Can a work of art be objectively bad? Throughout history, many have attempted to answer this question. I myself promulgate the idea of subjectivity in art, trying to poke as little fun as possible at things like One Direction or Transformers because, hey, everyone has their own tastes. ChaoS;HEAd, however, grants evidence as to why the opposite is true.
Our tale begins with the main character Takumi Nishijou, a pathetic and delusional otaku who lives in the Shibuya district of Tokyo. In his free time he plays MMORPGs and imagines his favorite anime character Seira talking to him. Seira keeps him company, but he often has to force himself to go to school, which he hates. One day Takumi’s shut-in life changes for the worse when a mysterious user called General sends him a link to a picture of one of the New Gen murders, strange killings that have been occurring in Shibuya. The next day, Takumi accidentally finds one of the murders in progress; a mysterious young girl with pink hair and red eyes stands there, covered in blood smiling at Takumi. From this moment on, Takumi’s life only becomes more confusing: strange girls start talking to him, including the one from the murder scene, and he finds himself caught up in a conspiracy of murders, psychic abilities, and lots of trippy sequences.
The most unfortunate thing about this mutilated mess of a show is that it starts off well. There is an intense air of mystery about the first episode, and while the characters (dear god, the characters!) are underwhelming, the mystery piques the interest and you’re left wanting to figure out what’s going on. Less than halfway through the series, it becomes readily apparent that the show’s creators had no idea what was going on either. I haven’t read the source material, but if the VN is followed with scrutiny by this anime, then I would advise to stay well clear of it. (These are the folks who made Steins;Gate? They must have been in quite the slump when writing this one.)
Where should I even start? I suppose with the worst part of the show: the animation. If there was one thing I thought would have been a guarantee going in, it would have been good animation. Even Madhouse’s lower-budget stuff tends to at least have consistently strong animation. Chaos;HEAd however, is really lackluster in that department. The character designs are gaudy and uninteresting, and motion is very stiff, especially in the blandly directed fight scenes in the latter half of the show. This is disappointing; while Madhouse couldn’t have fixed the annoying character designs, they at least could have put more effort into the fluidity of the show.
Our protagonist is a shut-in, truant otaku that does nothing but play one video game and watch one anime. There is no reason whatsoever we, the viewers, should like him or dislike him, as he does nothing of interest. Once we get to know him a little bit, we realize that all he really does is watch one anime and play one game. By the time we see more of Takumi, we start to hate him because all he does is whine and complain without developing at all. The more he learns, the whinier he becomes; then he sees two people he barely knows get into a telepathic fight with the main villain and almost die (after having seen many people die throughout the city, but only over the Internet) and he decides he’s gotta save the … world? City? I don’t really know.
I wish I had nice things to say about the main characters of Chaos;HEAd, but they are all very, VERY boring. The same can be said of the side characters, such as the police detective and the villain, Genichi Norose. Detective guy, Yasuji Ban, barely has his name mentioned throughout the show and his only function is to deliver exposition. Norose is just bland; maybe he would be interesting if he, oh I don’t know, had any real motivation? Seriously, throughout the entire run of the show I had a really hard time trying to figure out what his drive was; I still have no idea.
If you like harem anime, you’ll despise Chaos;HEAd. It denigrates the harem, and not in a parodical “ha ha” way. The girls that randomly start to hover around Takumi are either annoying or one-dimensional, or both. They all seem to like Takumi somehow, despite him having zero redeeming qualities, and all of them turn into disgustingly stereotypical damsels in distress for our useless hero to rescue. None of their backstories give them credible motives for their actions or personalities. One of the girls is a tsundere, and she only has one goal – revenge – and once that goal is fulfilled there’s nothing else to know about her. The same can essentially be said for the rest of them. The best ones (such as Takumi’s sister) are shown the least, and when they are on screen they’re devoid of use. The voice actors merely amplify the disdainful cast. Takumi’s was the most likable because his performance is the most authentic, since all his character does is be awkward and stammer periodically. All the others are either annoying, squeakily-pitched high school girl voices or soap opera-y melodramatic facades with no substance behind them.
Do you like harem or psychological thriller anime? Do you like ANY anime? Do you like even the simplest of creative stories? Then don’t watch this show. Chaos;HEAd is the most incompetent anime I have seen to date. The story is rushed, the characters – including the main lead who ends up being nothing but a cowardly nuisance – are uninteresting, the soundtrack is forgettable and the animation is the worst I’ve seen from Madhouse. The characters are all cardboard cutouts with nothing at all to keep the viewer interested in them. The plot continually gets more and more complicated and is never properly explained. The writing is downright atrocious. The design is idiotic (the bad guy’s sword…seriously? SERIOUSLY?!). Everything about this anime is bad; its only redeeming quality is that it ends.