ChaoS;HEAd is an anime series based on a Japanese visual novel. The anime was directed by Takaaki Ishiyama and produced by Madhouse. The series aired on Japanese television from October 15-December 31, 2008. As of this writing, FUNimation Entertainment holds the North American rights for ChaoS;HEAd, but with the merger between Crunchyroll and FUNimation, Crunchyroll could now potentially by the rights holder.

I originally watched the first episode of ChaoS;HEAd about a decade ago, but never continued the series after that. I decided it was time to finally sit down and watch all 12 episodes of the series.

The anime is set primarily in Shibuya, Tokyo. The main character of the series is a high school boy named Takumi Nishijo. He’s an otaku who only attends enough school in order to fulfill the minimum requirements he needs for graduation. He also says he has no interest in girls in the 3D world and seems to have delusions of his figure of a character named Seira coming to life and interacting with him.

One night, while in an online chatroom, Takumi’s online friend “Grim” is catching him up on some strange and brutal murders, which have been dubbed the “New Generation” Madness, taking place in the area. After Grim leaves, someone going by the name of “General” enters the chat. “General” speaks cryptically and sends a barrage of image links. Takumi accidentally clicks on one and sees what appears to be a murdered man pinned to a wall with stakes.

The next day, Takumi comes across a real-life murder scene that looks suspiciously like the one he saw in the picture the previous night. He sees a mysterious pink-haired girl covered in blood and holding the stakes. Takumi, who had grabbed one of the stakes on the ground, runs off in a panic. The next day the pink-haired girl appears in Takumi’s class. He has no memory of her being his classmate, but she says her name is Rimi Sakihata and that she’s friends with Takumi and Takumi’s friend.

Takumi finds himself being followed by a girl named Yua Kusonoki, another girl at his school, and it appears she has some kind of interest in him. Over the course of the series, there are other girls who appear and become important: Nanami Nishijo (Takumi’s sister), Ayase Kishimoto (a girl at school who is the lead singer of a band with song lyrics that seem to predict the events happening as part of the “New Generation” Madness), Sena Aoi (a girl at Takumi’s school who is seen around town a lot holding a very long sword), and Kozue Orihara (a new transfer student in Takumi’s class who doesn’t speak).

As the series continues, Takumi finds himself spiraling into delusions and paranoia, especially when it seems evidence keeps pointing at him being the one behind the “New Generation” Madness events, even though he has no memory of them. It doesn’t help that he seems to believe he had a power that made him responsible for a bus accident that happened in elementary school when he was unable to go on a class trip. He also feels as if he’s being personally targeted. As Takumi begins trying to investigate what’s really happening, he learns that he has connections to all of the non-family females introduced in this series. They all have abilities to change what’s happening around them through delusions, which includes manifesting “Di-Swords,” which is the very long sword that Sena is seen carrying around.

And if that doesn’t sound strange enough, then I’ll just say that the various plot twists that take place over the course of the series are attempting to throw the viewer for a loop and provide surprises. In a lot of ways, it made me think the writer(s) for the anime were trying to mimic Satoshi Kon and his writing style. Now that I’ve been able to see Satoshi Kon’s Paranoia Agent anime series before watching the entirety of ChaoS;HEAd, I wasn’t as impressed with these plot twist attempts as I might have been. I also feel that Paranoia Agent is a stronger psychological thriller than ChaoS;HEAd. I also couldn’t help but notice the similarity of a cute animal toy being part of the resolution of the story between this and Paranoia Agent, and how that toy is a running theme throughout both series.

The big difference between Paranoia Agent and ChaoS;HEAd is that Paranoia Agent feels like it’s rooted more in reality. With ChaoS;HEAd, you have the mythology of the Black Knights, the “demon final boss,” and the “Di-Swords.” You also have the “final boss” using fantastical technology to try to take over the human race. Meanwhile, in Paranoia Agent, the story relies heavily on concepts and ideas that are universal in nature and don’t utilize anything fantastical to tell its story.

To be honest, I thought that ChaoS;HEAd collapses under the weight of its own ambition. By trying to separate itself from other psychological thrillers, it ends up going all over the place. The first episode seems to show some potential with the groundwork that it’s laying, but the story that’s ultimately built up from that foundation becomes weaker and unwieldy as the series progresses. It’s not necessarily a bad anime, but there are other psychological thriller anime out there that are much stronger.

The animation in ChaoS;HEAd is average, at best. There was one episode in the second half (I’m blanking on which one it was at the moment), where the characters’ faces looked very off-model in an important section of the story. I don’t know if perhaps the animators were under a time crunch or if the key animation for that section of the series was outsourced to a different animation studio, but these faces looking so off-model was a distraction from the story that I was watching.

I’m personally not in a rush to watch ChaoS;HEAd again anytime soon. While it wasn’t necessarily bad, I feel that maybe I could have better spent my time watching a different anime or doing something else. If you don’t mind watching a mediocre 12-episode psychological thriller, then maybe ChaoS;HEAd is worth checking out.

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