In Caligula episode 9, “Even if something has already happened, you can still choose what you do,” Ritsu Shikishima leads the Go-Home club to the tower that they’ve recently discovered holds the door to the real world. As they ascend, they keep hearing cries for help, and starting with Tomoe Kotaro, they begin to peel away to help. Are the cries really a trap laid by the Ostinato Musicians to keep our heroes from the top? How did the Musicians know our heroes were coming? And why is Shikishima acting so cold?
Note: This post may include spoilers, so be cautious.
What’s In This Post
3 Favorite Moments
Just after Kotaro runs off to help a screaming man, Kagura Suzuna suggests that they should go after him. Kashiwaba Kotono, obviously in agreement with Suzuna, asks Shikishima what they’re going to do (7:10). With no emotion, he answers that they’re going to continue. It’s a clearly divisive decision, but the heroes who are left stay with him (7:35). It didn’t help that when Aria heard even more cries for help, Kagi-P threw salt in the wound by asking if they should “rescue” those people or “abandon” them. Talk about a telling word choice! He was clearly trying to further divide them. This scene set the tone for the whole episode. They’re confused, they don’t have a coherent plan, and any trust they should have built up until now seems to be teetering. It gave the episode a feeling of being on edge. The first time I watched it, I didn’t like it at all. Even the second time through, it made me feel uneasy. But that was the point. I can’t help but admire how well it established the tone.
Shadow Knife, one of the Ostinato Musicians, had taken on the persona of an anime hero from their “real” world. When Kotaro rescued one of Shadow Knife’s victims, he learned the reason victim had been in danger: namely, that Shadow Knife was tracking down the people who had bullied him in the real world so he could subject them to the same kind of torment they’d put him through (12:52). Kotaro was a survivor of being bullied himself, so the idea that he’d been saving bullies seemed to shake his convictions. It didn’t help that one of the real-world bullies tried to defend himself by saying that the statute of limitations had run out. “There is no statue of limitations on mental trauma!” Kotaro yelled at the man (13:14). It’s an interesting way to give us more information about Kotaro while at the same time trying to generate sympathy for Shadow Knife.
So, Shikishima knows how to interact with the pink-glowing keyboard that controls the Door of Judgement (19:23)? And none of the Go-Home Club knew that he had stayed behind to operate it. He almost looked sad as he opened it and prepared to step through. The first scene prepared us by showing us a subdued club President. The episode hammered home the idea that their trust in each other was disintegrating. So what are we to make of Shikishima’s actions? The episode seems to leave clues that he’s the traitor, but I don’t buy it. If there’s a traitor, I still think Kagi-P is the logical choice. Still, the intentional ambiguity is ratcheting up the tension, isn’t it?
So far, there’s one thing that I know I don’t understand*: Why do the Musicians care of the Go-Home Club leaves? Wouldn’t their departure leave Mobius in peace? Wouldn’t the club’s departure be a win-win?
Okay, there’re two things that I know I don’t understand: Why can’t I find Wicked in the list of Ostinato Musicians on the Caligula site? Is it coincidence that we haven’t seen Marie Mizuguchi for a while? Does it look to you that if she undid her pony tail, her hair would look the same as Wicked’s from a shot of her back (14:34)? Hmmmm…
I’m having one of those moments where I’m not sure if this is an inconsistency or a plot point: I know these are mostly just high school kids, though Satake Shogo seems to have been older, but did it seem to you that they were thoroughly unprepared for the assault on the tower? Shouldn’t they have had some kind of plan? Or maybe not having a plan was the point? Maybe by the time the episode started, Shikishima’s only goal was to get to the top of the tower to he could interface with the Door of Judgement? Maybe that was his plan and everything else wasn’t important to him?
Have you ever had to deal with bullying? I applaud Caligula for treating the subject with the gravitas that it deserves. That being said, what did you think of the idea that Kotaro seemed to buy into Shadow Knife’s contention that helping bullies was on par with being a bully? “You aided evil,” Shadow Knife said (14:02). “Which means you are evil as well.”
Mind if I take a step back and look at Shadow Knife’s reasoning? First, he says that bullying is bad. I’d add the reason it’s bad is that it causes harm (as Kotaro says, it inflicts mental trauma). Second, Shadow Knife contends that he should be able inflict a punishment that fits the crime. Otherwise, there’s no justice. Okay, I can’t argue against that concept (well, I could, but I won’t), but I think he doesn’t acknowledge the ambiguity implicit in “fits the crime.”
Shadow Knife is advocating revenge, isn’t he? He’s arguing that should be able to do to the bullies what they did to him. He’s arguing that this is somehow justice. What he seems to have missed is the idea that bullying is a bad thing. It harms people. So if he uses his superior position to bully someone, isn’t that just the same thing he complained about them doing?
Wouldn’t “fits the crime” mean something that would prevent bullies from acting again? Maybe sentencing them to work with victims of bullying (with strict supervision, of course!)? Doing something evil to people because they did something evil seems an awfully lot like a self-perpetuating cycle of violence and hatred to me.
At least from my perspective, this wasn’t a case of moral ambiguity. It was a case of revenge that went out of control. Though I can’t prove it, I really think Shadow Knife realized that as he hung from the deteriorating girder. His inner conflict is what kept him from reaching out in time to Kotaro.
At least, that’s how it looked to me.
What do you think? What were your favorite moments? Let me know in the comments!
* As opposed to the couple dozen things I might not understand or think I understand! This show isn’t shy about complexity!
Other Posts of Interest
Other Anime Sites
- Reddit Discussion of Caligula Episode 9
- Marth’s Anime Blog: Caligula Episode 9: All that to set up a trap
- Anime Q and A: Caligula Episode 9 Review
- 100 Word Anime: Caligula Episode 9: Mystery Door, Locked Door
This Site (Crow’s World of Anime!)
- Caligula Episode 1
- Caligula Episode 2: Anxiety, Irritation, and Other Such Negative Emotions Spread to Others
- Caligula Episode 3: Why do we live? The further we pursue the meaning of life, the more confused we become
- Caligula Episode 4: People who do not respect themselves will not be respected by others
- Caligula Episode 5: Everyone gets hurt. But those who don’t realize they’re hurting can’t be healed
- Caligula Episode 6: Looking forward doesn’t equal progress on its own. Understanding one’s situation is also an important step
- Caligula Episode 7: When you’re in a desperate situation, it’s all the more important to keep smiling
- Caligula Episode 8: Your life shouldn’t be built from someone else’s blueprint. No matter how unskilled you may be, you should draw it yourself
- Caligula Episode 10: Caligula
- Caligula Episode 11: People constantly seek out the right answer. Yet, is being right really all that matters?
- Caligula Episode 12: Destroy your ideals and self, and return to hell and reality