Chobits, created by Clamp, tells the story of Hideki Motosuwa, a student trying to qualify for college. Hideki dreams of a girlfriend and a persocom, an android used as a personal computer. One evening he finds a trashed persocom with long flowing hair. He lugs her home, turns her on, and discovers something is wrong with the apparently custom built system. She can only say “chi” which is what Hideki promptly names her. At the advice of his neighbor, Hiromu Shinbo, he takes the newly named Chi to Minoru Kokubunji, a persocom genius. Minoru suspects Chi may be one of the Chobits, a legendary series of persocoms programmed with free will and emotions. But Chobits themselves are little more than rumors and whispers on the Internet.
The major part of the story involves Hideki attemping to teach Chi how to speak, concepts, and social behavior. Over time, Hideki discovers his feelings for this lifelike machine. Chi also shows and emotional depth she isn’t supposed to possess as she slowly reciprocates Hideki’s feelings. Just what is Chi? How can a machine feel emotions? What does it mean to love a machine anyway?
Chobits is set in the same universe as Clamps’s Angelic Layer. It takes place a few years after events in that story and continues Angelic Layer’s exploration of human machine relationships. Chobits also has some crossover branches with Clamps other works: Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicle and xxxHolic.
Chobits, despite the comedic and uncomfortable situations the innocent Chi places Hideki, focuses upon the serious theme of love. Although sexuality is a source for laughs, the love of Chobits is not sexual in nature. Chobits examines what it means to love someone for who they are. In the manga but not so much in the anime, Chi is unable to have intimate relations. Such action would cause her memories to be erased, essentially destroying who she is because of the placement of her “On” button. Although there are hints that it is possible for Chi to be intimate with her “one just for me” after she achieves full self realization, she can only achieve that self realization in a relationship with someone who cares for her well being as opposed to a purely sexual relationship.
Chobits also examines how machines can replace relationships with other people. In several scenes, people are walking along side their persocoms and only speaking to them. Persocoms are programmed to imitate desirable human behavior, becoming the ideal companion. This ideal can prevent people from making efforts to establish true human relationships.
Hideki Motosuwa is a 19-year-old student attemping to get into college by studying at a cram school. He struggles to make ends meet in addition to his studies. He is an honest and kind person who thinks more about others’ well being above his own. In particularly he cares for Chi’s well being.
Chi is a persocom Hideki finds in a pile of trash. She remembers nothing about her past and is completely helpless when Hideki finds her. Hideki spends most of the story teaching Chi how to be human. The story takes a turn when Hideki buys Chi a children’s book series that interests her: A City with No People.
Peppered with awkward, funny, and often sexual situations, Chobits nicely balances comedy with its more series themes of love. The series is enjoyable and touching. The second half of the series is stronger than the first as it explores the moral implications of relationships between humans and artificial intelligence and exactly what it means to be human. The series has high production value: beautifully colored and detailed with smooth animation throughout.