Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Charlotte Review

Time can heal many wounds in this world, though it won't heal everything.

What They Say:
Yuu Otosaka is just an average high-school student...well, when you don't count his ability to possess people. Knowing just how incredible this ability is, Yuu keeps it hidden from the public eye. That is, until one day he meets a beautiful white-haired girl who explains to him that there are hundreds, if not thousands of other adolescents that have unique powers as well. And even worse, the world's governments are out seeking and experimenting on those who have them. Seeking safety, Yuu enrolls in a high-school dedicated to protecting students with special abilities. Now, he has to adapt to his new life as he tries to uncover why so many people are appearing with these powers.

The Review:
Content: (Please note that the content portion of the review may contain spoilers)
Nothing gets me more excited than new content from KEY. That being said, when I heard about Charlotte, my emotions ran wild and my happiness-meter went through the roof (Which sucks because I had to buy a new one). What excruciatingly sad, yet sometimes obnoxiously joyous story could they have in store for me this time around? Will Lia sing the opening song again? What lessons are there to be learned? And more importantly, what adorable girls has Na-ga Rindou drawn for us this time around? Well, suffice it to say, all of those things happened. But this time, they felt a little different. Now I am forced to decide just how different and whether that difference is good or not.

Charlotte is brought to us straight from the mind of none other than Jun Maeda. It is directed by the talented Yoshiyuki Asai, which explains a lot considering this show felt almost identical to Angel Beats! The cast was impressive as well, bringing us names like: Maaya Uchida, Ayana Sakura, and Kouki Uchiyama. Right off the bat, we have tons of elements that should be able to, even by themselves, make an anime extremely enjoyable with a hint of familiarity. And if reviewing came down to literally just that, Charlotte would have been a perfect success. But there are some holes that the all-star cast and staff couldn't fill. The biggest of these holes being the one that was left by the overall length of the show, finishing at just 13 episodes.

The star of this anime (Even though I wanted it to be the wonderful Nao Tomori so, so much) was the narcissistic and broody Yuu Otosaka. Just like in most KEY stories, there is phenomenal character development. There's just one problem -- all of that development was used on Yuu. And it worked, don't get me wrong. I think he is one of the greatest KEY creations so far. He felt real and went from extremely unlikable to totally likable and then back to unlikable all over the course of the short series. Even though that seems sporadic and odd on paper, it was great. You really got a feel for who he was and how easy it was for traumatic experiences to shape him into a new person. But everyone else was kind of static for the most part. The list of characters were great in every way apart from their development. Design was flawless, dialogue was high-tier, and the acting was spot on. That just once again reinforces what I said from earlier about too much time being used on Yuu. If viewers had just a little more time to get to know what was behind the rest of the characters, this could have been spectacular. Even Nao, who is essentially the second main character, has almost nothing revealed about her past. She just kind of mentions it in passing and then shrugs it off. That isn't the way KEY normally goes about something like this. And you can say that can be attributed to her cold, disinterested character, but that doesn't satisfy me. It just makes it harder to care. (But I still do just because she's so pretty, oh my god).

As for the story, we have something here that I believe could have been in the top three for KEY, had it been done the way I (And so many others) thought it should be done. That once again brings us to the controversial issue of series-length. This isn't your average anime story, folks. We have a main character who joins a sort of witness protection program for adolescent superheroes, has to deal with a traumatic, life-changing event and falls into an untimely despair, GOES BACK IN TIME, fights off terrorists, and SAVES THE WORLD all in just 13 episodes. The first four or so of them were exposition, by the way. It's a general rule of thumb that saving the world needs more than one episode. So why did KEY execute the final arc of Charlotte in this manner?

I'm going to dedicate this whole paragraph to the Yuu x Nao relationship, but specifically what happens in the last few episodes, starting with his confession to her. That is the one thing that I feel was executed perfectly in terms of them as a couple. It's evident in the last few episodes that Yuu is coming to terms with his feelings for Nao. Hell, it becomes evident as soon as she appears and saves him from further harming himself during his gangster-esque fallout halfway through the season. And her reaction to his confession? Priceless and spot on. She reacts exactly how you would imagine her reacting, and that tightens your heart-strings to maximum extension. From that point on though, it starts sloping downward, yet still containing that tinge of curiosity and hope the audience is clinging to, the same way that Yuu is clinging onto his flash-cards from Nao -- even when he forgets how he got them. It's just...his whole journey thing happens in a 20 minute period and he forgets all about her within that time. Had that been stretched out over several episodes and had his memory started slipping away little by little, it would have created an extremely depressing turn of events that would normally be synonymous with KEY work. In the end, their reunion is equal parts miserable and happy. I just wanted more than the brief moments of semi-love that I got to experience.

Even though the plot was convoluted and the pacing was a bit "All over the place," I think Charlotte still hits hard. Just not as hard as it was supposed to. The tonal shifts, though some people have a problem with them, create a way for viewers to become more attached to the characters over a short period of time. Those lighthearted moments that shape the bulk of the episodes quickly turn sour at the drop of a hat, and instead morph into something that winds up causing your jaw to drop. However, the pacing of this show in particular sometimes accelerates those moments and instead creates more of a confusing effect. A lot of the time, I was uncertain how to feel. But there were still elements that were extremely above-average. One of those being the use of vision.

Think back to the characters that were blind -- Sala Shane of ZHIEND, Shunsuke Otosaka, and eventually half of Yuu. What Sala and Shunsuke have in common is that both of them, despite being unable to see, somehow manage to see more than anyone. Those two could easily be considered the wisest out of the entire cast in terms of doing exactly what they need to do at all times -- and not just for themselves, but for everyone. Yuu, on the other hand, loses one eye (Obviously resulting in losing half of his vision). This could wind up being a metaphor for how torn up his personality became. Even though he knew what he must do, there was that level of uncertainty and hesitance that kept dragging him down. In my opinion, that was one of the best uses of symbolism that I have seen from KEY.

In Summary:
Charlotte isn't your typical anime. It has a lot to say, but doesn't have time to say it. It is yet another perfect example of how length of a story versus airtime can cause even the most skilled of writers to rush certain aspects. There are elements of Charlotte that far surpass other anime out there. There aren't, however, many elements that surpass the ever-expanding portfolio from KEY. The high standards they set for themselves wound up unfortunately causing this show to be a step or two under their average. Does that make it bad? Not a chance. Charlotte is still one of the most hard-hitting shows of the year and brings viewers a warm, nostalgic feeling through ambient, emotional music and a sentimental color palate. I'd recommend this to anyone.

Grade: B+

Streamed By: Crunchyroll/Hulu/Daisuki/Viewster

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