I always find the media you tend to randomly think about without any rhyme or reason to be what has impacted you the most. Chaos;Head is one game that remains engraved within my subconscious for almost an entire decade. This is the first entry of the Science Adventure series, best known for the widely beloved Steins;Gate.
The first entries of the Science Adventure series can be enjoyed standalone as their relation to prior entries usually comes in the form of light references that don’t affect the impact of the core narratives. Steins;Gate is proof of that. It was released after Chaos;Head and has many references to that title, but even with how massive of a cultural hit Steins;Gate is, many aren’t aware of the fact that it’s part of a massive franchise.
I used to be one of those people. I discovered Steins;Gate via its anime adaption and fell in love with it, and I then found out about Robotics;Notes. This entry took place after Steins;Gate and even had a character from that title. Plus, it even had an anime adaption of its own. So, armed with this newfound knowledge, I proceeded to watch Robotics;Notes, and a single line at the end of the first episode caught me off guard.
“Whose eyes are those eyes?”
To this day, I have no idea why this line stood out so strongly to me. It was stated by the character Airi in a rather random fashion, and it doesn’t have an impact on the rest of the show. Yet, even as I kept watching Robotics;Notes’ anime adaption, that singular line from Airi remained with me from beginning to end. Eventually, my curiosity caved in, and I searched up the phrase. It was then that I finally learned about Chaos;Head.
It was an incredibly bizarre experience because I felt like I had stumbled upon some out-of-this-world secret. I never saw anyone discuss or, let alone even mention Chaos;Head online when in the context of Steins;Gate. Robotics;Notes popped up a few times, hence my learning of it, but Chaos;Head was utterly foreign. Though yes, the phrase “Whose eyes are those eyes?” did originate from this title. Due to a mix of wanting to know more about this cryptic line and having already experienced two Science Adventure anime, I was eager to jump into Chaos;Head. And, fortunately for my 14-year old self, it was on Netflix at the time, my go-to locale for all things anime. Those days were certainly different.
And, well, as any watcher of the anime could probably tell you, it wasn’t great.
Unlike Steins;Gate and Robotics;Notes, Chaos;Head only had 1 cour, 12 episodes. It was noticeably rushed, and as I came to learn, later on, didn’t even faithfully adapt the source material. A plethora of pivotal plot scenes and character moments were outright excluded and replaced in the anime adaption. Still, in the confines of the anime itself, for as mediocre as it was, I felt this intense yearning to learn more about Chaos;Head. At the time, I couldn’t tell you why I was so fixated on this overlooked Science Adventure entry point, but now, roughly 8 years later, I think I finally understand.
The primary reason was Takumi Nishijou. The protagonist of Chaos;Head and my favorite fictional character. I never saw a character, let alone a protagonist, written the way Takumi had been. He’s a mess in just about every way imaginable, from his lack of social life to his complete absence of confidence. Almost everything about him radiates ineptitude, to a degree where it goes beyond pitiful and becomes straight-up depressing. So, why in the hell is he my favorite fictional character?
It’s a bit odd to explain, but a part of that has to do with relatability. To be frank, this is all very contextual and specific to my own life, but there are ways in which I could relate to Takumi. His loneliness and lack of meaningful relationships almost matched my life. School was hell, a dreaded place I had no desire to be at, and the judging jeers I received from my peers and teachers only served to reinforce my aversion. Granted, Takumi’s strife is far beyond what I could reasonably endure, let alone fathom, and the supernatural burdens he bears, I think go beyond what any average person could deal with. Still, he is strong. And, I began to respect him.
Eventually, I played the Chaos;Head visual novel after a bunch of online digging and experimenting with the fan translation patch. Unfortunately, this game was not, and is still not, localized. Further, an updated version called Chaos;Head Noah was released for consoles and added character routes. However, I had to stick with the original version because it was fan-translated.
And, after playing through it, my surface-level appreciation for Takumi’s character evolved into emboldened respect for him and all of the heroines. Rimi, Sena, Kozue, Yua, Nanami, and Ayase had immensely more depth in the visual novel than in the anime, and their interactions with Takumi felt more defined and personal. All of their characterizations stood out, and unlike the anime, they didn’t feel like washed-up exposition pieces affixed to convenience.
