Normally I write series review posts when a series ends it’s run, even if there’s a bonus ep or OVA scheduled, and don’t write them if there’s going to be an additional season. Kokoro Connect falls somewhere in the middle – there’s another 4-episode arc planned, but exclusively on BD (presumably). About the closest parallel would be Oreimo, I guess – though with the feeling you sometimes get that KC was built on an ancient burial ground who knows what might happen. For now I’ll hedge my bets and focus mostly on the finale itself, and trust that the final arc will happen, even though the first release has already been delayed by a month.
If I were to try to sum up Kako Random, it would be the same as trying to sum up the entire series – a good idea executed indifferently. Kokoro Connect has always been able to tickle the mind with interesting situations, promising more as the questions it poses are explored. But looking back, I don’t think a single arc in the series ended as well as it began. As in too many cases, this one increasingly tended to break down into speechmaking, and I found the ultimate resolution almost comically absurd and anti-climactic. KC always walks a tightrope on the suspension of disbelief issue because of its tendency to rely on melodrama and highly unlikely soliloquies from 16 year-olds, so when things start to derail the whole operations can crash and burn pretty quickly. That’s been the trend, and I found it to be the case with Kako Random.
I also have to seriously question the wisdom of physically centering the series around a character, then declining to tell us anything whatsoever about that character. Taichi is the fulcrum of just about everything that isn’t Aoki/Yui related, the other two lead characters are in love with him, and we keep hearing what a great guy he is. But apart from his messiah complex we have no idea why he has this effect on people. Taichi is no more a character than a big rock that’s smack in the middle of the road. It has an impact – everyone has to change direction because of it – but it has no personality of its own. A rock doesn’t block the path because it wants to – it just does. That sums up Taichi pretty well, and it absolutely mystifies me what Silver Link (or the novelist, if this is the same there) could possibly have been thinking in designing the character dynamics of this series. Unless you’re simply interesting in gawking at cute Inaba and Nagase for 22 minutes, this gaping hole at the center of the show must surely make the entire experience emotionally hollow and false.
This last arc is a perfect summation of the problem. Taichi finally does revert – for about 3 seconds, and to absolutely no purpose. The next time we see him he’s 16 again, and that’s that. What was the point? We also have the problem of Taichi spilling beans about Heartseed #2, which is does because Inaba is being her usual overbearing and obnoxious bully self. You’re right, Inaba, this was your fault – because you need to stop thinking you have the right to control everyone else’s lives when you’re clearly nowhere near as smart as you think you are. So we have a manufactured crisis in the finale that comes as a direct result of Taichi being an idiot and Inaba being a bigger idiot, with everyone’s ages now working independently of the clock (though there does seem a perverse and deliberate intent to prevent any of them from going home).
If there’s anything that really worked for me in this episode, it was Nagase’s initial consternation over what was happening at home. Nagase is certainly the closest thing to a sympathetic and likeable character in Kokoro Connect, and her problem is the most interesting one. I find it rather heartbreaking that she worries that the decisions she made might have caused unhappiness for her mother and fathers, and regrets that she might have done things differently. That’s the exact opposite of the way it should be, of course – it should be the parent who puts the welfare of their children first, and frets over whether they made the right decisions. There’s real poignancy in that reversal, and it’s a very interesting take on the parent-child relationship – the kind of unorthodox perspective that KC is capable of, and the kind that makes you that much more wistful about all the interesting development that was left on the table.
Sadly, the conclusion of Nagase’s dilemma fritters away the momentum it had at the start of the episode. We get he all-too-common platitudes from the big three (as Aoki and Yui are conveniently shoved aside for plot convenience – quite the fitting end for them) about friendship and accepting yourself. Than a very silly scene where we learn that Nagase and her mother have apparently never, ever had a serious discussion, and we find out that the whole fiasco with abusive husbands was effectively a “Gift of the Magi” misunderstanding. And Nasage-san gets off without so much as a slap on the wrist for having made her daughter’s life a misery, and gets rid of her abusive ex-husband with preposterous ease. If only real-life domestic abuse cases could be resolved so neatly and comedically. As far as the Heartseeds are concerned, apparently they aren’t “wholly united”, and Go-sensei’s Heartseed didn’t approve of #2’s hijacking the lives of his guinea pigs and thus puts an end to the reversion phenomenon. There are loads of unanswered questions about the Heartseeds, but at this put I honestly don’t have that much interest in the answers.
I’ll certainly watch those Blu-ray eps if and when they come, but frankly with a lot less interest than I would have thought a month ago. I think the cumulative failings of KC finally wore me down – I don’t think it was ever able to finish what it started, and ended up frustrating me more than anything. It’s to the series’ credit that it was compelling enough to frustrate me by not fulfilling its promise – I appreciate that it had the guts to go for actual drama and to ask interesting questions. Ultimately though, you have to deliver results. I also think the series suffers quite a bit due to a cast that’s fairly weak in the final analysis. Taichi’s issues I’ve already covered, and with Inaba the problem was simply that I never liked her very much – she’s easily the most clichéd member of the cast and I never really bought into her self-important self-pity and overcompensating and overbearing arrogance. Aoki and Yui had a definable plot arc, at least, but they were largely plot devices, as Taichi was. It was really only Nagase that emerged as both a likeable and well-defined character, and she too tended to be manipulated for the contrivance of the plot far too often.
I really hope the final arc manages to give this series closure in a way Kako Random couldn’t. It’s too late to hope that all the problems of Kokoro Connect could be fixed, but it would be nice to see some flesh put on the bones of Taich’s persona and some larger context given to the events that transpired over the course of the series, “Random” or not. Until then I rank Kokoro Connect as an interesting failure. It’s good to be interesting, but ultimately a failure is a failure, and I certainly had higher hopes than that after the first arc.