Based on the CLAMP manga of the same name, Chobits is set in a world in which computers take the form of human-like companions called “persocoms’ that have become a commonplace sight in everyday life. Eighteen-year old Hideki Motosuwa has moved from his parents’ farm to study at prep school in Tokyo in order to get into college but because he is flat broke he is unable to buy a persocom of his own. Needless to say, he can’t believe his luck when he finds one apparently discarded on a rubbish heap in the street. Unfortunately it appears to be broken: despite being able to move by itself there appears to be no software installed and the only thing it can say is “chi’. Being the technophobic country boy, Hideki consults an expert who suspects “Chi’ is one of the Chobits, a series of highly advanced persocoms who are able to learn and think independently. Despite Chi’s unusual appearance and behaviour, the Chobits are considered by many to be an urban legend. With this in mind, Hideki sets out to look after his new acquisition whilst earning enough cash to study and pass his exams”¦
Fans of the manga will be pleased to see that the story makes a good transition from paper to screen with only minor tweaks to the plot. The shoujo-friendly colours and character designs that CLAMP are renowned for are very much in evidence, although the themes of obedient females and frequent dashes of fan service are likely to make Chobits as appealing to a male audience. The animation, handled by Madhouse Studios, is crisp and bright and the majority of the characters are also unchanged. Hideki’s habit of thinking aloud in public is somewhat overplayed however, leading to the viewer either laughing out loud or cringing as he tries to talk himself out of successive embarrassing situations. Because of this and his lack of experience of persocoms before his arrival in Tokyo, he comes across as being a slightly more naÃ¯ve, clumsy and comical character in comparison to his portrayal in the manga which only adds the comedy. One episode involves Hideki sending Chi to buy her own underwear from a lingerie shop to save his own discomfort, with predictable results. As with much of the comedy here, it is either hilarious or comically embarrassing to watch, depending on your sense of humour.
Inevitably for the opening volume of a series, the storyline does not have much opportunity to develop so the four episodes contained here concentrate on Hideki’s settling into city life and the introduction of the other main characters. Although her education at the hands of Hideki gets off to a shaky start, Chi is definitely more than the average persocom and there are already hints of a bittersweet romantic theme that stands out against the otherwise light-hearted feel of the show. There are of course one or two other female characters that provide potential sources of romantic interest/complications; clichés that seem to good-naturedly poke fun at the romantic comedy genre itself. The DVD extras are interesting if not outstanding, with the usual MVM trailers and clean opening animation sequence accompanied by an image gallery and computer screen-themed DVD menu. The 2.0 stereo audio is available in both the original Japanese and English with subtitles.
The first volume gives a light and bright introduction to the Chobits story that is faithful to the original manga, with a good balance of cuteness and humour. The significant storylines of later volumes are put off for the time being, instead focusing on more amusing and trivial themes. However, there are signs that Chobits will take more serious and interesting turns in later episodes.