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The Series
Hideki Motosuwa is the son of a farming family living in Hokkaido. Having just left high-school, Hideki is keen to seize his place in a Tokyo university. However all does not go according to plan. Poor Hideki is denied entry and has no other option but to enter into cram-school and hope for the best next time around. So Hideki heads off to the big city, where he secures accommodation in a humble apartment and meets the lovely manager as well as another young lad who is starting at the same preparation school as Hideki. Everything’s good and dandy, however Hideki wasn’t prepared for the personal computers known as ‘Persocoms’, which are a must-have accessory in the big city. These multi-purpose computers, which take the form of everything from cute little animals to full-sized people, allow owners to access the Internet, check email, find directions, and do just about anything else you can think of (think super-evolutionary PDA) - you can even hook them up to your TV!

Chobits: Volume One

Unfortunately Persocoms don’t come cheap. But this is Hideki, and he’s a lucky sorta’ bloke. When walking home one night, unable to afford a Persocom and thus lost in melancholy, he stumbles across a young girl wrapped up and lying abandoned in a trash heap. Upon closer inspection, Hideki realises that this young girl with exceptionally long hair is in actual fact a Persocom! Overcome with glee, Hideki manages to get the Persocom back to his apartment, proceeding to activate his newly acquired companion in a somewhat odd manner (I’ll let you see for yourself). He names his new Persocom ‘Chi’, as this is all it can say at the moment. With the help of his friend, we later learn that Chi is void of an OS and other software which are required on almost all Persocoms. This brings up several conundrums. How is Chi able to learn and coordinate herself without software? Why was she in the trash in the first place? Could she be one of the rumoured custom-built ‘Chobit’ Persocoms, more powerful and lifelike than any other Persocoms? Here begins Hideki’s fun-filled journey of discovery.

The truth is, I wasn’t overly excited about this series. I have to admit, the cover-art and imagery I had seen seemed somewhat… girly. I know, I know, this is a shallow and foolishly conceived standpoint. And boy do I regret it. This first Chobits disc was a fantastic ride. Hideki can be hilarious, though perhaps I’m simply a sucker for whacky sexual humour (when it’s executed effectively and in good taste of course). I couldn’t help but burst out laughing at some of the reactions Hideki brings to the screen. He often finds himself overwhelmed by the presence of certain female characters; whether it’s an innocent conversation with the sweet apartment manager, an unexpected cuddle from the bubbly young girl he works with at the Japanese bar, or the completely innocent affection of Chi. Whether Hideki decides to adopt the spontaneous nosebleed, the bright red cheeks, or the frozen limbs, his reactions are pure joy.

Chobits: Volume One

Video
Chi is adorable, and so are the environments Chobits presents. CLAMP, the female studio responsible for other titles such as Cardcaptor Sakura and X, have imbued the Chobits world with so much character; the anime incorporates a lush, colourful, downright pleasing visual style. I really loved the frequent use of manga-esque style scenes, with bold black outlines and flashy background, used primarily to emphasise a display of emotion. Don’t expect too much in the way of explosions or heated battle sequences. This is a subtle, warmly presented series that will appeal to those who can appreciate an alternate visual style that is just as sophisticated and full of detail. Think ‘Love Hina’ and you’ll have a fair idea of what to expect. The disc transfer is great, with no hint of any abnormalities.

Audio
Although I’ve become rather obsessed with Yoko Kanno’s musical scores of late (and thus disappointed to find out she’s not part of the series I’m reviewing!), the Chobits music by Keitaro Takanami is both appropriate to the mood of the series and just plain fun to listen to. The words ‘cute & cuddly’ come to mind when you listen to the opening theme ‘Let Me Be With You’ by Round Table, and so too with the closing title music ‘Raison D’etre’ (Edit: If anyone can tell us the translation of this supposedly Latin phrase I’d be grateful – Pete) , sung by Rie Tanaka, the Japanese voice actress for Chii. The Japanese seiyuu (voice actors/actresses) are great, and I’m told that they perform most of the singing throughout the Chobits series. The English dub wasn’t bad at all, although I would recommend that you prioritise viewing the disc with the Japanese audio track first.

Chobits: Volume One

Extras
It’s with a pang of disappointment that I report a lack of value in this department. I liked the DVD menu setup, utilising the computer/Persocom metaphor, however there really is very little here other than a non-credit opening sequence, several anime series trailers (R.O.D, .hack//SIGN, Full Metal Panic!, and Arjuna), and an art gallery containing a collection of Chobits captured moments. I would have liked a commentary track or perhaps a music video clip to complement a great sequence of episodes. I’ll keep my fingers crossed though; perhaps we’ll get lucky on some of the later discs.

Overall
I’m pleased to report that my initial prejudices are no more. This is turning out to be a fantastic series. Chobits offers a lovely visual style, cute’n’cuddly music, and an hilarious chain of events as we join Hideki on his fun-filled romp in the big city. If you have ever dreamt of having your very own personal computer with matching outrageously-cute-female-casing… then this is the series for you!


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