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Chobits volume one: Persocom
voice cast: Rie Tanaka, and Tomokazu Sugita

director: Morio Asaka

100 minutes (PG) 2002
MVM DVD Region 2 retail

RATING: 8/10
reviewed by John Percival
After getting rejection letters from a Tokyo university, 18-year-old country boy, Motosuwa Hideki moves to Tokyo to attend a Rounin school. These are cramming schools for people who do not get into university time round. Setting up home in an apartment, Hideku finds himself at the mercy of his adolescent hormones upon meeting his attractive landlord. He also meets his neighbour Shinbo, another 18-year-old attending the same school. Shinbo has a personal computer, or 'Persocon', in the form of a small, animated doll. Persocons also exist as life-size models in the shape of girls but with funny techno ears. With these android computers, it is possible to interact, surf the Internet and more importantly access porn sites. Hideki realises with his current finances that it will be a very long time before he will own a Persocon, small or otherwise, that is until he finds one discarded in the rubbish.

Now why anyone would throw out an expensive piece of hardware especially one that is a million miles more attractive than a beige PC box is a mystery. Hideki does not care; he takes the scantily clad Persocon home, hoping that it will still work. In the 22nd century Hideki is a boy from the country and not too technically minded so switching on a machine such as this is a challenge, especially with Hideki's embarrassment at being inexperienced in sexual matters and having to touch every part of a near naked female body. However he cannot find the on switch and there is one last place he has not tried, the crotch, and in true hentai fashion as soon as he tries it, she 'awakens'. Soon enough it is more than obvious that the Persocon, called Chii, is not a normal model and like a child has to learn everything from new. It picks things up very quickly but has a charming naivety. Hideki tries to teach Chii as well as find her clothes but buying underwear for the robot is a specific challenge, who's blushes and sweating in front of the lingerie store results in him being labelled a pervert. So he sends Chii to buy her own underwear and this proves an interesting challenge as Chii sees the world for the first time. Later Hideki discovers that Chii may be a 'Chobit', a type of robot that urban legend believes can act on its own will.

Despite the obvious smutty nature of having an attractive android that will shred its clothes at a moment's notice, Chobits conveys some remarkably interesting themes. Right from the opening titles there is a broad clue that a love will form between Hideki and Chi. This being the case, in a reversal of the usual manga style of dehumanising man with technology, here we have created technology in our own image. There are greater theological implications involved with this, but in the 22nd century people seem unconcerned by this and even though from a visual examination the only way to tell the difference between a person and a Persocon is by their funky ears, the population recognise the Persocon is an appliance in human form. However this is not the case with Hideki, being a country boy he is unused to the presence of Persocons, being young and also inexperienced with the opposite sex he blurs the line between technology and the person as why else would he become embarrassed a machine in a intimate area?

Do machines have intimate areas, or is this a transference of personal feelings and imagery to the robot? Is it not a stretch to believe, as many people believe many things such as cars and computers have personalities? This will be taken even further through the suggestion that Chii is a Chobit with the ability to think for itself and perhaps even develop sentience calling into question whether the difference between man and Persocon are so different.

Chobits was created by the hugely popular all female manga team CLAMPS, their style of animation is quite detailed and distinctive and balances perfectly between the story and the comedic scenes. Even though this release only contains for episodes from the series, it is quite an enjoyable, engaging and humorous introduction. I look forward to seeing further episodes.

Also included on the DVD are a number of trailers and an image gallery.

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