Kokoro Connect is one series I expected not to really be very special. After K-ON! Proved how well slice-of-life anime could do with two very successful seasons and one movie under its belt, the recent seasons seemed to have been filled with anime of that genre, so you’d forgive fans for not jumping towards each title that was being revealed, especially when the summer season offered fans a musical slice-of-life a bit closer to K-ON! in the shape of Tari Tari. Of course, Kokoro Connect isn’t just a slice-of-life anime, but at heart that is the genre which best fits it. It isn’t your normal slice-of-life either, though. What starts out a bit simple and samey, actually turns itself around to be a pretty amazing show and certainly one of the best of its season.
It starts off by introducing us to the five main characters of our story; High school students Taichi, Iori, Inaban, Aoki and Yui. The five struggled to fit into any of the clubs at their school and therefore set up their own club known as the “Cultural Research Club”. From what we learn it seems the club does a paper for the school, but a lot of focus isn’t really put on just what the club does and the most we see of it is the members hanging out in the club room eating snacks and discussing life. It’s then, one random day, that something strange starts happening to our five students. The five start switching bodes. You’d be forgiven at this point for still lacking interest in this idea because, of course, the idea of characters switching bodes has been done many times before, but it’s questionable whether any show handles what the characters actually feel and go through as well as this show manages too. It’s also worth noting that characters swapping bodes arc only last five episodes before we’re thrown into something far more interesting, but much worse for our characters. Now at this point you might be wondering just who it is that is inflicting these awful, but very amusing to the viewer, things onto our characters; well, that my dear reader is Heartseed. It isn’t quite clear just what Heartseed is, all we see of him is when it takes over one of the schools teachers so he can explain to our confused characters just what is happening. Now the troubling thing about Heartseed is the fact there is very little motive for what he does. He claims it’s for entertainment and that, if the characters don’t play along in his little “game” he will make things more interesting, which he does quite often. Past wanting to set back and enjoy watching the students struggle we don’t actually get to see a proper motive from him, nor do we learn anything about the character. He’s just there. Maybe the light novels explain later on (the anime only covers the first few books), but as far as the anime goes we’re left with many questions about Heartseed which are sadly left unanswered.
Heartseed aside, the characters in Kokoro Connect are very interesting ones, and they actually feel real. I doubt any viewer will have trouble connecting to at least one character, as everything they think, feel, and do is something we can all relate to sometimes. My only complaint would be that Taichi, Iori, and Inaban steal the spotlight for most episodes while Yui gets very little character development, and Aoki is even worse. A lot of the time Aoki feels shoehorned in just for the sake of being the love interest for Yui (even if it is, mostly, one-sided feelings). Aoki does get his spotlight in the end, but it feels a long time coming by the time he does get it. However this is mild complaining, Taichi, Iori and Inaban are by no means bad characters, they’re actually really interesting. Taichi is seemingly a selfless freak who only cares for others and not himself, however as the story goes on we quickly realize that Taichi helps others in the hopes of easing his own pain. When it comes to Iori she’s a strange one. From the way her home life was growing up she’s learnt to put on a front for everyone, showing people what they want to see and not always who she truly is. It’s a shame that the anime seemingly ran out of time to properly explain Iori’s story as it’s all thrown into one episode, which in the long run doesn’t work as well as the other stories in this series. As for Inaban, she is probably the most complex of the lot. Inaban grow up on her own without friends, she doesn’t want to cause anyone any trouble so spends most of the time pretending everything is alright. She doesn’t expect anyone to be there for her and to help, but she soon learns that’s what friends are for.
Everything this series does is for the emotional and dramatic effect, and thus the characters all have very interesting backgrounds. What the show does do a good job of, however, is not washing over things. Whatever happens to the characters their pain isn’t easily fixed like some anime likes to do. Throughout the series you still see traces of the pain in the characters and that everything that has happened has strongly affected them one way or another. That’s certainly a very good thing for a series like this, for had they gone to the trouble of all these dramatics to affect the characters and then not show some lasting effect then the characters really wouldn’t feel real. Not a lot of shows manage what Kokoro Connect does in that respect. As far as the general art and character designs go I was quite impressed. The studio in charge of the series was Silver Link who also worked on Dusk Maiden of Amnesia which I also really enjoyed, so it’s easy enough to fall into Kokoro Connect if you enjoy anything Silver Link have worked on. The character designs are nothing short of fairly impressive, but never being too over the top, while the artwork elsewhere was always really nice. I’m especially fond of the snow affect during the last two episodes.
As far as the music goes there is some really lovely stuff to be found here. The series gets two opening themes (although the second is only used for two or three episodes); while it gets three different ending themes in order to fit with the three different arcs. This is one of few shows where I actually enjoy each opening and ending theme, but it isn’t just those pieces of music which are enjoyable. The episodes themselves are filled with fitting tunes and lovely piano pieces which aren’t easily forgettable. Everything feels right.
Final word: The first two episodes of this series don’t show what it can do and I strongly feel that anyone planning to watch it needs to watch the first five episodes to really get a feel for what it’s all about. In general it just really did end up being a very amazing show. It felt like it ran out of time at the end to do what it wanted to do, but hopefully it may see a second series at some point to cover the next few books.