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Chobits Complete Series Blu-ray Review

11 min read

You can love your robot. You just can’t love your robot. Or can you?

What They Say:
Tokyo is abuzz with persocoms – humanoid computers that are virtually perfect. The socially and technologically inept Hideki is dying to get his hands on one. When he finds Chi abandoned in the trash, she’s cuter than any current model he’s ever seen, but when he gets her home and turns her on, she has no data and only a single learning program installed. While Hideki puts his whole heart into teaching Chi the ins and outs of humanity, a mystery unfolds as a dark secret within her awakens.

The Review:
Audio:
This release takes the original stereo mixes that we had for both the Japanese and English tracks and puts them through the lossless process with Dolby TrueHD. The show is not one that has a whole lot of action to it or anything that really stands out until the last couple of episodes, and even there it’s just for a handful of scenes. With this being a mostly dialogue driven show with some cute moments of music and ambient effects, the mix covers things well and without any problems. There’s some nice placement at times with the dialogue when you have some of the scenes play out involving the persocoms, but largely it’s a fairly standard stereo mix with no surprises. We didn’t have any dropouts or distortions during regular playback.

Video:
Originally airing in 2002, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original aspect of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. The series is not a native HD show but rather a standard definition remaster with the advantage of a higher bitrate to give it a smoother and cleaner presentation. The twenty-four episodes here are spread across three discs with nine each on the first and eight on the third where the extras are. The Madhouse animated series has an intentional soft look to it that’s captured well here with the colors where there’s a blurring of things at times to give it an interesting feel. That’s not to say the transfer is blurry, there’s a difference, but the colors and palette used gives it a fairly distinct look. There’s some amount of noise to be had in some of the backgrounds but it’s very minor and you have to be close to be able to see it. From a normal viewing distance, it’s a good looking transfer but not one that makes you sit up and really take notice. Having not seen the series in some eight years, I’m not doing a direct comparison, but with the larger screen this time around and the added benefit of a bitrate that spends plenty of time in the thirties, there’s a lot to like here.

Packaging:
Chobits comes in a standard single sized Blu-ray keepcase with a cardboard slipcover that mirrors what the keepcase itself looks like, but with a bit more color to it overall. The front cover has a traditional but good looking image of Chi in a pretty dress as she sits atop a power pole with wires crossing over it. The soft blues and whites in the background are given a bit of contrast with the black frame behind it and the different shade of blue that wraps around it, which in turn is a different shade than the Blu-ray bar along the top itself, giving it some very different shades overall. There’s a great soft and appealing look to all of this that draws you in easily enough. The back cover has a lot of white space with a pink tinge to it where the left side spends too much time listing every episode number and title, though it has a good full listing of the extras that are available here. The right side of it has a good cast shot and a number of smaller images from the series that fleshes things out. The summary is a bit short but it’s not a show that really needs a long one. Add in some technical information in the high definition grid that lists everything clearly and you have a good if overly wordy cover overall. The cover is reversible where it has a full white background and uses other classic images, one with a pink themed Chi and another with a green theme that looks really great. No show related inserts are included in this release.

Menu:
The menu design for the show is rather par for the course as the screen is given over to clips from the show set to the opening song material which gives it a nice upbeat feeling, though it cuts out just before it really ramps up so it’s a bit anticlimactic. The clips used are nice with some busier scenes but also a lot of soft moments and cute character moments. The navigation bar along the bottom, which doubles as the pop-up bar, is pretty appropriate as it is done in white with pink and purple backgrounds while the text itself is old school computer fonts in the same colors that gives it an amusing throwback feeling. It’s very easy to navigate but the language section was a bit hard to tell where the curse selection actually was since it’s a dark purple on a light purple and not easy to distinguish at some distances. The layout is very easy to use and the episode selection is very small since it’s fitting in a lot of text, but it’s all well done and I continue to like that they highlight which episode is playing when you check via the pop-up since it’s easy to lose track when you marathon a show.

Extras:
The third disc contains the extras and there’s some good stuff to be had here. The basics are included as we get the clean opening and closing versions of the two pieces and those are really nice to see in this form. In addition to that, we get a trio of chat sessions, one with Shinbo and Sumomo, another with Minoru and Yuzuki and a third with Hibiya and Kotoko. They’re all normal episode length pieces that were special DVD only releases, which we got separately from what I remember back during the first release. They’re cute and light pieces that add a bit of fun with the characters and helps to flesh out their relationships and lives a bit more. They’re not quite up to the same level of quality at times in terms of the animation itself depending on the scene, but it’s nice to have specific characters focused on besides just Chi and Hideki. The best is the six minute long Chibits extra which spends its time with the little characters of the show as Sumomo and Kotoko get into their fair share of trouble. I love Sumomo time and having just a little bit more at the end of it all is wonderful.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Based on the manga of the same name by CLAMP which ran for eight volumes and ended the same year that this came out, Chobits is a twenty-four episode series originally released by Pioneer and then acquired by FUNimation. This release retains the same English language dub that was created years ago and gives us the show in one very small, tight little package that’s a world of difference from the eight volumes that I had picked up all those years ago. I continue to be one of the few people it seems that generally prefers the anime to the manga and it was definitely a fun experience watching the show again in the space of a couple of days rather than over the many months the original release took.

