CHOBITS (2002)

 

Format: 24 (27?) 23-minute episodes on 6(7) DVDs

 

Rating: PG-13 (BN, AC)

 

Type: Romantic Comedy-Drama-Mystery-Sci Fi

 

American Production: Geneon (was Pioneer)

 

Japanese Production: MADHOUSE/CLAMP

 

Grading

 

Premise:

B+

Story:

B

Writing:

B+

Character Design:

A

Animation:

B+

Artistic Merits:

B+

English Dub:

B

Musical Score:

B+

Songs:

C

Opener:

B+

Closer:

B

 

 

Humor Content:

B+

Action Content:

C

Drama Content:

B

 

 

DVD Presentation:

B

DVD Extras:

C

 

 

OVERALL:

B+

 

Synopsis

      In a world similar to our own in many ways, technology has taken a different path that has allowed for the existence of Persocoms, which are walking talking computers that can resemble anything from a doll to a full-size person. They can perform all the normal functions of advanced electronics devices – serving as a speaker phone, taking messages, doing Web searches, analyzing data, etc. – but they can also be programmed to perform general tasks and, to an extent, mimic human behavior. Only their distinctive ear covers differentiate full-sized Persocoms from humans at a glance, and their presence in the world as tools and companions is quite popular in urban areas. In the country they are far less common, and it is from this background that Hideki comes.

      After having been rejected admittance to college because of bad test scores, Hideki moves to the big city to attend a cram school in preparation for retaking the test. Being poor and from a rural background, his knows of Persocoms but is unfamiliar with them and cannot afford one. Fortunately for him, he finds an intact Persocom, who resembles a very cute girl, laying intact but inert in the trash. With help from others he is able to turn her on. Hideki learns much about Persocoms himself while trying to teach his Persocom – called Chi because at first that’s all she can say – how to do various basic things. Meanwhile practical concerns, like school, a job, and relationships with humans must be managed. There are inklings from the beginning that Chi may be a very unusual Persocom, however. Urban legend speaks of Chobits, a series of Persocoms with the ability to express real emotions, and there are indications that Chi might be one of them. Can the inexperienced Hideki cope with a Persocom that just might be falling in love with him?

 

Quotes

      “Who is the One For Me?” (Chi)

      “Chi!” (Chi)

 

The Long View

      One of the most recent productions by the female artistic team CLAMP, Chobits is a series that defies easy classification. Although it is most commonly labeled a romantic comedy, and does include some of the traditional elements of such titles, it is only late in the series that the romantic elements really bloom. Although it contains sci-fi elements, it does not have the look or feel of a sci fi story, and it is set in the current time. (Even if it is an alternate universe.) Other elements of the series more resemble a mystery story or sitcom. The combination creates a series that is much more distinctive than it may look like at first.

      The approach that the series takes is a fairly clever one. Although only one significant factor – the existence of Persocoms – separates the world of Chobits from our world, the implications of this difference are immense. By having Hideki ignorant about Persocoms to start and surrounding him with characters that can help him sort out the specifics, it allows the writers to present the various ins and outs of Persocoms to the viewer as Hideki is discovering them himself. By spreading this out over many episodes, it keeps the story from needing encyclopedic entries or other supporting materials to make sense of Persocoms. Chobits also does a very good job of exploring the effect on interpersonal relations that computers who substantially resemble humans might have. What are the consequences, for instance, of people falling in love with their Persocoms, or of a person customizing and programming a Persocom to replace someone who has died? These are issues that would certainly come up were Persocoms to really exist.

      The character design of Chobits is its strongest technical point, although the technical merits are quite good overall. The cuteness of Chi herself is undeniable, but the real winner in the ridiculously cute department is the ever-energetic, pint-sized Sumomo, a Persocom owned by Hideki’s more tech-savvy neighbor. Most of the other character designs throughout the series are also a delight. The artwork and animation is otherwise good, and the musical scoring mostly sets a light-hearted, whimsical tone occasionally interspersed with more haunting and ominous bits. The English voice work is solid but not especially remarkable, except in the roles of Sumomo and Chi herself. (Although Crispin Freeman’s turn as Hideki is so different from his roles in other anime series that you may not recognize him at first.) The writing allows the story to progress at a leisurely pace, which is a Good Thing considering that there really isn’t that much plot here.

      Most of the humor in the series is on the level of a TV sitcom and centers around either Chi’s comical misunderstanding of certain things (like Hideki’s porno mags) or Hideki’s almost neurotic reactions to various stresses in his life. As an example, one of the funniest episodes is an early one centered on Hideki’s need to buy panties for Chi and the various hoops he tries to jump through to avoid the highly embarrassing (for him) task of doing it himself. Although there is a bit of fan service and racy content here and there (the switch to turn Chi on is where?), this is not a particularly graphic series overall.

      Chobits offers a distinctly different take on the sci-fi romance. It is a well-produced title that is well worth a look.

 

      One final note: although the story in the series actually concludes with episode 24, there are three additional episodes slated for later release in the States. 

 

DVD Extras

      Each DVD includes both a mini-poster and a double-sided card that, when put together with the cards from the other DVDs, forms a larger picture on one side. The DVDs themselves include Company Previews, an Art Gallery, and alternate presentations of the opener and closer (whether clean or in original Japanese form, depending on the volume).

 

 

Principle English Voice Actors

Role

Voice Actor

Hideki

Crispin Freeman

Chi, minor roles

Michelle Ruff

Shinbo, minor roles

Tony Oliver

Sumomo, minor roles

Sandy Fox

Minoru Kokobunji, minor roles

Mona Marshall

Chitose Hibiya (the manager)

Ellen Wilkinson

Yumi, minor roles

Julie Maddalena

Yuzuki, minor roles

Karen Strassman

Takako Shimizu, minor roles

Wendee Lee

Yumi Ueda, Kotoko

Kay Jensen

Hiroyasu Ueda, minor roles

David Lucas

Yoshiyuki, minor roles

Terrence Stone

 

 

 

Home   |   Anime Reviews   |   Manga Reviews   |   References   | Links |   >Bibliography