by Rose Bridges,
How would you rate episode 19 of
When I started this episode of Classicaloid, I wondered if the show was paying homage to Princess Tutu. There are plenty of anime about classical musicians, but I can think of few others that engaged so much with the music and composers themselves to write their story, even if they both did this in completely different ways: Classicaloid with comedy, Princess Tutu with metafictional drama.
As usual, Classicaloid upends my expectations, working with the same elements of the Swan Lake story as Princess Tutu: birds and tragic love. In this case, the birds are a bunch of Hasshies, who've "cursed" the mansion as a part of Tchaiko-chan's Musik gone wrong. Everyone who falls in love will be carried off to their alternate dimension, and it will be easier than usual to fall in love within the altered mansion. The curse will make everyone act like romcom versions of themselves. Even super-serious Kanae is suddenly dressing in frilly outfits and cat ears, making everyone food in the hopes that they'll fall in love with her. This is a girl who yells at anyone who looks at her funny.
Like Princess Tutu, this episode of Classicaloid takes a turn for the metafictional. It still goofs around with common anime tropes, but this episode is even more self-referential than usual. The Hasshie dimension seems to insert the characters into common anime romantic storylines. Chopin becomes a wide-eyed ingénue who falls for the rowdy delinquent, Schubert, giving us a version of Schubert with a pompadour, something I didn't know that I needed.
The real center of the episode is Tchaiko and Bada-chan though. Their ongoing rivalry kicks off the episode's dramatic arc, when Tchaiko freaks out at a viewer question in one of their public appearances, and Bach kicks them out in response, dumping them at Kanae's manor. It's notable that he dumps both of them; even though the outburst is Tchaiko's fault, he knows the underlying cause is the girls' rivalry. Still, this doesn't inspire humility in either of them. Bada pokes at Tchaiko's insecurities, which results in her Musik bursting out in anger.
This Musik has strange rules: anyone who shows romantic interest in another is zapped to the "alternate dimension," which turns out to be just the normal world outside. This means that they really have to pair off to escape the crazy mansion. I appreciated that the pairs in question weren't all heterosexual, which is probably just a result of the cast's lopsided gender make-up. (I have to wonder if the Classicaloid writers are aware of the scholarly debate about Schubert's sexuality.) Even so, Classicaloid recognized the crucial importance of the relationship between the two girls of Claskey Klasky. They need to embrace each other to move on, and unlike the other "couples," their love appears to be more than a passing fancy. They hold hands and announce "the birth of a new couple!" as they ride into the sunset, framed as a recognition of equals. I'm not sure if we'll see Classicaloid commit to their relationship beyond this particular dimension, where societal rules seem to disappear, but it's a fascinating read on their tension to suggest that they might have feelings for each other. (Of course, this is especially interesting considered the real-life composer behind Tchaiko-chan was gay.)
I think it bears mentioning at this point that Classicaloid is a family show. It airs in the afternoon, in the block used for shows like My Hero Academia and The Heroic Legend of Arslan. Anime has seen big strides in LGBT representation in the past year, but it feels like an especially pleasant surprise to see same-sex romance presented, however briefly, on a show like this. I'm not saying this is the anime Steven Universe here, but it's evident that boundaries are loosening. I certainly hope so.
Moving back to the episode's "message," this is also one it shares with Princess Tutu and Swan Lake: love can both destroy and redeem. Classicaloid is far less clear about the difference between these types of love than Tutu, which contrasts selfish lust with compassionate love, but the episode does address the difference between fleeting infatuation and a more genuine loving bond. The characters in the mansion fall for each other in the spur of the moment, because someone made them food or looked especially cute, but in order to survive the Hasshie dimension, they have to find a real connection with someone else.
This detour from the main Bach plot was, like most of Classicaloid's best episodes, goofy, fun, and surprisingly thoughtful in the end. It also raised a bunch of new questions: Is Kanae's crush on Beethoven real? Why does Hasshie keep getting caught up in these weird curses—what's his damage? And what exactly is going on with Claskey Klasky? After this week, I really hope it's love. I never thought I would "ship" anything in Classicaloid, but they just might have pushed me onboard.
ClassicaLoid is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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