Shibuya, Japan, 2008. Takumi Nishijou, a high school student at the Private Suimei Academy, one day hears about the 'New Gen' murders that have been occurring around the city. Although dismissing the subject because it doesn't involve him, Takumi begins to experience strange mishaps around him, from a horrific picture he received while on his PC, to a mysterious Pink-Haired girl standing at a murder scene.
From there on Takumi struggles to cope with the events unfolding around him, and is soon unaware of what is real or a delusion. As his fate opens up before him, the perpetrator behind the 'New Gen' events attempts to find him, leading him into a world where nothing is as it seems.
I went into viewing ChäoS;HEAd without a great deal of expectations. Having read through many of the reviews and hearing some firsthand accounts on it I got the impression that it was going to be an average at best experience. However this was a show that I had been very interested in seeing since it started airing. For me it’s a great example of not believing everything you hear.
The story starts out as a pretty interesting mystery involving a number of grisly murders and a high school boy who believes he has witnessed one of them and is being fed information about
future killings before they happen. The boy is Takumi, a severely disturbed and socially awkward individual who is terrorized by delusions and paranoia. The plot feels genuinely creepy at times but doesn’t manage to sustain this over the course of the entire series. Because of Takumi's delusions the viewer is not always sure what is real or what isn’t. It does take some significant detours and while it’s not the smartest thing I have ever seen, in my opinion it managed to be interesting through the end. However one might feel about how the story changed focus over the course of the show, I did feel that it ended very nicely with most of the loose ends tied off.
Takumi's character for me was extremely interesting. Sure he is a stereotype of a socially awkward otaku, but what makes him a great character is his personality. He is an extremely disturbed person. His inability at times to know what is real or what isn’t made him fascinating. I enjoyed how he coped with his fear of others by imagining his favorite anime character as a companion. I felt the story did a great job in developing him and having him overcome his fears and questions about his own existence.
Sadly as good as I felt Takumi was as a character, the rest of the cast is quite uninspired. The girls all fall into the usual patterns that we see in every anime, from the moe sugar sweet best girlfriend to the brainy and to the cold hearted swordsman. Still despite this I still enjoyed most of them, particularly Yua and even though they weren’t that groundbreaking. The villains are equally stale from an originality standpoint. Their motivations are 2-dimensional and boring and really were a poor foil overall for the heroes to overcome.
The artwork is good for the most part but a little inconsistent at times. I felt the colors were kind of flat and the styles seemed awfully dated looking. In addition the character models felt.. familiar. It didn’t seem like there was any originality in designing them and some of them actually looked like they were ripped directly out of other anime. I did like the music, the opening was good and I felt set the tone, but the ending while a good song felt out of place considering the subject matter of many of the episodes.
Despite a number of faults I just can’t say that I didn’t like this show. It’s not great at anything it does. The thriller elements of the plot fall a bit flat and the action scenes really aren’t that interesting either. My interest in the main character and a decent storyline made this an enjoyable experience for me. I would recommend it, however if you looking for a superb suspense thriller or a great action you’re probably going to be disappointed.
Chaos;Head is a prime example of an anime that collapsed under the weight of its own ambition. In trying so desperately to separate itself from a myriad of other suspenseful thrillers while catering to a pre-selected audience, Chaos;Head spreads itself all of the place, so much so that everything about it is thin, flimsy, and overall disappointing. The end result, however, is stuff of unintended comic gold.
Chaos;Head starts fantastic with a very adventurous first episode brimming with possibilities. The play on otaku falling victim to their own delusions, coupled with a series of bizarre homicides was intriguing enough to keep me watching it repeatedly, but
then trouble began to surface. The series began to breach the mysteries it had established with theoretical existentialism, leading into discussions using made-up terminology that goes entirely unexplained and becomes even more convoluted as its short but utterly incomprehensible run comes closer to a finish.
Even more irritating, all of the mysteries and delusions established in the first episode are cast aside as convenient attention-getters. Nothing established in the first episode even matters to the big picture. Also, plot twists, while numerous, are established without any prior knowledge as to what they entail for the cast and revelations do not have any gravitas. The only reason I give the story any points is for the first few episodes alone, before it careened into self-destruction.
Characters are a little better, but only in certain instances. Main character Takumi is entrancing throughout the first half. His reactions to the mania around him are painfully crafted with a sense of realism so as to have Takumi's reaction become the mirror of the viewer, and it works very well. However, he betrays this reality of self when the series enters into its convoluted style of existentialism and he becomes a living deus ex machina.
The girls of the series are handled just as carelessly, often with vain attempts at giving them personality quirks but failing to capitalize on them. The only real exception to this is Kozue, but her traits are so forced and intruding, that by "cutesyfing" her the staff made her more off-putting than any other girl. Moreso, the series can only focus on one or two girls at a time, meaning that all the other girls suddenly disappear from the picture. This would be fine, except they often return with a wealth of new information we are forced to assume they learned off-scene.
Technical aspects are far better than anything the series offers otherwise, but not exceedingly so. The art is fairly average of the typical series these days. Madhouse obviously didn't break the bank, but the looks is acceptable. Takumi's character design, especially his face, is often hard to look at, but the girls all look acceptable. The animation flows well-enough but it's nothing to write home about. An all around average job.
The sound was good too, but only in some parts. Namely the theme songs; the first being a catchy Kanako Itou number with lyrics that make no sense but are befitting of the series' storyline, and the closer being an impossibly upbeat tune with lyrics that resemble bad stalker poetry. Sound effects and vocal performances also highlight various sequences. The prior are easily arguable, but the BGM is horribly composed. Not ear-bleedingly so, but still quite bad.
Yet for as sharp and horrible a nosedive as Chaos;Head took, I reveled in it. I wanted to see how bad the story got and how awful the characterization became. It may have been a poor series, but it reaches on "so bad its good" territory in the same way a handful of cult classics and B-movies do. It's not for everyone, but you can definitely have a lot of fun laughing at just how awful this series becomes.
Ever since Neon Genesis Evangelion's debut in the late 90's philosophically charged mind-frags have been a staple of anime. Many of these mind-twisting series are pretty brilliant, despite being exceedingly obtuse. Chaos;HEAd is definitely not one of these. Filled with nonsensical metaphysical babble, flimsy internal logic, and clearly not as smart as it thinks it is; this show is the perfect example of what happens when a psychological thriller goes completely wrong.
The show follows a socially inept (to put it VERY lightly) and barely sane anime obsessed recluse named Takumi Nishijou as he is pulled into a reality bending battle with the fate of the
world at stake. Grisly murders and suicides are taking place around the city, throwing it into confusion and fear. Takumi witnesses one murder being committed by a pink haired girl; a girl who appears to him at his school claiming to be his friend and classmate, something that all his acquaintances affirm even though Takumi has no recollection of her. This drives the already unstable Takumi into a paranoid panic, but the more he struggles to get back to his hermit lifestyle, the further he is sucked into a world of conspiracy theories and horrific happenings; as well as running into more cute yet strange girls.
This animated adaptation of a visual novel seems to be trying to do a lot of things. It tries to deconstruct or at least put a dark twist on the harem trend by giving its gaggle of girls twisted or scarred personalities. It tries to bring forth existential ideas with theories of how the mind perceives things and mind-powered reality bending abilities. It tries to be an intricately plotted suspense thriller, filled with hallucinatory imagery and cryptic ominousness concerning a prophesy, an evil organization, and a mysterious man in a wheelchair. The problem here is not a lack of ambition, the problem is that the show fails to execute well on anything it attempts.
Despite giving most of the cast damaged and twisted psyches, the story fails to make any of its characters compelling because they are just not believable. To put it simply, the characters do not act or behave like actual people. Takunm is so far gone that it pretty much impossible to relate to him. Imagine taking Satou from Welcome to the NHK and stripping him of the humanity which made him a compelling character, leaving only his extreme dysfunctions. Now imagine the show playing his insane ineptness as straight drama, rather than dark comedy; and you have Takumi. Takumi is a one dimensional caricature of a crazy otaku rather than a complex fleshed out character; so his turmoil and insecurities ring hollow. The rest of the cast pretty much follows suit. The gaggle of girls that surrounds Takumi is a collection of graphic novel stereotypes, devoid of much personality besides their strange mental dispositions. The main antagonist, who is revealed later in the series, lacks any kind of understandable motive; he's evil and wants to rule the world because the plot needed some kind of bad guy, I guess.
The show also tries way too hard to build tension. To be fair, the techniques it uses are pretty commonplace in psychological thrillers. Strange camera angles and hallucinatory are very useful tools to create an effective chiller. Unfortunately, the staff of Chaos;HEAd lacks the skill to use them effectively. There is no subtly to the suspense in the series, and as a result it is often ends up being unintentionally funny. Moments of high tension and sinister revelations happen sporadically with no rhyme or reason, making the plot unfold very unnaturally.
Just as bad is all the meta-physical babble in the series, in fact, that is probably the worst part. The shows has some 'interesting' concepts about the world, and how the mind can perceive and influence it, which are so far from reality they barely make sense at all. Unfortunately, the show is intent on trying pass off this confused jumble of ideas as something poignant. Worse yet, some of the concepts in the show are so implausible that the show spends a good amount of time with exposition to explain the convoluted logic behind them. Underneath all of this is a rather basic plot involving an evil organization bent on taking over the world and the unlikely heroes who must stop them that is over-complicated by all the nonsense the show puts us through.
On the technical side of things, Chaos;HEAd doesn't look bad, just woefully uninspired. The character designs are the placid moe-fied girls and plain looking guys; they are neither particularly appealing or hideous, but just kind of boring to look at because we see characters that look like this all the time. Backgrounds are fairly well detailed, but just like the characters, there is just nothing eye catching. The animation is standard quality for TV anime, nothing flashy with moments of choppiness, but nothing horrendous. Obscure camera angles and other effects are used quite frequently, but seldom effectively. The show does such a poor job at properly setting the mood that the effects come across as an obnoxious, failed attempt to be artsy. The soundtrack is sparingly used and when it is used, it hits a lukewarm semi-successful at best. There are many scenes in the show without music, but even in scenes with a track playing, the music just kind of fades away in the back ground, or is played at a blurring high volume. There are moments when the soundtrack is used to good effect, but they are rare and far between.
Chaos;HEAd is an exceptionally bad waste of 12 episodes. It is a show that takes half-baked ideas and tries to present them as something intelligent with endless psychological babble. Behind all the quasi-philosophical mumbo jumbo is a generic, and honestly, rather dull plot. Despite all the pretense of depth, Chaos;HEAd is poorly conceived creation devoid of believable characters, compelling storytelling, and worst of all, intelligence.
This review is biased, because I read the VN. I thought about writing a review that does not mention the VN at all, but I that I'd rather write one that does, one that mentions the VN throughout the whole review.
It's also a long-ass review. Did I mention that I'm rambling on the game?
ChäoS;HEAd is an adaptation of a popular Visual Novel of the same name, spanning 12 episodes.
Just from the idea of a 30-40+ hours Visual Novel adapted into a 12 episode anime (about 5-6 hours) you already know that many segments will be shortened or cut off completely, unless it is only the
first season out of few, which is not.
When I first read the synopsis of the game: "Takumi is withdrawn and is not interested in 3D things" I already had a great interest in playing the game.
Mixed with a mysterious serial murder case and Takumi chatting with people in the internet, staying in his room most of the time... it sounded like an excellent idea.
I installed the game and started to play it (without knowing Japanese) and just from the beginning I was hooked. The menu music and design, the atmosphere in the beginning of the game.. it has blown me away.
And when I knew that a translation project has just started and is progressing fast, only a few months after the game came out.. I looked forward to this real bad.
A few months later, Right when the before the anime started, finally a decent beta patch came out (playable with pretty much the whole game, unlike the patches that came out before that).
I started playing the game and in the next day, I watched the first episode of the anime.
Already, I noticed a few differences between the anime and the game, but overall, the differences were not that great, and the anime had a good start.
I finished the game after some time, and while it had mixed reviews from other people, personally, I enjoyed playing the game very much - even if it suffered from some problems which I overlooked because it was thoroughly an enjoyable experience for me.
While progressing in the anime I felt that the anime lacked the emotion that was present in the game, but overall it did a nice job following the main storyline without any problems up until episode 6.
I couldn't wait to watch episode 7, because the most interesting stuff are about to begin from here, if it had followed the game.
To my surprise and disappointment, episode 7 had some significant changes , emitting one of the best parts of the game, and made the anime lose all the horror and suspense parts it had up until now (even if they were few in number).
Episode 8 was an episode that was not present in the game at all.
Episode 9 followed the game, but rendered episode 8 unneeded completely.
Episode 10 emitted all the best parts from the game, completely, and was censored as hell, more than others, and was not enjoyable for me at all.
Episode 11 was bad, and censored as well.
Episode 12, the final episode,was good, considering that the previous episodes were a trainwreck.
Wow, that was a long introduction. So lets get to the technical details:
Story 6/10: Rushed, best segments from the game were not present in the anime, lacked feeling, lacked almost all of the horror and suspense elements.
Art and Animation 6/10: Character designs were simplistic, and while the animation was really good in some scenes, it was choppy as hell in others.
While some backgrounds were done beautifully, most of the background characters were done so badly, really badly.
So in one word... inconsistent. In Two words, very inconsistent.
Sound 9/10: I think I'm one of the few people that liked the anime OP more than the game OP. The ED was great too, I never skipped the OP or the ED not even once.
The background music was really nice.
All the voice actors did a great job, and overall in the sound department it gets a 9/10. Why not 10/10? because the anime was rushed and the script was rushed , the voice actors had to rush it too, and it's a shame. Because of that, many scenes lacked the feelings that were presented in a much more superior way in the game.
Character 7/10: While in the game, some of the characters were stereotypical and undeveloped, I liked pretty much all the characters, and especially Takumi.
Takumi is a stereotype of a withdrawn person that is not interested in 3D things.
He's pretty much the biggest stereotype of an anime Otaku almost Hikki that barely goes to school just to graduate), collecting figurines, shuts himself in his room all day, playing MMO's, living on a container on the roof, has an imaginary anime character WAIFU (He likes her more than all of his other WAIFUS) that he faps and fantasizes about all day up until the point that he talks to her when he's alone and her voice is served as his inner voice giving him the ideal advices for him when he's in a pinch... getting to the shoes of a guy like that can't get more interesting for me. It was so awesome for me to know what Takumi thinks about, the fact that he barely talks in the game, the fact that he doesn't trust anyone.... the way that his characters was developed and was faced with all the crap he has to go through it was amazing. I found myself agreeing with him, being amused by him... I just really like his character.
Now the anime... take his character, make him less pathetic, make him more talkative, and the fact that you barely hear him thinking... suddenly I didn't care what happens to him as I did in the game. He was much more flat, and it goes to almost all the characters in the anime compared to the game, mainly because of the changes in the anime and the fact that it was rushed. I didn't like the Imouto because she wasn't as moe in the game... the same goes to pretty much all the other characters (Rimi, Sena, Ayase, Yua , detective Ban, Shogun, Suwa, Hazuki, even Daisuke... and so on).
I liked Kozu-Pii just like I liked her in the game... maybe I liked Kozu-Pii a little more in the anime. I'm not sure about this. It's just that I didn't care what happens to the characters as I did in the game, because it was rushed, and the new mediocre story segments made things only worse in the development of the characters.
Enjoyment 7/10: The most important factor for me. Did I enjoy the anime? Most of the time? yes. Did I did not enjoy the anime at other parts? yes.
I had some mixed feelings, really. But I guess the reason I'm giving this a 7 in not a 6 as I planned because to my surprise... I enjoyed the last episode. No other hidden meanings here.
The anime was a:
In one world: Trainwreck.
In four words ( I think..):Trainwreck that I enjoyed.
In eight words (Wait.. I'm not sure here): Trainwreck that I enjoyed most of the time.
Should you watch this anime? You should decide for yourself.
That is all for this long ass ramble first review. To my surprise, it didn't take me long to write this. I guess that I wrote what I thought, simple as that. Sorry for the spelling mistakes and all other shit.
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