Anime Review

Anime Hajime Review: Caligula

Original Run: April 8, 2018 - June 24, 2018
Number of Episodes: 12
Genre: Action, Science Fiction
Based on the Video Game: The Caligula Effect

***Warning, the following may contain spoilers for Caligula. Reader discretion is advised.***

Series Synopsis

For some time now, Ritsu Shikishima (voiced by Chiharu Sawashiro) has felt as if his world has been out of balance. But, how could that be? His school life is normal. His friends and relationships are normal. The beautiful voice of the famous μ — pronounced Mu (voiced by Reina Ueda) — is all normal.

Then again, on closer inspection, μ and everyone who hears her songs have been acting strangely.

Ritsu’s intuition turns out to be correct. The world he has known couldn’t be any more false. The reality is, he is one of many trapped within the “paradise” known as the Mobius.

The Mobius was created by μ in her attempt to bring happiness to as many people as possible. However, rather than solving a person’s worries, μ has only wrapped a veil over their eyes.

To μ’s confusion, there are some who cannot find happiness in such a lie.

This envisioned heaven is about to become a fierce battleground between those filled with regret and those who wish to forget. Someone like Ritsu must decide which side he is on.

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Series Positives

Shows like Caligula are important because they realign priorities. Without these kinds of series, it is easy to lose sight of what should be necessary when telling a story. More than anything, there needs to be a story.

With that in mind, let’s be sure to give Caligula the credit it has earned. This was a good-looking series. On more than one occasion, the visuals were, indeed, fantastic. They weren’t what I would call brilliant, but should you decide to watch this show, I would urge you to, at least, watch it in as high of definition as possible.

Once you have the visuals squared away, make it your mission to have your best speakers at the ready. When this show’s animation and soundtrack synced up, Caligula got downright impressive.

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One moment that really stuck out was a scene near the mid-way point. This was when our main group of characters unlocked their fighting potential. This was also when poor μ (who I will henceforth refer to as Mu) lost control of her powers and succumbed to the overwhelming negative emotions residing in the Mobius.

The song Mu sang was hauntingly beautiful, and it made the accompanying battle scene far more interesting to watch. Without a doubt, this was easily one of the more memorable parts of the entire series.

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And with that, I can hear many of you now:

Odyssey, what in the hell are you doing? If this scene was as good as you’re claiming it was, why then are you detailing it so much in your review?

I agree. Revealing as much as I did was far more spoiler-heavy than I normally like to do. Let me promise you, I don’t wish to, nor will I go out of my way to reveal more than I already have. Unfortunately, I find that my hands are a little tied. If I don’t bring up scenes like the one in question, I’ll have nothing positive left to say about this show.

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As I said, if you decide to check out Caligula, you better do so in high-definition and with quality speakers. Those are the minimum, and yet, even if you have those things, you’ll still be wasting your time watching this show. Through and through, this series was not fun.

Caligula and other shows like it are important because they remind us that solid animation and a nice soundtrack are fluff. Such elements become irrelevant when they are covering up for a choppy, dull, and unfocused story.

It wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world if every anime I watch looked half as decent as Caligula did. Too bad visuals can’t remedy a lack of intrigue and interest.

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It was amazing how fast this series went downhill. That is why I was surprised when it managed to have one phenomenal scene.

Partially fueling the Caligula story was the idea of people running away from their misfortune. The Mobius was the ultimate escape to the “perfect” paradise. The happiness this place provided was genuine if you were content with the fact that it was fake. For our main group of characters, they had determined running away from their problems was not what they wanted.

For most of this series, it was hard to feel anything for our group. Sometimes it was the fault of the individual. Other times it was due to Caligula not having a clue as to what type of show it wanted to be. The only exception to this was when our group reached their limit and, at last, had a heart-to-heart with each other.

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Everyone explained and acknowledged the reasons why Mu brought them to the Mobius, and wouldn’t you believe it, this was the most fascinating exchange of the entire show.

There were no great visuals. There was no over-blown action. The music was quiet. The characters just talked to one another, completely exposing themselves and the demons that haunted them.

I won’t deny, it took a long time to get through everyone — about half an episode. Nevertheless, I was never more entranced with this series than I was here. Thanks to this segment, the final confrontation between Mu and Caligula’s lead protagonist Ritsu Shikishima felt complete and meaningful.

There were just two issues.

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One: If we combine the group’s counseling session and the end battle, at best, this was only about an episode’s worth of quality material. Basically, one-twelfth of Caligula’s total runtime. The remaining 90-ish% of this series was worthless nonsense.

