Kichigai means « mad » in Japanese. The word comes from "ki" which means spirit and "chigai" which means different. Taken literally: someone who thinks differently is crazy.
Kichigai editions is an independent editor which aims to produce apps for kids which are both cool and educational.
Our latest app project was inspired by one of my experience as a father. The idea for this "Trojan War" app came to me the day I took my eldest son to the British Museum to try to introduce him to ancient Greek art. My strategy was to concentrate on a particular story; I thought I would have more chances to tickle his curiosity rather than to try to talk about abstract aesthetic concepts. I showed him a series of vases telling the story of the Trojan War and I was touched when I found that this 2,500 years old story could still resonate with a 5-year old son. He managed to follow the plot even thought the vases were scattered in different room across different floors.
My emotion could be explained in several ways. First of all, I knew that the day was to be added to the (short) list of my educative success as a father. The list of failures is of course a lot longer : I still see myself leaving in the middle of a concert of the Mozart's Requiem, one of the most beautiful musical pieces ever written, with my hysterical son under my arm. This time however, I was on to an opportunity to mould the raw clay of my little son's mind : the story had captured his imagination through those antique objects.
When one is confronted with antiquity, one can easily feel that mankind has not made much progress since the classical age. One just has to admire the refinement of the mosaics of Pompeii. I could feel that those ancient illustrations were at the heart of my emotion. Furthermore, I was rediscovering a commonplace : the timelessness of those mythological stories. When I browse my book shelves, I feel that most of my books are outdated. The focus that I had at the time of their purchase did not survive the years : 20 years, sometimes 10 years are enough to make many books obsolete. This story is 2,500 years old. It must somehow capture part of the human soul.
With this app, I wanted to tell the story of the Trojan War using as much as possible original antique illustrations, while maintaining a consistence with the characters. In particular, I decided not to use a fig leaf to cover the nudity of the characters. Neither my son nor the other children I have shown this story to, seem to notice. Similarly, I opted to keep certain frames that reveal some of the brutality of the story. If we take the Iliad as a reference, its text is extremely violent and rich in details of rare cruelty. Similarly, some of the classical representations are more than rough : I chose to omit the story of the Greek soldier throwing Hector's son over the city walls during the looting. But I couldn’t avoid some macho elements inherent to this masculine war story and my story shows for example Achilles draging the body of Hector behind his chariot. It would be difficult to pass on this frame without altering the story ? The boundary between moralizing censorship, sentimentality and an adaptation to the sensitivity of child is not clear.
My contribution came down to adjusting and selecting the best classical representations; for example they can be austere. It is not uncommon that the Gods are represented as mere humans without special attributes. My goal has been to choose the most explicit representations for some of the characters. Hera, Zeus wife, is sitting on a throne; Aphrodite looks constantly at her mirror and Athena, the goddess of was, wears a helmet and carries some weapons.
The simplification of the story is crucial to allow a child to keep track of the story. This synthesis was achieved in part by classic potters : certain scenes have become iconic; they were echoed by many artists. One can not conceive the story without a scene depicting the judgement of Paris for example. This exercise is cruel : 20 frames are too short to tell the whole story. One has to make some choices. The story in the app ignores whole sections of the myth. Why is Paris, the Trojan prince, dressed as a shepherd to welcome the goddesses on the day of the judgement ? It is not possible to cover this part of the story within my 20 frames story.