OP: 「Uncontrollable」 by いとうかなこ (Itou Kanako)
「情報強者は事件を追う」 (Jouhou Kyousha wa Jiken wo Ou)
The most powerful tool in any good horror’s toolbox is paranoia. Sure, the violence and gore may shock and disturb, but horror should go beyond that. A show that aims to deliver primal, crushing horror does more than just scare. Horror is about disempowerment, undermining our sense of security, and instilling that in the audience requires a psychological angle. Usually, no matter how scary a show is, when we turn off the TV, or walk out of the cinema, it’s gone. We’re back to safety. And we know this. But when the show manages to wriggle deep into our heads, it’s very hard to dislodge. How to do this? Well, for starters, horror questions the existence of a rational universe. Humanity has done well for itself understanding phenomena and wielding that understanding to tame our world. If we understand it, we can control it. Even on a more personal level, we feel better when things make sense, when they conform to our held beliefs. So when we encounter something (say, the supernatural, or the alien, or the uncanny) that defies our understanding and we cannot make sense of it, there are only two options. The first is that we have to accept that the universe isn’t rational, and all that we thought we knew is wrong. Since, again, we fundamentally desire, or even need, a rational universe, we—and horror protagonists—more often turn to the second option. That the universe is rational, but we were wrong. It was a trick of the light. Too much fatigue and/or alcohol. Or, in the most extreme case, in the face of the truly incomprehensible, the horror protagonist must conclude that he has gone mad. This is not your run-of-the-mill insanity, where the sufferer is not aware that he is delusional. No, our protagonist knows that he is mad. He just can’t do anything about it. And that is the kind of horror that really leaves an impression. Because we might be able to fight a monster. We might be able to run away from it. But when one is trapped inside their own head, there is no possibility of escape.
That seems to be what CHAOS;CHILD is trying to do, and doing so discuss what it may be like if our perceptions can be directly controlled against our will, but that might not be immediately evident. CHAOS;CHILD is actually a sequel of CHAOS;HEAD, and although the prior knowledge is not strictly necessary, events are definitely connected and in fact follow directly. The team at SILVER LINK has provided an episode 00 aptly titled CHAOS;HEAD to serve as a recap, but a single episode for a rather convoluted story is hardly optimal. It’s something of a mess, quickly cutting from scene to scene, with a bit too little animation and a bit too many long pans. But it’s functional in that it sets the tone for what kind of story is likely to be and introduces some concepts that we now know to pay attention to when—hopefully—CHAOS;CHILD revisits them with more detail in the future. Considering that the CHAOS;HEAD anime is an infamously terrible adaptation, and reading the original visual novel is probably too much of a time investment just to get more context for this show, most of us probably have little alternative than to rely on this recap. I guess we should be thankful we got a dedicated episode for it.
Also thankfully, the main episode works out better than the recap (and is also animated better, by my reckoning). Don’t let 00 throw you off; 01 actually bothers to introduce characters properly, and has actually put some thought into narrative flow instead of having to rush through a handful of key scenes. Sure, it’s still, well, chaos, especially if you’re fresh to the series and skipped the recap, but perhaps the uncertainty and confusion actually plays into the horror-mystery-thriller. We have the important parts: character dynamics (between some key duos, especially) and a general plot hook (investigating disturbing deaths). We should be able to work with that, and I think I’m personally on board for now (the snazzy OP doesn’t hurt). The long term concern is that the CHAOS;CHILD visual novel is fairly long, at least longer than Steins;Gate and likely with a shorter run time. How will they compress the story? Well, it can’t possibly be worse than CHAOS;HEAD. Everything can only look good from here.
ED: 「カオスシンドローム」 (Chaos Syndrome) by 鈴木このみ (Suzuki Konomi)