The anime and manga universe may seem male-dominated from time to time, but it is no secret that many female mangakas also have a strong influence on the field. Names like Naoko Takeuchi (Sailor Moon), Rumiko Takahashi (Inuyasha), and Hiromu Arakawa (Full metal alchemist) are just some of the women who have introduced new perspectives to the anime community. The extraordinary series they have made has secured a solid place among the go-to series for both new and old fans.
Among these very talented writers and illustrators, CLAMP, a Japanese mangaka group of women formed in the mid-1980s, has stood out over the years. With series like Shortcut Sakura, xxxHOLISKand Blood-C, they proved their worth over and over again. But one of their other famous stories, Chobitshas not only managed to meet the standards set by the titles mentioned, but has also created heated discussions about the problematic representations of gender, sexuality and the female body.
Chobits tells the story of Hideki Motosuwa, a young man who struggles to get into the university he chooses. While attending preparatory school to make his dream come true, he also works daily shifts at a bar to make money. Meanwhile, Hidekis’s another dream is to own a Persocom – computers that are personalized in the bodies of conventionally attractive young women, who are not only able to search the internet, but can also cook and do errands for their owners.
While Hideki is one day on his way home, he stumbles upon an abandoned Persocom in a rubbish heap. Soon enough, he finds out that this robot girl – called Chii – is actually not an ordinary Persocom, but a “Chobit” who is able to think and learn on his own.
When Hideki takes Chii home, the first thing he does is look for a switch to turn on the machine. After searching for a while, he finally realizes that it is in her crotch. In the manga, it is explained that the computer has the physique of a teenage girl or young woman, created by a couple who could not have children of their own. Although Hideki seems disturbed while activating her, the series uses this as an element of comedy at the moment – and later an important place for Chobit, since it acts as a reset button. The fact that the switch is located in a sensitive area makes one think of all sorts of reasons – an obsession with virginity or making female-like computers that are innocent and follow traditional gender roles may have influenced the creative decision.
Although Chii initially seems like the focus of the series, fans are invited into the lives of the men who own Perscom’s as the story progresses. While Chii in the manga has deep and meaningful discussions, the anime adaptation slaughters the character by portraying her only through the male gaze as an innocent and overly sexualized girl who cannot express herself, which makes her difficult to relate to. Interestingly, this docile female-like computer is also the same thing that makes human women feel threatened. By creating a world where men are men, but women are replaced by Persocoms – the angel in the house – the series provides one of the most gruesome examples of objectification of women.
The series has become popular with fans and raises important questions about the relationship between humans and inanimate objects. From the very first episode, however, the series can not decide whether it will celebrate personal growth and self-discovery or tear down the concept agency.
Although there is a wide range of interesting female characters – as seen in the cases of Shimizu and Yumi – they are either jealous of or dislike each other for things the patriarchy considers valuable. Nevertheless, it is important to note that CLAMP tried to survive in a field that earns fan service and had a predominantly male fan base.