Friday, October 15, 2010

Chobits Omnibus Volume 2

By CLAMP. Released in Japan by Kodansha, serialized in the magazine Young Magazine. Released in North America by Dark Horse.

Well, I have to admit, they got me thinking about the concept of sexbots. Which I presume was one of the things CLAMP wanted to do with this title. There's a whole lot of philosophizing in this 2nd volume of Chobits, and it would be interminable (it verges on it already) were it not for the fact that the quartet do make me succeed in pondering whatever it is the characters talk about, at length, in the 2nd half of this series, be it the nature of humanity, what love really means, or simply how much of this is a metaphor about otaku and their love for toys.

As I noted in the review of the first omnibus, this was an experiment for CLAMP, their first seinen series geared towards young men, and as such it's a bit of a flawed success. I think they realized their strengths and weaknesses, as their 2nd, far more successful seinen series was xxxHOLIC, a series that may appear in Young Magazine but is clearly meant to have lots of female crossover readership (notably in the relationship between Watanuki and Doumeki). Chobits really doesn't invite female readers as much, and even though the fanservice lessens in the 2nd half, it's still there. (This is especially true of Dark Horse's version, which has about 30 color pictures at the end, mostly featuring Chi in various innocent-yet-provocative poses.)

The buildup to the climax of the book is pretty good, balancing out between long-winded explanations and trying to figure Chi out. You get a bit frustrated with Hideki for not realizing what he feels for Chi sooner, but honestly he's much quicker about this over the course of 8 volumes than most harem leads would be. And I do wish that while Chi is evolving by leaps and bound, that we'd see a little more of her moving beyond the childlike baby-talk Chi we got for most of the book. But then, having her talk like an adult would likely make the ending even more uncomfortable than it is.

Looking at the internet, I see I am not alone in finding the ending of the Chobits manga somewhat annoying. The anime chose to alter the ending as well. I suspect CLAMP were deliberately going for these feelings of irritation and discomfort, forcing the typical Young Magazine reader to think of what the relationship he has with his otaku fantasy is. But in the context of the story, I don't think it works. First, though the placement of Chi's 'reset switch' and subsequent need to avoid sex make sense before she finds Hideki, as her parents and sister want to avoid having her going down the road of anyone wanting a quick lay, there's no sense whatsoever that Hideki is like this. What's more, everyone agrees this is the case. And yet Hideki is explicitly told, "You win, you two are in love - but you have to stay chaste forever, as if you have sex Chi will 'die'."

I think this makes me MORE uncomfortable with them as a couple. It gives their love that unreal feeling, making her seem more like an object than we otherwise would. Which is not what you want to see from a series that's been showing Persocoms having real, human feelings the last 8 volumes. Secondly, I think sex is a natural part of a loving relationship, and that denying it is denying part of what does make people human... or indeed a Persocom. Chi may never reproduce, but that's not the only reason people have sex. And honestly, once Freya and Chitose have determined that Hideki is indeed Chi's one true love, there's no real reason they can't do a quick redesign and move her reset button elsewhere. Chi may be more special than the Persocoms used for some as sexbots, but she doesn't have to be the Virgin Mary.

So Chobits certainly made me think, and in that CLAMP succeeded. But I don't think it's a series I'll go back to over and over again the way I do Card Captor Sakura or Reyearth... or heck, even X. CLAMP try to have their cake and eat it too here, presenting Chi as a fetishistic fantasy object (just look at every color insert, not to mention the numerous nude pics), but one that's look but don't touch. Which unfortunately reminds me of today's modern-day otaku, decrying any cute anime female who is shown to have had a boyfriend before. Chobits is a cute love story with a dash of creepy. Sadly, the creepy is what stays with me.

4 comments:

  1. I dotn really find it all that creepy to be perfectlly honest. I men it's Clamp in cardcaptor Sakura there was a romantic rlationship (even an engagaement) between Yoshiyuki Terada and Rika Sasaki. That's a lot creeper then Chi and Hideki haveing a non sexual relationship.

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  2. Oh trust me, I'll be talking about that travesty as well, when I review the CCS omnibuses. :)

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  3. Chobits has some very dark themes underneath it. By turning the personal computer into a programmable sex partner, it intensifies the effects of internet porn at isolating people from real sex with real people. It's a factor that comes up again again in reports despairing of the inadequate Japanese birthrate. If you can not only have sex but an emotional relationship with a machine, where's there room for a real family? And if robots get to be better than meat people, then what reason do meat people have to stay around? Let's all go off toward extinction in a really fun way!

    And as for the reset button of death, all one has to do is cut it out of its circuit with a jumper cable. I have known some very good female electronic techs, but obviously none of the CLAMP gals qualify.

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  4. I didn't find the ending of Chobits creepy so much as incredibly sad for both Chi and Hideki. They're both decent people (er, person and persocom), so I wanted them to have an ending where they could actually be a couple, with the physical aspects as well as the emotional. To think that Hideki will now have a life where the best he's going to manage is the porn collection he's embarrassed to let Chi see is...depressing. I couldn't help but wonder if, a few years down the line, he'll start daydreaming about actually getting to have sex and then hating himself for it. And Chi would probably be sad about having caused him to feel that way. It sucks for them both.

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