by James Beckett,
How would you rate episode 7 of
“A month has passed since that day” begins Ritsu's narration at the top of Caligula's 7th episode, and that's all it took for the warning flags to begin popping up. Caligula has been suffering from pacing issues since it began, so of course it didn't surprise me that it followed it up its most eventful episode yet with a one-month time-skip and an almost meaningless slice-of-life episode. Last week wasn't a perfect outing, but it showed us what kind of brainless fun Caligula can be when it pumps up the action and plot momentum.
This episode abandons all of that progress, instead choosing to have all its characters get together and cook hot pot for some reason, while Kotaro is constantly being distracted by dressing up like a superhero and doing errands for the people in Mobius who may or may not be NPCs. It's a ridiculous way to segue from the big battle from last week, the kind of time-filling fluff that can work when you're padding out an RPG that lasts for dozens of hours, but feels like little wasted time when it takes up over half of an episode in a series that's only set to run for twelve weeks. It's a doubly egregious misstep given that the cast of Caligula is pretty much a wash so far. We're over halfway through the series, and what do we really know about any of these characters? Kotaro likes helping people, which is nice I guess, though even the other characters point out how silly his obsession is given that many of the people he's helping literally do not exist. Shogo gets a job at an accessories store, where we see that he's kind of lazy and bad at customer service, which is fine? I guess? Oh, and Mifue has a pathological hatred of fat people, most likely because she is overweight in the real world and dealing with some severe self-esteem issues.
My point is that this is hardly a top tier ensemble cast, so it's pure folly for Caligula to pretend that it's done a proper job developing them and can just toss out a bottle episode like this one. For example, Kensuke, the former Musician called Kagi-P, is just part of the Go-Home Club now for no discernable reason. He's dropped into the cast so nonchalantly that I didn't even realize who he was at first; I just assumed he had been introduced in between episodes, during some chunk of the Caligula game's story that the anime decided to skip.
The other half of the episode is an extended conversation between Ritsu and μ, and it feels only slightly more meaningful than what came before. The scene adopts a super bright filter of watercolor pinks and blues, and the effect looks decent enough, though this episode's animation is so rough and stilted that it can't help the effort much. The whole interaction feels toothless, since Ritsu is a cipher of a character with no notable personality, and μ simply digs her heels into the notion that taking more and more control of Mobius will result in happier people. We get some hints that Ritsu is somehow intrinsically connected to μ and Mobius (I'd bet he's the architect of the system), but it remains difficult to care about these plot breadcrumbs when Caligula's storytelling is so haphazard.
The only thing preventing this episode from being a total failure is that it's too reserved and unambitious to be truly upsetting. At this juncture, Caligula is no more and no less than a poorly conceived Persona knockoff, and while that certainly isn't a good thing, it isn't so bad that it's offensive or stupid either. It's just boring. Hopefully now that μ is awake, the Go-Home Club can don their Catharsis Effects and return to actually doing something next week.
Caligula is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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