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Chaos; Head Complete Series Anime DVD Review

8 min read

How do you trust anyone else when you can’t even trust your own sanity?

What They Say:
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. Welcome to Chaos Head. Can you survive reality?

The Review:
The series is presented with two audio tracks- a 5.1 English track and a Stereo Japanese one. For the purpose of this review the Japanese track was used and it was found to be rather full one despite the stereo limitations. The track made good use of directionality to help build up a sense of depth and set up for the on screen spatial relationships while also handling the diverse paces that the track goes through from the large explosions to haunting musical strains with some very satisfactory results. Also of note is that there were no dropouts or distortions noted during playback and the dialogue managed to come across clear.

Originally airing in the last quarter of the Japanese 2008 television season, Chaos; Head is presented here in a 1.78:1 aspect ratio and is complete with an anamorphic widescreen encode. One of the interesting things about the series is the clash between reality and a sort of unreality with reality either being bent or possibly events just occurring in one characters mind. The animation itself is fairly strong with some sharp details- even in the parts that may be fantasy or else the sign of a horrible nightmare which adds to the realism and questions as to just what is real. The disc authorization does an OK job but it certainly doesn’t help the series greatly as either it or/and the DVD format combine to make for a less than spectacular presentation. Noted during playback was the presence of noise, rainbowing, a bit of moiré, bleeding, banding, dot crawl, haloing, ugly patterning/blocking showing up in what should be solid colors, minor ghosting and moments of almost transparency in a few scenes with background images being seen through characters that should be solid.

This review is of the DVDs only but the packaging is covered in Chris Beveridge’s review of the Blu Ray portion of the releases review.

As for the DVDs themselves, both discs use a simple black background with some white lines across it with the disc number written as if on cut up pieces of paper like a ransom note at the top with a gray spiking line behind it that resembles either stitching or an EEG pulse above the hub and at a bit of an angle. Beneath the hub the series name appears written in English in large letters in silver with the Japanese title written in katakana underneath that and off to the right side as the copyright info is present to the left.

The menus used are ones that feature static image and are somewhat simple, though FUNimation played with them a bit to give them a bit of either a mysterious or off putting air to match the series. The Main Menu uses a background much like the DVDs with its principally black background having whiteish lines placed symmetrically over it with the series name (except for the katakana version) and disc options retaining the ransom note look like the letters were cut out of a newspaper or magazine from the label and both discs use an image of the same character, though each uses a different image of them.

The sub menus all use the same look which is one that appears like it has TV broadcast static at the top and bottom 1/3 of the screen while the selectable options are mostly in the middle black 1/3 while a character image is present to the left. The menus themselves are clear as to what is selected as it turns a rather bold yellow-orange and the menu is quick to respond to changes in the highlighted selection and well as to implement the options when chosen with minimal delay.

The only extras present are the rather industry standard clean open and close.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Based off a visual novel created by 5pb and Nitroplus that has also spawned a series of manga series, Chaos; Head follow the story of Takumi Nishijo who is a second year high school student- though just barely. Takumi has spent more effort figuring out how to skip school than a number of students have into actually attending it and as such he has worked out a schedule that guarantees him the absolute minimum amount he has to do to pass.

In addition to spending as little time at school as possible he also interacts with other people- be it classmates or even his own family- as little as possible and to this end he even lives alone in a cargo container that has been (barely) furnished on top of an undisclosed building. He frequently decries 3D people and expresses a desire only for the 2D world of anime or his video games or the merchandise from those works that he purchases and to this end he barely has any contact with the world by choice other than some message chat boards.

While this alone is probably bizarre enough behavior on its own his only other source of conversation switches the events into a wholly unique-and perhaps disturbing- direction as he frequently talks to Orgel Seira, the heroine from his favorite game series. The problem is that while this might get most people to consider he might have a mental illness at times Seira seems to be able to interact to an extent with items around him which is either a sign of just how intense his delusions are that he can physically respond to the psychological or a sign that reality is not stable around him.

Things take an even stranger turn though when in a chat room one day when a friend of his he only knows by the screen name Grim clues him into a series of bizarre crimes that have been dubbed New Generation madness. He is later sent pictures from a New Gen murder that has a victim nailed to a wall which is disturbing, but the next night as he is heading home from an internet café he stumbles across the very scene he had seen the night before, though this time there is a pink haired girl standing there.

Things get worse for him as the next day he comes to school and the same girl from the crime scene is in his class and actually claims to be one of his few friends-and he can’t remember if she is or not. Suddenly Takumi’s life is sent further into a spin as he is being hounded by another girl who believes he is behind the New Gen events and the evidence is starting to mount that that may just be the case- but Takumi has absolutely no memory of the events. As things start to spiral out of control Takumi will be forced to try to come to terms with a world he is clearly not totally connected with while dealing with the question of what is reality- and just what is going on around him. But is the solution to what is real or not going to provide him solace or is he going to find his reality crumbling around him?

Chaos; Head is one of those stories that one likely will come away from with a rather strong opinion about but which is hard to talk about in a review as so much of the series is based off the initial mystery of what is going on with Takumi and how that connects to the bizarre happenings in the world around him. I actually enjoyed this part of the series the most as the question of just what is and isn’t reality to Takumi was an interesting one, though I readily admit my interesting may be someone else’s frustration at confusion.

The whole idea of what may or may not be happening fascinated me so much that I was actually more than a little disappointed when the solutions started being presented as the story seemed to try to both rush through the mysteries and that the answers weren’t nearly as innovative in their structure as the original mystery came across. It felt a bit like one of those magic tricks that you watch even knowing it is an illusion but which can still be masterfully pulled off but then when the trick is revealed its luster is dulled more than a little.

Along with this the series introduces a good number of girls to add to the roster (again, visual novel origin) and each one brings their own element to bear as they have their own back stories and part to play in the mystery with some deepening it and others having a piece of the answer- and sometimes they bring both at once. The problem is that in 12 episodes the time simply isn’t there to develop each of the girls or fully address their issues for maximum impact which kind of under cuts the flow and cheapens some of the series revelations.

In Summary:
Chaos; Head is the kind of anime adaptation of an existing story that makes one desire the original source material even more. The series presents a rather unique set of circumstances at the beginning of the series to hook to viewer and try to keep them glued to their set as the plot takes a good number of twists and turns as it plays with the nature of reality as it relates to a young high school student. Sadly some of the limitations of the 12 episode TV format manage to creep in and undercut the final product more than a little but the series has one of the most compelling mysteries to come across the screen in quite some time as it relates to the tales first half, though the resolution did wander into some of the more pedestrian areas that anime has explored over the years.

Japanese 2.0 Language, English Language, English Subtitles, Clean Opening, Clean Closing

Content Grade: B-
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: B-
Packaging Grade: N/A
Menu Grade: B-
Extras Grade: C

Released By: FUNimation
Release Date: November 29th, 2011
MSRP: $69.98
Running Time: 300 Minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen

Review Equipment:
Samsung 50″ Plasma HDTV, Denon AVR-790 Receiver with 5.1 Sony Surround Sound Speakers, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080.

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