Chobits centers on a young man named Hideki Motosuwa who has managed to fail his entrance exams for the college he wanted to get into, but he refuses to stay in the countryside on the farm with his parents until he can reapply next year. Instead, he’s taking his life into his own hands and has decided to move to Tokyo, find a little apartment to live in and to go to cram school so he can definitely get to where he wants to go. He’s a generally nice guy but one who is definitely a country bumpkin in a lot of ways as he’s very unfamiliar with even the most basic of technologies. What he’s most fascinated by though are persocoms (PCs!), humanoid emotionless machines that most people have to one degree or another that helps to facilitate, email, video games, net games and all other sorts of functions. They’re generally seen as young women and all of them have ears that stand out in an almost elfin way in order to make it clear what they are.

Hideki very much wants one of these, but they’re quite expensive and he’s on a shoestring budget to begin with. Where he lucks out is on his way back to his apartment, he literally finds one laying in the trash with bandages wrapped around it. It turns out that it’s essentially had its memories wiped and is a blank slate, a very cute blank slate, that simply knows how to say the word Chi. And that’s what Hideki names her as he decides to keep her and and show her the ways of the world. It’s a very cute relationship that the two have as they’re both very much innocents in a lot of ways, but Hideki has a pervy side. Chi continually finds his adult magazines that he has around the room and she learns a bit about life from that, though it’s not anything that goes too awful far.

What helps Hideki out along the way is his neighbor in the small complex named Shinbo, a very technical literate semi-geek type who is also going to his cram school. He has a pint sized persocom named Sumomo who is all pink in her Arabian style outfit that makes her the epitome of adorable. She truly steals just about every scene she’s in and her outgoing nature plays well against the more relaxed, curious and child-like nature that is Chi who just absorbs the wonders of the world as she sees them. It’s Hideki that has the outgoing moments as he panics, flails and gets himself into awkward situations. He has help at time from the manager who offers him up some clothes and steers him in the right direction with Chi, but he always makes things worse in a way, such as taking weeks to go underwear shopping for her since he freaks out at the idea of going into one of the shops. It’s cute, but after awhile ti all gets to be a bit much.

Much of the show is about these kinds of encounters and situations as Hideki teaches Chi about life, where she gets a job, he has a job and they figure out a fun little relationship. It’s fleshed out with just a few other characters, such as the high school girl Yumi whose father owns the pub he works at where she also helps out. She seems to have a little crush on Hideki that adds a bit of flavor to the show, but it doesn’t dominate. The one that makes a significant impact is that of twelve year old Minoru, a real genius of a kid with a wealthy family to his name and he helps Hideki with Chi at first because she’s an unusual persocom. It’s his interactions with him that gets Chi’s name out on the net a bit more and opens the possibility up that she made an urban legend called a Chobit that is something more than your average persocom.

The structure of the series is one that when it gets to the serious point, it’s really just in the last couple of episodes as there isn’t a significant main storyline happening in the middle when you’d typically have one around episode twelve. It’s more a slice of life thing with some amusing things that happen along the way, particularly with his cram school teacher, but mostly it’s about Chi and how Hideki is living with her and helping her. And the perverted side to it all as well which comes into play. Hideki is a natural young man with his interests, but Chi gets caught up in it just in her design, such as the place to deal with her in a technical way is between her legs. Chi’s just so innocent in her way and he interprets everything in a bad way that the conflicts are cute and are thankfully spread out a bit.

If there’s a disappointment with the series, it’s that it doesn’t really explore the reality of a world with these kinds of devices in them. It goes through the obvious storyline about whether they can feel emotions or not and there’s an interesting subplot that deals with a young man that married one and shows the complications that arise from it, but the series feels like it’s just a bit too early in dealing with the true social interactions that these would create and the actual uses of the net, bandwidth and so forth. The world was already moving there at the time the manga was created, but they kept it simple and in that regard it hasn’t aged well, especially when a simple video playback via a persocom requires a huge amount of bandwidth.

In Summary:
Chobit has its issues if you look too closely at it as you want to see more of the real world dynamic that would be here, and it’s strangely dated in its own way, but it’s a show that I still find to ultimately be very enjoyable. I love the character designs for it, the style of the animation and the way it manages its serious moments and the perverted, or sketchy nature if you prefer, of some of the characters. The show has a weak ending that feels forced, but it is built up slowly with the storyline that comes from a picture book that Chi has, which I did purchase way back in the day and continue to find beautiful. There’s a good sense of fun here and even with the pervy nature, it doesn’t feel like it goes too far, but it’s not kid friendly either because of a few things that do happen. Chobits may not have aged too well when it comes to aspects of its story, and the manga fans may love the manga version more, but Chobits is a show that I still find to be fun and this version is a no-brainer to grab for the lossless audio and having it all in the space of less than a single keepcase from the original release and in overall better quality.

Features:
Japanese Dolby TrueHD 2.0 Language, English Dolby TrueHD 2.0 Language, English Subtitles,
Shinbo & Sumomo Chat, Japanese Previews, Minoru & Yuzuki Chat, Hibiya & Kotoko Chat, Chibits Special, Textless Opening and Closings

Content Grade: B+
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: B+
Packaging Grade: B+
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B+

Released By: FUNimation
Release Date: May 10th, 2011
MSRP: $54.98
Running Time: 600 minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC SD Remaster
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1

Review Equipment:
Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70″ LCoS 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.

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