Mania Grade: B+
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- Audio Rating: B+
- Video Rating: A
- Packaging Rating: B+
- Menus Rating: B+
- Extras Rating: B
- Age Rating: 13 & Up
- Region: 1 - North America
- Released By: Geneon Entertainment (USA), Inc.
- MSRP: 29.98/34.98
- Running time: 100
- Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
- Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
- Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
- Series: Chobits
Chobits Vol. #1: Persocom
By Way Jeng
May 18, 2003
Release Date: March 11, 2003
It is often difficult to judge a show given only the first disc. Depending on the series in question the first disc can show varying amounts of the show. In the case of Chobits the first disc moves relatively slowly, and only at the end of the second episode do we even have a name for one of the main characters. This series might not appeal to those who want a faster pace, but for those willing to wait I think the time is well spent.
The main character is named Hideki, who is the typical college hopeful rejected by a college at the start of a series. Hideki resembles any number of other anime characters, save that he has a tendency to talk out loud without realizing it that surpasses even anime norms. This embarrasses him in front of other people about as much as you probably expect, and serves as a cornerstone of humor through the disc. He also tends to be very self-conscious, frequently worrying about what others think about him or complaining that he needs more money. While a little annoying he's generally a likeable character who you can't help but feel bad for.
The first episode sets up the world and some of the characters. It is revealed early on that computers called persocoms have been developed, and almost everybody in the big city owns one. Hideki wants one, but cannot afford one and does not know anything about computers because he grew up on a small farm in a rural town where nobody owns one. Basically, persocoms are computers in a robot body of some sort. They come in a variety of sizes, and the majority resembles women. Except for their ears they are almost indistinguishable.
Hideki travels to Tokyo in order to enroll in a cram school to try to get into college again, and his role as a poor and not too bright student is established quickly. The first parts of the episode introduce the building manager of Hideki's apartment building, Miss Hibiya, his neighbor, Shinbo, and Shinbo's mobile unit persocom, Sumomo. The remainder of the episode is taken up by introducing another main character, a persocom Hideki finds in the trash. Hideki takes the persocom, figuring that with his low funds it is the only way he will ever be able to have one.
The second episode focuses primarily on learning more about Hideki's newly found persocom. From the very beginning it is obvious that something is wrong with her. The only word she says is "chi." She does not seem capable of understanding Hideki's actions, either, and copies his movements as if trying to learn what Hideki is doing.
Shinbo offers to help Hideki try to figure out her brand and model type they discover that she has no data loaded. Lacking an operating system she should not be able to move or talk at all. Coupled with the fact that she has no identifying marks Shinbo suggests she is a custom-built persocom, and directs him to speak with a child genius named Kokubunji.
However, all Kokubunji is able to discover is that there is a wealth of highly protected data that cannot be accessed. There is some good news to be had, however, as they determine that the persocom has learning software installed, and Hideki should be able to teach his persocom all manner of things. In the end of the episode Hideki begins this teaching process, and finally decides to name the persocom Chi.
At this point it is worth discussing the speed of progress the series is making. On one hand it appears to be moving relatively slowly. It is pretty clear that the mystery of what Chi is and who built her is going to be central to the series, but it is only near the end of the second episode that she is finally named.
All things considered the plot seems to be moving almost as slowly as it can. While that might be a problem I think instead it is a sign that the show is going to try to make an honest attempt at the situation they have created. Because Chi has been set up as a character that must learn almost everything the plot must necessarily move slowly. If it were to move too quickly we would miss critical stages of the learning process, a process which by its very nature is slow. This might be a little frustrating for viewers who are used to the plot advancing at a faster pace, but given that the fate of nations is not on the line a more in-depth character study seems perfectly in order.
The third episode centers mostly on Hideki and his attempts to get his life in order. He starts teaching Chi how to talk with some success. Fortunately, Chi seems to be able to understand language pretty well already, which is good considering if she had to learn to communicate from scratch most of the show would be taken up just teaching her how to talk to people.
However, not everything is perfect, as evidenced when Chi starts to believe that "Hideki" means "to point at something." It makes for a funny moment that illustrates just how tricky language can be. The rest of the episode has Hideki going to class and finding a job.
Along the way we are introduced to two new characters. Shimizu is a teacher at his school, and Yumi is a girl who works at the pub where Hideki finally finds a job. At the end of this episode it finally feels like all of the basic elements of the plot are in place. We have met a decent number of characters, and with the mystery of Chi put in place in the second episode there are some questions we can be sure will be investigated.
The fourth episode is a humorous tale involving Chi's attempts to buy undergarments. She and Sumomo go to a store to make the purchase because Hideki is too nervous to do it himself, and along the way they encounter several setbacks as Chi is constantly distracted. In terms of moving the plot along this episode does not accomplish much, but regardless it serves as an interesting look into Chi's mentality and provides some good humor. By now Chi can speak relatively normally, which makes having her as the primary focus of the episode much easier than would have otherwise been the case.
Turning to the audio I listened to both the Japanese and English language tracks. I have difficulty judging emotional expression in Japanese because I do not speak the language, but the performance in Japanese sounds fine to me. In English the performances are also good. I was particularly glad that during the period where Chi says nothing but the word "chi" the inflection was changed to match its use at any given time. There is a certain sort of monotony in Chi's speech during the fourth episode, but again I think it fails to be a problem because the strangeness and humor of the situation are heightened by the matter-of-fact quality of the monotony.
I found both the opening and closing songs to be in character with the show. In terms of overall enjoyment I found the opening song average, though it was good enough that I was not tempted to skip the opening titles. On the other hand, I very much enjoy the closing song of the show and look forward to it every time an episode comes to an end.
Visually this show looked great. The character designs are well drawn and the backgrounds are reasonably detailed. Production values are good, but neither are there any of the really big action scenes that generally show problems. Overall I found the show's animation very enjoyable to watch. The only problem I had was that the backgrounds for Hideki's daydream and surprise sequences are a little too outlandish for me, but considering the nature of the scenes that might be exactly how things should be.
On a technical level I found nothing to complain about. Again, things look great.
The packaging for Chobits leaves nothing to be desired. The disc number is clearly labeled on the spine as well as in the corner of the front and on the back. The back cover has a short synopsis, list of extras, the runtime, and a list of the episode titles. The fact that the episodes are given titles on the rear rather than just writing a count is a little surprising, and it is a welcome change. The insert shows pictures of Chi on the front and back, with the back also having an episode list, and folds out to show another picture of Chi. The case itself is clear, and another picture of Chi is on the back of the cover. The front of the insert matches with this picture, and overall I found the packaging visually impressive.
The menu for the disc was about average, save that on the main menu there are options to skip to each of the episodes without going into a sub-menu. For greater precision a chapter sub-menu is also available. The additional choices for the main menu are well placed, and the menu itself remains as compact and navigable as ever. I think this is a good menu layout.
As far as the extras go things are pretty standard. There are none that I found particularly interesting or exciting, but neither did I feel that they were lacking. The clean opening is good to have, however it is mildly disappointing that there is no clean closing. Also included is a gallery of six stills, the DVD credits, and trailers.
Overall Chobits starts strong, and appears to hold a lot of promise. The characters are all likeable and interesting enough, the humor is entertaining, and the mystery of Chi's origin should provide good impetus for events now that the introductions have been made and the setting has been established. Again, it can be hard to make an assessment of the show on four episodes, but asking more out of a show would be unreasonable.
Sharp 13" television, Sony Playstation 2