For the most part Madhouse animation studio has been very hit-and-miss for me. Some of their shows have been wonderfully entertaining and thought-provoking; others have been dull and aggravating. Chaos;Head falls into the latter category, with an obnoxious protagonist headlining a bland, pseudo-intellectual story. The supporting cast is superficial, and the villain is poorly developed. Even the action is uninspired and simplistic. Really, it is difficult to find what exactly the show did right. The worst part is that Chaos;Head isn’t even laughably bad. It is just irritating.
Takumi Nishijo is a shut-in. He lives in a storage container and has sworn off all three-dimensional girls. Instead, he prefers the women from his anime and video games, his favorite being a pink-haired anime character called Seira. Unfortunately for Takumi his life as a shut-in is going to come to an end when he gets involved in a ‘New Generation’ incident. New Generation (New Gen for short) incidents have been taking place throughout the city in a variety of strange and odd murders. One day, while online, a user named Shogun spams Takumi with pictures of a New Gen murder involving a pink-haired girl staking a man. Freaked out, he shuts down his computer and tries to forget what he has seen only for him to witness the actual murder that night. The next day he sees the same girl who committed the crime in his class. Her name is Rimi and she claims to be his best friend. Takumi later finds out he is being stalked by Yua, who suspects him of being the New Gen murderer. All of this leads to a confused and paranoid Takumi, which draws the attention of the police. Later he begins to see girls walking around with large swords. He learns they are Di-Swords and the girls are Gigalomaniacs–people capable of projecting the delusions in their mind into reality. This all pushes Takumi into a conspiracy involving a corporation known as the NOZOMI Group and a cult known as the “Church of Divine Light.”
Takumi basically destroys any chance this show has at being decent. Not all protagonists have to be extremely likable, but they should never be detestable. Takumi is perhaps the single most annoying protagonist I have ever had the displeasure of watching. It’s not really the shut-in part that is bothersome; it is the long inner monologues. Yes, the paranoia is a part of his development, but it gets to such an extreme point that it becomes physically irritating to listen to him whine. He believes each girl is out to get him and has to go through a long thought process (usually involving the two-dimensional Seira) about whether or not they can be trusted. Later we learn that Takumi, like the various girls he meets, is a Gigalomaniac. He has the ability to take what he is thinking and project it into reality. He does this accidentally on numerous occasions, specifically when he saves a silver-haired female named Ayase from suicide by creating a flower bed to catch her fall. Takumi spends a fair amount of the series trying to obtain a Di-Sword like the other Gigalomaniacs. The sword allows them to enhance their projection abilities. Surprise surprise, Takumi ends up getting his sword and with it he finally stops being paranoid and becomes confident. At this point it becomes too little too late: his character is beyond redemption. There is a twist involving his character that makes his paranoia slightly understandable, but by that point it just feels like an excuse for Takumi’s poor execution.
The mystery of the New Gen murderer isn’t the least bit interesting by the end. Typically, murder mysteries become more and more suspenseful as a show goes on, but Chaos;Head has too much going on and the New Gen details essentially get pushed to the side. This is highlighted when at the very end of the series the New Gen murderer is randomly revealed. The murderer turns out to be a member of the “Church of Divine Light” cult. Details about this cult are never fully explained, just vaguely hinted at, so the elements regarding it fall flat. Another character turns out to be a member of this cult, and it again feels like a random twist, with no substantial hinting or foreshadowing done. The cult turns out to have ties with the NOZOMI group, which is responsible for creating the Noah 2, a machine capable of doing what the Gigalomaniacs can do on a widespread level. The NOZOMI group president Genichi Norose wishes to control/destroy everything with the machine. He ends up being a one-dimensional villain who talks a big game but is hardly threatening. Norose offers no real reasoning for his actions; apparently, he is just evil. With the help of Takumi the Gigalomaniacs make it their duty to stop Norose, destroy Noah 2 and save the city.
Since Takumi is such a failure as a protagonist it would have been nice had the supporting character (almost all female) had some substance. Sena and Rimi are perhaps the only ones that fit the bill, and Rimi only loosely does. Sena’s fight against the NOZOMI group actually makes sense, since her mother was a victim of their tests when she was younger. Her father had offered her mother as a subject for the delusion projections to be tested on. Norose uses this to his advantage, and reminds Sena of the pain that her mother went through. Rimi’s involvement with Takumi is for a different reason, and one that relates to the twist regarding his character. She is seen with an old man in a wheelchair numerous times and this makes her suspicious. This same old man is thought to be involved with the New Generation murders, since he was seen at the first incident and in a dream sequence Takumi falls into. Her motives are unclear until the end and that revelation is actually fairly interesting. My problem with Rimi is the romance that develops between her and Takumi. Since he fears her for most of the series, it feels odd for a romance to suddenly develop between them at the end. The other females come off as useless fodder that are essentially there to act as Takumi’s posse. Even Ayase ends up being reduced to babbling about spiritual nonsense about Takumi and his duty. It’s a clear problem when there is maybe one single substantial character in the entire series.
If you couldn’t tell, the plot gets rather convoluted by the end. Chaos;Head keeps adding in different plotlines before ever elaborating on the ones it started with. It starts off as a simple case where a boy witnesses a murder and then becomes suspected of being the murderer. He then begins to see girls with swords walking around and then suddenly the entire city is in trouble from the NOZOMI group and he is expected to save the day. I’m all for complicated plots, but the logic in Chaos;Head is faulty and at times confusing. The whole Gigalomaniac deal is a cool concept, but poorly executed. Takumi first meets Sena, a girl who walks around with a giant sword only he (and other Gigalomaniacs) can see. Instead of being upfront with Takumi she leaves him, and the viewer, even more confused. Finally Ayase explains to Takumi that he needs a Di-Sword but even that doesn’t lead anywhere until the end. Eventually it gets to a point where almost every female in the series turns out to be a Gigalomaniac and becomes involved with the fight against Norose and Noah 2. Since the Gigalomaniacs use their swords to enhance their projection abilities, you would think it would inspire some creative fighting since anything is possible. This doesn’t turn out to be the case, with the action turning out to be silly and lame. In short, Chaos;Head tries very hard to be “deep/complex” but throughout the entire series it is painfully obvious that it isn’t.
I actually went into Chaos;Head rather excited. The trailer and promotional material that I had seen looked interesting, and really the story had the potential to be entertaining. The New Gen murders needed more focus towards the end while the NOZOMI group and the cult needed to be fleshed out more. Takumi’s paranoia easily could have been turned down several notches while the supporting cast could have supplemented the story. Even the extras are lackluster, with standard trailers and textless songs. There are a lot of “could haves” or “should haves” but the reality is that Chaos;Head does virtually everything wrong.