by Anne Lauenroth,
How would you rate episode 12 of
Life's a scary thing, with its lack of apparent purpose but plenty of rejection to go around. The more little Taku got ignored by his parents and classmates, the more he convinced himself that he was better, smarter, kinder than them. Why would he want those painfully normal people to like him if they could never understand him the way Serika did? Wasn't he a misunderstood genius, like his idol Takumi? One day, he would show all of them how special he truly was.
But when Taku ran away from those ignorant classmates asking him to help a woman injured in the earthquake (kids he looked down on because they didn't want to be friends with him, the ones he needed to feel superior over so his life wouldn't hurt so much), it dawned on him that he might not be the hero he took himself for. Serika wasn't born from his loneliness or the need for protection in a traumatic event, but from his childish wish to be the hero of his own story, someone with a mission similar to Takumi's. And so, Serika gave his life purpose, arranging his own version of the NewGen murders, just waiting to be solved so that Taku could show all of Shibuya his potential.
The whole point of the case was for me to solve it!
Little Taku can hardly be blamed for his wish. After all, he was a child, unaware of his powers at the time. Don't all children want to be special? We usually grow wiser with age, and Taku did indeed form real connections with real people as he grew. Given the chance to solve the riddle that no one else could solve, he was still quick to ditch his friends and family, but he always came back, so it would be unfair to say he doesn't care. Taku grew up, but his childhood wish survived in Serika – pure, undiluted, and maddening. For the ultimate thrill and reward, Serika has planned the perfect finale: Taku will clear his name like Takumi did and kill his evil foster dad. It's a fitting climax for a child neglected by his parents, idolizing another loner.
This is a rather intriguing exploration of the effects that the events in Chaos;Head might have had on other people, beyond the earthquake giving them special powers that evil corporations would want to exploit. It's interesting on a very human level, and I bet this was all very exciting to unravel in the visual novel. So how did it play out in the anime? Not too coherently, I'm afraid.
Luckily, Taku's mind is used to operating in a semi-delusional state, and with help from imaginary friends, he projects himself out of Sakuma's sensory deprivation delusion. I'm actually not sure if he initially projects himself out or projects the world around him into his own mind, but when he's out and the full orchestra kicks in after his imaginary talk with Serika, Sakuma is no longer a threat. It's so over-the-top and cheesy that alarm bells follow hard on its heels. Taku was basically ready to forget about solving the case if he could only get his friends back (much to imaginary Serika's surprise), but the missing piece is remembering his true wish, which puts everything into (rather dire) perspective.
In a world of ignorant adults, evil-corporation-representative and manipulative-psycho-foster-father Sakuma was meant to be the perfect villain for Taku to triumph over in a mental battle of strength that only he could win because of how special he was. But while Serika clings to her (and little Taku's) notion of being special, not like all the other human scum waiting outside for Taku to publicly kill himself for their voyeuristic entertainment and pathetic gratification, the adolescent Taku realizes his own hypocrisy. For Serika, there's nothing more scary than being normal, and with his last act as a free man, Taku takes away the purpose he forced upon Serika, freeing her but also making her just as lost in life as everyone else, thus assuming responsibility for the misguided quest created by his childhood wish. This is good stuff, so why did we have to dig through so much rubble to get there?
It's obvious that the show's runtime impacted the emotional payoff. I'm sure Hana and Uki served some sort of narrative purpose in the VN, but I can't help but feel their presence within this adaptation wasn't necessary. While Hana didn't take up much screen time, the whole Uki subplot led nowhere interesting, and if there's no time to explore her route, maybe we could have dedicated some resources to fewer talking heads and more organic scenes that make it easier to care about the remaining characters.
As for where this conclusion leaves us, I'm still scratching my head a little. It seems that re-real-booting Serika as a truly normal girl sent Taku into another coma, but why does everyone else close their eyes for a second? Did all the Gigalomaniac kids wake up from a shared delusion of some sort? Was this because, at some point, Serika had mind-controlled them all, and her influence disappeared when she was "reborn"? Maybe the announced unaired episode will help untangle all that.
Chaos;Child wasn't the satisfying affair it might have been given a 2-cour run. Sadly, the story's genre makes the anime's other purpose as an ad for the VN almost nonexistent. After being spoiled on all (or most of) the twists and reveals, I feel no particular urge to read the novel, but I would definitely recommend the source material to others based on the potential of the adaptation, which is worth something.
CHAOS;CHILD is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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