Friday, October 21, 2011
The Foresight of CLAMP’s Chobits
The idea of artificial intelligence and man’s dependence on machines has always been a popular theme told over many stories. At the sunset of the dot-com bubble, CLAMP released Chobits, a Seinen manga that would become one of their highest selling manga of all time. Chobits was originally released ten years ago in early 2001. Chobits was a very popular manga when it came out in Japan and the USA, after release it held the crown of the highest-selling manga in the United States until the release of Fruits Basket. The combination of beautiful art and copious fanservice that pandered to its young adult market made it extremely popular; a combination of the two doesn’t make a manga relevant long into the future. What makes Chobits relevant in the modern world is the allegorical tale on humanity isolating itself through the dependence of technology to communicate and at worst, as a substitute for personal communication.
The story focused on Hideki, a young man at the cusp of adulthood who is trying to get into college. Computer technology has improved to a point where people view constant technological connectivity as a necessity, so they start creating personal computers with more human-like features (persocoms). One day Hideki finds a persocom in the trash, activates it, and names her Chi; this robot girl is unlike any other, she learns from the world around her and shows emotions. The human-like features of persocoms start to blur computers and humans and it starts affecting relationships. Throughout the story of Chobits, we see vignettes of broken human relationships that are due to the blurring of technology.
In our modern world we have so much technology in our lives. The increased portability of mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets has increased our dependence on technology. It is odd that with the onset of constant communication that people seem to be drifting further and further apart. Instead of talking face-to-face, it is not unusual to have people talk to each other through technology. When you are hanging out with your friends, count how many times your friends would look at their smartphones between conversations. As social creatures, this has negative effects on our communications. It increasingly isolates us from the world around us and it starts to change how we perceive the world around us, and how we see the world viewing us. In Chobits, personal relationships are broken due to the dependence of the persocom. It is telling that a dependence of technology is changing our communication structure, and it may not be for the better.
Chobits’s relevance in the modern world shows the wisdom of CLAMP and showcases the incredible talent they have. They wrote an allegorical tale about our dependence of technology, and how technology can destroy relationships and build new ones. They wrote the story before social media and portable technology changed how we communicated with each other, which shows the incredible perspicacious foresight that CLAMP has. We see the how their theme is relevant in the modern world, and how it also gives us a warning of what can happen with humanity when we increasingly segregate ourselves from the world around us through a dependence of technology.