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Chobits Vol. 5: Disappearance

(return to disc)

Content rating: 10
Posted 2003-12-17 by StupendousMan
Endorsed by Rancid Pickle on 2004-01-10 02:31:00

The title of disc 5 in the Chobits series, "Disappearance," describes the center of the storyline in these episodes: Chi is kidnapped by a creepy computer geek. Manager Ueda helps Hideki search for her, and we learn of his own tragic tale of a relationship between a human and a persocom. The show reaches its peak, in my opinion, as it raises and addresses questions as deep as "What is love?" and "What separates humans from machines?"

I'll warn the reader that I'm about to spoil some details of Ueda's story in the paragraph which follows. Don't read it if you want to be surprised....

No, really, I mean it.

Okay, here we go. Ueda falls in love with an early-model persocom. When her hard drive starts to fail, she begins to lose her memories of their life together, even down to basic details such as his name. Every now and then, however, she recalls some happy event, bringing him a brief moment of happiness before she forgets again. When he tries to have her repaired, he is told that the job will cause her to lose all of her memories, completely and irrevocably. He cannot bring himself to do that, because, in his mind, that would turn her into a completely different being, one with whom he would no longer have any relationship. In the manga, he decides that she has died, gives her a funeral, and goes on to live alone, a widower.

Now, this is powerful stuff. Just what does constitute a "person" in real life? Is it the body, or the mind, or some combination, or perhaps neither? If the girl I love were to fall, hit her head, and suffer complete and utter amnesia -- would she still love me? It seems obvious that she couldn't, not until she came to know me all over again (and even then she might decide that I wasn't so great after all, and choose some other man). Would I still love HER? That's a harder question. It would be the same body, the same face, the same eyes -- but we would no longer share a common history, common memories. We might not even have similar tastes in music or movies afterwards. I'm sure that if such an accident did occur, I would still lover her; but why? If all that remains is my own set of memories, is that enough?

Pretty deep, huh? "So what?" you might sneer, "this is all just hypothetical claptrap: there aren't really persocoms, and how many people fall down and suffer complete amnesia? It's pointless." Yes, yes, true enough. But consider a real-life phenomenon which does occur everyday, and hits real people with exactly these same questions: Alzheimer's syndrome. A loving husband of fifty years gradually loses his memory, until he can no longer recognize his children or his wife. Does he still love them? How can he, if he doesn't even notice them? Do they still love him? Can they? Should they? How can they bear it? Considered in this light, Chobits isn't wasting its time with bizzare contrived situations of some imaginary science-fictional future; it's bringing to the table issues which a good fraction of all viewers will face in their own lives.

Moreover, putting aside the philosophy and returning to the action itself, the episodes on this disc feature a number of little items that support and enhance the story. When Hideki first realizes that Chi is missing, and that he might not ever find her, he slumps down against a wall into a sitting position and covers his head with his arms. It's the very picture of a man in despair. As Ueda relates his story to Hideki, the music from the song "Mermaid" (the new closing theme for season 2 of Chobits) plays in the background. The plaintive, repeating chords underscore his growing hopelessness, yet, at the same time, provide a hint of bittersweet hope (for some reason, I am reminded of the love between Aragorn and Arwen -- another match which is doomed to end, leaving one member bereft, yet not completely destroyed, not filled only with regret). When the nasty Dragonfly makes his ill-considered move, a new and vibrant musical theme announces the change in Chi; at the same time, not only her voice and words, but her facial expressions, too, make it clear that Something Big has just happened. How can I describe it? Imagine Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, happy, innocent, child-like, trusting. They take a bite from the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge and boom everything changes. That's the sort of transformation we see in Chi, except that she seems a bit less ashamed of her new self than Adam and Eve. One might even say that she seems empowered by the change. Yow.

What more can I say? I really, really like the direction this show takes on this disc, and I hope that the episodes on the next and final installment can maintain this level of quality.

Equipment used when writing this review:
Sony DVD player, JVC 27-inch TV, stereo speakers, and a shot of Wild Turkey.

Content: 10 Video: 8 Sound: 10 Packaging: 6 Menu: 7

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