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Experiment: Kodomo no Jikan, Give me my soul back.

November 18, 2008


18+ Discussion

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.

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27 comments

  1. What a trainwreck of an experiment.

    Wooooooooow.

    You guys and Scott all fail. :|


  2. I’m reading Kodomo no Jikan for the story. And I’m a girl LOL
    I only started during the late chapters, around chapter 30+. I had previously read about it in blogs and dismissed it as some lolicon fetish series, but boy were my perceptions proven wrong.
    It DOES have a great story. Normally series would build up on light hearted “otaku-pandering” stuff early on and then only get to the real meat of the story later. Knowing that I never went back to check on the earlier chapters of the manga and instead just continued to read from where I started, and I can say it really has depth and discusses the pedophile/incest issue seriously, making me uneasy but curious to see how the complicated characters will sort out in the end. I assure you I’m not a lolicon, but I’m enjoying Kodomo no Jikan a hell lot!


  3. Well, you preempted most of my arguments within the post, so I won’t even bother listing them. :-P But I’ll just touch on a few strong points for me.

    I don’t deny that there’s nothing sexual about the fan service, and frankly, I probably wouldn’t be that into the series if it wasn’t for the eye candy. But I think the difference between your perception of it and mine is that I don’t see the characters as children. They’re anime characters, fictional creations that are influenced from human but in no way realistic. They’re drawn with far more adult like curves and features than any girl would have developed at that age, and as you mention in the post, there is no way that a third grader would act like these girls or say the things they do. That’s the appeal for me. Children aren’t attractive, but these characters are.

    I also really don’t see the teacher forming that kind of lust for the girl as you’re building it up to be. What I see building is a platonic father/daughter relationship between the two… but I tend to find those types of relationship a lot in comics. :-P Those “heart throbbing” moments you mention are points where looking at Rin reminds Daisuke that deep down inside of him, he is lonely and longs for the sexual touch of a girlfriend or wife. He’s embarrassed that Rin triggers off this reminder for him, but in no way does it indicate he’s specifically falling for the girl.

    And yes, the back story between Reiji and Aki is exactly what I meant by good story, and there are more instances of that throughout the entire series. But after reading how you felt about this storyline in the context of the series, it’s probably best that you never pick up a lolicon manga ever again. ;-)

    It is interesting how both of our experiments ultimately lead to the same conclusion. I guess no matter how good certain aspects of a manga are, if the genre is not right for you, it ruins the whole damn thing.


  4. @ lolikitsune

    To quote wise men of our time:

    Bret and Jermaine:
    Other rappers diss me
    Say my rhymes are sissy
    What, what, what, why, why, why?

    Jemaine:
    Be more constructive with your feedback

    – Hisui


  5. @Hisui

    I think it’s because you rap about reality
    Like you and your grandma drinking a cup of tea.

    Conchords, ftw.


  6. @CherylHew

    I liked your Deviant art page. Nice work. And now on to my reply.

    I can’t say that it won’t appeal to any women. I also know girls who like DearS and Elfen Lied which boggles my mind to a degree but they still like the shows. Heck women play ero games. The oft mentioned Kohaku played Tsukihime and plans to play Fate/Stay Night.

    There might be a deeper and touching story later on but I will never get that far. If the story was not winning me over at the end of book two it would probably never win me over. The main experiment was to see if we could read the first two books and find some story that would be so profound it would make us ignore the loli aspects. Narutaki guessed (correctly) there was nothing on this earth that was good enough to make him feel that way. I think that Scott felt if we actually sat down and read Kodomo no Jikan and gave it a fair shake we would enjoy it. I think that we gave it a fair amount of time to win us over but it never did.

    If you enjoy the story more power to you. You are obviously able to see past the fan-service and take away a sweet story. Narutaki and I were unable to do that.

    – Hisui


  7. In this modern era where the ultimate key for blogging success is brevity combined with frequency, it is merely as a public service that I point out that you could have saved a lot of time by just writing “Turns out that Daryl Surat was 100% right and those who disagree are totally wrong, as usual.”

    Just sayin’.


  8. @Hisui – wise men of our time? I thought they were Jason and Pete Zaitcev. Ya learn something new every day…


  9. [...] Reverse Thieves read Kodomo no Jikan and Scott reads Yaoi. If you want a lolicon manga that touches on taboos but delivers a touching and meaningful story nonetheless, KnJ is not the right way to go. Sure it’s got some DRAMA in it but it’s mostly comedy and fanservice. It’s not going to convert lolicon haters. Similarly, manga chock-full of gay rape isn’t going to sit well with someone who hates… gay rape. [...]


