30.12.15

The Life of Adèle – Chapters 1 & 2

I'm using the original French title of the film, because although it's adapted from the comic Blue is the Warmest Colour (which is great), this is a different beast. Abdellatif Kechiche combined the source material with another story he was developing, about a teacher who stoically sticks to her duty despite her turbulent private life. So while chapter one remains quite close to Maroh's outline, chapter two goes down a different road.

Have to say I found the second half a lot more interesting, and I don't think it's just because I was already familiar with the first half. For all the endless takes and improvisation, Kechiche isn't shooting a documentary. His frames are carefully composed, as are his scenes – and much of the sexual awakening stuff at the beginning feels like heightened high school drama, removed and idealised away from the awkward, messy reality.

The film is notoriously long, and I think some of it is bloat. It tickled me to learn that Kechiche worked with several editors when cutting – I imagine he rather enjoyed the divide and rule opportunities this created. But the most fraught editing choice I agree with. Some critics found the explicit sex scenes dragged on into the gratuitous, but I think they are necessary. I'm oversimplifying only slightly when I describe Adèle and Emma's relationship as being built on their physical passion for each other, and destroyed by everything else. Part of this is class – while they live in the same town they are drawn from different cultures. But they also make their own destinies, and the film makes clear that their interests and goals diverge.

But understanding that iron grip of sexual obsession is crucial to justifying the extraordinary scene in the bar towards the end – the first time they see each other after the break-up. It is heartrending because both women are desperate for that intimacy once again. Adèle is delirious and collapses into grovelling, but Emma is mature enough to tear herself away from temptation. She loves someone else – Adèle is no longer the centre of her story.

This is a blow the comic could not deliver (it goes in a slightly forced bereavement direction instead). Adèle is hollowed out at the end of the film, giving even a potential race for your love the slip. The French language title provides the only source of comfort: this is only chapters one and two. Adèle walks away from her first relationship, and into a life comprised of many other chapters.

The closest parallel here is probably Boyhood, which I managed to see in the cinema and felt like I could watch go on for an entire lifespan. Linklater's film also isn't a documentary – it is suffused with affect. But it tries to present the development of a character as completely as possible. Likewise we see Adèle eating, dancing, working, sleeping, cleaning, showering and cumming. We get a picture of a rounded personality (thankfully less privileged than the one in Boyhood). But at some point the film has to stop and the credits need to roll, even if we don't want them to.

Favourite songs of 2015

Final list, I promise. Usual rules: one song per artist, with entries pushed up if a whole body of work needs recognition. The list is mercifully shorter than last year's mammoth two-parter, partly because I've listened to more albums this year, and relied less on browsing soundcloud for a quick fix. Most of the top 10 has an album behind it, the rest is largely grime loosies – a reflection of the resurgence the genre has had in 2015. I've tried to compile a soundcloud playlist with some of the above (plus a few other faves) here.

This one in at number 20 – as I've just discovered it. But it's grime at its most youthful and infectious – shamelessly biting the drums and horns from Amerie's '1 Thing' and laying them over a turbocharged 2-step beat. Elf Kid is just 18, a member of Novelist's Lewisham-based The Square, and self-consciously channeling Tinchy at his precocious best. He's just one of many examples demonstrating a genre in rude health.

19. Sir Spyro feat. Teddy Brukshot, Lady Chann & Killa P - Top A Top
I had some difficulties with my portable music player at the beginning of the year, which meant falling back on Rinse FM podcasts for a couple of months. Spyro's Grime Show was a go-to regular, and while the sets were wonderful (and best watched on youtube for the full effect), some of the dubs he would spin for the first hour were incandescent. For a little while I got a sense of what it must be like to listen to grime like a real fan, following DJs every week and trying to piece together tracklists of unreleased material. This is one such nugget, recorded and uploaded to youtube, but still without a proper release.

18. Jammz - 128 Bars (prod. Spooky)
If Kanye West's 12 minute account of how he became a rapper at the end of College Dropout was condensed into four minutes, it might sound a bit like this. Jammz rattles through his 128 bars in double-time, touching on some personal shit along the way only to run away from it – trying to get to the aspirational boasting that is every MC's bread and butter. Spooky lifts Kanye's Dropout-era sped-up samples to suggest a space for reminiscence, but the barrage Jammz delivers shows a man looking forward not back, and keeping busy in order to forget the poverty he grew up in.

