Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Charlotte: Full Series Review

Written by Jun Maeda and created by Key Charlotte was a series I put off watching for a long time as I had re-watched all of the Key Visual Novel Anime and became tired of Maeda's mix of melodrama and comedy and Charlotte does nothing to dissuade me from disliking it. the rote characterization in the first half based around protagonist Yuu Otosaka who uses his special abilities for his own selfish ends until he is bribed into being in The Student Council of the Hoshinoumi Academy that he is forced to join after he has been found out for using his ability to enter others minds for brief periods of time and use it to have perfect grades. In short early on he is an unlikeable protagonist who gets roped into finding others with special abilities along the other Student Council members President Nao Tomori who has the ability to make herself invisible but only to one person and has her own tragic past that makes for a well written female lead with more concerns than how to get the protagonist to like her. As well as Joujirou Takajou who has the ability to teleport but has no real control over it. The character writing is okay for the first half Joujirou though feels like a throwaway joke character comparable to how Youhei Sunohara was in the first few episodes of Clannad except Joujirou really never grows out of this simply used for physical comedy or as the punchline. While Yuu is probably the darkest protagonist Maeda has ever written while heroes in other series have been prone to self-destructive bouts depression due to personal tragedy. Yuu sinks to a dark place that borders on sociopathy it's unnerving but to see something so grim and amoral from a writer mostly known for Moe healing series is surprising in a good way. In short, it is not a terribly complex series and simple truths abound and in conclusion it is not unpleasant but one would have to be a fan of Maeda's writing style and how he writes characters to really enjoy it. I find it more interesting in the dark places the series goes instead of the safe ending and overall tone that it ends with along with overly convenient plot elements as if Maeda is afraid to really go as dark as he did in one story arc. In short it is one step forward and two steps back into a safe but enjoyable show that I don;t regret watching but also feel like no real progression or characterization was explored instead feeling mildly amused than profoundly moved by the whole experience and impressed at the few parts where Maeda steps out of his comfort zone as a writer but ultimately unimpressed at how gutless it ends up feeling thematically and tonally. Kouki Uchiyama as Yuu is able to capture the alternately smug and smarmy side of the character and the kindness and lacerating despair in the character and not have it come off as clashing. While Ayane Sakura simply sounds too old for Nao in her line delivery the gravity and restraint simply sound dead and lifeless. While scene placement is for the most part well handled in particular the chilling death scene in episode six with a chilling set up of the tension of the slow methodical stalking of the killer's intended victim with the clicking extension of a box cutter's blade. While the episode to episode story progression feels very formulaic and connected to one character per episode being the focus of the episode until the bigger mysteries of the series are revealed in the second half making for a series better enjoyed in small episode doses than watched all at once as the formula becomes tiresome and predictable when observed in the larger story arc. Criticisms of writing aside Maeda is still able to make the audience care or wince at the actions and even though the use of human experimentation is a tired cliche from the 80s and 90s Sci-Fi Anime so if anything it's less that Maeda is bad at writing and more that he knows all too well what his audience wants and gives it to them it's toothless audience pandering and while that can be fine it also left the series feeling stale and workshopped as if certain elements were just there to appeal to this or that demographic and not feeling as if all elements are organically cohesive

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