who has the mysterious ability to possess the bodies of others for five seconds at a time. Naturally he uses this ability to lech, make people he dislikes pick fights with each other, and cheat on tests. In this episode's first half, he runs the gamut of unlikability, at one point almost driving a truck into the girl he's pursuing just so he can save her, and later on actually cackling out loud in class. Yu is basically a cartoon villain, and the show has a lot of fun playing into his cartoon evil.

That all changes in the second half, when the nature of his villainy is discovered by the student council president of a school specifically designed for kids with such abilities. Tomori, the president, can make herself invisible to one person; her vice-president can “teleport,” and by that he means throw himself very hard in one direction without any real ability to stop. The two of them make Yu an offer he can't refuse, transferring both him and his sister over to Hoshinoumi Academy until his ability eventually fades away.

There was a fair amount to like in this first episode. The way the show leaned into Yu's villainy was pretty consistently funny without overstaying its welcome, and though the humor wasn't all great (the overplayed slapstick was as dull here as it was in Clannad), there were reasonable jokes scattered throughout. The dialogue was pluses and minuses - there was a bit too much exposition and Yu's sister didn't talk like a real person, but Yu himself gained some reasonable characterization in the second half, and a couple later exchanges were kinda witty. And while the art style wasn't the most unique, the character animation was excellent - lots of strong expression work, lots of great physicality in expressing personalities. The music was also very strong, with some really dynamic electronic tracks livening up the second half. The base premise, while not exactly novel, offers a reasonable platform for drama, and the show overall seemed pretty assured in its storytelling. I wasn't thrilled by this episode, and doubt I'll be continuing the series, but I'd say that overall it succeeded more than it failed.

Theron Martin

Rating: 3

Review: Yu Otosaka – who could be the long-lost brother of Seiya Kanie from Amagi Brilliant Park (and the same seiyuu for both furthers that impression) – often contemplated matters of personal identity, so when he developed a special power at the onset of adolescence, the ability to briefly possess other people was quite fitting. The possessions only last five seconds and leave his body unconscious, but after some experimenting he soon learned not only how to cheat his way to the top of his class (and into a good high school) but also how to set up his dream girl to fall in love with him. That leaves him as pretty much a total ass under his outward veneer. His world comes crashing down when a duo who claim to be on the student council, but who are actually student council members from a different school, see through and document his trick. In trying to flee them, he discovers that both of them also have special but equally imperfect powers: Jojiro can move at super-speed for brief bursts (he claims he's teleporting) but cannot control how he stops and Nao can make herself invisible, but only from one person at a time. They want him to not only transfer to Hoshinoumi but also join him on the student council, where he will be tasked to help prevent others with powers from abusing them. In the process the girl he was aiming for dumps him but his younger sister Ayumi seems almost giddy about it. But wasn't there once another sibling in their lives, too?

Charlotte, which should not be confused with an utterly-unrelated 1977 anime of the same name, comes from the creative minds behind Key (i.e., Jun Maeda and Na-Ga). While it doesn't play the heavy moe card, it otherwise already has a feel similar to some previous works by one or both of the duo, especially Angel Beats! Given that Yu and Ayumi's mother has divorced and essentially abandoned them, and that they apparently had one sibling that they can no longer remember, heavy backstories for all characters involved can probably be expected, as well as some link between those backstories and the nature of each person's powers. (Yusa, the idol singer seen on TV, will also apparently be joining them, according to promo material.) Stuff like that has been a staple for Key over the past decade, but what new angle can/will be offered this time? The first episode does not offer much insight on this, as events play out relatively ordinarily for a series where teens have super-powers; only Ayuni's unquenchable chipperness actually stands out. And all of this despite packing in so much content that both the opener and closer are skipped and ending the episode at an awkard-feeling point; this episode was precisely 24 minutes long but felt like it needed 27-28 instead.

Production by P.A. Works assures a certain high quality of visual effort, although nothing about the visuals really stands out beyond one cool sequence where Jojiro chases down Yu in first-person perspective. Otherwise the visuals also contribute to leaving a bland impression, one which the series will have to work hard to overcome.

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