I was wondering if Kokoro Connect’s penchant for extreme theatricality would ever go so far that it would lose its charm, and this episode might just have been it for me.
It’s funny, but this ep felt both overdramatic and anti-climactic at the same time. To sum it up I’ll turn to The Bard: “Full of sound and fury, signifying nothing”. It’s not that this was a bad episode, but it left me feeling emotionally flat, and I never really bought into the climactic scene between Nagase and Inaba. I guess in the end, “Kizu Randon” left me with “Is that really all there is?” It just doesn’t seem like much of a payoff for all the melodrama we – and the cast – have been put through during this arc.
I immediately thought of Chekov’s Gun when we had that scene on the bridge, with Inaba remarking on what a long fall it would be and Taichi’s comment that “the only way you’d fall is if you jumped”. Yes sir, once introduced that element was sure to tie into the conclusion somewhere – though obviously no one was going to die with two arcs still to go. In the end Kizu Random boiled down to a love triangle, and there’s no denying that Inaba is right that “when boys and girls get together, feelings of love complicate things”. But given the very interesting psychological and philosophical questions that were raised by the first couple of eps in the arc – the nature of altruism, desire vs. impulse, just for starters – I find myself disappointed that the arc boiled down to a classic anime situation that really didn’t even need the conceit of Heartseed’s “unleashed desires” to either suggest or resolve itself.
With the gang on their trip into the woods, it seems the school trip was mainly an excuse to physically separate Aoki and Yui from the others (which the story has done spiritually since the beginning) and isolate the love triangle in a kind of laboratory environment. I’m not sure to what purpose it was implied that Watase and Fujishima were going to be important players, because they were basically props – and so, sadly, was Taichi. He continues to be an empty main character whose motivations aren’t deemed important enough for exploration, and while he’s always been mostly a plot driver it’s never been quite so literal as it was here – Taichi was reduced to quite literally an object to be fought over by Inaba and Nagase, whose own feelings were irrelevant. In this sense KC effectively managed to demean both Taichi and the girls, objectifying him and placing them in a clichéd romantic duel and not exactly showing either of them in their best light.
That brings us to the dramatic apex of the episode, the confrontation between Nagase and Inaba. Perhaps this was the inevitable landing point for “Kizu Random” but for whatever reason, I never really bought it – and even for a series that’s deeply rooted in melodrama and generally does it well, I found both Nagase’s speech and Inaba’s reaction to be over the top and forced. Kokoro Connect needs to be dramatic to work, no question, but this is the second time (episode 4 being the other) where the drama felt almost completely manufactured and not an organic product of the plot and characters. I never stopped feeling as if Nagase was making a speech, and I’ve never really bought into Inaba’s self-pity. It was a rough combination, and the scene when the group reformed after Heartseed hijacked Nagase’s body – with Inaba going into violence mode and then hysterical crying – certainly didn’t help matters.
It’s funny, but it was the two characters forever excluded from the main plot, Aoki and Yui, who I liked the best this week. They were a refreshing relief from the unceasing angst of the main trio, and Yui’s “What does it take never to worry?” to Aoki was probably the most emotionally authentic dialogue of the episode. I don’t know what Heartseed and Kokoro Connect have in store for the final TV arc and the extra episodes, but I certainly hope it isn’t focused on Inaba and Nagase competing over a Taichi we still haven’t seen developed beyond his superficial necessity to the plot. Again I have to give KC credit for ambition, and it deserves a longer leash than most series because it’s willing to take so many risks. Still, arc-concluding eps are bad ones to whiff on, and I can’t help but be concerned about where the show will go from here. Drama is fine – that’s what the series does well – but I certainly hope it’s sharper than what we saw this week.