17. Wolf Alice - Your Loves Whore
Grunge revivalists, apparently (or maybe not). I prefer them channeling Angels & Airwaves, tbh. The riffing is stadium-sized, but the verses stop and start along to Ellie Rowsell's flirty daydream as she gazes at the object of her idolatry. This is desire at its most naive, idealistic and obsessive – worth every compromise, every abasement. I'm sure Roswell has grown out of it, and has more self-respect. But she still remembers what it feels like.

16. Darq E Freaker feat. Dai Burger - Choppin Necks
Darq E Freaker's clanging grime bangers have the whiff of the pre-school playground. In his hands, the silliness lurking under so much of rap's machismo is brought to the surface, and painted in primary colours. Dai Burger's flow is cut price Nicki Minaj, but it works perfectly in this context – brash, lewd, arch, and very very catchy.

15. Kero Kero Bonito - Picture This
I wrote last year that all of KKB's songs sound like manifestos, and this one's no exception: "hold your camera high, and click / exercise your right to picture this". Refreshingly, attempts to satirise the selfie generation are thin on the ground. The knowing send-ups that sink so much of PC Music is eschewed here for pop music pure and simple. And honest. You know what? It is freaking amazing that we can capture and preserve moments of happiness that would otherwise get lost or rewritten by our imperfect memories. This song is great at not only encapsulating the fun of taking those snaps, but the fond recollection of reviewing them years later. The unhealthy side (competitive snapping and sharing, FOMO perusal of facebook walls) isn't even hinted at. It's about being selfie-stick-armed and proud.

14. Kelela - A Message (prod. Arca & Boots)
For my money, the best fka twigs track released this year. Much like 2014's much admired 'Pendulum', this deals with an emotionally distant lover slowly slipping through your fingers. But while twigs is inwardly fractured and contorted by the pressure of hiding her dissatisfaction, Kelela is remarkably composed – only a slight hesitation is audible when she wonders if it's too hard to face what will be lost. Her gliding vocals over Arca's stop-start production captures the sensation of rising above a difficult situation, and moving on.

13. Sufjan Stevens - Drawn To The Blood
I lost track of Sufjan sometime around The Age of Adz, but with Carrie & Lowell he returned to familiar territory, and I found my way back in again. This is more of an interlude than a full song, with the last third simply being a wash of oblique synths – signalling an epiphany, or maybe something a bit more sinister. While Sufjan balances the anguish of other songs with moments of contentment and acceptance, 'Drawn To The Blood' leaves all that to the wordless denouement. The rest is just rage and betrayal. A loving God does not shield the faithful from suffering: "what did I do to deserve this?", "tell me what I have done?"

12. SafOne feat. Trilla, PRessure0121 & Bomma B - She Wants A Man From Brum (prod. Preditah)
Grime hasn't been a London thing for a while now, but while the instrumental stuff has gone truly global, MCs from outside the UK capital have been thin on the ground. 2015 felt like the year this changed, and the most fertile spot for new voices seems to be Birmingham. 'She Wants A Man from Brum' is bullshit of the tallest order (very much doubt that SafOne's link "wants a man that rolls with a gun", for example). The fictional women described by the four lads are status symbols – props to (bruised?) self esteem. They are hot, rich, lascivious, and crucially, not from Brum. The song is a subliminal plea for recognition. And it looks like it's finally on its way.

11. Fetty Wap feat. Monty - Jugg (prod. Salik Singletary)
Fetty Wap isn't a rapper – a fact recognised by the sagacious staff of Islington Libraries, who've shelved his debut album in the R&B section. Instead the man is a wellspring of catchy hooks, which are crooned in a deep, autotune-slathered baritone. 'Jugg' doubles down on the exuberant sounds Fetty can emit from his throat – a ponderously slow strip-club anthem which stretches the warbling almost past endurance. The less-than-impressive Monty (who accompanies Wap for half the songs on the album) has his finest moment here, wringing everything he can get out of a single melodic phrase. I can imagine this stuff would test the patience of many a listener, but for me there's been little in 2015 that has sounded more joyous.

10. Stormzy - Know Me From (prod. ZDot)
"Got bit by a snake, but I'm over that / Can't chat about gyal, I get loads of that". With such premium non-sequiteurs, it's no wonder Stormzy bigs up Wiley at the end of his breakout single. This is a no-holds-barred grime tune, with a don't stand by me attitude and a fierce suspicion of fakers cashing in without doing the hard graft. But what sticks is the infectious giddiness of Stormzy's delivery, a highed-up playful energy that gives him the confidence to proclaim "Stiff Chocolate" as one of his many aliases. The sentiment in the the lyrics is confrontational and uncompromising, but the personality is pop all the way through.

