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Chaos;Head NoAH – A play on perception!

IMPORTANT NOTE: I’m going to assume that all readers of this article have already completed Chaos;Head NoAH, so I won’t bother explaining the majority of plot/characters and WILL casually drop spoilers left and right. Some very mild spoilers for the rest of the Science Adventure Series too.


Is the scenery your eyes perceive truly real?”

This line is not only one of the most important lines in regards to Chaos;Head NoAH‘s story but also to the wider Science Adventure series as a whole. After all, it questions the element of one’s perception. The world around us that we see, hear, feel and touch.

It’s easy to grow accustomed to what you see and perceive it as your reality. I mean, waking up everyday and doing your daily routine is something that we as humans are comfortable with. It could be mundane, sure. But to us, it’s our world.

But what if the “reality” you’re used to was all a lie?

The way Chaos;Head NoAH plays with perception is done to varying degrees, so think of this analysis like peeling an onion. Let’s start with the first layer.

Delusion Triggers

So yeah, the core mechanic of the entire game.

Viewed through the lens of protagonist Nishijou Takumi, his introverted tendencies and otaku nature leads him to be a bit…. wild with his imagination. Whenever Takumi indulges himself in his delusions, they range from wildly sensual to extremely unpleasant. A decent amount of them are extremely outlandish, with such a juxtaposition to the story’s usual melancholic atmosphere that it firmly establishes to readers that this is indeed taking place in our virgin otaku’s head.

These triggers seem unimportant at an initial glance. A lot of them come off as either eroge bait or cheap shock value, but there are still some underlying key elements to them. Whenever a delusion trigger takes place, a moment of static is shown with flashes of the fun10×int40=Ir2 equation to clearly indicate what Takumi is witnessing at the current moment is not real. Yet as the stakes raise and the line between reality and fantasy blurs, there are instances of static being completely absent when a delusion trigger is prompted in key moments of the story, or it appearing without a delusion trigger – usually when Takumi is under immense emotional distress. Delusions build the fundamentals of Chaos;Head NoAH, frequently leaving the reader questioning what’s real and fake. This is going to be especially prominent in the next two layers.

Nishijou Takumi

What better to talk about than the main protagonist and viewpoint character of Chaos;Head NoAH, Nishijou Takumi? The introverted virgin otaku who indulges in the world of 2D and prefers to stay in his container house, playing Empire Sweeper Online under his alias of the legendary and well-respected Lightning-Fast Neidhardt–a stark juxtaposition to his non-existent reputation in the real world. Unlike many of the protagonists in later Science Adventure entries, Takumi is extremely pathetic. He’s a sad individual that prefers to hole up in his container box fawning over his waifu figurines and delusions. A far cry from what you’d typically expect out of a protagonist.

Throughout the New Generation Madness we see him trying to constantly convince himself that he’s normal amidst all the chaos that effectively makes his life a living hell. Ironic, considering how he quite literally indulges himself in escapism, but since he’s the sole viewpoint character we only truly only have his erratic perspective and thoughts to guide us at the beginning of the story. Considering how he’s so suspicious and outright afraid of everyone and everything from the very start, first-time readers really don’t have a choice but to believe his point of view as he partially works as an audience surrogate for us. We don’t have a single clue on what’s going on and are just as lost as confused in this supposed world where supernatural beings called Gigalomaniacs, who manifest mystical swords through delusions, just happen… to exist. It’s only through experiencing the brief flashes of external viewpoints where we get our first hints that Takumi’s assumptions are rather… questionable. Whenever he’s confronted with the paranormal early on in the story, Takumi staunchly denies it.

One of the best examples of this is how he chooses to view Rimi. At the start of the story we’re led to believe she’s the killer of the New Generation Madness. Takumi is absolutely terrified of her. While this was actually the product of multiple delusion synchros, with Rimi completely innocent… Takumi doesn’t know that, and chooses to paint her as a villain instead. As the fundemental concepts of delusions were yet to be introduced, the line is both blurred for Takumi and the audience.

