Chobits: Volume 2 - The Empty City Review
An important mock exam looms on the horizon for Hideki who, busy working and looking after Chi, has been falling behind with the curriculum. To get himself back on track he plans a day of study but is soon off the beaten track once again, taking Chi to a bookstore where he needs to find a dictionary. While there Chi becomes fixated on a picture book titled "The Town With No People" which Hideki subsequently purchases for her leading to his first troubled encounter as while reading it Chi bursts into a heavenly light, floating mid-air and clearly not herself. The story told in the book appears to heed a warning directly related to the relationship Chi shares with Hideki, delivering a metaphor based on the increasing reliance upon Persocoms and technology in society.
Providing the first real insight to the Chobits series of Persocom, of which Chi could very well be one, the relationship between Hideki and Chi continues to develop both in its natural capacity alongside hints at an alter-ego dormant within her. As Hideki continues to struggle coming to terms with the fact Chi is not a real girl, the relationship between the two steadily builds upon a course not that dissimilar to the bond shared between owner and pet. Going so far as to 'pet' her for doing well Chi reimburses Hideki through an unconditional love for her owner, concerned only with his happiness. This is an interesting bond to witness as it develops, as though parallels can be drawn to an owner/pet relationship Hideki also displays a genuine human affection instilling a sense of respect in Chi, something that is most obvious when in the final stages of this volume Chi has earned money from working. She insisted upon getting a job due to the money woes Hideki is facing, looking to make him happy Chi offers the money to him only for Hideki to respect her as her own person, reassuring her that the gesture is enough for his happiness and the money is for Chi to enjoy. It's quite a tender moment at the end of an eventful volume in which Chi has clearly displayed to Hideki there is far more to her than he ever imagined, aspects that Chi herself is completely oblivious too but in the same way she displays an unconditional love Hideki asks no questions, instead contemplating just how empty his life might be had she never awakened from her ordeal.
These adventures I speak of spiral from Chi's first contact with an inner voice instigated from the picture book and the message it speaks of. Hinting at a program buried deep within her subconscious invisibly controlling very specific aspects of her new life, we are to later witness a far greater example of this incapacitating power when Chi first begins looking for a job. Trying to help Hideki she wanders out in search of employment, lacking in the common sense that would otherwise tell her a shady gentleman picking up cute girls on the street for quick money is not a wise career choice. Placed in a peep show broadcast live on the internet Chi is reminded of the one true love spoken of in the book, as the voice inside takes control to rescue Chi from the situation with a devastating burst of bright light. Aware of her predicament thanks to Kokubunji, Hideki arrives to witness Chi in a trance like state as she floats through the Tokyo cityscape hopping from building to building like an angel in flight, causing a mass shutdown of Persocoms in the area. Demonstrating a power that seems almost unbecoming of the gentle, caring young girl we are accustomed to these events not only serve to deliver a healthy dose of tension as her predicament in the peep room worsens by the second, but to also cast a ray of mystery over the series as the exploration of mans love affair with technology just got a whole lot more interesting.
There are several more aspects working in the background of these more adventurous elements. In one episode Hideki is reminded Chi is not human when she becomes in desperate need of a power recharge, as her solar power source has not been put to use with him keeping her safe indoors. When a total shutdown occurs Hideki makes a desperate yet heroic attempt to rescue the one he is coming to love, reintroducing us along the way to the manageress whose interaction with Chi and the outlook she has on the relationship Hideki shares with his persocom hinting at some underlying subtext to be revealed later on. The same is very true with respect to Yumi, the young high school student who has taken a swift fancy to Hideki inviting him round for a home cooked meal this volume only to be interrupted by another incident with Chi. Yumi's reaction to Hideki's concern for Chi is far more visible than that of his manageress, with a past incident regarding a Persocom obviously playing on her mind and one that is almost certainly not going to be revealed in a positive light. Coming back to the big events of this volume tying them into a very real threat in society today – that of ‘scouts’ preying on young woman promising them money in return for a few poses – keeps the series somewhat topical and grounds the events we are witness to.
Produced by Australia’s Madman Entertainment and published here in the UK by MVM Volume 2 continues in the same fashion as Volume 1 with a beautiful front cover illustration adorning a package that boasts solid technical production values but little in the way of bonus material. The anamorphic widescreen transfer continues to impress with the soft colours and detailed animation coming across very well with no immediately obvious compression issues, though once again the NTSC>PAL conversion so regularly seen on PAL anime releases may cause a few concerns to those viewing on high end display devices (particularly PC monitors). The Japanese and English Dolby Surround audio tracks support the dialogue heavy series very well and give the surrounds an ambient workout on this volume’s more action based episodes, while subtitles continue to do a good job of translating both dialogue and signs.
Bonus features are no different to the first disc with Volume 2 once again offering a ‘Non-Credit Opening’, ‘Art Gallery’ (with different stills) and ‘Trailers’ (this time for Haibane Renmei and R.O.D. The TV).
Chobits continues to entertain through the sweet central relationship and increasingly dark science-fiction elements that are being introduced in amongst the more familiar comical approach. In terms of extras the disc is severely disappointing but in reality no different to the majority of anime DVD releases.