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Sunday 21st October 2012

Matt Kamen takes to the therapist’s couch to talk about the insane world of Chaos;Head.

Chaos;HeadMeet Takumi Nishijou – though he’d rather you didn’t. A compulsive shut-in, Takumi shuns as much contact with the outside world as possible, preferring to turn his attentions to the likes of anime, online role-playing games and eroge, erotic dating sim games. A second year student in high school, his approach to education is to turn up for the bare minimum of classes to ensure graduation. He lives in a locked cargo crate that he’s kitted out as his personal otaku den, filled with vinyl figures and manga, and resists efforts from his younger sister Nanami to force him to reintegrate with the world. His obsessions even push him to reject the 3D world, swearing he’ll never fall for a real girl. He could be the lead character in any ‘loser gets girl’ series to come out of Japan in the last decade, but for one tiny difference – Takumi might be losing his mind.

Prone to bizarre visions that range from picturing real people as his favourite anime characters to horrific visions of murder and defiled bodies, Takumi’s grip on reality is tenuous at best. When he begins receiving emails from an unknown sender linking to images of gruesome crimes plaguing Shibuya – a phenomenon dubbed ‘New Generation Madness’ by the media – the conflicted teen starts to question his own perceptions. Already on edge, his final descent into madness begins as he stumbles across a pink-haired girl pinning a corpse to a wall with crucifix-styled daggers – a scene exactly the same as the image he received the day before. Is he just going insane, or is there really some malevolent game at play in the streets of Tokyo’s most fashionable district? And why is the same murderous girl, Rimi Sakihata, in Takumi’s school the next day, acting like his best friend?

Chaos;Head premiered in the form of a visual novel for Japanese PCs in 2008. Developed by Tokyo-based software companies Nitroplus and 5pb. (that full stop is officially part of the name, an abbreviation of ‘Five powered and basics.’), the creators describe it as a ‘Delusional Science novel’, and the precise formatting of the title, ChäoS;HEAd, represents Takumi’s possible schizophrenia – the literal chaos inside his head. While the game had dating sim elements, presenting the player with numerous cute girls to interact with, the focus was much more on managing Takumi’s precarious mental state through his responses to conversations and situations. The game was a huge success, seeing enhanced ports released on practically every format available, and set the foundation for a shared universe of high-concept sci-fi storytelling that most recently continued in companion series Steins;Gate.

Chaos;Head in turn spawned a trio of manga adaptations, each focusing on different characters and scenarios, and a 12-episode anime run from Madhouse, the studio behind Highschool of the Dead and Princess Resurrection. Directed by Takaaki Ishiyama and written by Toshiki Inoue, the series weaves together numerous plot threads, conspiracies and timelines to present an unapologetically complex exploration of Takumi’s shocking experiences.

Chaos;Head is out on UK DVD from Manga Entertainment.

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Chaos Head Collection

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Welcome to Chaos Head. Can you survive reality?
Takumi is a high school student. He is withdrawn and is not interested in 3D things. In his town, a mysterious serial murder case happens and people get panicked. One day, when he chats on the internet, a man suddenly contacts him and gives him an URL. He goes to the website and finds a blog image that suggests a next murder case.... On the next day, it really happens....Takumi Nishijō suffers from intense delusions as a result of his apparent schizophrenia and the extremely secluded lifestyle he lives as a hikkikomori. One day he accidentally stumbles upon a gruesome murder scene, a part of a chain of events called New Generation. After this, his life gets caught up in these events, and he meets a bunch of increasingly insane anime girls with swords.



Naruto: Now & Then

Matt Kamen weighs the difference between the original series and the newer Shippuden episodes of Naruto.
With hundreds of episodes under Naruto’s belt, it can be easy to forget just how far the world’s favourite orange ninja cadet and friends have come since their first days at school. The release of the complete first season of Naruto Shippuden seems the perfect time to look back at some of the key players in the saga, and see where the new series finds them – and haven’t they grown…?

Naruto music: NICO Touches the Walls

Tom Smith dives in to the band behind Naruto Shippuden Box 15
Who’s NICO, and what’s their obsession with walls? It’s a question you may ask yourself upon discovering the artist name behind Naruto Shippuden’s eighth opening theme. They call themselves NICO Touches the Walls and, despite the ridiculous name, they are a pretty big deal in Japan right now.

Out Now: Naruto Shippuden 16

Ninja action sneaking to a store near you
Naruto Shippuden box 16 is out now on UK DVD from Manga Entertainment.

