On Chobits: From Technophobes to Technophiles

Analysis

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This post is part of the 30 Day Manga Challenge series. Day 2: A Manga You Didn’t Like At First But Came To Enjoy Later

At first blush, Chobits seems like your run-of-the-mill ecchi manga. But beyond the provocative illustrations and suggestive dialog lies a poignant story that taps into a classic sci-fi conundrum: can man love machine?

Created by superstar manga group CLAMP, Chobits follows the story of Hideki Motosuwa, a broke ronin student, and Chii, his adorable android, or “persocom.” The series originally ran from 2000 to 2002 in Weekly Young Magazine (Prison School, Initial D), marking CLAMP’s seinen manga debut. Chobits has been translated into English and is currently licensed by Dark Horse Manga.

Introducing the Persocom

A panel of the manga depicting the moment Hideki discovers Chii

One night, Hideki discovers an unconscious—and partially nude—girl lying in the trash near his apartment. Upon closer inspection, he realizes she’s not a girl at all, but a persocom, a high-tech and extremely expensive computer system. Figuring she’s been abandoned, Hideki takes her home.

Hideki, being totally computer illiterate, looks everywhere for a power switch, finding none until he checks a certain… intimate spot. He does some mental gymnastics, telling himself it’s okay, that she’s not really a person, just a machine. And with a simple click,  the persocom whirrs to life.

But it seems there was a reason why the persocom was in the trash: her memory’s been wiped, leaving her unable to do anything besides utter one syllable: Chii. So begins the pair’s unconventional relationship, setting the stage for further plot points as Hideki learns more about Chii’s origins.

Future Vision

I probably shouldn’t have read Chobits when I did. Some time in 2007, my middle school friends and I were on a CLAMP kick, having breezed through Cardcaptor Sakura and Magic Knight Rayearth in record time. So when one of us got Chobits from the local library, we were pumped.

Chii undresses

From the first chapter though, we knew we were in trouble. See, we went to private school. Catholic school, to be exact. And none of us really wanted to get caught with a book like Chobits, especially with the kind of shenanigans playing out in Volume 1. So after the first book, we collectively decided Chobits wasn’t for us and shelved it indefinitely.

It wasn’t until college that I’d decide to give it another go, and man, was the timing right. As a communications major focusing on modern media environments, I learned firsthand how we’ve come to rely on technology for consumption, socialization, and even companionship.

And really, that’s the core message behind Chobits: how far are we willing to go? How will humans’ relationship with technology evolve, especially as artificial intelligence grows each day? How long will it take for products like Alexa and Siri to adopt physical forms beyond plastic canisters and tablets?

If Chobits is any indication, then perhaps crossing that line won’t be so bad after all.

This post will be updated! Stay tuned!

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