Reviewby Zac Bertschy,
DVD 6: My Only Person
It's the end of the line for Chi and Hideki, as Hideki struggles to uncover the secrets behind Chi's true identity. An unscrupulous and obsessive collector continues to investigate Chi's connection to the legendary Chobits Persocom series. Just as they're about to find out, a mysterious duo bent on halting Chi's developmental progress shows up, and their decisions control the fate of every Persocom in the world!
What began as a fairly run-of-the-mill shounen romance series has become, in typical CLAMP fashion, a genre-bending, thought-provoking story that unfortunately has already turned away high-minded anime fans thanks to a bunch of early episodes that focused more on panties than on substance. The end of Chobits winds up being something that would appeal to a huge range of anime fans; anyone who appreciates touching romance and understated drama punctuated by beautiful animation and high production values will love this. It's too bad a metric ton of panties sent discriminating anime fans away screaming about 15 episodes ago.
Fans who have stuck it out through all 24 episodes of the series will be richly rewarded here. While the ending isn't totally ‘complete’ (there are still a few unanswered questions at the end of the series), what we see is the apex of the relationship between Chi and Hideki, which in itself is a metaphor for man's relationship to technology. Once the series hit its stride around episode 15, the show started getting somewhat philosophical and began exploring the nature of a man who loved a synthetic being more than a real one. Hideki winds up choosing Chi, who he dearly loves, over another flesh-and-blood woman. It's an interesting question that hasn't been explored in any other anime series thus far, and Chobits does an admirable job of examining every angle.
Usually shows about dedicated robot maid characters wind up being disgustingly sexist manifestos that unwittingly espouse a message about subservient women being superior. Chobits started out this way, and could have become another casualty a'la Mahoromatic, but with these final episodes (and, indeed, the last 3 discs or so of the series), the show redeems itself and takes another route. Chi is still shown as being ‘superior’ not only to other persocoms but to human women as well, which is a dangerous thing to suggest. Fortunately, Chi spends most of the end of the series suffering with an identity crisis, and comes to the conclusion that there's only one person for her and that that person must love her completely and, subsequently, must treat her right in order to deserve her love in return. The show still presents the insulting ‘perfect woman’ archetype (why anyone would love someone who's as blank and personality-free as Chi is, I'll never know), they sidestep the really offensive things the character type suggests by making the story more about romance and mutual love than gender politics. It isn't perfect, but it's a big step forward for this genre, and that should be appreciated.
The animation is produced by Madhouse, a studio with a reputation for quality that has a tendency to drop the ball about halfway through any given series. A viewing of their wildly popular TV effort Trigun shows that their animation quality goes up and down inconsistently. Chobits, animated digitally, is a fluid and beautiful affair that only cuts corners at opportune and appropriate moments. There's nary an awkward moment in the animation. The music is also appropriate and catchy; the new ending theme is a welcome variation from the last one, which was a little dull and didn't adequately reflect the more melancholy and serious tone of the end of the series.
The dub is inconsistent, but it manages to stay on track, mostly thanks to a solid and affecting performance from Crispin Freeman as Hideki. Hideki is a rare shounen hero, a milquetoast who winds up asserting himself and becoming a respectable person by the time the series ends, and Freeman's textured performance gives the character's transformation credibility. Chi is, well, Chi, and there wasn't a lot the English cast could have done to spice up the character. Sumomo is suitably annoying; the Japanese voice was ridiculously cutesy and the English voice follows suit, albeit with less successful results. A lot of the background characters and female voices are disappointingly generic and don't add much in terms of quality to an already-struggling dub. The Japanese voices might be better, considering the level of performance, but then you'd miss out on Freeman's excellent voice work.
Unlike many other recent anime series, Chobits comes to a highly satisfying and reasonable conclusion. It's true that they don't tie up every single last plot point, but screaming and whining for absolute finality to any anime series is a fool's errand; anyone who's been watching anime long enough know that the Japanese have a penchant for ambiguity when it comes to concluding a story and you should take what you can get when they are actually willing to close things off. If you found yourself repulsed by Chobits at its inception, you may want to give it a bit more of a chance; there's a touching, well-written and thoughtful romance beneath all the panties and hype.
Overall (dub) : A
Overall (sub) : A
Story : A
Animation : A
Art : A
Music : A
+ Excellent animation, great story.
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