December 07, 2007

This is how Civilization Ends

Chobits is a series that didn't really speak to me when it first came out. The magical girlfriend genre has little appeal to me as a concept. Combined with the the look which seems equal parts shuojo and moe' and I was pretty sure this show was not aimed at me.

Recently however, the series has intrigued me.   The reactions of certain female anime fans to a male classmate who expressed an appreciation for the series was interesting ...being best described as a "Body Snatcher Point and Screechtm".

What little I'd seen of the show had been very high quality, and the show seemed to actually be dealing with some interesting concepts.  Finally the show was one of Geneon's properties and the recent collapse of that excellent import studio made buying the series a sort of now or never proposition. I'd gotten volume 1 as a promo some time back and after watching it I was hooked. I put the remaining 6 on hold at Worlds Best Comics and purchased them piecemeal before and after my injury.This show is well drawn, with very high production values. I'm  not often their target audience but CLAMP tends to produce thoughtful, interesting stories and this is no exception.

The Premise:

Humanoid androids "perso-coms" are filling the same niche as personal computers are in our world. Of course, possessing opposable thumbs, being ambulatory and sometimes anatomically correct, they are filling other niches as well. They are sophisticated machines and while some of the newer and more lifelike models seem to mimick sentience quite well they are just that...machines. They are also becoming necessary to day to day life, or at least daily life has progressed to the point that not having one can be a serious handicap. Which brings us to...

 

Hideki Montasuwa who has lived all his life on a western style farm in Hokkaido has decided to pursue a college education. To that end he has just moved to Tokyo to attend a cram school...which has taken most of his savings. He looks at purchasing a persocom but they are far out of his price range. Hideki is introduced as a decent ethical fellow trying to overcome considerable obstacles. He is a fairly well realized, likable character. He is a fish out of water in the big city and utterly out of his depth regards computers, especially persocoms. The show really begins when he discovers...

 

CHI!! who...which...is lying on a trash heap as Hideki walks by and is brought home by him in the hopes of gaining internet access to better facilitate, studying, job-hunting and thoughtful analysis of internet pr0n sites. The main issue with this cunning plan is that Chi is pretty much incapable of anything except saying "CHII!!"hence her/its name. As Hideki has no idea how to program the thing he tries to teach it to get around as he might a child. This has better results it really ought to. As to why an appliance should be on the character list....it is revealed early on that Chi is operating...without an operating system installed. Our protagonist seems to have something quite special on his hands...perhaps someone...and the ethical quandaries that implies. This astonishing discovery is thanks in part to....

Shinbo Hiromu who is a classmate of Hideki's and fairly adapt at personcom maintenance. This likable chipper and helpful fellow lives a few doors down from Hideki in the same 'Maison'.  Utterly stumped by Chi, he enlists the aid of .....

Minoru Kokobunji "M" a 12 year old prodigy who is one of the worlds formost experts on persocoms. He met Shinbo via a chatroom and is willing to help Shinbo and Hideki find out about Chi. Though in some ways wise beyond his years, his youth and insecurity (as well as his technical prowess)show in the fact that he has scratch built a persocom replica of his dead sister....

Yuzuki who is, of course, just an appliance...that is our story and we are sticking to it.

She has been programmed with all the knowledge of Minoru's dead sister. It is unclear if this involves anything akin to a brain tape but her knowledge of his sisters habits is stated to be uncanny. She is far more advanced than the average persocom. However, it turns out she is less advanced than Chi...she cannot access Chi except to determine that she is operating without an OS...independently. She seems to be quite capable of some types of initiative that occasionally mystify her creator. She is a far more advanced persocom than say....

Summomo, who is Shinbo's personcom, only around 100mm high, she has limited processing capacity, but is basically equivalent to a tiny ambulatory laptop programmed to be exceedingly cute. This would likely still not endear her to...

Yumi Omura , a teenage barely-legal young lass who works at her fathers pub where Hideki eventually gets a job. She is bouncy, optimistic and seems to like Hideki. She also has a deep and abiding distrust of persocoms. She is cute as a button and has all sorts of fashion sense but this still cannot make her nearly as hot as...

Takako Shimizu, Hideki and Shinbo's Teacher at the cram school. Outgoing, witty and sharp as a tack, Takako is a superb teacher and a very cool person. By a strange twist of fate, it turns out that she lives very near the Maison run by...

 

Chitose Hibiya, Hideki and Shinbo's landlady, obviously modeled after the hottest anime babe of all time, Ms. Hibiya is exceedingly helpful in helping Hideki with Chi particularly providing clothing for the persocom.



This show is really interesting in a lot of ways. Superb production values, great characterizations and some interesting ethical issues.It has a low key often subtle plot and the humor is generally cute.  It kept me engaged almost to the end. However, the last two episodes wrapped it up rather clumsily, the ethical issues raised earlier were largely discarded by people....going against character and the main romance story is a bit creepy.

