Anime Review: Charlotte Part 1 (Lights, Camera, Action!)

By Drew Hurley 21.05.2017

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Charlotte Part 1 (UK Rating: 15)

Why is it that so many characters become heroic, self-sacrificing goody-goodies when they realise they have superpowers? Mr. Parker's age-old adage of "With great power comes great responsibility" is a fine ideal, but the truth is few would live up to that ideal. It's the human condition that many would use their new power for personal gain, as is the case with Yuu Otosaka. Yuu realises he has a special power to take control of other people and uses this ability to become the most popular person in school and to set himself up for a promising future. Those plans change when others with powers show up and seem to know his secret, though, and Yuu is dragged into helping his fellow power users. This first part contains the first half of the show, containing episodes 1-7, and comes courtesy of Anime Limited on 12th June.

Announced as a new project during the celebration of the anniversary of the Angel Beats anime, this new project from Jun Maeda promised to live up to and follow in the footsteps of its predecessor. This would only be Maeda's second anime after his Angel Beats adaptation. Maeda's real strength and portfolio come from the games that many anime have been based on. Maeda is the co-creator of game studio Key and has been instrumental in such titles as Air, Clannad, and Little Busters. This is an original anime creation, though, with no visual novel game to pull from and gives Maeda free rein to tell a story in his own way.

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That story follows a teenager who awakens to a superpower, but it's a power that is horribly flawed. He can jump his consciousness from his body into another, but he can only control people he can see and only for five seconds at a time. Not to mention while he's controlling them he feels anything that happens to their body and his own body collapses. Yuu tries to find some way to take advantage and abuse this power, but other than pervy hijinks, the only idea he has is to control fellow exam takers and copy their answers. This gets him into a prestigious high-school and nets him the number one place at that school… until fellow power users turn up and force him into joining their academy.

This academy is dedicated to finding power users and either enlisting them or forcing them to stop using their powers. The group is headed up by Nao Tomori, a girl who can become completely invisible, but fitting with the theme of each power being horribly flawed, it only works on one person at a time, meaning anyone else can see everything she does. Nao is joined by Jojiro Tokajo, a man with speed that can rival the Flash, but it's flawed, too, and he moves so fast that he can't control it, like firing off a speeding bullet. He regularly smashes into walls and through windows, wearing armour to protect his body while he does so, but often ends up spurting blood from his head. Finally, there is Kumagami, a boy who acts as the team's Cerebro, identifying and tracking down other ability users, but he can only do so when he's soaking wet and fully dressed… This team tracks down users to warn them of the risks their powers hold. The powers aren't permanent; they appear during puberty and will disappear before they reach adulthood, with no warning as to when they can vanish, so imagine someone with the power of flight suddenly losing it while miles above the ground… There's a more immediate threat, too, in the form of a shadowy group that is also hunting down ability users for reasons not quite so amenable. They take ability users and experiment on them...

That story has the same type of tone as Angel Beats; it's mostly a comedy show with some genuinely funny writing and amusing moments, but beneath the surface there are some touching and even darker aspects to the tale. Nao, for example, tells of her older brother, a guitarist with the ability to vibrate the air around him; he was taken and experimented on, losing his mind in the process. Then there is the final episode of this first half of Charlotte. It is absolutely fantastic, an unbelievable twist, and a complete change to the tone of the story, and sets up a very promising second half to come.

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Key and Maeda teamed up with PA Works once again after their successful collaboration in Angel Beats and it's evident just how much the studio has improved since that was produced. This show was originally released in 2015 and looks great. Audio-wise, the cast has some big stars in the Japanese version, including Koki Uchiyama (Soul from Soul Eater) and Ayane Sakura (Ochaco from the recent mega-hit My Hero Academia). The English cast is not quite as star-studded as the Japanese but they deliver quality performances that make this worth seeing for both dub and sub fans. On the extra features front, there are some of the original Japanese trailers and web trailers for the series but, most importantly, the Blu-ray edition of this title contains a 20-minute featurette entitled "Beginning of a New Destiny," which was originally shown prior to the series on Japanese TV on the show. The feature has a panel of cast and crew talking about the project along with their history together, and it's really worth watching.

Rated 7 out of 10

Very Good - Bronze Award

Rated 7 out of 10
What makes Charlotte just so good is how completely unpredictable it is. It doesn't rely on old tropes and constantly changes things up, keeping the audience guessing. Charlotte manages to juggle genuinely funny comedy and a darker undertone to aplomb, all building up to a dark conclusion to this first part, which gives great promise for the upcoming second part.

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