9. CHVRCHES - Clearest Blue
A song of two halves built around a very big drop. And fittingly it's about meeting people in the middle – the tension between yielding and resisting at the heart of all relationships, romantic and otherwise. Mayberry sings about being an object 'shaped' between the earth and sky, between 'every open eye', and having to defend her ground against the demands of others. Her coos during the build are countered by one of those colossal synth hooks CHVRCHES do so well. The muscular second half is an assertion of confidence, ready for EDM-sized venues. But Mayberry's vocal echoes over the barrage are pliant, almost pleading: 'will you meet me half-a-way'. Bluster is for teenagers. Adults have to compromise.

8. K. Michelle - Love Em All (Toyboy & Robin Remix)
Partly here to make up for not getting around to the K. Michelle' album until this year. Toyboy & Robin leave the verses well alone, but cut-up the anthemic chorus into UKG-style vocal samples, and gird it all with lush piano chords ready-made for Balearic sunsets. And in the process, K.Michelle's victory in her personal battle of the sexes becomes something universal – a loved up, open-armed embrace of everyone on the dancefloor.

7. Abra - Pride
Over hypnotic snares and piano lines, Abra spills out her lovelorn guts. This is obsession felt like a haunting, a desperation that eats away at your self-respect until you are reduced to begging for a touch or a glimpse of your beloved. Abra's 80s R&B sound acquires gothic overtones here, massed choirs writhing around the chorus. It's more representative of the (brilliant) album than the coquettish single 'Roses', and it shows Abra to be a glum romantic idealist at heart.

A bit like the CHVRCHES pick, this is kitted out with big drops and synth hooks made for festival stages. And the lyrics are similarly cosmic – people as circling interstellar bodies, lifetimes stretching to aeons, a second chance blown up into "another eternity". The space between Megan James and her partner stretches out only to be collapsed, the widescreen chorus yearning for the close-ups in the verses. The orbits of a relationship become like the laws of physics, psyches mapped like kinetic forces. Volition becomes abstracted, a curious kind of out-of-body experience. The weapon-grade thuds of the synth riff are a little too on the nose, but James's blissful "o darling"s capture some of the magic of the first album.

5. Dawn Richard - Billie Jean (prod. Noisecastle III)
Knowledge of the MJ classic isn't strictly necessary to get the point – this is an update from the female perspective. And although Billie rejects the notion that she is anyone's "girl", she's still a "wet dream", trading clothes for vodka bottles "in a city full of thirsty hoes". The predicament of making a living out of your status as an object must be all too familiar for a hard-grafting R&B artist like Dawn Richard. For most of Blackheart she's moved on to loftier concerns – musically as well as lyrically. But here she's in the grim business of crowding men out of her life and generally making them uncomfortable – half rapping the verses and pitching her voice almost comically low on the hook. Subverting your objectification may still demand you to compromise yourself, but for Dawn this is only the first step towards freedom.

4. Future - No Basic (prod. Zaytoven)
I haven't been able to fully digest all of Future's output this year (haven't even got around to DS2). But the work with Zaytoven on Beast Mode was the most instantly appealing. Future's subject matter doesn't stray far from the trad trap rap topics, even if he adds the occasional confession of drug dependency and oblique reference to the end of his marriage to Ciara. Zaytoven enlivens this mix with a truly luxurious blend of piano trills and head-nodding beats. My fave is this city-sized paean to the daily grind, wrapped up around a song about how great your car is. It's like 2013 Kevin Gates favourite 'Just Ride' meets Lil Wayne masterpiece 'Hustler Muzik' (in my head anyway).

I wrote the above a week ago, and since then I've been chaining 'March Madness' and 'Fuck Up Some Commas' and a lot of other gems other people have picked out from the post-Honest mixtape trilogy (still haven't got around to DS2!) 'No Basic' may not reach those highs, but it was my way into the post-breakup anti-hero Future of 2015.

