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Chobits Vol. #2: The Empty City (of 7)

By: Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Thursday, May 22, 2003
Release Date: Tuesday, May 13, 2003

What They Say
While Hideki studies for cram school he also learns many things about Chi. Some books have a strange effect on her, she requires charging, and keeping a chobit unit can be expensive! Chi decides to get a job to help out with the bills, but when her “good job” turns out to be in a peepshow, the shocking outcome will be more than anyone can handle! How will Chi’s dark side affect their future?

The Review!

With so many of my favorite actors in the Japanese cast, it’s certain that I took in this show in its original language of Japanese. With this being such a recent show, the stereo mix for the track is very well done with lots of nice subtle movement around the forward soundstage and some excellent placement. Dialogue was nice and clear throughout and there’s some good depth to things in a few key areas that make it quite enjoyable. We noticed no dropouts or distortions during regular playback.

Much like a dream transfer, Chobits looks gorgeous here. Utilizing the existing anamorphic print combined with the lush color palette of the most current digital painting systems, this is one of the most subtly vibrant looking transfers I’ve seen in the past year. The background palette is done up in a mostly real-world style but during certain key sequences, usually comical, they bring in almost day-glo colors to accentuate the wackiness of the situation. It’s these areas that would normally be of concern with bleeding and over saturation, but they look spot on here. Cross coloration doesn’t exist and I’m hard pressed to find any real problematic aliasing moments throughout the program.

The fantastic packaging continues in this clear keepcase. The front cover uses the same style as the previous volume and more of the very detailed and beautiful artwork of chi in the rain. The front cover, spine and back cover all provide volume numbering while the back cover also provides episode numbers and titles. The artwork from the front is reworked here nicely and several small shots from the show are used. The production information and basic technical points are all clearly listed here. The insert has a nice shot of Chi in her pajama’s and opens to a cheesecake shot of her laying across the floor in them. The back of the insert has her in her t-shirt and lists the discs episodes. The reverse side of the cover isn’t a reversible cover but uses the image from the insert and provides the entire scene, providing a very nice looking piece.

A nice simple layout works best here with the style of the show being expressed in the background colors with Chi in the foreground while the bouncy opening song plays along. The selections are all along the bottom with a play all feature alongside episode specific selection, which I believe is fairly new for a Pioneer release. Access times are nice and fast and we had no problems navigating the menu or any of the extras.

The extras here are pretty minimal, with an art gallery that has four very nice pieces of full color artwork and a textless ending being all that’s included.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
After a fun first volume, I was really anxious to get to this batch of episodes as things start moving towards some of my favorite aspects of the manga series and I’m quite interested in seeing how they’re handled.

Things start off with a focus for Hideki on a mock exam coming up so he intends to take off the day before the exam and spend it all studying. This partly concerns Yumi since she doesn’t know the reason at first, and since she’s obviously got the hots for this oblivious young man, she’s worried that he may stop working there. This is all pretty trivial stuff, though it does creep into other episodes and just makes you feel sad for Yumi.

Hideki’s studying habits are about on par with my own, which means he fails miserably at it. His habits go from bad to worse when he realizes he’s missing his English dictionary and falls into disarray as he concludes he’s going to fail. With a few yen left to his name, he and Chi go out to the bookstore to get another one. This brings us to one of the most interesting aspects of the show, and that’s Chi getting her first book of her own, the Town with No People.

We get to see Chi read this book and have its child-like drawings brought to life as we follow the lead character going through this empty town where all the people are indoors and with their one. Though the book starts off light and almost as a throwaway, there’s a lot to it and it will continue to have influence as the show progresses. I even went and bought the real version of the book that was made after the shows release and read parts of it to my daughter before bed. There is just a real strange and intriguing quality to the story in it.

From there, we move into another fairly standalone and learning curve episodes that has Chi beginning to weaken, which is the direct result of Hideki again being one of the most clueless people around and not realizing that Chi needs an energy source. Most of them take in a fair amount of their needs through solar means, but since Hideki crams during the day and works afternoons and evenings, Chi rarely gets out of the house. So when she ends up in dire straights, he panics as only his kind of character can and basically runs throughout the city like a chicken with its head cut off. Granted, he’s trying to do the best he can for her, but it’s just plain bad. But typical of this genre.

There’s some really good material that follows in subsequent episodes though, with Chi going to get her first job, which naturally lands her into the heart of the adult entertainment world. This of course happens at the exact same time that Hideki is getting along really well with Yumi as she’s cooking him dinner in her family apartment while everyone else is gone. Ah, poor Yumi, she and her large breasts really do deserve better. Chi’s job brings her into a problem though, as something deep inside her, be it a “past life” or programming, causes her to completely change and she begins to affect all the persocoms around her.

The mystery of Chi gets played up nicely through the last two episodes here, though it does get balanced nicely with her learning a lot more and becoming more sustainable on her own. The story is still playing strongly to a lot of the typical elements of the genre here, but with enough softness and warmth in many of the characters that keeps it from being too over the top or abrasive. Combined with the smooth animation and great designs, it manages to continue being better than a lot of other competitors. I’m still half remembering manga plots and lines when I see this, so I know my view is skewed, but I’m enjoying it quite a lot. Good fun to pass a few hours with.

Japanese Language,English Language,English Subtitles,Textless Ending,Art Gallery

Review Equipment
Toshiba TW40X81 40" HDTV, Panasonic RP-82 Progressive Scan codefree DVD player, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster component cable and Sony speakers.

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