Kobato is a magic girl of a different stripe ... call it a candy-stripe. While watching the series, I thought of those young girls wishing to grow up and become nurses. These would be the ‘candy stripers,’ a long-forgotten heritage of the volunteer girls who worked the hospitals until professionalism created the class of orderlies. A noble cause swept aside by a feeling that the medical profession needed something more … professional. Still, a young heart devoted to helping those in time of pain and grief ... that's the spirit of Kobato.
Thanks to CLAMP, we have a delightfully complex story which hinges on one person whose kindness and infectious smile proves that lives can be changed through the influence of that one individual. Kobato comes to our world with a mission, to mend broken hearts. This leads to the conflict of noble mission vs. motivation. Kobato will do well to work her special form of innocent magic to help those hurt in life, but we learn that this is being done to gain a fulfillment of a wish. Still, she has four seasons to fill a bottle with 'confetti,' small candy-shaped tokens of a successful heart-mending. And yet, Kobato is slow in taking up the mission, choosing to become part of the Yomogi Preschool instead of roving the world for these tormented hearts, for reasons that will be constantly unfolding. Oh yes, the special craftiness of CLAMP is this constantly unfolding ... this seems to be a key element in this CLAMP anime which features backstory after backstory revealed through hints and whispers. And the most important backstory comes last of all. Who is this strange girl, Kobato? We know nothing of her, and I was taken aback that Kobato always wore a hat. She looked cute in everything she wore, so the hat went unnoticed. And then, the reason for her wearing the hat is revealed.
As always, characters drive the story, and we learn about each through those very hints and whispers spoken of ago, a story clumsily told because important parts are left unspoken, until all is revealed at the end. First, we have Ioryogi, Kobato's mentor (or, tor-mentor), who is a dog plushie who has been disgruntled in his life (and most likely not always a dog plushie all his life), having been placed under punishment for raising a coup in the Celestial World. He must guide Kobato in her confetti collecting as if this was the key to the removal of his punishment (it is). Given to fits of anger, he cannot understand why Kobato has left off on her mission. She is so close to filling the confetti bottle. Next, Fujimoto is a young man slightly older than Kobato. He grew up an orphan and has been working at Yomogi Preschool. Years ago, Fujimoto was taken in by Yomogi Preschool’s head-mistress' father. Always wishing to be alone, he became adept at the school organ and for years had entertained the children who came to Yomogi. He is cool toward Kobato and her optimism, but Kobato learns to see past the aloofness and see a caring individual who needs a lot of work in that direction. Finally, Sayaka is the teacher at Yomogi and is a warm dedicated person whose only fault is to have inherited a huge debt from her father. She struggles to keep the preschool afloat, and those moments of her anxiety in contemplating the impossibility of paying the debt are riveting. Still, she is encouraged by Kobato's spirit and faces debt-collection and forfeiture bravely, especially considering the chief debt collector being her estranged husband. Co-operating in the confetti-collecting project are various members of the preschool who have their share of young hearts which need that healing touch.
At the climax, Kobato is faced with a decision, to strive to fill the bottle with confetti and fulfill the contract and gain her wish (and recompense for Ioryogi's punishment) or to spend the few months with Fujimoto, with whom she realizes she has fallen in love before returning to the oblivion she had been sequestered. For we learn that Kobato seeks a second chance to life, having lost her first life in an incident that was tragic, and that Ioryogi feels himself responsible for. Striving to win the heart of an insensitive Fujimoto becomes the difficult quest of the springtime, and Kobato meekly accepts her fate in surrendering her transitory soul to the rabbit spirit Ushagi. Fujimoto suddenly realizes he has feelings for Kobato and seeks her out. Ironically, though he finds her too late, the mending of his heart supplies the confetti Kobato needs to fill the bottle ... again, too late. Kobato is taken, along with all memories of Kobato by all connected with her in her one-year stay at Yomogi Preschool.
Love shall conquer, nonetheless. It is the nature of Iyashikei-style anime to have a healing effect. There is little conflict, other than the rough nature of the team of debt collectors who vow to tear down Yomogi Preschool if the debt be not paid. You'd almost expect some "Confetti-Catcher Sakura' to show up to snatch the flask. The rest of that gang show up in episode 20, but no girly threat to the confetti. The only heart-wrenching comes in those years where Kobato came and left without a trace ... save for one moment of recollection comes to Fujimoto when a trace piece of confetti is discovered among his belongings. Then comes the years of growing older knowing that if this love be fated, it shall occur no matter how much time is spent.
Then we will see that the real magic girl is not so magical after all.
Solid animation. Spell-binding music with powerful lyrics. Kobato is an adventure for souls who feel they have lost love.