Boy, is this episode nowhere near as good as last week’s episode. The sad part is that last week’s episode wasn’t even honestly good by itself. It was simply the first intriguing offering from Caligula since the show started. Unfortunately, this week’s episode shows that we got last week is likely an outlier. Now, I’ll admit that I don’t know much about Smeagol. Sorry, but I never cared for The Lord of the Rings. I read the first book and didn’t bother with the rest. I know, I know, you can burn me at the stake after the post. My point is that since I don’t know much about Smeagol, I might not enjoy this episode as much as I could have. But I doubt it. I think this was a bad episode either way. I’ll just let my notes do the talking.
— Right off the bat, Suzuna finds herself talking to a hooded individual about Smeagol. Kotaro is trying to reach her, but she’s not answering her phone. She’s lost in her own world. We’ll learn later that there are rumors about people being spirited away.
— The problem is that this Suzuna-focused episode doesn’t get as much love and care as the Mifue-focused episode. As a result, we shift our attention to Ritsu, who has met up with Aria and Shogo. You know what that mean: clumsily executed exposition!
— Whatever Mu and Aria are, they first found themselves on the Internet, and they were shocked to see that it was filled with negative emotions and hatred. They also should’ve seen the mountains of porn, but shh… we’ll just pretend that sexual desires don’t exist.
— Mobius is supposed to be an ideal world that people could escape to. And as we already know, Mu’s conception of the ideal is high school. But like I said, if Mu had seen all that porn on the Internet, then Mobius would be a whole lot different (and possibly more interesting).
— You listen to Mu’s music and end up having your mind sealed away. Gosh, I knew J-pop was cancer.
— Digiheads are pent-up negative emotions bursting out from within. On the other hand, Shogo has some dumb-looking revolver attached to his right hand, because he’s undergone “Catharsis.” Like Persona 4, if you confront your negative emotions, you can channel them into something useful… I guess. I dunno, none of this is particularly interesting to me, but I’ll explain myself at the end of the post.
— Plus, Mu is immediately portrayed as a well-intentioned but misguided antagonist. That takes a lot of the wind out of her sails, because she’s no longer intriguing (she probably never was). She’s just a princess trapped in a castle that Ritsu will eventually have to rescue.
— Nevertheless, Mu’s power is inversely proportional to Aria’s power. It’d be a nice heel turn if it turns out Aria’s just manipulating these kids so that she can be the ruler of Mobius. But I wouldn’t bet any money on this.
— Eventually, Mifue and Naruko joins the rest of the group, so our team is growing real fast. We also get lame bullshit like this. Even Kotaro ends up begging for help, because he can’t get to Suzuna. I don’t understand why he didn’t just go into the library and retrieve her by himself. Why did he know that he needed Ritsu and Shogo’s help? Up until this point, he had never talked to either of these guys. Ah, whatever.
— So uh, my takeaway from Suzuna’s backstory is that she’s horribly lonely, but she doesn’t have the courage to do anything about it. Instead, she retreats into her own world (of fiction and fantasy, most likely). That’s why she was drawn to the library in last week’s episode. Overwhelmed by everything that she’s seen, her first instinct was to head to her hideout.
— As a result, Suzuna bumps into this hooded guy, and they proceed to have a literary discussion about Smeagol. Suzuna doesn’t think that the malformed hobbit is pitiful at all. After all, she doesn’t think she’s pitiful. On the other hand, hooded guy realizes that Smeagol is really just desperate for attention, and perhaps he (yeah, I’m surprised to learn that hooded guy is a he as well) and Suzuna are not so different from the Tolkien character.
— Then there’s something about Suzuna being in the school choir, but she’s also recently lost her ability to sing… so yeah… I mean, the lesson of the story is obvious, isn’t it? Suzuna retreats to solitude whenever she feels threatened, but what she truly wants is other people’s company. Hooded guy tries to take advantage of this fact by drawing her into his world. It’s a bit hypocritical. They’re both loners, but he wants her to be a loner with him. He doesn’t want her to join up with everyone else. He even calls them “normies.” He has a serious persecution complex.
— Kotaro is not as bad off as Suzuna, but he’s a hot head who charges in without thinking. In that way, he’s a loner. He isn’t a loner by choice, but he’s a loner because he doesn’t think. The guy eventually realizes that he can’t find Suzuna on his own. If he wants to help the girl, he’ll have to reach out to the very fucking allies he called here in the first place.
— Kotaro eventually finds Suzuna, and they both discover that Hooded Guy is a doll. Again, he’s a loner, but he also has this crab mentality in which everyone should just be a loner in solidarity with him. He even starts to turn Kotaro into a doll.
— So of course, Mr. Genius Ritsu stands there in front of everyone and starts explaining the obvious.
— As an anime villain, don’t you ever get tired of that? You’re trying to get stuff done, but then the protagonist thinks he has a point to make so he just interrupts the action to go on some rant. And because you’re just the villain of the fourth episode, all you can do is stand still and listen.
— Sorry, I can’t really get into the moment, because Suzuna’s giant chest is too distracting.
— So in the end, Suzuna solves her own problem by stepping out of her comfort zone. Instead of running away from Hooded Guy, she reaches out to him. She still wants to be his friend even though he’s been “spiriting everyone away” at the library. It’s just an anime-like resolution. Let’s be friends! Let’s hold hands! Being trapped in a high school forever is terrible, but let’s act like high schoolers at every available opportunity!
— In fact, she wants to eat lunch with him. Ugh, that really hurt. I audibly groaned when I got to this point in the anime. Just kill me.
— And just like that, the spell is lifted… except Kotaro’s hand is still freakishly monstrous because the animation sucks.
— Hooded Guy is still technically a Musician, so he can’t join their side. Instead, he kinda just… walks away. I thought we weren’t gonna be loners anymore. Maybe just Suzuna, I guess.
— All’s well that ends well, right? The group leaves the library with another member in the fold.
— Meanwhile, Mu watches from afar and whines, “Why do they all dislike this world?” I dunno, why don’t you ask them? No, seriously, why don’t you just fucking ask them? Gee, nobody likes this world that I’ve made for them. Do I collect constructive feedback? Nah, let’s just sing my stupid songs.
— I guess this lady will be the next antagonist. Whatever.
— The murder mystery and the likable cast of characters are why people (like myself) enjoy Persona 4’s story. You don’t just love the game for its heavy-handed take on Jungian psychology. You like it because it’s a good story to begin with. You need a solid foundation to a dish before you start add in the spice. The spice itself cannot serve as the basis of a dish. You can’t just throw a bunch of half-baked psychological concepts into the pot and expect to make a good story out of them. Unfortunately, this is all that Caligula has going for it. You still need strong characters, a well-told narrative, good visuals, so on and so forth. Caligula has some style, but it falls woefully short on so many other fronts. It has a decent premise, but it’s all wasted potential when we’re just sitting in a room, listening to Aria take one giant infodump on Ritsu’s chest. Moreover, none of the characters are remotely interesting, and there’s no suspense to speak of. Gotta beat the Musicians and save Mu. Gotcha. And oh yeah, the soundtrack is ghastly.