The Winter 2017 Anime Preview Guide
How would you rate episode 1 of
What is this?
In 2009, an extremely localized earthquake devastated Shibuya, in the wake of an infamous series of New Generation Madness murders, seven in total. Now bizarre deaths have started happening again in Shibuya, six years to the day after the first two NGM murders occurred. Enterprising high school newspaper club president Takeru Miyashiro, who has noticed this pattern, is eager to investigate, so he starts looking for something odd in Shibuya on the sixth anniversary of the third NGM murder, much to the consternation of the club's VP and his elder (non-blood-related) sister Nono. Takeru and his fellow club member Serika stumble upon an active murder scene at a love hotel, but also witness a mysterious girl there before passing out, who turns out to be the new president of his school's literary club! She has an ominous warning for Takeru: he's going to die soon. CHAOS;CHILD is based on a visual novel spinoff to Chaos;Head and can be found streaming on Crunchyroll, Wednesdays at 12:00 PM EST.
How was the first episode?
Chaos;Child takes place six years after the gruesome "New Generation Madness" murders depicted in the show's predecessor, Chaos;HEAd. Following the plot shouldn't pose a problem for new viewers after the very quick (and suspiciously selective) recap in episode 0. Once that's out of the way, exposition dumps in Chaos;Child are handled as gracefully as these things can be. With the anniversary of the Shibuya earthquake approaching, increasing coverage of the event make sense, and the way important background information is exchanged between Hekihou Academy's newspaper club members doesn't get too forced or artificial in either Japanese or English.
Funimation's dubbing script adapts club banter to feel natural in English, adding an unobtrusive joke here and there where appropriate. Apart from a few pronunciation inconsistencies in both district and character names, interactions in the newspaper club play out well, even if the relationship between Takuru and Kurusu has more layers in the Japanese version, leaving room to hint at several conflicting emotions behind both characters' facades. Alex Moore's Kurusu is more condescending than Sarah Emi Bridcutt's, leaving me interested in seeing where she will take the character from here, while Yoshitsugu Matsuoka's recount of the NewGen murders reveals a morbid fascination not immediately present in Ricco Fajardo's more detached interpretation of Takuru.
Excitement and fear in Chaos;Child come from anticipation. We know when the next bizarre crime will be committed, so clues and mechanisms have been put in place that might lead to uncovering the truth behind the re-emerged madness, preventing further victims. The first murder scene we discover with Takuru and Onoe is well-directed, with the creepy point-of-view-shots and contrapuntal music box melody adding greatly to the surreal nature of the crime. There's a bigger sense of panic in the Japanese track, where voices crack more quickly, emotions are rawer, and madness seems closer to catch up with Takuru already.
Before the show fell apart in its second half, Chaos;HEAd's premise was rather intriguing. Hopefully, Chaos;Child will prove to be a more consistent delusional mystery story without such a wide gap between how the story sounded on paper and how it ended up being executed in the anime. In both sub and dub, Chaos;Child is at least off to a promising start.
If you're confused by the first 20 minutes or so of Chaos;Child, you're not alone. Don't worry; it's a lightning-fast recap of Chaos;Head,. though it focuses more on the gorier aspects like the previous murders, and less so on the eventual conclusion. If you didn't piece together the entire puzzle, it's okay. Chaos;Child shouldn't rely on much more than just knowing that the previous murders happened, and that Shibuya was subsequently destroyed. Plus if we're being honest, the ending of Chaos;Head wasn't really that good.
I have a love/hate relationship with 5bp's Science Adventure series. I think for the most part, they all have some pretty inventive concepts, even if the "science" part of Science Adventure is a bit of a stretch. As far as mysteries go, they're all pretty good at keeping viewers in suspense for the bulk of the series, pacing them well enough that those who haven't played the games are usually kept on the hook until near the end. My issue tends to be the conclusions, which I haven't found to be as satisfying as the actual set-ups, but at least the journey getting there is usually worth the time investment.
Chaos;Child already has a lot going for it, namely in that it's taking much of its visual and atmospheric cues from Chaos;Head. The murders we're introduced to are all pretty gruesome so far, and wild enough that I'm already curious about the ones that will proceed it. Knowing the twists and turns of Chaos;Head, I'm intrigued how this story will play out, especially since it's set up to be somehow related to the events from the first series. One interesting effect so far is seeing how Chaos;Head is dealing with opposites—themes of light and dark, good and evil. We already see this in Hinae, who we know was in the room when one of the murders took place, but seems to have a completely different personality when Takuru tries to talk to her at school the next day. The metaphor here is obvious—black hair ties when she's being questioned by detectives, and white hair ties when she's at school.
Fans of mysteries (or horrific deaths) will undoubtedly find themselves pulled into the world of Chaos;Child, whose first episode already provides enough nuggets of information to pull viewers back for more. I'm prematurely pessimistic about the eventual ending, but I think the path there will be worth taking.
Nothing says “fun” quite like a big ol' info dump right at the start of a series. That being said, I actually appreciate the attempt at cramming the entirety of Chaos;Head into the beginning of Chaos;Child, since it's probably meant for folks like me. I haven't seen the original, but after the warp-speed recap I feel like I know enough to watch this sequel-reboot-thing on its own. Isolated protagonist, gory murders with a tie-in to online culture, big localized earthquake, got it. On with the show.
If you've seen any other anime series with a semicolon in the title, the overall tone of Chaos;Child will feel familiar. We've got an eccentric and obsessive main character who gets caught up in some kind of deadly mystery along with his handful of quirky friends. There's the older sister who wants him to get his act together, his reliable buddy in the newspaper club, the energetic girl who has a crush on him, and the quiet one who just sits in the corner playing computer games. Takuru and his merry band of amateur sleuths may not stand out much from the genre crowd at the moment, but they're at least a tolerable group of characters.
