Destroy ideals (you) and return to reality (hell)..." A beautiful song echoes throughout the city. A city is overseen by the popular virtual idol group "μ", every day was filled with peace and serenity. Ritsu Shikishima is a freshman at Miyabi city Kishimai High School. With good grades and athletic skills, he was spending a fulfilling high school life surrounded by many of his friends. Time has passed and on the first day of his second year, the one who stepped up to the podium as the class representative was someone who was not supposed to be there...
When you lose your composure, you cannot reach the truth or reality
Anxiety, Irritation, and Other Such Negative Emotions Spread to Others
Why do we live? The further we pursue the meaning of life, the more confused we become
People who do not respect themselves will not be respected by others
Everyone gets hurt. But those who don't realize they're hurting can't be healed
Looking forward doesn't equal progress on its own. Understanding one's situation is also an important step.
When you're in a desperate situation, it's all the more important to keep smiling
Your life shouldn't be built from someone else's blueprint. No matter how unskilled you may be, you should draw it yourself.
Even if something has already happened, you can still choose what you do.
People constantly seek out the right answer. Yet, is being right really all that matters?
Destroy your ideals and self, and return to hell and reality
Everyone has a different form of perception, how they see reality, and everything in it. We can see a show or movie and have different reactions to it and notice different things in it. We can have different political opinions, views on society, or subject preferences. Once you think of it, it's quite fascinating, and in many cases, outright chaotic. After dressing itself up in psychology and philosophy Caligula is a fascinating and musically endearing, if awkward, convoluted, and jarringly done foray into just how fucked perceptions are. It jumps off from its premise to deliver a unique experience in the name of establishing the credibility to tell you something: don't get too attached to escapism, and accept reality. Just think about it. It's antagonists -Mu and mediocre chronies services mostly for their themes- are well-intentioned extremists who have indulged far too deeply into escapism. We get to see everyone be subjected to the most disgusting and aggressive versions of what we do to take a break on our daily life, as characters confront their true feelings and unravel themselves to us. People getting so lost into their music that they go ham on people, people engaging so hard in tea parties that they actually eat the fake silverware and stuff themselves so obscenely, people wishing so hard to become someone else that they end up living a fake life? This shit and more is all here! The presentation of this, coupled with the presentation of how off and disturbing the events are, is all directed strikingly. Even though the writing effectively has to handwaive potentially awkward shit about not perceiving explosions and managing to perforce yourself in a completely different body and life, it manages to work without much explanation. It’s such as shame that some revelations are so detrimental and that there are several asspulls and unexplained actions/circumstances -most of which are concerns with the second half-. Let’s not even mention how the final quarter falls apart until the final 13 minutes, as the way it opens certain cans of worms ranges from interesting to devastating, even more so than the second half already began doing. However, while the narrative was mostly well-presented, the characters are in the exact opposite scenario. There are a lot of them, both on the protagonist and antagonist side. None of them have distinctly interesting personalities or motivations sans Mu, and the sheer amount means that we have to juggle a bunch of largely uninteresting characters, several of whom don't get explored in interesting ways. Even the ones that do such as Mifune, are not very memorable despite their intriguing dilemmas and breakdowns. The protagonist (Ritsu) is the second closest thing to a real character, and aside from him enthusiastically getting into psychology and sociology terminology whilst presenting them to the characters and audience, there isn't really much to him either. Even seemingly important side/characters take forever to even be introduced beyond what the opening and closing credits show us. I guess it makes it hard to write them inconsistently, as most of them are more like vessels with singular, often abandoned traits. Good writing that does make, and even with the one good character they have, its counterbalanced brutally towards the end with a certain twist villain who’s basically Seryuu from Akame ga Kill. The dialogue is also sometimes clumsy enough to remind me that the person writing the story with the message likely hasn't entirely escaped the damages a sheltered or escaped reality has on one’s writing, perception of real people, and how they talk. Perhaps some time to iron things out and spend time with these characters experiencing the type of pain and escapism integral to their stories would make them a bit more interesting. Then again, the show is so blunt, even hamfisted about