Kokoro Connect’s Last Story Arc Deals With Personas And Masks

Kokoro Connect Nagase Iori

In the unaired (Blu-ray only) last story arc of Kokoro Connect Taichi and the rest of the literature club are given a devastating blow. This time around they are affected by a phenomenon called “emotional transmission” that randomly transmits their thoughts telepathically to  the other without their consent. Initially the members of the literature club believe this to be an easy task to overcome. That is until they hear Nagase’s inner voice and discover that her cheerful and playful personality was just a pretense – a false persona she adopted in order to appear more likable in the eyes of others.

Tatemae and Honne

In today’s hyper-social world everyone has to have more than one persona, a handful of masks if you will. We wear one when we go to work, another when we hang out with friends, a completely different one with our close family and friends, and the list goes on. There’s nothing wrong with acting differently in different environments; Masks are tools adults use in order to protect themselves from being used or tricked by others, as well as a way to assert themselves in daily life. The use of masks is even more prevalent in Japan where people divide their relationships not only by social groups (school, work, family, friends) but also by sub-social groups (for example: in the social group that is school you have upper classman, same year students, friends, close friends, and junior classman). The use of personas is something children in Japan learn to deal with from an early age and is a practice deeply rooted in Japanese culture. The Japanese term for speaking while masking one’s true nature is Tatemae while speaking in one’s “true voice” is called Honne.

Nagase Iori Unmasked

What Random Ways (Kokoro Connect’s last story arc) does is basically to remove the Tatemae and reveal the Honne. It removes the children’s final line of defense, leaving them completely exposed and unprotected from their friends. The fact that Kokoro Connect addresses the use of personas is in itself a feat worth mentioning. It goes in line with the striking human realism that defines the rest of the show and is a fitting (and powerful) way to end it. It’s also a bit scary to behold. Seeing Nagase unmasked immediately makes us question what would happen if we too were exposed in such a manner. Could we have handled it in a calm and unassuming manner? And how will the members of our social circles react after being bluntly told what we think about them?
Taichi, Aoki, Yui and Inaba are baffled to find out Nagase has been acting like a different individual all that time. The members of the literature club have struggled together and were able to overcome all their previous trials by sticking together and trusting each other completely. But how are they supposed to react when the peppy optimistic member of the bunch is revealed to be a melancholic person with lacking social skills? This time around there is no bad memory to rectify or secret love interest to uncover. A human’s personality is not something you can “fix” or bend to your will in a natural way. Furthermore who’s to say one personality is better than the other? Isn’t this something subjective that each person must confront and deal with on his or her own?
Not surprisingly the other members of the literature club find the situation hard to swallow, to the point where they convince themselves that Nagase is merely going through a weird phase. Of course the real victim here is non-other than Nagase herself, who had her privacy compromised. Being unmasked in this fashion shatters Nagase’s confidence to smithereens. The “emotional transmission” phenomenon not only alienates her from her friends, but also invites bitter self-criticism. Nagase becomes desperate and dangerous to be around. She throws away any pretense and reverts to a more vulnerable and much more aggressive personality. In the long run she ends up harming the literature club and putting her reputation at school on the line. The end of this unfortunate mess is both satisfying and chilling, reminding us again that Kokoro Connect is one of the best drama anime ever created.


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