Chaos;Head (2008, Madhouse)
Strange incidents are happening around Shibuya known as "New Generation Madness (New Gen)". Takumi Nishijou (Taku) is a nerd who isn't interested in the real world and spends most of this time playing MMORPGs online inside his cargo container "base". He often has sensual delusions about girls he meets while going about his daily life and thinks the character from his favourite game, Seira-tan is hanging out with him. Skipping school often, he is fairly much treated like he's invisible at school. Often he would think, "Whose eyes are those?" as if he's being watched.
One afternoon while chatting in a forum he receives images of the murders and decides to go to a net cafe to continue playing to clear his mind. As he leaves he witnesses the very murder that was shown in his photo and immediately runs back to his container room, determined to believe it was just another of his sudden delusions. To his surprise, the next day he suddenly finds the girl that was at the murder scene in the same class as him. She even claims they were friends, even though he had no memories of such. What's more, when he re-examines the murder scene photos he was sent, they were taken in the past before the incident.
Despite his best efforts to continue his hermit life he finds himself continually being dragged into new incidents and is forced to learn what's really going on around Shibuya for his own sake.
Decided to watch this because it's a prequel to Chaos;Child and that wasn't too bad. 5pb/Mages visual novels usually have good stories even. It starts off a very odd show. Character's voices sound intentionally faked and their dialogue feel like they're all written specifically for Taku rather than having a personality of their own. It's quite hard to put up with even though it only lasts the first two episodes.
Four episodes in and I found myself still trying to make head and tail of the story. Half way the story finally starts to pickup although Taku's character remains withdrawn and pathetic with his delusions. All the girls' personalities feel like they're created to please Taku rather than have personalities of their own.
The sequel was full of graphic horrific murders but this only has around two so not as bad. Being based on a visual novel game you can expect fan service, mostly Takumi having erotic delusions whenever he's with one of the many girls in this show. That said, it's fun spotting the locations around Shibuya if you've been there before. And also some interesting new ones like the Police Station on Udagawa Street. You also get a glimpse of JR Tokyo General Hospital which appears at the start of the Weathering with You movie too.
On the surface it looks like just another high school protagonist show (which it is) but it's still managed to create a bit of sci-fi/fantasy lore about a secret underworld that the average person isn't aware off. Kind of like Steins;gate in a way when they accidentally stumble upon it while messing around with their crazy gadgets but that show was much better paced, had better characters and more sci-fi oriented.
Some people say it's a poor adaptation of the original visual novel by 5pb (now Mages) because it's only been given 12 episodes but I can't confirm since I haven't played it.
Well, if the show's got one thing going for it, "Chaos;Head" is a fitting title. If you can get through the first half of the show and don't mind the sudden sensual delusions, it's worth a watch even though it was kind of obvious where it was going.