Kobato.

Anime Review

# This is a review I originally wrote up in Septemer 2014 during a failed attempt at reviewing as many unreviewed and older titles on my DVD shelf as I could. Due to issues beyond my control, I find myself needing to repost this review on The Otaku’s Study as the original article has since been removed. Content wise, the review itself and final grade remains unchanged. This paragraph and the final bits of information at the end of this review are the only new additions.

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Whether it is a manga series or anime adaptation, anything associated with the all-female manga group Clamp tends to be synonymous with quality. Their magical girl anime Cardcaptor Sakura, their robot-fighting anime Angelic Layer and even their 28 volume / 52 episode shounen franchise Tsubasa: Reservoir Chronicle have all been highlights, and enjoyed well-deserved popularity both in Japan and throughout international markets. One of their more recent anime releases however, Kobato, seems to have been under-appreciated by North American publisher Sentai Filmworks – with no English dub associated with it and no Blu-ray release which the series’ quality obviously justifies.

Kobato follows the titular character Kobato Hanada, who seeks to go to an unspecified particular place. To accomplish this goal, she must first heal the hearts of others to fill a glass jar with konpeito-like beads – with only a year to do so. Taking up residence at a familiar apartment block and acquiring a job at the local kindergarten, Kobato begins her mission. Kobato is a genuinely endearing and well-developed character, with an infectious personality that the characters and viewers can’t help but fall in love with. Despite her ditziness, a trait not uncommon to anime characters but very hard to present well, she is a consistent pleasure to watch from Episodes start to finish.

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Kobato is joined in her mission by her stuffed animal “mascot” partner Ioryogi, who despite his rough-yet-cute charm, is the polar opposite to Kero in Cardcaptor Sakura. While you can see that he genuinely cares about her, his rough approach to handling her provides many brief moments of entertainment to the viewer, even if he is over-the-top at times. The remainder of the character cast is bolstered by a number of familiar and not-so-familiar faces. Leading the pack is Kiyokazu Fujimoto, a serious young man who not only works at the kindergarten but a variety of other odd-jobs. While finding Kobato annoying at first, the pair are slowly drawn together as his past and current issues are unveiled. Following the dimensional theorem of xxxHOLiC, many crossover characters from Chobits appear as secondary characters throughout the series including Chitose Mihara and her (now human) two daughters Chiho Mihara and Chise Mihara (Freya/Elda), Hiroyasu Ueda and Yumi Oomura. Characters from Tsubasa Chronicles and Wish also make appearances.

While there are many episodic episodes, exclusively featuring one characters problems which Kobato needs to resolve, everything contributes to an overarching memorable experience and nothing that I would personally call “filler content”. With plenty of character development and heart-warming moments, Kobato makes for an enjoyable light-hearted watch. It highlights that Clamp are still able to produce memorable experiences more than 20 years after first entering the manga market and making a name for themselves.

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Produced by animation studio Madhouse, the visual quality of Kobato is high, with a lot of attention to detail put into each of the characters – whether they are main, supporting or just incidental characters. I personally liked how they would shift between realistic and chibified visuals to suit the mood, complementing the tone of a particular scene well. The musical backing was also adequate, with the opening and ending sequences being decent if not a tad generic.

It is established in the first episode that Kobato is a good singer, and her voice actress Kana Hanazawa proves that she can competently sing. But apparently they only felt like recording one song, with the insert song “Ashita Kuru Hi”, as beautiful as it is, being used a few too many times over the episodes. Kobato‘s Japanese dub is competently done, with a few personal highlights including Tomoaki Maeno as Fujimoto and Tetsu Inada as Ioryogi. But I still can’t see the justification for Sentai Filmworks not to commission an English dub for the series, as many Clamp anime adaptations have had before.

In addition, Kobato comes with a miniscule amount of bonus content, consisting of just clean opening/ending sequences and a handful of Sentai Filmworks trailers.

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It is becoming harder to find great light-hearted anime series on the market. With more series opting to incorporate comedy or fanservice into similar titles, it is nice to occasionally kick back and enjoy an experience that is simple yet full of emotion, character development and charm. I thoroughly enjoyed Kobato, and consider it one of the better Clamp anime adaptations on the market.

Where to Legally Watch

At the moment, there are a couple of channels which you can legally and officially watch Kobato. through. These include CrunchyRoll and The Anime Network – although both seem to be region locked to regions supported by Sentai Filmworks. Want to watch Kobato outside if North America? I strongly recommend either picking up a DVD copy through a legitimate online retailer OR petitioning your local anime publisher to acquire the rights. Although this is a CLAMP title, given its age, I wouldn’t personally get my hopes up about the latter option.

Acknowledgements

Kobato is © CLAMP, Kadokawashoten / Team KOBATO. North American rights to the series are held by Sentai Filmworks.

All images in this review have been sourced from the official DVD release of this series.

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Sam
Founder of The Otaku's Study. I have been exploring this labyrinth of fandom these last fourteen years, and still nowhere close to the exit yet. Probably searching for a long time to come.

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