by James Beckett,
How would you rate episode 6 of
The plot of this episode is dead simple. After weeks of mulling about, the Musicians have made their first major attack against our heroes, and each of the teens must use Aria's aid to summon forth their Catharsis Effect powers and do battle. That is the beginning and the end of it, and I'm of two minds about the end result. I've been complaining about the lack of action and momentum in Caligula for weeks now, so it is admittedly good to see our gang of heroes, you know, do something about their current predicament. No amount of decently staged spectacle can mask Caligula's more detrimental problems, however, which makes episode 6 just as much of a mess as its predecessors.
Put simply, this show's structure and pacing have been all over the place, and where I might once have excused it as being esoteric, at this point Caligula's storytelling feels borderline inept. We begin this battle royale by picking up where last week's episode left off, which seems like a sensible decision, but then the individual characters' story threads just get clumsily mashed together to get everyone in the same place. We've barely seen anything of Shogo, Izuru, or anyone else who wasn't directly involved in the water park shenanigans for a couple of weeks now, so seeing them pop up out of almost nowhere is jarring to say the least. The overwrought drama with Aria being injured and Kotaro freaking out about it also felt rushed; we've barely gotten to know any of these characters, and even halfway through the season I can barely remember these kids' names, so it's difficult for me to buy into them being a close-knit group of friends.
Things do improve once the fighting starts, though Caligula's production efforts aren't quite polished enough for the episode to get by on style alone. Some of the shots and action beats are rather stiff, and the big hero shot where everyone rushes at each other comic book style just looks goofy. The Catharsis Effects themselves are a mixed bag; I like how every one of the kids gets a weapon and a fashion accessory, but some Catharsis Effects are definitely more visually and conceptually interesting than others. Kotaro gets two silly-looking gauntlet things, and Naruko just ends up with a slightly bigger (but magical!) backpack, though I'd be lying if I said I didn't really dig Suzuna's staff/witch's hat combo. At any rate, now that the cast has their powers, the series can include fight scenes like this on a more regular basis, which will at least make its incoherent story feel less tepid.
I also appreciated getting to see more of μ this week; though her character and motivations remain as flimsy as ever, the actual performance she gives is fairly interesting. I'm always a fan of integrating music diegetically into the world, and seeing μ struggle through her pain and anger as she belts out pop tunes is a surprisingly effective combination of music, sound design, and animation. The actual birth of Ritsu's Catharsis Effect as he faces μ down is more hokey than anything, but I would love for the show to revisit more of these battle performances from μ in the future.
It's a sign of Caligula's slipshod quality that I initially balked at the episode number when I saw it this week. I thought, “There's no possible way this show has been on for six weeks already. Nothing's happened!” If I can spend hours each week watching and writing about Caligula, but still somehow forget about its existence until the next episode rolls around, there are problems that need addressing. I have no clue if Caligula will actually be able to address these issues, but at least we'll get some more interesting fight scenes before everything is said and done.
Caligula is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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