I’m not entirely sure what inspired me to watch Chobits; I made it pretty clear during my last post that I had given up on CLAMP. Perhaps it was that feeling of obligation, as an anime fan, to watch all ‘classic’ anime? And by that I mean an anime that has stood the test of time, remaining popular even after a number of years. For an anime to be known as a ‘classic’ in the first place, it’s gotta be good, right? At least, I think that was my line of reason when I started it! And you know what? Like so many others before me, I really enjoyed Chobits. So, I thought I’d write a post on what made Chobits work that the other shows seemed to lack- after everything I said during my last post I was desperate Chobits not be tarred with the same brush, and in the process of doing so my opinion of CLAMP has become significantly less negative.
There are many reasons Chobits work whereas, other CLAMP shows do not, one of those being the development of its characters. Now, I’m not just talking about Chii and Hideki, (developing main characters is basic stuff) but, the entire side-cast. It was apparent right from the beginning that each and every character had a past which helped determine their actions in the main storyline, e.g. Yumi’s feelings of inferiority to persocoms and Minoru’s concern over Yuzuki. Now, many other CLAMP shows also had characters with emotional baggage, take Tsubasa’s Kurogane, for example, Kurogane made it pretty clear he based his feelings of self-worth on his ability to fight, why this was exactly was something that was never explored during the first season of Tsubasa, (I’ve asked others, just in case it was and I’d just forgotten!) even my beloved HOLiC is guilty of this sin in regard to some of its characters. As a result of this, I couldn’t care less what happened to Kurogane, after all, his character was never really explored so, I’ve never been given reason to become attached to him! Chobits, however, which had quite a generous cast of side characters, managed the backstories of each and every one of them in just 26 episodes! Something like this is massively important- if you can learn why characters behave the way they have you become far more attached to them- they seem more like actual people rather than mere husks of people that exist solely to fill up space on the screen, allowing you to feel much more involved in the story.
But, the main reason Chobits work where others fail is as follows: Chobits is just as gorgeous as CLAMP’s other works, (CLAMP have many flaws but, the quality of their art isn’t one of them) but, whilst their other works have often felt as though they were just a pretty face, (Kobato in particular, I think I mentioned her clothes during my previous post) Chobits has a nice, juicy storyline for viewers to chew on, it’s not all looks, no substance, as it were.
So, what is it about the story that makes it so special? Well, what it is that makes us human and love’s ability to overcome all difficulties are pretty difficult themes to explore in the first place so for CLAMP, whose storylines aren’t usually all that original or deep, to explore them in a fairly mature, thought-provoking manner, is nothing short of brilliant. What makes the storyline so thought-provoking is that we’re given many alternate opinions on the topic of relations between humans and persocoms before being invited to make one of our own. I sat through a large portion of Chobits not knowing how I felt about the idea of Chii and Hideki being in a relationship. No matter how she looks, Chii’s not human- she’ll never age or be able to reproduce and, as Ueda’s story told us, she could end up breaking at a moment’s notice. So, I wasn’t sure what kind of a future they could have together. I’m still not sure, if I’m completely honest but, that’s not the point. The point is, even after finishing the show weeks ago now, I’m still mulling over this conundrum, all because the show didn’t spoon-feed me the answer, telling me whether this relationship was right or wrong. That’s why this story works, unlike Tsubasa’s, which I’d forgotten almost as soon as I’d finished it, the story of Chobits and the themes it explore stick in your head, long after you’ve finished watching it.
Yet, despite its deep storyline Chobits was often extremely funny. Sumomo, a character who existed purely for comic relief, was particularly hilarious, frequently breaking the tension with her enthusiastic announcements or ‘wakey-wakey exercises’. I don’t remember ever laughing so much because of a CLAMP character than I did because of Sumomo!
Another aspect of the story I deeply respect is one that never really took place, let me explain what I mean. For the large majority of Chobits I expected it to take a very different route altogether. What with Chobit’s insistence that “Persocoms can do almost anything” I kind of expected it to pull an Un-go and suggest the persocom’s complete and utter subservience made them prime targets for sexual exploitation, yet another reason there couldn’t be true equality between them and humans but, in retrospect, I’m glad that never happened- it would have only made Hideki’s affection towards Chii seem slightly grubby, especially when you take his penchant for porn into account! It is obvious that CLAMP really knew what they were doing when creating Chobits as, unlike many of their others shows; it is a perfect example of masterful storytelling in action.
I’ve talked about what make Chobits work, and briefly about what makes HOLiC work in my previous post so, why is it other CLAMP productions seem not to have utilised these strengths? Perhaps it is not CLAMP that are responsible for the varying degrees of quality between the shows, (all the more reason for me to have faith in them once more) after all, it is just the one member of CLAMP, Nanase Ohkawa, that is responsible for constructing the storylines so, logically, there shouldn’t be much variation, perhaps it is the fault of someone else entirely? Each of the CLAMP works are handled by different studios which, doubtlessly, encourage their directors to emphasise different aspects in order to cater to different demographics. I also suspect that each director has ended up putting their own personal spin on the story. What I’m trying to say is, maybe it’s actually the respective studios’/directors’ fault I didn’t enjoy some of CLAMP’s works because they emphasised aspects I simply weren’t interested in, rather than CLAMP’s itself but, that’s just one theory, I’m not sure. All I know is that watching the wonderful show called Chobits is what originally brought this speculation about, causing me to reassess my view of one of the studios I disliked the most.