I don’t wander often in the world of kid’s media. As a grown adult, content aimed at children, not to be confused with family media, rarely goes over well with me. But, LDH Entertainment home of some of my favorite artists and actors, announced they would be producing children’s content with their “KIDS B HAPPY” project and to be honest it’s… a choice.
I’m not saying that LDH is wrong to be looking into how to make in-roads to children’s content. They’re an entertainment company, and children’s entertainment fall into a realm where they can expand. I’m not here to go after them for that, especially in the increasingly demanding industry where if you don’t diversify, you die. But I am side-eyeing this particular endeavor because quite frankly, even as ‘kids content’ it’s not their best effort.
As I tend to do, I am getting ahead of myself here. So let’s talk about the whole premise of Kick & Slide.
Sandaime J Soul Brothers (JSB) have been reimagined as seven unique characters who make up the main cast of “Kick & Slide” a help desk/detective agency! In this slapstick story the group will solve both difficult and unique cases that occur in the vibrant city of Nakame Town, with their signature dance and music.
Some additional context is that the episodes are only two minutes and forty one seconds, with full credits shown and it’s distributed on Youtube. For fans of JSB stumbling across this that are unsure which character is suppose to correlate to which member the conversion goes like this; Kick is Naoto, Robobo is Naoki, Bear Bear is Elly, Vampire is Takanori, Fillele is Ryuji, Pipipo is Kenjiro, and Fenitan is Omi. This is due to the badges each character wears correlating with the unofficial (?) member colors.
I’m going to do my best and not go on too long about this series because honestly at the end of the day it isn’t hurting anyone. I’m just a bit miffed by it. So let’s talk about what Kick & Slide gets right.
First of all, the color pallet is immaculate. All the characters are bright and vibrant, and they exist in the colorful bounds of Nakame Town. I liked the character designs of the main and secondary cast, and I think they’re really unique too. The way the characters move is smooth in both the 2D and 3D sequences. Despite my initial disappointment that the members of JSB weren’t voicing their characters, I’m actually glad that they got proper voice actors. The actors did a great job bringing some of the other-worldly characters to life.
The things that don’t work is the story itself. Kick & Slide is very much a style over substance show. Every episode plays out the exact same way.
- Someone calls in for help/arrives at the office.
- The group introduces themselves.
- Kick & Slide make vague but practical attempts to solve the problem
- Problem escalates
- Kick and Slide solve it via dance
- episode ends.
Which, technically is just fine as it is. The series has a formula and it works especially since it’s so short in the first place. It’s only the first entry to “KIDS B HAPPY”, so there is for sure room to improve. However, I have been down a rabbit hole or two dissecting children’s media lately and agree that kids media deserves to be more then mindless programming. And for me, Kick & Slide falls face first into the mindless programming.
A secondary note is how the conflict of episode 10 was set up. I don’t mind jokes at the expense of caricatures of tourists in Japan looking for ‘real ninjas’. It’s relatively harmless as a joke. What bothers me is this is being introduced to Japanese children so young, where the target demographic doesn’t know it’s a joke. I know there might be people that comment I’m reading too much into this but… kids are incredibly impressionable. They’ll take this at face value and that can be really damaging to their worldview if even more media reinforces it later on.
I find it suspicious that the PR video and original dance video are on Youtube kids, but that the episodes themselves aren’t. I get the reasoning that choice might have been made but… it still rubs me the wrong way. It doesn’t help that the show is loaded with homages to other LDH ventures which is something that’s easily to license but kids wouldn’t be able to make the connection on their own.
At the end of the Kick & Slide is a rather unimpressive start for the “KIDS B HAPPY” Project. I’m hoping that since all the base ingredients for something good are there, that the next attempt goes significantly better. In terms for anime fans, you can use this title to pad your lists or test your Japanese, but by no means should you expect much else. Safely in the category if you’re invested in LDH like me, give it a go, and most everyone you can safely pass this.