Review covers the full series

Chobits is set a little bit into the future, where development on Artificial Intelligence has developed to the point where it's possible to have lifelike human dolls that can follow people around, and follow basic commands.

OK, so androids are hardly a new concept in science fiction. What makes Chobits so interesting is the amount of effort that has gone into making things realistic. The authors have really sat back and had a good look at Japanese society. Obviously, some things in Chobits look a little bit dated now. (Apparently everyone in the future uses SuperDisks!) But it's still an inspired look ahead. What the andriods do seems vaguely realistic, given what technology might be like in the not-so-distant future. And a lot of thought has been put into what people would use them for, and how they would effect society.

The first volume is probably one of the best comics I've ever read. All of the characters are each interesting in their own way, yet all still manage to be down to earth enough to be realistic. One of the whole concepts of the Manga is that these things could actually happen, and thankfully the protagonists manage not break the illusion of realism, whilst still keeping us very entertained.

The humour is very strong and does not hold back from pushing into taboo topics, which is good because the whole concept of the Manga really cries out for boundaries to be pushed in the name of social commentary. Japan has a bit of a reputation of being the home of various craziness, and if any country is ripe for a good bit of social commentary then it's probably Japan. A very good translation also helps keep all of the messages on key.

But alas I have a bit of a gripe with the series as a whole. The high level of quality set in the first book does not continue into the rest of the series. You see, once the opening is over Chobits is basically just a romance story. Now, there is nothing wrong with a good romance, and Chobits is a very good romance. But compared to the opening of the series, the remainder just feels hollow and repetitive. It lacks the initial humour and clever concepts, and just repeats its plot elements and messages over and over again. It's also a weird switch-over from the beginning, which is very male oriented.

The focus on romance has a few strange implications. While there are a lot of other plot elements, such as the mystery behind who or what one of the main characters are, or the ominous antagonists who look down on all of the events, none of these have any impact on how the plot works. Instead everything is being driven by people's emotions. People run away from home, come back, and the answers to questions are revealed not when it would make sense to do so, but when the characters are emotionally ready for it.

It comes to an extreme at the end of the series, when the antagonists turn away without having done anything, purely because there was no room for them in a romance story. So what was the point of having them in there in the first place..? Were the authors that desperate to throw a bit of excitement and fear into the story that they put in a red herring just for the reader?

Finally, I can't help but wonder where the authors were going here. What message were they trying to give? At first it seems to be a very valid warning about people using machines to fill emotional gaps that would normally be filled by people. However with the ending, they seem to be saying that they approve of this.

I would definitely recommend reading the first couple of volumes, but be prepared either to stop there or face a little disappointment later on.