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Review of CHAOS;HEAD NOAH
CHAOS;HEAD NOAH Overhaul Patch (Switch)
Vote: 9.9quplet on 2023-03-23
|Review||Chaos;Head was my first 'real' step into SciADV 3 years ago. I read the PC release we had at the time, liked it enough, 6/10 and moved on to read the rest.|
It wasn't until a year later would I reread and and gain a significantly greater appreciation for this title. To the point where NoAH is now my favorite SciADV game so far.
The atmosphere is fantastic. Probably the best, most interesting use I've seen in any story. The use of unreliable narration, great pacing, Takumi's character, and delusion trigger system create a gripping, thrilling, intriguing ride. The delusion trigger's especially are used fantastically here to boost the atmosphere by blurring the line between delusions and reality, effectively communicating the confusion and paranoia that Takumi is in.
The characters are great. This is something I know many find underwhelming, but I found the majority of the cast to be individually very strong. Especially Takumi, Rimi, and Ayase.
Takumi is probably the most extreme protagonist I've ever encountered. So its understandable how many people will be filtered out by him if they can't get behind his character. With that said, due to his extremity, I found him incredibly gripping. This is a kind of perspective I've never seen before and following it was extremely interesting. Takumi is anti-social, paranoid schizophrenic who finds himself undesirably in the middle of a serial murder spree, seemly targeted at him. Seeing this already extreme character be pushed so far into areas he isn't comfortable at all with made the story what it is. Functioning also as the embodiment of worldly desire fits him so well into the themes of the story too, but I'll get back to that.
Rimi functions as an exceptional parallel to Takumi. Takumi being a delusionary existence of the body, and her a delusionary existence of the mind. Because of this she goes from being convinced he needs to be erased, to finding sympathy and fondness for someone who is a lot like her in many ways; an unusual, monstrous existence. She is also a pretty decent case of something close to DID. Having killed off and reborn a new personality several times to escape trauma, she is unable to defeat the dealer of said trauma except for in her route where she is able to overcome it and reintegrate her selves.
Ayase I found the most interesting of the cast, aside from Takumi himself. Her character serves 2 narrative purposes: An alternative perspective on the sci-fi system of the Chaos World, and a representation of the themes of perspective and subjective reality. Ayase comes off pretty chuunibiyou, but her perspective of the events of the story are no less a valid interpretation. Her route acknowledges this, asking if the events occurring are her precognition through prophecy, or her delusions made reality. Ayase route is definitely my favorite one in NoAH. My favorite theme or 'lesson' in Chaos;Head is that everyone, every individual, has their own sky they look up to. The 'Sky' is a symbolic equivalent to reality as a whole. Depending on numerous, uncountably many factors, your 'Sky' can look beautiful, reflecting happiness, striving, and hope, like the 'Blue Sky' has been represented as, or that 'Sky' as a bloody hell, a world of death and despair, as Ayase had seen for most of her life. The ending of the route takes a step even further by showing that it isn't immutable or unchanging. Other people, those around you who you share your 'reality' with, can influence you and the 'Sky' you see. In the end, Takumi's kindness and belief in her does, even if only for a moment, impresses his 'Sky' onto Ayase. That 'Sky'... a color so beautiful she never could have imagined it.
Many of the themes of the story are derived from Schopenhauer philosophy. Including the application of subject reality and the blurring of delusions and reality, but also in his ethics. Schopenhauer was very cynical about the world, believing it to be a naturally evil place, full of suffering and anguish. Chaos;Head absolutely portrays the world in this way. He also believed that the ideal human condition was that free of the chains of worldly desires.
Hmmmmmmmm that sounds an awful lot like Norose...
Norose is the embodiment of Schopenhauer ethics. His goal with NoAH II is to free the world from their naturalistic desires by forcibly stripping it from humanity. Doing so would naturally restrict their liberty, but it was a sacrifice he deemed worthy. To him and Schopenhauer, a person consumed by desire was nothing more than an animal, subject entirely to the world's whims, and thus detestable. This also happens to be the exact kind of person Takumi is.
Takumi's delusions are both a representation of the fragility of reality, and a reflection of his very powerful naturalistic desires. Emotions he feels he experiences very strongly, be it hatred, love, fear, lust, etc. He is the exact kind of person Schopenhauer deemed the lowest of humanity, and the exact kind of person Norose seeks to rid the world of. A delusionary existence representing the worst of humanity to them. A monster driven by nothing but desire.
And Chaos;Head ultimately rejects Schopenhauer. At least his ethics. Takumi may be broken, a monster, delusionary existence, an antisocial otaku freak, selfish, misogynistic, rude, etc. But he is human. He exists here, in reality, mutually recognized by those around him. Part of the world and the world of others. And even a delusionary existence like him deserves a chance at happiness and growth. He is not unworthy of companionship or love like he believed for so long throughout the story. Even if the world seems like its against you, it is good not to wallow away in delusions, but to exist, right here, with those who see him as a friend.
Even if you don't like Chaos;Head, I think we can at least agree that it is a good message.
I love this story, and I hope many others do as well.