by Anne Lauenroth,
How would you rate episode 9 of
Yui is dead, Kurusu is Senri, and now Onoe is Taku's real-booted imaginary friend? In and of itself, this is a pretty brilliant twist, and while it comes as a jaw-dropper, it doesn't feel like something pulled out of thin air for shock value, especially seeing how it echoes a certain reveal in Chaos;Head. The references to Chaos;Child's predecessor are getting stronger as we hit the home stretch, which always keeps leading back to the Shibuya earthquake 6 years ago.
While Onoe's mind-bending origin is legitimately cool, the problem with these jaw-droppers chasing each other is that in order to achieve full effect, the jaw needs some time to recover before it can be dropped again. No matter how interesting each twist is on its own, if none of them have the time to create any emotional impact, things end up feeling hollow. I'm assuming that these revelations were distributed over the individual routes in the visual novel, allowing enough breathing space for each one to actually sink in before chasing the characters over to suffer the next trauma.
As for the execution of this most recent shocking discovery, it left a lot to be desired. Blurring the borders between reality and paranoia provides wonderfully creepy meat to be chewed on cinematically. If done right, the audience can be put in a state of controlled confusion by a world that becomes frightening on a sensory level. Perfect Blue is the go-to example of a psychological horror plot heightened and elevated by perfect execution. With Chaos;Child, the ingredients are there, but it feels like the adaptation bit off more than it could possibly chew within its limitations. We don't experience the characters' fears and traumas, we are told about them. About two thirds of episode 9 takes place in a dreadfully boring office, where people sit on chairs and sofas monologuing about their conclusions Sherlock-style, but without any of the eccentricity or sex appeal.
All dramatic tension is supposed to come from the plot alone, with nothing in the execution to back things up in a more tangible way. Facial expressions are painfully limited, and the only thing happening visually are basic medium shots of characters conversing. In a peculiar way, the portrayal of Yui's murder might have been Chaos;Child's best-executed moment. The confrontation and following fight between Senri and Onoe wasn't particularly thrilling either, with characters once again talking us through their realizations to save time. Any emotional involvement this scene managed to create is thanks to the soundtrack, effectively blending sorrow and suspense.
With the earthquake's white light responsible for turning frightened kids into Gigalomaniacs, it's probably safe to assume their numbers to be greater than expected. Onoe is a different case, as she was born from the earthquake. Taku's wish (of having someone to save?) created her from his already existing delusions of an imaginary friend. No wonder the mental shock from his first real-boot sent him into a coma. With Onoe now taking it upon herself to make his life more interesting, her existence is a very literal case of "be careful what you wish for".
Despite the lackluster execution, several interesting open questions remain. While we didn't see Taku cut her with his Di-Sword (which he can now control surprisingly well), Onoe had a large cut across her stomach later on. Who hurt her, and who's calling her on her phone? Where did Taku's stepdad disappear to at a time where his kids could really need some reassuring adult guidance?
I sincerely hope next week will bring some emotional aftermath instead of diving into the next reveal.
CHAOS;CHILD is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
Anne is a translator and fiction addict who writes about anime at Floating Words.
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