by Rose Bridges,
How would you rate episode 17 of
There is a popular meme gif of Seinfeld leaving a performance with a gesture that seems to say: “Alright, that's too much anime for me.” You mostly see it deployed in discussions about shows that have gone off the weirdness deep end. Classicaloid generates that feeling more than any other current anime for me, and this episode took that feeling further than any before.
First, let's review Classicaloid's previous “weird” episodes and elements. Beethoven's gyoza obsession initially came out of left field, but it ended up as fodder for a surprisingly heartfelt story. The Schubert episode where everyone turned into fish was more than odd, but it was at least related to the title of one of his most famous pieces. With the Curse of the Mandarin—I've got nothing. It might make sense if one of the composers was Sergei Prokofiev, who wrote an opera called The Love for Three Oranges. Or Béla Bartók, who composed a ballet called The Miraculous Mandarin. Neither of these two are in ClassicaLoid though, which is unfortunate. I would really love to see what they'd do with Bartók. His works would make for some interesting Musik sequences! Even the connection to Mozart's ending Musik is pretty flimsy.
Luckily, Classicaloid has carefully trained us for this moment. It's turned up the temperature of its weirdness little by little, and we're the frogs in its pot. I no longer tune into Classicaloid thinking I'll get a normal educational or music anime. I relish seeing just how far they'll stretch their bizarre ideas, and in this regard, I was not disappointed.
I think what makes Classicaloid work so well is that it really commits to this stuff. It's easy to just throw weird random ideas at the viewer for their own sake and then move on to the next joke. There's plenty of anime that does just that, with varying degrees of success, but Classicaloid sincerely commits to specific weird gags and stretches each idea as far as it will go. The whole idea of a “curse of the Mandarin” was already bizarre enough, but the curse's consequences are as weird as possible. The Classicaloids who eat these oranges have their heads turn into mandarins (predictable) and then roll off (not so much). Then flowers sprout from their neck-holes with their faces in the center, turning them into zombies who repeat their favorite fixations. (Liszt chooses love, Beethoven fate, and Schubert “Senpai," of course.) The other characters take this threat completely seriously, becoming terrified over what to do.
That is, everyone except for Mozart, because that would go against his character. Episode 17 is a feature for his goofiness. There were times when I felt it didn't work; I had never thought of Motes has outright mean, but there are points where he feels that way this week. It fits the narrative focus of the episode though, which is about Mozart taking consequences for his actions. He insists on frying mandarins, but he didn't eat one himself, so other people have to “suffer” for his impulsiveness. Of course, Classicaloid is a comedy, and while it's dipped into dramatic fare before, it seems to know that tone shift can only go so far. It can't turn an episode like this into something deep and meaningful, so Mozart shrugs Chopin off and continues on his merry way. Even his Musik is ultimately useless, and he doesn't care.
On that note, I've always loved Mozart's “Rondo all turca.” It's fascinating to me how classical composers have interpreted the native music of other countries, particular non-Western ones (though how much the Ottoman Empire would have been considered “non-Western” in Mozart's time is complicated). I was excited when I realized Classicaloid would be featuring it this week, so it was unfortunate that it felt so flimsy. The mandarin zombies are marching, Mozart is reminded of a Turkish marching band, and his Musik starts up. The pop version of it in the show also departs further from the original melody – which, to be fair, is so fast that it would be difficult to make singable – but it still felt like a cop-out. At least the episode acknowledges this by giving it no impact whatsoever. You could even argue this ties into the lore behind the Musik. Maybe Musik is affected by the Classicaloids' intentions? Mozart didn't take the “threat” seriously and didn't really want to do anything about it, so even his powers had no ultimate effect.
All's well that ends well. The affected Classicaloids get better, and it turns out that the fried mandarins actually improved their health. Kanae gets better from her flu thanks to the fruit as well—just without the dramatic effects of the curse. Apparently, fried mandarins have special effects on Classicaloids. Classicaloid just does enough to tie this into the larger plot, while still remaining a self-contained episode. This extends to its open ending where Mozart turns into a fruit; we'll never get a resolution to this nonsense, because we don't need one.
I think the most interesting part of this week's episode is Hasshie's involvement. The bird has been hanging around the edges of the show, but finally he gets to shine! And he even communicates with Chopin? It might have turned out to be a red herring, but I loved it and wish we had more of Hasshie. It was the perfect cherry on top of the episode's random humor. I hope this isn't the last time he and his fruit obsession make an appearance.
It's not news that Classicaloid is weird. Very weird. Its ability push that envelope of weirdness ever further each week is impressive though. It's easy to write a random plot, but it's harder to keep things entertaining and compelling throughout like ClassicaLoid does.
ClassicaLoid is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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