KiSS Page

I dropped both the Big KiSS Page and the KiSS mailing list after a thread over a KiSS set I'd downloaded from the Big KiSS Page, and which looked like a continuation of a rather nasty media campaign. Though the set seemed clumsily well-meaning, I don't like being campaigned at, least of all through a KiSS set, and if using KiSS for political campaigns was going to be acceptable and even commonplace (which, due to circumstance, seemed to be the case) then this set would open the door to all-out political pamphleteering, hate-mongering, deliberate deception and mutual mud-slinging, all through KiSS sets; people who happen to like viewing KiSS sets would get this muck in their faces, and KiSS itself would acquire sordid political associations which would rub off on artists who have no intentions beyond, simply, creating art.

Faced with this prospect, my first impulse was to ditch the whole KiSS scene as I knew it. I then decided to check whether this was really the new trend by sending an angry post to the KiSS mailing list, in which I declared that "politics has no place in KiSS". From the relevant replies, I found that "politics in KiSS" can take various forms: simple portrayal of political figures or imagery, ironic comment or parody, putting personal symbols and convictions into a set - things which I don't object to, and which are not the kind of political manipulation I meant. I also found that manipulation through KiSS - not necessarily political - is the trend, and it's been around since the Big KiSS Page, being the deliberate aim of its maintainer.

So, someone in Japan makes a program to play with paper dolls on the computer, and it's a huge success. Then someone in the USA notices this and thinks: "hey, I could reach a lot of people this way!" and the focus shifts from KiSS as a hobby to KiSS as a means of getting at people through their hobby. And apparently I am the only person to have a problem with this. I'm supposed to see this as KiSS catching up with the times, and to regard any KiSS artist who isn't trying to tout some cause or conviction - and that would be 99.99% of the artists whose dolls I've seen - as hopelessly old-fashioned.

In my first angry post, I said that maybe there should be a warning for "political" sets (meaning, the manipulative kind I objected to), something like "this set is only for very stupid people". Since sets can also express a political view, to the point of campaigning, in a frank, openly announced, non-manipulative way, and they can be considered a type of KiSS set in the way that an adult set, game set or memorial set is a type of KiSS set, I reconsidered and thought that a label for this new category, analogous to the "adult" label, would be a sensible idea. That way, artists who want to campaign can do so; artists who want to influence, but hide their intentions behind the "toy" appearance of KiSS, are forced to come clean; and as with "adult" dolls (or any other label describing a category), anyone downloading the set knows approximately what they're getting, and there are no unpleasant surprises.

This idea of a label was immediately associated with censorship. It was considered "unethical" by the maintainer of the Big KiSS Page, who thought I was forcing him to adopt that label (no, I was defining a new category; everyone knows what an "adult" set is, there was a lot of confusion over what a "political" set is, and after an in-depth discussion I've concluded that "ideological" would be a more accurate label) because Art is political, KiSS sets are Art, therefore all KiSS sets are inherently political. KiSS sets are "Art" because the people who make them spend much time and effort on creating something aesthetically pleasing, generally without financial motives; I could say just as well that "Art" has no concern with such mundane matters as politics. He has political motives for making KiSS sets, which are barely discernible from the sets themselves, though apparently I could have known about these motives from his bio page - if I have to be paranoid enough about KiSS artists to check them out, I'd rather just avoid them - but he doesn't want to label his or any sets as having political motives, because that would be "censorship". A label is a form of information that helps me choose if I want to download a certain set; censorship takes that choice away. Deliberately withholding information about a set makes that choice impossible. I suspect that is what he wants.

If I want to steer clear of manipulative or campaign-type sets on the Big KiSS Page, my only choice now is not to download anything at all. This while most sets I've downloaded from there are not out to manipulate anyone, politically or otherwise. But any set hosted on the Big KiSS Page automatically gets the status "political", which in this case definitely means "manipulative". I withdrew my sets, and got a so-called "note of respect" over the fact that I extended my principle of no manipulation through KiSS to myself, suggesting that my sets were also made with political-manipulative intent; so, just because the maintainer of the Big KiSS Page has a secret agenda, every KiSS artist has to have one. I doubt whether the artists who happily submit their sets to the Big KiSS Page, or urge others to do so, are aware of this.

