Caligula – Anime Preview
Synopsis: “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… (Official Crunchyroll Synopsis)
1st Episode Review (Warning: Minor Spoilers to Follow):
Tom: Caligula and Persona 5 getting adaptations in the same season is moderately amusing, considering Caligula, while not a Persona title, has ties to the franchise due the involvement of the first two Persona games’ lead writer. People looked forward to the game’s release, hoping for a story that would recapture the magic of the early Persona titles, which are markedly different from the later entries. Unfortunately Caligula was riddled with troubles, mostly stemming from poor gameplay, and received a mixed, if not outright poor reception. Now, with Caligula’s anime entering the fray, I’d almost say the tables turn, with Persona 5 being the weaker series in anime form– only just. Right away Caligula nails turning its protagonist from a player character into an anime lead far better than Persona 5 has. He’s talkative, perhaps too much so, spending much of the episode regaling us with the major questions lingering on his mind. It’s through him that the series steeps itself in heavy psychological and philosophical talk, giving the series both a more mature air, and one that may have audiences put off by just how intellectually heavy and pondering things get.
Linny: Our lead, Ritsu Shikishima, has a tendency to constantly monologue, or even lecturing his friends, about all sorts of topics, giving him a smug air as he literally admits to being sort of disassociated from his surroundings. He isn’t your typical charming lead. What makes Caligula’s first episode interesting is the introduction and injection of unnerving content throughout the episode; from something small like hearing a voice calling for help in the middle of a new pop song to your entire school becoming randomly mind controlled by an unseen force. The episode shows things breaking down not only in Ritsu’s lives but others as well and this is where the episode feels a little chaotic as it throws the audience into the lives of other people but doesn’t give you enough context to truly follow along. It could be a purposeful move meant to project the chaos happening in the story, but feels more confusing than captivating.
Tom: Caligula nails its psychological, out of sorts, unnerving atmosphere. Weird shit is going down and that comes across quite clear, although sometimes at the expense of an easy to understand narrative. In fact, while the show steeps itself in a heavy psychological thriller vibe, that’s sort of jettisoned by the end, in favor of some very JRPGish action sequences that turn the story from something subtle and heavy, into more spectacle driven. At times that spectacle shift gets altogether silly, with visuals that drive the story away from something more supernaturally grounded and instead entirely out of this world, namely when an unknown character draws out a massive, person sized gun and blows the enemies away with it.
Linny: Caligula’s premise in interesting enough… even more so from the summary given for it on sites other than Crunchyroll, though you may want to avoid it if you dislike spoilers and would prefer to dive into this psychological tale blind for maximum shock. You can tell all is not what it seems, as is the case in most anime like Caligula, but the episode gives you only the faintest of clues about what might actually be happening. What the audience is given in this first episode is enough to intrigue anyone with an affinity to psychological mysteries and thrillers. There’s subliminal messages, mind control and for the climax, a complete and utter transformation of surroundings and people; making for a crazy scene that’ll make you want to tune in to the next episode for answers.
Tom: While Caligula may feel a bit more like a standalone anime, and not something exclusively for fans of the game, Persona 5 no doubt wins out on animation chops. Caligula has at least two unintentionally hilarious animation kerfuffles. Namely a sequence where the characters walk in place, never moving past a short billboard, and another low-detail sequence where Ritsu tries to save his love interest by running from their zombie like classmates. Both sequences are unintentionally hilarious thanks to just how poor and unimpressive the animation work is.
Linny: While Caligula’s animation and narration style can be a bit messy, it’s main plot is one that’s sure to grasp the attention of those seeking something psychological. But based off this first episode, Caligula also seems deemed to be a mediocre tale at best thanks to the issues we’ve discussed throughout this preview. It’s got good enough chops to avoid being a disaster but it also has enough flaws that stop it from feeling spectacular. If you can forgive uneven animation and a disjointed premiere narration, Caligula should be an engaging watch for you nonetheless.
Tom: Overall Caligula has some really interesting elements. Like its heavy psychological thriller vibe before its abandoned in favor of more JRPGish action, some bizarre mysteries and an otherwise dark, yet intriguing style. Sadly there’s a number of detractors, like the poor animation and stylistic shift. That said, as one of the more mediocre titles airing this season, I think Caligula stands near the top, on the cusp of becoming a title worth recommending.
Caligula is available for streaming via Crunchyroll.