Kokoro Connect TV & OVA Blu-ray Review
In our over-saturated media world were personal relationships and communities are becoming ever more public our inner thoughts and emotions are one of our last treasured private properties. Kokoro Connect shows just how much our personal privacy is important by momentarily taking it away, resulting in one of the more thought-provoking and engaging stories in anime history.
It all begins when a group of freshman students form the Student Cultural Society club. Taichi, Yui, Iori, Inaba and Aoki created the club just to pass their time together. They spend their days rather idly until one day a strange phenomenon that causes them to body-swap with each other occurs. This phenomenon is restricted to the club members, occurs at random times and to random people. Coincidence? Hardly. A suspicious person calling himself the “heartseed” reveals to Taichi and the others that they are now part of his and his colleagues’ “experiment” and will continue to switch bodies until they decide otherwise. Now the members of the Student Cultural Society club must support each other to sustain their normal life. Body-swapping is just the tip of the iceberg however. As other, evermore awkward, phenomena, begin to emerge the members struggle to keep their biggest desires and deep-most secrets from each other. While each phenomenon has a different effect each and every one of them has to do with violating the intimacy of the club members and revealing their true colors to their friends. But not all colors are bright and pleasant. How will one person react when he or she discovers the deep secrets of another? And to what extend can a person really expose themselves to others before they enter an emotional crisis? It’s a shattering psychological and social struggle that can quickly loop out of control.
Kokoro Connect is based on fantasy but thrives on realism. The emotional and psychological struggles the club members must endure are harsh. That would change very little if these characters were stereotypical or carried weird tropes but here all the characters behave like real people, making you care for them and hurt with them in a way no other anime has ever accomplished. Each character is unique: Taichi with his polite demeanor and high ideals, Inaba with her calculated (seemingly cold) mind, the ever-cheerful Iori, the playful Aoki and the timid (yet physically buff) Yui. Each has his or her own agenda to life. Some harbor secrets they would rather not share with others. But those secrets are inevitably revealed by the weird phenomena the heartseed and his organization are forcing on them. Whenever a secret is revealed the members of the club do their best to adapt to the situation. The first of these occurs when the boys discover Yui suffers from Androphobia (fear of men) and has secretly been terrified of being around them. As time goes by all the members are put to the test in some twisted way or another. Not all issues are resolved in a fast or tidy manner. Some linger for the entirety of the show, reminding us that in real life not all issues have easy solutions.
The greatness of Kokoro Connect is that it knows exactly when to press all the right buttons. Character building is king here and every crisis changes the way the characters perceive their surroundings and even themselves. There are romantic tidbits in Kokoro Connect as well. These instances are likewise handled very delicately in order to preserve the feelings such things would have arouse in real young adults.
The series is structured in arcs. There are four arcs in total – three during the series and another one cover by the ova. Each arc features a different phenomenon. The OVA picks up from where the series left and is a bit darker in terms of plot. There aren’t any elaborate action scenes to recreate here so the entirety of the animation budget is spent on making the people involved appear more believable and worthy of our attention. Kokoro Connect took a lot of cues from K-ON! in the visual department (in fact on of the characters from K-ON! makes a brief cameo in one of the episodes) . Both the backgrounds and characters feature clean, crisp lines. There is also some “moe-blobness” to the faces. This compliments the female crew quite nicely but made their male counterparts appear a bit too plain for my taste. Although the overall visual quality is good there is a subtle case of bending around lights during night scenes.
If there is one technical aspect in which Kokoro Connect excels it is the audio. Specifically the Japanese dub is incredible. The crew must sway very fast between various moods and the dub delivers on that premise in a superbly satisfying manner. Unsurprisingly this makes the below-average English dub terrible in comparison. Taichi has an obnoxiously whiny voice in English and the girls’ voices are muffled and somewhat robotic. You should be watching this series with the Japanese dub and English subtitles. For the most part the subtitles are accurate, although they tend prefer preserving the meaning rather than being precise. Unfortunately signs and on-screen text are often left untranslated. Even the names of the four story arcs that form the series aren’t translated despite them appearing alongside the series logo. From time to time you can see blackboards filled with text with no English at sight. It would have been nice if Sentai Filmworks had translated and presented stills of these instances in the form of Blu-ray extras. Speaking of extras, the Blu-rays’ only extras are clean opening and ending themes. It should be noted though that Kokoro Connect has two opening themes and four ending themes.
If you haven’t guessed by now I really loved Kokoro Connect. In fact I feel lucky to have had the opportunity to watch and review Kokoro Connect. It grew on me very quickly and is easily one of the best dramas I’ve ever seen, anime or not. It’s been years since something like Kokoro Connect was released. It’s one of those surprisingly good anime that you will watch closely, love and then cherish for years to come. With good visuals, amazingly realistic characters and a meticulously written plot with emotional impact, Kokoro Connect is as good as anime can get.