Jun Maeda delivers a bittersweet tale against the backdrop of flawed teenagers trying to save their kind.
Is a second season possible, and would it be worth it?
What happened so far in Charlotte
Every 75 years, a comet called Charlotte passes near the Earth and spreads dust worldwide. Once breathed in by children, this dust later causes them to develop special abilities when they reach puberty. Abilities that they will lose little by little when reaching adulthood.
Yuu Otosaka awakens to his ability, allowing him to control people’s minds and bodies for five seconds. Rather than use it responsibly, Yuu shows his true nature by fulfilling his basest desires: having girls show their underwear, forcing someone to punch people he does not like, cheating on tests by checking the smart kids’ answer sheet, among other things. His shenanigans even give him the chance to enroll in an elite high school as the #1 student and have the #2 student become his girlfriend. His reign is cut short by Nao Tomori, a girl with the power to turn invisible to only one specific person, and is aware of his power and the way he uses it.
She coerces him into transferring to Hoshinoumi Academy, a school where teenagers with special powers are protected from being used in experiments by scientists. Yuu has to join the student council then. Nao is the president, and where he meets Joujirou Takajou and, later, Yusa Nishimori (who can channel the dead, which allows her deceased sister Misa to possess her body from time to time).
The mission of the student council is to find people who are using their powers indiscriminately to stop them and protect them. Their life is turned upside down when Ayumi, Yuu’s little sister, awakens her ability and dies in the process. The loss throws Yuu in a spiraling chain of events leading him farther and farther from sanity. Nao takes it upon herself to bring him back to the student council by showing him that he is not alone. While attending a concert, Yuu’s suppressed memories about his brother Shunsuke emerge, and he is then reminded that the latter can travel through time.
Shunsuke has been hiding, and using his ability, started working with an organization on a vaccine that would cure children before their powers awaken. Unfortunately, it made him blind. Yuu learns that his real power is to steal people’s abilities. Following this revelation, he takes his brother’s power, goes back in time, and saves Ayumi by stealing her ability.
A terrorist group abducts Nao and Kumagami (Shunsuke’s best friend) to use them as leverage to get Yuu. The latter decides to rescue them but fails to save Kumagami. Inspired by his new resolve, Yuu decides to travel around the world to steal all the abilities he can find, losing his memories and sense of self in the process. He succeeds in his mission and is rescued by his brother, who brings him back to Japan, where Yuu will make new memories with his friends and family.
What is going on with p.A. Works?
Charlotte premiered on July 5 and ended on September 27, 2015, after 13 episodes. It is written by Jun Maeda (of Clannad and Angel Beats fame), directed by Yoshiyuki Asai. The music was composed by Maeda himself, Anant-Garde Eyes, and Hikarishuyo.
Charlotte starts with a ‘bang’ with its first episode, where we are introduced to an anti-hero of a protagonist: self-centered, perverted, narcissistic, arrogant, and egotistical. It is refreshing. Upon the lack of remorse from Yuu, an innocent viewer remarked: “the protagonist is going to create some amusing situations and bury our expectations with a behavior like that.” The show does bury our expectations…under a mountain of clichés and an unruly pace. Yuu turns into a normal high school boy in the second episode. He must have done so offscreen then because the audience did not see the process behind that growth. Certainly, his rebellious character cannot undergo such a change just because he was forced to join the student council? And here we find the first big flaw in Charlotte: the story leans more on shocking moments and sudden revelations to stimulate the viewer without involving its characters.
Some characters are quickly relegated somewhere in the shadows (read: Joujirou and Yusa after episode 5), some others appear once to disappear, and you can only wonder why we wasted an episode with them, and the ones actually going through character development do it in the clumsiest way possible. Yuu goes through four different stages in such an awkward manner: from rebellious whippersnapper to the good boy to depressed emo to Messiah. He is given motivation and reasons, but how are they processed in his mind to create those reactions? Nao is pretty much the same in a more simplistic way: starting as aloof and distant, she pretty much keeps those traits until the last episode where she spouts “I’m your lover” to Yuu. Ma’am, you both had the chemistry of water and oil in a glass, and even after he previously confessed, it made no sense. At no point whatsoever are we allowed to see those two get genuinely close.
That jumpy pace is also felt in the story and the episodes. The first 5 episodes can almost be seen as fillers: they find someone to warn, we see a new ability, comedic antics follow, the end. After that, plot twists follow each other relentlessly. That might have been more bearable if it was not because each of those twists finds a resolution in the same episode they started in. The viewer is left thinking, “they still have episodes left, so what are they gonna come up with?” rather than “I really wonder how it’s all going to end.” It does look like ideas were randomly thrown out there little by little. The last episode in itself could have been properly covered in 2-3 extra episodes (if not a whole season).
The art is bursting with colors, and the backgrounds offer diversity. They are vivid and make the viewers travel as the scenery keeps changing. P.A. Works keeps the production value above average as usual. The character design adopts the classic moe style, and the characters do not offer anything new visually. Moreover, with its rushed narrative and missed opportunities, Charlotte is still an entertaining watch. At the moment, the studio is working on The Aquatope on White Sand (currently airing).
What do we know about Charlotte Season 2 so far?
Season 2 does not seem to be on the table for Maeda and P.A. Works.
A manga written by Jun Maeda and illustrated by Makoto Ikezawa and Yuu Tsurusaki was published from September 2015 to February 2019 (6 volumes). Another one using the 4-Koma format, still written by Maeda but illustrated by Haruka Komowata this time, was published from May 2015 to May 2017 through 3 volumes. Plus, an OAV was also released on March 30, 2016.
Google Trends shows that there are still people looking to get more of Jun Maeda’s story. But there is a good chance those search queries are from new fans who just finished the anime and the manga. The old heads seem to have accepted the fact that season 1 was enough. Considering that it has been six years now, it is surprising that you can not only find Charlotte merchandise, but you still have access to different products (t-shirts, commuter cases, tapestry, keychains, stickers, and so forth). You can buy official goodies or go for items made by non-contracted individuals. The seven Blu-ray volumes released in Japan have all been at the Top 15 of weekly Blu-ray sales in animation, with Vol. 1 ranking first and Vol. 7 ranking third. Aniplex of America released the anime in two Blu-ray volumes.
When will Charlotte Season 2 be released?
Nothing new has been released since the anime ended. It has to be said that the ending actually tied all the loose ends and answered the big questions.
What can we expect in Season 2 of Charlotte?
As said before, if Charlotte were to receive a second season, they could use Yuu’s journey around the world to create a new narrative. The task involved was so big and so demanding, with a big potential for more stories. It ended up being glossed over in only one episode, and that is a waste. Fans would be delighted to see what could have happened during their travels and have the chance to see more abilities.