Shibuya, 2015. In a city recovering from the “Shibuya Earthquake” which devastated it six years ago, Takuru Miyashiro, a student at the newly built private high school “Hekiho Academy” investigates a series of serial killings known as “The Return of the New Generation Madness” as part of his work for the school’s newspaper club.
Chaos;Child starts off with an elongated recap episode of the events that led up to the Shibuya Earthquake six years ago. Essentially it refers back to the storyline of Chaos;Head, which summarises what shut-in Takumi and the mysterious Shogun did that led up to the mass destruction of the city. Takumi feels he is being targeted by Shogun and is experiencing extreme paranoia and delusions. He isn’t sure what’s real and what’s not. He manages to track down the real killer eventually, but by that point it’s too late to stop everything from tearing apart Shibuya and an earthquake lays waste to the city.
Six months later we finally see the storyline of Chaos;Child. Takuru is an orphan that is living with his foster sister Nono. Takuru notices that the mysterious deaths of six years ago are lining up with a new string of murders. And these aren’t standard murders. They’re grisly. And practically unexplainable. Strange things happening to the victims before their eventual death. It appears that they are doing gruesome things to their bodies before their eventual demise, almost like they’re hypnotised into doing things in a way that’s eerily familiar to Death Note. Takuru is determined to find out what’s going on as the similarities stretch far beyond coincidence. The more he investigates, the deeper he becomes enmeshed in this mystery and the more danger he puts his friends in.
Chaos;Child is one of the darkest anime that I’ve seen in recent years. The colour palette seems to be specifically chosen to portray the dark, gritty, danger-filled situation that the newspaper club find them in. The story does seem to centre around delusions and paranoia again considering that Takuru has been having some bizarre reactions to certain stimuli, which is so far unexplained. It would seem that human experiments, when exposed to certain visuals, have the ability to develop psychic powers of some kind, which the group feel is related to the Shibuya earthquake.
What I can establish from this fairly early point in watching is that Chaos;Child certainly has the psychological horror element down pat. The plot isn’t so much a whodunnit rather than a platform to show some horrifying murders (which, of course, catch people’s attention whether it puts them off watching further or not) and takes us through the character’s investigations into what’s lurking underneath all the conspiracy. It’s not exactly out-and-out gore thankfully, but a rather suspense-styled artful way, using camera angles (and certain sounds guaranteed to make an impact) and other horror elements to ramp up the tension. These usually happen once per episode, sometimes through a delusion of Takuru and sometimes in real life, though it’s often difficult to tell to begin with in which reality these attacks are happening.
Silver Link have done a good job in over seeing the quality of Chaos;Child‘s animation and visual design. Adapting a visual novel to anime isn’t as simple as transitioning a manga into anime format and we’ve seen some examples which have fallen flat because some elements just did not work in another media. The character artwork is true to the original source material as well as the backgrounds. There’s plenty of attention to mood lighting and surrounding environment detail that serves to enhance the experience – leaving you edgy as to when something gruesome or terrifying is going to happen. This anime doesn’t rely overmuch on music, though the opening credits is rather catchy. I also haven’t overlooked the talent of the voice actors for this one. It’s not the easiest task to make a character’s fear palpable for any length of time, but at times the acting is so convincing it’s almost unbearable to watch (I’m thinking of the autopsy room in particular, here). It’s also difficult to do bloodcurdling screams that raise hairs on viewers arms time and time again, but the seiyuu seem to know what they’re doing.
Chaos;Child‘s off to a strong start, though this isn’t an anime to watch if you’re in for something light-hearted and cheerful. Even when you give it your full attention, it can be misleading and confusing or just downright scary. It certainly is different from anything else on this season, which is why I felt attracted to it. I’m hoping that there’s a strong resolution in this one and that all the questions are answered that the newspaper club is pursuing.