Chobits Volume 4

As an important test date approaches for Hideki he is dismayed to see his results are disappointing and his best friend Shinbo is becoming more and more withdrawn. As if this wasn’t complicating his life enough, his teacher Ms Shimizu pays an unexpected visit one evening and he finds that he doesn’t have enough cash to pay his food bills. What are a cram student and his persocom to do?

Initially Chobits was a rather lightweight and fluffy romantic comedy with a sci-fi twist, but in recent episodes it has begun to take on a deeper, darker atmosphere; this impression becomes stronger than ever on this disc. The repeated jokes and rather gratuitous fan service have given way to the main storyline of a persocom whose origins are unknown, and how she interacts with others; especially her relationship with her technophobic owner. The concept of technology in society and how it affects people at a social and emotional level is something that is well explored in sci-fi anime, but Chobits is doing so in a fresh and visually pleasant way. The recurring theme of persocoms replacing humans as companions is emphasised again, and as a result of all these things the storyline is moving ahead more quickly.

Unless you are familiar with the manga story, the point at which Shinbo’s secret is revealed may be a bit out of the blue; however, it is in context with what is happening and adds another side-story that will make the series all the more interesting later on. Fans of the manga will also be pleased to know that two new characters finally make an appearance; although this occurs in the closing minutes of the disc, it ensures that the next volume will be worth looking forward to.

Unfortunately for all that there is still a saccharine and playful façade to the show which might put off fans of more serious philosophical sci-fi anime. The comedic and filler segments are entertaining enough and are fewer in number now, but are still a bit unnecessary when the CLAMP artwork provides all the “cuteness’ required. It does however maintain the standards of the sharp, clean animation of earlier episodes as well as the bright feel of the original manga series.

In case there is any confusion concerning the review for the previous disc, the episode “Chi goes to the Ocean’, mentioned in the volume #3 review and appearing at the end of that disc, is instead at the beginning of the retail version of this one; it is still episode number 14, and the overall episode order is the same.

In Summary

The aspects of the series that led me to criticise it in previous reviews are still evident but the deeper and more interesting story is beginning to show more clearly through the more frivolous and trivial scenes. There are some new plot threads appearing on this disc as well, which pose some important questions about who Chi really is, as well as the motivations behind several of the other characters. As always, the visuals are a delight and if you have not already been discouraged by the fan service and predictable comedy, you will no doubt be pleasantly surprised at how Chobits is turning out.

8 / 10