As far as the mystery itself goes, I get the distinct impression that we've barely scratched the surface so far. This episode gets to the point of realizing that there's a connection between the various icky murder scenes, and that's about it. Depending on the quality of the writing going forward, it could be a neat little puzzle to sort through over the course of the season. My biggest concern is that the atmosphere hasn't really clicked yet. It seems like all of this is supposed to be creepy and filled with dread, but I didn't really get the classic psychological horror vibe from this episode. The info barrage is at least partly to blame for that; I think I was too busy taking notes to be creeped out.
Chaos;Child seems like a plausibly entertaining entry in the “bizarre murder mystery” genre, and it stands up well enough on its own that I don't think you need to be familiar with its predecessor to watch it. The background knowledge probably adds some extra context to the plot, but the individual events are easy enough to follow. If spooky happenings in Shibuya are your thing, then dive on in. If not, maybe give it a week or two to see if the story finds its footing.
Whether you call Chaos;Child a soft sequel or a spiritual sequel to Chaos;Head, it definitely helps to be somewhat familiar with the latter before you take a stab at the former. Fortunately the first half of this double episode has what you need to get caught up – and if you're already well-versed in Chaos;Head, it's easily skipped by starting around the 23 minute mark. Essentially Chaos;Child begins six years after the events of the previous show, right around the anniversary of the Shibuya Earthquake, whose events are starting to look awfully like they're repeating themselves.
This is one of those episodes where some suspension of disbelief is definitely required. The protagonist, Takuru Miyashiro, is the president of his high school journalism club, and he's got an obsession with sneaking around crime scenes to nab photos. Not only is this the kind of spectacularly poor idea that we usually see in old series books (such as Nancy Drew or Penny Parker), it also seems unlikely that the police wouldn't have caught wind of it. As it turns out, the only person who appears interested in stopping him is his sort-of friend/sort-of sister (they're from the same orphanage) Nono Kurusu, and her reprimands have exactly zero effect on him.
There are a few effective parts of the episode, with the most striking being when Takuru and clubmate Onoe sneak into a hotel where they suspect the next crime related to the events of six years ago will be taking place. This is when Takuru finally seems to realize that he's not just pursuing “juicy” stories, but actually engaging in dangerous behavior. More importantly, one of the potential victims, or perpetrators, of the crime is an angelic-looking blonde named Arimura, a literature club member at his school. I have a strong suspicion that she's the eponymous “chaos child”, because she's not only two-faced but virtually unharmed while the man she was with has lost his head. Someone had to have wrapped the cords around his neck, and the fact that she has been seen going into the hotel with him frequently, and that the other two mysterious deaths thus far have appeared to be self-inflicted, would indicate that she somehow facilitated his death. Of course, the show tries to imply that she isn't a “good girl” because she was at the hotel with a man, but frankly that seems too easy an answer…although she may very well not be a good girl, just not in the way that's implied.
Beyond the scenes in the hotel and with Arimura, the episode feels fairly bland. School club, two guys, four assorted types of girl, loner protagonist with a weird hobby…we've seen it before. But if the mystery aspect can overtake its more basic elements, this could become one of those shows that just sort of sucks you in. It's definitely worth another two episodes at least to see where it's heading.
So the big question here is whether or not you're going to need to have seen the 2008 anime Chaos;HEAd in order to make sense of this one. Based on the first episode alone, the jury's still out on that point. This series features an entirely new cast, one that as of yet has no overt connection to the cast of the original, but given that two of the main characters are specifically mentioned as orphans, I'll be shocked if their status as such doesn't in some way trace back to the earlier series. References are made to the NGM murders which were a focal point of HEAd, and those who have seen the earlier series will note some similarities in the 2015 incidents: a victim seeming to eat part of his/her own limb in one case, something being inserted into a body cavity in another case. That's definitely not a coincidence, so I would expect further connections to the earlier series to arise. The recap may entirely skip over big chunks of what happens in the earlier series but does at least mention these points, so my suspicion is that everything from the earlier series that's relevant to this one is in that recap. Hence it looks like you'll be okay as long as you're either familiar with the original or watch the recap.
Certainly the flavor of this one so far is quite similar to the original, which I still regard as one of the weirdest mystery-oriented anime of the past decade. The graphic content level of that one was very high, and this one seems to be trending in that direction too, though more in the gruesome scenes it describes than what it actually shows. (Put more bluntly, if you don't have at least some tolerance for graphic horror then you probably want to stay away from this one.) In terms of story content, the first episode is efficient at introducing and establishing the newspaper club that will apparently form most of the main cast, though all we know about one girl at this point is that she's a focused video game geek. It's also efficient at establishing a sense of mystery around blond girl Hinae, because of course a series like this has to have a mysterious, blood-splattered bishoujo who's not what she seems. In fact, the storytelling may be a little too efficient, as it so weakly establishes some character motivations that it requires Takeru and Serika to be slasher movie-level stupid in order to get them into the crime scene of the third murder and thus exposed to the critical plot thread that Hinae represents. But hey, that helps sets up the pretty damn strong plot hook that the episode ends on, so I'll give it some leeway.
From a technical standpoint the production by SILVER LINK looks pretty good and a lot of effort is put into enhancing the creepy factor via the soundtrack. Nothing is original about the character designs but they're attractive enough. In fact, the only problematic production aspect was the choppiness of the scene at the murder site. What's going to matter more, though, is whether or not the series can be compelling in advancing is core mysteries. This episode establishes a proper base but I have concerns about whether or not future episodes are going to be up to the task.
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