3. Riko - Ghost Chilli (prod. Rapid)
This year's obligatory inclusion from Riko is a soundcloud loosie over Rapid's 'Pepper Riddim' (it was on Rapid's EP for Butterz, but those guys really need to put this out in some form as well). The relentless forward motion of the instrumental is more than matched by Riko's outrageous gun talk. 'Ghost Chilli' revels in images of war – Riko has long described himself as the 'London city warlord' – the Idi Amin or Robert Mugabe of the urban jungle. But here the violence pushes the boundaries of taste even for a grime tune. The closest approximation of the chorus is: "if boy eva try this / rise up me gun like ISIS", which will become less funny if there's an attack on London similar to the one in Paris.

Arguably, these unsettling undercurrents have always been present in grime – see Trim semi-seriously flirting with the Taliban from at least 2007 on. This is shock tactics to be sure, but the nose-thumbs at the establishment hint at how grime has always positioned itself – harnessing the humiliation of powerlessness, and flipping it right back at the listener as an assertion of power. That brutally uncompromising form of aspiration is what makes it so exhilarating. But it's zero-sum – success is predicated on the humiliation, defeat, and enslavement of other competitors. The prize isn't only escape from subsistence living, but the invigorating sensation of dominion over others.

2. Sam Binga feat. Redders, Deft, Chimpo & Fox - Steppin V.I.P.
Sam Binga has had a banner year, and this more than anything else on the list is a stand in for the artist's entire 2015 output. It's the victory lap at the end of a great album, a reworked version of a track from a great EP, with a bunch of MCs jumping on to toast the year away. Redders, the star of so many Binga cuts, slows down his delivery and offers some of his funniest bars, although nothing beats his ad-libbed "bingie bingie bing" at the beginning.

1. Redlight x Tinashe - Pretend
Like the K. Michelle entry, here partly because I didn't get around to the album last year. That said, I could have picked something from the Amethyst EP to make up for it, but this bangs an awful lot harder. There's very little of Tinashe left on Redlight's remix. Instead, a slice of her vocal gets looped as the intro, voice becoming percussion until the first drop, after which successive layers of drums and bass weigh in. Redlight's D&B origins are betrayed by the multiple rhythmic accents added over the beat. But here the bass is deep and warm, the swung drums inviting, the vocals oozing like strawberry milkshake. It's an invitation to pull shapes like no other I received in 2015.

29.12.15

25 films in 2015

I go to the cinema so little nowadays that my opinion on the best films of the year is a waste of everyone's time. Nevertheless, the things I managed to see and enjoy are ranked below in rough order of enjoyment, if not quality. I did manage to watch a fair few classics on DVD this year, and for the purposes of list-making if nothing else, I thought I'd make note of them here.

New:

Alex Garland - Ex Machina [link]
Francis Lawrence - The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2 [link]
George Miller - Mad Max: Fury Road [link]
J. C. Chandor - A Most Violent Year [link]
Isao Takahata - The Tale of the Princess Kaguya [link]
Joss Whedon - Avengers: Age of Ultron [link]
Guillermo del Toro - Crimson Peak [link]

Old:

Jaques Rivette - Céline and Julie Go Boating [link]
Nagisa Oshima - Naked Youth: A Story of Cruelty [link]
Luis Buñuel - That Obscure Object of Desire [link]
Yasuo Masumura - Blind Beast [link]
Luis Buñuel - Belle De Jour [link]
Stanley Kubrick - The Shining [link]
Michelangelo Antonioni - The Eclipse [link]
Takashi Miike - Audition [link]
Ingmar Bergman - Hour of the Wolf [link]
Abdellatif Kechiche - The Life of Adèle – Chapters 1 & 2 [link]
Michelangelo Antonioni - Blow-Up [link]
Jean Rollin - Fascination [link]
David O. Russell - Silver Linings Playbook [link]
Ingmar Bergman - Sawdust and Tinsel [link]
Yasuo Masumura - Tattoo [link]
Luis Buñuel - The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie [link]
Walerian Borowczyk - The Story of Sin [link]
Paul Thomas Anderson - The Master [link]

Punk Rock Jesus

In the afterword to the book, Sean Murphy tells the story of how he lost his faith. He was a "devoted Catholic" when starting the script for Punk Rock Jesus, but a road trip with an atheist friend made him consider beliefs "based on science and not on dogma". There's a little bit of the born-again secularist to the story, including nods to Dawkins, Dennett, Hitchens and Harris (as well as Bad Brains, Black Flag, the Sex Pistols and so on). But Murphy is not interested in propaganda, no matter how much these thinkers may have influenced him. At one point, his punker protagonist is criticised for "being overly preachy" and not taking a "softer approach". Rock and roll confrontation only stirs up more sectarianism. The slash and burn attitude gets the better of him in the end. In an act of poetic justice, Murphy has him killed shortly after he suggests that "religious freedom is impeding any progress".

