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.
Aoki Daisuke is a fresh, new elementary school teacher, eager to help shape and guide his young students. But he got more than he bargained for with Kokonoe Rin! This saucy third grader has knowledge beyond her years, and a deep-seated mistrust and loathing of adults. She will go to any lengths to protect her friends Kuro and Mimi, including harassment, extortion, threats, and sexual blackmail. And yet, with her friends, she is kind, caring, and self-sacrificing. Can Daisuke gain Rin's trust and save her from her dark side without falling victim to it himself?
When it comes to anime, I tend to be a fan of comedy, shoujo, romance or anything else that will put a smile on my face. However, I'll review pretty much anything. Whether you like or dislike my reviews, I'm always glad to receive feedback, and I'm always happy to get into intelligent discussions.