Chobits, Volume 1

Yushiro (Former Staff) — April 20th, 2003
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Chobits centers around a young man by the name of Hideki Motosuwa, who moves from his sheltered farm existence to Tokyo in hopes of entering college. Sadly for model-citizen Hideki, he fails the entrance exam and decides to attend a prep school in the city to prepare for the exam again. Upon arriving in the city, he observes and promptly becomes infatuated with the premise of the show, persocoms, mannequin-style supercomputers that most people keep as pets and servants. Being a poor farm boy, though, Hideki cannot afford one, nor does he really know much about them. Conveniently enough, our protagonist just so happens to find a seemingly discarded, barely clothed persocom on his way home from the grocery store. (And here we leave any semblance of decency behind.)

Arriving at his economy-size apartment, he promptly fondles the young girl, looking for the 'on' switch. Upon *ahem* booting up the machine, he comes to discover, through the help of his neighbor and classmate Shinbo and young genius Minoru, that his find does not appear to have any standard operating system installed on it, and therefore shouldn't be able to move at all. Chi, the name of Hideki's persocom (so dubbed due to the fact she can only utter "chi" at first), does appear to have some kind of learning software, though. This naturally becomes the thrust behind further episodes and the major comedy device for the show, at least in this volume. In the course of the opening four episodes, Hideki will teach, or attempt to teach, Chi to speak, identify objects, and buy panties.

If it hasn't quite become clear to you, the show is a little light on the whole modesty thing, though it tries very hard to limit it to mere fan-service and tempers it one of the story's greatest faults - Hideki's excessive side-stepping of the issue with attempts to be 'proper' around Chi and his excessive bashfulness when everything 'proper' dissipates, in the guise of comedy. (And there are more than an ample number of opportunities for this, considering Chi seems to be constantly losing her clothing and falling all over Hideki.) This happens so often that it quickly becomes repetitive, especially considering that Hideki indeed is a first-class pervert in the first place, with his stockpiles of 'bait' and constant desire to access internet porn sites. This is compounded by the fact that he is surrounded by beautiful women - his building manager, prep-school teacher, co-worker - whose attitudes towards Hideki range from the overly affectionate to blatantly hitting on him. All the while, Hideki is either running around too embarrassed or preoccupied with Chi (or himself) to notice these 'real' girls.

Most of the other forms of humor in the show, like Chi's mimicry of others or the antics of Sumomo (Shinbo's mini-persocom), are very amusing to watch, but the central character is consigned to a mere caricature. Of what? I find it quite odd that something like Chobits comes from Clamp, an all female group. Hideki is likely some kind of commentary, albeit in an overly cutesy setting, on *ahem* a certain culture. If it is there, though, it is so overpowered by exactly what they would be commenting on, that it may as well not even be there. It just leaves Hideki wandering through his 'trials' in a daze and with a perpetually red face.

All of that out of the way, and despite what you may think now, I did found myself enjoying the introduction to the series. When the main character is not flexing his perversion skills (read: in the scene), the show can have a very sweet quality to it, and the characters and their interactions are playful enough to keep one amused. The animation itself is not overly complex in style or technique, but brilliantly drawn and colored, which comes as no surprise considering the source of the material and the animation studio behind it. As far as sound goes, the Japanese voice acting is superb, with each voice being well-acted and an excellent character match, to my ears. The English dub is less admirable, though not necessarily that bad. For the dub, the characters sounds older than they really are, and most of the actors seem to take themselves more seriously than they ought to in this type of show.

The music is nothing spectacular, and probably too bouncy to be something that I would listen to outside of the show. The opening, Let Me Be With You performed by Nino and Roundtable, is quite lovely and my one exception. There are a large amount of sound effects used, and therefore worthy of mention. A lot of them sound generic, as though I've heard them in a thousand other shows (anime or otherwise), but they are well used as comedic accents.

Extras are a little on the sparse side, overall, but that can also depend on which of Pioneer's three versions you get. The first, the standalone DVD, merely has an art gallery - with very small pictures I might add - and textless opening. The second version, the version this reviewer picked up, has the first DVD and an artbox to house the successive volumes of the show. The box is of sturdy construction and covered in some of the more lovely artwork, which made up for the lack of content on the DVD for me. The final, limited edition version includes a Chobits-themed stationary set in addition to the box and DVD.

The bottom line is that I enjoy most everything about the show, save for the main character. (Which I suppose wouldn't normally bode well for the show if the rest of it was not as good as it is.) Some may find the show overly-cutesy or overly-fan-servicey, but if you are looking for a light show, and can 'put up with' the bawdier aspects, the first volume of Chobits shows promise.

Distributor: Pioneer
Creator: CLAMP, Madhouse Studio
Released: 2003

Video Quality: A-
Audio Quality: B+
Presentation: A
Content: B
Overall: B+