DISCLAIMER: SPOILERS! (BECAUSE HOW CAN YOU TALK ABOUT THIS SHOW WITHOUT TALKING ABOUT THE ENDING?)
Back in 2010, Jun Maeda, a writer and musician for Key VisualArts on modern classics such as Clannad and Kanon, and a relatively new anime studio known as Progressive Animation Works (P.A. Works) teamed up to create an original anime called Angel Beats! It was well received, ascending to one of the top 100 anime of all time on Anime Planet. Still, the anime wasn’t without its critics, with some calling the show derivative. However, despite its reliance on stereotypes, with its solid characters and nearly universally acclaimed animation and soundtrack, Angel Beats! produced an anime that newer fans to the medium could enjoy and older fans could see as a tribute to modern anime tropes. Fast forward to 2015, and P.A. Works is a much more established studio, Jun Maeda is a more experienced writer, and they decide to create another original anime together. Having learned the mistakes from Angel Beats! P.A. Works and Jun Maeda build on their previous success and create an anime that not only appeals to newer fans but older ones as well, with clever storytelling, well developed characters, excellent pacing, breathtaking animation, and rich music.
And then, unsatisfied with their results, they decided to use their deus ex machina time travel powers go back in time and screw it all up.
Charlotte was an anime I looked forward to from the time the first teaser dropped. I loved Angel Beats despite its flaws and looked forward to the new ideas that Jun Maeda had after 5 years of refinement. Unfortunately, Charlotte fails to improve on its predecessor, and in many ways is significantly worse, resulting in one of the most disappointing anime I have ever seen.
Yuu Otosaka: A failure of a protagonist
The core of the problem begins with the design of the main character, Yuu Otosaka. Jun Maeda has no reservations about cloning characters (Yuri from Haruhi Suzumiya, Otonashi from Tomoya Okazaki, Ayato from Lelouch Lamperouge, and Takamatsu from Yuusaku Kitamura to name a few). Unfortunately, Maeda picked a very bad character to clone or Yuu, Kirito from Sword Art Online (who in of himself is practically a wish fulfillment self-insert, but that’s for a different review). Sure I have said that Kirito isn’t nearly as poor of a character as I initially expected, but that doesn't mean that I like his design or that he's a model for other main characters to follow. Yuu actually started as an interesting character, a self-absorbed cheater who was intentionally unlikeable. Naturally this was meant to set up his growth into a character that would become a respectable hero. This is where Maeda screws up. Instead of a likable character that the viewer can root for, we end up with an overpowered, emo, whiny kid who has virtually no redeeming qualities. At least with Kirito, I was interested in how he would handle the moral dilemmas that were presented by the circumstances of being trapped in a video game. In Charlotte, Yuu never develops from the challenges he faces. He simply runs around with the rest of the cast and does what he’s told. When finally faced with legitimate adversity, he spends literally an entire episode moping about it. This may have been justified if there were some noticeable advancement in his character, but before and after his emo phase, Yuu remains pretty much the same boring protagonist he was for the entire show. At the end, he goes through an entire season of character development in one episode, which is paced so poorly that I almost want to throw it out entirely (see below). The ending only completes Yuu’s failure as a protagonist; I am amazed that he has nearly a 20-1 likes to dislikes on his character page. When your main protagonist is this unintentionally unlikable no matter how good the rest of the anime may be, the show is almost always unsalvageable.
Structure and Pacing: How to fail Creative Writing 101
The second critical problem with Charlotte is the story structure and pacing. A reddit user succinctly summarized the pacing of the show in this gif. Obviously the show rushed the important aspects of the story, the exposition of the main plot and the development of the main characters. However, it also wasted a ton of valuable screen time on meaningless tangents that led nowhere. The obligatory baseball episode was the most egregious example. At least in Angel Beats it helped develop Hinata’s character. In Charlotte, the episode served absolutely no purpose. Halfway through the anime, Charlotte falls into the beginner writer's trap that “twists are inherently entertaining” by turning the entire plot on its head out of nowhere, changing from a school life comedy with supernatural elements to a sci-fi action anime with global implications. In many ways it shares many of its problems withKill La Kill, too little focus and decisions by what seemed to be a committee rather than a focused director. And of course, the ending was absolutely atrocious. Clearly Maeda wanted a second cor to tell this story, but he ran out of budget to produce episodes. Elements that were clearly pitches for full episodes were reduced to scenes only a few minutes long. The whole “I’m basically a god now” development was way too rushed to be taken seriously. The episode should not have been made. It drags the anime from being respectable to being barely mediocre, and I felt like those were 25 minutes of my life I wanted refunded.
