Chobits is a charming series which portrays, weirdly enough, a touching relationship between man and his computer. Incidentally, it also brings a whole new meaning to the phrase ‘to turn a girl on'.
As well as providing excellent comedy moments to enhance the emotional experience, Chobits delivers an intriguing social commentary on the relationship between humans and machines. Sure, watching Chii stumble adorably through simple social situations with hilarious consequences left me feeling warm and cheerful. However, later, as the series introduced the more controversial subplots, I found myself emotionally confused (in a good way) and a touch saddened. I am unsure whether I agree with the possibilities opened up by the story, although I appreciate how important these issues are for the characters. At the least I take this as a sign of the series' complexity.
Whilst largely episodic, with the series revolving around Chii's step-by-step development and Hideki's bumbling responses to it, there also exists an overarching sad tone which only comes to the fore towards the end. In this way, it is comparable to series like Fruits Basket and, just like Fruits Basket, the delivery of the last few episodes is great. On the one hand, what happens to the central protagonists is quite melodramatic but, in terms of the wider implications, the series delivers an intriguing, open-ended conclusion.
Everything considered, only one question remains: why does it not deserve the full marks available? The problem is that Chobits remains trapped by its genre, with the plot hinging upon the ‘single male with female guest in his apartment' gimmick. Although presented with utmost skill, the fact remains that there are only so many new ideas to be found here. The result is that the bulk of episodes in the middle are stereotypical and wholly skippable with the second viewing.
Being a typical CLAMP feature, Chobits has a clean, fresh look, with the palette comprised mostly of pleasant pastels. Movement is smooth throughout and the comic expressions hit the spot every time. Because of the combination of simple-yet-elegant design and quality visuals, dating the series is not straightforward; meaning it will continue to look good for a long while yet.
Animation-wise, my only problem is with the character designs of Chii and Hideki. I find it discomfiting that this guy who looks twenty-five (although he is nineteen) is supposedly in love with a girl that looks twelve (although, technically, she is ageless). There is a believable reason why she looks that way, but that does not stop me pulling the odd face, particularly at the ecchi scenarios.
The opening theme is catchy and repetitive without ever getting old; the ending and in-scene themes in comparison are decent but not memorable. What earns the show a high rating is the voice acting, which works well at all times, and Chii easily gets the most credit for suitability.
Chii is everything a guy could ever want - docile, loyal as hell, and forever pubescent. Not to mention that she looks great in a towel. Going by past experience with similar characters, I expected nothing substantial from her... which means I was pleasantly surprised at the extent to which she did develop. At first she just does a lot of endearing things like mimic Hideki's actions and act innocent at the most inappropriate times, which only evokes a lot of sentimental gushing. Eventually, her own will and personality start to come across; although, disappointingly, she does not mature to the extent that she could have. By the end, she still seems a lot more victim than heroine, albeit a highly sympathetic one.
Just like Chii, but on a different level, Hideki Motozuwa is a fish out of water character. A farm boy trying to make it in cosmopolitan Tokyo, he is shy around girlie things, kind and considerate, and totally lacking in the brain department. Hideki is ninety percent stereotypical - down to the nosebleeds and the virginity - but the ten percent of personality that he has stops him being annoyingly flat. For example, his patience when teaching Chii, how he provides for her at considerable cost to himself, his active concern for her when she is not with him, and his willingness to learn from her in turn, are indicators of a deep and admirable soul. Moreover, the fact that Hideki provides some classic comedy moments makes warming to him very easy.
The rest of the cast, including Hideki's best friend Hiromu Shinbo, Yumi the waitress, Minoru Kokubunji the child expert, Mr. Ueda the baker, and Chitose Hibiya the landlady, all have fantastic backgrounds. They provide subplots which are not only emotional in their own right, but feed meaningfully into the central plot as well. Each character's situation is a memorable variation on the same theme and gives a fascinating insight into Chobits's controversy.
Chobits is enjoyable through and through, just not rewatchable through and through. Barring the formulaic structure, it seems to have no major flaws to speak of; after all, it has characters that are interesting, delivers some truly heart-warming moments, and looks very good. If you are looking for a romance with a mostly-sweet-sometimes-sad feel, then this one comes highly recommended.
Having failed to earn admission to a university, Hideki Motosuwa has moved to the big city, determined to study his hardest for next year's exams. However, an unusual distraction presents itself one unsuspecting day in the form of Chii, a robotic young girl that has been discarded in the trash. In a world where an increasing number of people turn to these 'persocoms' for company, the bonds and limits of human relationships are tested as flesh manages to fall in love with the machine itself...
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