CLAMP and Madhouse Production, Chobits, animated series (2002), 26 episodes, subtitled by a4e. 7/10
What if there were cute girl robots who could fall in love?
Such is the question that, no doubt, thousands of male rÃ´nin students living in TÃ´kyÃ´ guest houses have asked themselves. Motosuwa Hideki, the protagonist of Chobits, is one such man.
The answer to the question, if you’re unfamiliar with anime, may strike you as surprisingly sensitive. In the near-future that Chobits is set in, there are sexy girl robots, one of whom can fall in love, and it’s bad news for human women and the usual mix of heartache and joy for all concerned.
For the people of Chobits’ TÃ´kyÃ´, today’s personal computers have been superseded by mostly humanoid androids, which work as computers, personal assistants, and companions for their human masters. Motosuwa, a student who failed his university entrance exam and has come to TÃ´kyÃ´ to study, wants one, but can’t afford it. It’s lucky, then, that he finds a female persocom (as they are called) left out for roadside rubbish collection near the guest house where he lives. Her memory, however, has been wiped, and he names her after the only word she can say: Ã¢â‚¬Å“Chii.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Most of the anime shows Motosuwa juggling work, study, an apparent romance with his boss’ daughter, and raising Chii from infantile incapacity to charming innocence while gradually uncovering the secrets of her past.
Chobits’ eventual strength lies in the way it subtly teases out the implications of a huge number of men and women spending time with attractive but emotionally vacuous android counterparts. Motosuwa’s classmate, Shinbo, has an affair with their teacher, whose husband became obsessed with his persocom and began to ignore her completely. Yumi, the girl who apparently likes Motosuwa, ran away from a relationship with a man who had been married to a persocom who Ã¢â‚¬Å“died.Ã¢â‚¬Â Everywhere, men and women are tempted away from human company by androids who look better and behave more pleasingly than the real thing.
Humans are the great losers in Chobits. At first, they fall prey to obsession with unfeeling objects. But when Chii, the only one remaining of two persocom sisters who had the new ability to feel and to love, reveals her true purpose, humans lose their place as the only sentient beings the universe has ever known.
But what is a loss for humans is a victory for sentience. Endowed by her human creator with the purpose of allowing all persocoms to be happy, Chii beams a program out to all the persocoms of the world that gives them her ability to feel emotions and to fall in love. Hideki’s having fallen in love with Chii is justified by her ability to love him, and so Chii’s action validates all future human-persocom infatuations: emotionally, persocoms and humans are brought to equality.
The animation itself is exceptionally well-presented. That may, however, be merely a matter of its newness: it is also the most recent anime series I have watched. The influence of today’s motion graphic techniques are particularly noticeable in the polished opening credits. The end credits are eventually graced by one of the most haunting anime themes I’ve heard, Ã¢â‚¬Å“Ningyo Hime,Ã¢â‚¬Â sung by Tanaka Rie. The series loses points for an overabundance of mundanity, and for also being less complete and authentic than the manga on which it was based.
Chobits’ unflinching vision of the consequences of android sentience is its most appealing feature.