While the overall plot advances minimally once again, Caligula feels like it’s making a decision about the show it wants to be, finally.
After last week’s relatively standard episode, I was wary about what Caligula would present this week. The opening scene with the tea party didn’t quite soothe my trepidation, though my curiousity was certainly piqued. However, it was when the opening ended and the scene showed the clock rewinding to last episode’s end point that I started to come around.
Coming off from µ’s apologies about not creating anything outside the city boundaries, the scene shifts between the current three leads: Shikishima the protagonist, Mifue the girl who’s mother got “exchanged” and the duo of Tomoe and Suzuna.
Shogo and Suzuna end up at a library, where Shogo exchanges cell numbers with Suzuna before taking off to find help. Meanwhile, Shikishima resolves once again that the world is crazy and stumbles around town trying to figure things out; interestingly he gets occasionally attacked by the “Digi-heads” whenever µ’s song starts to play. He eventually remembers Shogo telling him to go to the music prep room in the old school building if he wants answers, which he eventually does by the episode’s end.
Most of the episode however, is dedicated to Mifue. On her search for her (original) mom, she learns about a tea party where all sorts of information and secrets can be shared. What she experiences is quite…interesting, and when confronted with a bit of psychoanalysis by the Ostinato Musician SweetP, Mifue and Narukonne (the gossip) come to realize that SweetP…isn’t actually a girl, but an overweight, older male in real life. When the tea party ends, Mifue and Narukonne leave, with Narukonne starting to “awaken” to the reality of her situation, as the photos she took of Shogo fighting some school boys morphs into Shogo fighting a Digi-Head.
I found this episode to be the strongest one to date. It’s a great return to form of the premiere’s directorial choice of ‘trying to make sense of things’ as the tea party during the episode, which is weird by itself, leads to distorted and creepy imagery.
I have to commend other directorial choice as well; having the clock rewind to transition between events is extremely on the nose but was a perfect choice. Some of the camera positions were also fantastic; it isn’t anything revolutionary to use angled shots to emphasize ranting or emotion, but it was used well to exacerbate Mifue’s rant about people who are fat. Plus, kudos for only having the sound of a ticking clock during Shikishima’s sequence; unnerving while also being a classic example of “show, don’t tell.”
The animation seemed to pick up again this week, with some great facial expressions I’ve seen since Overlord.
Having the story slow down to focus on one character definitely helped; while we do check in with Shikishima and Tomoe/Suzuna, having the episode focus primarily on Mifue lets us learn more about her as a character. This isn’t novel, at all, but was greatly appreciated after last week jumping around different viewpoints of people all running away.
That being said, I am worried about a few things; one of the scenes this episode showed off the Ostinato Musicians all sitting together (minus one), talking about how certain individauls are starting to “awaken” to reality and how to deal with them. The dialogue lends credence to the idea that µ is being maliciously manipulated into creating and maintaining Moebius, which is an interesting development. However, given that the source material for Caligula is a video game, it is blatantly obvious that these musicians are all the game’s bosses, and there are eight of them. My worry is that the anime will shoehorn and condense such battles and there may not be enough time to provide characterization for both enemies and the “good guys.” Having a one-note villain is boring, having eight of them is much worse. The anime only has 13 episodes, so of course while things will be cut, hopefully the end product will do all the characters justice.
Side note: my own preference would be to have the Musicians fight the “good guys” toward the end as a group, with multiple fights in a single venue. This would keep the show from depending on the “one bad guy at a time” trope, while also freeing up time from other episodes to focus on the awakened ones plus the Musicians.
Lastly, while this isn’t so much a worry, I was a bit taken aback when Mifue started to rant about fat people. Given how politically correct society is nowadays, having a character rant about how much she hates fat people was interesting, to say the least. To be fair, it probably will stem from her own insecurities and there’ll (hopefully) be a positive message about body-image in future episodes, maybe. The show did also practically point out how SweetP is actually an older guy, so who knows where we’re going. Nevertheless, it does open the door to some *very* interesting discussions about the use of virtual worlds as escapism, especially when that involves changing your sex and gender. Whether not the show is up to task to discuss it in a meaningful way is unknown, we’ll have to just wait and see.
In the end, while overall the plot only inched forward by the episode’s conclusion, there were enough side developments to keep things interesting. While I suspect next week will be a bit of an info dump and exposition heavy, I hope it’ll keep things fresh with how it presents its information.
This episode’s song was Tokimeki Riberie, composed by OSTER Project and sung by Reina Ueda. I am not a fan of them (they had a couple of tracks in Project Diva, which I was also not a fan of) but it certainly fit SweetP to a…T.
So I wrote this slightly differently than the first two episodes, less recap and more “review.” If you have any thoughts on it I would love to know, so feel free to leave a comment, or discussion about the episode.
Fun fact: Caligula’s story (the game, not the historical film) was written by Tadashi Satomi, who also wrote Persona 1 and its sequel (“s”), Persona 2: Innocent Sin and Persona 2: Eternal Punishment. The original Persona games were a bit more serious than Persona 3 onward, though unfortunately the gameplay hasn’t quite aged as well.
Episode 1 recap:
Episode 2 recap: