Every so often, you learn about an anime that sounds great in theory, but isn’t pulled off so well in practice.
I haven’t heard much about Chaos;Head, but it certainly sounded like an anime I could enjoy. A psychological, supernatural thriller? That’s up my alley! And, watching it, looking back on it, I can certainly say that it was an…interesting anime to watch.
1. Story: (5.5/10) – Below Average
I will give Chaos;Head this–it has a very interesting concept.
The main character, Nishijou Takumi, is a hikikomori, lives alone, playing games for hours on end. Obsessed with the fictional character, “Seira-tan,” he spends most of his life talking to her, or rather, delusions of her. These delusions are indicative of his rather fragile mental state–a characteristic that is only put more into question as he gets intertwined with a series of murders, named the “New Generation Madness,” or “New Gen” for short.
The more he tries to escape it, the more he finds himself pulled into a world of delusions made reality, and powers that throw his sanity into more and more disarray. Takumi is thrown into a world beyond comprehension, of evil companies, of Gigalomaniacs, Di-Swords and more, and we’re left to spectate, wondering if he will be able to survive at the end of it all.
Chaos;Head’s premise is AWESOME. It’s interesting, it’s unique, and allows for a LOT of creativity. Delusions becoming reality? A clearly psychologically stressed hikikomori, learning about this world of Gigalomaniacs, a conflict unseen by the human eye? In theory, Chaos;Head has everything it needs to create a story with intriguing characters, thematic significance, and a consistently strange, intriguing narrative.
Too bad it doesn’t accomplish that.
All in all, the story of Chaos;Head is something that tried entirely too hard, with far too little time to make it effective. The first episodes were rather promising, providing very vague statements that were intriguing enough to spark interest. But very quickly, new characters, elements, and ideas were introduced that conflicted with the more psychological tone that was initially shown off.
The Church of Divine Light, the Great Will, the Black Knights, N.O.Z.O.M.I., a Dirac Sea? Are you kidding me with all these pretentious sounding names? I’m certain there’s a reason these things all exist in the original Visual Novel, but given only 12 episodes, half of these things simply aren’t given any meaning whatsoever. It feels very much like Chaos;Head threw together meaningless words and titles that sounded “cool,” but forgot to provide the backstory to justify WHY they were cool in the first place.
Finally, because of this lack of backstory, and influx of entirely too many ideas, the story ends up having next to no real tension. Everything bad can be explained away with either delusions, or some other strange concept, and it results in a story, where nothing feels like it matters. Character plotlines will come up out of nowhere, and be resolved as quickly as they came. Villains will rise up, and not provide any justification as to why.
And of course, considering the stupidly cliche ending, there’s not even any redeeming twist to make it all work. It was a mess. But sadly, it was still better than the characters we were presented.
2. Characters: (4.8/10) – Bad
Takumi is clearly a main character who has HUGE mental issues. However, somehow, his character manages to take a situation that, for anyone else, would be intriguing and cool, and make it pitiable. And I mean, really, REALLY pitiable.
One would think that six, even nine episodes in, Takumi would have some sort of character growth. A sort of new fire in the eyes, some hard truths that he needed to confront, in the face of supernatural hardship. But no, instead of stepping up the plate, Takumi whines, moans, self-pities, and otherwise complains about the situation at hand.
But then, somehow, in the last two episodes, Takumi suddenly figures everything out, gets his Di-Sword, and goes on to face the villain! He gets it together, and goes on to somehow beat a guy who the other, more experienced characters could barely touch, even when gathered together. Because, he’s supposedly super-powerful, supposedly someone who figured out how everything happens, and was able to problem-solve his way to beating the bad guy.
There is no build up. NOTHING. Takumi just wins, without any real explanation as to how. It’s a huge disappointment, and does not do his character any good.
And of course, this isn’t even mentioning how plain forgettable every other character in the show ends up being. While Takumi sticks out, by virtue of being the worst main character I’ve ever seen, everyone else simply seems like a walking stereotype.
You have the basic anime little sister. The pretty, yet creepy girl. Pictured above, you have Aoi, the serious, aloof woman, and Kozue, the energetic cute girl. They all fit into stereotypes so neatly, that their personalities kind of just…come and go. They’re not characters you can really care about, because they just aren’t developed well. And what makes that all the more disappointing, is that most of them have some intriguing backstories, that are touched on for a little bit, but are then ignored completely.
I think that’s just a bit worse than if they were plain bad characters. At least then, we wouldn’t know how good they could have potentially been.
3. Art/Style: (5.3/10) – Below Average
I wish I could say great things about the style of Chaos;Head, to make up for its lackluster characters and story, but…alas, some shows just don’t cut it.
As I mentioned with the story, Chaos;Head’s tone is all over the place, in a very bad way. This feeling is only compounded by its art style, which is, at many times, bright and cheerful, while other times, trying to be gruesome and eerie. It doesn’t mix well, because there’s no sense of external threat–we never feel at ANY time that Takumi is in any real danger, making this art style feel dysfunctional, when compared with the plot.
That said, there ARE some cool animated moments, where the budget was obviously spent. The Di-Swords themselves look awesome, there are certain musical cues and other effects that really show off the action/mystery vibe that Chaos;Head was going for. However, it’s clear that these effects aren’t consistent throughout the series.
Whether it’s in blatantly less detailed animation, or fight scenes that remind me of the original Pokemon anime with their quality, it’s easy to tell that the animation budget was reserved for very few scenes–but really, I do believe that budget could have been spent better.
Chaos;Head was as dysfunctional with its animation and art style, as it was with its storytelling. That is to say, it was pretty dysfunctional. It’s only redeeming factor in this department was a soundtrack that was actually pretty great. The soundtrack on its own honestly felt rather top-tier, although, perhaps that just made the mediocrity of the series as a whole stick out more.
So even in what Chaos;Head did well, it ended up being slightly dysfunctional. Who would’ve thought.
4. Personal Enjoyment: (4.5/10) – Bad
You know, this is one of those series that I really wanted to be good.
It had a vaguely interesting premise, and even after slogging through it, I fully believe that, if the story were told differently, there would have been potential for the concept of “delusions.” However, things being as they were, Chaos;Head was thoroughly, undisputably, completely bland. Every character did what they were supposed to do, and nothing else. I mean, there were some good parts, but…
Yeah, it was bad. The series had a few moments of greatness, but on average, it felt like it didn’t know what it was trying to do. Takumi was a terrible character, and an even worse protagonist, the story was disjointed and tried to be too cool for its own good, and overall, this anime was just… mediocre. As I’ve said multiple times, it just felt dysfunctional.
Chaos;Head should have stayed a visual novel.
Final Rating: (5.025/10): Below Average
- You’re someone who’s vaguely interested in strange, psychologically-based anime.
- You are able to deal with a really, REALLY bad protagonist.
- Honestly, if you want to know for yourself how an anime can have absolutely unrealized potential, then this is the anime to watch.