First Look: Caligula

Alternative title: The Caligula Effect
Game Adaptation by Satelite
Streaming on Crunchyroll– Simulcast Pending


Ritsu Shikishima is a relatively normal high schooler (his fascination with psychology notwithstanding). Increasingly, contradictions and anomalies seem to pile up in his life, until they all explode in one moment of utter inanity.

Marlin’s verdict: I am Thou, Thou art Bad

I honestly might keep up with this one just to point out all the bad philosophical turns it takes in the name of Psychology. The softest of the hard sciences has been cribbing from its mother since the days of Freud, and nowhere is this clearer than in stories like Persona and Caligula. I only bring it up because it seems to be a pet topic of veteran rpg writer Tadashi Satomi. It even brings up Aristotle’s De Anima, a famous work on the unity of the body and the soul in physical experience. It’s an interesting place to start a story which seems to be about questioning the reliability of one’s world, a viewpoint Aristotle took as a non-problem. Unfortunately, it also does the great philosophical sin of not being clear with its terms: In Aristotelian language, suffering simply refers to the fact that the experience is imposed on the person from without, not that they literally suffer such as in the experience of pain. So, when Aristotle says “To perceive is to suffer”, it’s making a profound statement about experience, that it is given to us, not generated by us. There’s still room to work with these ideas, but I’m not impressed with what we’ve been shown so far.

The only thing making me incredibly apprehensive about continuing on with this show is how absolutely erratic the final scene was. No one seemed to be responding rationally (maybe that was the point?). A virtual pop start appears out of nowhere and uses magic speakers to summon gem monsters, which proceed to attack some people and not others for… reasons? The most hilarious point is at the end, when the MC is running with what I assume is the love interest, and are saved by a dude wielding something that would make FF gunblades look measured in comparison. The MC then goes over all the crazy things that just went on and, after processing it all, calls the guy a murder for destroying things that clearly aren’t people anymore. Maybe they can salvage this once they build the backstory? Idno, I’m not gonna hold my breath. Still, this would be the equivalent of if they came out with a birdwatching show back when I still worked in ornithology. This thing is too far into my wheelhouse for me to back out already.

Emo Shizuo digivolve to Emo Leon!… wait Leon was already emo.

Jel’s verdict: Persona 0.5

I know anime loves armchair psychology and philosophy, but having the main character literally walking around with a psychology book and quoting Aristotle is too far. As the episode dragged on it got to the point where the main character’s voice was like nails on chalkboard. All that tells me is the writer thinks they are far smarter than they really are since they are capable of copying and pasting information that you could find with Google and five free minutes. Then the final scene is a total mess, an obnoxious mix of every “anime” thing you can think of thrown together with no attempt to make it watchable. Needless to say, I did not enjoy this and I certainly hope the game is better.

Artemis’ verdict: Hot Mess

I’m pretty evenly split on how I feel about this one. I’ll start off with the good: visually, Caligula is one of the more creative and better-looking shows to have aired so far this season. Better yet, it presents a story that I think has a lot of potential, assuming it doesn’t throw all its psychologically-themed build-up to the winds by abandoning it for a long-winded, shounen-esque battle affair. Unfortunately, the story also came across as incredibly fragmented – while I suspect it was intended as unsettling and mysterious, I only came away from the premiere feeling impatient and confused, and completely unsure whether I wanted to even bother watching another episode. That’s basically where I’m at still, and I really wish my first impressions hadn’t been considerably weakened by the last couple of minutes especially. It was like two different shows had been haphazardly stitched together, neither of which complemented the other. Maybe I’m missing something, but I’m really not sold on this one.

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