Despite its sometimes clumsy execution, Kokoro Connect never fails to be interesting, and this week was certainly no exception. I think that’s because the writing, if not polished, has an unerringly keen emotional compass – it always manages to cut to the chase and find a sore spot that rings true for both the characters and the audience. The cast for this show has received a lot of praise, and while I actually prefer the voice work in Tari Tari – it’s a much more naturalistic acting style as contrasted to KC’s highly affected, dramatic approach – I think it could be argued that the cast here (like the writing) is always taking more chances.
This particular “Kizu Random” arc is actually a much more devious one than the body-switch scenario, if you ask me. Both play with the question of identity, but in this instance there are no excuses. We’re always being told to “be yourself”, especially when we’re kids, but Heartseed’s little trick has a kind of involuntary “Monkey’s Paw” quality to it. It’s Yui who most clearly articulates the heart of the matter – even if it’s Heartseed’s interference that’s releasing the inhibitions, the actual desires come from the kids themselves. He isn’t doing anything but freeing them up to do what they really want to do – and sometimes, that’s something they’d rather not admit to, even to themselves.
What a terrifying prospect for an adolescent, if you think about it. Each of these kids now has to face themselves in their pure, unadulterated form – and it’s not always a pretty picture. I won’t harp on it but I’d certainly like to see Taichi granted the privilege of having more interesting desires than sex, sleep and martyrdom – even Inaba calls them out as very boring – and Aoki, as usual, is pretty much restricted to “Me want Yui. Heartseed bad – must kill!” We do see through his outburst at Inaba that Taichi’s martyr impulse is not a put-on – it’s definitely intrinsic to his nature (but what I really want to know is, why?). As for Nagase, we’ve seen enough of her to know this situation has some interesting possibilities – but they’re not really touched on this week, as she’s also largely used in the comic relief role – though she does let a bit of herself slip when she unloads on a classmate asking after Yui.
That leaves Yui and, especially, Inaba as the source of the drama – and Inaba is obviously going to be the main focus of this arc. But it’s Yui who’s the first to openly confront the reality that her true desires aren’t something she’s proud of. As is her tendency she retreats into a shell, afraid to go to school for fear that there’ll be another incident where she hurts someone. When the rest of the gang go to her house to try and coax her out into the light, Inaba unloads on her for her selfishness in trying to foil Heartseed by cloistering herself, thus possibly putting the entire group under threat in the process.
The reality for Inaba isn’t especially pretty. While she does raise the valid point that Taichi’s messiah complex could put him in danger – he was willing to die for Nagase when he was under his own influence – it’s Inaba whose unleashed self is revealing the most danger. I don’t especially like Inaba as a character, truth be told – I’ve never liked girls whose casual violence against guys was played for comedy, and while she’s obviously whip-smart she has a way of assuming she knows better than everyone else that would drive me up the wall. She’s not much fun to be around – but the reality of course is that she’s not supposed to be. The fact is, there’s a lot of anger in Inaba even when she’s not under Heartseed’s influence – and her self-loathing could be the stuff of legend. Take the limiters off, and it’s kind of ugly – this is already a girl who’s too disgusted with herself to openly express her desire for the boy she likes, instead pushing him into the arms of her best friend. As someone with severe self-esteem problems, she probably harbors a secret desire to bring down the derision on herself that she subconsciously (and in her case, sometimes consciously) thinks she deserves, and we’re starting to see the evidence of that express itself.
It’s very insidious, this little game. Yui’s rage against injustice comes off as blind violence. Taichi’s selflessness comes off as pious arrogance. Inaba’s stern practicality comes off as bleak, despairing hopelessness. If one were so inclined, they could interpret the message of this arc (so far) to be that all of our desires, no matter how they might seem superficially, are ultimately selfish. All we really seek to do, even by helping others, is to satisfy some urgent need within ourselves, something no more noble than hunger or sexual desire. That’s a fascinating notion to explore, and one that’s preoccupied philosophy, religion and psychology for as long as there’s been recorded history. Even if Kokoro Connect isn’t taking the most sophisticated path in exploring it, I give it major points for having the courage and ambition to try.