I've lately gained something of a reputation around the Anime-Planet forums for my outspoken and energetic opposition to lolicon material in general and loli doujin in particular. As such, you can probably imagine my vexation when I lost a high-stakes game of Tetris against fellow reviewer KiraRin and was forced to watch and review Kodomo no Jikan - paragon and shameless champion of loli fanservice. Perhaps you can also imagine my surprise when - against my better judgment and sensibilities - I found myself liking it.
The show centers around the antics of its main character, Rin Kokonoe, a sexually precocious 10-year-old who uses her wits and gender to romantically exploit her homeroom teacher: a premise which did little to allay my fears regarding its content. Equally, the fact that one of the first scenes featured a room of semi-naked pre-pubescents ensured that Kodomo no Jikan and I started out on a sour note. However, apparently having taken lessons from its central protagonist, the series soon had me beguiled with a combination of intelligence, wit and unexpected audacity.
Although things start off predictably, with fistfuls of fanservice, ecchi humour and envelope-pushing, Kodomo no Jikan doesn't take too long to show its true colours as a well-crafted, frequently moving tale, which juggles taboos and tragedies with commendable sensitivity and even-handedness. On its central theme of child sexuality, for example, although it is not as provocative as other works on the subject such as the novel Lolita, the anime nevertheless poses interesting and pointed questions, which should at least give the viewer pause for thought. As it requires - and even presupposes - the knowledge and passive acceptance of sexualised minors which come from being ingrained in the otaku culture, in addition to some serious suspension of disbelief, Kodomo no Jikan will not open closed minds, nor will it challenge hardened opinions. What it will do, however, is give the average viewer the means and the motive to seriously mull the issue over in their head. For that reason alone, it may be worth a look.
Furthermore, the anime makes the bold decision to weave several strands of serious drama and tragedy into what is superficially a silly comedy. On the whole its endeavours are met with success and even the most inconsequential of events - such as a child not turning up to school - are lent a certain gravity, enabling them to become engaging without being melodramatic. When the truly melancholy moments of the series step forward, these are also handled admirably and nearly brought me to tears on one occasion.
Of course, Kodomo no Jikan does have its faults. I found certain story elements to be cliché, whilst others stretched credibility a little. In addition to this, the anime never really gets the hang of seamlessly combining its serious and jovial moments and it often feels as though the two are partitioned, with some episodes containing nothing but light-hearted shenanigans and others being overly heavy on solemnity and woe. In spite of this, however, the show's plot delivers for the most part and it had me frequently gripped without once losing my attention.
The animation in Kodomo no Jikan provides very little to write home about. No risks are taken, no rewards are reaped, and many of the character designs seem as though they are recycled from other anime; only Rin and her friend Kuro stand out from an otherwise generic crowd. Likewise, there is little variety in the costume department. Miss Houin - who spends the entire series trying to attract the male lead, Mr. Aoki - seems to only have one change of clothes, which might go part way towards explaining her failure on that front.
On the whole, the series is far from ugly and looks pleasant on more than one occasion. Nonetheless, it never manages to wow the viewer and provides no truly memorable moments. The well-drawn backgrounds and expressive eyes are nice to look at but fail to elevate the animation above competent.
I want to do the monkey. There, I said it. Kodomo no Jikan's ED - with an accompanying dance, enthusiastically demonstrated by its main characters - is so infectiously cheerful, it's a wonder that it hasn't reached epidemic proportions and filled hospitals worldwide with people thrusting their arms up and down and singing punchy J-pop with enough vigour and enthusiasm to wake the dead.
The OP, on the other hand is decent but a little generic and much the same can be said for the background music. One of the anime's most unfortunate flaws is that its soundtrack never really matches the plot in terms of emotiveness, and many of the more sensitive and moving scenes simply don't get the musical complement that they both need and deserve. Certainly the sounds of Kodomo no Jikan will not drive the viewer to distraction or anger, but nor do they match the better moments of the storyline punch for punch.
Although Rin, along with the sharp-tongued and protective Kuro, manages to steal the show, one of the main reasons that the anime succeeds is the character of Mr. Aoki, the homeroom teacher and object of Rin's precocious advances. Sympathetic, rational and humanly weak, it is easy to identify with him and see things directly through his eyes, heightening the immediacy of the drama and immersing the viewer in his dilemnas, decisions and difficulties.
