First Impressions – Charlotte

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I confess it’s not a coincidence that Charlotte sat in my queue a little longer than the other shows released this weekend.  I’ve tried to go into it with an open mind, but stuff kept getting thrown at me that made me highly cautious (including being told directly “You’ll hate it”).  There were a lot of cautionary notes here, but as a P.A. Works series from Maeda Jun this is simply a show that has to be considered (despite the fact that I did indeed hate their prior collaboration).

Well – I don’t hate Charlotte.  Not yet, anyway.  There were parts of this premiere that came pretty close, but generally speaking I found most of it pretty tolerable.  One of the things I heard going in was that it was putting people more in mind of a KyoAni show than PAW, and I get that – there’s something in the character design (both physical and literary) and premise that has a strong KyoAni feel to it.  I also heard that the main character was a douche, and that there was an insufferable imouto character – and I can’t honestly say I disagree there either, though the MC at least has the merit of not being bland.

Let’s be clear – Otosaka Yuu (Uchiyama Kouki) is indeed a scumbag when we meet him.  It’s not unforgivable, maybe, that he uses his special power to possess anyone in his line of sight for 5 seconds to peek up skirts and cheat on tests – merely juvenile.  But using it to force a truck driver to crash into a stone wall so he can have a chance with the girl he’s hot for is beyond juvenile – it’s psychotic.  But I’m prepared to work with a protagonist that starts from a very dark place – it gives plenty of room for a real character arc.

I’m not sure where Maeda is going with this notion of teenagers developing flawed superpowers in puberty, then losing them when they enter adulthood – maybe a riff on the chuunibyou idea, or a general commentary on the social disorder that is adolescence.  Maybe there’s the germ of an interesting story here, maybe not – Maeda’s career certainly suggests it can go either way.  But Otosaka better prove up to carrying the show, because none of the other cast members make a very good first impression, and the attempts at comedy are generally pretty unfunny.

And then there’s that imouto, played by Asakura Momo.  Lolimoutos really are a bane, an invitation to the worst kind of pandering and lazy writing.  Has there been a good one since Momiji from Cross Game?  Writers really should have to pass some kind of Adachi test before they’re allowed to use one, but until that day shows like Charlotte are going to be dragged to their knees by them, because mangaka, light-novelists and scenario writers just can’t resist.  A better show could survive Ayumi, if she’s used in moderation – I don’t know about this one.

In the end, I really think it’s a longshot that Charlotte is going to be a good series, but it’s not as bad as I feared it might be.  Maeda Jun and P.A. Works (though not together) certainly have had their share of high-quality anime, but their involvement is far from a guarantor of success.  Apart from the main character being so Machiavellian so early in the narrative I don’t see a whole lot that’s distinctive here – maybe Maeda plans to take the show in an X-Men direction or something, but it looks an awful lot like a generic school fantasy for the moment.  With this writer and this studio working together an absolute debacle is certainly possible, but there’s also the slim reed of a possibility that Charlotte could end up working a lot better than it looks like it will right now.  That gives me enough curiosity to stick around for another week.

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  1. C

    It could have been a second Death Note. They could've just focused on the MC abusing his power and making him get in trouble with the police or something. I went in knowing nothing and the first 10 minutes were fantastic, but they had to ruin it all with uguu~s, generic magic school and the freaking 'MC lives alone with his sister' trope. I am so disappointed right now.

  2. S

    if anything, I'd compare it to Code Geass and not Death Note. Sis-complex, magic school, and the power itself is rather similar. But DN and CG share many themes.

  3. C

    That's what I was saying, it could have been Death Note before the imouto, the magic school and all the other crap. Now it's like a castrated version of Code Geass in which Lelouch is forced to become a good boy and learn the value of friendship or some generic tripe like that.

  4. S

    Yeah, I suspect you're right. Now I'm back to being pessimistic again.
    Lelouch was sort of good of course, in his own twisted way. But never like that.

  5. e

    It would be great if he murdered all those power users one by one, while acting like a good brother at home. Just how long has it been since we get to see evil – psychotic protagonist?
    Too bad it's 99.99% won't happen.

  6. S

    Ah, The MC is borderline psychotic, but I have the feeling the anime knows it and wants the viewers to realise it too. At least I hope so, but the only thing really pointing in that direction is the running scene where he grabs his girl mid-flight, and yells at her as she falls. but idk.

    I hope it's as dark as I want it too be. And I hope the Imouto character dies or becomes irrelevant or changes attitude or something, god. Writing that out really feels like wishful thinking, though.

    Anyway, many things intrigued me about this. The girl-interest actually seemed like a non-typical and strong character, and the other side characters were interesting too. And it gives you plenty of stuff to write about, so there's that, too!

    I'm very hopeful for this one!

  7. R

    My first impression with this one was "Hey wait, PA Works is doing a KyoAni now?"There is just a lot of the tropes KyoAni loves using that were showing here, some of them not to my liking. But the premise does feel interesting.

    And I am admittedly a bit weary, as after NagiAsu, PA Works' following series were disappointing (Glasslip was horrid, and I just lost interest halfway with Shirobako). But hey, it'sJun Maeda, so we shall see.

  8. f

    the student council was just overbearing, the chuunyibyou idea……eh. I could've rocked with idea of him to trying to survive in that school with that ability, but I don't know about going around "saving" people. I actually laughed the few times he got away with that ability, but the truck driver idea was just cringeworthy. And the way they tried to play that off by having cute swirls in the truck driver's eyes to show that he was merely knocked out and not killed……..

    and oh man, the sister. My ears are literally ringing everytime she speaks and her monstrous eyes only make me more uncomfortable. And then they way she overreacts everything, i've never wished for truck-kun to meet a character, but…

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