Experiment: Kodomo no Jikan, Give me my soul back.November 18, 2008
You dear reader might be asking yourself, “Why did they decided to do this experiment?” And that is truly an understandable question. It all started with some rather innocent bantering between friends one day after a visit to Book Off. Scott, over on Anime Almanac, had picked up a Kodomo no Jikan book. He went on to say that it had a good story and since we had never actually read it we were just jumping to conclusions. I completely disagreed with this statement. I whole-heartedly believe that my personal preferences come before a good story. In fact, I hypothesized that most people can’t get beyond certain preferences no matter what may lie beneath them. So after some thinking, I told Scott we should exchange taboos. Scott read the two book yaoi series Gerard & Jacques and we read the first two books of Kodomo no Jikan.
Boy do I feel like we got the short end of the stick. Sort of a you get punched in the arm and I got kneed in the groin type deal. Nobody wins but one side loses a little bit more. I was dead-set against reading Kodomo no Jikan but Scott spoke so passionately about the manga and it definitely has its staunch defenders on Anime Roundtable so I figured it was worth the risk to give it a fair chance. Plus I thought it was an interesting mini-social experiment on how much can any of the three of us put aside our personal prejudices and review something regardless of certain content.
Our basic hypothesis was this, personal bias will always come into play, even if the story is good. By the way, this is not a bad thing in my opinion. Everyone is entitled to their own quirks and preferences. I don’t think anyone should have to get over them just because a story might be good. This doesn’t only pertain to preferences regarding sex either, though it does come up the most, but it could be amounts of violence, religion, etc. I wouldn’t tell anyone who abhorred graphic violence to read Berserk, even though I do think the story is fab.
For those not in the know Kodomo no Jikan was insanely controversial back in May of 2008. It seemed that you could not go to any anime related site and not see at least one post, thread, or article about it. Seven Seas Entertainment announced that it had licensed Kodomo no Jikan at Anime Expo 2006. Seven Seas planned to rename the book the Nymphette. By May 2008 they had to cancel the license due to overwhelming outrage from the fan community. Kodomo no Jikan is the story of brand new elementary school teacher, Daisuke Aoki. He immediately runs into misfortune when he finds that the class troublemaker, Rin Kokonoe, has targeted him as her prey. She wants him as her boyfriend and is quite frank about the sexual nature of her crush. He is trying to avoid losing his job while a possible relationship is blooming with a beautiful fellow teacher. It seems that the more that Daisuke tries to be a good teacher, the more he becomes entangled in the life of Rin and her friends.
It becomes abundantly clear from just the first introduction of Rin why this series has caused to much talk. Rin meets her teacher for the first time wearing only a pair of panties. This series is touted as a comedy but since we are supposed to be looking at the story underneath, I will point out a number of things I took issue with. First and foremost being there is no reason that Rin is hyper-sexual. Rin had a sad early childhood but she was loved, not sexual molested or abused, and has/had a male figure in her life. There is no real reason for her to seek acceptance from her male teacher. Consequently we don’t really see any destruction of Rin or of the teacher who has an ever-growing attraction to this young girl, like in Lolita. And make no mistake, he is indeed attracted to her as shown through various actions including major amounts of blushing, heart-throbs, and a sequence about how “confessing” to her is embarrassing. Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t expect the plot to be deep, I’m just pointing out that the story is merely there as a casing.
Rin and her mother were abandoned by by her father and her uncle Reiji is often very busy working to support them both and not home too often. I could see how that could lead her to develop somewhat of a needy crush on her teacher to gain more male approval. What is unexplained and quite disturbing is how sexual the crush is. She talks very frankly about such things as fellatio and ejaculation with a clear sense of what these terms mean. She speaks about sex and sexuality with the understanding of someone who has experience. I could understand a chaste crush of a young girl wanting some attention and affection from a respected adult. I could even understand some uncomfortable situations due to Rin doing inappropriate things but not knowing that they are in fact quite sexual. We even see a typical crush that a little girl would have on and older man with Rin’s friend Usa on Reiji. But this is clearly not the case in Rin and Daisuke’s case. This girl know too much for her age and history. Also Reiji is never that emotionally distant when he is around Rin. He is not home a lot but when when he is home he seems to care for her in a generally appropriate manner. I suppose I could just throw out the old MST3K line of, “Just repeat to yourself it’s just a show, I should really just relax” and disregard all the oddities in the name of comedy but it still does not put me at ease. The sexuality is just too skeevy.
And the flip-side is that while the teacher freaks out about her behavior it is more about his own embarrassment. He is the inexperienced virgin who actual has his first kiss with this eight-year-old! Which might actually be funny, if I didn’t think we were supposed to find that hot. We are shown a couple of moments of him praising her and it is clearly supposed to give us insight into what Rin is really after but it just doesn’t stick.
Exactly, Daisuke seems to start with only the most noble goals but he begins to have less that appropriate feelings as the series goes on. At first he seems genuinely concerned about Rin as a teacher would worry for a troubled student. He seems to treat her less and less like a student a more and more like a girl he has a hard time confessing his feelings for. He is like a skittish gay man around the guy he likes before he has had the awakening that he is gay. He has yet to make any sexual advances on her but I feel the relationship constantly moves further and further away from appropriate behavior for a teacher and a student to interact with each other.
