What They Say:
For the sake of his siblings, and to save every ability-wielder on Earth, Yu makes a momentous 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. Contains episodes 8 to 13 on DVD with both the English dub and the original Japanese track with English subtitles.
Reviewing the DVD version which was 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, the way the show takes the acting is quite deep, and combined with the back-ground music and foley considering what Yu has to do, it works really well here.
Similar with the audio, the video is set in 16:9 – 1.78:1 aspect ratio via NTSC transfer to PAL format – with DVD releases nowadays the effect definitely seems more grainier compared to HD but here it is very good, bright and out there, no slowdown or grain effects when pausing or synching issues, very colourful and combines all aspects of animation and computerization. This really comes great into the plunder scenes and what the show is capable of doing so even though is a DVD release is one of the better ones I’ve seen recently.
There was no packaging for this test release.
The menu is very standard, images of Kumagami and Shunsuke in a buddy-buddy pose on a light blue slightly starry background, selections are Play All, Episodes, Set Up and Extras, and will say this is the closest to Blu-Ray speed when selecting options as it moves nearly instantaneous. No pop-up menu but understandable so otherwise no problems with selection and can return to main menu from the show easily, and nearly instant with selecting your choices without delay, but not Blu-Ray pop-up menu standard obviously.
Extras are mostly standard with the textless opening and ending, the US Trailer and also some web previews (basically the next episode previews which quite a number of shows are now putting as extras instead of in-show) but there are a couple of unique ones.
We have a blooper reel which is always fun, done in the style of watching the show being played and the actor who makes the goof we hear their part, whether intentional or accidental, always good for a laugh.
The big extra is the OVA episode – the Strong Ones. It is set between episode 4 and 5 and is pretty much the episode where you begin to see Nao as a much nicer character than you initial see her and also where Yu starts becoming a bit nicer as a transition before the circumstances arise with Ayumi. She makes friends with a girl Iori who has the double whammy of having a power that can make friends go against each other (they hear people’s thoughts out loud) so Nao and Yu show her it can work (mainly due to Nao pretending they are in a comedy routine…when she is just hitting Yu when he insults her in his mind ^^) however reality is colder as Iori also has a disease that will paralyse her. It seems her best friend rejected her hearing this and Nao is PISSED. She gives her a piece over her mind and the moment here with her makes her instantly likeable and Yu instantly realising what she has been going through and sees herself in Iori. It is a great bonus episode to bridge the gap in their character development.
Key series always tug on the heartstrings – and whilst the top-tier ones of Air, Kanon and Clannad hold a high regard, their other works (Angel Beats and Little Busters) definitely hold their own amongst that as well. Charlotte falls squarely into this category and perhaps even better – a short series in 13 episodes (Angel Beats was like this but was originally going to be longer hence felt was more rushed) but manages to get in so much development for the two leads after what seems like an episodic series hits a major twist, and now it is getting life back on track.
Yet what happens perhaps is even more unexpected than what you may have thought would happen…
We last left our protagonist Yu after suffering the worst moments of his life after his sister Ayumi was killed when she unknowingly woke her power – but fortunately Nao was there to snap him out of his stupor and has managed to bring him back to school with Jojiro and Misa also there to help him. We quickly see though things have changed between Nao and Yu as whilst she still has that bitey edge, the two are much closer as friends now as evidenced when Nao invites Yu to a Zhiend concert, her favourite band. Yu actually meets the lead vocalist unexpectedly and there are definitely similarities due to previous problems (the singer Sara is blind) but is a very comical and wonderful lady, even managing to help Nao’s brother Kazuki to come down. However the key moment is that for some reason Yuu seems to recognise her music from before – even at the concert when a brand new song airs he feels he remembers it…
…and then the whammy hits. It turns out he remembers his past and the fact not only did he and Ayumi were studied as test subjects as kids with powers, but Ayumi’s comments thinking she was certain there was a third member of the family are in fact true, as Yu does have a brother who was also being tested named Shunsuke. The big twist? His power is able to time travel and thus the loops in Yu’s head connect and remembers him – this is also tied with Nao as he was the one who brought her back in the darkness, and the mysterious messenger Kumagami who always brought them to find kids with powers? Turns out he is Shunsuke’s best friend and he arranges for them to meet.
