Reviewby Zac Bertschy, Jun 9th 2003
DVD 2: THE CITY OF SILENCE
The trials and tribulations of Chi and Hideki continue as Chi decides to get her first job in order to help the struggling Hideki out with his monthly bills. Everything seems fine until it's discovered that Chi has been suckered in by the owner of a peep show, and it's up to Hideki to rescue her from his clutches! Furthermore, Chi unearths a strange book that has a profound effect on her psyche. How will this book teach Chi to interact with the world around her?
Pioneer's release of fan-favorite robot girl series Chobits continues with volume two, and unfortunately, if you're waiting for the show to get an arching, meaningful storyline, you've got another disc or so to go before that's gonna happen. The screenwriters drop a few crumbs on this disc as to what's really going on, but it's going to take another five or six episodes before they give you the whole sandwich. That said, the episodes on this disc are mildly entertaining and mostly inoffensive, so for diehard fans of the show, there's a lot here to like.
If you aren't a diehard, though, these episodes may strike you as being more of the same salacious crapola that infests the first half of this show. You'd be right, for the most part. Chi is sexualized in these episodes more than in any other portion of the show, and it's a shame, since the show does eventually become worthwhile. Surely, this section of the series undoubtedly turned a lot of people away from the show. It's easy to dismiss Chobits as misogynistic fanboy-centric garbage, and indeed, these episodes certainly seem to be just that. For the patient (or undemanding) among you, if you can survive this disc, you'll be treated to what becomes a marvelous animated essay on man's love affair and fetishization of technology.
As for the episodes included on this disc, they're amusing in their own empty way. Chi continues to wander around in a daze, exploring modern-day Japan and mugging for the camera (in a completely blank fashion. Thank you, Neon Genesis Evangelion, for making "emotionless construct" a popular character type). Hideki remains a wholly introspective and totally inept male lead. We are provided with his inner monologue, which makes Hideki a vastly more sympathetic character than any of his "pathetic ronin" counterparts (Keitaro Urashima, I'm looking at you.). When CLAMP does something, they usually do it right, and they've managed to solve the problems created by having a doormat male lead by actually providing us with his motivations, hopes and fears. We never really knew why Keitaro was such a loser; but we know why Hideki is, and at least he tries to do something about it. That's an admirable quality of Chobits that we should hope other series of this type emulate in the future.
Of course, the problematic episode on the disc is episode seven, titled "Chi Works." Chi is caught by a guy running a peepshow and is suckered in to nearly stripping for a series of cameras. The episode ends on a total cliffhanger after a flash of light bursts forth from Chi's "power source" (read: symbol of virginity) when the creepy peepshow guy tries to touch her. Other than not-so-subtle suggesting that the show has a theme about "good" girls waiting to find true love before giving up their "purity" (cough), this episode serves very little purpose other than to fulfill the fantasy many fanboys obviously have.
As usual, the animation is excellent, having been done by Studio Madhouse, who also animated Card Captor Sakura and X TV with amazing success. The music is cute and passable, and the opening theme remains catchy. The dub is actually not horrible, which is amazing, considering how difficult this series must have been to dub. Crispin Freeman pulls off the excitable and nearly manic Hideki with grace. The actress portraying Chi does an admirable job, despite having been given almost nothing to work with (the character speaks in a monotone and rarely says more than one word at a time.) The cursory characters, including Shinbo and Sumomo, his hyperactive persocom, are pulled off amazingly well. Little girls and teenage females are never, ever done convincingly in English dubs, but they managed to pull it off here. My sole complaint is that Yumi has "generic English dub girl" sound, but Yumi is a generic anime girl, so I suppose the voice is fitting.
Overall, consider this disc a test. If you can survive through this somewhat misogynistic, overtly sexualized BS, then you'll be rewarded with a decent series. If you just can't take it, know that your community understands why. This is rough going for anyone who considers him/herself to have better taste than to watch fanservicey robot girlfriend shows. CLAMP does not disappoint, though, and it's a shame that the journey Chobits takes towards being a good show is so fraught with bad decisions and obvious pandering.
Overall (dub) : B
Overall (sub) : B
Story : B
Animation : A
Art : A
Music : A
+ Good animation, cute storyline.
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