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Charlotte Collection 2 Blu-ray Anime Review

10 min read

Charlotte Volume 2 CoverThe series diverges into even darker and more engaging territory.

What They Say:
For the sake of his siblings, and to save every ability-wielder on Earth, Yu makes a certain decision. It is a choice that provides salvation to all of them, but at the same time, it is a choice that makes him pay a huge price in return.

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 where we get the bonus episode. 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 with the supporting players and it works nicely to give it a different kind of color to it. 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 appealing wraparound image of the main group watching the meteor shower in the sky where there’s some great color and connection to the opening sequence. 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 a bonus episode from the home video release. It’s a full-length episode that’s a side story that takes place prior to some of the darker events in the series. It’s a fun episode involving mind reading but it’s the kind of episode you really don’t want to watch after finishing the main series as it feels out of place with what it does and the place the characters are in at this time. I was just glad we didn’t get a massive fanservice episode for the show because that would have really undermined 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)
After quite enjoying the first half of the Charlotte anime series and find it mostly kind of light and amusing overall, things took a darker turn toward the end that caught my attention more. While killing off characters isn’t a way to make a show better per se, it’s something that’s not done that often these days and it catches your attention, even if it’s just to mess with the main character. Of course, you also know that with a show like this that they likely have an out but you have to appreciate that it’s not utilized for a while and the out gives way to some darker and more problematic material that could spawn an entire series all of its own that could run for years. With Charlotte pushing in a direction where our lead in Yu essentially becoming a villain, it teases me with a show that I want but can’t quite have.

This back half of the series continues to work Yu through the loss of Ayumi and all that it represents and it’s interesting to see him cope with it. We had a decent but of that the last time around and attempts at getting him to lose himself in the “work” of the academy isn’t a surprise. This focuses on Nao and a somewhat dull turn toward the ZHIEND music aspect that feels like it’s something tacked on to add more music to the show and ancillary sales of CDs. What we do get, however, is a look at someone in the process of a breakdown and how that impacts Yu. His own mind after the loss of Ayumi is a mess and seeing it fracture more is definitely engaging to watch. But it also takes its own curious turn that admittedly feels like it comes out of left field – making you want to rewatch the first half again – and taking the work as a whole into far more interesting directions.

Yu’s past as we’ve seen from the start is fairly standard as he’s the guy who used his power to cheat and get ahead, but there’s a secret past to be revealed that he’s unaware of it. The reveal of an older brother named Shunsuke and his ability to time-leap brings about some fascinating twists as we see how he started the academy and the dozens of times, if not more, he leapt through time to course correct and fix things when he and the group he built around him were younger. It focuses on the bond with Kumigami in a good way and in the space of an episode establishes some intriguing characters and the work they put in to protect other ability wielders from harm by not just those around them but around the world. The idea of various syndicates and their own agendas is a given one and, hell, just the admission of a world beyond Japan feels like a welcome change.

For better and worse, this also introduces the concept of the time leap for Yu to dig into. There are issues with it when it comes to Shunsuke, showing the price he paid to use it, but with the chance for Yu to go back and rescue Ayumi? It’s a nice balance to how Shunsuke did everything he did to protect them and others and then to show Yu doing it for “selfish” reasons, though encouraged by Shunsuke because they need Yu to be at the top of his game. What we learn about Yu over the course of the flashback story with his abilities and that of Ayumi definitely makes for a good sequence of events, but we do get the wish fulfilment aspect for Yu in that his ability is seemingly endless in what it can do. While he’s been able to borrow other people’s powers and their bodies, discovering that he has the ability to remove those abilities and take them on for himself? There’s a reason that Nao talks about how he could be the monster that could end the world.

This half of the season covers a lot of ground with twists and turns that comes from all of this and the light but engaging introduction of other syndicates looking to move in on things as well since Yu is such a highly valued prize. But it’s really just the last main episode that works for me the best and cements this as a show with so much more potential. With Yu taking on the idea of the best way to protect everyone is to take all the abilities from others out there onto himself, a move that makes some sort of sense as explained in-show, he sets off into the world with a promise to come back to Nao so they can be a true couple together. But what we get is a young man going off and risking life and limb, taking on tens of thousands of abilities over what must be a year or more before his own ability fades away, and doing the hard work of plundering the abilities of others. It’s a slow descent to madness and he garners quite the reputation along the way. It’s something where you can imagine him becoming a post-apocalyptic villain based on how it progresses and I really wanted to see that explored as it could launch its own season.

His entire journey during this phase of the show is far too short but it’s also endless engaging with what it does. The emotional element is really well played and the whole slow psychological breakdown over time as he travels around the world, removing the rest of the cast for the duration from the show, turns it even more solitary. Combine that with the variety of people that we see and how they use their powers, and how others are using them, just takes it up a few more notches. In a lot of ways it made the whole series feel like a prelude to this particular episode for me and left me wishing for a five season run that would explore his journey over the period of time that it takes place and really dig into his mental breakdown before everything is put back into an obviously better place for him so that the series can end on a happy note.

In Summary:
Taken in the two halves, Charlotte is definitely a solid series with a lot to offer once it gets past some of the familiar things that dominates those early episodes. When you watch it in full you get a much better show overall as it’s one that really does play better in marathon form and without a wait between it. There’s a lot to like with this half even as it does a lot of info dump material and provides a much bigger view of what’s going on, but it keeps things to a very personal level for Yu and his kind of “average” mindset and ability to take things in. There’s so much that can be done with this that it is a bit frustrating but I’m also just in love with what it does accomplish in this half of it. The payoff is here and seeing the journey that we get for Yu from start to finish, even if there’s some fridging of characters along the way to motivate him, is definitely there and fully worth the experience.

Features:
Japanese 2.0 PCM Language, English 2.0 PCM Language, English Subtitles, Extra Episode, Textless Ending, Web Previews

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

Released By: Aniplex USA
Release Date: November 15th, 2016
MSRP: $94.98
Running Time: 168 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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