The character backstories were very much needed, but they feel very much like simple one-liners that serve as a starting point for writing, not as the final product.
Picking up right where the last episode left off, with the clubroom door not opening due to some sort of force field, Kotaro is pretty pissed at being trapped, much to the distress of the other club members. When the conversation returns to the fact that there has to be a spy in the group due to the events of last episode, Kotono makes a point that she doesn’t trust anyone in the room. That’s when KagiP, the traitor Musician, insists that they all “re-introduce themselves,” which is a really hamfisted way of getting everyone to talk about their backstories and reveal their real life situations prior to entering Mobius.
Mind you, getting to this point in the episode still took a while, with about a third of the episode basically being Kotaro having a temper tantrum and the other members of the Go-Home club talking in circles about who the traitor is (they first suspect Shikishima and Aria, who aren’t with them, but then go to KagiP).
Most of the Go-Home club members don’t remember entering Mobius, nor did all of them listen to µ’s music beforehand. The common thread is that they all had had some sort of misery in their lives, which range from the extremely traumatic and admirable (e.g. Kotaro’s dad was a rescue worker, but he and Kotaro’s mom died, leaving Kotaro to be adopted by relatives. Kotaro himself is short and not very strong, and he wished to be as tall and strong as his dad to be a rescue worker) to the just plain traumatic (e.g. Shogo used to have a friend who looks like Thorn the Musician, but when she chose to commit suicide and asked Shogo to join her, he didn’t. He’s had survivor’s guilt since). Interestingly, Suzuna’s backstory was revealed in episode 3 (or 4, the library one) and is effectively the same. We also finally get a reason for KagiP joining the Go-Home club, he realizes that his life in Mobius is as empty as it was in real life.
There is one big surprise from the exposition dump and it’s that not all of the characters are high school students. Shogo is, in fact a 30 year old shut-in, while Kotaro is in middle school. The fact that Kotaro is a middle-schooler gets played for mild laughs, but these revelations aren’t explored in any further detail.
Unfortunately, that is effectively the main issue with the episode; nothing gets explored with any depth at all. I wrote before that Caligula’s potential lies in the characters’ backstories and using them as a jumping point to explore why people would choose to run away from reality and go to a virtual world, and the importance of choosing to face reality over ignorance. We got some of that in this episode – the backstories and the resolve to return to the real world to face reality. However, given how large the cast is, the time dedicated to each backstory was on the short side and felt very much like simple one-liners that serve as a starting point for writing, not as the final product. Unfortunately, this is in line with the rest of the show feeling half-baked and needing more time to flesh things out. That being said, I do appreciate Caligula giving us some answers for most of the Go-Home club (Kotono and Shikishima’s backstories were conspicuously absent).
In addition, I must correct myself from the last review when I said that Wicked, the new Musician, was a new character. In fact, Wicked’s real identity is Marie Mizuguchi, Shikishima’s friend all the way from the first episode. It’s almost pitiful that the reveal had no emotional impact, no sense of betrayal, as Marie had such little presence in the previous episodes. In any case, she throws a grenade into the club room and reveals herself as a Musician, just as Shikishima wakes up in an apartment. Side note: Thorn is shown to be listening in on the Go-Home club through a spy device, and given Wicked’s alter ego; it’s plausible it was Marie who planted it there.
I am pleased that the animation didn’t have as many off-model shots or feel as stilted as the previous episodes. However, this is in part due to quite a few short cuts in the animation, where characters are talking but their mouths get covered by a hand or having the camera somewhere else. In addition, the different style used for the flashbacks was nice; it was the same used for Suzuna’s backstory, however they were still mostly static shots with the camera being panned around, so again, short cuts. The sound is as innocuous as ever and it doesn’t really add any depth or resonance to the scenes. The one stand out (and that is being generous) is Wicked’s reveal at the end of the episode, where the actress for Marie breaks the timid nature of her character to be a full on cackling villain. It is cheesy as heck, but at this point I’ll take it.
In the end, I’m happy we got backstories for the Go-Home club, but mildly disappointed that they weren’t explored in any depth at all. Still, after last week’s episode, this one was certainly a step up.
- Wow, so was the game as half-baked as the anime?...
- Alright, hot takes aside, some of the backstories were quite interesting. Shogo has had survivor’s guilt since his friend died and has become a shut-in? Kotaro wants to follow in his father’s footsteps as impatiently as a child would? Naruko starts trolling online (seriously, look at those comments, yikes) but has a soul-bending crisis when she realizes she’s acting the same as her bullies? They’re interesting and great starting points for a real character drama and examination of who we are, but I’m quite certain by the end of the show that’s all they will be, starting points.
- I can relate to some of the characters finding solace in µ’s songs. Music is powerful stuff and some songs just have the ability to encapsulate and express a person’s emotions.
- On the score: I gave the C+ because the plot beats were interesting and the animation wasn’t horrible, but still docked points (from say, episode 6’s B+) for being an exposition dump and taking so many short cuts in animation.
- The plot points in this episode should really have been spread out to allow for more character development and to replace the earlier episodes (which were so bad).