#1 Airhead to the extreme
I generally don’t mind or even enjoy characters that fit within the “airhead” stereotype. Osaka from Azumanga Daioh is one of my all-time favorite characters, just to name an example. Kobato Hanato, however, embodies all the annoying qualities of this stereotype and takes them to the extreme.
She is overly blissful at almost all times. A ball of energy and joy, who is also unbelievably klutzy. She is falling over constantly, messes up anything and everything she tries to do, and gets in the way of everybody else. Her mental capacity is below that of a preschooler. She literally doesn’t know what anything is; even the most basic human concepts like having shelter or that money exists. Because of this, she soon becomes reliant on the constant aid of whatever strangers take enough pity on her. People that she then creates even more trouble for, either due to her impulsiveness, clumsiness, or both.
I get what they were shooting for with Kobato. They wanted her to be wholesome and joyful; a pure-hearted source of endless goodness. At times she could be adorable or even funny. Then they laid it on too thick by making her this dense. Instead transforming her into a frustrating character who lacks believability.
#2 Skipping ahead
Kobato has a mission. A divine task, if you will. Together with her stuffed animal Ioryogi—who is actually a powerful, supernatural creature—she has to go around and heal the hearts of people. For each person she helps, a piece of candy appears in her bottle. If the bottle fills up, her greatest wish will be granted.
However, there a time limit. She has to fill the bottle up within a year or else it’s no deal. The story is vague about what failure would entail for Kobato, though it’s clear that the consequences would be bad.
Any hope of Kobato actually reaching her goal vanish quickly. Instead of looking for people to help, she instead settles in a daily routine where she mostly meets the same few people every day. Only occasionally does she happen to meet someone new who could use some help, which adds up to a puny handful of candy after months of work. No way she is going to make it at that rate.
Cut to the next episode and BAM! it’s half-full. A few episode later and BAM it’s almost all filled up. 90% of the progress is made off-screen. What in the world is Kobato doing when we aren’t watching? It sure seems a whole lot more exciting than the parts they actually bothered to write into the anime.
The premise is admittedly quite fun, but having the story skip ahead so blatantly cheapens it a lot. It’s hard to take the stakes seriously when the plot will hand Kobato so many freebies. In turn also making it hard to actually be invested in her story.
#3 Recycling the CLAMP canon
Since around the mid-2000s, CLAMP has been obsessed with tying all their works together into a shared multiverse. A premise that I disliked so much that I stopped reading their manga since Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicle. Nevertheless, I wanted to give Kobato a try in the hopes that it would be spared this multiverse treatment. Alas, this was not the case.
While the story is largely standalone, it pilfers characters, locations, and plot beats from all across the CLAMP canon. Sometimes this recycling is blatant, such as with main characters from Wish now being a part of Kobato‘s story. There is also a tedious cross-over episode with Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicle, where characters from both franchises just kind of sit around in a room together for a while.
There are also less-obvious examples, but only slightly so. The bakery from Chobits is once again a plot point with the same uniforms and same owner. Kobato’s landlady is another character from Chobits in the exact same role. There are references to Mokona at several points, who then also features for real in the aforementioned cross-over episode. So eager is Kobato to reference and reuse, that it actually ends up spoiling a MAJOR plot twist from Chobits in doing so. But who cares about the integrity of a standalone story like Chobits when you have a shared universe to tend to!
Even when it isn’t borrowing elements from other stories wholesale, the “unique” ideas of Kobato feel too familiar. A cute girl going on a mission to collect magical items with the aid of a powerful creature trapped in the body of a stuffed animal—now where have I heard that before…
More like this…
Cardcaptor Sakura: A cute girl going on a mission to collect magical items with the aid of a powerful creature trapped in the body of a stuffed animal.
Chobits: Romance story by CLAMP.
Artiswitch: Supernatural anime about helping people and granting wishes.