its messages that it almost hurts despite how good they are to hear, and how plentiful the themes used for it are. Studio Satelight had about as much trouble as the writing, it seems. The character designs -sans Mu- are all a tad awkward and it feels like they had to limit the animation for the sake of keeping the sharp yet awkward (and incredibly pale) character models perfectly in check. Flashbacks galore and some occasionally jarring CGI only worsen the deal, especially when the presentation makes odd decisions like occasionally reducing characters to white or other colored silhouettes, or having them not move during their walking animations sometimes. The fight scenes are pretty terrible too, with Akame ga Kill sound effects and perfunctory at best choreography to boot. It all temporarily comes crashing down in the finale -along with the writing-. Shame given that the directing and presentation by Junichi Wada makes several sequences engaging, using static to really sell how off things feel, while constantly showing different visual perspectives and changing up the lighting and colors when things go insane. The visuals for the opening are especially captivating, with a more unique filter and overall darker and more mind-bending style. Speaking of the opening, "Paradigm Box" by Ritsu Shikishima (Chiharu Sawashiro), Shougo Satake (Shunsuke Takeuchi), is one of the better openings of the season, with nice vocals and a somewhat unique feel in places (notably right before the chorus). The ending theme "HYPNO" by Kotono Kashiwaba (Rie Murakawa), Naruko Morita (Ari Ozawa), Mifue Shinohara (Rie Takahashi), Suzuna Kagura (Minami Tanaka) is also a worthwhile listen, even if it feels like forcing it to be 90 seconds stretches it. The vocal tracks performed by Mu are even more fun to listen to, and the lyrics are pretty good at reflecting the overall themes of each song that relate to the show (as well as the RPG game the show adapts). Sure, some get replayed quite often, and the rest of the OST is only decent, but that doesn't stop me from listening to this OST on my own time. It’s a shame this show isn't as well-received or as great as it could be, since it's messages are beneficial, even important for the anime community and Japan at large to hear. If only it was as worth the recommendation I wish to give it, as it was certainly entertaining in its madness and ideals. Regardless, it isn’t bad, so if you prefer the message to anything else, or want something out of the ordinary, perhaps this isn’t a bad choice to consider.
Heads up, might be some spoliers below, but ill try to keep them more vague if possible. Be warned! Story I think the story for Caligula and the concept was pretty good, and went beyond the typical "SAO virtual world" type anime. It felt a bit more like the Matrix (possibly inspired by it? The Digiheads reminded me a lot of the Smiths and everyone was brainwashed into accepting the reality). My major criticisms of the story would be that after the first few episodes things seemed to happen way too fast, like they were rushing through character stories to make everything fit 12 episodes. This could be a problem with Crunchyroll possibly, but it also seemed like there were several instances of the anime looping back a few seconds. Its possible it was intentional, but if it was I didnt really get the message and it seemed like a production error. Also, the Ikuri guy (Mr. Scarface) seemed to just suddenly appear out of nowhere without context or introduction? Maybe I missed it (or maybe a CR bug) but it was pretty inorganic. The same thing happens laters when a Musician switches sides, but that was at least explained later. Animation I really didnt have any qualms with animation. Nothing groundbreaking but it was pretty creative and relatively well detailed. I liked most of the character designs too, but I did at times have some trouble telling a couple of the characters apart (I just watched it but im bad with names - the shy lonely girl, the bomber before she went berserk, and the one with mom problems - got these 3 mixed up a few times) Sound Good voice acting, the fight music and OP were really good as well. I dont know who the vocalist is but I plan on looking her up and seeing if she has more music! Characters This is the only area I really think fell flat. I think *a good number* of characters had potential for a good story that just wasnt really explored. Like I mentioned earlier, the anime just seemed to rush past most of that after the first few episodes. This became obvious when they just took half an episode, locked everyone in a room, and then had everyone spill their stories. I liked the development before where their stories were slowly revealed and then later were discussed. After this episode the only character story that really had any more interest to me was the MC, but thats only because it was pretty strongly implied at this point that he was pretty close to the whole Mobius project. Overall impression is that it was a decent, above average anime. I may not rewatch often but I definitely did not regret seeing it (hey, I liked it enough to give it a review, right?). Character development and possibly some story flaws were really the only thing for me that dragged the score down for me.
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