OP: 「レネット」(Renetto) by μ
“When you lose your composure, you cannot reach the truth or reality”
Warning: Don’t read any synopsis if you plan on watching this series – which was the mistake I made. You’ll want to go in blind, so that much of the mystery can remain intact.
I’m a long time fan of Atlus and their publications, but I had no intentions of covering Caligula. It was a video game of mixed reviews, lending itself to a simple assumption – the adaptation would likely be limited by a mediocre source material, and would have a low ceiling for what it could achieve.
When a writer waived their opportunity to cover Caligula, curiosity got the better of me and I decided to give it a shot. The first episode completely blew away my negative preconceptions. In fact, it might have been the best premiere yet from this season! Although I didn’t understand everything, the use of psychology coupled with mystery elements have me hooked, and I’m dying to know the truth behind Caligula’s world.
Out of the Norm
Enter Ritsu Shikishima (Sawashiro Chiharu), your seemingly run of the mill protagonist who happens to have a keen interest in psychology. While his tangents on psychology might have bored or confused some watchers, there will be a few who quickly realised these sermons might actually be relevant to the story.
To further explain, the series is named after ‘The Caligula Effect’, a psychological term referring to a particular phenomenon. When told not to do something, individuals will want to do it even more. I don’t want to make any bold claims on psychology, since it’s a field where I possess limited expertise. However, from my amateur perspective, the subject’s implementation has been nothing short of outstanding. There was nothing too complicated and Shikishima’s thought process were very clearly laid out. And it’s not like his concepts were overly flaunted in a pretentious mannerism. His pals didn’t give two shits and completely shut down some of his flawed logic. There is little practical benefit of theorising for the sake of it, when there’s no application to be found in the real world, and I’m glad he got called out for it.
That’s not to say his points were entirely without merit, because as the episode went on, some things definitely felt unsettling. I’m also glad that the anime left us confused, as opposed to explaining everything right off the bat. We are put in Shikishima’s shoes, allowing us to relate with his experiences, and it certainly added a layer of depth to the construction of a mystery premise. Guy randomly getting assaulted by mobs of students? Girl whose anorexic mum transforms into some younger and sinisterly cheerful lady? School ceremony speech turning students into monsters? Occasional rifts in reality? What the heck do all of these things mean?
Excluding people who’ve played the game and know what’s going on, I can imagine that most of us will be none the wiser. People who do not enjoy being confused will probably get very little out of this show, and might find themselves unhappy at being left in the dark, unless they have a vested interest in the psychological premises. That said, those who love an excellent mystery (such as myself) will probably want to find out why these things have occurred in the way they have. You see, I wonder how the windows of perception might relate to glitches in the world. Perhaps Shikishima shifted his mental window to a position that identified incongruities he’d previously been unable to perceive, allowing him to finally realise that there’s something deeply wrong with his experience of reality. There’s a postmodernist spin, reminiscent of Kafka’s style, which forces us to question where the issue lies. Is it a problem with the surrounding world, or a problem with Shikishima’s inner psyche? Or maybe even a bit of both? Either ways, I look forwards to finding out, and feel absolutely stoked to see where things are headed!
Struggles of a Modern Generation
Each generation has its own set of unique struggles, that cannot be properly understood by other generations, since it only really exists in a specific context. If I had to guess, the series will delve into the psychology of modern pathology and trauma, which people live with in our modern era. For various reasons, young people are experiencing abject despair from which they cannot escape. While I’m not afflicted by these anxieties, I feel inclined to assert that many of these concerns are legitimate. In my opinion, a psychiatrist is no real replacement for the gradual loss of small and close-knit communities, and our society has not been prepared for the overall mental strain generated from an otherwise inconspicuous transition. I think that all of us want an escape to some degree, and personally, I find solace in the world of anime and manga. Yet for others it will come as a game, or in the case of Caligula, it comes in the form of μ. However, μ looks to be a really sinister entity for vulnerable people to place their trust in. Most of all, I’m pumped to discover evil’s agenda, assuming that there’s a reason behind Hibike Kensuke’s madness.
For the time being, my prior expectations have been utterly overturned. When looking at the staff, I was pleasantly surprised by who I saw in the director’s seat. Wada Junichi is excellent at fleshing out settings and conveying emotions, based off what he did for SukaSuka, and has done an incredible job of handling Caligula’s mediocre source material. The premise comes close to the Matrix, which is a definitive cult classic, while adding in dosages of mystery and sprinklings of socio-psychological effects to amp up the intrigue. In my opinion, this is a winning formula that has some serious dark horse potential! I reckon that there’s much more potential for Caligula to be a hit, and feel reluctant to let it slip through my fingers. Thanks for reading my post, and all things considered, see you guys next week!
ED: 「Paradigm Box」by Ritsu Shikishima (Chiharu Sawashiro), Shougo Satake (Shunsuke Takeuchi)