I stream the music from Boston’s 99.5 WCRB app into my office daily. To say I like the classical genre is an understatement. But do I play any instruments? Zero. (Does a viola solo in the 5th grade count?) Have I studied music theory? No. Do I know how to pronounce “Debussy” without sounding like an idiot? Can I tell you what “andante” means, do I know Beethoven’s history, do I know what a “rondo” is? No. I don’t know any of that.
Now and then I get shit for being plebeian. It’s whatever. My lack of knowledge hasn’t stopped me from querying my most polished novel to agents. Here is its (mediocre) one-line pitch: To save his career, a hollow-hearted pianist seeks inspiration in the work of a passionate violinist, but the emotion he uncovers in himself as a result becomes more than he bargained for. (Gaaaay.) So yeah — hashtag ‘that classical music life,’ of which I know nothing about except what I researched to bolster my story… and what I learned when my music-savvy critique group giggled at me way too much. (He played “notes?” What kind of notes, Frongi?!)
But the cool thing is that my cluelessness does not negate that I like classical music — or that I found an anime that validates that even clueless people can enjoy it! It’s an underrated comedy called ClassicaLoid. It’s two full seasons, clocking in at fifty episodes, so this round of Doubletakes won’t be episodic. All you really need to know to keep up is the following.
There once was a grand mansion, owned by an old woman who loved classical music. Inside her mansion she hosted balls and entertained guests with string quartets and the massive organ in the mansion’s main hall. The old woman instilled her love of music in her granddaughter, Kanae, then passed away.
Kanae grew up and started attending high school, and the mansion fell to pieces. Still, Kanae tried her very best to clean up and keep up the place. She lived there all by herself, except for her good-for-nothing childhood male friend Sosuke who’d often spend time there too, mooching off her. You see, Kanae’s parents were never around. Kanae’s mother liked to travel and her father often disappeared as well, frittering money away on questionable science experiments. Mom and Dad therefore didn’t take care of the property; they simply left all the mansion’s care and debts to poor Kanae to deal with.
Fast forward to present day. A demolition team arrives to tear the mansion down, since it’s in awful shape and cannot be paid for. Kanae, upset but powerless to stop the event, ends up getting herself and the mansion rescued by some very strange characters with a magical power called “Musik.” The Musik activates via a conductor’s wand and then creates hypnotic, tangible illusions, while rock, rap, reggae or other genre-infused versions of famous classical pieces blare out. Eventually, Kanae discovers these characters are known as “ClassicaLoids.” (Think a little bit like androids.) Each ClassicaLoid is named after a famous classical composer and shares musical know-how and personality traits with said composer.
Well, apparently the ClassicaLoids were an experiment of Kanae’s father’s. And now they have no place to live; they don’t know where their creator got to — he’s missing as usual — only that Dad seemed to think Kanae could take care of them in his absence. Kanae decides she doesn’t mind if the ClassicaLoids live in the mansion; in fact, she’s perfectly happy to become their official landlady — so long as they help with the mansion’s endless chores and make sure to pay their rent, so she can pay off the mansion’s debts. But as luck would have it, most of the ClassicaLoids are terrible at both those things. They make her situation worse.
Shenanigans ensue as Kanae tries to control and coexist with the ClassicaLoids plus Sosuke. Little by little, around the comedy, plot is revealed about the intended purpose of the ClassicaLoids, an antagonist is introduced in the form of the first ClassicaLoid (the great Bach), and the series has a few mildly serious moments among the chaos. But mostly it’s just chaos.
Now you know — so let’s launch into more depth with the first pair of takes!
The opening montage and theme song
You should probably just watch it. (Go from the start until the theme ends at the 2:45 minute mark.)
Reaction as a fan: I’m laughing my ass off, and then rocking out. Where can I download this opening theme song?
Reaction as a writer: The montage before the theme song is painfully simple in terms of the trick it uses to be effective, but I found nothing wrong with that. It worked. The scene uses contrast to make viewers laugh; the music sounds serious and dramatic, and the character on screen is acting very seriously and dramatically… but he’s doing so in the utterly mundane, un-dramatic situation of cooking dinner. I find that amusing and think most viewers would — hence, success.
The show also does a smart thing in immediately living up to the “classical” in its name by starting with a well known piece. Doing so tells viewers who like classical they won’t be disappointed; the creators also like classical and want to assure you that you’ll hear plenty of it throughout this show. You’ll hear plenty of it… but also, you won’t get bored hearing the same old pieces played over and over. This is because the creators’ even bigger promise in the opening theme song is that ClassicaLoid will put an original spin on the music fans already know and love.
All of this appeases classical music fans, but draws in casual fans, too; it says that since the show will be taking liberties and getting creative anyway, it’s not necessary to know too much about the original classical works. In other words, just sit back and enjoy it.
The appearance of the mansion
If you take a moment to glance at the mansion’s design from outside, you’ll notice it’s unusual. That’s because it’s got all sorts of musical elements built into its construction — perhaps the most obvious of which is the huge weather-vane in the shape of a treble clef. There’s also a chimney that appears to be an actual brass instrument blown up to chimney scale… and that’s only the tip of the iceberg.
Once you see the inside of the mansion, too, if you’re quick to glance around you’ll find the references don’t stop. Windows, rugs, tablecloths, banisters, you name it — look and you’re sure to find something you can identify with music — even if you’re not much of a music-savvy person.
Reaction as a fan: This is the nerdiest mansion I have ever seen. I have to keep pausing or rewinding to see if I can identify the references everywhere, and that’s kind of annoying, but… that’s just me. I don’t actually have to find every Easter egg here — because ultimately I can tell these details are only meant to be background; it doesn’t matter if I notice every little reference or not. Yet it’s cool that even if I don’t, it’s still a fun, unique setting for an anime. I’ve never seen anything like this, and that gets it brownie points.
Reaction as a writer: This mansion’s appearance is a perfect statement of creator intent. Since the mansion’s musical attributes are never directly addressed in the show, but are still prominent if you want to look for them…. That clearly establishes the series as meant to be entertaining for both classical fans and non-classical fans. The creators want interested or otherwise judgmental parties to know they know their music info well (and they also want viewers to feel validated in their geekery!), but their intention is to present that knowledge without being too high-brow about it — and also without dumbing it down, either. Overall, ClassicaLoid strikes a fantastic balance, one the show holds to through both its seasons.