While the main cast is composed of teenagers, the discussions about isolation and loneliness are universal across the age groups.
The bulk of episode 4 is dedicated to Suzuna, the girl who stayed behind at the library while Tomoe ventured into the city to look for others during episode 3. She spends much of the episode talking to a new character, Komori, while the other characters group up in the old school building’s music room. There, Aria and Shogo provide plenty of exposition about why Mobius was formed, what Digiheads are, and how Shogo was able to start wielding a giant pistol.
The story definitely needed to start answering questions about the world, and the answers we get are satisfactory, if not mildly cliché. The monstrous form of the students, called Digiheads, are when their emotions burst forth, however if said emotions are exposed purposefully, the person is able to achieve “catharsis” and wield wicked weaponry. If this sounds eerily similar to Persona, that’s likely because the writer behind the Caligula game was the same writer for the first 3 Persona games. The idea of human emotions being used in a weaponized state is nothing new; however the mild twist that Caligula adds is that, according to the subtitles, the emotions are inherently negative.
This is because Mobius was founded by µ and Aria as a safe haven for anguished souls in real life, where they are able to live in a blissful existence. It is here that Caligula brings up an interesting aspect of its world; µ and Aria somehow entered the internet, where they saw the anguish of people through the songs that they heard. The power of music is definitely a running theme throughout the show so far, as every time one of µ’s songs starts playing, the Digiheads manifest.
As the world building exposition ends, we find that Tomoe, who was unable to call Suzuna for most of the episode, come ask for help from the others. There is a nice reference by the gossip, Narukonne, about one of her headlines in the first episode: how people were mysteriously disappearing in the library.
Unfortunately for Tomoe, the reason why Suzuna doesn’t pick up her cell phone is for a plain reason: she’s simply too absorbed talking to Komori about the nature of loneliness and its use as a defense mechanism from getting emotionally hurt. It is here that Caligula seems to shine, as it lays out its cards in a plain and blunt way. As Komori puts it, when someone becomes accustomed to isolation, they forget how to interact with others, causing them to withdraw further into themselves and find solace in their isolation. After all, when you’re in your own world, you need not fear the potential repercussions of interacting with others.
These ideas about isolation aren’t novel, and other shows have tackled them as well (Evangelion comes to mind). In this respect, Caligula doesn’t do anything different aside from stating these ideas as plainly as possible. However, by doing so in such a direct way, Caligula avoids needlessly dressing up or hiding it as subtext. It puts these ideas into the spotlight, and presents them such that anyone, of any age, might use this behavior and have it be a perfectly valid, if unhealthy, way of dealing with people. So while the main cast is composed of teenagers, the discussions about isolation and loneliness are universal across the age groups.
As with any story though, there needs to be conflict, and that comes from the rescue team of Tomoe, Shikishima, Shogo and Aria, who find that Tomoe’s been talking to a doll in the library. In fact, all the library patrons are dolls!
Komori, presumably the Ostinato Musician who was not at the villain meeting in the last episode, arises from the doll that Suzuna’s been talking to and changes into his Musician form, complete with robe and claws. He’s the one behind the disappearances in the library, slowly turning students into dolls. While the episode looks like it’ll end with an action packed sequence similar to the premiere, the show takes a turn and instead has Suzuna intervene, convincing Komori to halt his attack and release his victims.
Apart from its message, episode 4 is quite standard in every other aspect. There were no interesting directorial choices in framing, no gimmicks like the clock motif in episode 3, the animation was fine (if not a bit offmodel in some shots) and the use of a song for the Ostinato Musician is as to be expected. I will give merit to the animation during Suzuna’s ‘flashbacks’ however, as the lack of an outline made things much more ethereal (which was likely intended). However, now that the various “good guys” are aware of and grouped together now, it seems the show is starting to speed up its narrative, as the episode ends with another Ostinato Musician ready to attack (along with yet another character who will likely be awoken to the reality of the world).
Next week’s episode is entitled “Everyone gets hurt. But those who don’t realize they’re hurting can’t be healed.”
- This week’s episode was “People who do not respect themselves will not be respected by others!” Which fits the episode’s theme aptly as socializing is, in most cases, interacting with others while respecting each other’s boundaries. Lack of respect from others then, may lead to feelings of isolation and self-pity, leading to a lack of self-respect, which further damages one’s own reputation.
- A user on the AnimeNewsNetwork forum for Caligula (the anime) pointed out that the show is diverging significantly from the source game material. Apparently, 90% of the first episode was anime original, Shikishima the protagonist was supposed to be at SweetP’s tea party, and SweetP herself was the second boss encounter (but ended up being 1st in the anime). Interesting.
- Caligula is so far not doing very well in weekly rankings. It certainly doesn’t help that its source material was a generally maligned game, and the audience for game adaptations are often fans of the game itself. A shame, because the anime is, as pointed out above, markedly different from its source material.
- Shikishima gets in 2 psychology concepts this episode: catharsis and confirmation bias. I’m not entirely sure if confirmation bias was used correctly though!
- This week’s song was Originality Incident, composed by Polyphonic Branch.