Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Summer 2012 Anime: Kokoro Connect

Iori's just a little flustered at Taichi

Kokoro Connect (ココロコネクト)
Genre: Seinen
Based off of the light novel by: Sadanatsu Anda
Episodes: 17

I have been into anime for a very long time, so it takes a special anime to get my attention. This summer season has been one of the weakest ones in recent memory, with only a few standout anime. Of the anime released in summer season, the best of the pack is Kokoro Connect. Kokoro is a Japanese word that means “heart,” it is used in common Japanese language to describe strong feelings. With a name that focuses on heart, it is quite understandable that a strong focus of the anime is the feelings of the central cast. A seemingly simple romance story raises complex issues about personality, feelings, and the interpersonal relationships we hold dear. Kokoro Connect is a great anime that stands out in a rather dull summer season.

After a body swap
Kokoro Connect is about a cast of five high school students that were thrown together in a club due to them wanting to join clubs that do not exist or they do not fit into a previous club’s culture. The club that the main cast is united by is the Cultural Research Club. One day they randomly switch bodies amongst themselves. Through this body swapping, they find more about themselves and the friends they interact with in the club. A mysterious creature called Fuzen Kazura is behind the phenomena and they create a variety of situations amongst the main cast to entertain themselves. The first major phenomena is them swapping bodies with each other, but it changes as the cast starts adapting and dealing with a variety of situations. The central narrative is a means to grow the cast by developing their feelings, and forcing them in uncomfortable situations to force them to grow.

The strength of Kokoro Connect is that it has a very strong, distinct cast of characters. It has the most likable cast of the summer anime season. The lead character is Taichi Yaegashi, a pro wrestling fan that has a rather dry sense of humor; he is a self-sacrificing person who always wants to help others in need. His main love interest is Iori Nagase, a young woman who has a rather unreliable mother and has no father figure thanks to her mother’s frequent marrying and divorcing; she tries to mold her personality to the people around her, and she is troubled when her last stepfather’s dying wish was for her to be herself. Himeko Inaba is dour girl who doesn’t really trust people, the events in the story only exacerbates her personal insecurities; like with Iori she has a common romantic interest in Taichi. Yoshifuni Aoki is the best friend of Taichi, his outgoing personality and his playboy-esque appearance is the butt of jokes amongst the Cultural Research Club; he has strong romantic feelings for Yui and does not hesitate to admit it. Yui Kiriyama is the longhaired beauty in the club; she has a fear of men and a complex about her “modest” proportions compared to Iori; she also is the strongest member in the club, being a Karate champion at a younger age. The five characters are all easy to relate to, and their troubles are the central point of character development.

Inaba telling a secret
Kokoro Connect brings about several relevant themes over the course of the story that is easy to relate to for the audience. The first major theme is the idea of our individual personalities. The anime makes for an interesting character study in that it challenges the idea of personality. If someone were to switch bodies, would a personality be distinctive enough to provide a unique identifier to tell them apart? With the character of Iori, this theme is complicated since her personality is a created personality developed to fit the mold of her troubled home life. For a person who never really had a personality in the first place, the idea of creating a distinctive personality is a foreign concept so late in the teenage years. The second major theme that is developed is the personal insecurities that people have once thrown out of our comfort zone. People are skilled with shielding what they really believe and really think when they are in a prescribed norm that they find comfortable. Once they are thrown into a situation that pulls them out of the comfort zone, people’s true thoughts and personalities are really shown. Another major theme is the idea of how people relate to each other. At what levels do we meddle in the lives of those we care for? There are instances where the best intentions will lead to disaster for all parties. Likewise, there are also heavy consequences for inaction. The beauty of Kokoro Connect is that it puts characters in a variety of interesting scenarios, but underlying the seemingly unassuming story are rather multifaceted themes that challenges assumptions of the audience.

For an anime story that is about the feelings of people, Kokoro Connect really connects with the audience by presenting a wonderful, likable cast of characters. The story concept is simple, a mysterious force makes people’s lives miserable by taking them out of their comfort zone, the anime is the result of such a simple concept. It wraps up the cast with complex theories of personality development, human insecurity, and interpersonal relationships. This anime season has a weak selection of anime that is being released, so do yourself a favor and watch the cream of the crop this season, Kokoro Connect, you wont regret it.

Kris Zoleta started working in Anime Expo as a staffer in Manga Library. He worked in Staff Service in Anime Expo 2006 and became the manager of Manga Lounge from Anime Expo 2007-2010. He is currently serving on the Board of Directors for the Society for the Promotion of Japanese Animation, the 501(c)(6) non-profit behind Anime Expo and is one of the most recognized cosplay photographers in the West Coast. 

Japanese Website 
Crunchyroll Streaming

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