The only redeeming piece of the story is the relationship between Reiji and Rin’s mother. He later takes on the responsibilities of raising Rin. But even that has to be pushed to the limit by overtly sexual shots of her with him. While I was interested in this aspect of the story, it is certainly not so magnificent that I would over look everything I disliked about it.
If there was a high point in the manga, it was the touching relationship between Reiji and Aki. I was genuinely moved by their brief but memorable relationship. It added some much needed sympathy for Rin. It could also be some of the deep story everyone keeps bringing up. And if that was the focus of the series I would be more inclined to give people the benefit of the doubt . But it’s merely a foot note and some window dressing. Plus, from what I read in the Wikipedia article they stomp any goodwill these events created by giving Reiji some very uncomfortable feelings for Rin later on.
The girls in Kodomo no Jikan are fictional but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t affect me. They are mere drawings but their bodies are that of very young, minimally developed, eight and nine-year-olds and despite their knowledge on sex they generally act their ages which makes them mental immature as well. Many times one will see characters in a series sexualized by the audiences desire to see them that way without it actual being canonical within the story. In other words, the viewer reading into what is going on more than it is intended to be seen as. The girls in Kodomo no Jikan are very cute, as children can be. But they are also drawn in a revealing and sexy manner for the audiences’ enjoyment more often than not. The sexualization of these characters is not used merely as joke material as say it would in Family Guy. It is at the constant forefront of the series. It is supposed to be the draw.
There is this constant “dirty old man” camera effect. Even if nothing sexual or risque is happening the virtual camera is still positioned in a way for show us sexual shots of our main characters. We get a panty shot almost every chapter and frequent revealing shots of the three main girls. The scene that really drove home the sexual nature for me was in chapter 13. It begins with Kuro sucking on Usa’s breasts saying how wonderful her breasts feel and taste. We then pan out to see that they are in fact not Usa’s breasts but some sort of bun that Kuro is licking pretending they are breasts. In a conventional comedy Kuro would have said something more ambiguous to fool us into thinking something perverted was going on. Then the camera would pan away revealing it was innocent all along. The joke is that we were the pervert. In Kodoma no Jikan everyone is a pervert. The reader is a pervert, the writer in a pervert, and the girls are perverted. No one is innocent. In Kodoma no Jikan there is not just sexual subtext there is sexuality openly in the text itself.
For me it had to be the fourth chapter which is all about Usa needing and finally buying a bra. She is indeed the least knowledgeable about sex of the three girls, but they make up for that by giving her rather unbelievably large breasts for the age of eight. In this chapter Usa is running during their P.E. period and it becomes painful and difficult because she isn’t wearing a bra. She then sweats so much from the strain that you would swear someone came in a dumped a barrel of water over her head. Indeed she is so drenched that you can see right through her shirt as she falls down on the ground out of breath and blushing. This is just in time for the teacher to take notice, too. This is an ecchi series no doubt about it, you don’t have to be a pervert because the story does it all for you.
I tried to look beyond the humor as a sticking point of why I don’t like this series. I like GTO which in the surface has an even more insidious plot. The initial plot is Onizuka becoming a teacher to score with his students. So why do I enjoy that more sensational plot when I can’t abide by Kodomo no Jikan’s. There is the simple reason that everyone who is be lusted after in GTO has gone though puberty. They may still be students but they are sexually mature. I also like the general ratio of perversion to story more in GTO. In GTO we will have the occasional outburst of perversion but most of the story is Onizuka attempting to be the greatest teacher in Japan through manly methods. I feel the ratio is the reverse in Kodomo no Jikan. Most of the series is perversion with occasional bits of Daisuke trying to help his students. This is not acceptable.
I have to agree. If you have read any of our recent ongoing investigations you’ll know that I actually really enjoy the teacher x student scenario. But in most instances that I read the teacher is fresh out of college and the student is in high school. Its is certainly forbidden territory but I just feel that characters are a little more aware of self.
The defense I always hear for Kodomo no Jikan is it’s really about a trio of misfits trying to find their place in the world. The lolicon aspect is overplayed by people who hate on that segment of the series which comedic. And the defender often downplays the prevalence of the comedy. I feel like it’s me trying to convince someone to watch Hayate the Combat Butler for the action because it hardly has any comedy in it. Or to watch GaoGaiGar for the romance because they barely show the robots. BS. The lolicon humor and fan-service is the majority of the series. If you are indeed reading this you are doing it for the risque humor and the sexualized girls. Any amount of touching story is merely parsley on the side of the main course.
I can take a little fan-service with my story but this is a little story in a sea of fan-service. I wouldn’t read this if it was college girls (though most would find that more acceptable) and I certainly wouldn’t when it is about immature third graders. In conclusion, unless you find this series sexual stimulating, the story is not good enough for anyone to be encouraged to over look such content. Anyone who says they are reading if for the story is lying to you and themselves.