 Much of the problem stems from the abbreviated ending. This is the opposite of their problem a lot of manga adaptations have as they must drag to avoid overtaking the manga and produce filler if they do. In this case, it seems the show was truncated to fit the 26 episode format. (A bit more development might have answered several questions and even made the "romance more palatable")

For all that it is an interesting series, and touches on but doesn't explore some intruiging issues.

* Chi gets a job. (no spoiler, it is the title of an episode) How does this work? SHE gets paid and it is implied that persocom owners doing this is not uncommon. It is also implied that this is recommended for people who must leave their PerComs at home...to keep them from getting bored. (aieee!) The implications for low end entry level work are not good. (That Hideki allows her to keep her earnings, indeed insists that she does speaks well of him)

* The end of civilization. No need to deal with those annoying Mars/Venus compatibility problems. You can  have your very own Jennifer Connelly or Johnny Weissmueller and they won't talk back or take half your income in a divorce....no kids of course...In the show people & their persocoms are shown holding hands more as the series progresses.(Mark Stein has presumably  moved into his bunker at this point) as a thoroughly geriatric society collapses in 30 or so years.

* What is the threshold of sentience?

It is a creepy series and the rewatchability is rather low as a result of the abbreviated ending.

Still, all in all it was worth a watch and I found it interesting.

(Thus my misogyny is confirmed I suppose).


3 Bricks

UPDATE: I should point out that one of the saving graces of this series is that the writers UNDERSTAND the wrongness of the main "romance". I felt that the ending rather ignored some of the charachter bits and glossed over a LOT, but Jonnathan Tappan (who points out my omission in the comments) says that the manga offers, if anything, less resolution.

UPDATE2: Author has thoughts on the high production values here, and heartilly disagrees with my squeamishness here.

 Thinking about one of the "weirdos"and his falling for an android: One of the plot points involves a charachter who "married" a persocom. He felt she was really alive and "she" apparently did emulate human behavior well...interestingly, she sturned out to be defective with a hard drive problem that caused her to loose data. This "fuzzyness" may have served to emulate human behavior better than a fully functional program...until of course it became debilitating. This is another of the subtle bits I like. A LOT of thought went into this show.

Regards the well founded criticism of my getting too far into the weeds on this, there are 2 things to remember. 1: The series does inspire some thought. 2: I am a geek.

Posted by: The Brickmuppet at 11:56 PM | Comments (7) | Add Comment
Post contains 1238 words, total size 14 kb.

1

Except for their recent decent into recursiveness and self-referential series, CLAMP has always had some of the most thought-provoking stories out there.

Their masterpiece, of course, is Card Captor Sakura.  In some ways, that's unfortunate, since it's one of the best anime series ever.  They had nowhere to go but down.  For the seven or eight episodes of Chobits that I've seen, I was constantly wondering just where they were going with the story... which is a good thing.

I have nothing else to say that is either relevant or true.

Posted by: Wonderduck at Thu Dec 13 00:41:46 2007 (JQe3J)

2 I don't think you make it sufficiently clear that the threat to civilization is not an oversight on the part of the writers--it's the main point of the story.

Also the ending is not "abbreviated" compared to the manga. The endings are very similar, though they differ on some crucial details. It's probably fairer to say that the endings are deliberately ambiguous with regards to the central question, though I think the anime ending is more hopeful.

Posted by: Jonathan Tappan at Fri Dec 14 11:30:46 2007 (Zimal)

3 Rereading the post I see you are correct.  I did not make it clear that the creepy issues are not overlooked by the writers.

Indeed the fact that the writers understand they are being creepy (as opposed to your average harem show) is one of the saving graces of the series and why I liked it until the end.

I disagree that the ending isn't abrupt. There is a sudden shift in certain peoples attitudes to facilitate it and it really seems abrupt. The exact effect

Posted by: The Brickmuppet at Fri Dec 14 12:16:58 2007 (B54lO)

4

Olha eu amo a chobits ....

sou loquinha com suas coisas....

ja vi todos os espesodios e li todos os mangás...

Posted by: bianca at Tue Jul 7 17:56:32 2009 (Fj742)

5

Loool essa rapariga nao entende que esse site e ingles -_-'''

Sorry 8DThat girl is silly don't worry -.-

I believe she's from portugal so am I

Portugal or brazil o-o

CYa (wonder when XD)

Posted by: loooll at Thu Sep 10 17:37:22 2009 (8jHGf)

6 Chobits is a good anime, but I though it was going to end like peter pan, but it didn't, which is sad that she didn't turn into a real person, so they could never be with each other really. 

Posted by: Halish at Wed Feb 24 06:55:06 2010 (axHrn)

7 I believe you are thinking of Pinocchio.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste at Wed Feb 24 15:27:23 2010 (+rSRq)

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