Chobits Vol. #1: Persocom (of 7) (Mania.com)
Review Date: Wednesday, March 05, 2003
Release Date: Tuesday, March 11, 2003
What They Say
A Boy’s first computer. A country boy from Hokkaido, Hideki arrives in the big city (Tokyo) to go to college. Instantly, he is shocked and amazed by the variety and prevalence of Persocoms: personal computers designed to look and act like animals or even people! Too poor to afford one of his own, Hideki is overjoyed to discover a discarded Persocom in a trash heap. However, this gift of fate turns into a mystery as his Persocom, Chi, appears to be able to operate without her OS... How real is real?
The DVD will contain four bilingual episodes (English & Japanese) on a DVD9 with two English subtitle streams (Dialogue translation & Signs Only translation), non-credit opening animation and other extras.. Created by CLAMP (X, Cardcaptor Sakura, Rayearth), Animated by Madhouse (X, Trigun, Ninja Scroll, Patlabor WXIII), and English Dialog by Bang Zoom Entertainment (Vandread, X, Mahoromatic).
Chobits- Persocom is also available with a limited edition box, while supplies last
After all their successes, the women behind CLAMP go and produce their first seinen, or “mens” comic, which results in the anime here. The result? A definite crossover hit between the sexes.
Due to time constraints, we were only able to take in this show in its original language of Japanese. With this being such a recent show, the stereo mix for the track is very well done with lots of nice subtle movement around the forward soundstage and some excellent placement. Dialogue was nice and clear throughout and there’s some good depth to things in a few key areas that make it quite enjoyable. We noticed no dropouts or distortions during regular playback.
Much like a dream transfer, Chobits looks gorgeous here. Utilizing the existing anamorphic print combined with the lush color palette of the most current digital painting systems, this is one of the most subtly vibrant looking transfers I’ve seen in the past year. The background palette is done up in a mostly real-world style but during certain key sequences, usually comical, they bring in almost day-glo colors to accentuate the wackiness of the situation. It’s these areas that would normally be of concern with bleeding and over saturation, but they look spot on here. Cross coloration doesn’t exist and I’m hard pressed to find any real problematic aliasing moments throughout the program.
Pioneer’s gone with the clear keepcase here to provide some really nice results. The front cover here mimics almost completely the Japanese first volume non-LE cover with a great manga-like shot of Chi atop a telephone post against a cloudy sky. It’s a soft looking piece, but that’s also part of the tone of the show. The back cover provides a couple of very small screenshots and a close-up of Chi. There’s a decent one-paragraph summary of the shows premise and the usual listing of the discs features and extras. Big round of kudos for not only having the volume numbering on the front, the back and the spine but for also listing the episode numbers and titles on the back. The insert has a great image of Chi in one of her outfits set against a windy day with cherry blossom trees behind her. That opens up to provide a mini poster of sorts of her when she was discovered, while the back of the insert has her holding some underwear next to the discs episode listings. Pioneer has also made this a full color double sided cover (but not reversible really), where the image underneath the insert and disc has the same as the insert cover, but spreads across both panels. It’s a sweet looking image overall and looks great with or without the insert inside it. Very nicely done.
A nice simple layout works best here with the style of the show being expressed in the background colors with Chi in the foreground while the bouncy opening song plays along. The selections are all along the bottom with a play all feature alongside episode specific selection, which I believe is fairly new for a Pioneer release. Access times are nice and fast and we had no problems navigating the menu or any of the extras.
The extras are a bit on the slim side here with only two pieces. The opening sequence gets a great anamorphic non-credit showing while there’s also an eight page image gallery that has both some cel work as well as some of the manga style cover artwork displayed.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Chobits is one of the very few shows that fall under the rare category for me in that I’ve read a fair amount of the manga prior to seeing the anime. This has only happened with one or two other shows, and it’s been interesting to see how it’s colored my impressions of the show itself.
Having been a huge CLAMP fan for some time, I was definitely excited about Chobits in general and this release. The story itself is fairly straightforward. In a world much like our own, the main difference in Tokyo is that there world of computers is much more advanced. Humanoid robots live and work with humans and perform all sorts of goals and jobs. They’re not sentient though, but they’re very advanced, often enough to almost fool people. But most of the time it comes down to the kind of software you get for them and the kind of training you give them. And just like computers today, they come in all shapes and sizes.
This being Tokyo, and this being anime, most of them are cute girls. There are male models, and we catch a glimpse of one or two of them, but the focus is squarely on the female models here.
We’re initially introduced to newly graduated high school student Hideki Motosuwa. He’s a country bumpkin in just about every way but he’s aspiring to make it to the real world and has just gotten his letter from college. Unfortunately, he’s been rejected. So like any other guy, he decides to head into the city on his own and spend the next year at cram school while living in a small apartment. We get some of the local charm as he finds his way to the apartment and we later get the episode where he has his amusing journey of finding a job. The apartment life is fairly typical, a nice small place with a young attractive female manager who is always outside sweeping. The job turns out to be in a small pub restaurant where he has a rather good relationship with the owners high school aged daughter.
