Funimation’s official release is very well-groomed and cohesive, but I wish I can say the same for the original work itself.
Title: Chaos;Head (or also spelled “ChäoS;HEAd”)
Producer: Madhouse Studios (Funimation North American License)
Genre: Supernatural, Mystery, Harem, Psychological
Recommended/Similar Titles: Steins;Gate (Stand alone series, set in the same universe), Welcome To The NHK, Serial Experiments Lain
Synopsis (via Myanimelist)
Shibuya, Japan, 2008. Takumi Nishijou, a high school student at the Private Suimei Academy, one day hears about the ‘New Gen’ murders that have been occurring around the city. Although dismissing the subject because it doesn’t involve him, Takumi begins to experience strange mishaps around him, from a horrific picture he recieved while on his PC, to a mysterious Pink-Haired girl standing at a murder scene.
From there on Takumi struggles to cope with the events unfolding around him, and is soon unaware of what is real or a delusion. As his fate is opens up before him, the perpertrator behind the ‘New Gen’ events attempts to find him, leading him into a world where nothing is as it seems.
Chaos;Head is a jumble mess that could be so much better than it was presented. Stripped from the same cloth as its visual novel counterpart, it dives into the story of Takumi Nishijou, a spineless and cowardly hikikomori (Western equivalent of a shut-in) otaku caught up in a string of events known as “New Gen” and particular women wielding weapons known as Di-Swords to combat a larger unseen mastermind in the shadows. Not giving too much away on specifics – this is the bare-bones of what is known as Chaos;Head – a visual novel that is orchestrated better as such than anime. However, even disregarding the visual novel, well-adapt or not, the series still suffers from some basic weakness such as proper execution and lack of definitive information that does not come into play until later (such as the Shoguns cryptic messages and the Gigalomaniacs abilities.) This in itself is a hindrance to some of Chaos;Head’s more contextual themes and ideas, but with the many writing deficiencies it is a enough to almost glaze over them. With that being said, the series span 12 episodes which basically forces itself to be compact and quick; yet would benefit if it were 24-26 episodes to include visual novel aspects and information as well as slow down and explain self. For this adaption, Chaos;Head did few of those things, but airing length and execution of it was too short-lived.
The cast for Chaos;Head are a mixed bag when including the visual novel information, but for the purpose of the anime; they are fascinating, but also plain and near irksome half of the time. Takumi is a perfect example: An interesting character due to his hikkimori and otaku personality, but also annoying for this lack of his characterization and whining that does not change until near the end. Similar repute can be said about female roles, with very little information of how they specifically tie into the grand scheme of things, which makes the story somewhat skewered (which might be done on intent to make with the themes) and overall questionable. Funimation’s release includes an English voice acting track that is adequately done and synchronizes 80% with the original Japanese track and dialogue (albeit a few minuet changes syntax wise and translations). Both cast arrangements are a perfect fit for the series and included on Funimations release.
Madhouse studio is the primary animator for Chaos;Head and one that stays true to the original artwork of the visual novel. That said, the finish product does work out fine and manage to bring out a few of those psychological themes, but not near enough. It is aesthetically pleasing, but does not attribute anything new to the series. The soundtrack is fair, but not exactly anything prominent or noteworthy, unless factoring in some of the insert themes included (Ex: Yui Sakaibara, Japanese VA for Ayase in Episode 3). The director for Chaos;Head is Takaaki Ishiyama that has directed a few projects in the past under different studios, but most are obscure and deluded by time. Some include works like: Eat-Man, Buddha Saitan, and Spider Riders to name few.
Again, looking at the series from a singular point, I could not fully enjoy it or exactly find it engrossing. This was mostly due to writing faux pas, but overall to how poorly it was pieced together. The English audio was enjoyable, but nothing that really changed my viewing experience from the original Japanese take. To sum it up simply: Everything was just the same as before during my Japanese viewing. Not exactly a title I would recommend for people wishing to replace with the visual novel experience (but good for the gist of it) nor a title that I would speak of to watch as a standalone version. Although, if you have plenty of time to kill and think you are up for it, then I would say it is fair game. At best, a series good for your collection, but better to pick it up from the bargain bin or discounted.
Overall, Chaos;Head viewed from either the visual novel or stand-alone side is still rather unimpressive, plain, and near incoherent. While it does hold onto some interesting ideas and themes, they are still broken and rendered fodder for the misaligned execution, writing, and characterization. If you are looking for something better in terms of all areas expressed, check out Steins;Gate, set in the same timeline and space (and better visual adaption might I say). Also, if you are just searching for the sport of murder, mystery, and psychological with more to offer, then hit up titles like: Serial Experiments Lain, Paranoia Agent or Elfen Lied. If you seeking the same out of Chaos;Head or the chance for a solid title then you will be sorely disappointed if not by a great deal.
Pros: Interesting concepts and themes, smooth animation and artwork
Cons: Poor writing and execution, misaligned directorial issues, rushed storyline, convoluted reliance of themes and concepts