Color me impressed.
If there is one show I’ve seen in the past year or so which truly, truly wowed me, Kobato. is it. And it is especially so because, while I was expecting to like it, I did not at all expect it to be so good or to really possess a lot of intricacy and/or complexity. Truthfully, this was an error on my own part – after all, this is a CLAMP property we’re talking about, and they’re no slouches when it comes to imbuing their work with sophistication and meaning. CardCaptor Sakura, for example, is pretty simple at face value: magical girl has to collect all the magical items in order to restore order to her world! But right there beneath the surface was a lot about family and relationships and love and what they all mean – these themes were explored greatly. In other words, CCS went far beyond the likes of most of its magical girl brethren.
CLAMP is good at taking premises that aren’t entirely fresh and truly making their own stories out of them, and of giving us fare that goes beyond simple popcorn-style entertainment. Kobato. is no exception, and it was silly of me to think it would be. I’d read the first two volumes of manga, so perhaps that explains part of why I was so fooled despite my foreknowledge of CLAMP as a manga-ka group.
Kobato. is about a girl named… Kobato! She has arrived in a Japanese town with a stuffed dog, Ioryogi, which possesses a soul, and whose duty it is apparently to guide Kobato in her personal quest. The quest? Well, Kobato has a wish to go somewhere, but she must heal a lot of hearts before her wish is granted. Thus, she is given a year to fill a special bottle up with konpeito which appear in the bottle whenever she heals someone’s heart.
It such a simple premise, and also one which is kind of run-of-the-mill. As such, CLAMP quite frankly had given themselves an uphill battle. And I’ll freely admit that my interested flagged quite a bit throughout – I watched eight episodes before more or less abandoning the show for a few months. But, man, if the ending doesn’t up the worth of the whole series by a hell of a lot.
It goes without saying, but beyond this, there be spoilers.
The final few episodes of Kobato. really showed off how carefully planned the entire thing was, and the attention that was paid to details. Kobato’s removal of her hat suddenly makes you realize the fact that she’s never taken off her hat or head-piece at any point on-screen during the entire show. And the appearance of Sayaka-sensei’s wedding ring on her hand is similarly shocking. Its these little details one doesn’t normally take the time to notice, and they’re really used to great affect.
I felt that the show displayed a level of maturity it definitely didn’t seem it ever would from the outset. And I mean this in addition to my earlier praise of the depth the show ultimately possessed. The closing of the nursery highlighted this the most, because it flew in the face of what I expected (some acrobatics to save the nursery) and adhered more closely to what one could’ve expected in a real-life situation. Things didn’t end entirely happily here, and that’s a good thing, since it would’ve felt cheap that way. It also allowed the ending to actually work; that Kobato and Fujimoto found each other in the end didn’t stretch believability because there hadn’t been a resort to magical wand waving earlier on.
I’ll admit that I’m kind of a sucker for the reincarnation and lovers stuff, although I do tend toward enjoying the more tragic depictions of such (Mirage of Blaze, Please Save My Earth). I was happy that Kobato and Kiyokazu were eventually reunited, and very pleased that it wasn;t instantaneous and essentially came along by the time Kiyokazu seems to expect that he’s not going to find her anytime soon (if at all). I suppose my only problem is that, well, if Kobato was reborn right when she disappeared, wouldn’t that mean she’s something like ten or twelve years old? Here’s hoping that she somehow got stuck into the body of an elementary schooler or something… Not that my hopes are too high, since a. this is CLAMP (hey there, CardCaptor Sakura! did that ten year old just get a promise ring from her teacher?), and b. it doesn’t seem Kobato was terribly old in her memories of her previous life with Kiyokazu either. But, hey, if I will myself into believing she’s eighteen, she will be, right? Right?
As an aside, I was kind of confused that a lot of other bloggers didn’t catch up on the fact that Kobato was dead during episode fifteen; my suspicion was confirmed in episode twenty-three, but I was pretty convinced far before then that she was. I’m kind of disappointed we never learned of how she died, but I suppose that didn’t really matter much ultimately.
I think it goes without saying that I’d recommend this show to others. I’ll warn that some of the middle episodes do drag a bit, and episode eighteen was largely pointless (hint: watch the first two minutes and the final two as well – that’s all that really matters). However, the full product as a whole was good, and the final few episodes were fantastic. I’m looking forward to buying the American release of the manga now.
EDIT: By the way, I just wanted to note that Kobato. has some of the weirdest product placement ever in it; there’s a store marked with the sign ‘TJ Maxx’ in one episode. Huh? TJ Maxx doesn’t exist in Japan! And it just seems like such a strange choice, as it doesn’t really have huge visibility in America, either, and so doesn’t strike me as something foreigners would be aware of. I don’t know. It was just very odd.