There isn’t much more to discuss with Charlotte. Most of the other characters were run-of-the-mill clones of already established archetypes. No particular performance stood out to me with the exception of Maaya Uchida who shows off her range by playing both Yusa and Misa at the same time. Even the music was largely unmemorable, which is one of the strengths of Angel Beats! The animation manages to look even blander than its 5 year old predecessor. The production value seemed cheapened overall, most likely due to a smaller budget, but it’s disappointing that not even the production value can salvage this anime. This anime is a classic “trap” show with promises that are never fulfilled. I was recommending it to my friends as I was watching it, but by the end of the show, I’m telling people that it’s just not worth the disappointment.
Also shoutout to Gigguk for making much of the same points much more eloquently than I could (warning: strong language and spoilers).
[[I watched 2 TED talks from 2 North Korean defectors/escapees before starting episode 2 so it might have made me feel more than normal?]]
I started this anime after watching a snippet of episode 13 where the main character threatens an English speaker while reading off cue cards... I thought it was funny so I decided to watch, but I didn't expect to cry.
Story - The main character figures out he has this weird power so he tries to benefit from it. His power is limited but useful anyways. As he tries to exploit his powers more, something happens! Anymore and it might be considered spoilers :P
At first the story is pretty light hearted. There's always some silly joke in every episode which I personally liked. The jokes are comic relief but I would describe it more like: They made jokes to pad you up before they hit you with feels. And they keep padding you up to keep hitting you with more feels.
Lots of things have to happen if it's a story about super powers. Like consequences.
These consequences forshadow more future grim events.
As things turn out to be more intense, I kept watching the anime for its happy conclusion. [[Maybe it's cuz I watched those TED talks, but I became desperate for every tragedy to be "fixed".]]
Animation - I don't know much about animation but ts was good enough that I have no compaints.
Sound - There were some moments when I thought the sound could be better, but don't remember. Music was good, but didn't really catch my attention.
Characters - The main character is your regular human being who is selfish and cunning. His selfishness is very real. He uses his powers for his own gain. This can make him unlikeable at first. But his caring attitude towards his sister is his best trait! When he goes through difficult times his actions are all based off basic human selfish desires. He is pretty much very human in any situation. So if we were in his shoes I'm sure most people would do what he would do. Just think about it, he was rarely given lots of time to think in critical situations. He was just forced to act on instinct. So I don't find him unlikeable, cuz he's already a good brother. Oh, and I liked how his eyes glowed. XD
Overall - It was a great anime because I cried. Anything worth crying over is good.
Something that I liked about this anime was that they did well in changing the ending song and animation to set and keep the mood when the episode was over.
The ending was satisfying. I don't think there are (m)any other better ways to really end the anime. I wanted a happy ending and I got what I wanted. His memory loss is kinda sad, but it's probably for the better that he lost them. After all he went through, would you want someone you loved to be tortured by all the tragedies inflicted on him and remembering tragedies inflicted on others(from around the world) for the rest of his life? Don't you want to let him have some peace of mind like he deserves? [[Okay, it's probably the TED talk influence, but if tragedies could be forgotten by sufferers, I'm sure many would like to forget.]]
And like I mentioned before, he's human. We can only handle so much suffering before we break down. We can try fixing the broken, but how many times can you break a person until you can't fix them anymore?
