Kokoro Connect

Title:Kokoro Connect
ココロコネクト (Japanese)
Keywords: , , , , , , , , ,
Notables: MIZUSHIMA Takahiro
Something very strange is going on among the five members of the Yamahoshi Academy's Culture Club: their minds have been briefly trading bodies!

Note: this series was initially abandoned after 13 episodes even though it was intended to be a two-season series. More recently, episodes 14-17 have appeared, perhaps as an attempt to salvage the incomplete series.

[TV series, 2012, 13 episodes, 23 min; based on a light novel series with 11 volumes that has been completed in 2013]
1:49min Series PV - YouTube Video
OverallArtAnimationCharacter Design MusicSeries StoryEpisode StoryReviewer
Rent 9 7 8 6 8 8 Ggultra2764 [series:2597#1552]
Kokoro Connect focuses on five high school students who find themselves subjected to mysterious phenomena that lead them to develop a better understanding of themselves and one another throughout the ordeals they face. Pretty much, this is a character-driven series that focuses on the relationships between the five students as they come to better connect with one another through the phenomena that affect them, said events often getting on the serious side as they push the group to their mental limits. The events devote focus to the personal problems and flaws that face the five that help strengthen the bond between the group and allow one to better connect with their characters, which helps give them more personality than just being tacked on with an archetype as many recent anime offerings tend to do.

The show only has a few issues that keep me from wanting to give it a Buy. The biggest of these flaws is that while the contributor to the problems faced by the five students in this series, Heartseed feels more like a plot device to trigger events and incite drama onto the group than a threatening character. Granted that the reactions of our five leads are believable in dealing with these problems, but the events triggering them still felt contrived and poorly elaborated on. Minor quibbles for me would be the show's hit-or-miss comedic delivery and a lack of proper resolution as implications are present that the five had yet to see the end of Heartseed's meddling in their lives and there are signs of romantic developments with most of the group.

Flaws aside, Kokoro Connect is still a solid comedy-drama that does well at looking into the personal issues and bonds that are explored with the five students making up the Cultural Research Club. It's not perfect, but the series does offer enough engaging elements to make it stick out from many recent anime offerings.

EDIT: I recently snagged up the four OVAs to the series where Heartseed makes the group of five be affected by a phenomena that allows them to hear the thoughts of any random member of the group. This conflict pushes Iori to her breaking point due to the facade she normally puts on in front of her classmates to mask her lack of self-identity discussed from the TV series. It does help wrap up some of the lingering character developments left hanging from the TV anime, though there is still little known about Heartseed. Because the OVAs helped tie up some loose ends, I am bumping up my Series Story score from 7 to 8. Still has some flaws, but both the TV series and OVAs for Kokoro Connect are still engaging enough to check out with the cohesion of our five characters.

Last updated Friday, January 20 2017. Created Tuesday, November 12 2013.
Watch Stretch [series:2597#628]
(All episodes watched):

Konnect was a series which got off to a good start, with an intriguing premise and a startling conclusion to it's first arc—and then settled into a mundane groove, recycling similar arc plots again and again without addressing the basic problem.

The series preview seemed distinctly disturbing, with hints of despair and suicide; but that wasn't the mood episode one offered. On the contrary, this looked like fun. Initially it seemed like just another school comedy, but then it got a bizarre twist. The characters seemed to have carefully planned personalities (although not much development took place just yet) which you could get an additional hint of by reading the comments on the blackboards behind them during the OP sequence. The body switching was confusing at times because each person's body keeps using its usual voice even though another mind has taken control, so it's tricky to keep track of who's who at the moment. The question is, where will things go from here? Will this body switching capability be played for laughs, or will some serious emotions become involved, or what? Will the characters react to their mind-blowing experiences in a plausible manner (or at least a funny one)? Despite the preview, for now the tone of this show seems far more comical than dramatic; will a long, slow change in the mood of the series gradually take place? If it weren't for the preview, I'd laugh at the notion that something sophisticated and daring like that might happen. Whatever the case might be, I decided to watch Konnect to the end.

