Monday Melodic Musings: Chobits – Let Me Be With You

As we approach the 10-year anniversary of the Chobits anime, I’d like to call your attention to its opening song, “Let Me Be with You,” by Round Table. To tell you the truth, I love the song. It’s one of my favorite OPs of all time. But, regarding the animation itself, there’s probably no other OP that so boldly checks off the box of one of my biggest pet peeves. Let’s see, here…

Chobits – Let Me Be With You

Hideki mouths the lyrics. Even worse, it’s done in a corny, overly-dramatic, matter-of-fact way. Just look at his face when he does it around 0:19. That’s the face you make when you walk out the door in the morning and realize you left your keys inside. That’s the face you make when you fart audibly during a job interview. That’s the face you make when you notice you’ve been pumping diesel into your gasoline car for the past minute and a half, which you probably spent watching the Chobits OP, wondering why the characters are mouthing the lyrics.

Having the characters mouth along with the vocals is a lazy shortcut to expressing characterization. By having them literally say something to the viewer, they’re saying look at me I am summarizing a basic truth about my character in an oblique, poetic way. Animating a character singing the song in an opening animation is like the author of a book dedicating a page to a character in the story writing a page of the book you’re reading. OK, maybe not exactly, but it’s similarly purpose-defeating.

Don’t use the animation to tell me something about the characters, use it to show me. I don’t want to see a floating head on a static background telling me about how he is glad that he met the female love interest. Show me that he loves her, draw it for me. Put that truth in motion. You know, motion, the thing that sort of defines animation as a medium.

Of course, this exempts openings that literally depict some kind of performance or music video (Kannagi, Idolm@ster, etc).

The bizarre thing? I have no problem with Chii’s bit at the end. I mean, that’s adorable, right? The takeaway from this quickie write-up: anything that is not acceptable can be made acceptable by being cute.

About the author

Aftershok A huge jazz nerd and unabashed fan of alternative rock, I joined Anime Instrumentality in December 2010. I tend to get very passionate when it comes to music and try my best to understand how it works. An enormous fan of The Pillows, among my favorite anime composers include Ko Otani and Yoko Kanno. My tastes in anime vary wildly, but I try to be as thoughtful about my viewing as I am about my listening. I play the saxophone.

3 Comments… read them or add your own.

  1. Thoughtcannon says:

    1. What basic truth does “mahou wo kakete” summarize about Hideki?
    2. Chi’s line though really is a summarization of her character or perhaps her and Hideki’s relationship.
    3. I understand your reasoning for why you don’t like characters singing lyrics in openings but I think Hideki’s part is rather incidental and simply accented as the end of the first line of the verse. It’s literally less than 2 seconds in the entire song.
    4. The animation is admittedly limited, but I think what it does have goes a long way to explaining the distance between Chii and Hideki. I especially love the first 10 seconds with the spark of life and the lingering pupil that hints at Chi’s origins. which shrinks then dilates to Chi’s distinctive vacant look. Second the hands that just barely touch but not quite. Finally the burst of color as Chi stares into Hideki’s eyes like her computer brain is trying to process the concept of love and then comes to a decision as she reaches for Hideki’s face and sings the distinctive line.
    5. But I really have to wonder: is having the characters mouth the lyrics any different from a song whose lyrics also illustrate something fundamental about the character? For instance in FMA Brotherhood OP “again” the line “Tsumi no saigo wa namida janai yo Zutto kurushiku shou tte kunda”, “Tears aren’t the end of sin. You carry it heavy on your back forever” comes right as Ed’s leg and arm unravel. Ed’s leg and arm are manifestations of his sin, burdens he has to carry. Doesn’t get much more blatant than that.

  2. Joojoobees says:

    That series really hit me the wrong way. On the other hand the OP is pretty good. I wish we would get more from Round Table. I was really excited when Soredemo Machi wa Mawatteiru came out, thinking we would hear a lot more from them, but I aren’t heard anything since.

  3. maskerade says:

    It’s one of my fav anime opening songs ever! It’s just so well-intentioned, and so damn catchy! That, and Groovin’ Magic from Gunbuster 2. Ugh. My heart can’t take it.

    And to be fair to Hideki, he mouths 2 seconds of the song. Then it’s just staring into each other for another 20 seconds. That’s a classic Clamp style as well. Very manga-like.

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