Video Reviews
Chobits, Vol. 1: Persocom
by Morio Asaka
Madhouse (2002)
Chobits, Vol. 1: Persocom
8 / 10
Though it draws from a wide range of influences--including the Greek myth of Pygmalion and Galatea, Fritz Lang's Metropolis, 1980s American sitcom Small Wonder, the Japanese sex trade, and the pervasive influence of the Internet--I can honestly say that I've never seen anything quite like Chobits.

Based faithfully on the bestselling manga by the all-star, all-female artists' cell CLAMP, Chobits is so completely bizarre, you can't help but be drawn into its 22nd century world, where computers have evolved into Persocoms, walking, talking robots that can be programmed to fulfill your every whim, from housekeeping to...uhm, yeah. The animation style is slick, with clever 'mouse clicking' sound effects between scenes, and a lush, pastel-drenched color palette.

In the story, farm yokel/aspiring college student Hideki is too poor to afford a Persocom of his own, despite his fervent desire to surf the Internet and look at porno sites. Shortly after moving to Tokyo, and revealing his major character trait--he falls in lust with every attractive woman he meets--Hideki has the 'good fortune' to stumble upon a discarded female Persocom in an alleyway. He takes the Persocom, who cannot say anything other than 'Chi,' home with him. I think you can guess where the on/off switch is located. And wacky situation comedy ensues.

Hideki has to juggle typical student responsibilities--classes, bills, and romance with real live girls--with the peculiar responsibility of 'programming' Chi. A trip to a local geek's lab reveals that Chi might be a 'Chobits,' a custom-made Persocom without a recognizable operating system. Chi fries every Persocom she's linked to, but thanks to an internal learning module, she can learn from Hideki just as a child would, through repetition and mimickry.

This shortcoming leads to an inevitable range of sight gags and misunderstandings, with Chi's smiling blonde chibi countenance veering ever-closer to the fated 'Uncanny Valley,' from which no android may return. It quickly becomes obvious that Hideki has a crush on Chi, explaining the theme song's sweetly threatening chorus: "Let Me Be With You."

Is Hideki merely programming an advanced blow-up doll, or is he slowly falling for a creature with real feelings, trapped inside a warm silicone shell? Will he ever find the courage to buy Chi some underpants? Will he be able to carry on a relationship with a real woman while squiring this android around? Why would an all-female manga team write this story? Why is a "Chi Body Pillow" one of the tie-in merchandise items for this series? Why are the Japanese so obsessed with the concept of the female as 'tabula rasa,' and the idea of 'doing your best?' Chobits asks all these tough questions in quick succession, leaving viewers to draw their own conclusions.
Posted by: J. Bowers

Video Reviews (May 15th, 2007)