by CLAMP; adaptation by Jake Forbes
published by Tokyopop; $9.99 US
When I reviewed Book 1, I concluded that this series both plays to and pokes fun at geek fantasies of a girl that will obey one’s every command. Book 3 continues in the same vein, only more so.
The book opens with the girl-shaped computer Chi waking up and launching herself into Hideki’s arms. She’s wearing what looks like his shirt and frilly panties, frequently visible. She rubs herself against him before winding up on her knees, looking up at him adoringly, asking if she’s a bad girl.
Since she’s been working for a peep show to make money for him, the answer is yes, but she’s so innocent, she can’t be held responsible for her actions. That naviète takes the sting out of otherwise unpleasant situations. Given her Edenic lack of knowledge, Hideki doesn’t seem like a pimp or an abuser… and the reader has an excuse for enjoying the fantasy elements of a lovely pliant half-naked young girl waiting to be told what to do.
Another technique that keeps the work light is contrast. Just as I was becoming uncomfortable with the blatent positioning of Chi as sex toy, the scene quickly switches to Hideki’s “laptop”, a minature girl dressed like a genie. She’s been set to wake him up, so she sings and leads him in calisthenics in a goofy comedy sequence. It’s capped off by him frightening her into hiding in Chi’s cleavage, crying “Don’t let the scary man get me!” It’s hard to be offended when laughing that hard.
Then the soap opera starts, with Hideki worrying about a schoolmate who’s run off with their teacher in an adulterous affair and trying to solve the mystery of Chi’s unique abilities. Chi, meanwhile, is pondering why her heart hurts when Hideki leaves her. The advice she gets from her spiritual twin, that if Hideki doesn’t appreciate her differences he’s not the one for her, isn’t bad. More girls should be reminded of that basis for a relationship.
That love story, of the two finding each other and appreciating each other for who they are, keeps the book appealing to those who are reading for more than just panty shots. (The wardrobe, with dreamy dresses and ribbon details, also appeals to a different audience.) The parallel story of Hideki’s friend and the teacher similarly captures a tale of forbidden love in the face of obstacles and secrets. Under the sometimes pandering art, there’s old-fashioned romance.
The note of melancholy that keeps it all from being too sappy is the reminder every so often that people would rather be with their computers than each other, and the pain and sadness that causes those left behind. The reader is also flattered by Hideki’s relative cluelessness. It’s taken him three volumes to figure out that the children’s book series Chi likes is a metaphor for the situation they’re in. Most readers will have realized that immediately, encouraging them to feel smarter than the lead.
The blend of all of the above sets the book apart from the lowest common denominator. It also helps that Chi is so darn cute. There’s something for almost everyone here.