I first saw Chobits very soon after I got into anime and something about it really grabbed me. In retrospect I can kind of see why. That was back when I was a horny teenager who deliberately searched out anime with the tags ‘harem’ and ‘ecchi’. Most of them were utterly terrible dribble, but then came Chobits which managed to blow me away because it actually had depth. In the kingdom of the blind, the one-eyed man etc. But it’s 2013 now, and I’ve changed.
The story, for those uninitiated, is set in a world where everyone owns humanoid computers called persecoms. That is, apart from our shmuck lead Hideki because he’s a poor farmboy who failed to get into college and now has to live on peanuts while taking cram school to retry the entrance exams. On his first day in Tokyo he finds a persecom in the trash who he names Chi. Chi turns out to be a ~magical persecom~ called Chobits. It’s a ~magical persecom~ because it’s capable of ~love~ and shit. It’s rather important here to note that the story isn’t really about Chi falling in love, or debating whether persecoms can fall in love. She’s just programmed that way. It’s a fairly handwavy explanation. The main focus of the story is whether people can fall in love with persecoms. Or to break it down a bit further, is our romantic love for non-humans worth as much as romantic love for actual humans. Or to break it down further again, do you really love your 2D waifu, like really?
Chi is a perfect moeblob, programmed to be as such. Her cuteness and innocence are really played up, and those are the parts of her personality that draw Hideki towards her. She has no purpose beyond to fall in love and serve that one person. She spends most of the anime waiting at Hideki’s apartment so she can greet him when he comes home, and spends her time when he’s away thinking of what to do when he gets home. Even when Chi gets a job, the only thing she can think to spend the money on is things to buy for Hideki to make him happy. She is the quintessential stay-at-home wife whose job it is to look cute and make the husband feel relaxed when he comes home from a hard days work. Even Hideki responds to Chi’s cuteness by promising he’ll work hard and buy Chi the software she needs. Chi literally cannot learn anything without input from Hideki.
The actual human women in the show have things like aspirations and jobs and real life stuff, which gets in the way of them being the perfect waifu. One of the guys literally forgets his wife even exists because he’s too absorbed with his persecom. I don’t think it’s accidental that all the persecoms are made to look like women. They represent the old view of the ideal wife who stays at home and does anything for their husband, while also maintaining the innocence and cuteness and loyalty that make up the idea of moe. The guy who forgets his wife exists because he’s too absorbed with his persecom has many similarities with the stories of break ups happening because the boyfriend was too absorbed with his Love Plus girlfriend. In Chobits, the people spend their time walking around the streets with their persecoms, rarely interacting with other people. The show really likes to drill that point into your head with the whole “this town is empty, everyone is inside with It” meta-story that it had going on.
So why would you want to spend time with a real woman with their own lives when you could spend your life with a persecom instead? They are the perfect waifus with all the benefits of real women without any of the drawbacks. The ultimate evolution of this is the Chobits model, who are literally built solely to fall in love with you. The women in the show are rather depressed at their total inability to ever live up to what a persecom can do for the men. Clamp have a running theme of the Powah of Lurve in all their stories, so obviously it comes up in Chobits by saying that yes, your love for this non-human object is just as real as any love. So continue to love your precious 2D moe waifu for your love is as real as anyone’s love. Which is kind of a ballsy statement to make, and I kinda dig it for going that far.
Which is all fascinating and everything, but it’s rather overshadowed by the fact that Chobits is really fucking boring.
Because Chobits approach to providing a critical eye to this genre is positive rather than destructive criticism in the vein of Madoka or Evangelion, it means you have to sit through scenes of this stuff actually taking place. Chi tries to buy underwear. Chi learns how to cook. Chi tries on different dresses. It’s just as tedious as it sounds. Some of this can be attributed to the anime having a bunch of filler, but the actual manga content isn’t much better. Chi is not a character. She has nothing interesting to say and has no personality beyond acting like a shy toddler. That doesn’t change whether you’re watching her in plot related episodes or not. It’s much the same problem I have with Jun Maeda moeblobs in that their dedication to being brainless and cute means they have no actual depth and are too stupid to say anything of worth. While what Chi is supposed to represent may be fascinating on a deeper level, the show still tries to make her carry entire episodes on the force of her personality which, as I said, is non-existent anyway.
None of the other characters are engaging either because their dialogue is so stilted and wooden. God bless you Clamp, I love your power of love stories because I am a hopeless romantic at heart. But you guys can’t write dialogue for shit. Their vocabulary is so limited it forces the characters into having limited personalities and limited ways their interactions can play out. Because the show takes forever to get anywhere, the characters have to prop up scenes by themselves and they get very repetitive very quickly. That’s not just the persecoms either. The humans in the show have such bland samey dialogue that I just zoned out over their chit chat for the most part. Hideki is nothing more than a ‘Nice Guy’. His flatmate is nothing more than a ‘Nice Guy’. All the women in the show aren’t much more than ‘Nice Girls’ either. And while I wouldn’t call the show misogynistic because it’s not presenting persecoms as how women should be or anything, watching the persecoms be so blankly subservient and unthinking and lacking in goals of their own make them just as boring to watch as if they were real humans anyway.
I can see why it was I used to like this anime so much. I too used to think I was a nice guy who liked cute girls because I was a teenager and could actually watch this inane dialogue and find it charming. To provide on top of that a message about the power of love added on top of the base level enjoyment. Now that I find that sort of writing tedious and irritating, I struggle to even sit through Chobits. There is something genuinely fascinating at the core of Chobits, but to make that point you have to sit through a dull magical girlfriend comedy about how you can be the perfect hard working husband for your cute mentally deficient waifu. Even if it is making a point with that set up, it’s still as tedious to watch as a show that’s doing that set up un-ironically.