I consider last week’s episode quite a stumble, but KK definitely regained its footing this time, and the reason is that it stuck to the terrain it’s well-suited to. The show doesn’t do comedy very well, but in terms of drama there are few school-based shows of recent vintage that do it better. Rather than relying on the forced and calculated speechifying of last time, this week’s episode had a strong narrative drive that was powered by the events themselves. And it was one of those times were even though I knew how the ep was almost surely going to end, there was plenty of inherent tension to keep me on the edge of my chair right to the last moments.
There was an awful lot of good stuff here, starting with the initial conversation between Nagase – posing as Inaba – and Taichi. My first thought was that Taichi had great instinct, recognizing that the girls had switched before Nagase said a word – but it turns out what was really being proved was Nagase’s chameleon-like nature. She wasn’t kidding about her ability to shift personalities depending on the situation (a side benefit to all this is that we’re hearing the seiyuu put in some very interesting situations too), but this also said something about her fundamental distrust of human nature in that she felt she had to put Taichi’s promise to the test so soon after he’d made it.
I guess I’m going to have to accept that these kids are going to have impossibly sophisticated and insightful conversations and suspend my disbelief – when Nagase can toss off “sophistry” like it’s nothing and Taichi gets her point exactly, it’s obvious they aren’t going for hyper-realism here (another example is Fujishima’s preposterous monologue to Taichi when he’s chasing after Nagase). But the stylized dialogue sort of fits with the larger-than-life nature of the drama. I’m also going to have to accept – for now at least – that while the girls are characters, the guys are plot drivers. The fundamental difference is that while we’re always shown exactly why the girls do what they do, the guys simply do, because that’s what’s necessary for the plot. Taichi reveals himself to be, effectively, a masochist – but why? Who knows. Aoki confesses his love to Yui – but why does he loves her? Doesn’t matter, he just does – because that’s what the plot needs. It’s a shame, because this is a real opportunity being missed – Kokoro Connect is quite good at psychology and character deconstruction, and it would be nice if that was applied to all the characters instead of only three of them.
In terms of Heartseed, more than ever this time I was reminded of Nagilum from “Star Trek: TNG”. My sense was that things were progressing too smoothly – Aoki confessed to Yui, Taichi confessed to Nagase – and it wasn’t enough drama for Heartseed to have the kids pairing off logically, even if they were still struggling with the relationships themselves. Like Nagilum he seems interested in putting them under as much stress as possible to see how they react – so once Taichi confessed to Nagase (and unlike Yui she would likely have said yes) he felt he had to stir the pot. And boy, did he ever. Not every series could have pulled off the dramatic premise that followed without it degenerating into bad melodrama, but it was right in KK’s wheelhouse and once the ball started rolling, it was easy to see that the show was in very comfortable territory.
The first clue of how things would turn out was that Heartseed gave Taichi Nagase’s cell phone before she jumped – I noted it at the time, but didn’t quite connect it to its eventual significance. The jump itself was no drama – spoiled by the preview last week – and again, I never felt it was seriously possible that Nagase would die here. But this was good drama – tense, and gripping, especially after Heartseed laid down his 30-minute ultimatum. Here he proves what really interests him is seeing what the rats in the maze do when they’re stressed out. Taichi is predictably the first to offer himself for sacrifice, but interestingly it’s Aoki (I’d love to know what it was about him that’s the reason for this, but that’s another series for now) who arrives first – or at least speaks aloud first – what I consider the correct decision. Nagase needs to die with her body – as she says herself, how could she live knowing one of her friends had died for her?
The goodbye conversations were quite natural, and quite well-played, and I’m sure they were of enormous interest to Heartseed. I think on some level the kids knew they were probably being trolled – Inaba predictably seems the most skeptical – but they have to act as if Heartseed might follow through on his threats. What a terrible thing to do to children in the interests of science, and a box of sweets as “apology” hardly does much to commend Heartseed to me. Apparently the kids passed their test by choosing to let nature take its course, but what would he have done had one of the others – Taichi, say – been allowed to body switch and “die” in Nagase’s place?
Clearly, we’re nowhere close to seeing this thing through. In postscript we see that no one has switched since Heartseed’s apology at the hospital, and there’s some feeling that the whole thing is over. Obviously it’s not, but does that mean the body-switching is going to resume with Nagase’s return to school, or is Heartseed going to raise the ante and take his experimentation to another level altogether? On the personal side we’re also nowhere near settled. While Aoki has confessed and Yui admitted he’s a “friend”, she’s still rejected him – and told him that Taichi is “way ahead of him” even in that measure. And while Taichi and Nagase have mutually confessed, there’s still the fact that Inaba is in love with him, and I can’t imagine she’s going to be happy watching the two of them settle into a relationship. With both the fantastical and the typically adolescent sides of the story still in flux, we can certainly look forward to much drama ahead.