Several young people find themselves inexplicably in Mobius, a world where reality can be whatever you want; all the personal conflicts in your life may be no more, if you choose. But is this the choice you really want to make? And if it's not...WHERE'S THE EXIT?
This show has a terrific underlying premise, but the execution leaves a bit to be desired. Several of its characters are poorly developed- it tries to play catchup with group confessions late in the show, but that's no substitute for letting us get familiar with the cast along the way. So I was never clear about the motivations of a few of our group for trying to find the path out of this seemingly idyllic fantasy where you can do (or BE) whatever you want, in order to return to the world of harsh reality. This especially bothered me in the case of one of the Ostinato Musicians (the bad guys; I'll explain later), who ostensibly is betraying his group of "contents" (the Musicians LOVE the Mobius status quo) in favor of joining our little group of rebels; his explanation is perfunctory, and he's STILL a condescending jerk to boot, so it was no wonder that our good guys distrust his sincerity. Yes, you will get some dramatic exposition on why others of the group are ready to leave "paradise", but I think that if you can't give comparable attention to ALL your cast then you either need a smaller cast OR more episodes.
The show's character art also annoyed me. The coloring is so wan that I thought at first this was a show about ghosts who hadn't realized they'd died. (I've already reviewed THAT sort of show, and would have been disappointed with a simple reprise of that theme, but maybe it's a somewhat different issue here.) Some of the girls' character designs were similar to each other, enough that I had a little trouble sorting their characters out at first. The show has only one episode that's fanservice-heavy; it's also the episode that's the most dramatically embarrassing.
Let's meet the cast- and remember, our players can, in the world of Mobius, look completely different from their "real world" selves:
Our villains here, the Ostinato Musicians, were nobodies in the real world, but are "big shots" here, and they want to preserve their status at all costs; they view all malcontents as possible threats to Mobius' existence, so they want to suppress all dissenters, even including ones just looking for the exit. I wouldn't say they're always "vigorous" about this though; the show has pacing problems, to the extent that even our rebels comment on the occasional lack of goings-on.
The Ostinato Musicians protect, support, abet, and of course exploit their Goddess, the person whose personal power, and desire to create a world where everyone's happy, created, and sustains, Mobius in the first place, a singer named Mu. For all her superhuman power Mu seems extremely naïve about the human heart. To the show's credit, Mu and Mobius will get explained pretty well (and even plausibly!) toward the end, and her true nature turned out to be about what I expected. But in this show's seeming tradition of always leaving loose ends somewhere, I never caught a clear backstory for Mu's "counterpart", a floating chibi character named Aria (who seems to be wearing a cowbell.)
The show's "leading man" is named Ritsu Shikishima. He's a cerebral sort compared to the others, but unlike the others can't quite seem to recall his own past. (Yes, there's a reason for that.)
Among the other characters there's a girl named Mifue Shinohara who DOES get quite a bit of character development. Mifue has some issues with the fact that her mom's overweight (she's afraid biology is destiny), and first "notices" that she's "not in Kansas anymore" when Mobius provides her with a NEW mom- and when that one was a little too extreme, provides her with another that's a bit less so. (At one point, to get more information, she attends a bizarre "dreamy-cute" tea party but without much success, partly because Mifue's insufficiently "dreamy-cute". The party's host is called Sweet P, and one disappointment for me was never seeing Sweet P as we're told she REALLY looks. Actually, there's not a whole lot of follow-up on ANY of the cast at the end, which I've also "dinged" the show for.)
There's another girl, named Suzuna Kagura, who has an interesting discussion with another character on the motivations of Gollum in The Lord of the Rings. OK, in fairness I didn't see something like THAT coming. Another thing I didn't see coming was that Mobius' invitation to be whatever you want to be meant that another character got to indulge their wish to be a homicidal maniac. (This at least shows that it's not possible to create a world where EVERYONE'S happy, if one's "happiness" requires being allowed to be cruel and/or homicidal to others, especially given that, as we find out later, death, at least, can be quite real here. By the way, I was pretty surprised by who the killer was, so again I'll give the show some credit there.)
Our heroes, who rather cleverly call themselves the Go-Home Club, can fight back against the Musicians (and against the occasional lunatic or vigilante indulging themselves) by transforming themselves through something called the Catharsis Effect, which just looks painful; in fact, becoming a Cenobite in Clive Barker's Hellraiser movies looks a pleasant process in comparison. For one thing, our Caligula heroes get enormous black spikes run through their bodies, which must make sleeping difficult, though on the plus side they also do get useful weaponry like hammer-hands or gun-arms. (Mifue's transformed self has her mouth covered, for some reason- maybe it's because of all her complaints about her mom?)
The "fightingest" of our little group of fighters is Kotaro Tomoe, and he's also my favorite character in the entire show. His aspiration is to be a "hero of justice", and while Mobius certainly CAN accommodate that desire- and Kotaro does partake of that opportunity- he still retains a desire to return to the real world, even though he literally could NOT be the same sort of hero in reality that he is here.
Anime- especially anime aimed at an older audience- is often rather elliptical, but this one makes the viewers fill in the blanks themselves more than most shows, especially on several characters that I didn't mention in this review. The show seems to simply not care that much about some of our character's baggage, and closes in a rather perfunctory way even on some of the characters we ARE allowed to develop sympathy for. It's got a ton of interesting ideas, but just doesn't explore many of them that well. I couldn't quite, in good faith, go four stars on this show, in spite of its imaginative premise. — Allen Moody
Recommended Audience: The show has one fanservicey episode involving a dominatrix Musician named Mirei, one of two things about the show that reminded me of 18if. (I won't say what the other was.) There's violence, including some self-inflicted; and death, surprisingly, can be quite real in Mobius. I'd say TV PG-14.
Version(s) Viewed: Streaming on Crunchyroll.
Review Status: Full (12/12)
Caligula © 2018 Satelight.
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