Speaking as a reader, it’s hard not to think Rimi’s the killer. Or at least believe she is some kind of twisted antagonistic force that’s out for Takumi. It helps that the VN opens with a scene that chronologically takes place at the end of the Silent/Blue Sky, where Rimi tearfully and reluctantly steels her resolve to put Takumi out of his suffering in the aftermath of the Noah II’s explosion. Out of context though, its intentionally misleading to paint her as a murderer. That’s what makes Takumi’s strong accusations of her being a “demon girl” understandable to a degree. Him being so rooted to this belief is what makes the revelation that she is not his enemy, but rather his closest ally, such a shocking yet comforting plot twist. At the same time it still leaves so many questions, keeping a sense of anticipation for the rest of the story. As his time with her increases, Takumi finds immense salvation by her apparent nature as a normal girl far removed from the madness of everything. He makes her a part of his reality in a way, and chooses to stick to that belief much like he did before when he believed she was the killer. This attachment quickly turns into a constant desperation for her presence at all times as more horrible events, such as Nanami getting captured and his encounter with Suwa posing as Shogun, leave awful mental scars to his psyche. So when it’s revealed that she herself is a Gigalomaniac… Takumi’s own conceived notions crack, right before the game drops one of the biggest bombshells on us.

His entire existence is a complete and utter lie.

Yeah, when Takumi learns that he wasn’t the actual Nishijou Takumi, but rather a delusionary existence that was merely realbooted for a grand total of two years, his world shatters. Prior memories that he had once believed were his… just turned out to be borrowed. Melded from someone else’s. And frankly, this segment of the VN was the most harrowing part of the common route. Seeing Takumi devoid of any will to live as he pathetically begs for someone to end his existence after twist upon twist was played out about his true nature just ultimately shows how much his own worldview of “normalcy” meant to him.

As someone who read the original PC release of Chaos;Head as my entry point to the Science Adventure series, revisiting Chaos;Head NoAH with full context of the main story gave me so much more insight into how Takumi’s own perception of the events around him for most of the common route is built off denial–it is something he clings onto hard to actively cower away from the harsh truth. It’s only through properly interacting with his creator that he learns his purpose of destroying Noah II and Rimi’s true intentions to support him in spite of his existence, leading him to finally accept what he is and everything that’s happened. Fueled by the fact that bond he shared with Rimi is indeed real he is able to find his DI-Sword at last, embracing his delusions to become an immensely powerful Gigalomaniac and stop the Noah II.

Gigalomaniacs & Noah II

Alright, I’m going to tackle something more wide-scale. With a majority of the main cast being Gigalomaniacs, we get plenty of insight into these.

The key mechanic with Gigalomaniacs is realbooting, particularly how it affects not just the perception of fellow Gigalomaniacs, but also practically anyone else–regardless if they can see it or not. Taking non-realbooted objects created through the user’s delusions that lack form or presence, realbooting is quite literally the concept of giving that error form, forcibly altering the perception of the many and convincing them said object was always there. As the game likes to put it, a “mutual recognition” of a delusion. It was best explained when Takumi willed the flowerbed, albeit unconsciously, to save a falling Ayase, where the collective acknowledgement of “there is a concrete floor” by everyone was overwritten by “there is a flowerbed”, which saved Ayase from falling off a height that would have most certainly killed her.

The purpose of Noah II is fundamentally the same thing – it seeks to project “new” images that did not originally exist to millions across the population and realboot them into existence by pushing those images into the dead spots of a person’s vision.

Either way, both of them forcibly play with the reality of others by shoving onto them an external idea and making that idea intrude one’s worldview without their knowledge. In retrospect, the aspect of embracing delusions and “forcing” them to others within Gigalomaniacs serve as a nice contrast to Takumi’s initial mindset of holding onto false normalcy and “retreating”, which is why he was unable to find his DI-Sword and awaken until he liberated himself from the mindset that directly ran counter to his innate powerful Gigalomaniac abilities.

Overall, compared to the previous layer where I spoke about the viewpoint of a single individual (along with a bit of fourth wall due to the inclusion of the audience), which related more to mental state, one could say that the realbooting caused by Gigalomaniacs and the Noah II are more practical approaches in terms of how reality is affected. They affect a much, much larger scale of people due to the concept being built on mutual recognition.

Kishimoto Ayase

The reveal that Ayase sees a completely different world from everyone else in her character route still gets me by the heels — even if there were blatantly obvious hints from the very beginning, I never expected that to genuinely be the case.

The world she sees isn’t pretty. It’s filled with bloodshed, torture, and pain. But most importantly, the color of the sky is not “blue”. She’s, in fact, never seen the color “blue” in her life. It’s a painful crimson, reminiscent of something more akin to hell. Characters who may merely be having a walk together in the world of everyone else could be brutally beating each other to death in Ayase’s viewpoint.

