A manga series by the artist group known as CLAMP. The first volume collection was released on February 16, 2001 and at the time of this writing is still being continued. A new volume comes out every 3-4 months or so. As of August 2002, they are on the sixth volume.

The story is set either in an alternate reality or the near future where personal computers can take any shape their owner likes. As you can imagine, that means there are lots of cute female computers running around. That's not to say that there aren't other shapes of computers available. Some elect to have their computers take on the shape of cute males, while others are vaguely creeped out by the idea of human-looking computers and have animal-shaped ones instead.

One of the things that works very well in this story is the term "persocon." In Japanese, the word for a personal computer is "pasocon," which comes from a shortening of two words. The Japanese are very fond of this, take pokemon for example. CLAMP gives this name a double edge, making the "paso" part of "pasocon" mean person, as opposed to personal.

It begins with our protagonist, Motosuwa Hideki, who is a poor college student looking to buy one of these female-shaped computers. Lo and behold, one day after work he finds one carelessly thrown away in the alley. Unsure of what exactly to do, he takes it home. Something appears to be wrong with it, and Hideki goes asks his more computer knowledgeable friend for help. It seems like someone forgot to install an OS into this particular persocon.

The main protagonist's persocon is named Chii. This is because when she is first booted up, that is the only thing that she can say. Eventually they discover that even though she apparently has no OS, she still has some learning programs installed into her. So Hideki spends a great deal of time teaching her the basics of social interaction. This is where most of the comedy in the series comes from, including one scene where Chii doesn't understand what panties are for and wears them on her head.

Chobits deals quite a lot with the social ramifications of artificial-intelligence. The persocons in the story look human, and can be programmed analyze situations and react in human-like ways. But the fact of the matter is that persocons are not human (or are they? The story so far seems to indicate no, but the tone is gradually changing). The funny thing is that nobody really seems to care. Guys take their persocons out on dates, and they don't get funny looks from other people. Some people become so involved with their persocons that they abandon all other social interaction. This of course leads to many hurt feelings, such as people who have had their lovers stolen from them by the persocons. One character seems to have had something like that happen to her, and now harbors a deep loathing for female persocons.

One exceptionally touching scene so far in the story involves one of the characters revealing to Hideki that he programmed one of his persocons in the image of his dead sister. He says that although he knows that the persocon is not actually his sister, sometimes they act so similarly that he forgets. It is implied that there was one point where the character completely lost himself in his self-created delusions and was violently pulled back into reality. The exact situation is not described (at least not yet) but one can only imagine...

The odd theme of self-delusion by making these persocon seem human is also seen continually through the story. For instance, one of Hideki's friends has a small "notebook" persocon, which is in the shape of an animated female doll that is about ten inches tall or so. When printing out messages, she uses a pencil. Hideki asks his friend about this, saying that he thought persocon would be able to print out information instead of writing it out. His friend replies that although she can print out info if she's hooked up to a printer, he prefers to have her write because "it's cuter."

An anime for this series is being aired in Spring 2002 in Japan. Since it's still pretty early in the production phase, no known American release date is scheduled. Here's to hoping it won't stink. There is currently an official English translation of the manga by Tokyopop.

Dramatis Personae (relatively spoiler-free):

Motosuwa Hideki- Clueless male protagonist. Ronin studying at a college preperatory school. Not very good with manners, but a good guy at heart. Virgin. Finds Chii in an alley.

Chii- Main persocon of the story. Ivory hair, light brown eyes, cute in that waifish-pixie sort of way. Starts off as a tabla rasa, though a past life has been hinted at. Also has a evil twin in her subconscious, who continues to make vague allusions regarding her past and instilling doubt into her current situation. Usually her evil twin wears gothish black and purple clothing with lots of buckles.

Shinbo- Hideki's school buddy. Proficient with persocons, but by no means an expert. Owns a portable persocon named Sumomo. Seems to rather off-handedly tell people that Hideki is a virgin.

Sumomo- Portable persocon. Fits easily inside a backpack. Main functions seem to be taking messages, alarm clock, and telephone.

Hibiya Chitose- Hideki's landlord. May be more than just a landlord

Kokubunji Minoru- Perpetuator of the teenage genius computer hacker myth. Knows a lot about persocons, and has custom-built many himself. First year junior high-school student (which places him at about 12 or 13, I believe). Hideki often goes to Minoru for advice regarding Chii.

Oomura Yumi- Hideki's coworker. Has large soft breasts (because it would be scary if they were hard). Has a crush on Hideki, which seems mutual. Often gives Hideki self-made baked goods.

Bunny- Main character of the Dare mo inai machi (Town where Nobody was) picture books. Chii likes this series, and for some reason the books seem to be about the exact situation that Chii and Hideki are going through. The bunny also has a dark bunny foil, similar to Chii.

