Review: Charlotte Volume 1 (DVD)

Charlotte takes place in an alternate reality where a small percentage of children gain superhuman abilities at the onset of puberty, with the catch that the power will disappear as the child ages. The story follows protagonist Yuu Otosaka, who has the ability to possess anyone in his line of sight for five seconds, while his body passes out. It’s fair to say Yuu is kind of a total dick, and uses his powers for upstanding pursuits like cheating on tests and endangering the life of a girl he wants to date so he can ‘save’ her, thus winning her affection. Classy lad.

When Yuu’s power is exposed by Nao Tomori, another power-wielding girl who can turn invisible from one person at a time and the student council president of a school solely for children with these powers, Yuu is transferred to Hoshinoumi Academy as another member of the student council and begins to learn the truth behind his powers and the powers of other adolescents like him.

Charlotte was created and written by  Jun Maeda, with character designs by artist Na-Ga. The art for Charlotte is absolutely top notch, with great character designs, backgrounds and animation all topped off with a lovely background score. The series introduces plenty of other characters along the way, with Jojiro Takajo, the high-speed reckless teleporter who does more harm than good and the celebrity idol and target of frequent possessions Yusa Nishimori rounding out the super-powered student council crew as they move to intercept and assist/threaten others whose use of their powers may place them in danger. Rounding out the main cast of this first part of the series is Ayumi, Yuu’s adorable younger sister with a deep affection for adding pizza sauce to everything she cooks, much to Yuu’s displeasure.

At first I wasn’t sure what to make of Charlotte. When we are first introduced to Yuu he is a straight-up prick, no two ways about it, and it’s hard to get on board with such a jerk. But as the ensemble cast fills out and Yuu, while not exactly turning over a new leaf, does stop being quite so much of a bastard, and the pieces start to come together in a compelling story that has quite a dark underside of experimentation and torture of powered kids which led to Hoshinoumi Academy’s creation as a safe-haven and the actions of the student council who move out on the advice of a weird kid who can detect others with powers (as long as he’s sopping wet) and direct the council to their whereabouts in order to assist them, bring them to the academy or straight up threaten them into not using their powers any more become more clear. This first half of the series ends on a seriously dark note that has left me very eager for more to see how this plays out, as the first half only hints at the broader goings-on of this world and the gifted teens that inhabit it. This release is equal parts fun, funny and dark with a great style as it splices together slice-of-life high school elements with super-powered action and drama into a well rounded and compelling package. Now if only part two would come out already…

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A review copy was provided by Madman Entertainment to the author for the purpose of this review.