Did I say Yuu bounced back before? This week he bounced back in time, and I’m sure a lot of people’s interest in this show has bounced back too.
We get this lovely false sense of security at the start – Yuu, saying goodbye to Ayumi again, implies another structural device, which implies another per-episode routine like we had before forming out of the rubble of Yuu’s sister’s death. Tomori’s cuteness making a comeback also helped lull us into thinking that the show would take a while before it took up the torch of an intense Yuu-centred plot again. There was nothing to warn us that ZHIEND’s concert would have its effect – nothing that could warn Yuu either – and that put us right in the mindset of Yuu as he broke down in that audience. An empty question, a complete collapse of security and understanding. It made the switch into another timeframe all the more disorientating.
Question after question gets filled with answers and more questions in a flurry of intrigue the likes of which I haven’t seen since I tried to fit together the plot of Angel Beats! during the last few episodes; still, there was a lot of movement in Yuu’s character as well. Go-getting Yuu is great to see again, as is his care to keep the severity of situations away from Ayumi – the fragility he must see in her, and the fragility her power brings that he doesn’t know about, work really well together to develop their relationship even further in this alternate world. Yuu’s ‘date’ with Tomori also gave the impression that without the idea of an imouto to save and of a dystopian past, he could have a pretty calm and cool life. It gives him a little something further to fight for – and possibly lose – in the future.
One thing that actually felt a little flat for me was the introduction of Yuu’s brother. After being a big tease in the first episode and a few times after, his character was introduced pretty bluntly – his power casually described, his goals, thoughts and feelings rapidly laid out, including his past with Tomori. I get his note of a lack of ‘melodrama’, and I also understand that it may reflect his expedient and driven personality – he gets to the point, so to speak, and the story gets to the point alongside him. But this contributed to a lack of emotional investment. It wasn’t just a lack of melodrama – it felt like these was little in the way of relatable drama at all. His blind eyes, echoing Sala’s, posed more questions, and so did all his interactions. But those questions, like the one we were left with as Yuu broke down in the concert, felt so intangible. They lacked an emotional interface, at least for me.
Similarly, the way all sorts of loose ends began to get tied up just after Yuu had gone into a deep and meaningful sleep and re-experienced the backstory felt jarring without being impactful. Again, I understand – at least I think I do – that Tomori had to hold back on revealing the extent of the ‘resistance’ until Yuu regained his memories. Perhaps the ZHIEND concert was actually a ploy to do just that. But Charlotte has so far wowed me with fantastic, involving shifts in tone, character and understanding, especially through the use of its cinematography. Nothing in what occurred after Yuu’s awakening worked that way, and it made the hoard of questions I was left with lose a lot of their potential spark and excitement. The majority of the episode had me connecting to Yuu more, but after he disconnected from thee memories, I started to disconnect from him too.
But about those questions: one main thing we’re left wondering is how Yuu’s brother, or at least the power he has, can be used to save Ayumi. We don’t yet know the limits of his power, nor its drawbacks, which again leaves me with an empty space where I want to be able to play around with possibilities. What, likewise, are the implications, limits and drawbacks of our memory eraser? I was also left wondering just how integral the reality of Yuu’s power – ‘plunder’ – really is, and how that’s affected his actions so far. I think he steals the power of another user whether he’s consciously deciding to or not, which would explain why Tomori wouldn’t allow him to take over Takajou one time in the Student Council room. It would also give him a heap of powers up to this point.
Speaking of Takajou, the absence of almost half our main cast gives me the thought that they may have been decoys – instruments Tomori used to help her quest and to help Yuu towards eventually recalling his memories. Really, Takajou and Yusarin have as much invested interest from me as our newcomers. Another thing missing this week was Tomori’s brother – what happened to him? I want the lack of explanation to mean something, but the only feeling I’m getting is that it’s a finished part of the story now. Hopefully I’ll see something more out of it – something more of him, even – as the show continues.
While I can bet this episode will rekindle a lot of people’s love for the show, I’m afraid to say it may have damaged mine. Yuu’s rebooted character isn’t gripping me like his various personalities in the past few episodes, or in the ‘past’ of this episode either.
Perhaps too many things were introduced in such a short space, forcing them to be left feeling shallow for a week until the show can put some flesh on these new bones. Still, the person this revolved around, Yuu’s brother, could have easily benefited from stylistic choices that would have embellished the interesting sides of his character. The flat, unfiltered delivery from both him and the camera missed an opportunity – not just for us to see more of him, but for our connection to Yuu too.
I just hope Charlotte’s response to all this sudden chaos can reignite the burning I used to have for the show to unfold. That, I suppose, was what made me the most positive even when the show took dips in engagement. Now is when the show should be rattling my brain the most, but I’m just not feeling it.