Revisiting Chaos;Head and Steins;Gate: Initial Recall
When I first started watching anime I decided to find out what the classic were. So I looked up some lists and kept running across Steins;Gate as a frequent top 10 anime. I did a little more digging and found out that it took place in the same universe as Chaos;Head but I shouldn’t watch it because it’s bad and not really needed to appreciate Steins;Gate. I hadn’t seen much anime and I wanted to get the full enjoyment out of Steins;Gate, so I decided to watch Chaos;Head first, and I absolutely loved it. This made me super excited to watch Steins;Gate. If I liked the “first” show surely I’d like the “next” much better show. I wasn’t aware at the time that Steins;Gate, despite also being a romance comedy mystery science-fiction show, has nothing stylistically in common with Chaos;Head, except for Chiyomaru Shikura’s insatiable love of urban legends. I wasn’t a fan. Right now S;G is at 4/10 on my mal and C;H is at a 9/10. This has been a topic of many an argument for me online because this is the “objectively wrong” reaction. So after five years I’m going coming back to these two and reevaluate my stance on them. First I’m going to make this post about what I remember about why I like Chaos;Head so much and why I’m not really into the masterpiece that is Steins;Gate. Then I’m going to watch the shows and review them. Then I’m going to play and review both games because a common criticism of C;H is its poor attempts to adapt the game, and S;G is praised for succeeding, so want to understand that view. . So here’s my thoughts on the shows from what I remember. This is more of a record of me being wrong than something you should read, but have fun.
Like I said earlier I was really new to anime at the time, so while I’m sure C;H has a lot of poorly handled tropes, but I didn’t really feel them. The distant but super cool MC didn’t bother me, the way the MC could attract females I thought was a little weird but chopped it up to the MC’s secret power and lore of the show. These are all things that I would probably be mad at if I saw it again, though Occultic;Nine (also based off a Chiyomaru Shikura game and a light novel that he wrote) had very similar traits and I really enjoyed that show. Unlike a lot of fedora tipping anime boys the main guy in C;H isn’t your usual Kirito who are distant, but when needed, become a super cool guy who does everything right. Instead he’s more akin to a Shinji where magically things turn out okay but he’s not a functional person (I know bad comparison, but I liked the archetype at the time). I also remember that he was conscious of being a failure he was but just didn’t want to fix himself because it was too much work. Which I really enjoy. There’s still a lot of wish fulfillment, like things that alienate him cause him to be such a super cool guy that gets all the girls, but since it costs him, I could forgive that. The harem stuff didn’t bother me too much because the show has so much mystique that it just works. Like there’s this scene where the main guy is at a concert (no idea why) and some girl on stage summons a sword and then starts eying him; it was so weird I wanted to see what happened. I played a little of the game and I remember the start clearer than the show and something similar happens where the MC hallucinates a girl viciously murdering someone, and then like helps her find a bike or something rom-comy. This blend of a fantastical world, with violence, with steamy relationship stuff is really enjoyable to me, not in a fan servicey way but as a bizarre atmosphere like in Wild Palms; where the character is just completely lost, people want things from him, but not sure what they want or why.
Steins;Gate lacks a lot of the moodiness that I loved in C;H. The first episode is amazing with an interesting art direction, John Titor nods right out of the gate, and a mysterious murder. However while C;H had a strong “WTF is going on” this murder is solved really quickly by Kirusu just being alive in the end of the first episode and the murder is inconsequential. The mystery then shifts to Okabe’s time traveling, which wasn’t super engaging to me because I knew the Titor theory beforehand and wasn’t super engaged until Suzuha shows up and lays the hard lore down. I had a hard time getting behind Okabe’s comedy because it reminded me of the main character’s best friend who just annoyed me. There were parts that I found funny but I was really just waiting for the tone to start up again and was annoyed with the show. I had read a lot of hype for the show and some called it the best time travel story, but for most of the show nothing really happens, it’s just characters talking without any of the intrigue of C;H. Now and that I’m aware of how the show is paced and being a slice of life now I expect to enjoy these scenes a lot more. Once people started to make requests the plot got a little bit better, but it caused me to be angry at Okabe for using the time machine poorly. When he plot twists I was just like “There you go, you’re getting what you deserve”. I’m interested in seeing S;G 0 because I love the conspiracy stuff that happens at the end, which is as close the show gets to tonally matching what I loved about C;H. Last thing I remember about S;G is they start breaking their own time travel rules, like they hack into CERN and delete something which causes him to shift timelines somehow, then there’s some linear time travel stuff that messes up Titor’s theory or something. I just remember being really annoyed that the end doesn’t fit with the show’s time travel theory, which makes it a bad time travel story.
S;G is way better of a show from a technical perspective. From what I remember of C;H the plot is only really in the last 3 episodes and I couldn’t tell you anything about the characters. I think the main guy’s name starts with an M, Motoko, Motakai? (It’s Takumi? Oh.) S;G has great characters and even though I didn’t enjoy all the character stuff I can at least tell you what the characters are like, which is something I can’t say for C;H except for Taku’s character. I think the plot of C;H is way more interesting than S;G, though it is really fun to see an adaptation of John Titor and in such detail as S;G did. They even incorporated the IBM 5100 (though it’s usage was wrong, but it was still fun) and CERN’s expansion in the mythos is really interesting.
That’s pretty much all I remember. I know the basic plot of both shows but that’s about it. I expect to enjoy C;H again because I’m a sucker for conspiracy stuff and I will probably enjoy S;G more. But who know, I thought The Last Airbender was a 6 before and gave up 15 mins into it. Tastes change and sometimes people realize they liked garbage, let’s see if I’m one of them.