  10. I’m of the opinion that there’s always an exception to whatever rules or standards we decide to set up for ourselves. So despite the unsettling feelings you had from reading Kodomo no Jikan, always keep in mind that there can be other examples that work. And I do find that it helps me if I can get over my own beliefs sometimes. They can constrain more than necessary. :P


  11. Oh, there’s a reason why Rin is hypersexual. You just haven’t gotten to it in two volumes ^_^;


    • Quote:”Oh, there’s a reason why Rin is hypersexual. You just haven’t gotten to it in two volumes ^_^;” ? when, do they tell that I have read the 70 chapters and don’t remember that or when they buy Mimi her first bra, also as of now they are already in 6th grade this year they graduate, Mimi is already in her puberty, had her first period, and in 6th grade it is possible that Rin might get it and who Knows about Kuro, even though she is still as small as in first grade. So maybe you’ll enjoy more the reading now that they are becoming more mature.


  12. @ Daryl Surat
    If we wanted to be a ultra popular anime blog we would post every day, have a twitter, and talk about Naruto, Bleach, and what ever show was flavor of the month. I would also have Narutaki use his professional arts skills to draw a funny yaoi or yuri comic at the top of each post.
    And I would pretend to like Clannad. ; )

    – Hisui


  13. @Scott

    Well let me fire back a response.

    I feel the disconnect between our opinion and yours of the heart throbbing moments in manga come from the “dirty old cameraman” again. Since the manga-ka loves to frame shots as sexually as possible, it is very easy to interpret anything in the manga as sexual due to her choices as an artist. Like I mentioned in the article, things that are totally not sexual take on a very sexual light if we are seeing an up-skirt at the time. The pervasive sexuality makes it easy to interpret Daisuke’s reaction as bashfulness instead of just embarrassment.

    Also although Usa has somewhat of a mature body Rin and Kuro are very obviously built like elementary school children and Rin gets a majority of the service shots in the series. Also other than their hypersexual behavior they mostly act like elementary school girls. They are only really mature when it comes to sex.

    I think it all comes down to the old saying one half of the world will never understand the pleasure of the other. You don’t have to love what anyone else does. You should just respect their right to enjoy what they like.

    -Hisui


  14. [...] missing something, so they traded genres: Scott read Gerard et Jacques (warning! NSFW image) and Hisui and Narutaki read Kodomo no Jikan. No one is converted, but the discussions are really interesting, as each makes the effort to see [...]


  15. Excellent job on the experiment. According to previous posts y’all were supposed to be converted once you read the manga? I appreciate your willingness to give it a shot. Just because you aren’t converted doesn’t mean that the experiment wasn’t a success. You guys and Scott were willing to step out of your comfort zones to read something that you wouldn’t normally read. Once you read it you were able to make more informed decisions about the genre and the manga read. We read what we like and in the manga industry there is more than enough to find a niche that serves everyone. Just because you didn’t like a certain series doesn’t mean that you are closed minded and complete numbskulls and if people take issue with that I would say that they are the closeminded numbskulls!


  16. [...] missing something, so they traded genres: Scott read Gerard et Jacques (warning! NSFW image) and Hisui and Narutaki read Kodomo no Jikan. No one is converted, but the discussions are really interesting, as each makes the effort to see [...]


  17. @Kris

    Thanks for the support. It is always nice to hear. Narutaki and I were just talking about how people seem to think that the only experiments worth doing are the ones that turn out differently than you expected them to.

    Plus as you said there is enough titles and genres out there in manga that everyone can pick what they want to read. I guess when you are a fan of a niche genre you wish more people would give your chosen genre a try. The more people who read a certain genre the more books will come out in that category and the more people you can talk about your favorite titles with. I guess that is why people get so up in arm. They sometimes equate not liking a genre with attacking that genre.

    I distinctly remember not giving Higurashi no Naku Koro ni a chance until I heard a positive review on Anime World Order and that worked out well for me. Before that I had written it off as the stupid killer loli show. Kohaku was the one that convinced Narutaki and I both to try Hayate after I had passed it by so many times at various book stores. So I feel we should all try to push our boundaries everyone in awhile.

    Except for Ero Guro. I am inflexible about that one. If that makes me a smaller person because of it so be it. I am willing to take that chance.