It's not easy being the youngest in the family. You get hand-me-downs, bullied by your elder siblings, and worst of all, have to meet your parents' lofty expectations just because your brother so happens to be a Nobel prize-winning scientist and your sister studies at that world-class university.
I know I just said it’s not fair to compare with some of its untouchable predecessors, but some of the similarities are so jarring that it’s almost impossible not to. Charlotte's premise is simple but sufficiently intriguing; a group of adolescents inherit superpowers that will eventually disappear when they reach adulthood. Now remember that part about hand-me-downs? Beyond this point is where Key reverts to its time-honed instincts.
A student council that sometimes feels more like a mental asylum? SSS 2.0.
A tsundere heroine with a wretched past? Yuri, but with white hair.
A comic relief sidekick character? Hinata or Clannad’s Sunohara, whichever you prefer.
Cute younger sister with bonus voice tic? You got it.
Add in the heavy emphasis on music for good measure, and if at this point you still don't hear it whispering (or is it screaming?) something about "angels", Charlotte throws in a not-so-subtle easter egg in episode 7 to help you along. I am sure that little teaser will fill some of the fanboys/girls with heady nostalgia, but unfortunately it only reminded me about how this anime is inferior in almost every way.
Charlotte is not based off one of Key's bishoujo games, but you would be forgiven for thinking otherwise. More experienced viewers will see flashbacks of Air, Kanon etc. as they sit through the long repetitive middle phase of find teenager who is using his powers to do bad things, battle and defeat said teenager, insert moment of sudden enlightenment and cut to the ED. I feel really apprehensive about using this analogy, but the only way I can describe it is conquering Nagisa, Kyou, Kotomi, Tomoyo and Fuuko in one episode each and throwing them away before the end credits roll. I don't even have enough space left in this paragraph to talk about the almost flippant glossing over of emotional moments - something that Key is supposed to be good at. As disappointing as it is, however, I guess it was somewhat natural and unsurprising for Key to choose to develop their series the same tired old way. If it ain't broke, don't fix it, right?
Well...wrong. More damning and equally repititive is Key's patented brand of slapstick humour, which while mostly innocuous and occasionally genuinely funny in previous titles, managed by episode 8 to make my weak stomach more violently sick than roller coasters (hate those) and airplane turbulence ever could. Either one of the toxic Takajou-Yusa combination is and has been a good enough reason for some to drop this series entirely.
Considering everything I've said above, it really says something about my masochistic tendencies that I managed to see this series to its conclusion. But really, it was the anticipation of Key's trademark deus-ex-machina type ending that made all the pizza sauce jokes and magical spells (just barely) bearable.
I don't wish to spoil this series any further than I already have for any (if any) prospective viewers that are left at this point, but I really must mention, that after all the disappointment and anger, the emotion that I was finally rewarded with was... utter confusion. Maybe it was the out-of-nowhere change of pace - the finale episode that has enough material to make an entire series on its own; or maybe it was because they inevitably forced a token YuxNao pairing that works about as well as a romance between you and your sister, and then didn't even make them kiss. (Like WTF right?!) At least the filler episodes feel like a distant memory now, but then again its already been a month since then.
Characters: I’ve already talked about Takajou, and Yusa is only there because they needed a token loli character. It's natural for Tomori to be numb after all the trauma she's experienced, but her emotionlessness has more than once come across as nonchalance. The benignly evil main character was the one thing in this entire anime that Key has never done before, but even that was over by episode 2, then back and gone again in episode 8, then rehashed in episode...you get the idea. Key seems to have confused a complicated personality with an inconsistent personality; some of the character reactions are so unbelieveable that I can't elaborate anymore without using expletives. When the characters cried, sometimes I felt like laughing.
But do/should we even care about whether the characters are realistic? I’m not a psychologist, but I don’t think people watch anime just to meet the same kind of characters they could easily find in the 3D world. Obviously we find Key’s happier and more naïve portrayal of human nature more appealing, otherwise good anime such as My Teenage Romantic Comedy SNAFU and Welcome to the NHK! would be much more successful. Otherwise I wouldn't feel like I've lost something again.