Some of the energy of fast angry guitar music is channeled into the book, which is blunt, pacy and adolescent. Murphy is an extraordinary artist, but his characters are drawn into edgy, easily defined icons, and the attempts to add nuance is often clumsy and wordy. But even if it isn't technically flawless, I still like its ballsy honesty and good intentions. Garth Ennis has covered similar territory in a much bleaker and funnier fashion, but he's less interested in what makes believers tick, and has less sympathy for those still clinging on to faith. Murphy's approach is "softer" (he's been through it after all), and perhaps more affecting – and effective.

28.12.15

Deliverance

The author of the novel James Dickie used several of his friends as models for the characters, and seems to have been interested in exploring the Southern US (male) personality. In making the film, John Boorman is more keen on the idea of urbanites grappling with the untamed jungle. The canoe trip is on a river that will be dammed up and destroyed. These city slickers are "raping" the natural world, in Boorman's words. And he describes the 'Mountain Men' as being like malignant forest sprites exacting their revenge. Bourgeois fears of a demonic working class aside, there is something captivating about the way the film turns a concrete situation into something resembling myth.

That isn't my description, but David Thomson's, who is otherwise rather down on the film's simplistic message and stereotyped characters. I think that although Burt Reynolds is sometimes a little melodramatic, the acting in general is superb, and fills out the limited characterisation. Moreover the details in the film – Bobbie's ribald jokes being turned against him, the church moving ground as moral convictions are shaken, the ambiguity of how people die – is impressive. It's a lean, expertly put together thriller, even if the metaphor driving it is hammered home within the first five minutes.

35 books for 2015

My list of worthwhile things I've read this year, plus links to whatever blogs and quotes I've managed to post on here. Pleased to find out I've got through a lot more books than last year. May have something to do with quitting television almost entirely (as I smugly remind anyone trying to recommend new TV shows to me). Comics are much better than box-sets anyway. I try to keep track of everything I've read on Goodreads here.

Paul Collier - Exodus: Immigration and Multiculturalism in the 21st Century [link]
David Scott - Leviathan: The Rise of Britain as a World Power [link]
Mariana Mazzucato - The Entrepreneurial State: Debunking Public vs. Private Sector Myths
Richard Rorty - Contingency, Irony, and Solidarity
Jane Jacobs - The Economy of Cities
David Lammy - Out of the Ashes: Britain After the Riots
Ian Geary / Adrian Pabst (eds.) - Blue Labour: Forging a New Politics
Mark Fisher - Ghosts of My Life: Writings on Depression, Hauntology and Lost Futures
Richard Sennett - The Uses of Disorder
Georges Bataille - The Accursed Share vol. 1: Consumption [link]
Roland Barthes - Mythologies [link]
Niall Ferguson - The Cash Nexus: Money and Power in the Modern World, 1700-2000 [link]

John Milton - Paradise Lost [link]
James Joyce - Dubliners
Marquis de Sade - Philosophy in the Bedroom / Justine / Simone De Beauvoir's Must We Burn Sade?
Anthony Thwaite, Geoffrey Bownas (eds.) - The Penguin Book of Japanese Verse [link]
Kazuo Ishiguro - The Buried Giant [link]
Yasunari Kawabata - Snow Country
Ryū Murakami - In The Miso Soup
Haruki Murakami - The Wild Sheep Chase
Seamus Heaney - The Burial at Thebes: Sophocles’ Antigone [link]

Bryan Lee O'Malley - Scott Pilgrim [link]
Joe Kelly / J. M. Ken Niimura - I Kill Giants [link]
Rick Remender / Eric Nguyen - Strange Girl
Frédéric Boilet - Yukiko's Spinach [link]
Hajime Isayama - Attack on Titan vols. 1-8 [link]
Alejandro Jodorowsky / Juan Giménez - The Metabarons
Jonathan Hickman / Nick Dragotta - East of West vols. 1-3
Carla Speed McNeill - Finder vols. 1 & 2
CLAMP - Chobits Omnibus vol. 1 [link]
Tsugumi Ohba / Takeshi Obata - Death Note vols. 1-3 [link]
Roy Thomas / Various - The Savage Sword of Conan vol. 1
Alan Moore / J. H. Williams III - Promethea [link]
Peter Milligan / Duncan Fegredo - Enigma [link]
Sean Murphy - Punk Rock Jesus [link]

