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Charlotte Part 1 UK Anime DVD Review

12 min read

Charlotte Set 1O.K, who turned the slice-of-life character of the week show into tearjerker city? Population – me?

What They Say:
A small percentage of adolescents develop special abilities at the onset of puberty. Yu Otosaka is one of these few and deftly uses an ability that takes over a target’s body for five seconds to get accepted into a prestigious high school. Just when he is about to start a stable high school life as a popular honour student, a girl named Nao Tomori appears before him. Their encounter reveals the cruel destiny for wielders of special abilities. Contains episodes 1 to 7 on DVD with both the English dub and the original Japanese track with English subtitles.

The Review:
Audio:
Set up in Stereo 2.0 in both Japanese and English instead of a 5.1 release is still an acceptable quality but a bit of tinkering of the volume was needed to make it of an acceptable quality, though there weren’t any issues in terms of the sound being out on sync with the subtitles or the video. A good dub combined with no issues with the subtitles synching also helped out a lot as this is good in both languages.

Video:
The video is as usual of a decent quality, with no noticeable issues with lag or video in poor resolution during viewing – it actually considering the series is fairly recent feels like a Blu-Ray release, being very colourful combining CGI and traditional animation, there are no delays with timing with subtitles with animation in either language or slowdown with normal rates or via pausing where the animation can become fuzzy. Indeed, the flow of the show makes the animation work a lot of ways from flying shots to collapsing building to House of the Dead style video games, it is one of the better DVD releases in this day of Blu-Rays.

Packaging:
There was no packing for this test release.

Menu:
Image of Nao on the right on a light blue background – menu below her is Play All, Chapters, Set Up, Extras and Credits. No music in the background and quite static but it does select as quickly as a Blu-Ray release (no pop-up menu in show so you return to it via the main menu reset) – the animation style of Nao looks like a visual novel game (iconic considering Key, the creators of Air, Kanon and Clannad made this) which does make it stand out though.

Extras:
We get some web trailers for all the episodes, which are short almost intros the episode, like an episode preview, yet done in the extras section. We also get the clean endings to episode 3 and 4 – nothing spectacular in the end.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Charlotte is one of those gems that you think is going to be a fun series, perhaps some romantic comedy and some development with a hint of seriousness – and that it is for the first 5 episodes. Then something major happens and the series dynamic immediately changes and you know you’re in for something special. This is one of those series that I need the 2nd half of because it ends with a big set-up and cliff-hanger and you just want to know what is going to happen.

With myself being a big Key fan – Clannad is still one of my favourite series of all time – and this being an original story, this was going to be interesting. I loved Angel Beats but I, like others, felt it should have been longer as felt a bit rushed in, and you wonder if Charlotte is going to do the same as it feels like introduction and then something big happens, but the second half of the series gives just enough time to set whatever the leads are into motion so how does it go?

Our lead character is Yuu Otosaka who you discover almost immediately is a bit…special. He has the ability to possess someone for about 5 seconds – seems not the best paranormal power but he isn’t a hero for justice, nope…he uses it for his own benefits, whether to possess a girl to love at their breasts, possess a gang member to punch out someone of his gang, or more interestingly, possess people so he can look at their answers so he becomes the number one student in his school and qualify for a top high school. There, he uses his powers to woo the prettiest girl in school Yumi as he’s a handsome guy himself, and his school life is looking rosy. However, something changes as he is asked by the student council to take the exam again as there is belief he cheated. Obviously Yuu is angry, but when he tries to possess the president to look at the exam answers, it is a trap and thus he is caught by a young lady named Nao Tomori, who also has a special ability in making herself invisible to one specific target (everyone else can still see her) and her comrade Jojiro Takajo, a young man who can move at supersonic speeds (but sadly can’t control when to stop ^^) – so after all that, what is his punishment?