Ninja Persocons (not official name)- Two persocons who were introduced close to the closing of the second volume. So far they have done nothing much except wear sunglasses and sleek black outfits while posing in a cool manner on or under streetlights. They appear to be looking for Chii.

Some other minor characters have not been included, as their relevance to later parts of the plot are still unknown.

Let Me Be With You
Dakishimetai no ni (I just want to hold you)
Let Me Be With You

The anime version of Chobits premiered on the TBS (Tokyo Broadcasting System, Inc.) network in Japan on April 2, 2002. At the time of writing this I have only seen the first eight episodes so I won't comment very much on the plot, other than the fact that it seems to follow the general outline put down in the Chobits manga (described in the previous two writeups).

The anime looks fantastic, the character designs are very well done and Chii is just too kawaii. The quality of the animation is actually very surprising for this type of anime, it seems to have very high production values and everything looks very well done. The music, in particular the opening theme, is very catchy and suits the style of this anime perfectly. Some people have compared it to Gainax's recent anime, Mahoromatic, because it follows a similar premise, however I think they are very different in style and affect.

The Chobits anime is still screening in Japan. It has yet to be licensed, so fansubs of it are available if you don't have a friend in Japan who can send to the tapes.

Cast: Seiyuu (Character)

Tanaka Rie (Chii)
Sugita Tomokazu (Motosuwa Hideki)
Inoue Kikuko (Hibiya Chitose)
Kuwashima Houko (Kokubunji Minoru)
Toyoguchi Megumi (Oumura Yumi)
Seki Tomokazu (Shinbo Hiroshi)
Yuzuki Ryoka (Shimizu Takako)
Kumai Motoko (Sumomo)
Orikasa Fumiko (Yuzuki)

(Opening Theme)
Title: Let Me Be With You
Performed By: ROUND TABLE featurning Nino
Comments: This is a very catchy track, the use of English throughout the song is particularly effective.

(Ending Theme)
Title: Raison D'etre
Performed By: Tanaka Rie
Comments: Tanaka Rie the seiyuu who plays Chii sings this song. Raison D'etre means "Reason to be" in French.

Update: The DVDs have started being released in the US. At present the first is out, with more to follow in the comming months.
An AnimeFu Review
Content rating: 9

I have no idea who translated this, but give them a medal.

Quite a bit of the anime imported from Japan attempts to show some humor, but normally something gets lost in the translation. Most jokes fall flat or get one smirk out of the audience. This is not one of those animes.

Every episode is full of delicious humor, and most of them are flat-out belly laughs. Admittedly, most of it is slapstick and schoolyard humor, but it was funny enough for my oldest daughter to fall out her chair from laughing so hard.

The music is springy and upbeat, and supports the storyline well. As with almost all of CLAMP and Madhouse's work, the video is very smooth and the colors are expertly handled. Both of the soundtracks (English and Japanese with subtitles) feature excellent voice acting.

The packaging is fine. I like the clear DVD case Pioneer selected for this release. The menuing is decent, and you can go directly to a particular episode right from the top menu, something I wish other studios would do. The extras are ho-hum, and include a textless opening video and an image gallery. Unfortunately, the images in the gallery are very limited (8 in total), they included only a couple of color pictures. Production sketches would have been cheap to include and would have increased the value.

This DVD includes four episodes. The storyline is well laid out and is easy to follow. There seems to be a bit of underaged-girl types, such as the high school aged daughter of the pub owner, who notes her breasts are D-cups and they're not hard and cold. Chi, the persocom (mobile computer made to look like a cute kid) and the focus of the storyline, even looks a bit underaged. All of the females portrayed are cute. Actually, cute particularly describes Chi, especially as she learns to communicate.

The basic plotline follows the exploits of a farmboy who applies to college - and gets rejected. He is determined to go, so he leaves the countryside and heads for Tokyo. When he arrives, he is certainly out of place. The hot commodity are the persocoms, which range from human-sized to little pocket model creatures. Hideki notes the abundence of breasts available on them, then notes the price - way out of the range of a poor cram school student.

Hideki finds his apartment, meets a couple of people (every female seems to think he's cute in episode one), and finds a mysterious persocom in the trash. It looks new, and is very cute. He finally gets it turned on, and all it can say is 'chi'.

His neighbor tries to help, but Chi ends up frying the neighbor's persocom. Hideki gets referenced to a specialist, a kid who handcrafts persocoms. Chi fries all of his units too. All anyone can tell is that Chi is custom and has some heavy security in her programming.

The story continues as Chi learns how to communicate. Episode four is basically about Chi going out to buy underwear, and is by far the funniest episode on the DVD.

This series is rated at 16 and up, and parents may want to preview the DVD before letting younger kids watch. There is brief nudity and very heavy sexual innuendo. An example is where one must put their fingers to turn on Chi (no pun intended).

Overall, it is a fun and quirky story, and I'd certainly recommend it to appropriate audiences.

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