Naturally, he’s really interested in the manager as well. Then there is the completely hot looking cram school teacher that he fantasizes about in class, much to the enjoyment of the rest of the class as she tends to bust him about things. The only person who he doesn’t seem to have an love for is his friendly next door neighbor in the apartment, Shinbo. Shinbo’s in the same boat as Hideki and both are in fact in the same cram school class, so they get along well. Shinbo’s more of a city boy, and he has his own robot, much to Hideki’s surprise.
The robots, or known here as persocom’s, come in varying sizes as mentioned earlier. Shinbo has a mobile unit, which means it’s about six inches or so in height and looks like a very cute pink-heavy Arabic girl whom he’s named Sumomo. And let it be known here that Sumomo completely and absolutely steals this show. This pint sized persocom handles most of the usual things, such as handling email, visiting sites (especially porn sites as they mention early on) and does a lot of it in a cute way. When Shinbo has Sumomo look up the price of memory, he has Sumomo write out the results with a pencil, a pencil that’s like twice her height. It’s silly, but it’s such a cute silly.
As we get to know Hideki, we figure out pretty early on that he’s completely lost when it comes to persocom’s. When such simple things as “memory” and “operating systems” are lost on him, you know he’s spent his life milking cows and being the farmboy we saw at the beginning. Now that he’s in the big city, he’s wanting a persocom of his very own, but since they often start at the 50,000 yen range, well, this poor cram student isn’t getting one. And, as he says, they aren’t just laying around in the street waiting to be taken.
Well, almost never, as during his first night at the apartment on his way home from the convenience store, he finds one wrapped in strips of cloth that’s in the trash pile. He can’t believe it, and his spastic style has him all over the map trying to decide what to do, but in the end he snares the persosocom and brings it home. While this is good, the bad side of it, as he learns when he finally lets Shinbo help him, is that this very cute persocom he’s named Chi isn’t a regular model. Someone made this custom and there’s some oddities about it. She’s got a massive layer of protection internally and no apparent memory. All she can say is Chi and mimic things that Hideki does. She does, as they learn after talking with a custom specialist, have an auto learning program that’s helping her grow minute by minute though.
These early episodes are very enjoyable and manage to replicate the experience of the manga very nicely with only a few noticeable (and odd, I must say) changes. The character designs are a huge draw here. For one thing, Hideki does not come off as the typical lanky geeky cram student we usually get in other series. While he is a bit of a bumpkin, he’s not a complete idiot. He’s generally good looking, which is why you can easily see a variety of women attracted to him. The female persocom’s naturally come across as very attractive, but as they’re all designed by women, there’s a much softer feel to them and just something in their design that doesn’t scream fanservice. You have Yumi from the pub rubbing her breasts (through her sweater) against Hideki’s back, but it doesn’t feel as fan-servicey as it sounds. It feels much more like something an envelope-pushing senior would do to someone she really likes.
The one other aspect of the shows presentation that really stands out for me is the framing. With the 1.78:1 framing, the way things are spaced out and the different camera angles used throughout really helps change the feel of this from a more center-screen heavy action piece to a lot of side action, leaving more of the backgrounds open and providing a large feel to the image in general, giving it more of the world around it visible than just the character and a touch of background. The framing of shows as more and more go to widescreen is very important and all this new space is something that’s been very interesting to see how it’s being explored by the directors and animators.
I’m a big fan of Chobits, but that’s also because I know of things to come. The final episode has a preview of one of the parts I’m most eager to see translated, which is the books that Chi gets as presents that tells a tale for children. So I know part of my enthusiasm for this series is that I’ve already gotten a taste of the really good parts. These opening episodes start off a bit slow for the most part, but they spend time that’s really useful in setting the mood and the feel of the world the characters inhabit. They’re not in a rush to tell things and have the characters running all over the place. Well, except for Hideki when he gets a bit flustered over Chi. For CLAMP fans, this is a no-brainer. For those who’ve not touched their more “girly” shows, this one is the best one to try since they’ve done a boys show and done it right, but also introduced some new elements that expand nicely upon it.
Chobits is something that I’m definitely eager to see with each release and am already salivating over the next volume. For that alone, I have to say it’s very recommended.
Japanese Language,English Language,English Subtitles,Textless Opening
Toshiba TW40X81 40" HDTV, Panasonic RP-82 Progressive Scan codefree DVD player, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster component cable and Sony speakers.
Mania Grade: A-
Audio Rating: B+
Video Rating: A
Packaging Rating: A-
Menus Rating: B
Extras Rating: B
Age Rating: 13 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: Geneon Entertainment (USA), Inc.
Running time: 100
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2