Aside from Rin's occasionally overbearing guardian Reiji, the remainder of the cast is fairly generic and only serve to elaborate the scenario. A good example of this is Miss Houin, whose crush on Mr. Aoki isn't used to develop her character but rather to develop his and to present new situtations to which he and Rin must, and indeed do, react. For a relatively short series, this actually works marvellously, keeping the focus firmly fixed on the main story from start to finish.
Kodomo no Jikan is heavy on loli fanservice and is by no means an absolute must-see, for which reason I would dissuade anyone disturbed or offended by this. With that said, I was surprised by how much I ended up enjoying the series and impressed by its obvious maturity, which shines through in spite of the ecchi humour and occasionally crass dialogue. Rather than a loli series masquerading as an intelligent drama, it strikes me as the conceptual opposite - a thoughtful show, masquerading as a fanservice-ridden underage ecchi-fest. If you like one of these elements and are happy to put up with the other, Kodomo no Jikan is definitely worth the watch. You may enjoy it more or less than I did, but I feel certain that this anime would not be a waste of time for anyone.
Getting it out of the way: eww, eww, eww. Ecchi with nine year old girls. And not subtle ecchi. No, blatant and extremely intentional sexual situations between a grown man and a nine year old girl. Eww. Kodomo no Jikan could have been a great show had it not been so blatant in the way that the writers actually meant for it to be a full-on sexual relationship but toned it down for sales purposes. Eww, eww, eww.
But about what this show does right. I fully agree with the Japanese ideal that youth doesn't require a character to be completely asexual otherwise you are crossing some moral guideline. Everyone was young, and everyone knows that sexuality starts expressing itself pretty early on. The exploration of a budding sexuality has been both a minor and a major theme in well loved and highly appreciated works of literature and film, from Natalie Portman's first big role as an orphan girl who develops a crush on a jaded middle age assassin who takes her in, to the highly acclaimed Lolita which is one of the most important works of literature of the past century, this has been dealt with in various ways and is an extremely evocative subject.
Kodomo no Jikan manages at times to give us the clash between youthful naïveté and budding sexual interest, with some deep Freudian issues touched upon. The show is at its best when it clearly shows that it really is about little girls who are more trying and pretending to be adults, wishing for it because of their own backstories, rather than giving them a full understanding of what they're doing. This is a subject which has plenty of artistic merit, and has been explored well, yet is still considered taboo enough by modern western society (walking through a trail of corpses merits a PG-13 rating, but show a nipple and people will get up in arms about only having an R rating) for it to be both rare and exciting.
There are some moments where the show manages to touch subjects that most are afraid of. A lot of this is because of the extremes that are forced upon the viewer. I do try to remain objective and focus on that. But this is ecchi with nine year old girls. No, don't believe me?
Here is a screen capture of something not quite as blatant as the show usually offers:
Yeah, that's removing the nudity, the blatant sexual references, the propositioning, the panty removal, and so on. Yeah, Japanese bondage doesn't even rank in the top 50 most sexual moments of the show. Probably not in the first 100. And yes, the girl who did that in fact did recognize that this particular knot is used for bondage in a sexual context.
Writing (story and characters):
Credit where it's due, the subject here is not one that often seen. People have in the past attempted to have an English translation of the manga sold in the west, and it got shut down hard. The audacity of pushing this type of writing to a mainstream audience, even if only in Japan, is to be commended by anyone who is for freedom of speech, myself included. And to make matters even more interesting, the writing is actually pretty good from a technical perspective.
Character driven stories are hard to get right from a technical point of view. It requires a story which allows them to develop organically, and puts their interactions in a logical context without it feeling forced. Once you remove the blatant issue with this here, then Kodomo no Jikan is a success, which makes it superior to plenty of other shows. It manages to balance the drama with light hearted moments, sexuality and coming of age with concrete problems people have in real life, and most of all, keeps to the setting and set up.
As a character driven story, the characters need to hold it up. They do. Other than one huge problem of presenting the adult male protagonist as a paragon of moral virtue and his suitor as admirable, the cast is well rounded. They've got distinct personalities, have fun interactions, manage to balance the issues of the story very well, and more than that, they come off as genuine (excluding that one thing).
