Episode 6 is hopefully the start of a better Caligula.
While last week’s episode was generally a messy affair, its ending made sure that this week would feature a battle, though how long and involved the battle would be was very much in question. Thankfully, Caligula decides that it’s time to bring out the big guns (and other assorted weaponry), which is timely too, considering we’re six episodes in.
The episode however, does not open with the battle between Musician Mirei and Kotono, but instead starts with µ talking with the Musician’s leader, Thorn (seriously?). The scene deftly illustrates how naïve µ is regarding the situation with the “Rogues” (the students that have realized Moebius’s nature), and how she is really a puppet being manipulated by Thorn. Convinced to take action against the Rogues to try and bring them in line, µ sings her song and draws out the negativity in the students, turning them into Digiheads across all Moebius, effectively where we ended last episode.
The fight between the Musician Mirei and Kotono continues as the two verbally spar about the foolhardiness about staying in Moebius. While Kotono is convinced of wanting to escape Moebius, she’s no match for Mirei alone, who’s seemingly more experienced in combat. The use of the aquarium to state how the fish (the students) want to swim in the ocean (real world) and not in the tank (Moebius) is so on the nose but fine for what it is.
The other Rogues are also on the run from Digiheads. Naruko and Mifue’s sideplot from last episode concludes when they have to run away from the Digihead that appears in Mifue’s previous mom’s apartment. Interestingly, her “old” mom seems to remember Mifue, but only as far as a digital NPC can do, providing canned responses. Nevertheless, it’s touching that Mifue went to look for her; she knows the world is digital and that all the adults she’s seen are NPCs, so we can surmise she knew her old mom would be digital too. What matters is she still went and found her, using the NPC as a substitute to, presumably, make amends with her own thoughts and feelings regarding her mom (she did tell µ she wished her mom would eat more). This is somewhat confirmed when Naruko and Mifue are confronted by SweetP, who asks Mifue if she’s apologized to her mom and explained why she hates fat people. We also get hints as to Naruko’s own personal problems, when SweetP shouts about using her gossip brand to generate hits and attention.
Meanwhile, Suzuna and new guy Minezawa, who was released in the library, are confronted by the homicidal Musician that dresses like a marching band member and Shogo is confronted by KagiP, who tries to subjugate Shogo using force (in the former case, Tomoe and Minezawa are literally at a shooting range).
When the other Rogues start to, literally, shout out their ideals, Aria hears all of them across the city and get them to follow her to an open space in the city, enabling them to find Catharsis. The lines are thus drawn between the Musicians and the new Rogues, and we get a blandly animated, but still nice, battle royale.
As with any battle, there are two ideals that clash. Where the Musicians want to live in their own delusions, the Rogues choose to confront reality and deal with all the ugliness it entails. It’s very much a classical “escapism vs. reality” scenario, as with seen with many other properties, though in Caligula, there seems to be less emphasis on “reality is freedom” than say, the Matrix, and more emphasis on confronting one’s own real life problems, no matter how bad it is.
There’s only one Rogue who hasn’t achieved his Catharsis effect yet, and his name is Ritsu Shikishima. While everyone is fighting, he’s trying to figure out why he isn’t as desperate to escape Moebius as everyone else, perhaps because he hasn’t regained any inkling of his real life - though we have had a brief flashback to pills in the first episode.
Nevertheless, µ, who noticed Aria on the Rogues’ side and could see the conflict in everyone’s hearts, comes down from the sky…to unleash hell.
Thankfully, Shikishima manages to achieve his catharsis (without Aria’s help) and subjugates µ, who only murmurs “Ritsu, you jerk” as she gets whisked away by Thorn. The episode ends with the proper formation of the “Go-Home” club, as a sort of cover during school, with Shikishima as the club president.
After last week’s episode set the bar so low, I wasn’t worried how this episode would turn out, as almost anything would be better. Instead, I got a huge surprise. We had a great moment with Mifue and her mom, the villains make return appearances, the spouting of escapism vs facing reality is turned up to 11, and the music is awesome. Much credit needs to go to Reina Ueda, µ’s voice actress, for such a stellar performance, notably when µ is singing while audibly breaking down. If there is a dub, I hope it does this scene justice.
That being said, Caligula still has enough faults that I cannot heartily make a full recommendation to all anime fans (unlike say, Made in Abyss or Land of the Lustrous). The animation is lackluster in quite a few scenes, and the transitions are really bad or non-existent. For example, when the scene shifts to Suzuna and Minezawa at school, it’s abruptly night time, though last I remember it was late afternoon/very early evening. Plus, the fight between Kotono and Mirei suddenly moves outdoors for no reason other than to move the setting. However, the important scenes (aka key animations) are on point; whether its µ going berserk or a few of the close ups on the characters (I missed SweetP’s expressions).
Caligula’s first half has had its ups and downs. The ideas it has are interesting but the execution is not amazing, nor will everyone be on board with the (admittedly shallow) psychology spouting. While I’ve read other people’s criticisms that the characters are shallow (little development), unlikable (Mifue hates fat people), that the use of psychological concepts is weak, and the animation is poorly done, at the end of the day, to me those are faults that I can accept.
The characters all seem to have interesting backstories, and while I don’t expect life-changing affirmation for such a huge cast in a short time frame, I do look forward to seeing what their real lives were like and what drove them to enter Moebius. Characters don’t have to be likable or relatable (though that helps immensely), they just have to be interesting and, like their backstories, there is more than their surface dialogue shows. The use of psychological concepts is a tad shallow, but it is interesting enough that I try to look things up after the episode is over (more below).
If you’ve read this far, then you have my gratitude for reading my words. Please look forward to next week’s recap/review!
- I have no idea what the songs being played this episode were, but I love them.
- I also have no idea what Tomoe’s backstory is. What kind of job was that in his flashback?
- There is a Jojo reference in this episode and I love it for that. Ora ora ora!
- Easy call: Ritsu Shikishima was the person sitting at the computer in the beginning of the first episode and he has something to do with enabling µ to take over Moebius.
- Yes I know the subs say Mobius without the e, but I’m keeping it damn it.
- The Go-Home club is to mask the Rogues’ activities….but all the musicians know who they are…so what is the point of the club?! It makes more sense in the game when, I believe, the Go-Home club is already established or established much earlier.
- I hope the show continues to divert from the source material – I really hope a spoiler I read doesn’t come true, or at least it gets handled
- There is a term for using a substitute or analog to deal with repressed emotions or thoughts, but I cannot remember the word and googling doesn’t help. Nevertheless, Mifue’s short subplot definitely has real world psychology ties, though how much it is practiced is up in the air.
- Caligula’s use of the Catharsis effect, while being very melodramatic with all the screaming, also has real life connections. It is the same as “Primal therapy,” which was created by Arthur Janov. Notably, primal therapy has a weak, if none at all, footing in modern psychology, as there is little scientific research into it. Some have even called it dangerous!
- Funny how the catharsis effect is done in a manner seemingly related to primal therapy, which has a very poor reputation amongst psychotherapy, kind of like anime video game adaptations.