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.

The most important theme that is developed over the course of Chobits is humanity’s dependence on technology and the consequences of this dependence. Hideki grew out in the country, so he was not familiar with the idea of persocoms. Over the course of the story, he learns that people get so attached to this technology that it starts affecting relationships among people. It creates broken relationships when people get so addicted to it that they cannot bring themselves to stop using it. This continual dependence leads to another issue, which is the isolation that occurs when people use technology to communicate to each other. This personal bubble changes people and start affecting their own personal perceptions of themselves.

CLAMP’s themes in Chobits show us that the writers are quite sagacious. At the time that Chobits was started, we were already into the full swing of the computer age and the beginning of the internet age. When they written Chobits, the rise and impact of social media networks like Facebook and Twitter were not even conceived in the general market. The women of CLAMP could not foresee that cell phones would become so powerful that they would become mobile substitutes for the laptop for web browsing and emailing. What they were able to do is to look at the rise of technology and determine that this technology will have a lasting impact on human communication. From their deduction, they came up with a story about humans and their relationships with the personal computer. It is quite telling to see that the major theme of isolation through technology has been proven true.

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.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

It definitely showcases their ability to conceptualize the future, you are spot on in your analysis.