1010: Connected Hearts

I finished watching another new anime tonight specifically so I could write about it for today’s post. Oh, don’t worry (as if you were) — I was enjoying it a lot, so I was more than happy to zip through it and see how it concluded.

Kokoro Connect is its name, and it’s an interesting one. It’s also not at all what it makes itself out to be initially, which I can’t help but feel is perhaps not to its benefit. But that aside, it’s worth a watch, and here’s why.

The elevator pitch of Kokoro Connect is as follows: five high school students have escaped their school’s You Must Join A Club rule by establishing the Student Cultural Society, or StuCS for short. Ostensibly, StuCS is responsible for putting together a school newspaper, but in actuality they spend most of their time hanging out in their club room in relative privacy, talking to one another.

Everything is shaken up one morning when two of the group show up visibly shaken by what appeared to be a strange dream they both had at the same time. For half an hour, they believe that they had switched personalities, with their respective consciousnesses swapping places and then shooting back with no explanation. The others are understandably skeptical of this bizarre story… until it happens again while everyone is watching. Thus begins a rather peculiar tale.

That’s how Kokoro Connect sells itself, anyway. The reality is, in fact, much more interesting, as while the whole “body-swapping thing” is cool, it’s a difficult concept to sustain over a long period. Consequently, the supernatural “hook” of Kokoro Connect actually ends up taking a back-seat to the real reason to watch it — its five characters and their growth over the course of the show’s 13 episodes.

Kokoro Connect’s cast is a relatively diverse one, initially appearing to cover a selection of predictable tropes. We have Taichi, who is the relatively “blank slate” male character; Aoki, who is the jocular “best friend” character; Yui, who looks (presumably unintentionally) identical to Asuna from Sword Art Online and is the “quiet girl”; Iori, who is the “loud, immature girl”; and Himeko, who is the “cold, aloof, mature girl”.

As you might expect from modern anime, however, none of these characters are quite what they appear to be at first glance. I shall resist spoiling exactly what’s up with each of them — because there is something “up” with all of them — but suffice to say that they all have plenty of hidden depth that is explored throughout the course of the series. The various supernatural happenings (which eventually extend beyond body-swapping) serve as a trigger for each of them to confront their various issues and discover their “true” selves — sometimes independently, but more often than not with the help of their friends.

Kokoro Connect is, at its core, a show about friendship and the way people can and/or should help each other through hardships. A key theme is whether or not you should always help someone when they’re hurting, or whether or not it would be more beneficial to let them work things out themselves in the long run. A question that is asked explicitly partway through the run, in fact, is whether or not you should hide from your problems (both individual and collective) or face them head-on, knowing full well that doing so will probably hurt both you and those around you.

It’s actually quite Persona-ish in many ways — specifically, it’s a lot like Persona 4, which is about people accepting themselves, including the parts they might not want to acknowledge. The supernatural aspect of Kokoro Connect is significantly toned down compared to Persona 4 and is never really adequately explained — a situation which may well be resolved in the four new episodes set to be released next year — but it doesn’t really matter. If it wasn’t there at all, these would still be interesting characters and interesting stories. (This does, of course, raise the question of why it’s there in the first place, but it does serve as a good catalyst for a number of subplots throughout the show’s run.)

If I had to critique the show specifically, I’d say that a couple of the characters’ “issues” are resolved a little too quickly and I would have liked to see some more time spent exploring them, but to be fair, no-one ever comes out and suggests that they’ve been magically “fixed” — the resolution of said issues tends to be of the “I think I know how I might be able to deal with this now” variety rather than anyone having a “magic bullet” to administer.

This aside, it’s a great watch with some very likeable characters who make up a good ensemble cast. There’s a nice balance of light-hearted comedy alongside the fairly serious issues the story tackles, and it isn’t afraid to depict high school kids like how high school kids actually are rather than the squeaky-clean paragons of virtue they’re sometimes portrayed as. (There’s a particularly toe-curling exchange of “secrets” between Taichi and Himeko at one point, but I’ll spare you the details.) This latter aspect is another thing that the Persona series was particularly good at, and it’s a big draw here, too.

All round, then, if you like character-driven stories that tackle personal issues with just a dash of the supernatural, then you should give it a shot. If you can get Crunchyroll where you are, you can do just that right here.

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