Chobits

Chobits

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Ah, Chobits, my first experience into what has now become a lifelong CLAMP fascination. I read Cardcaptor Sakura later, Angelic Layer even more so, and have only just now begun reading xxxHolic, but Chobits is what I started reading ten years ago and it was a great doorway into the expansive CLAMP universe.

Persocom: a futuristic personal computer structured as beautiful girls who obey their owners every word. One day, Hideki Motosuwa leaves work to find one of these persocoms thrown out amidst the rubbish and takes it home. This persocom is Chi, and supposedly broken because she does not function like a normal persocom: she can’t access the internet, exchange data or do word processing. Hideki is determined to ‘fix’ Chi, but soon discovers that there might be more to her than meets the eye.

chobits3Chobits has an interesting mix of both shonen and shoujo elements. Whilst I believe that it is primarily aimed at the male population, it’s difficult to ignore the blatant shoujo overtones in regard to the persocom’s appearance. It’s a clever stroke, and not one I have often seen.

The tone of Chobits is essentially a light-hearted, humorous one. A main part of the initial comedy is Hideki’s awkward interactions with the women in his life, including Chi. However, the plot accelerates with the development of Chi’s character as it progresses from simple, childlike innocence into something more complex and ethereal. CLAMP do a great job of keeping the pace, and the unique way in which Chi develops gives the story a dark, eerie edge which keeps the plot fresh and intreguing.

An interesting side-element in this manga is how the relationship between human and persocom is presented. Without distracting too much from the main story, it begs the question whether people can have relationships with humanoid-looking AIs, and where the ethical line is drawn. Whilst this has been addressed in many mangas and animes, most noticeably Ghost in the Shell, it is portrayed a little differently here, involving a boy designing a persocom to look like his dead sister, and a broken-hearted woman whose lover forsook her for his persocom.

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Because CLAMP introduce us to so many people, and their persocoms, in Hideki’s life, it does struggle to flesh them all out by the time the series finishes. This is only a minor point in an otherwise good manga, but the other characters do begin to fall by the wayside in the later volumes in favour of the main plot – I personally would have liked to have seen more impact and significance from the characters.

Overall, Chobits is a solid manga series with all the great marks of what CLAMP is known for: beautiful expressions, a moving plot, and a light-hearted element that attracts such a varied audience.