I like to think anime fans are creatures of habit. Which is not to be insulting; all humans prefer familiarity. As such, when there’s a certain genre or subject we like, we tend to cling to it and rarely venture out. Even more so, if there’s something we don’t like, we will avoid anything to do with it for fear of repeating that horrendous experience.
People who like shonen tend to watch shonen almost exclusively; if they think shojo is a bunch of pretty-boy, girly-faced BS they’ll avoid anything remotely close to the piss-poor show that set them off in the first place. But most anime fans are also willing to cross that line should word-of-mouth declare the show “different.” I myself have tried several shows that I were in a genre I didn’t particularly care for. It’s how I got into Black Butler.
Though, the only issue I had at the time was the Shouta… and the Shouta Yaoi
But there was a time when I wouldn’t have taken the risk. There was a point where I put myself in an echo-chamber of shojo/shonen fantasy anime and anything on the outside just “wasn’t my thing.”
And then came this sweet little anime that contemplated the existence of sentient robots, Chobits. I avoided it for awhile – as it reeked of Magical Girlfriend Harem Anime – but I broke down and watched it when enough people told me how adorable it was. And my viewing experience hasn’t been the same since.
And the cutness changed everything
Blatant Perverted Humor That’s Somehow Innocent
First of all, let’s be honest with ourselves: the humor here is pretty dirty.
As a show aimed at older men (despite the girly opening), there’s no getting away from the blatant fanservice. Chii, our resident magical girlfriend, won’t be completely naked but will be in nothing but her underwear almost all the time, with her lady bits being accidentally touched at various points.
As this wallpaper demonstrates, Chii’s sexual appeal is not accidental at all
But these awkward moments are presented just as they are: awkward and embarrassing. Yeah, sure, there’s no denying the audience will still enjoy the view but they’ll also be laughing at our protagonist, Hideki, who promptly freaks the hell out and behaves like any awkward nerd would. It’s not a power fantasy; it’s a romantic comedy with fantasy elements, and it works to amazing lengths.
Some Nice, Well Executed Naval Gazing
But when Chobits isn’t gleefully giggling at Hideki touching Chii’s breasts for purely mechanical reasons (admit it, you laughed), it’s asking some interesting questions. The whole anime has far more navel gazing in it than I thought, and the questions it asks are some really hard ones to answer.
Or at least it does when the comedy isn’t happening
I once heard Chobits summed up in one glorious sentence: “Can I sleep with my robot?” They had to make it on the fly with a timer clicking behind them, so I’m fairly impressed with how close it comes to the real deal. Yeah, the plot asks itself if it’s okay for humans to feel a real emotional connection with these personal computers (unavoidable when you put a female face on it) but it also asks some other really important questions: What happens when you replace lost loved ones with these machines? What happens to the real people who feel outsmarted and out-ranked by these machines? Is it even ethical to put these computers in the same category as people?
This isn’t in the same vein as Death Note, which pondered the morality of absolute power and the definitions of justice, but it does pose some quandaries worth musing over with a cup of coffee.
Even Your Fantasy is Littered With Layers
Let’s also be honest about something: Chobits is a Harem anime.
The whole show revolves around the spineless and nerdy Hideki, a dropout loser who hopes to turn his luck around in the big city. His trip to the big city has him repeatedly put in awkward positions with a series of good looking girls. This includes his Hot Landlady, his Hot Teacher, and his Hot Coworker. Now these girls kinda get a backseat to Chii, our Hot Computer with her own brain, but they do exist on the fringes. Furthermore, it’s also fulfilling the fantasy of having a perfect girlfriend fall in your lap. Thought the “perfect” part is being put through the ringer.
She’s a little bit more like a child, in the beginning, copying everything Hidekei does
But it’s okay. The fact that Chobits was obviously playing to a specific group didn’t bother me as much as I thought it would. The story manages to balance these fantasy elements with the navel gazing mentioned above and adds some real layers to the people involved in this fantasy. The Hot Coworker has her own problems outside of Hideki; The Hot Landlady has a connection to Chii the robot, and so on and so forth. Everything here is really well-rounded and it feels more like you’re dealing with people rather than caricatures meant to “fill a role.”
So if this was actually good….
Then what else was actually really good? Chobits taught me that there’s always a shiny gem in an anime genre that can be universally loved and I couldn’t be more grateful.
In a way, Chobits was the eye-opener that forced me to experiment in anime. It is my reminder that sometimes it’s worth taking a risk and watching something outside of your comfort zone. It won’t always end as well, but it’ll be better to have tried than to have missed out.
What anime changed your mind about a genre? Feel free to leave a comment below. And don’t forget to like and follow for more content like this.