If a couple of things annoy me in what’s otherwise a very good anime episode, I like to talk about them first and get them out of the way – finishing with the good stuff always feels better. And there were a couple of issues with this ep for me, the most obvious being a pretty steep dip in background detail – and visuals have not been a strength of this show anyway. I thought the pacing was a bit too fast, too – and that has been a strength – but the biggest problem I had was with the scene were Taichi kicked “himself” in the crotch. Plainly put, it was silly, and felt like a cheap stunt (predictable, too). I mean honestly – I find it hard to believe any high-school girl wouldn’t already know that the weak point for males is between the legs, never mind one who was afraid of men and trained in martial arts. It was done for effect (both comedic and otherwise) but didn’t make sense in context. Someone will surely argue that knowing and feeling are two different things and Taichi was trying to really make Yui understand – but no, sorry. And a guy’s not going to do that to himself knowing he’ll be back in the saddle in a few minutes, unless he’s a hard-core M.
With that out of the way, almost everything else worked quite well for me, and this was another very solid ep. The aftermath of the unfortunate crotch scene seems to confirm something hinted at in the last episode – that these body-switches (whether controlled by Heartseed or someone else) are not random, but executed with a quite deliberate sense of mischief. Whatever intelligence is behind this seems to want to to create maximum stress for the test subjects to see how they’ll react (sort of like Nagilum from the ST: TNG episode “Where Silence Has Lease”). This would explain why most of the switches have been cross-gender, and the particular emphasis on exacerbating the complicated emotional stress within the group. I mean, if you were after causing trouble for its own sake, you could hardly do better than taking the already fraught with peril issue of teen romance and adding body-switching to it. Within out happy little group, this is one pretty messed-up dynamic already:
- Inaba likes Taichi
- Taichi likes Iori
- Aoki likes Kiriyama
- Kiriyama is scared of boys, but has just fallen for Taichi, and may also like Iori
- Who does Iori like? Kiriyama? Maybe Taichi – which would be the only mutual attraction in the group?
I could definitely see Kiriyama falling for Taichi after what he did for her, but I hope we’re not to believe than her Androphobia was actually cured that quickly. Something that deep-seated – caused by an attempted rape in middle school – isn’t going to go away just based on an act of chivalry and some shared pain. Taichi’s messiah complex is definitely a major focus of the episode, as hinted at by the volunteering for cleanup duty – he obviously sees himself as someone who thinks of others first, and oddly enough has idealized pro wrestling as a sort of exemplar of truth and justice. Inaba’s insistence that all this irritates her was pretty transparent, since it could hardly be more obvious that she’s in love with him herself. What is it about anime girls that makes them try and push the guy they like together with their rival (anime guys do it too, to be fair)?
One element of Kokoro Connect that stands out is that it seems to be that rare school drama that actually treats the females and the males as equally important. Perhaps it’s because it’s a plot-driven exercise rather than a true “school life” show, but it’s refreshing to see a series really explore the emotional challenges of both the boys and the girls with equal gusto. Indeed, I think KK is definitely working better as a drama than a comedy – the latter mostly feels a little flat, but the plot is genuinely involving and seems to be building towards some very in-depth character study.
At this point the boys seem to be holding up better than the girls – Inaba says Iori is the “closest to breaking”, but like so much with here this is mostly a cover – the last scene seems to indicate she was the one about to break (as if she hadn’t flagged trouble clearly enough moments earlier with “I guess we’re doing just fine!” comment). Nazo no Kanojo X explored the importance of empathy in adolescent relationships through the use of magical realism, and perhaps KK is doing something similar here – maybe this seeming curse will help the boys and girls to obtain an understanding of each other that makes their relationships and outlooks healthier. There are still a lot of mines out there, above and beyond the presence of a force that’s somewhere between malevolent and mischievous – I suspect a growing element here might be the kids intentionally deceiving each other about who they are at any given moment for their own emotional advantage.