Reviewby Theron Martin,
In 2009, the grisly New Generation Murders terrorized Shibuya, ending only after six victims had been slain and a localized earthquake devastated the ward. Six years later, a new wave of bizarre murders begins, which high school Newspaper Club member Takuru obsesses over. He soon notices that the timing of these murders seems to be mimicking those of the New Gen Murders, and that curious sumo wrestler stickers are located near each murder site. A blonde girl who claims to have special powers soon gets drawn into the investigation, as does another group independently investigating the murders in conjunction with the police. As the murders intensify, Takuru starts to suffer delusions and odd memories connected to him being orphaned during the earthquake six years ago. Even worse, his involvement in the case might be drawing danger to those closest to him.
Chaos;Child is a 2017 adaptation of a visual novel from 2014 that's a thematic sequel to the 2008 visual novel Chaos;HEAd. While its story carries over the tone, themes, and a scattering of story elements from its predecessor, being familiar with the previous series/game is surprisingly unnecessary for following this one. Some of the events of the first series are referenced, but the cast is all new and all the crucial background details are covered in episode 0, which is a summarized version of Chaos;HEAd. So this series should work just fine for fans interested in seeing the long-term effects of events in Chaos;HEAd and viewers who just want a good mind-bending thriller.
“Mind-bending” is definitely the way to describe the series, because it's packed from beginning to end with all sorts of dramatic and sometimes devastating twists; barely an episode goes by without some big revelation. Impressively, the series mostly pulls these twists off without descending into cheap melodrama or confusing nonsense, though the meaning of some scenes will not become clear until the end of the series. While the story does strain credibility in places, like how quickly and inconspicuously one elaborate murder takes place, very little is ultimately left unexplained. Like its predecessor, the series uses distorted filters to suggest delusions and unstable mental states, often accompanied by grisly imagery of crime scenes. This is definitely not an anime for the faint of stomach.
Unlike its predecessor, Chaos;Child doesn't focus anywhere near as much on the protagonist's descent into delusion. Things mostly play out in darkly-tinged suspense, with occasional mild touches of humor from characters like Takuru's childhood friend Serika, who is surprisingly perceptive despite her bubbly personality. The potential for a harem is certainly there, as Takuru's foster sister Nono could also be a love interest and a couple of other girls enter the picture over time, but that angle never comes close to materializing in the series' plot-heavy narrative. Naturally the story gets darker and more twisted as it progresses, and Takuru discovers that many people involved are harboring cruel secrets, even including himself. That's when the delusion-driven aspect starts kicking in full-tilt, as the narrative becomes tied more closely to the ideas explored in Chaos;HEAd.
I'll avoid spoiling anything for the sake of review, but the series cannot properly be discussed without bringing up its ending, which layers twist upon twist until everything has been turned around completely. Its conclusion could certainly be interpreted as an example of chuunibyou gone horribly wrong, which may have been the story's intended theme all along, perhaps a warning against being too self-absorbed in your ambitions. Beyond that crucial reveal, the final episode ends feeling incomplete, with some elements that may leave viewers scratching their heads in confusion. To get a proper feeling of completion, you should watch the included (and dubbed!) OVA episode, “Silent Sky”. Over the course of 49 minutes, it closely adapts the source visual novel's true ending, providing both considerable epilogue detail and an additional massive twist that forces at least a partial reevaluation of the whole story. This OVA features some of the series' strongest writing and brings the story to a more complete and bittersweet conclusion.
The visual merits for the series, courtesy of Studio Silver LINK, are strongest in the detailed backgrounds and graphic content. Characters designs are decent enough but unremarkable, and CG effects are relatively minimal and generally integrate well with the 2D art. The animation effort is below-average overall, with typical shortcuts taken in most episodes. On the audio front, a potent musical score satisfyingly amps up the tension in the darkest moments, giving many scenes a real dramatic punch while performing adequately in quieter moments as well. Both opening and closing theme songs are unremarkable, though one insert song in the final episode makes a stronger impression.
Funimation's release of the series includes an English dub that mixes some mediocre performances and casting choices with some great ones. Perhaps the weakest example would be Alex Moore's rendition of Takuru's foster sister Nono, but it's at least passable. On the strong side is Felecia Angelle's Serika, though Ricco Fajardo also impresses with his ability to handle Takuru's more distraught scenes later in the series. The only other inclusions in the standard Blu-Ray/DVD combo pack are clean theme songs and the series' OVA episode.
Certain aspects of the story – such as why one Newspaper Club member never talks – are never adequately explained, in part because they represent alternate paths in the game that were not pursued for the anime. Still, that's not a major barrier to full enjoyment of the series. This story is best appreciated moment to moment as a popcorn thriller; despite all the twists and turns, it's most entertaining if you just relax your brain and go along for the ride.
Overall (dub) : B
Overall (sub) : B
Story : B-
Animation : C
Art : B-
Music : B+
+ Attention-getting use of cliffhangers, creatively gruesome murders, vital OVA episode
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