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Kiss Players (キスぷれ, Kisu Pure) is a Japanese Transformers franchise which began in 2006. By virtue of being the only Transformers toyline and fiction released in Japan by Takara between the conclusion of Cybertron and the live-action movie, it was also effectively the main Transformers line in the country for that time. It takes place in the Generation One cartoon continuity, specifically in the five-year milieu between The Transformers: The Movie and Transformers 2010.
The series derives its name from its (controversial) gimmick, which involves Transformers getting "power-ups" when they are kissed by human girls - the eponymous "Kiss Players" - who fuse with the robots and share their adventures. Although this plotline may seem like a shift in demographics to little girls, it is said that this line was aimed at a much older (and creepier) adult male audience. Indeed, the toys bear an "ages 15 and up" warning, and the subject matter of the accompanying manga is far from child-friendly.
The Kiss Players franchise comprises:
Following the conclusion of its first storyline in late 2006, Kiss Players moved into its second (and apparently final) phase, Kiss Players Position, which shifted focus to a distinctly more PG-rated theme, though it was still kind of heavy on the "cute girls" theme.
When the basic concept of Kiss Players—"toys with figures of cute girls"—first surfaced, the reaction from the Western fan community was generally unremarkable, amounting to little more than a bit of good-natured eye-rolling and mutterings of "Those wacky Japanese...but if that's what it takes to sell the toys...", understanding that there is a certain subset of collector who enjoys such things. Besides, such a premise had been explored before in the short-lived Binaltech Asterisk line (in which the first toy in the KP series was originally meant to be released).
This reaction took a sharp turn, however, with the unveiling of the Dengeki Daioh manga. Although not featuring any explicit nudity or sexual content, the comic consists of a virtually unhalting stream of imagery that evokes various violent sexual situations, from the endless streams of viscous, white liquid that frequently splatter over the scantily-clad-to-nude cast members, to cowering, flush-faced, teary-eyed girls pressed against walls with their hips raised into the air, to the most (in)famous of all, the distinctive image of the Legion's blatant penis-tongue, leaking goo from a goddamn urethra. Putting the cherry on this sundae of depravity, the manga employs an art style that uses proportions specifically and deliberately designed to make the vast majority of its female characters appear as though they are underage (despite the fiction identifying them as being at least old enough to drive).
Reactions ran the gamut from outright disgust to comedic derision, with most fans agreeing that the transformation of a children's toyline into borderline-pedophilia was a "bad thing." There was not a small number of people, however, who claimed that there was absolutely nothing wrong with such a thing, and that everyone else simply wasn't understanding it was a "cultural thing,"—"it" being...the enjoyment of rape imagery, apparently. This, of course, is in defiance of the fact that several Japanese fans were themselves openly decrying Kiss Players, fearing that American fans would think that this was somehow accepted as "normal" in Japan. The line's writer/designer, Yūki Ōshima, even admitted that he crafted the series in this manner because he wanted to "make people's jaws drop." Mission accomplished, it would seem.
Possibly as a result of the majority of fans trying to distance themselves from a fiction that is generally regarded as distasteful, combined with the general inaccessibility of the radio show to an English audience (no pictures!), there is an astonishingly minimal awareness of the specific details of the (actually quite interesting) Kiss Players storyline in the fandom.
- The official logo for the series says "Kiss Play" in Japanese text and "Kiss Players" beneath it in English. To avoid confusion, the English title is used here.