Episode 9

by Gabriella Ekens,

How would you rate episode 9 of
Charlotte (TV 2015) ?

Charlotte just dropped the other shoe. I suspected that there'd be one out there, because the powers narrative seemed too distant from the love story, but I couldn't have comprehended its enormity ahead of time. This shoe dropped so hard it cut a hole through the ground, passed through the center of the Earth, and ended up on the other side. We now live in a post-Charlotte's-shoe-drop world, and going forward, the show will be re-evaluated in light of this twist.

Surprise! It's a time travel story! I suspect that Jun Maeda enjoyed Puella Magi Madoka Magica, because that show pulled this same twist at about the same time. It turns out that Charlotte up to this point has been a later timeline in a more complex time travel narrative, and we're just now learning the before-story. In the alpha timeline, Yuu and Ayumi were captured by the evil scientists, who maintained a massive facility of captive teenagers. The Otosakas also had an elder brother, Shunsuke, with the ability to travel through time. Yuu's real ability is "plunder" – the ability to steal other abilities – and he was a key part of the escape plan orchestrated by a number of inmates. When Ayumi's "collapse" power activates unexpectedly, Yuu is forced to trigger the plan early, rescuing Shunsuke so that he can go back in time and prevent this all from ever happening. He succeeds, taking us to the world as we know it. Hoshinoumi Academy exists to protect mutants, and Yuu is a member of its student council. Alpha timeline Shunsuke left his siblings years ago in order to set up the pro-mutant infrastructure, and one of his allies erased their memories. Shunsuke was Nao's mysterious benefactor, and he's been orchestrating everything from behind the scenes. It looks like Ayumi died for real in this timeline, and Shunsuke wants to go back and rescue her. Next week, we get his story in more detail.

Well, that explains a lot. We now know the significance of that final shot of Drenched-kun – aka Kumagami – looking at the bloodstained rubble. He's Shunsuke's agent, and he knows that Ayumi's death was a major misstep. That orange-haired girl was another part of the escape plan, and she also seems to be working for Shunsuke now. He knew that her power's activation would be disastrous, but this information didn't travel down the grapevine quickly enough to avert her death. Yuu's family situation was also supposed to be suspicious this entire time.

I'm having a hard time deciding whether I like this or not. I mean, it's thrilling, shocking, and makes sense in hindsight, but it's also hard to tell which thematic direction the show will be going in. Will the last few episodes be dedicated to bringing Ayumi back from the dead via time travel? That seems emotionally false. Charlotte has been many types of emotional so far, but that level of wish-fulfillment at the expense of honesty is beyond anything else it's done. Also, how will this tie back into Yuu's burgeoning relationship with Nao? I suspect that the desire to bring his sister back will eventually work counter to what he's building with Nao, and that he'll have to make a choice between the two. Shunsuke might even end up being the villain, if he wants to reclaim what he had in the lost alpha timeline (where Yuu and Ayumi both knew him), while Yuu is more invested in what he has now. That would be a choice between trying to reclaim a lost past or moving forward by accepting loss.

If that's the case, it's appropriate that this episode starts out with Yuu and Nao at their most couple-y. They both dress up for the ZHIEND concert and have a great time. Even if they're not officially dating, their friends definitely consider them an item. Yuu's alternate timeline memories are triggered by a ZHIEND song. It's the world premiere, so he couldn't possibly have heard it before, but he still recognizes it. It turns out that he listened to it in the alternate timeline, when the siblings were trapped in the facility. (The song itself is called TRIGGER, because Maeda is a subtle writer.) These first few minutes are cute, but they're all just setup to make the jump to the previous timeline as jarring as possible. It's a total cold open, fading to black and returning with Ayumi alive. You have no idea what's happening until somebody mentions time travel. Gotta hand it to Charlotte, it got me good. My mouth was hanging open with confusion and horror, in a good way. It's totally Madoka's twist, but that doesn't mean this show doesn't pull it off. Bravo.

I asked for more focus on the mutant plot, and I sure got it. You've got four episodes to make this work, Charlotte. I think you can do it.

Grade: A

Charlotte is currently streaming on Crunchyroll and Viewster.

Gabriella Ekens studies film and literature at a US university. Follow her on twitter.

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