My First KiSS – Playing Dress Up With Digital Sailor Moon Dolls

A Sailor Moon KiSS

A Sailor Moon KiSS

When I did a quick poll of my peer group over whether they knew when KiSS dolls were, the answer was typically broken down into two distinct categories: an emphatic “OMIGAWD YES!!!” or a blank stare.

And really, it’s kinda to be expected. KiSS dolls are one of those many things about the early days of the anime fandom where you really had to have been there to get what was so awesome about it.

Be that as it may, I still think it’s worth taking the time to talk about these wonderful time capsules from the early anime community and, for those that are interested, I’ve even provided a few here on this site for you to play with.

I hope you stick around for this blast to the anime past!

Pretty Soldier Stewardess Moon

Pretty Soldier Stewardess Moon

(If you want to skip the rambling and just play with some dolls in your browser, click here!)

Before I start waxing nostalgic about the joy of these simple computer toys, it would probably be helpful if I actually started from the beginning. What, exactly, are KiSS dolls anyway?

“KiSS” is an acronym of Kisekae Set System,1 which is a digital version of the the paper dress-up dolls you, your parents, and probably even grandparents played with as kids. You know the drill: cut out the character, cut out the clothes and the awkward paper tabs, then ignore all logic and put them in the dumbest combinations you can imagine.

The Japanese term kisekae itself comes from 着せ替え人形 (kisekae ningyou; dress-up doll),2 which is essentially what these things are a modernized version of.

In Japan at least, the old-school versions are still quite popular with kids, but usually in the form of magnets or stickers, allowing you to more easily dress and re-dress your character of choice.

Haruka and Michiru KiSS set

Haruka and Michiru KiSS set

So, what are KiSS dolls and what did you do with them?

Well, way back in the 1990s, this was a way for fans to make digital dolls of their favorite anime characters and distribute them online for others the play with. In addition to the clothes that you’re already familiar with, such as the Sailor Fuku in the case of the Sailor Soldiers, you’d often be given access to many other clothing options and accessories to dress them up to your heart’s content.

When you write it out like that, it honestly doesn’t sound all that exciting. But I absolutely loved these things, and used to spend hours as a pre-teen getting just the right look.

The biggest source of these dolls – whether for anime, manga, game, or original characters – was the Big KiSS Page, of the now-defunct Otaku World.3

Once you downloaded a KiSS player application to your rockin’ Windows 98SE machine, you now had thousands of dolls available at your fingertips, sorted by series. When the site stopped updating in 2014, there were 253 dolls dedicated to the characters of Sailor Moon. From Usagi to Nephrite, and Sailor Tin Nyanko to human-form Diana, nearly every character you could imagine was represented.

There's a new Santa in town

There’s a new Santa in town

As with all fan efforts, there were definitely huge differences in quality from one set to the next. Some were… quaint… fanart efforts, while others were absolute masterpieces.

And that was part of the fun! You only had one screenshot to go off of for judging quality, so you’d just download a whole bunch at a time and then try them out one by one, deciding later which ones you’d be keeping. Or, at least, that’s how I did it.

Though I’d love to just keep rambling on about this and other digital toys and websites from yesteryear, I’d rather you just have the experience yourself!

Since I know that no one in their right mind will go out and try to find a working KiSS player and then blindly download dolls, I’ve added a player to my blog and a selection of dolls, so you can play right from your own browser. Check it out!

Kisekae Dolls

Dark Kingdom Taiki? That sounds about right

Dark Kingdom Taiki? That sounds about right

So how many of you actually used to play with these back in the day? While I kinda fell out of my KiSS obsession, I did collect a ton of dolls when I was really into it. If fact, I’m pretty sure that I can directly connect my love for customizing my characters in modern video games to all my wasted afternoons as a youth spent dressing up my favorite anime girls.

As I’ve mentioned before, I like to keep this blog from getting too personal, since the goal here is to answer questions about Sailor Moon mysteries and not my experiences as a fan, but… hey, it’s the weekend. Anything goes! If you have any other suggestions for topics like this, I’d love to hear them!


References:

6 comments

  • Yaaay! What a sweet little feature for your site!! Thank you! I think I came to the KiSS dolls a little later even though I was around when Otaku World was still going strong. I first saw them on the old Sailor-V Games site and on Senshi Playground. You’re right… Soooo many hours spent XD. I always preferred sets that had at least one or two casual outfits from the anime but only if there were lots of other outfits in the set too. Mixing and matching was the whole fun of it! I think at one point I used a doll as a sort of checklist for my cosplay progress, putting on each piece of the fuku as I completed it in real life. That was a really satisfying thing!

    • I don’t imagine it’ll get much use, but when I found out that there was a way to make old KiSS dolls playable in the browser without needing to rebuild all the files, I thought it would be an absolutely perfect feature to add.

      To be totally honest, I tried playing around with them now and have zero clue what was so entertaining about it back in the day. But those were simpler times, I suppose, and I had a whole lot less to do with my time. They’re still a fun little time capsule, though, especially when you consider that most of the casual outfits are based on clothes that were popular at the time!

  • I liked the KISS dolls that made sounds. Some got so dirty! Lol. Oh man, early days of fandom and internet.

    • Let’s just say that there are quite a few KiSS dolls that were just a tad too risque to put up on the site. But lots of fun ones, too!

  • I never thought much of the KISS dolls and the entertainment value seemed very limited to me. But it was something related to Sailor Moon and it was free, so of course I had to download them and try it out. That makes me think… whenever I upgrade from one computer to another, I always transfer my files over and I’ve got a jumbled mess of folders going back I don’t know how many years. I wouldn’t be surprised if I still have those KISS doll programs in there somewhere.

    I do remember being impressed by one set that included a lot of the actual everyday outfits the characters wore regularly on the show. And I got a couple minutes of amusement by seeing how each character would look if they belonged to different planets (Minako in the green Jupiter outfit, Ami in the red Mars outfit, etc.)

    • As you mentioned, I think my favorite sets were the ones that let you actually mix and match some of the more common outfits (or the sailor uniforms) between characters, or even give different hairstyles to everyone.
      I used to play a lot of pen-and-paper RPGs when I was younger, and one of them was about Sailor Moon, so KiSS dolls were a great way to get ideas for what outfits the characters would be wearing on their different outings.

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