by Gabriella Ekens,
How would you rate episode 7 of
Charlotte (TV 2015) ?
Ayumi is dead. She was crushed by the rubble when her power activated for the first time, knocking down the school building. Yuu wakes up in a hospital bed to this news and immediately freaks. He locks himself in his apartment to do nothing but watch TV and eat ramen. After rebuffing his friends for a few days, Yuu eventually runs away from home. Outside, he indulges in all of his worst instincts, becoming a cruel and slovenly mess.
Remember Yuu's supervillain tendencies from way back in episode one? Well, the show hasn't forgotten about them. While the student council seemed to temper his behavior, Ayumi's death brings the worst of Yuu back with a vengeance. After a few days of sleeping in an internet café like a bum, he devolves into beating up punks for kicks. He's brutal too, stabbing them a bunch and almost taking out a dude's eye. Yuu reaches his lowest point when he steals some drugs. About to snort them, he's stopped by a kick to the face from Nao, who's otherwise been conspicuously absent all episode. It turns out that she's been invisible and following him around all this time. She blames herself for Ayumi's death and Yuu's downward spiral. Watching him has been her self-imposed punishment. When he finds the drugs, however, enough becomes enough, and Nao decides to bring him back. She cooks his sister's infamous pizza sauce omelet, Yuu snarfs it down while crying, and he finally comes somewhat to terms with Ayumi's death. In the end, he decides to rejoin the student council.
This episode was deceptively simple. Unlike previous ones, it had a singular purpose – depict the gamut of emotions Yuu experiences in his grief and show how he would eventually be brought back from the brink. Most shows would've stretched this arc over one or two episodes, with at least one showing his fall and another his redemption. I'm impressed that Charlotte manages to compress it into one without making the journey seem rushed or insincere. More than anything, Charlotte displays masterful control over its pacing. It always knows when certain emotional reactions are needed and for what duration they'll be most dramatically effective. As a result, Charlotte episodes never have slow parts; they're brimming with entertaining content start to finish.
Yuu's bereavement arc succeeds because it doesn't sugarcoat his actions. Sure, the show is sympathetic to his pain, but it also doesn't hide that he's hurting others. That's a hard thing for a work to admit about its protagonist and displays emotional maturity on the writer's part. I feel as though Jun Maeda has gone through this himself, albeit in some less dramatic form. Either way, he's learned to write people at their worst without losing his sweet and optimistic outlook on humanity. Also, bringing back Yuu's crush from the first episode was a nice touch. It's a clear indicator of how devastating Ayumi's death was, if it makes this person who shouldn't have any affection for Yuu seek him out. It also becomes the first clear sign that Yuu is turning into a rage-a-holic when he lashes out against Crush-chan. Poor what's-her-name.
Still, I seriously doubt that Ayumi is really dead. If she were, it would be a dramatic mishap. She's on the show's promotional material alongside the main cast, and we haven't gotten much of a look at her “collapse” power yet. My guess is that she's being detained somewhere in secret. Remember that orange-haired girl who hasn't been explained? To me, the real question is whether she's being held by Hoshinoumi academy or their opponents. If it's the former, the academy will probably have some insidious motives. Either way, I'm betting that there'll be an exciting sequence where the student council uses their powers in tandem to break Ayumi out of mutant jail.
A few more things were left unexplained – what's the significance of last week's final shot of Drenched-kun overlooking a blood stain on the rubble? He didn't even appear this week. Also, why weren't Yuu's parents at Ayumi's funeral? I know that they're “working overseas,” but this is their daughter's death. If that doesn't bring you home, I don't know what would. This supports my theory that there's something fishy about their conspicuous absence.
This was certainly a turning point. Charlotte covered so much ground at this halfway mark that it's already tough to predict where it will end up. Even my best guesses feel like speculation – the show could perpetually go in another direction entirely. Charlotte's been great so far, and I trust that it'll keep this up.
Gabriella Ekens studies film and literature at a US university. Follow her on twitter.
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