Further, thanks to it being a visual novel, most of the game, save for specific scenarios, all took place from within Takumi’s perspective with inner thoughts, so I could grasp a more actualized perception of his remarks in real-time as events played out. Seeing Takumi inhumanely suffer yet eventually grow and become his own person was such a cathartic experience enhanced by his societal and inner weaknesses. Protagonists like Takumi Nishijou are rare in media since troubled characters like him are either treated like jokes or are not taken to the extent that he is.
A specific facet of Takumi that stuck out to me is his speech. He stutters and hesitates when talking to others, which is undoubtedly done to highlight his flaws. Still, I greatly appreciated this character trait since I am a stutterer myself. Even if not a direct focus of his character, having a protagonist who stutters honestly appalled me. You don’t see that trait often exhibited in visual media, and when it is shown, it’s usually portrayed as a pitifully humorous character quirk meant to elicit a few quick laughs.
Additionally, stuttering is treated as a character effect instead of a cause. Takumi’s vocal impediment isn’t touched upon (at least I don’t remember it being so), and part of me came to love that. Instead, it is a lingering aftereffect of his strife. It was a refreshing take on stuttering, even if I doubt that was remotely the intention. As someone who received their stutter from a particularly traumatic event and tended to hide behind it to avoid my other inadequacies, seeing it portrayed in such a matter-of-fact manner where it wasn’t the sole, defining part of a character was indescribably refreshing.
When it comes down to it, Takumi is a heavily flawed character, and him being so drastically flawed makes him more relatable for me. Regarding practically any media, self-inserting into the role of the protagonist is typical for escapism. Yet, even within harem-esque experiences, I always feel more observer than self-inserted because the way the protagonists tend to act is nothing like how I would.
Takumi is a character I found myself almost self-inserting to at points because specific attempts at conversing with girls were embarrassingly close to mine. To be fair, his general interactions with anyone stand out for being awkward, but the ones with a few of the girls specifically hit a little too close to home sometimes. Seeing a character, let alone a protagonist in a visual novel, be so fearful of female interaction yet still trudge through it felt legitimately inspiring.
Moving on, it is worth remarking upon the Delusional Trigger. This is a gameplay mechanic present in each of the Chaos; games, and I absolutely love it. It perfectly captures the chaotic mess of the human mind and how disturbingly fucked up it can be. Delusions can be triggered in certain scenarios, resulting in Positive and Negative variations. In the original visual novel, these mainly serve to lead to an obscurely achieved alternate ending, though Noah made their specified activations lead to the heroines’ routes.
However, more than that, they are stellarly reflective of Takumi’s mental state and how he perceives the world and people around him. Generally speaking, the Negative delusions are truly depraved with occasional light gore, while the Positive delusions are typically cliche moments more expected of light-hearted romantic comedies. Of course, there are exceptions to these rules, like the infamous Sena foot fetish delusion, but that’s how they tend to be.
The Delusion Trigger is also fascinating because it’s completely optional. You don’t ever have to initiate Delusions and can instead progress with the main story as though they don’t exist, though that is a significant degree of the game being neglected. They can be seen as easily achievable side paths in an otherwise linear experience, which makes their existence all the more compelling to see through.
I enjoy other facets of Chaos;Head, such as its science fiction concepts, but this visual novel became one of my foundational reasons for valuing characterization over narratives in media. This isn’t to say the story of Chaos;Head is lacking because it was truly gripping, yet the characterizations of the main cast, Takumi in particular, are what truly stuck with me almost an entire decade later.
I’d always much rather have a lackluster story with a compelling cast rather than vice versa. Further, despite being usually averse to horror, those implemented genre moments in Chaos;Head never frightened me and served to immerse me more, greatly enhancing my respect for this visual novel.
While I realistically don’t see Chaos;Head Noah & Chaos;Child Double Pack being localized next year, a part of my heart is holding out hope. While I vaguely know of the content added to Chaos;Head Noah, I’ve never experienced it firsthand, and I simply want to see it officially grace western shores.
Chaos;Child, Steins;Gate, Steins;Gate 0, Robotics;Notes, and Robotics;Notes DaSH are all localized, and I think its upcoming Switch release is the perfect time to make Chaos;Head Noah globally accessible. Seeing my favorite visual novel of all time finally be officially recognized on a worldwide scale would be genuinely moving, and I sincerely hope it happens.
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