So, I’ve made that mistake again yesterday – I watched some of Maeda Jun’s (麻枝准) works without package of tissues prepared within my reach. And I’ve sure regretted it at the end of 7th episode of Charlotte. You might be nodding your head in agreement right now, or you have no idea what am I talking about. Anyway, as title suggests, something happened (night marathoning Charlotte happened) that made me want to compare two anime series, Angel Beats! (エンジェルビーツ!), from Spring season 2010, and Charlotte (シャーロット), from Summer season 2015.
If you’re fan of the two, which you probably are, then mutual denominator is bound to pop up – Maeda Jun from studio Key, who also worked as main script writer for the two series. They have one more thing in common however; they’re both original anime. Now that’s actually very important little detail, because if you’re fan of anime in general, you might know that lot of anime are adaptations of other works, such as manga or light novels. Those usually share the same fate; being adapted only partially and thus leaving huge part of the story unfinished. If you never knew this, that’s why a lot of anime based on other works tend to have very open endings with a lot of story left unresolved. Often forever.
Enough about adaptations though. There are usually two groups of people when it comes to Angel Beats!. Those who love it to bits and those who love it, but realizes its flaws. And ok, I suppose there are also people who dislike it, but nobody cares about them. I, being natural overthinker, belong to the latter of the two. Angel Beats! definitely has its flaws and Charlotte definitely shares some of it, but while marathoning it yesterday night, I couldn’t stop myself from wondering: did Key and Maeda Jun realized some of the flaws and did they attempt to actually do something about them in Charlotte? In my opinion, yes.
Now to fully understand what I consider main flaw of the two shows, you need to understand one crucial thing about Maeda Jun himself. He is genius when it comes to writing emotional stories. You might be familiar with one particular story of his that is generally considered masterpiece even among people who usually aren’t into that kind of thing – Clannad (クラナド). Clannad first came out in form of visual novel (basically strongly story driven video game with shit ton of text, but tying to define it properly would make an article on its own, so let’s just stick with that). And a long one. According to VNDB.org, Clannad has over 50 hours’ worth of gameplay. Now compare that kind of story to length of an average anime, that is maybe something around 5 hours in total. Clannad however isn’t an average length anime, it’s got something around 50 episodes (24 minutes each, about 20 hours), leaving just enough space for the story to go at its own pace, explain everything properly and just bloom.
What does that have to do with Angel Beats! and Charlotte? Easy: I suspect one thing about Maeda Jun, and if I’m right about that, I can so relate to him in that regard. Once he starts to write a story, he’s unable to keep it short and simple. And that’s the stumbling block, because both Angel Beats! and Charlotte are trying to convey story of the same complexity as Clannad (if not more), yet they’re trying to do so in just 13 episodes!
Both shows however, tried to solve this problem in a different way. Angel Beats! early on introduced us to, I’m kidding you not, twenty characters. Now with just 13 episodes, you can imagine not many of them got enough screen time. Or almost any at all. In fact, only about four of them got properly developed in the end, with their backstories explained and stuff. Those four being Yurippe, Otonashi, Iwasawa and Yui. You could add maybe two or so more characters in that list depending on how exactly you define “properly developed,” but I’m not gonna do that.
Way that Maeda and other people in charge decided to deal with short time given to them, was simply to cut seemingly unnecessary parts off, leaving us with story that has some serious struggles to express itself. Especially near the end, after which some people wonder whether they missed an episode or two along the way. I just hope visual novel adaptation makes up for those flaws. I haven’t had time to play it yet, but its waiting patiently on my shelf.
Now I’m finally getting to the core of my point. Did Maeda Jun and people around him learned their lesson? In my opinion yes, they did. Sort of. And decided to deal with the above mentioned problem in different way – changing things unfortunately for worse.
Charlotte tells complete story. Nothing is missing, stuff get proper explanations, story is concluded, and – as expected from Maeda Jun – makes you cry like a little bitch at one point or another. So where’s the catch? If you’ve watched Charlotte, chances are you’ve noticed yourself, because I consider it very distracting. Just look how fast is everything happening. But hey, at least number of characters went down drastically compared to Angel Beats!.
In order to fit everything into 13 episodes, stuff is happening way too fast, rendering some scenes feeling unnatural or forced. Also, pace in which stuff is going down in this show speeds up the closer we’re getting to the end. You can almost see Maeda writing the script and half-way through episode six realizing “oh, fuck…”
This goes to such a ridiculous extreme, that final episode probably contains enough events for Peter Jackson to make nine hours trilogy out of it. Without scenes filled with people staring to the distance or some shit. And sad thing is, I’m probably not even exaggerating.
That unfortunately, in my opinion, includes big portion of love story between Yuu and Nao. Not to mention fact, that excluding the final episode, the only nice thing Yuu ever done to Nao (saving her brother) never actually happened in the timeline where she fell for him, because of the whole time travelling thing going on. I mean, I suppose he’s done it over eventually, but that had to happen after they became a couple, so it doesn’t count.
I feel like I’m forgetting something. Something I wanted to mention regarding Charlotte. But this post has already gone way too long, so I’ll just end it here.
Let me just quickly say, that despite its flaws, I love both Angel Beats! and Charlotte, and if they ever decide to make a visual novel adaptation, I’ll be the first one in the line to buy it. Not even kidding, I’ve preordered limited edition of Angel Beats! within first few days.
One thing that occurs to me though, is why were those series decided to be only 13 episodes long. Common cause of this tend to be high risk that comes with production of longer anime, but considering how well works on which Maeda worked in the past did, that would seem unlikely. And it’s a shame too, because in my opinion, both Angel Beats! and Charlotte, given the same amount episodes, would have the potential to overcome even Clannad. But what’s done is done.
And now, this wouldn’t be a post about Maeda Jun without attempt to make you cry. Enjoy emotional flashbacks while listening to this song, and I’ll see you around next time I decide to write something!
…just kidding, I can’t really see you.