As per the descriptions floating around, Caligula (aka The Caligula Effect) involves a virtual idol named μ, or “Myu,” who is trapping people in a city without suffering. Still, even knowing that about the series, it’s not immediately obvious whether the main character, high school student Shikishima Ritsu, is trapped in her world—or in any place besides normal reality. Instead, we follow Ritsu as he slowly realizes that something isn’t right. A couple of short scenes involving another character, Mifue, and her mother show a little more of what is happening—I won’t go into details, but suffering related to the mother is eliminated in a very suspicious manner. There is a lot of scene-setting, with some action at the end. And there are no clear answers.
Three elements in particular warrant attention: Ritsu’s philosophizing, the clues about a false reality, and the imagery. It would be easy to lose patience with Ritsu’s philosophizing. But, based on what I’ve seen so far, I don’t think it’s just a way to shoehorn “deep meaning” into the episode. I know a couple of people who study this stuff for fun, much like him—and who bring it up in conversation, whether or not their companions want to listen. The fantastic thing is that, despite his basic knowledge of psychology and philosophy, he is still blind to what’s happening around him for most of the episode. He slowly becomes aware of the clues that something isn’t right. Speaking of which, I enjoy the small clues that Ritsu’s reality isn’t completely reality. Some of the clues, left alone, could be ignored as just normal for mediocre anime—such as the repetition of lines about ramen, or the way the bookstore owner repeats his line, or maybe even the random brawl. But together? These clues escalate into something you can’t ignore. The imagery pleases me, too—both the actual visuals and the word pictures from Ritsu’s overthinking. There’s so much about windows, glass walls, and reflections—from the opening scene with the guy touching his computer screen to Ritsu’s reflection in his ramen. The English major in me is beyond pleased.
Is this show for everyone? Nope. I see why people are already criticizing it online. But it’s enjoyable enough so far, and it’s sparked an idea for a possible blog post. So I’ll keep watching for now. It’s streaming on Crunchyroll, available for everyone outside of Asia.