Both Chobits and Time of Eve deal with humans’ relationships with robots. In fact, they both go further than that. They focus, in some or another, on love. In both instances they say that a human can love a robot. Hideki is, completely and utterly, without any sign or hint of creepiness, in love with Chi. Time of Even prefers to focus on several short stories to highlight the relationship and love each duo shares. However there’s a difference in their messages.
Take the robots inside Time of Eve. The first episode makes a big deal out of the fact that the girl is bubbly and hyperactive inside the cafe, but when they see her in school she’s lifeless. In the cafe, the sign specifically says there is to be no discrimination between humans and robots. The robots all act like humans, getting rid of the halo above their head and in doing so removing their status as a robot. The final scene in episode 5 sees Sammy, the robot belonging to the main character, leaving the cafe and returning to her lifeless robot form, only to briefly smile, showing her ‘human’ side.
The robots in Chobits are always robots. There is never any doubt that Chi is anything more than a robot. A more advanced robot with the programme making her capable to fall in love yes, but still always a robot. They are never once humanised over the course of the series. If they were ever to say something that sounded remotely human, it was often followed up with a reminded that this was the way they were programmed. The robots never lose their ears, the sign that they aren’t humans, unlike the disappearance of the halos in Time of Eve (although in the Chobits manga they do start producing persecoms without the ears, but I’m talking about the anime so let’s leave that aside).
There’s only one instance in Time of Eve where it’s never a doubt that someone is a robot in the Eve Cafe (well, episode 6 was kinda like that but didn’t follow the same format of the other episodes so it’s hard to fit it into the pattern). Episode 4 with ‘nameless’, the clunky, near broken-down childminder intent on drinking that cup of tea. Never once were you left guessing as to whether this person was a robot or not, but the loving the robot as a robot was the main message of the episode. Incidentally, this was also by far the best episode of Time of Eve.
Both Time of Eve and Chobits say humans can love robots the same way they love other humans. Time of Eve says humans can love a robot as if they were a human. Chobits says a human can love a robot as a robot. I’m not saying that the message is correct or anything. It’s just a huge leap of faith to make you believe you can actually love a robot. But Chobits goes further than that. It says that a human can fall in love romantically with a robot. Whatever about a robot loving you. With the right programming that’s believable and I can easily make that leap of faith. But for a human to properly fall in love with a robot, without being under the delusion that it’s anything other than a robot, while also being in an entirely non-creepy way, is a huge mental boundary to cross.
That’s why I love Chobits. It made me believe. It made me believe in a love that, before I began the series, seemed so implausible. Because I’m a bit romantic sap at heart.