Again, I'm obviously the only one to have a problem with the notion that humans exist to be influenced, and any fool who opens a KiSS set is fair game. But if that's the way it is, I won't be that fool; and this means that I no longer feel like viewing anyone else's KiSS sets, not as a matter of principle, but because the idea of being made a fool of takes away all enjoyment at viewing the set. And this has rubbed off on other forms of art I used to download from OtakuWorld; KiSS artists also make mascots and kamishibai, so I'd better not be fool enough to view those, either. In all, I don't think I'll renew my subscription when it runs out.

But manipulation through KiSS goes further than the Big KiSS Page maintainer. From this thread also sprang a private exchange with someone who tried to act Miss Popular, but at the same time was defensive about not being "popular" enough. I don't know where she got the idea that I would only take her seriously if she was "popular" - from the KiSS community, maybe? The same KiSS community which abuses the Big KiSS Page's voting system, meant to give less wealthy artists free access, by voting dolls depending on how popular the artist is, not how well-made the doll is? Apparently there are groups of artists who only make dolls to be popular, and liking their dolls equals being part of their group, and being part of the group equals liking their dolls and voting "yes" on them. This kind of compulsive, self-interested socializing I can do without, and as with political manipulation, I think it has no place in KiSS; or, if it's going to be part of KiSS from now on, KiSS has no place in my life.

One aim of the Big KiSS Page's maintainer which I have known about from the start was to "keep KiSS free". That meant, not charging money for sets or software, so that KiSS fans wouldn't be shut out by lack of funds. But there are other ways to shut KiSS fans out. In my opinion, keeping KiSS free also means not letting it become the channel of any cause or ideology, as though having any interest in KiSS at all requires sharing that ideology, or making it the sole property of some "community" or gang of "friends". KiSS certainly isn't "free" if it's tacitly understood that any KiSS set is made with the intention to brainwash. Not that I really believe a KiSS set could brainwash anyone, but at least one artist makes sets with the aim of changing the ideas of the person viewing it, preferably without that person's permission or awareness of the fact, and in his wake, others are using the attraction that KiSS still has to throw in a few slogans and teach those viewing the set how to live their lives right. The idea that people who download KiSS sets are thereby granting KiSS artists the right to patronize them in this way is a slap in the KiSS fan's face, and my face is still hurting. I won't support that idea in any way, and want no connection with anyone who does.

Given my disgust at the whole KiSS "scene" as I know it, it may seem strange that I haven't taken down the KiSS pages, or that I still refer to people I've known from the mailing list. Fact is, these pages were made to provide anyone interested with the kind of information I would have found very useful myself when I tried for the first time to make my own KiSS set; information in search of which I joined the KiSS mailing list, and which I found mostly there. I don't think gathering this kind of information and putting it on a webpage supports manipulative use of KiSS any more than a Windows 95 Tips&Tricks page supports Microsoft's monopolistic tendencies. As this information came to me from others, I credit them; that doesn't mean I'm personally involved with these others, or that anyone using this information owes them anything. Information on KiSS should be as free as KiSS itself, and my contribution to keeping KiSS free is making it freely available.

A bit of tentative KiSS-data websurfing, and this story gets a PS: I hit on a page which seems to have interesting KiSS sets. The base dolls are anatomically correct, as the author warns me, so that if I have a problem with this, I know I shouldn't download them. Some sets, the artist proudly indicates, were given an "Editor's Choice" rating on the BKP. And one, which I would have refrained from downloading anyway as it has George W. Bush's ugly mug on it, is extra-proudly indicated as "Too hot for Dov Sherman"; the BKP (and not OtakuWorld, as the page erroneously states) refused it. Yes, most KiSS galleries would also refuse rape and/or snuff dolls, and not because they're "too hot to handle". To be sure I wasn't misjudging the set, I opened the archive. Judging from the cel names, it was about Bush, bin Laden and urinating.

To summarize: a KiSS set that might possibly be offensive, comes with a warning, sometimes a lengthy and apologetic one. A KiSS set that is blatantly and deliberately offensive, is advertised as "hot".

Some KiSS fans treat KiSS artists like shit. Some KiSS artists return the compliment.