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Charlotte Collection 1 Blu-ray Anime Review

10 min read

Charlotte Volume 1 CoverBeing special means being hunted.

What They Say:
A small percentage of adolescents have onsets of special abilities. Yu Otosaka deftly uses an ability that takes over a target’s body for five seconds and gets accepted into a prestigious high school. Just when he is about to start a stable high school life as a popular honor student, a girl named Nao Tomori appears before him. Their encounter reveals the cruel destiny for wielders of special abilities.

The Review:
Audio:
The audio presentation for this release works quite well as we get the original Japanese language track along with a new English language track, both of which are done in stereo with the uncompressed PCM format. The show is one that is largely dialogue oriented with these characters punctuated by some minor moments of action that up the ante. These aren’t over the top scenes in a sense but they’re strong and solid ones that add very well to the show. The warm areas for the series comes in the music that’s used throughout as they gives it a very good sense of atmosphere but the show is essentially all about the dialogue. Both tracks cover it well and hit all the right notes with it and in the end it’s a very good track that’s problem free throughout during regular playback.

Video:
Originally airing in 2015, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. This set has seven episodes that are spread across two discs with three on the first and four on the second. Animated by PA Works, the transfer captures the detail and appeal of the show near perfectly as the colors have some great definition and pop to them. There are some very vibrant sequences throughout and while the show doesn’t go for a drab feel it keeps the color balance really well. Like a lot of shows, it has a good balance of standing around talking and action where both of those are clean and problem free when it comes to breakup and fluidity. PA Works shows tend to be pretty strong in terms of visual quality and this series is no exception and Aniplex has a fantastic looking encoding going on here.

Packaging:
The packaging for this release is pretty good overall as it works the familiar pattern where we get a thin slipcase that holds the clear Blu-ray case inside. The slipcase has the Japanese cover artwork of Tomori on the front against the white background while the back one uses the image of Yu and his sister Ayumi, which has both some nice smiles and the special sauce ingredient. The wraparound on it breaks down how the disc is set up well on the technical front and it makes it clear on the front side what’s included on-disc and with the first-press pack-in extras here. The case itself is a good one as we get a very soothing wraparound image of four of the characters sitting on the steps after the sun has set where the mood is really nicely laid out. The reverse side is kept simple as there’s no artwork here as we get the staff and cast for both productions across the two panels. The only pack-in extra we get is a small selection of postcards with some great visuals from the show of the characters.

Menu:
The menu design for this release works in a simple form but an effective one as it lets the character artwork really define it. With a soft white and blue background, we get to utilize the slipcase artwork once more but with a lot more space so that it’s fuller and even more appealing offset to the right. The logo is kept to the left side which looks good against the soft white as it list the volume and disc number. The navigation along the bottom is easy enough to read even with the white on the soft blue, though the pop-up menu is different as it uses a black box with white text so that it can be seen easier during playback. The menu may be simple but it sets the mood really well and is functionally strong and engaging.

Extras:
The extras for this release are definitely great for fans of the show as we get one really big extra. That comes in the form of the “Beginning of a new Destiny” piece that runs twenty-four minutes, a special that aired in the time slot a week before which has a lot of interviews with the cast, staff, and music elements of the production. It’s a great look behind the scenes of what went into it and the people that worked on it. The set also comes with some of the clean ending sequences along with the previews for the episodes that were shown online each week.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
An original series that aired in the summer 2015 anime season, Charlotte is a thirteen episode show that has an additional OVA as well. This set has the first seven episodes of the show and it’s the kind of important split to have if you’re going to do it this way. There are a lot of shows that don’t really put the characters to the test, though it remains to be seen whether they truly do here, but the potential is definitely there. I’ve enjoyed a lot of what writer Jun Maeda’s done over the years, even if they do stick to a particular approach, and certainly PA Works shows are appealing visually, so there’s a lot to like going into this in a general sense. All the right pieces are in play and this first half sets the stage well with what it can be. It’s the follow-through that will really impact it in the end as to whether this first half truly works.

The premise is straightforward enough in that we’re introduced to a world as we know it but with a little twist. A small percentage of people are born with powers that manifest during their teenage years at different times. This is a familiar enough concept to many and you can see the X-Men concept applied here in its own Japanese way. Naturally, those that are developing these powers in recent years are being hunted down and taken for examination, though as we see from this that some of them don’t survive this process for a range of reasons. Each person seems to have different powers and there’s little in the way of commonality, working an unlocked mutant kind of element to some degree. Because of this, a lot of these kids that have powers and those with the potential for it have been pulled together to one high school.