Well actually the two of them are from a special school named Hoshinoumi Academy and are looking for people who have similar abilities. They in effect, blackmail him to transfer to the new school (immediately ending his relationship with Yumi who you thought would have a big role in this but is quite the twist she doesn’t) so he, and his little sister Ayumi transfer there as he now has a role as a member of the council, because Nao informs him that these powers are only during puberty and will eventually go, but if they are discovered, the worry is that people will use them as guinea pigs…which her concern is quite valid as we soon discover…

So initially, it is a power of the day episode. The little sister Ayumi is seemingly normal and a good source of the comedy with her always serving the families pizza sauce as an ingredient in her food for Yuu (who loved it as a kid but now hates it ^^) and then the three begin their searches as due to being on the council, they avoid certain problems when ‘ditching’ school for this. With the appearance of a mysterious member named Kumagami – who can discover where power people are but only if he is dripping wet (running gag is Yuu saying all the powers are half-assed as they always come with a problem) – the 2nd episode does have an important point though because it also brings Nao bringing Yuu to see her big brother, who had an ability as well to manipulate sound, but he was caught and experimented on, and now is pretty much insane, and she escaped the same fate as ‘someone’ she trusts (considering Nao is a loner, this could be a big point) saved her and got her to this school…

Whilst that maybe important, a lot of the story is finding people and stopping them from using their powers. One student can create photos and remove clothing so sells photos of girls to classmates, another uses telekinesis to make his pitching better (though that one was more to help his friend – leading to an experiment by Nao via Yuu which again may be important later) and one has the ability to fly. However, there is one important one in episode 3 is that they find a user with 2 abilities – which turns out to be a popular idol named Yusa Nishimori – which both Ayumi and especially Jojiro are fans off (Nao: SUCH A TURNOFF!) – her initial ability is allowing someone dead to posses her body but then that person is her deceased older sister Misa, who ALSO has an ability (pyrokinesis) – she holds some information from a shady producer so the gang including Yusa/Misa (Yusa is a sweet bubbly airhead style girl, whilst Misa is trash talking and violent but still caring for Yusa) leading to Yusa joining the cancel and several fanboy/fangirls happy…

For the first 5 episodes, the show is finding people with new powers and getting them to stop (with the exception of Nao and Yusa) with the added comedy of some of the cast (Jojiro always getting injured as he can’t stop his speed, Ayumi with her sauce and nosebleeds when she learns Yusa is now part of the school) but as mentioned, there are hints there is more. The introduction of Nao’s brother, the fact Nao is a loner despite getting along well with Yuu (one episode Nao is beaten up by girls she was rather brutally stand-offish with), an episode where Nao talks about her favourite band Zhiend and her dreams suggests that might be something important…the story then takes a different turn after episode 5.

Ayumi is stuck with a cold so she remains home. The council then learn there is someone in Yuu’s condo that has an ability called ‘collapse’ which is definitely a bit ominous. They immediately suspect Ayumi might be the one, so Yuu, Nao and Yusa go visit her (Ayumi of course fangirls over Yusa) and it is revealed she did have a dream about the ground cracking, so the group understandably are worried. So when her fever goes down, Yuu asks her to stay at home still despite being better, but Ayumi sneaks off to school anyway. However it was also established in that episode that a boy clearly has a major crush on her, and one of the girls who likes the boy is a bit…disturbed. Indeed, when Ayumi and the girl Konishi clash, she actually tries to stab her with a paper cutter. So trapped in a corner, she suddenly activates her ability which causes the school building to collapse. Yuu sees this and goes to try and find her, and is hit by some rubble and knocked out.

Next episode…we learn Ayumi has been killed.

…..

THAT was a bit of a shocker.

So whilst there is only one episode left of this set, you know the series is going to be a bit more serious and do a different way in Yuu’s character and boy does it. He goes into despair, becomes a recluse (even shoving away Yumi when she visits to try and help) – and it isn’t long before the government try to get him for his powers. He manages to escape and then goes on the run, becoming more crazy, living off junk food and using his power to beat up several gangs. He nearly goes past the point of no return when he takes a gang members drugs…and then it is revealed that Nao has been there watching him (via her invisibility) the whole time and begins to snap him out of it. She does a bet where she gets Yuu to eat a proper meal and it turns out to be the omelette rice Ayumi always made with the secret pizza sauce. Yuu immediately eats it and cries – he hated it but it was his sister’s recipe and love – and it brings him back to life so to speak, as he now returns to the council with Nao in memory of Ayumi, and this is where the first half ends as this could suggest a ton of things for the second half.