Looking back at her character as a whole, Ayase seems the most far removed from reality. It tells a lot when she comes off as non-conformist in the already absurd mess that are the Gigalomaniacs and their delusions. She uses an entire set of exclusive terms different from their own – for instance, Gigalomaniacs are instead “Black Knights” and the Noah II is referred as the demonic entity “Gladioul”. When hearing the actual terms, she merely reacts in confusion.


Compared to everything we’ve seen so far, this is grand. What she sees, hears, feels and touches is extremely different. Whether this is her ability as a Gigalomaniac or if its simply just a product of her mental illness is left up to the reader’s interpretation, but it also brings up even more questions. Are there really 6.7 billion different worlds out there much like Ayase claims? Are there more people out there who view and observe different sets of worlds? Is the one that we see throughout Chaos;Head NoAH and by extension, the rest of the Science Adventure series (at least up to Occultic;Nine and Anonymous;Code, I’ll get to that in a bit) just a microcosm of the vast cluster of reality that we’re just completely unaware of?

The subject of Kishimoto Ayase doesn’t just expand on the shades of differing perception that was shown throughout the common route, it quite literally takes a huge leap and establishes concepts that have massive implications for not just this entry, but rather the wider series as a whole.

The Committee of 300

(Author’s note: I’m aware Anonymous;Code touches ground on this a lot more. As of writing this, I still haven’t read that. So don’t expect anything from there to be written here.)

It took Chaos;Head NoAH a long time to actually receive a localization. A lot of Science Adventure fans, including myself, had no choice but to read the original PC Chaos;Head release which didn’t have the side routes included at its time of release. So, we’ve always known the Committee of 300 as the overarching antagonist of the entire series. The organization that funds and schemes all the major events that take place within the series as a whole, not just Project Noah.

Who knew that tucked away inside the Aoi Sena route was the one detail that had some of the most significant implications that would affect the entire series as we knew it?

The revelation that the entire Science Adventure series as we know it takes place inside a simulation.
The fact that the Committee of 300, that has served as the antagonistic forces for the games, were merely a cover up for the real Committee who exist in a higher plane of existence–simply acting as observers to the “world” that takes place.

Takumi once made a passing comment while playing ESO about being the “player” character of Neidhardt who controls him without his knowledge, stating that there’s the possibility those on an even higher plane than him may be watching his every move and acting as “players” for his life. Initially, I passed it off as fourth wall joke addressed to the player of the VN… but alas.

I can’t even describe how this just shatters the concept of reality and perception to a completely new degree. I was frankly baffled, and it took me quite a while to actually sit down and wrap my head on the situation. It was really just one of those moments where I could honestly go “you mean this series I’ve been following for an ENTIRE year is… a simulation?” I’m sure other longtime fans felt the same.

Interestingly enough the idea of this “mechanical god” that Sena’s route brings up actually runs parallel with Ayase’s route, in where it shows interference from a “greater will”. Both routes ultimately explore the concept of higher beings, and imply that there’s honestly something much greater being hidden behind layers of worlds or realities. Funnily enough the information both routes provide could also be easily brushed away as a bunch of denpa/chuuni drivel. it’s just so up in the air for interpretation as it comes off as almost outlandish… but at the same time, this VN frequently tackles how what you see may not be the full picture of what’s really going on. Personally, I choose to believe it. All the more reason why I’m so excited to read Anonymous;Code and get a better picture of what’s going on here.

Conclusion

I always intended for each layer to feel like it was tackling a concept that felt greater than the last, which is funny because the more we delve into this mini-rabbithole the more outlandish and insane it gets, particularly with the side routes I just mentioned.

But yes, I love Chaos;Head NoAH. The way it messes with your sense of perception in so many different ways as it progressively blows your mind isn’t something you’d see everyday. How I got from the mere delusions of a borderline shut-in teenager to how the entire series being a simulation is beyond me, but writing this definitely served as a reminder to how smart the author of Chaos;Head NoAH is (I am looking at you Chiyomaru) with how they carefully lay the pieces out and how they choose to orchestrate certain massive reveals.

I hope you guys enjoyed the ride, it was definitely a fun experience.


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Rulu

I write about SciADV, Utawarerumono and other games

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fos1x
fos1x
3 months ago

Wait, you can comment a review?
Right, THIS GAME DIVERSE ALL MY EXPECTATION AND STILL SUCK @SS