Episode 4

by Rose Bridges,

How would you rate episode 4 of
ClassicaLoid ?

This might be my favorite ClassicaLoid episode yet. The composer of the week is Franz Schubert, who finds himself untethered to either Bach's group or the residents of Kanae's house. Schubert is a lost soul, wandering the world in search of the man he considers the master of music and his senpai, Beethoven.

In real life, it's unknown what kind of relationship Schubert and Beethoven had. They met in 1822, toward the end of Beethoven's life. While various legends survive about Beethoven supposedly honoring Schubert's genius, there is no record of what specifically transpired between them. Still, there is an obvious influence of Beethoven's music through Schubert's work. Both are generally considered transitional figures between the Classical and Romantic periods in music history, so it makes sense to have Schubert be obsessed with Beethoven—as well as his fraught relationship with Mozart, since many of Schubert's early works resemble his. However, it would have been unlikely for him to get such a furious reception from Antonio Salieri (who was a real-life Schubert teacher).

The most intriguing thing about this episode is how connected Schubert remains to his former life. With what we've seen from the Classicaloids so far, most of them have trouble remembering the famous composers they used to be, unless something triggers a memory that leads to their "Musik" form. (Mozart was able to unlock his Musik in the second episode because Kanae's slap reminds him of women slapping him in his past life.) Schubert, however, seems to exist mostly in the past, recalling specific people he knew back then like Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, one of the most famous German writers. Schubert also seems taken aback by various features of the modern world, such as assuming that people on TV are stuck in that box. This is a far cry from the Internet-savvy Chopin or even Beethoven's familiarity with a modern stove. I wonder where this inconsistency comes from and if something specific happened to Schubert that caused him to be stuck in the past.

Speaking of Goethe, Schubert is singularly obsessed with his poem "Der Erlkönig," which he set to music in 1815. The "Erlking" is a figure in German folklore, a sort of troll who lives in the woods and eats children. In the Goethe poem, which was popular with composers in Schubert's time, a boy and his father are riding through the forest when the boy begins complaining about the Erlking calling to him. The father ignores him, until the boy is snatched away and killed. The Erlking also mentions having daughters as minions, so I thought it was funny that Schubert sees the people around him as potential minions of the Erlking. Schubert seems to think that Goethe set the Erlking on him in anger at Schubert's settings, which Goethe did dislike in real life (although he changed his mind after Schubert's death). Schubert's settings of Goethe's poems were full of "text-painting," illustrating the story in the music; for example, the piano sounds like the stampeding of horse hooves in "Erlkönig." Goethe preferred more orderly, less evocative music.

Schubert's adventures in the modern world include various comical run-ins with 21st century Japanese society. His attempts to mimic children exercising and freak-outs over music boxes playing Beethoven and Mozart lead people to send the police after him. The episode's most inspired choice was making Schubert a master of gyoza—his senpai Beethoven's obsession. It would have been interesting if the two had had a more extended meeting to see how Beethoven would react. Alas, they only meet briefly at the end of the episode, in the middle of Schubert's Musik act. His Musik is his Lullaby (also called "Wiegenlied"), which results in everyone around him acting like babies. Beethoven is in this baby trance when Schubert sees him, preventing a real conversation. Then a kite blows Schubert away, landing him in east Africa and a return to his constant wandering and searching.

There's so much in this episode that hints at more revelations about the nature of the Classicaloids, from Schubert's recollection of his past life to his past vision about Beethoven. Schubert remembers seeing Beethoven and Mozart flee from the house where the ClassicaLoids live (where presumably Bach and his idols are now), inspiring his endless search. What's even better about this episode is just how much research the creators did into Schubert and his life. Even making him a "wanderer" could be a reference to the many songs Schubert wrote about them, such as "Das Wandern" from Die schöne Müllerin and the stand-alone "Der Wanderer." Journeys and nostalgia are major themes in Schubert's vocal music.

I hope future episodes of ClassicaLoid are as fulfilling as this one. ClassicaLoid is great at zany comedy, which it may be returning to next week with a focus on Beethoven's gyoza. That element definitely could use an explanation, and I'm eager to see it. However, I'm most impressed with how ClassicaLoid nailed its more contemplative, melancholy moods this week. I'm sure this is not the last we'll see of Schubert. He will meet his hero Beethoven soon, and we'll get more of his story.

Rating: A

ClassicaLoid is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.

Rose's favorite music by Schubert is his song cycle "Winterreise." Follow her on her media blog Rose's Turn, and on Twitter.

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