The music is good and sometimes manages to be great. Apart from some occasional dissonance, the sound does its part in enhancing the mood of the current scene. We are not going to get any timeless classics like Ichiban no Takaramono or the legendary theme of SSS and no, I haven't heard of post-rock either, but Lia’s Bravely You is better than My Soul, Your Beats. You can quote me on that. Oh, and just stick to singing in Japanese. Please.
So if you’re a Key fan who wants to watch a Key anime, then rejoice – you have found what are looking for. If you belong to the remainder like me, there’s really nothing to lose (except occasionally your sanity) by picking this up – Charlotte will pleasantly kill a few hours of your time while we’re all waiting for Angel Beats 2 to come out.
Wait, they just announced a Rewrite anime? Well, I guess I can always play Half Life 3 until then.
This is one of those anime where it starts off shit and ends very fucking good (7ep where it starts to get good) - its one fo those anime where its starts shit this was done to build the characters and make u have a good connection to it then shit starts happening ... overall i reckon this has the best ending but sadly not its not best anime. ;w;
Just simply looking at the synopsis of this anime makes me want to doze off. There isn’t not a single thing that I found remotely interesting or original in this anime. High schools, teenagers with superpowers, overused slapstick humor, all the typical shit plague most anime nowadays. And it doesn’t help that it is also written by Jun Maeda, a writer whose work always are far more concerned with manipulation the viewers emotions even when it doesn’t make any logical sense. But since I didn’t have anything good to do with my time, I decided to watch this anime despite being put off at first. Now thirteen episodes later, what do I think of it now? Well to put it simply, this show was one of the worst experience with anime I had all year.
To be blunt, the story of Charlotte is messy and stupid. For the first half of the show, the show is just another slice of nice nonsense. To make myself clear, I have nothing against slice of life shows, but this one completely devoid of any charm or wit. None of the humor is particularly funny, since most of it comprised of overused gags and slapstick. Nothing occurs plot wise since all the characters do is dicking around playing baseball, go camping, and help other superpower teens. And you know what? If that was all the show was, I would just discarded as another forgettable rom com and wouldn't even bother to write this review. But atlas, Charlotte takes a sudden tone shift and becomes almost an entirely different show. Without spoiling much, the writer tries to make the series far more dramatic and serious. But since there was almost zero effort put in to make the viewers care about the characters or story, everything comes off more comically stupid rather that emotionally touching. The thing becomes unfocused mess with one of the most erratic and inconsistent tone I have seen. It alternates between comedy, moe, sad, intense, and boring at a whim as if this was written by Hideo Kojima. And it doesn’t help that the show rushes so much plot at end it becomes ridiculous. Then the show end on a grand whimper, resolving everything with plot conveniences and deus ex machinas,
As for the characters, they are flat and shallow as you can get. There are far too many characters for a twelve episode series, and it doesn’t help that the show does very little to make the viewer care for the characters. Instead of trying to flesh the existing characters so the viewer can get to care about them, the show just waste its time on comedy and constantly introducing new characters. Honestly, I can only remember the characters for whatever superpower they have instead of any characteristics or traits. The only character I remember was Yuu because he is just basically a copy of lelouch vi britannia.
Even the animation and soundtrack fail to stick out from the norm. While PA works shows generally look polished and crisp, but this is one looks mediocre at best. The character designs are bland and the only thing about the animation that does stick out were the detailed backgrounds. And even those were wasted on a dull and uninteresting setting.
Charlotte is a show that tried to be everything. It tried to be a comedy, it tried to be a thriller, it tried to be a tear jerk, and tried to be sci Fi. Yet it doesn't focus on any of those aspects and fail to accomplish anything. Charlotte fails to be funny, it fails to have memorable or relatable characters, it fails to have an interesting or coherent world, and it fails make any sense whatsoever. It felt if Jun Maeda wanted to jam a dozen concept in the show instead of being focusing on anything. Half of the show was is the character dicking around, and when the show decided to get an actual plot, the show was almost over. In the end, this show broken beyond repair and should be avoided at all cost.