I’ve often – probably too often – analyzed Kokoro Connect in context of how it compares with Hyouka and Tari Tari. These shows naturally seem to group themselves together as a function of setting and schedule, but as I watched KC today I was actually reminded of another series that was part of another trio of shows that similarly begged comparison – this past Winter’s Mouretsu Pirates, Rinne no Lagrange and Senki Zesshou Symphogear. I don’t want to take this too far, but I do see some natural comparison between the two subgroups. Mourestu was perhaps an analog to Hyouka in being beautifully animated, intellectual and sometimes a bit slow, and Tari Tari lines up with Rinne in being quirky, whimsical and striving for a balance between light and serious and between plot and slice-of-life. That of course leaves Symphogear as a pair-bond with Kokoro, and I think the comparison holds pretty well.
For me, the essence of the comparison is in emotional tone. Kokoro Connect is at heart built on drama, just as Symphogear was. “When it doubt go big” seems to be the Hippocratic Oath of both shows – lots of big emotions, loud voices and tears. Like Symphogear, KC isn’t especially lavish or detailed in terms of animation, and sometimes the writing tends to bite off more than it can chew. It shoots for the moon in character drama and fails – at least to some degree – a good percentage of the time, but I give it full points for trying. The greatest strength of both series goes hand-in-hand with what can be a real weakness – the writing can be clumsy and overly theatrical, but there’s an undeniable sincerity to both shows that ultimately makes me like them a lot.
All of that is a roundabout way of getting to this point: I don’t think this episode worked terribly well, but I still had a lot of affection for it. As happens sometimes with KC, I think the ideas (or better yet intentions) behind the episode were better than the execution. That’s not to say there weren’t some very strong moments, but there were also some scenes that felt stiff and artificial – Kokoro Connect has a bad habit of falling back on the soliloquy too often, which grinds things to a halt. And the show is definitely better off steering clear of trying to be funny, as it did several times this week, because I can’t think of a single attempt at comedy in six episodes that’s really worked for me.
Again, full praise for the idea. I think the concept of taking a group of teenagers and “unleashing their desires” is full of potential, a subtler and more interesting notion than the body-switching if they can pull it off. It was pretty clear almost from the beginning that what was happening was an induced lowering of inhibitions – I pegged that as the hook not when Inaba was “seducing” Taichi, but by her reaction when the others walked into the room. For a series that’s basically built around trolling it seemed natural enough that Inaba was simply trolling Taichi, so that was a good head-fake even if the jig was up pretty quickly.
Again, it’s really going to come down to what the show does with the idea. Frankly the first batch of released desires wasn’t all that interesting – Inaba wants to jump Taichi’s bones. Taichi wants to be with Nagase, and pummel Fujishima for suggesting she “rent” Nagase for two hours. Yui releases her anger (twice) at the notion of a boy threatening a girl, and
Boy B Aoki vents his own anger at seeing Yui hassled by the fuzz. And Nagase – so far – has revealed little except that she wants to be with Taichi. But there are subtler hints here that are interesting: Nagase’s feeling that this might actually be a good thing because it’ll help bring the real Nagase to the surface, for example (Heartseed himself suggests that this exercise will help the kids “discover the real you”). The obvious implications of unleashing desires in a group of basically good kids in an age group where desire is generally uncomfortably close to the surface anyway should be explored, no doubt – it’s a stretch to believe this sort of thing wouldn’t lead to hanky-panky given how much sexual tension exists in the group to begin with – and there’s an obvious potential for drama when Aoki and Yui’s unleashed desires collide. But will this development lead to some real insight into the true character of the kids – especially the boys, who’ve so far been explored as nothing more than plot devices? There’s only small hints so far, but I certainly hope things go in that direction.
As for Heartseed himself, he remains basically an enigma, an entity whose true purpose beyond trolling children for his own amusement is unclear. There are suggestions that at least to a point, he’s not malicious – like his apology to Nagase “from somewhere around the middle of his heart” – but does he have any line in the sand he won’t cross? This still feels like a scientific experiment to me more than anything, and one built around depriving the kids of any sense they’re in control of their own lives. And it makes sense that the new ED is Inaba-centric, because of the group she’s the most obsessed with the illusion of control. She likes to act the boss, and she likes to feel that she has a plan for everything, like her sensible but naïve strategy for dealing with the current crisis. She’s always known on some level that this control was an illusion and that she was kidding herself, and she’s already starting to admit that. It’s likely the breakdown of her psyche that’s going to provide the backbone of this arc, if not the rest of the series itself.
ED2: 「Cry out」by Team.ねこかん[猫]