22.12.15

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2

Rather enjoyed seeing my contention that Katniss can never look beyond the personal to the political being spelled out at the beginning of the final film. Her resistance to the 'heroic' media narratives foisted onto her is what makes her a true hero. She doesn't want to play the game, and she cannot make political choices, which sometimes involve choosing between evils. In her confrontation with President Snow at the end of this film, he stresses that he never kills vindictively, only to achieve some end. Coin, who seeks to replace him, is also a calculating murderer and adept media manipulator. She kills children in order to destroy her enemy's credibility with his constituents, patrons and the armed forces. Crudely, it works – but for Katniss such people are monsters. She cannot countenance sacrificing others for your own end – she believes in self-sacrifice instead.

Those swept away by the revolutionary fervour of the previous films may be disappointed by the establishment of what looks like a representative democracy (with an Obama-looking figure as the President) at the end. The Hunger Games isn't utopian – Hamish makes the point that human beings have bad memories and are liable to repeat the mistakes of the past. The games may have ended, but the conflict between man and man they represented will continue. So will the spin, the gaudy television, perhaps the inequality between Districts as well. Only the most grievous injustices, the lack of political rights and the rule of law, are corrected. Indeed, although the final scene was awfully gauche, there is something almost libertarian in its return to the open forest. Katniss was modelled on Robin Hood from the very beginning, and its fitting that she would ultimately be most interested in defending the ancient liberties of the freeborn Englishman – property, privacy, the right to roam.

7.12.15

"...if now suddenly the Weltanschauungs politicians crop up en masse and pass the watchword, 'The world is stupid and base, not I,' 'The responsibility for the consequences does not fall upon me but upon the others whom I serve and whose stupidity or baseness I shall eradicate,' then I declare frankly that I would first inquire into the degree of inner poise backing this ethic of ultimate ends. I am under the impression that in nine out of ten cases I deal with windbags who do not fully realize what they take upon themselves but who intoxicate themselves with romantic sensations. From a human point of view this is not very interesting to me, nor does it move me profoundly. However, it is immensely moving when a mature man – no matter whether old or young in years – is aware of a responsibility for the consequences of his conduct and really feels such responsibility with heart and soul. He then acts by following an ethic of responsibility and somewhere he reaches the point where he says: 'Here I stand; I can do no other.' That is something genuinely human and moving. And every one of us who is not spiritually dead must realize the possibility of finding himself at some time in that position." - Max Weber, Politics as a Vocation

3.12.15

Chobits

This blog is starting to fill up with stray thoughts on half-finished manga series, but why stop now? Chobits is interesting for being a seinen (i.e. for older teens) manga written by an all-female collective of creators. Moreover, it touches on sensitive areas of identity politics with its central conceit – a world where I.T. has a human shape and weaves itself into the most intimate parts of our private lives.

Our protagonist is a poor student who rescues a 'persocom' from a trash heap. This device is created to make its owner happy – 'Chi' comes in the form of a beautiful 16-year-old girl, and is utterly obedient to her master's wishes. The book alludes to the fact that people have sex with these things, although CLAMP are more interested in the emotional effect of having these "perfect" simulations of humanity walking among us. Among the case studies in the book we find a guy who marries his persocom, another who tries to imbue his with the attributes of a deceased sister. And our protagonist is continually torn between romance with several pretty ladies and looking after his alluring new gadget.

The boys at Kraken recently discussed the (admittedly fatuous) question of whether you would make love to a robot. But the metaphor powering Chobits digs into the extent to which we already have quite powerful emotional (even physical) relationships with lifeless bits of kit. The distinction between sex with robots and internet pornography is already getting blurry. But the worry at the core of Chobits is deeper – will machines eventually replace other people in our social circle, to the point where we become cut off from humanity, with only androids in our orbit?

14.03.2016 edit to add: 


Just finished the second volume, which ups the saccharine levels considerably, and becomes an apologia for people who prefer virtual girlfriends to the real thing. The (all-female) CLAMP team see no issue with men (and it does appear to be mostly men) who fall in love with meek, child-like automatons designed to service their every whim and desire. There are other problems with the book – the plot unravels completely at the end, to the point where the whole thing feels improvised. But drawing the wrong conclusions from an interesting opening scenario is unforgivable.