The Best of Sakura-Con 2018: CALIGULA World Premiere with Special Guests

                               Photo by @NattieDoes

My first official Sakura-Con 2018 post is on the first panel I went to. Caligula is an anime based on the video game of the same name (in Japan. In America, the game is known as The Caligula Effect), which is an offshoot of the Persona series of video games.  Since the first episode isn’t scheduled to air in Japan (and Crunchyroll) till April, this was a true world premiere. The moderator told us that the series is about a VR idol singer named μ (pronounced “Mu”) who creates a world so people will be happy and perfect, except that not everyone wants to be in that world.

While we weren’t allowed to take photos or video while the episode played (for obvious reasons), I can tell you that the first (subtitled) episode follows Ritsu Shikishima (voiced by Chiharu Sawashiro), a typical high school student. At first, the episode feels like a slice-of-life show about high school (they’re even jokes about how ramen calories don’t count for high school students), but while listening to a new song by μ, Ritsu hears someone say, “Help me!” While talking about it with his friends, they seem not to hear him, but freeze and then turn in unison (along with everyone who is outside) to watch a fight. Meanwhile, a female classmate deals with a mother who is starving herself to death, except that when she returns home, her mom is “perfect” again. Also, μ briefly appears to her as an apparition. At the end of the episode, when Ritsu witnesses two school ceremonies back-to-back in which the speaker gives the graduation address as an upperclassman and then, in the next scene, gives the address as an incoming student, he realizes that what he’s witnessing is not real life. And that’s when the shadows attack.

      Takanori Matsuoka (center left) and Chiharu Sawashiro (center right). Photo by @NattieDoes

The Q&A that followed was with up-and-coming voice actor Chiharu Sawashiro and the producer of the show, Takanori Matsuoka. Someone asked how Sawashiro-san was able to play Ritsu, since he’s a blank slate in the game. He answered that, for the show, they gave him some personality traits. For example, Ritsu is very smart. Sawashiro-san said, however, that he himself is not very smart.

Another question concerned the fact that Sawashiro-san usually plays supporting characters. How was playing a main character different? This led to a funny exchange in which Sawashiro-san said that, as a main character, he had to keep his cool more. He then re-enacted what he would do with directors when playing a supporting character. When the director would ask him to do something, he would jump to it and say, “Yes! Absolutely! Right away!” (I’m paraphrasing here) But when he’s playing the main character, all the other actors are looking to him for guidance, so he has to keep his cool or they’ll think something is wrong. He has to be more like, “Yes, I understand.”

As a fan of Persona, I found the first episode intriguing, though it might be confusing to people not familiar with the Persona games or The Caligula Effect. Certainly worth watching.

Caligula premieres on Crunchyroll April 8

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