From the creator of Clannad and Angel Beats, Jun Maeda brings us Charlotte, an original anime that aired in the summer season of 2015.
The story follows Yuu Otosaka, a high school boy with the uncanny ability to swap bodies with people he sees…at the cost of his body going unconscious for 5 seconds. He is coerced by Nao Tomori who catches him using his abilities and coerces him and his sister to transfer to Hoshinoumi Academy. Nao herself has the ability to turn invisible to the eyes of anyone one person she focuses on. Nao also forces him to join the student council to help out with the work they are carrying out. The pair are joined on the student council by Joujirou Takajirou, who has the ability to “teleport” but has trouble controlling where he stops, and Yusa Kurobane, who has the ability to speak to the dead…but is only possessed by her dead sister Misa who has the ability to control fire. Together, these four set out to find others like themselves and keep them from abusing their powers and protect them from those who would seek to exploit their powers.
That’s where the gist of it ends. From here on out we go through spoiler territory so if you haven’t seen it yet, go kill 4 hours by watching the whole thing and come back.
All caught up? Let’s begin.
Alright so most of the show is good for most of the way through. But where it really starts losing its steam, is on the last episode. In the previous episode, Tomori gives Yuu the idea of going around the world to plunder abilities from everyone in the world in order to protect them from organizations that would otherwise exploit there abilities for their own ends. Yuu states he has no idea how long he will be gone and that he has a time limit being that ability users lose their abilities after adolescence. However, the last episode does a poor job pacing out his globe-trotting adventure as they cram everything into the last episode in an attempt to end the series on a good note. The whole trip feels like it took only days, if not a week or two before Yuu shows up again in a hospital bed completely void of memories due to his acquisition of many abilities.
So, to fix Charlotte‘s mediocre ending, i give you my two cents on how Charlotte could have been changed
1. Extend the number of episodes
Sure, studios aren’t always made of money (here’s looking at you MadHouse and ufotable) but that doesn’t mean you should dull the story telling because of it. During Yuu’s travels, there were many instances where i thought to myself “this could literally be a full episode”. The idea of Yuu going around, meeting different people and talking to them gave room to developing him as a character as well as insight to different parts of the world. I like this idea more then him simply waltzing in, giving the target “the look” then walking out with a new ability.
One such instances was when Yuu sees a girl healing a man from an injury on his arm. In the show, he takes her ability and simply leaves. I thought they could have extended this as a way to show Yuu questioning the morality of his plundering of peoples abilities. Not everyone abused their abilities or used them to harm people and this would make Yuu question if this was the right thing to do. As a way to help guide him, he would look to the flashcards given to him by Nao and ask if this was truly the right thing. He would remember his promise and think of a way to take the persons ability in a situation where he can take the ability and the girl would be better off without it. She could be motivated to learn medicine due to the fact that she loved to heal people. She could find an alternative to the ability she just lost as a way to fill the gap.
Another episode could show how Yuu, touching down in a foreign land, would learn how to communicate with people. Instead of being lazy and giving him an auto-translate ability early on, they should have showed him studying the customs and language before tracking down his targets. This would have given a little more meaning to Nao’s flashcards as more than just an anchor for his humanity later on, but a means of reaching out and speaking with different people. At the end of the episode, he could learn the auto-translate ability as a comedic way of saying “HA! you did all that work for nothing!” while at the same time being thankful for the flashcards that helped him get to that point.
2. Expand on the idea of a Syndicate or Organization
Through his travels, Yuu is met with opposition from a multiple organizations that try to prevent him from finishing his mission.. He never directly confronts them, nor does he address them in anyway. This is a wasted addition as they could easily have become the antagonists of the second half of the show, constantly testing and pushing Yuu to his limits. The culmination of Yuu’s fights with these organizations could end with a final confrontation in which the leader of the organization is the final ability-user and refuses to let go of his ability without a fight. Sure, this would turn it into a generic battle shounen type of show but his journey has to have some kind of struggle to it right? Also, it would be a cooler way for him to earn his nickname of the One-Eyed Grim Reaper.
The constant fighting could start to weigh on Yuu as he becomes more dependent on his powers as they start to eat away at him with each new acquisition. Towards the end of the original series, we already see him break down a few times but he is always brought back with the flashcards as a reminder of something he needs to go back to and a promise to fulfill. this could be utilized here but have the flashcards be more meaningful over a longer period of time. Speaking of time…
3. Give a notion to the passage of time
The last episode did a tremendously horrible job of showing the time it takes Yuu to go out and acquire every ability. Every 5 minutes, he would be in a new city. He would always conveniently acquire abilities that help him travel faster, go without sleep, translate speech, etc. But what was the actual time it took him to do this? After watching it, it feels like he hadn’t been gone for more than a week and then just turned up an inch from death after saving a girl who had the “power of courage” (LAME). Yuu’s journey should have taken him a few months or a year at most. This would have made more sense to me as well as increase the impact of the ending where he and Nao finally do meet again after an actual long period of time.
The passage of time is a threat to Yuu in that he has a limit to acquire the abilities before the end of his adolescence or his powers will fade. This concept alone could create tension for the series as Yuu hurriedly tries to accomplish his mission yet the syndicate keeps getting in his way. The longer he takes with his mission, the more pressure he feels and the more rash and aggressive his behaviour might become.
And there it is. My take on how Charlotte can be made better. Simply by adding more episodes, a secondary antagonist and letting the audience know that time is actually going by, the series might have been better.
Don’t agree with it? Have something you want to add/change? Pop it into the comments below! Thanks for reading and bless your face!