Things starting to get strange in episode two, with some mysterious entity, 'Balloon Vine/Heartseed', being behind the body swapping in order to 'observe' the teens. Is he an alien? A few questions are asked, but we don't learn much. Afterwards the five teenagers don't bother to ask each other many questions either. There seems to be an unwritten rule that characters in animated television don't have to react to mind-blowing events in nearly as realistic a manner as actors in live-action would attempt to do. If the characters themselves don't discuss what's going on, and try to make sense of it, how am I supposed to do so myself? It seems that each character has some sort of emotional problem--a phobia, one or more 'personas', whatever. This is sort of interesting, but it seems to be shifting attention away from the bizarre body swapping. At times I even wonder if there was any need for the body swapping at all, when the characters had relatively complex personalities even before that began.

Konnect still seemed to definitely have something going for it, because episode five was intriguing. Things almost turn very grim and tragic--but a surprising reversal turns things around and returns the story to the usual somewhat less serious mode. Was that a good idea or not? Would the series have been better if it had made this daring but risky change, or if it continues on more-or-less as it is? I wasn't sure. But otherwise, this was a remarkably powerful and moving episode, which raises some intriguing new questions about Balloon Vine/Heartseed. There was what I call a 'thrill moment'--a moment when you are awed and say to yourself 'that was brilliant'. Needless to say, these don't happen often.

In episode six the mind switching seems to be over, but a new form of bizarre behavior takes its place. This turns out to be standard operating procedure: every four episodes or so, Heartseed switches to a different way of manipulating the teens, and in the meantime they struggle with their own issues and make some progress towards self-improvement. But what I would really like to know is what the deal with Heartseed is--who is he, why is he doing this, etc--and the show seems to do it's best to avoid answering any of those questions. The makers of this show seem to have thought that viewers would find the personal struggles of the cast to be much more engaging than the Heartseed business, but they got it backwards. For all the personality which they were originally imbued with, the kids really do not develop much and I can't remain engaged in their own problems, especially when they don't seem to take Heartseed seriously enough. It's as if they were explicitly told not to ask questions about Heartseed, but instead to concentrate on a somewhat less interesting subject, which annoyed me. Basically, they don't have enough 'soul' to make good use of the freaky sci-fi situations that they find themselves in, and a lot of potential seems to go to waste. Also, with time it became clear that the riveting bit about someone's life being in danger at the end of the first arc came and went in the space of one episode, and the conclusions of succeeding arcs aren't nearly as good. Unfortunately, that was the only arguably excellent episode of the series. It's frustrating how a show with such potential manages to employ so little of it.

It didn't help that fansubs abruptly stopped appearing after episode 13 and this was clearly supposed to be a two season series. Here's what BlackSol at myanimelist.net had to say:

"This is to explain about what happened recently involving members of the cast of Kokoro Connect. Basically what happened was employees of Silver Link (the studio that does Kokoro Connect) and some cast members have been linked to a prank where they created a fake audition for a small supporting role on Kokoro Connect. What happened is they gave the role to newbie VA, who was then told that the whole thing was a fake and was given a job as a PR person as compensation. As a result, there has been a large uproar pretty much ruining any chance for Kokoro Connect to succeed. There have talks to boycott the show and even chances that it will stop airing. As of now, the cast members linked to it are Takuma Terashima (Aoki), Hisako Kanemoto (Yui), and Takahiro Mizushima (Taichi). To sum it up, their careers are fucked."

That seemed like a pity. For all the confusion and frustration I got from it, there was still something intriguing about this business of some unknown power screwing with the minds of teenagers. Maybe the conclusion would be powerful, like episode five. After a year or two, I learned that episodes 14-17 had appeared (perhaps in an effort to salvage the incomplete series for OVA sale), and was delighted. But this just turned out to be yet another arc, more about one character realizing something important about herself than resolving the Heartseed matter. And ultimately Heartseed just calls the whole thing off. He isn't defeated, he isn't explained, it just ends. That was a thoroughly unsatisfying conclusion. I basically learned that there had never been any reason for me to be as enthusiastic about Konnect as I had been early on. Yet another example of tremendous potential in an anime which ultimately never amounts to much.

Last updated Sunday, December 22 2013. Created Wednesday, July 11 2012.

Other Sites
Domain for the franchise http://kokoro-connect.com/

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