Continuing my review of the Chobits series from last week, struggling student and tech-incompetent Hideki has had his life turned upside down by the discovery of a “persocom,” a.k.a. a humanoid computer. At the halfway point of this series, the protagonist has a lot more on his hands to deal with than he bargained for. While he celebrates his incredible luck at finding one just lying around, with the help of boy genius Minoru, Hideki is beginning to realize that this persocom who he calls Chi may not be just any computer; could she be a legendary Chobits, a special persocom unlike all the rest? With this possibility comes danger as avid tech whizzes try to get Chi for themselves and two mysterious persocoms seem to be watching Chi’s movements. Chi also begins to display strange abilities that threaten to disrupt this society reliant on persocoms.
If that weren’t enough trouble for Hideki, he has to puzzle out the morality of persocoms that have caused both happiness and heartbreak for his friends. When persocoms seem so real and alive, it’s easy to forget that they are only programmed to act human. But does that matter? Some don’t thing so. They’re real enough for people to fall in love with. Yet this makes others feel as if real people are replaceable with persocoms. If people can fall in love with persocoms, how can real people compete with them for a person’s heart? Persocoms are perfect while humans are flawed. On the other hand, Hideki’s friend Minoru created a persocom specifically to replace the beloved older sister he lost to illness, but finds it can’t replace her no matter how much he tries to recreate his sister’s personality in this persocom. But can a persocom be replaced or are they just as unique as humans?
With questions like that hanging in the air, Chobits continues to be an odd mix of deep ethical questions with no easy answer and fanservice. The second half has gotten somewhat better in terms of representing women as sex objects with minimal personality, but not too much. While Chi may not be wandering into peep shows or trying to copy Hideki’s porn magazines, she still retains a child-like level of intelligence and displays nothings but goodness and pureness. The chapter title pages are still abundant with sexy pictures of Chi and, somehow, that “on” switch I mentioned in my last post has become a plot point.
Her personality has not improved much either in that she still seems to lack one. In part one of this review, I said that persocoms reminded me of Stepford Wives, and while I still feel that to an extent, I almost find Chi worse because she’s so child-like. Not only does she lack emotions like anger that might be considered “unpleasant,” thus making her “perfect” yet inhuman, but it disturbs me that someone so child-like is the focus of a love story. Someone even says she “like a new-born kitten” because Chi knows so little about everything. Intelligence is obviously not on the list of things loveable about Chi. That leaves her cuteness, personality-wise and physically, her pureness, her devotion, and…yep, that’s about it. In that way, she’s like Disney’s earliest princesses, although sadly, I have to say even Cinderella, Snow White, and Sleeping Beauty have a little more intelligence than Chi. I also felt the other female characters in the series weren’t nearly impressive enough to balance out the blandness of Chi.
As for the depth of the story that I liked, it was as if the ethical questions CLAMP posed were too complicated for even the creators themselves to answer. That, or they wanted to simplify things. As a result, questions about whether it’s ethical to fall in love with something that isn’t living and acts on programs rather than real emotion are returned with answers like, “Well, love doesn’t come in one shape.” That’s a sweet and honest message and such messages about love appear throughout that I appreciated, but it remains that the moral dilemmas raised about persocoms aren’t really answered in a satisfactory fashion, at least for me. In addition, while the two mysterious persocoms added some intrigue at first, I felt they ended up feeling rather side-lined and somewhat forced.
In the end, Chobits was a bit disappointing for me both from a feminist perspective and simply as a story lover. There are certainly some interesting ideas raised in this series, which I enjoyed, but unfortunately, it seemed many of those questions never received good answers. If you’re okay with a simpler, more straightforward ending to this kind of story, you may find that doesn’t matter. But as someone who likes realistic and interesting characters that are more than cuteness, pleasantness, and panties, the element of persocoms and Chi leave this story wanting.