This allows us to see Yu and Shunsuke’s past and how Shunsuke has used his time warp ability to manipulate the time period so that he and other adolescents with powers aren’t persecuted or being used for experiments (yes, I definitely got a weird X-Men vibe here as well) but at the cost of his sight as every time he leaped, he got more blind. Using funds from predicting lotteries and gambling, he built a safe school away from the adults but in return was forced to make Ayumi and Yu’s memories of his erased. And the truth of Yu’s true ability comes out as his ability of being able to take over someone’s body isn’t just a 5 second rule…he actually has the ability to TAKE their abilities permanently. Learning this, Shunsuke allows him to plunder (the true name of his ability) his time leap skill to go back in time just before Ayumi died, and in turn plunder her collapse ability before she gets killed – scaring off the bully with the aid of Nao, and thus the family is reunited and yes, a tear was shed…and not the first one either…
With abilities said to vanish after they become an adult (usually after their 16th birthday) and Yu’s birthday coming up, we actually find out why the series is called Charlotte, named after a comet which passes Earth every 75 years which it’s atoms causes these abilities to appear (they explain it way better than I do ^^) and are now trying to come up with a vaccine. Unfortunately, other forces are after these abilities and eventually Kumagami is forced to talk against some bad guys – and one truth serum later, Yu is forced to confront them. He is nearly killed and half blind (so he can’t time leap) but using collapse, he manages to stop them, but unfortunately Kumagami is killed, saving Nao from death…
The last two episodes are real heart-wrenching. Not just from Kumagami’s dead (And Shinsuke’s despair from said death) is that we also get a resolution with Yusa/Misa. Whilst a less focal character this arc, she manages to say goodbye to her parents as Misa and eventually Yu plunders her and writes a letter to Yusa, as she never knew that Misa was still inside her. He steals all his friends abilities as the only solution they realise is for Yu to plunder every user in the world. With this, he also falls in love with Nao realising the bond that saved him before and wants to save her now, telling him to come home safely and giving him some language cards to help him out as well as her mp3 player. He travels the world, learns other abilities to help him, ranging from telepathy to searching other abilities, to shields to learning languages, basically giving him the nickname ‘One Eyed Grim Reaper’. However taking all these abilities he begins to slowly become insane and lose memories, with only Nao’s cards managing to keep him sane. He manages to get it done with just one child left, but is nearly killed before he could do it…fortunately he does it before the powers run out at the cost of his memories. However, he is back in Japan and Nao says they will take it one step at a time, with them and their friends…
Like Angel Beats, you can say it may suffer with the fact it is so short and maybe a few more episodes especially as the relationship between Nao and Yu became full circle and surprisingly realistically. Unlike Angel Beats however, there was no moment that I felt the series was rushed and managed to do its job. Whilst the other characters like Jojiro and to a lesser extent Yusa were pushed to the background with Kumagami and Shunsuke pushed, it felt very natural when the history and background is revealed, and you had to cheer when you learned of Shunsuke’s time travel ability, albeit easily set up a way to save Ayumi, it was still something you wanted to see. Whilst the development between brothers is minor, it is very subtle and clear – especially when Kumagami dies, Yu snaps him out of it, just as Nao snapped him out of his despair.
The Nao/Yu relationship totally stretches out as well – the first half was introductions, Nao sees Yu as a means to an end via blackmail, whilst Yu sees her as a lonely person albeit with a spiteful mouth and unsure what to make of her. In reality, Nao clearly sees a lot in Yu and wanted to see him use his skills for good and felt there was more to him. This was proved in her way to get him back and you can see them falling for each other slowly amidst the comedy. The OVA episode is actually a great one to see Nao’s own hidden feelings come out when she is clearly angry about someone’s former best friend being ditched just so won’t be hindered by her disability, and this gap is enough to see that is the turning point in their friendship. Whilst the romance is very subtle and nothing comes out of it in terms of on-screen, the chemistry is there and you wonder if there would be a sequel and/or spin-off…
The little things really help as well – Ayumi returning and making the omelette again, Misa saying thank you to her parents and Yusa as well, Yu’s struggle to keep sane yet Nao’s influence is still strong enough to keep him there, the tragic death of Kumagami (it doesn’t hold back, an earlier scene with his teeth getting broken and knocked out is pretty gory – I didn’t flinch at Attack On Titan but I did here….) and the breakdown of Shunsuke – the shocking and sad moments are genuinely countered by the sweet and awesome moments, and Yu being the most powerful man in the world for a period of time with people keeping an eye out for him and him having all these powers, it does feel like a superhero show at times, especially when people are after their abilities…
It does feel like a good truth in television story that people would be hunted down due to them being different or have unique skills – it can hit close to home I’m certain with people, not to mention the worry that adults only have bad intentions (there is one scientist who is an exception in both the flashbacks and is also the one to speak of what Charlotte is) but it is naturally balanced out. This combined with the relationship story makes this a much better show than it initially intended.
One of these days I’ll be shocked when Key doesn’t make me cry….
…today is not that day.
Charlotte increases the tension, drama and story when Ayumi’s death turns into a trigger for bringing Yu back to his past memories – from memories of a singer to remembering his brother, it all adds for a climatic finale with some tender moments between Yu and Nao in between. One part action, one part suspense, one part tragedy and still with some comedy in between, Charlotte is an unexpected boon in the anime market, a show that is short yet manages to get all the development in just about as well as be entertaining, smart, sad and overall fulfilling. Definitely recommended.
Clean Opening/Ending, Bonus OVA: The Strong Ones
Content Grade: A-
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: B+
Packaging Grade: N/A
Menu Grade: B+
Extras Grade: B
Released By: Anime Limited
Release Date: September 18th, 2017
Running Time: 168 minutes
Video Encoding: PAL
Aspect Ratio: 16:9 – 1.78:1
Playstation 4, Sony Bravia 32 Inc EX4 Television, Aiwa 2 Way Twin Duct Bass Reflex Speaker System.