Class is in session. Er, sort of.
To say these are two series that take place at high schools is technically true but also incredibly misleading. These are no realistic YA tales à la last season’s Sound! Euphonium or SNAFU. No, one is soft sci-fi series at a corporate engineering academy; the other, a supernatural School for (Slightly) Gifted Youngsters. Both have steady hands at the helm, and both have surprised me with their charms. Hit the jump to take a walk around the campuses and see if either is a good fit for you.
What a strange, fascinating little show this is turning out to be. Classroom Crisis takes place on a semi-terraformed Mars at Kirishina Corp, a massive space aeronautics company that also runs a school where they basically train future employees from childhood up. The story focuses on a program called “A-TEC” (one-part classroom, one-part R&D department), the young prodigies and teacher who learn and work there, and their struggle to save their class when the company decides to slash their budget and eventually phase them out.
It’s rare enough to find an SF series that spends any time on corporate politics and accounting, never mind one where that’s the primary focus, and it immediately distinguishes CC from much of its space-age anime predecessors. There’s a question running throughout the series about the value of technological progress and the price of innovation, and while CC is willing to critique A-TEC’s leader for his lack of real-world insight, it’s just as (if not more) interested in questioning the short-sightedness of the profit-focused, likely-corrupt corporation that’s enforcing these rules. Which is a pretty darn good conflict around which to build a story.
It’s confidently directed and creatively told, using in-world storytelling devices such as a PR video to organically provide exposition (and even later uses the video as a way to hilariously forward the plot, too). The huge cast is carefully animated so that everyone feels like a unique individual (see the group shot above) even if we haven’t gotten to spend much time with them yet. And, while I’m a little wary about some of the plot elements introduced in the third episode (there are some spinster jokes and a relationship between an older and younger character that puts me on edge), overall the story is bright, frequently funny, and often smart. I’m not entirely sure where CC is going, but I’m looking forward to taking the trip with it.
A school for supernaturally gifted kids isn’t exactly a new idea, but there are some clever twists here, particularly the fact that everyone’s powers are flawed to the point of being nearly useless and are guaranteed to disappear once they graduate. It’s a big, grand metaphor for adolescence, with individual desires and losses physically manifesting as limited superpowers, and it gives the story plenty of psychological ground to explore in the coming weeks.
Like Classroom Crisis, Charlotte exudes confidence and a sense of purpose, which makes it easy to believe the story and its characters are moving with intent even if things are a little directionless right now. (It is also, predictably, beautifully drawn and at times quite lively in its animation, particularly wherever the teleporting doofus Jojiro is concerned.) We spent the first three episodes putting story pieces together, but already our jerk protagonist’s worldview is beginning to shift and he’s starting to pay closer attention to and feel empathy for others.
Despite the writer’s track record and the almost constant undercurrent of sadness, Charlotte is a surprisingly light touch, filled with snappy repartee and laugh-out-loud physical gags. It does have its serious moments, but they’re handled with dignity and never devolve into maudlin drama, to the point where I’m more inclined to call it a comedy than a tragedy at this point. The series is doing a solid job of getting me to care about its cast (even the little sister “type” is less annoying than usual), so if/when things Get Real, as long as it’s nothing too overwrought, I have a feeling I’m going to care about it. Okay, Charlotte. You’ve got your hooks in me. Try not to dig too deep.