Charlotte

Charlotte

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During adolescence, a small percentage of boys and girls discover the onset of a special ability. Teenager Yu Otosaka is one of these individuals and he can possess someone else for five seconds. He has been using this convenient power to sail through his academic essays and exams. One day, a girl named Nao Tomori appears at his school and she knows about Yu’s special ability. Transferring to a school for those with potential to develop special abilities, Yu joins Nao in locating people like themselves and helping them before their powers spiral out of control.

Charlotte is an adaptation crafted by the talented hands of PA Works and Aniplex. It has been quite an anticipated title because of who wrote it (namely Jun Maeda who is responsible for the series that made everyone cry: Angel Beats!). Though we often get slice-of-life drama from him, this one looks to have a bit more of an edge than usual.

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Since discovering that he has unusual abilities, Yu has been getting creative with how he takes advantage of his situation. By being able to temporarily inhabit people’s bodies, he uses this power like a lot of young men would: getting closer to girls, getting away with punching people and cheating on every single test. Due to his commitment, he gets into a very prestigious school and becomes top of the class. Not only that, but he has set his sights on the madonna of the school – a girl named Yumi.

The way in which Yu physically manipulates people to get his own way shows that he’s not your usual good-guy anime protagonist – and his internet dialogue shows that he’s fully aware of what he’s doing. He uses his powers to put people in dangerous situations so he can make himself out to be a hero. Even though his ability only allows him to possess people for five seconds, he’s already using it like you would imagine a super villain would.

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When Nao Tomori shows up, calling Yu out with her knowledge of his power (and the undeniable video footage), Yu panics and flees. After a chaotic chase, in which we really get to appreciate the visual design going on here (and the hilarity of Nao’s accomplice, Jojiro, and his uncontrollable super-speed ability), Yu is apprehended. He is told that his power is a disease, and he needs to be closely-monitored to ensure that it doesn’t destroy him. He is essentially blackmailed, for his own good, to transfer to their school. Supernatural abilities in a school setting? It’s no wonder that this anime grabbed me so quickly.

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From then on Yu, and subsequently his cheerful younger sister Ayumi – who lives with him without any parents – are drawn into this special academy. From the start there’s a lot of foreshadowing and interesting ideas, which leads me to believe that things are only going to get better the longer I watch. I have high expectations of Charlotte, obviously because I was such a fan of Angel Beats!. Nao tells Yu that if one sibling develops a special ability, it’s likely that their brothers and sisters will show signs of them too. Will Nao and Yu be able to protect Ayumi when that fated day comes?

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So far we have seen the group identify and intervene with a variety of teens that have been using their powers in different ways and for different reasons. It does a really good job of setting the scene and getting creative with what would otherwise be standard ‘powers’ that we’ve seen before e.g. pyromancy, invisibility and telekinesis. It’s a fresh take and I think it gives a fairly realistic demonstration of how young people would react if given super powers. They wouldn’t decide to ‘take over the world’, but would rather use them to make life easier for themselves or their friends and family. One boy was using his power to keep up with his best friend in baseball and wasn’t aware he was causing harm to anyone until his condition and its consequences were explained to him. Popular idol Yusa’s ability is to channel spirits – such as her recently-deceased delinquent older sister Misa – which leads to impulsive and hilarious consequences.

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Well-executed, fun and with a heavy dose of intrigue, the first half of Charlotte has definitely lived up to expectations. Beginning with some classic superhero/villain origin material, the combination of hearing Yu’s inner thoughts, beautiful animation, detailed countryside and cityscape backgrounds and the fresh take on adolescents with superpowers means that things are off to a very strong start. It’s edgy and unpredictable and always leaves me waiting impatiently for the next episode.

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