This is definitely one of these series that lulls you into a false sense of security. The initial set up is basically awful guy abuses power, gets caught, and forced into working for an organisation to stop similar people. Familiar premise right? Plus you get some comedy with characters like Ayumi and Jojiro (and later Misa) and seems like a power of the day right?

Well, the show is very clever in hiding more than it appears even before the wham episode that is episode 6. The character of Yuu for example slowly develops from being a bit of a douche to slowly actually becoming more caring – he still seems very selfish at times, but his understand of what Nao goes through, the fact she only asks him to go she his brother or tells about her favourite band (Ayumi seems to ship them as the two whilst not romantic, have a really good chemistry on screen which exemplifies when we get to episode 7) – it throws you for a loop from episode 1 when you expect Yumi to be an important character, but then she leaves the series and only returns for a brief cameo in episode 7 – little things definitely give you good indication this is going to be a bit more than a monster of the week series, but it still seems to head into that direction.

Then episode 6 happens.

Ayumi was definitely a fun character and a very picture of innocence and comedy with the running pizza sauce gag but then once you learn there is someone with power in the condo just coincidentally when Ayumi is sick, alarm bells ring. The way her power is discovered is creepy and then the aftermath is just heartbreaking. It does bring Yuu’s destruction as you realise that despite all his flaws, he genuinely loved his sister and with his only family gone, he sinks into despair and the worst of his personality comes out – and this is where Nao is a total rock. You can tell that despite her ‘I want to be alone’ mentality she has due to what happened with her brother, we know she ‘trusts’ someone and you get the feeling that is coming into the 2nd half, whether it is that band she mentioned but now, she needs to be the person that Yuu has to trust. She obviously went through a similar thing to what Yuu did (albeit her sibling didn’t die but pretty much lost his life so nearly the same thing) and is the one person who can understand him. It makes those earlier moments between the two much more understandable and you do wonder if it is going to be more romantic or keep at this level but again, allows the second half of the series to be looked forward to.

It feels that there is a bigger villain ready to be unleashed – at the moment it is pretty much the government – and this is slowly being built up. The weakness of the series is the worry that it might be too short for what it is trying to accomplish (very similar problem encountered with one of its predecessors in Angel Beats) because it feels like there is a lot still to be explained with just 6 episodes to go – also this does mean the other characters may have had their time in the slot – and whilst Jojiro’s running gag of knowing all of Yusa’s spells and Nao immediately turned off, also Misa/Yusa being a lot of fun considering their very different personalities – you feel they are not going to be as important and the focus is now on Nao/Yuu. Not that is a bad thing as the two leads are well defined characters but we just have to see how the series goes. (That said, a lot of moments when Misa switches to Yusa showcasing the care she has/had for her sister is very eerily similar of course to what happens to Ayumi…)

The hints are there that there is definitely more to this. Like why were Ayumi/Nao taken away in a special condo and how did the government know about them before he ran away – who is this mysterious person that Nao trusts – why did Nao only go for Yuu as someone for the council when there were 3 others that they confront (4 if you include Yusa) – there are a lot of questions and with Yuu now back in the game and most likely more kindly than before, the second half is something I am really looking forward to. The monster of the week formula did drag a little, but the payoff was definitely unexpected and surprising, yet the hints were there. This could definitely be one of the best series this year depending how it goes…

In Summary:
Charlotte changes from a monster/power of the week series to something much deeper and powerful and indeed tragic after episode 6. And even then there were hints with Yuu and Nao that there is more beneath the seams and that more of the story and the fear of being captured by the government is going to be brought up. The twist catches you off guard and you look forward to what is going to happen now, and with the right mix of comedy and characters beforehand, this is a pleasant yet intriguing show that you want to see more of.

Features:
Cleaning Opening/Ending, Trailers

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

Released By: Anime Limited
Release Date: June 26th, 2017
MSRP: £24.99
Running Time: 170 minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen

Review Equipment:
Playstation 4, Sony Bravia 32 Inc EX4 Television, Aiwa 2 Way Twin Duct Bass Reflex Speaker System.

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