Look at what I’ve done on this site. I’ve reviewed Clannad, After Story and its movie, I reviewed Little Busters! as well as Angel Beats!. I did a review on the Steam release of planetarian and did a 4 part editorial on my top 40 Key heroines. I credit Clannad with getting me into both anime and visual novels so I think it’s very safe to say I’m a big Key fan. The only anime news I’ve reported on is Charlotte. Charlotte probably had the most hype of anything I had going into this season (aside from maybe the continuing Food Wars!) Did Charlotte live up to the hype? Does it hold up to Key’s other projects?
Our story follows Yuu Otosaka, an egotistical boy in a world where some have the ability to get a super power during puberty. He’s pretty much a dick to every body except his little sister Ayumi. Ayumi has the typical “imouto” personality of being very loud but sweet. She also follows a trend that is an Otosaka tradition of putting pizza sauce in pretty much everything she cooks. Yuu has the ability to possess people for 5 seconds. During this time his body is left laying on the ground however. We see Yuu using this to look down girl’s shirts or starting fights between guys. While he finds enjoyment in this his main use is to take over all the smart kids in his class during tests to get their answers and get 100% on everything. This arises suspicion that someone is able to consistently get perfect marks so he’s called to the office to take a test he already took to see if he really could do it. There he meets a girl named Nao Tomari who has the ability to turn invisible to one person at a time and with her video camera catches him using this power. He makes a break for it but is chased by a boy (who we learn is named Jojiro Takajo) who has the power of teleportation without knowing exactly where he’ll end up. It’s really just super speed running though. Eventually Yuu is convinced to go to a school Nao and Jojiro are from that protects teenagers with super powers in order to protect Ayumi.
I already went over Yuu and Ayumi a bit but I’ll add after episode 1 Yuu doesn’t really act like a dick and instead just follows Nao only rarely questioning why. Nao is a strong character (at least appears so) and a leader. She loves food and receiving compliments too. Jojiro has that “best bro” type personality. He seems to know a lot about people and that includes how far he can go with them. Our last member of the main cast is Yusa Kurobane who is an idol that sings for the band How-Low-Hello. Her ability is to get possessed by her dead sister (without her knowledge). Her sister, Misa, can shoot fire. That’s pretty much it. I just described the characters to the best of my ability and the only one I didn’t say everything I could was Yuu to avoid spoilers. The biggest complaint I and many have is there is such a small cast of main characters (especially compared to Key’s past works) yet very little is actually added to them from when they’re first introduced. In fact, Jojiro gets a conversation with Yuu talking about how he decided not to fall in love until his power is gone and that’s all he gets, no backstory, no issue, no resolution, nothing.
Another issue is how the story just falls flat. It has so much potential yet follows a “power user of the week” format for the first half then starts introducing things that could be a major turning point leading to a climax but instead get resolved in the next episode or two. There is also very little buildup to any event. Most of them just happen suddenly. The second half especially has quite a bit jammed into 5 or 6 episodes while the first has an episode focused on playing baseball with a power user (since Jun Maeda can’t write a story without baseball) or camping out with the power user showing up and getting maybe 5 minutes of screen time. While I don’t normally have issues with slow buildup or developing characters for a bit before getting started Charlotte took way too long on both considering it only had 13 episodes and barely even developed its characters (not at all with these SoL scenes). The second half especially is super rushed, not only with each issue being solved really quickly but other things hard to say without specific examples which I obviously can’t give here.
Finally, what’s something you expect from Key? Probably some big emotional scene near the end that makes the manliest of men cry? Not here. Nothing even close. The only thing even close would be the first of the issues after power user of the week but it was so obvious even without foreshadowing and doesn’t work around the obviousness with writing it extremely well like Clannad or Air. Nothing in the final episodes even got me close to tears and I’m really not sure anything was supposed to which really confuses me.
I’ve seen a lot of debate on these and I think people who are fans of PA Works find them bad because it isn’t up to their usual quality and people who aren’t find them good (I’ve even seen amazing). I’ve only seen Angel Beats! from PA Works but I’d say they’re good but nothing on KyoAni or some Madhouse standards (am i the only one who thinks Madhouse can make visual amazing stuff?) Far better than recent Toei stuff. Character designs are hard to comment on. On one hand I like most of them but on the other they’re kind of lazy. Yuu looks, acts and even sounds like (due to shared VA) Seiya Kanie from Amagi Brilliant Park, Jojori is the same for Takamatsu from Angel Beats! and I’d argue Sala (lead singer of Zhiend) looks and sounds like Masami Iwasawa from Angel Beats! (not only sharing a speaking voice but a singing voice). Yusa also looks like a fairly generic idol. I really like Nao’s faces though.
The opening and ending, while both took some time, grew on me and I like both. The background music, while usually good often didn’t fit the mood or was cut without fading. You also may have guessed from previous statements but there are two bands in Charlotte, the poppy idol group How-Low-Hello and the Post-rock English group Zhiend. Again they have good songs but they are never really used. Zhiend’s music has some plot significance but it really seems like Yusa was made an idol because they could make money off selling How-Low-Hello CDs. Her music is rarely used, the times I can remember it being used are when she’s being introduced through a TV show and you hear a small snippet, replacing the ED when she’s introduced and the episode after, and a filler scene where the crew decides to just watch her new music video which is put there probably because they can’t sell CDs if no one knows what their music is like.