Feb 26, 2019
Duckielover151 (All reviews)
On one hand, I really loved this show. On the other… I didn’t like it as much as I wanted to. I tend to see the two main components of Kokoro Connect (the friendship story and the mystical/supernatural elements of the story that led to the kids getting closer) as two very separate things, because one was done very well, and the other just… wasn’t. Which is unfortunate. If it had been a truly great show, these components would have blended together effortlessly, like I assume was the intention, but I think I’m getting a little ahead of myself.

To start with what Kokoro Connect did well, I love these types of friendship stories: where something brings a group of kids who don’t have much in common together and then forces them to suddenly get real close, real fast. At first, it’s the school these five attend, which requires every student to join a club. This group ends up together just because they don’t really fit in anywhere else. (A premise that has a lot of potential on its own.) But the real catalyst is when they suddenly start swapping bodies for brief periods of time.

This series gets off to a really good start. I’ve always felt that the first episode is pretty brilliant. The whole thing takes place almost exclusively in their club room, and we barely know these kids at this point, but it felt obvious, even to a first-time viewer, how out of place Iori’s high-energy reactions and mannerisms looked in Taichi’s body. It just felt like a very fun, very clever way to introduce us to and acquaint us with these characters. And the atmosphere and tone of the whole thing was great too. Even with its more lighthearted moments, the scenes where it really sunk in for them that this crazy, unexplainable thing was actually happening felt genuinely eerie. It felt very real to me.

And as the series goes on, I came to really like all the characters and their personal stories. Everything from Himeko’s pride to Iori’s identity issues… Aoki questioning what it really means to love someone and Taichi’s battle between selfishness and selflessness… And especially Yui’s journey to recover from a past sexual assault over the course of the series… Every single one of them moved me at some point, and I think they’re all relatable in their own ways. And I loved seeing them all grow closer as the anime went on, navigating these increasingly invasive supernatural happenings.

Which unfortunately leads us in to the part of this story that was not handled quite so well. We are technically given an answer as to why these things are happening: in the form of Heartseed, this vague alien(?) being that’s taken over the teacher who acts as their club advisor. But it is one of the most half-assed excuses for anything that I’ve ever seen. Heartseed has no personality or motivations to speak of. He tells them they’re entertainment to him and these things will just keep happening until he grows bored of them.

Which does happen. Kind of. Once they’re rid of the body swapping, they start losing their impulse control for brief periods of time. After these ‘unleashed desires’ come to an end, brief periods of de-aging begin. And after the de-aging, they start hearing each others’ thoughts. And I think the worst thing is… that it’s not like these aren’t interesting ideas. But I was losing patience with this show before it was even half over. Heartseed is nothing more than a weak plot device, an excuse for the creator to play with these (genuinely interesting and likable) characters. We’re never given any deeper explanation of what/who Heartseed is. It just felt… lazy. It felt like blatant creator manipulation, which was really disappointing to me.

I think whether or not you’ll enjoy this show really depends on what you’re looking to get out of it. The heartfelt friendship story is really good, but the supernatural plotline that’s meant to be the big, driving force behind it all is really lackluster. Personally, I wanted both.

I’m not going to write a separate review for the Michi Random episodes, but it should be noted that they’re not really OVAs in the way that I tend to think of them: as mini adventure stories unrelated to the main plot. The Michi Random OVAs are really just the last four episodes of the show, wrapping up the love triangle, Iori’s personal journey, and (sort of) the business with Heartseed. I do think it’s important to note, though, before you jump in, that the episodes that really complete the series were only ever released on DVD. (Instead of reaching the end of episode 13, like me, and Then realizing there’s more to the story.)