Most of this is happening because of the work of first year student and student council president Nao Tomori, who has the ability to make herself invisible with some limitations to it. She lost her brother to all of this some time ago and is intent on making sure that nobody else gets caught up in this, at least for the period when these powers manifest as it seems like they only last for a few years. With the resources of the school behind her (though no adults, as they’re all off-screen, a very frustrating element to shows like this), she goes to various schools with others within her group in order to find those like them and help them or get them to lie low so as to not be picked up by those that will do them harm through examination. Tomori’s a fairly standard character in this approach in that she’s smart, savvy, attractive, and naturally short-tempered in a lot of ways so that we get plenty of reactions from her.

To balance this, we get to spend the first episode with her new target, Yu Otosaka, a young man that uses his ability to take over people for five seconds in order to achieve his goals. He nearly comes across as a bad guy here because he’s so narcissistic to the point that you really dislike him. Which makes it harder to get behind him as he starts to change since the old adage of first impressions being the right one tends to be true. Yu has used his abilities to get into the best school and manipulates people to get the things he needs in order for him and his sister to survive as they ended up in a bad situation through a parents divorce. Though you can paint some of this as Yu doing what he can for his younger sister that he’s taking care of, and boy does he care for her and protect her, there’s such an evil glint in his eyes at times that you get a better sense of who he is. Which, even though they do try to turn it around in the series in this first half, it never feels like it fully takes for him since he’s under watch pretty regularly.

The bulk of this half of the series is focused on the introduction of the characters, the academy, and then Nao and Yu heading off to check out new people that they either need to warn off or bring into the academy for safety and protection. This has the team growing a bit with the introduction of an idol character that has another personality in her, but the whole idol thing is just so forced in this instance that it’s annoying. Idol material has fallen out of favor for me for several years now so this isn’t much of a surprise. We also get an episode focusing on a student from another school that’s using his power to help his baseball team that he pitches for, so we get some of the checkboxes hit for a series like this easily enough. It all serves to highlight the variety of characters, powers, and reasons for using those powers while also serving to make Yu more accessible and friendly through it all.

The part of the series that works and doesn’t work for me involves Yu’s younger sister Ayumi. There’s all kinds of haziness about how this works in regards to family/parents and all that, though obviously the new school smooths all that over. The two have a familiar relationship dynamic as Ayumi is bright, cheerful, and always doing positive things for her brother. Naturally, he does well by her as we get to see some of the small struggles he deals with such as that she uses pizza sauce in every meal. It’s all little stuff and his internal complaints are minimal. It’s easy enough to like the pair and when the show digs into her going through puberty and her powers manifesting you know there’s potential for trouble. It’s here at the sixth episode that things really take shape as we see how her powers go wild and end up killing her and nearly killing someone else. Pain and suffering are a part of Maeda’s many works so it’s not too much of a surprise here, but that it gives us a follow-up episode showing Yu going back to his old ways in a big way is definitely welcome. It pushes that whole first impressions being right thing in my mind, though I know they’ll bring him back to how he was with most of this series. It’s an area with so much potential but feels like it’s going to be little more than motivation for the main male character.

In Summary:
Charlotte works with a lot of familiar elements that we’ve seen before, more so in the last few years I think as the superhero side in mainstream media catches more attention, but it’s done in traditional anime style with school kids, uniforms, and all the usual things. The show is one that really looks great with the animation and Aniplex delivers a strong looking presentation for it and with the packaging along with delivering a great dub for the fans. The content itself has a lot of potential, but it’s hard to tell based on what we get here whether it capitalizes on it. The opening episode gives us a character that’s a hair away from being a supervillain that’s then effectively neutered for most of this half of the season before he goes back to his old ways in a hard way. Whether the payoff is there I can’t say, but I’m hopeful it finds an interesting path along the familiar ideas to work with.

Features:
Japanese 2.0 PCM Language, English 2.0 PCM Language, English Subtitles, Beginning of a New “Destiny” (interview with the creators), Textless Ending, Web Previews

Content Grade: B+
Audio Grade: A-
Video Grade: A
Packaging Grade: B+
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B

Released By: Aniplex USA
Release Date: August 16th, 2016
MSRP: $94.98
Running Time: 170 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen

Review Equipment:
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.

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