    BTW – I was checking out your site and you have a good deal of BL reviews. Do you know of a good site that reviews BL but has a detailed report of how graphic the BL is? I know Narutaki would read more BL but it’s hard to know what is a love story with some tasteful soap opera sex in it and what is fluids flying all over the place (and in your face).

    -Hisui


  18. @Hisui-

    Thanks for stopping by my site. All I can say is that I do read A LOT of BL manga. I guess it’s that whole reading something that is on the fringes makes me a rebel!

    One of the review sites that I like to check out regarding BL is Boys on Boys on Film. Their reviews are always very informative and interesting. Sadly they are on an indefinte hiatus and so there are no new reviews. Of course with my reviews I try to make note of how graphic things are, but I know I fail miserably.

    Often time when I choose my boys love titles I take note of who the publisher is, the rating on the back, and whether the books are shrinkwrapped or not. That generally will let you know how graphic titles are (not always though). I made the mistake of going from a series like Gravitation by Maki Murakami (my first experience with BL) to then jumping in to Party by Tatsumi Kaiya. That was a huge mistake! I then went back to more vanilla titles like Fake by Sanami Matoh.

    Keep up the good work. Continue on with the interesting social experiments. Forget about those who disagree with you and rake you over the coals for it. Stay honest and true to your opinions and keep learning!

    -Kris (and don’t hesitate to check out my reviews, I’ll try to be more specific in regards to the graphic nature!)


  19. [...] [Commentary] Beyond their comfort zones Link: Scott VonSchilling and Hisui and Narutaki [...]


  20. Some foor for thought: the author of Kodomo No Jikan, Kaworu Watashiya, is a woman


  21. @Mori
    Oh I know. It’s like DearS. I boggles the mind that a woman could write and draw this.

    – Hisui


  22. i love this series and feel it has a great story. but you are right about one thing, non pedophiles need not bother with it, I wouldnt read an overly fan servicy gay manga no matter how good the story because there would be too many pages of nothing interesting going on.


  23. “It boggles my mind that a woman could write and draw this.”

    Quite the contrary. As the story goes on, we see that Rin always has the effective upper hand over the teacher. That appears to me to be because his personal morality (which seems to be, essentially, “protect the weak”) and his absolute commitment to remaining in his profession prevent him from responding with action to Rin’s flirting. Ditto her later apparently real declarations of love. Thus Rin is in no danger, and she is aware of that.

    All relationships are in part a power struggle, at least at some point in their course. I think that the lady mangaka knows this very well, and takes great pleasure in depicting the working out of a male-female relationship that has affection but no reasonable prospect of their having sex.

    As you may know, for men, love with no sex tends to potentiate the love. Thus the teacher just comes to love Rin more and more, and there is a considerable amount of power for Rin that necessarily follows from that.

    In real life I expect there would come a time when Rin would stop being safe, given the nature of men, but this is not real life.


  24. Retarded


    • Consider my mind BLOWN!

      That was insightful. I will ruminate on your statement and try and see how your probing critique fits in with my brand new world view.

      – Alain


  25. just finished reading this manga. Truth to be told, I always felt kinda uneasy with the way the girls talked. I thought it was going to be adressed somewhow, but nope. They just magically learnt about all that sex stuff.

    I had trouble mantaining my suspension of disbelief from time to time. I think the protagonists are just way too young, like they started the in manga (at the very least) 4 or 5 years too young. It would still raise pedo-alarms, but oh well.

    All in all, I don’t think it was bad. It was OK I guess. But I dunno, feels like it had a lot of potential. The ending felt so, so rushed!

    I think the author knows how to tell a story. I never felt bored, and sometimes I even got some nice school flashbacks. Not that I was molested or anything, lol. But on the other hand it had way too much fanservice (or disservice?) for my taste.

    Some things that I liked were the interactions between the teachers and the jabs at the japanese school system and society. Children abuse (and what could be considered) is also mentioned, and so is sexual education. Grey and grey morality, etc. But all of this feels like an afterthought, which is a shame.

    Maybe I’ve been spoiled after reading Yotsubato! and Watamote, heh. Either way I think I’d like to read something that adresses the things I’ve mentioned earlier but were left behind.

    6/10. Good enough to pass the time. Consider burning the books after reading them, or deleting them from your PC. I’m sure being in posession of this stuff could be considered a crime in some countries. That is all.



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