Thursday, April 2, 2009

Chobits (anime TV series, vol. 2)

This second disc in the Chobits anime series introduces the strange picture book series that will continue to pop up from time to time throughout the story. Hideki purchases the first book in the series for Chi after she shows an interest in it - he has no idea of the deeper meaning of the book, nor of the effect the book has on Chi.

However, this disc spends only a brief amount of time on the picture book storyline - in the second episode of the disc, Chi has become worryingly lethargic, which Hideki discovers is due to the fact that he hasn't been recharging her properly. Although Hideki does manage to get her recharged, with the help of Ms. Hibiya, it's expensive and Hideki, as usual, is short on funds. Chi doesn't like seeing Hideki unhappy, and when she learns that money is a good thing and might make him happier, she resolves to get a job. Because of Chi's complete lack of common sense, Hideki isn't so sure that this is a good idea, but he agrees that she can get a job, as long as it's a "good" job and not a "shady" job.

Unfortunately, Chi misunderstands. She goes off on her own and is lured into agreeing to act as a stripper for a peep show by a guy who assures her that this is a "good" job. Minoru finds out what's happening and gets the word out to Hideki, who panics and rushes off to find Chi. While Chi tries to do what the man tells her, a background program of some sort activates. She escapes, and all kinds of persocoms in the city (and perhaps farther away?) quit functioning. All the persocoms go back to normal once Hideki finds Chi. Hideki doesn't know how to handle whatever it was Chi did to all the perscoms, so he ignores that issue for the time being. He lectures Chi again about "good" jobs vs. "shady" jobs. When it becomes apparent that Chi can't tell the difference between the two, Hideki tells her he'll find her a job himself. It's tough finding a nice place that will agree to hire someone like Chi, but Hideki manages to find Chi a job at a bakery called Tirol.

Chi's often child-like behavior makes situations like the peep show job seem especially icky. True, she's a persocom and not a human, but they guy at the peep show should've felt at least a little gross, telling her what she needed to do. I did think that the "don't touch yourself there and don't let anyone but the one just for you touch you there, either" bit was interesting. Unlike a human, Chi can enforce "'no' means 'no'" by going super-powered and blowing things up - good for her.

On another note, although most of the persocoms viewers are shown look like human beings, there's brief moment when viewers are shown a cartoony persocom, one of the persocoms in the police station. In my opinion, it was a bit creepy. The human-shaped persocoms can look and act pretty alive - I'm not sure how I'd react to a yellow cartoon creature moving and speaking like a living being... I'm reminded of a commercial I saw a while back, in which a mom and her children run screaming from a cartoon sun being used to advertise some kind of orange drink (I just found the commercial here).

Well, moving on. I'm not sure the "Chi must be recharged" stuff ever happened in the manga - as far as I'm concerned, Hideki's just lucky he didn't break her during his panicked attempt to get her recharged. Chi's "good" job at Tirol was in the manga, however. It seems like an amazing coincidence that Hideki actually manages to find the perfect job for Chi - information revealed later in the series explains the manager's willingness to hire Chi a little better, but it's still a fantastic coincidence. It just so happens that Yumi, Hideki's coworker, has a connection to Tirol and its manager that Hideki doesn't know about (as if Yumi's reaction to the news about Chi's new job didn't make that obvious).

Although I don't think the English dub is bad, I still prefer watching this show in Japanese with subtitles - some of the characters just sound better to me in Japanese. However, I did notice something odd. When the Japanese language track was on, there were a few times when there were subtitles, even though no one was actually speaking. I turned up the volume during those times, thinking that maybe the characters were speaking too softly for me to hear, but that wasn't the case. When I listed to the English dub, these parts that had not had Japanese spoken dialogue had English spoken dialogue. I think I noted this same issue for one of the GetBackers boxed sets. I've also noticed this issue with other anime, including Tactics and Those Who Hunt Elves. I'm not sure what's going on here, and I haven't been able to find any information on this issue, so if anybody knows anything about this, feel free to comment about it.

The DVD's extras (I've got the individual DVDs, not a boxed set) are nothing special. There's a clean version of the first ending, an art gallery with even fewer images than were on the first DVD, and an insert with a few images of Chi.

Read-alikes and Watch-alikes:
  • A.I.: Artificial Intelligence (live action movie) - This film takes place in a future where humans have figured out how to build mechas (robots) that look like humans. These mechas are used and thrown away (or worse) when they are no longer wanted or needed. David is an artificial child, the first mecha to have real feelings. Monica adopts him as a substitute for her son, who is in cryo-stasis, but David is no longer necessary when her son is able to come home. Alone, David goes on a journey to find out how to become a real boy. This movie is darker and more heavily philosophical than this disc of the Chobits anime, but it deals with some of the same issues as Chobits. What makes a person a person? Can artificial people really love, and how do they/should they fit into the human world?
  • Absolute Boyfriend (manga) by Yuu Watase - Riiko is an energetic and nice girl who doesn't have any luck with guys. One day, a strange-looking salesman gives her the URL of a website that sells "love figures" (androids designed to be the perfect lovers). Riiko doesn't really believe any of it is real, but she orders one and signs up for a free trial anyway. The love figure, called Night, does arrive, but Riiko forgets to return him before the end of the trial. If she keeps him, she'll owe the company more money than she could ever pay, but, even if he's only a robot, she's starting to like him too much to give him up. Those who'd like another story featuring attractive robots might want to try this. Like Chobits, this series has romance and deals a little with the implications of falling in love with something non-living and man-made.
  • Body Electric (book) by Susan Squires - This is a very unusual romance novel - the main "male" in the story is an artificial intelligence program, and the main female is, emotionally, pretty unhealthy (which is part of what makes this story fairly dark in tone, and certainly darker than the Chobits anime). Vic Barnhardt, a brilliant and troubled computer programmer, creates Jodie, an artificial intelligence program that she, at first, decides is female. She is shocked and outraged when Jodie finally breaks it to her that it considers itself to be male, but Vic eventually adjusts and her relationship with Jodie deepens even further. Eventually, in order to save Jodie from her boss, Vic must find him a body. This book starts off a bit slow, and Vic's emotional issues may bother some readers. Those who'd like another story dealing with the emotional relationships between humans and human-like computers/programs may want to try this.
  • Oh My Goddess! (manga) by Kosuke Fujishima - Keiichi Morisato, a student at a technical university, accidentally calls a Goddess Help Line while attempting to call a restaurant for some take-out. A beautiful goddess named Belldandy shows up and tells him he can have one wish. He wishes for her to be his girlfriend forever, and things get more complicated from there. There are other goddesses who come calling throughout the series, magic goes awry, and magic is used to help people be happier. Those who'd like another "romance for guys" in which the main female love interest wants nothing more than to make the guy happy, sometimes with disastrous results, might like this.

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