Two: The scene where our group talked to each other — the one that allowed this show to pretend that it didn’t have a completely awful story — came in episode ten of twelve. In no way was it worth sitting through this mess of a narrative to get to a single moment of memorability.

If you got smacked across the back of the legs with a wooden rod twelve times, but the tenth time was padded with a pillow, you wouldn’t say the tenth one wasn’t so bad. Instead, you’d say you had just gotten the s@#$ kicked out of you with a wooden stick. In a nutshell, that was Caligula.

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Series Negatives

Caligula fell apart almost immediately. I had a feeling this series would go south when one of the first things Ritsu did was spout out a bunch of philosophy-speak trying to define the meaning of happiness.

I won’t claim philosophy is a sure-fire way to send a series down the wrong path. On the contrary, deep discussions, like the nature of happiness, can make for an interesting story.

As long as said story doesn’t quickly make its point, but, nevertheless, tries to constantly beat you over the head with it like some condescending first-year college student who is currently taking one psych-class as an elective, and, therefore, thinks that makes them as insightful as Aristotle — then yes, I can appreciate a bit of depth.

Take a wild guess at what Caligula might have done.

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This series would not shut up about how happiness is different from person to person. Thanks to this show constantly pointing this notion out, it made an already massive flaw in this story that much more apparent.

Mu was under the impression that if she simply gave a person whatever they wanted, that would make them happy. Therefore, every character who didn’t want to stay in the Mobius had a potential path out, and none of them took it. They could have just said they wanted to leave because that would have made them happy.

Uh, but Odyssey. Mu would have never allowed that since she was operating under her own interpretation of what happiness was. She would have been incapable of understanding how returning to a place filled with hardship could have made anyone happy.

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Yes, that could have been a possible outcome. We will never know, though, because no one bothered to try. Also, Mu’s interpretation of happiness was garbage since it was wholly reliant on the needs of the story.

Mu didn’t like it when everyone fought. Hurting wasn’t happy. However, that sentiment didn’t stop her from allowing two of her closest followers to freely torture and attempt to kill others. After all, those acts were what gave those people joy.

Such a contradiction made it difficult to determine what Caligula’s main purpose was. Then again, that wasn’t the only thing that made this show confusing.

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There came a point in this series where I was convinced I was actually not meant to take things seriously. What started my suspicions was the introduction of Aria (voiced by Asami Shimoda), the small, floating, chibi-fairy mascot of the main group. It was hard to feel worried about anything if she was the one who told us what was going on.

That was a problem because that was pretty much Aria’s only role.

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The real kicker, though, came during the tea party with Sweet-P (voiced by Emi Nitta). Sweet-P was one of the antagonists of Caligula, and she was responsible for what was perhaps the dumbest moment of the show. I won’t go into details, but for a short while, I was under the assumption I had missed the spot where this series turned into a comedy.

I am now of the opinion Caligula did actually intend to come off as dire and tense. Sadly, this show’s idea of dire and tense meant changing the music and distorting characters’ faces into a rage while forgetting to add necessary elements such as context or purpose.

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Lastly, let’s talk about the cast of Caligula. Every single person in this show was worthless. No one left an impression. Some people were so cookie-cutter and interchangeable, I sometimes forgot a few of them were meant to be separate characters. I want to distinguish certain moments that illustrated everyone’s ineptitude, but I’m having trouble remembering who exactly did what.

During that one good scene where everyone shared their hardships, I did think it was a little problematic when I couldn’t recall anyone’s name.

In the end, I suspect Caligula will become a footnote of 2018 few will remember. I know I won’t be one of them.

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Final Thoughts

I get the sense this series was intended to be much larger than it was. Clearly, some effort was put into it because the animation and the music weren’t bad.

However, there needs to be more than that.

The biggest thing that worked against this show — and I assure you, it was huge — was its story. No matter how deep it tried to sound, it couldn’t have been anymore hollow. With nonexistent threats and forgettable characters, this was a rough viewing session.

Caligula is one you can skip.

But these are just my thoughts. What are yours? Have you seen this show? What would be your advice concerning Caligula? Leave a comment down below because I would love to hear what you have to say.

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For Anime Hajime, I’m LofZOdyssey, and I’ll see you next time.

Post Editor: Onions

1 comment

  1. I ended up with much the same impression. Nice visuals, great music, terrible story and characters. I was really glad when this one ended.

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