Caligula – Episode 1

By: Caitlin Moore April 8, 20180 Comments

What’s it about? Ritsu Shikishima’s life is pretty perfect. He has a spunky girlfriend, a solid group of friends, a cute dog, and good grades. He enjoys reading about psychology and philosophy as a hobby, as well as listening to the music of Mu, a phenomenally popular virtual idol. Everything is perfect… so perfect, in fact, that he can’t help but feel something is wrong. There’s an odd spoken-word moment in Mu’s latest single that no one else seems to have noticed. Could there be sinister workings under the shiny veneer of his perfect life?

Lord, save me from stories about singular male geniuses.

Caligula wants you to be very impressed with how smart Ritsu is. He understands complicated subjects like johari squares and aversive conditioning, even if none of his friends get it. But you, the viewer, get it, so you must be smart like Ritsu, right? Right???

The first few minutes of this episode are made up of Ritsu explaining Johari squares to his girlfriend, who doesn’t get it and doesn’t care. I bristled at that, suspicious of the deep boy/vapid girlfriend dichotomy, but it turns out he has a similar dynamic with his male friends as well.

That doesn’t change the fact that Ritsu is still insufferable—would you enjoy hanging out with someone who made you feel like an idiot all the time? Who tells you not to get ramen after school because it’s unhealthy to eat too many carbs, and goes on long tangents explaining psychological experiments when you just want to slurp some noodles? I’m all for intelligent discourse, but life isn’t a psychology lecture. He’s a total wet blanket, to be frank, but at least he’s an equal-opportunity wet blanket.

Ritsu is the main character, but there are a few female characters that seem like they’ll have some role of prominence. For one thing, there’s a girl whose mother sits and watches her eat large meals, while refusing food herself. It’s heavily implied that the mother is anorexic, with her obsession with feeding others and her emaciated frame.

Mu appears to her, and the next morning, her mother is vital and healthy-looking. It’s unusual to see anime address eating disorders beyond “fat” characters (who look the same as every other character) deciding one day to go on a diet. However, it’s hard to gauge exactly where they’re going with this with such a brief scene.

A wee bit on the nose, don’t you think?

The latter half of the episode turns into the sort of premier that throws a bunch of weird imagery and supernatural happenings at you without explaining anything, hoping you’ll be intrigued by the mystery or are already a fan of the game (which only very recently came out in English and thus doesn’t have much of a presence over here).

I saw the world premiere at Sakura-Con, and the audience did indeed seem intrigued, but it didn’t quite grab me. The color scheme reminded me of Age of Ultron-era Marvel movies—everything washed out and approximately the color of wet cement. With only a couple exceptions, the character designs were similar and unremarkable, and the animation only really picked up during fight scenes.

I confess, my patience for stories about male geniuses is limited. I don’t like it in Sherlock, I don’t like it in B The Beginning, and I don’t like it in Caligula. There’s enough men in the real world who constantly try to prove how much smarter they are than everyone around them. I can’t stand them on my Twitter feed; why would I want them in the fiction I consume?

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