Impressions: Kokoro Connect Episodes 1-5
Observation: Five students comprising the Student Cultural Society (StuCS) club at Yamaboshi Acadamy experience something strange(ly intimate): each other. Unexpectedly, members Taichi Yaegashi, Iori Nagase, Himeko Inaba, Yui Kiriyama, and Yoshifumi Aoki are seemingly subject to the fickle will of the universe; anyone’s consciousness can be randomly and spontaneously swapped with that of another.
Hypothesis: This series is an examination of and reflection upon effects stemming from the Japanese cultural imperative of politely swallowing different portions of one’s soul according to immediate company (read: minding one’s own station) in order to maintain an orderly, efficient society. It explores what happens to said restricted social interactions when complete openness is required on an unrestricted basis due to potentially dire circumstances.
Prediction: While starting from an odd and distinctly emotional disadvantage due to its self-imposed chronology, Kokoro Connect will manage to evoke sympathy for its characters and their situations — individually and collectively — from viewers.
Experimentation: Agreeing with what the Reverse Thieves pointed out in their S.W.A.T. review, the mountain of an obstacle Kokoro Connect faces is viewer indifference stemming from the very first episode’s choice to dive into personality swapping when the characters’ personalities have yet to be defined. This results in a lack of concern for who is switching with whom aside from the obvious sexual tension from the potential breaking of “personal” boundaries. The first and foremost relevant question viewers are then left with is why this is happening.
In its entirety, the situation at hand turns out to be the experiment of Heartseed — an alien of unknown origin in such want for entertainment that it chooses to observe the comic and dramatic events that occur between adolescents when they are ... not quite themselves. After that relatively quick reveal as to Kokoro Connect’s “how” and “why,” the audience (already knowing the when and where) is left to discover the essence of the who's. Aside from the initial run-through of each individual’s dominant quirk guised as each character’s reason for being in the StuCS, personalities and interests of each member of the Student Cultural Society are revealed little by little and only in relation to those by whom each individual is currently surrounded.
The interactions betwixt club members as well as those between them and their immediate relations prove to be the true catalysts for deriving sympathy towards the main characters of this series. Backstories, no matter how poignant, feel tacked-on and fit a little too easily, while the day-to-day awkwardness of knowing someone else has (literally) been in your shoes demands an intimate honesty that’s downright awkward, especially given the particular culture in which this takes place. Add in a rather predictable but well executed love triangle that’s strikingly real in how hesitant its angles are as well as the bonding experience of sharing a similar trauma, and relatable personalities grow and flourish.
Conclusion: There is a very keenly defined dichotomy of roles within this series that opens up many possibilities for exploring and exploiting character. Heartseed reveals himself to the subjects of this experiment though a vessel, the likewise temporarily displaced Goto Ryzen (Mr. Go) — homeroom teacher of Class 1-3. This is a wonderful setup of format if this series is to be likened to some sort of scientific observation or breakdown of social interactions. In the first set of roles, the alien as teacher is the scientist, and the humans as students are the subjects. Separately, the subjects become scientists by questioning, theorizing, and experimenting with the all-but-unexplained rules and reasoning behind the personality swapping. Their bonding together to fight circumstance creates something which viewers may relate to and invest in based on their own past friendships. Viewers are not quite meant to care about the individuals’ stories, but rather the story of said individuals. This is what makes the end to episode 5 absolutely heart-wrenching.
Kokoro Connect is now streaming on Crunchyroll.
As contributing editor at Ani-Gamers, Ink contributes and edits pieces pertaining to anime and games. You can follow his ramblings about the same via his Twitter feed or concerning poetry via his other Twitter feed. And don't forget to visit his arsenal of websites: Inksblot.com, Affairs of Ink, and Drunken Otaku.