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I believe that the best children’s anime, and perhaps the best children’s entertainment in general, carries a sense of weight that does not try to go far above their heads. More than a matter of simply “maturity,” it’s about giving children respect and understanding that they are thinking, feeling beings who experience the world, and this also results in works that can be enjoyed by adult as well. The best moments of series such as Pokemon and Digimon follow this vein, and this is also the impression I get from the latest Kickstarter anime project, CHUYA-DEN: The Night and Day Chronicles.
CHUYA-DEN follows three children who get embroiled in the conflict between day and night youkai, and must fight to save the world from darkness. After watching the Kickstarter video, I decided to back the project almost immediately. This might seem a bit odd given that details of the story are sparse and the staff for this project aren’t industry superstars, but just from that small introduction a number of things stuck out and impressed me.
First, is the overall atmosphere of the world being portrayed. With its Arietty-esque portrayal of common, everyday objects such as cooking stoves as giant artifacts, combined with the brightness of its characters and the darkness of night, I could feel a sense of importance in what the characters are trying to accomplish.
Second, is the fact that the creators of the studio responsible for this project, WAO World, are valuing CHUYA-DEN as a wholly original project not shackled by the demands of a toy industry or other such sponsor that demands sales of merchandise above all else. As much as series such as Pokemon, Digimon, and Precure have their heartfelt moments, their ties to toy and game companies always require a bit of sales-pitching, and I see CHUYA-DEN as something that exists along a similar wavelength without always having to defer to that sort of merchandise-oriented marketing.
Third, and for me the most important point, is that CHUYA-DEN appears to greatly value a sense of introspection in its characters and world while still maintaining itself as a children’s show. There’s a line in the trailer that says, “All you feelings inside are battles you must fight,” and that sense of conflict being as much internal as external is the same feeling get from my favorite children’s anime, titles such as Heartcatch Precure! and Battle Spirits: Shounen Toppa Bashin.
The project has 4 days to go, and is currently at over $50,000 of its stated $100,000 goal. If you’re interested in it for the same reasons as me, or perhaps even different reasons all your own, why not take a look?
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I recently donated to Kick-Heart, and it was my very first Kickstarter donation.
For those who aren’t familiar with it, it’s an animation project by Japanese animator/director Yuasa Masaaki, a man whose style can best be described as “experimental and unorthodox.” As someone who not only enjoys variety in animation but also appreciates Yuasa’s work (particularly the brilliant Kaiba), I ended up pledging, but I want everyone to understand that this was my own conclusion, and not one I necessarily expect from others.
As people have rallied for Kick-Heart there’s been good, but there’s also been this problematic message attached to it wherein Kick-Heart is seen as a potential savior of not just the anime industry but of creativity and imagination in anime itself. To some extent, they have a point: there are certain anime that are more commercially viable than others, and this is usually based on what’s trending at the time combined with the economic realities of the time. In that sense, funding this Kickstarter is useful for figuring out if there really is an audience for Yuasa’s brand of works, enough to justify at least a 10-minute animation piece. But then if you’re not part of the audience in the sense that you have little interest in Yuasa’s work, then you shouldn’t feel obligated to maintain a lie just because people are making you feel like you’re industry poison.
I said why I decided to join in, and if my or anyone else’s reasons for donating to Kick-Heart convinced you to donate, feel free to do so. What you shouldn’t feel, however, is pressured to donate out of the “greater good.” Kick-Heart isn’t an intimidation tactic, and it shouldn’t be talked about as such.