So, the writing is good. It really is. Kodomo no Jikan does with its run time a great deal of slice and life, drama, and manages to cater to what otakus expect and love. There is only one small issue with it, which is best seen and not explained:
That's within the first ten minutes of the first episode, so I don't count this as a spoiler. Allow me to remind you: this is the start of third grade, and she's nine years old tops.
Art (animation and sound):
For a show from 2007, the artwork of Kodomo no Jikan holds up. It still has some issues, and cannot compare to the cream of the crop from today on a technical scale. That being said, it manages to have artistic merit in many ways. Specifically, while the animation is somewhat dated, the sound is not.
There is a bit of overuse of backgrounds, but the character designs are overall crisp and distinct, there is good attention to detail, and the palette is surprisingly modern for the time. While there are issues with static frames (especially since this was done before the outsourcing of these details was quite as good as it is today) that by modern standards are rather unforgiveable, and there is an over-reliance on visual gags at times, these did not disturb me nearly as much as they should have. This is because the direction of the art manages to pass a surprisingly large amount of emotion without feeling too pushy about it.
Great soundtrack, good voice acting, decent effect work. Seriously, the soundtrack, which is something I'm notoriously vicious about, is surprisingly good and adds a lot of feeling to this show. The end credits have one of the catchier and cooler songs in anime. Still, the voice acting is not quite as good as it should have been, and young kids are notoriously difficult to get right. Still, if only for the ending theme, the audio deserves praise.
Life that a show doesn't deserve is definitely given by the art. From the energetic songs, some moments where the emotions of the characters just ooze out the screen, to the overall tight direction given the budget, the artwork is surprisingly good. Kodomo no Jikan has above average art, and remains that way even today, nearly a decade after it aired.
If you're into lolicon stuff, this is for you. If you find the two pictures I put in this review hilarious, then you'll probably laugh your ass off. As for myself, I didn't find it bad enough to drop it despite whatever moral issues I have... and my completionist (read: obsessive) side will probably have me review the OVAs next.
I went into this thinking it was going to be a dumb SoL about a Komodo dragon, and boy was I wrong. This is actually a SoL about toddlers and their frustrated teacher. Was surprised to find myself enjoying this more than I expected. Will finish the review whenever the feds let me use a computer, I gotta go back to the holding cell for now.
I’ve watched the series and I’ve read the reviews by people who were interested in the series as well. In my honest opinion I understood that Kodomo No Jikan either failed to show what it had intended or people just did not understand what the series was all about. I for one would say that the anime did a perfect job, but people tend to ignore, skip or just fast forward anime nowadays and ignore what they don’t want to see.
KJ – Kodomo No Jikan
The story of “Kodomo No Jikan” focuses mostly on Kokonoe Rin and Aoki Daisuke. The main reason why this story made such a fuss is because of the illusionary pedophilia image people attached to it. In my opinion KJ had two choices considering the story 1) make a weird drama 2) make an even weirder comedy …. Thankfuly KJ took its own way ( by the way this is also very stressed in the series, Aoki is often forced to do things by the rules, but he tries to find his own way) and It worked magnificently. The author created a whole documentary on social problems within different families (child abuse, lack of attention, inconsideration, preferences) and showed how all of this affects the mind of a child, no wonder the series is called “time of children”.
The loneliness that children feel and the isolation they get is well shown though sometimes it is done by using comical situations so you can easily get confused. In KJ we also see a lot of ignorance of adults towards children. For Aoki, who lived a slow life in a normal family somewhere in the country side, it is hard to understand everything at once. Nonetheless he tries to slowly understand people around him. I also loved how the series show adults and their problems that came from childhood it clearly shows how important it is to take care of the young ones and how fragile they are. Overall KJ stands out with its idea, sadly the humor is sometimes unnecessary and I personally would prefer a bit more seriousness. I think this comedy was like a shell to break through to wider audience, sadly for most, the shell was too hard to crack.
