Anime Spotlight: Charlotte
How many shows about super powered teens can one Deadly Diva watch? Actually, quite a few. In fact, it is impossible to be an anime fan and not become attached to at least one teen with mystical, magical, mutant or otherworldly powers. This Deadly Diva may be wrong, but that is unlikely. In fact, the super powered teen trope is so common that it can be difficult to get into a new series with that premise. So when I came across Charlotte, I was open-minded but still somewhat fatigued.
In Charlotte, young people are able to develop amazing powers during puberty. They can alter perceptions, take over other people’s consciousness, run at super speed, and even channel the dead. The hitch is that these powers are temporary. When puberty has run its course, so will their powers. However, while their powers are still active and incomplete, these privileged youth have to be protected from themselves and people that would exploit them. And so, a school is built where they can live as normally as possible while learning to control their powers. If this sound familiar to you, you aren’t the only one. Halfway through the first episode, this Deadly Diva immediately thought of Charles Xavier and his gifted youngsters.
Even beyond this, there were too many parallels to X-Men for me to ignore. Those with powers are being recruited to a school where they would be safe from persecution and possible experimentation. Student Council President Tomori Nao knows first hand how her kind can be treated. Her older brother is recovering from years of experimentation as a result of his sonically-based powers being discovered. The one difference from X-Men is there isn’t a Professor X or Magneto analogue. In fact, adults are few and far between. Aside from the occasional teacher, there are no adults in authority positions. Oddly enough, these teens have agency and knowledge, something that wasn’t afforded to the X-Men.
We can see more examples of this agency in the tracking and recruitment of new students, which is handled by the first years. In place of Cerebro, there is a student known as “The Helper” who locates teens with abilities. Tomori, the de-facto leader of this little band of superhumans, leverages her position as Student Council President so that she and Takajo Jojiro can leave campus freely to track down and convince the teens that The Helper has located to transfer to their school. One of these teens is Otosaka Yuu. Upon discovering that he had the power take over other people’s bodies for five seconds at a time, Otosaka realized that he could use that ability to improve his academic and social standing. As his rose in the ranks, Otosaka was completely oblivious to surveillance Tomori was conducting. After “discussing” his options, Otosaka agreed that he and his powerless younger sister would transfer schools and move into the campus apartments.
Charlotte is a fast-paced series that manages to not outrun itself. It does not shy away from emotion and messy, complicated relationships. Yet, it avoids the common trope of the leads falling in love at first sight. But there are still so many unanswered questions. Who set up this school? Who is funding the scholarships that enable these special students to attend tuition free and live on campus? Who is pulling the strings? Why are these kids so important? And, most importantly, who the heck is Charlotte?