Time Travel in Anime

Paul Browne rewinds from Naruto Shippuden: The Lost Tower into the past
In the latest Naruto film The Lost Tower, the title character and his comrades embark on a mission to capture Mukade – a missing ninja who has the ability to travel through time. Mukade’s plan is to travel into the past and take control of the Five Great Shinobi Countries. During the battle with Mukade, Naruto and Yamato find themselves hurled back twenty years in time. Will Naruto and his friends be able to return to his own time? And will their actions in the past save the future?

Naruto Music: Asian Kung Fu Generation

Tom Smith on the Britmaniacs behind the Naruto theme.
They’re so loud and proud that they insist on writing it all in caps: ASIAN KUNG-FU GENERATION – possibly one of Japan’s most important alternative rock acts. The group’s tenth single ‘After Dark’ makes for the energetic, guitar-heavy opening theme to the latest volume of Bleach, released in the UK this month, and the group’s sound might at first seem reminiscent of America’s indie scene dashed with elements of punk, it actually has a lot more in common with The Who, their generation, and the sea of British-based guitar heroes that have appeared since.

Naruto Music: Okamoto's

Tom Smith on Naruto Shippuden’s 18th ending theme
As Naruto ups the ante and swears to take on Sasuke alone in box set 18 of Naruto Shippuden, the team responsible for the encompassing episodes’ ending theme have also took it upon themselves to up the pace.


Unspinning Fairy Tail

Hugh David argues that the treasure is in the detail
The biggest influence on this anime is not tabletop RPGs or even the long-standing fantasy fiction genre itself. No, the stamp of numerous Japanese role-playing videogames is all over Fairy Tail, from the Atelier series to the Final Fantasy franchise, in particular Final Fantasy XII

The Ninja Museum

Stephen Turnbull risks nine deaths in the eye of the ninja storm... or does he?
There is more to the ninja myth than meets the eye. By 1638 all wars had ceased under the police state of the Tokugawa family, yet within twenty years armchair generals were busily writing manuals of military theory, including speculations about sneak attacks, night-fighting and backstabbing.

The magnificent 47 Ronin

Stephen Turnbull asks what (if anything) went wrong with the 47 Ronin?
When T. H. White’s great Arthurian fantasy The Once and Future King was first published the New York Times described it as “a glorious dream of the Middle Ages as they never were but as they should have been.” A very similar comment would not be inappropriate to describe the strange world of old Japan conjured up in the movie 47 Ronin.

Aesthetica of a Rogue Hero

Andrew Osmond calls it like he sees it…
Actually, Aesthetica should be called The New Boobfest where Girls Fight Monsters and Lose Panties, From The People Who Brought You Master of Martial Hearts, Queen’s Blade and the Ikki Tousen Franchise. That tells us where we are!

Where is Victorian Romance Emma?

Why do we get Downton, but not Emma?
Fans of K-On! The Movie’s lovely and realistic vision of London may not be aware that in between that film and Steamboy’s loving depiction of a steampunk-era Manchester and London rests a show that is as accurate as either, and yet is also arguably the most English anime show ever made. Yet it still cannot be bought on DVD in the UK itself.

The Wind Rises

Andrew Osmond on the controversy of Miyazaki's last feature
As Miyazaki’s film itself makes clear, Horikoshi was a cog in Japan’s military machine at the time of the country’s most aggressive expansion. This was when Japan was moving into China, proclaiming what it called the “Greater East Asian Co-Prosperity Sphere,” which really meant Japanese imperialist supremacy in East Asia.

K the Animation

Andrew Osmond keeps calm and carries on
The start of an action anime series is often a bewildering experience, dropping the viewer into a whirlwind of unfamiliar folk having very big fights. K’s like that, but luckily the main character starts the show as baffled as us. Yashiro Isana is a bit different from the standard schoolboy hero

Anime on iTunes

Discover a whole new world of anime on your tablet or phone
There's a whole bunch of Manga Entertainment titles available for direct download on the iTunes site, including Shinji Aramaki's Appleseed, Mamoru Hosoda's Wolf Children, and K-on: The Movie.

Ghost in the Shell: Innocence

Jasper Sharp on Oshii's Innocence abroad
Mamoru Oshii’s unashamedly esoteric sequel to his earlier global crossover Ghost in the Shell lent the most credibility to claims for anime as ‘Art’ with a capital ‘A’, when it became the first animated film from Japan to be entered in competition at Cannes.
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