What is the Kodomo no Jikan Kickstarter, and what does it mean for anime and manga crowdfunding going forward? Let's take a look!
Kodomo no Jikan is controversial. There’s no doubt about that. In fact, Muse and Justin just discussed it in the last podcast.
For the uninitiated, Kodomo no Jikan (“A Child’s Time”) is about Aoki’s days as a newly hired third grade teacher dealing with the fact one of his students, Rin, has a crush on him. “Crush” is putting it mildly since Rin goes to sexual extremes to get Aoki to return her affections. Seven Seas Entertainment licensed the series under the title Nymphet back in 2006, but the company ended up cancelling it after further reviewing the series. In an open letter, Seven Seas Entertainment President Jason DeAngelis stated, “…what I saw on a cursory glance seemed harmless enough. But this time I sat down and read the series carefully in Japanese, and what I found in volumes two and three were very disturbing.” A decade later, Digital Manga Publishing now has licensed the series and has been running a Kickstarter to release the manga.
I’ve already discussed a bit on the good and the bad of crowdfunding. Should well-established companies use platforms like Kickstarter? Is it a glorified preorder system, or are sites like Indiegogo a great way for companies to take chances? Well, let’s take a look at the positives and negatives of this particular campaign.
Full disclaimer: I have not read Kodomo no Jikan. However, between both Kodomo no Jikan controversies and general Internet spoilers, I do have a perfunctory understanding of the series.
1) Fans have an opportunity to acquire the series.
Many people were upset when Seven Seas Entertainment had cancelled Kodomo no Jikan, feeling like they had bowed to societal pressure and succumbed to censorship. While there many ways to support a creator outside of scanlations, I think the majority of manga fans outside Japan would rather be able to own a copy of their favorite unlicensed manga in their native language instead of Japanese.
2) Manga fans should feel incredibly optimistic about other series’ chances.
Expect to read this a lot from now on: “Well, if Kodomo no Jikan can get licensed…” If Digital Manga Publishing can acquire the rights to a manga about an elementary student seducing her teacher and get fans to support it, other companies should start taking chances. I don’t want every title to be essentially prepaid by fans, but what about all those 70s, 80s, 90s manga that are deemed unsellable? Heck, shoujo in general? Or more hentai? “Well, if Kodomo no Jikan can get licensed…” should be shortened for as often as we’re bound to hear it. Maybe something like “Kodolicense”. As in “Well, Kodolicense, so maybe that Please Save My Earth sequel with an age gap main couple and their child isn’t out of reach after all… ”
3) The MSRP for the series isn’t too bad.
Kodomo no Jikan will retail for $25.95 for the 3-in-1 omnibuses and $21.95 for the 2-in-1. The bonus volume Houkago‘s MSRP is $15.95. As a comparison, Yen Press’ Until Death Do Us Part currently costs $25 for two Japanese volumes in one. While Kodomo no Jikan‘s English release is not scheduled to include color splash pages, they are included as a stretch goal. A further stretch goal will add the colored manga pages, a bonus not included in the Japanese release. The Kickstarter also includes goals for higher quality paper as well as hardcover binding. If all the stretch goals are reached, paying full price won’t be so bad. In fact, you can consider it quite a bargain: $26 for three volumes in one hardcover volume with extra color inserts? Very reasonable. However, this is only if all the goals are met.
4) People can take a stand against censorship or pressure. It’s just fiction after all.
Many books have been challenged in the U.S. and across the world. From old books like Adventures of Huckleberry Finn to current hits like The Hunger Games, lots of people have complained about what they feel are inappropriate books. While our society is not likely to turn into the worlds of Fahrenheit 451 or Library Wars, readers should choose what they want to read.
1) People’s issues with the book are front and center. The sexualization of children is more than just implied.
The term lolicon is a portmanteu of “lolita complex”. The “lolita” part of “lolita complex” comes from Lolita, a book about a man’s desire to be with a young girl. It is considered a classic novel despite its controversial nature. Many argue the issues of Kodomo no Jikan is akin to Lolita, but there’s one big difference: Lolita is told in first person point-of-view with a rather unreliable narrator. In addition, as they say, a picture is worth 1,000 words. This is more than just a matter of what is art or not; it’s just plain much easier to be uncomfortable with something when it’s in pictures versus in words. Fighting for free speech is one thing, but free speech has limits. For many people, seeing little girls in their underwear and blackmailing their teacher by making it seem like he’s doing something inappropriate is not a title worth defending. There’s also the issue that, in the U.S., Canada, and in many other countries, owning or selling manga showing fictional children engaging in sexual acts can lead to criminal prosecutions and, in several cases, convictions.
2) You are still paying retail.
I hate paying full price for anything. The clear file and the digital wallpaper and thank you doesn’t help to really alleviate the sting of paying retail price for Kodomo no Jikan. I feel bad when I only get 30% off cover price. However, Kodomo no Jikan might not be carried at many — if any — retailers, so this point may be moot.
3) Digital Manga Publishing is hiding behind the “if it offends you, move on” defense.
It’s hard to argue that Kodomo no Jikan is not meant to titillate more than educate when one of the rewards is a pillow case that is meant to be hugged. “It’s not child porn! But if you want to hug an image of a third grader in lingerie with underwear exposed, here you go.” As Humberto Saabedra of AnimeNews.biz wrote, “It’s one thing to publish a title that’s clearly meant for an audience that’s typically ostracized, but to dance around the entire situation makes the publisher and its intended audience look even worse.” Megan R. of Infinite Rainy Day added some screencaps showing the Project H. Twitter discussing ignoring what they call Kodomo no Jikan SJWs.
4) There are better titles out there.
“Better” is always subjective. I can’t believe some of the “regular” titles that get licensed while some of my favorites are probably not even on any publisher’s radar. Certainly there are less divisive series out there. While the Nymphet controversy is nine years old at this point (and Kodomo no Jikan) hadn’t even finished its run, lots of people remember it. Whether you have a problem with Kodomo no Jikan or not, it seems strange that a company would hedge its bets on a manga many view as offensive when there are thousands of series with less stigma waiting to leave Japan’s shores. The Kimagure Orange Road Kickstarter was a success, showing that fans are interested in older series. No legal or moral issues there.
What you do with your money is up to you. But how you spend your money does make a statement. What you buy determines what companies produce. Over 500 people have made the statement that they support Digital Manga Publishing and Kodomo no Jikan. Others have made their views heard across the Web. How about you? Will you pledge to Kodomo no Jikan because you love the series and want the anime to get a Western release? Or perhaps you’ll pledge in order to make a statement about suppression and get more risque series? Are you just not interested in Kodomo no Jikan? Or will you stop buying Digital Manga Publishing books because they are essentially releasing kiddie porn? Either way, the Kodomo no Jikan Kickstarter is bound to cause further waves across the anime and manga fandom.