SF in Anime II: Chobits

Chobits is an 8-volume manga by the Japanese manga group CLAMP. Although it was turned into an anime of 26 episodes in 2002, I’m going to focus on the manga. It was the first I ever owned and holds a special place in my heart because of that (and also because, as a manga artist myself, I worship the ground CLAMP walks on). My mum bought the first few volumes for me from Ottakar’s (remember them?) when they first started stocking the graphic novels because it looked like the sort of stuff I watched on TV. Bless her, that was one of the pivotal moments in my young life.

Although equal parts romantic comedy and SF, the opening page sets up some of the bigger questions tackled in this manga.

People say the world has become a lot more convenient. I guess they’re right. They say it’s all thanks to the cybernetic companions, built in labs to make our lives easier.


Beautiful, obedient…

Fully functional.

They’re perfection.

That’s the voice of our protagonist before he begins to explain how he’s a failing student who has to work seven days a week alongside studying for his university entrance exams and bemoans the fact that he’ll be dead before he can save up enough money to own his very own Persocom. Hideki says that he doesn’t necessarily want a top-of-the-range model, “just as long as she had smooth casing and nice curves . . . perfect for spreadsheets, word processing and household accounting”, effectively explaining in the same breath the purpose of the Persocom: to be a beautiful human-shaped object and to cater to everyday needs.

Shortly after this rather animated rant, Hideki conveniently finds a cute Persocom in the rubbish and takes her home, only to find that – after much trouble trying to switch her on – she doesn’t function normally. Her speech card is apparently broken and she doesn’t seem able to network or connect to other ’coms. Named “Chii” after the only sound she makes, Hideki has to teach her words and how to behave appropriately in various situations. She is, to put it simply, adorable and what commences is a rather charming and often emotional journey to discover her mysterious origins, whilst at the same time exploring the relationship between human beings and these human-shaped computers, how relationships with the electronic devices affect our relationships with each.