Reviewby Luke Carroll,
Welcome to Chaos Head. Can you survive reality?
Takumi is an anime-obsessed recluse with a fetish for two-dimensional girls. His dirty little cyber secrets land him in real-life trouble after a chat room encounter with the mysterious General leads him to the scene of a gruesome murder. In the blink of an eye, Takumi goes from a caffeine-addicted gamer to a paranoid murder suspect caught up in something called the New Generation madness.
Between the police and a gang of girls with giant holographic swords, someone is watching his every move. As the world constructed around him begins to unravel, Takumi will discover that nothing - not even his own life - is what it appears to be. Welcome to Chaos Head. Can you survive reality?
Anime adaptations over the years have always been faced with mixed results. Where some have been faithful or even transcended their original material, many others have failed at this task, a rare few even being treated like black sheep with fans. Chaos;Head falls into the later category, a series so confusing that it ultimately becomes its own undoing. A perfect example of trying to do too much with what's at hand and winding up with almost nothing right.
Delusional main characters are nothing new in anime. Satoshi Kon was a master at bringing them to life in his films. Director Takaaki Ishiyama on the other hand struggles to make Takumi and his actions believable at the best of times. Things start out rather fine as our hero (if you can call him that at this stage) goes about his secluded life, attending school as little as required and playing video games every other waking minute. That suddenly halts when he gets a message linking him to an image of a murder that occurs in the future. From there, Takumi naturally loses himself more and more as every question answered creates twice as many issues.
Things don't really begin to make much sense until quite a fair way into the series. Even then, the clumsiness in presenting any answers only adds to the confusion. Takumi has so many delusions that it's hard to even keep interested in what happens, and his supporting cast do no better with each having their own agendas to attend to as well as giving different answers to the same questions. And then when things finally come to a head with a nice bombshell, Takumi practically throws his delusional self out the window, magically understanding and mastering all the abilities which he could barely control a couple of episodes prior. It's a massive jump, and one that only serves to highlight the sort of squeeze that was given to try and fit this story in only 12 episodes.
Visually, Chaos;Head is far from an impressive series. Despite having animation powerhouse Madhouse backing them, character details quickly become almost non-existent once the draw distant hits only a few feet. The characters themselves suffer from being ridiculously stereotyped and over the top in design and the animation is rarely fluid, with many conversations appearing completely static as if they were ripped straight from a dating sim game. Despite all of this, there is still some small redeeming factor in the form of the shows' Di-Swords, which look and behave with a undeniable cool flair as they transform from imaginative to real whenever the series pulls out the action scenes. Unfortunately they are few and far between.
The audio on the other hand is surprisingly well done. Background tunes are both unpredictable and silent or very melodic in tune, somewhat providing a contrast to Takumi and the delusions he experiences. This theme of contrast also follows onto the shows' rock-like opening and rather popish closing songs, both of which are rather forgettable. On the dub side of things, Todd Haberkorn certainly nails Takumi's uncontrolled personality extremely well. The rest of the cast however put in some rather less than imaginative performances for much of the series, but it's far from unbearable.
On the extras side of things, Chaos;Head is given nothing more than what could be regarded as the bare minimum in releases. That is, a clean opening and closing clip and a handful of trailers to view. A tad disappointing considering all the extra room that would have been available due to the second disc only holding four episodes.
There's no denying that Chaos;Head is far from a great anime, let alone even a decent recreation of the dating sim game it adapted from. The story it wanted to tell and the explanations involved required far more than the tight 12 episodes it was given. Nonetheless, the core concepts and ideas it wanted to push are certainly intriguing to say the least, and far from many anime in recent times. One can only hope we get to see this sort of idea again, and hope next time it is given more episodes to grow.
(c) 2008 CHAOS;HEAD PARTNERS. Licensed By FUNimation® Productions, Ltd. All rights reserved.
Overall (dub) : C-
Overall (sub) : C
Story : B
Animation : D+
Art : C-
Music : B-
+ Interesting story concept, wonderful bombshell.
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