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DVD Review

DVD cover

Chaos; Head
Complete Series


Starring (voice): Hiroyuki Yoshino, Eri Kitamura and Ui Miyazaki
Manga Entertainment
RRP: £24.99
Certificate: 15
Available 22 October 2012

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...

Adapted from the visual novel from Nitroplus and part of a loosely interrelated trilogy that includes the later Steins;Gate and Robotics;Notes, Chaos;Head is a twelve-episode anime revolving around the apathetic Takumi Nishijou, who lives a near-asocial existence in a shipping container atop a building in Tokyo's fashionable Shibuya district, his life of games and anime interrupted only by rare trips to school and visits from his solicitous younger sister. Drawn into the ritualistic 'New Generation' murder cases as a suspect, but unable to prove his innocence even to himself thanks to the grotesque hallucinations that begin to plague him, Takumi finds himself the centre of a bizarre scientific conspiracy. It's a scenario that the paranoid protagonist of the similarly audience-reflective Welcome to the NHK would find all too plausible.

Like Clannad, Chaos;Head shows its visual novel origins with its imbalanced cast consisting largely of the protagonist and an assortment of cute girls with diverse problems - with a paper-thin villain added to provide the element of threat - yet it's sadly lacking in the wit and maturity that that series showed over time. At a mere twelve episodes the characters, unpromising though they are, have little time to develop or show much appeal, and while the gleeful violence and hallucinatory excess the series revels in might mean characterisation would be of secondary importance, even these elements feel half-hearted.

The overheated plot, a morass of psychological alienation, political conspiracy, murky pseudo-science and confused religious imagery, shows faint signs of promise in its determination to throw every one of its audience's obsessions and fears into the mix, but ultimately doesn't come to life. Takumi is a singularly unappealing lead, his cringing passivity and lack of good qualities a cynical reflection of the intended audience that has been better explored many times before, from Welcome to the NHK back to Evangelion - which inevitably shows its all-embracing influence here. Only a likeable trio of police detectives, reduced to delivering numbing exposition, show any sign of breaking out of the anime formula.

Even the production and music are lacklustre, with only the spirited main theme by Nitroplus stalwart Kanako Ito standing out at all. While it's tempting to say Chaos;Head has been ill-served by its adaptation into anime, the far more successful and enjoyable Steins;Gate proving that Nitroplus' works can make the jump in the right hands, I'm sceptical about the prospect of these characters and storyline appealing to anyone enough to make it worth another attempt. A failed attempt at something edgy, that falls well short of its ambitions.


Richard Hunt

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