I consider 5 characters to be the lead (RIN, AOKI, REIJI, MIMI, and KAGAMI)
It is hard to write about them and not spoil everything they do, but you can imagine that the 3 main girls are really interesting to watch and to analyze. All of them have different stories behind them and different backgrounds that formed their characteristics, so it is really enjoyable to look at their actions and listen as to what they have to say. It is really nice to see how Aoki influences the girls and how they change throughout the show, how their personalities mature and become stronger because of the paternal influence of the teacher. The main protagonist is of course Aoki and he is quite the static person, he really is somebody who you could call perfectly Normal, but this is exactly what makes his so peculiar, because when this normal and I would say untarnished person meets these children and starts looking into their problems, his persona matures in every episode making like the real all father not only for the children but for the teachers as well. His development gives the series the charm. Then there is Reiji, he is not a common guest in the series and you won’t see a lot of development in himself, but his character helps build up RIN as the lead lady of the show. His actions are constantly felt on Rins behavior and actions.
The voice actors did a really nice job, and there is not that much to say about it since I am not that much of an export in that field, but the voices fit the characters quite well. The audio that is played during the series is a bit too monotonic for me, you will find quite usual audio tracks but most possibly nothing that will inspire you or something you would have on your usual play list. The OP – ED were both nice. I would say the ED theme was quite a blast J and enjoyable up to a certain point. Otherwise Audio fist the mood and does all the basic little things it needs to do.
Nothing too much here, nothing very special at least. The background are done nicely and come in sync with the show but you should not expect eye candy here. The characters are well made and are shown of quite individualistically. As you could expect Aoki looks very normal, that flows together with his personality, but the girls are vivid and brightly colored. Since you won’t see that much action or combat here so prepare yourself for a reasonable, in my opinion above average slice of life quality animation pack.
Enjoyment & Conclusion:
Over all the time I spent with KJ was a great pleasure. I will gladly re-watch it some years later and I will be getting my hands on the manga series which actually ended at the beginning of the year. The problems that this shows brings up are really something that happens around us every day but we just don’t notice them or simply ignore them, thus not listening to the cries of children in need. The show is definitely not groundbreaking but for me it was a big load of pleasure filled with funny moments that make you smile and serious moments that make you wonder. Overall I recommend watching this one, but do keep an open mind while doing so. Thanks!
FINAL SCORE 8,5/10
Kodomo no Jikan is a heavily controversial title, and with good reason. But like most controversial titles, its subject matter is not exploited in vain, and the end result is something that can be credited, at the very least, as a decent series in its own right.
No series has dared to tell the story KoJikan tells and gotten away with it, but for all the underage fanservice it provides, the heartwarming drama beneath the disturbing ecchi comedy ultimately shines. Had KoJikan been solely about the fanservice, this series would deserve all the negative criticism it has received, but there's a heavy dollop of character-driven drama and unique relationships, the context of which have never been explored up until now. One of its more important plot aspects is the recognition of children as having the same emotional needs as the rest of us. It's a touchy subject, but handled with precision and never crossing the line, though toeing it on occasion. Though KoJikan still handles issues it brings up head-on, it does so in an abrupt and awkward presentation, constantly and abruptly switching between drama and comedy. It may flawed in its execution, but its heart is in the right place.
Likewise, no series has dared to have characters like KoJikan's and gotten away with it. This is in great part to the main character being far more than she appears on the surface, especially when her laudably deep and complex emotions are explored. Unfortunately for most characters, they are relegated to often insulting cliche traits substitued as personalities, though this may change in future seasons. For now, the only real depth is in Rin and her cousin Reiji. However, the series should be commended on portraying 8-year-old girls with relative intelligence while acknowledging that they are still physically and mentally children. It's territory anime often skips in favor of taking the "moe" way out and its nice to see a series that portrays kids as kids.
The art is bright and cute, though the character designs are a little off-putting, especially Rin and Mimi's hair. Outside of this flaw, everything looks nice and neat. It's a slightly above-average job all around.
The music didn't stick to me but I don't remember it intruding in any way. The OP is one of my favorites, not for being a good song, but because the lyrics fit the tone of the series to a T. The ED is a hyperactive J-pop number that the audience this kind of show often attracts will enjoy greatly.
For me, KoJikan was a mixed bag. It is not anywhere near the horror that it was constantly advertised as prior to its release, nor is it entirely redeemable due to its abrupt swings between the drama and its uncomfortable brand of comedy. The end result is quite commendable though, assuming one watches this without a die-hard need to find as many disturbing details as they can.
Overall, I give Kodomo no Jikan an 7.5 out of 10.