Kokoro Connect Complete TV Series (Cert 12)
2 Discs (Distributor: MVM) Running time: 317 minutes approx.
The five members of the Student Cultural Research Club – created as the other clubs didn’t appeal – each have differing personalities: Taichi Yaegashi is a wrestling fan who will help anyone; Iori Nagase is the perky club president but hides a number of personal issues; Himeko Inaba, the brash one with the knockout punch; Yui Kiriyama, the ex-karate club member with androphobia; and Yoshifumi Aoki, the porn fan who is in love with Yui. An eclectic bunch by they’ve learned to gel with one another largely through keeping many private aspects of their lives to themselves.
This all becomes threatened when one night Yui and Aoki believe they swapped bodies in their sleep. They reluctantly share this news with the others who naturally respond with amusement until Taichi switches bodies with Iori! The body switch continues at random causing much confusion not just among the group but with their classmates too – class president Maiko Fujishima seems to have a thing for Iori which Taichi find when he was in her body so Iori gets her revenge later on whilst in control of his body!
The comedy potential for this interesting premise, created by Sadanatsu Anda who penned both the light novels and the manga, is leapt upon quite early and embraces some of the gags you’d expect when boys and girls get to play with each other’s bodies with a free reign – more so for Aoki as you might expect! But this storyline is merely one of the many tests the team are forced to conquer while their lives and relationships are put under the microscope.
How and why this phenomenon should occur and to this particular group is never explained but we do meet the forced behind it, a person or being named Heartseed, who possess the body of their teacher Mr. Goto to make his physical present known, although Heartseed is not averse to possessing one of the kids either. With no apologies forthcoming the youngsters are completely at Heartseed’s mercy as his playthings, but it doesn’t stop with body swapping. The second arc sees the inner desires of the kids being brought to the fore with often disastrous consequences while the final arc involves time reversal, where our protagonists revert back to their younger selves, even as babies, at random points.
Anda is clearly keen to not allow a single idea wear out its welcome which is admirable although the restrictions of a thirteen episode series do rear their ugly head, resulting in the explorations not being as deep or as completely satisfying as they should be. This creates a slightly rushed sensation with the plot, leaping from one phenomenon to another on a whim but it keeps the adventures fresh and the pace fairly brisk to avoid fatigue or sloth from creeping in.
If Heartseed is not prepared to explain why he/she/it is doing what he/she/it is doing, we at least can see that the effects of these experiments seem to serve a purpose as pertaining to the bond between this young quintet. Each situation forces the individuals to look into themselves and how they are perceived by their peers and while it may shake the foundation of this relationship to its core, the redemption at the end of it is more than rewarding.
Behind each one of the cute little faces hides an inner turmoil they want kept secret, be it a reluctance to confess a burning love or a secret that debilitates their soles and interferes with their interpersonal skills. The most interesting is Iori, who lives with her much married mother and finds herself adopting a different personality for each new “Daddy” she needs to acclimatise to. As a result Iori has forgotten who the real Iori is and with others leaping into her body or her hitherto personality traits being forced out into the open, her feelings become even more confused, and fears she will drive the others away.
Elsewhere Himeko undergoes a similar crisis of confidence in herself and deliberately tries to distance herself from the other for fear of them rejecting her true personality, while Yui shuts herself away after a run in with the police when her androphobia (fear of men) is temporarily replaced by a dangerous resurrection of her karate skills. For the boys the problem is more to do with their feelings for the girls, whether they are good enough friends, protectors or potential boyfriend material. They are actually not that shallow but their hearts and motives at least are genuine.
The exploration of adolescent feelings and relationships via this supernatural premise makes for a nicely diverting viewing experience, turning the whole high school comedy drama genre on its head while delivering some nice self-aware lampooning of the various conventions usually found within. However be prepared for a lot of talking. The core premise is about introspection and facing up to one’s inner feelings in relation to how we interact with others, meaning this a dialogue heavy exercise.
It’s not all that bad and while the young cast are typically precocious in their philosophical understandings and outpouring, they do make some valid points and their thoughts are well constructed. They also provide some great comedy with Aoki delivering what is arguably the most stunningly frank line of dialogue in the history of anime, made all the more startling by the context of the show in which it features! Jaws will drop on this one, I assure you.
Don’t be fooled by the cutesy animation and character designs from Silver Link, Kokoro Connect is a much smarter show than its appearance suggests and is certainly a breath of fresh air within the milieu of high school anime shows. And if it feels a little unfinished despite ending on a positive note, fret not as there are four more episodes to come in a later release – the story behind this being quite an interesting one.
Disc 2 Only:
Clean Opening Animation
Clean Closing Animation
Rating – ****
Man In Black