[Anime Review]: Kokoro Connect

Kokoro connect

Directors: Shinya Kawatsura & Shin Oonuma

Writer (of original novel): Sadanatsu Anda

Animation Studios: Silver Link

Version Watched: Subbed

 I’ll admit it. Lately, I just haven’t felt like writing as much as I used to. Every now and then, however, an anime series comes along that I just can’t keep quiet about. Words just fly onto the page as soon as I watch the last episode while ideas flit rapidly around my head. Kokoro Connect is one such series. Featuring the same director as Ef, a show that I didn’t like, there was already a reason for me to be wary about this anime. Now that I’ve finished it I find myself feeling overwhelmingly grateful to the person that recommended Kokoro Connect to me in the first place (you know who you are, Lifesong). With some incredibly relatable characters and relationships you can really sink your teeth into, it’s a bit deeper that what I normally go for and I wholeheartedly recommend it.

The Cultural Research Club at Yamaboshi High is as close-knit as it gets; the members attend it each day more to spend time with one another than for any research purposes. Are they as close as they appear on the outside, though? Are they as close as they themselves believe they are? When a supernatural entity known only as Heartseed takes an interest in them, their bonds are stretched to their very limit as they discover just how little they really know about their “friends”. While swapping bodies with others may sound amusing to begin with, it’s only the first in a series of unbelievable circumstances used to extract every drop of entertainment possible from the group. It’s not a question of whether someone will break, so much as who will break first.

 Kokoro Connect1

Kokoro Connect is an anime that really made me sit back and think. Not just about what was going on in the story, not just about the thoughts and feelings and even themes that were floating around behind the scenes (which is out of character enough for me), but about exactly what the anime itself meant to me. I went through multiple phases of thinking a particular event or expression of character development had been done poorly only to find myself reflecting back on those points later on and rethinking my opinion. Kokoro Connect is deep on so many levels without making any special effort to show off or hide that extra layer. It’s great because you just don’t know how things are going to work out. I’m not talking about those events that you just know are going to have a positive ending, because they’re in there and that’s fine, but more about the overall direction the series is going to take. Despite featuring a hefty slice of life component it keeps you on your toes and I really enjoyed that.

I love that so much of what goes on in Kokoro Connect is so amazingly normal and still manages to be entertaining. Yes, there’s a supernatural aspect but it’s only there to provide an excuse for normal things to happen and it does that in an interesting way. I’m finding this really hard to explain, but it’s like you’re peering into a regular world where the “antagonist” is the writer of the series tipping scales one way or the other just to see what happens. While things aren’t skewed way out of proportion just for entertainment value (which is one of the things I chafed at early on while watching), they still manage to catch and hold your attention, which makes the series really stand out. Having said that, and having understood why it might have been done, I can’t help but note that it leaves a lot of the possible more extreme situations unexplored. There are so many places where the shit gets close enough to hitting the fan that you can smell it without any trouble, but nothing actually happens. Whether that bothers you or not will be a matter of personal preference.

Kokoro Connect

I think the last time I really talked about character development was in my Toradora review. It’s something that, depending on how it’s done, can make or break a series. When I tell you that Kokoro Connect does this particular job better than most other anime by an order of magnitude, I hope you get at least an idea of what I mean. What makes it special in this case is that all of the characters are so very believable. Now I don’t just mean that you can understand them, I mean that these characters act and think the way you might expect an actual person their age to, which many shows fail to do. For instance, it’s not just that they’re embarrassed by their feelings, it’s that they really don’t know what to do with them. They don’t just instantly get along, there are tensions within the group and between members throughout the show that make sense. That realism carries over into how they change throughout the story as well and you can see the delicate balance of emotions within the characters as that change is occurring. While it could be that I’m over-thinking this, the mere fact that I’m reading into it so deeply is an achievement in itself.

Visually, the series looks like a more serious K-On but doesn’t break any new ground. In fact, it’s probably one of the least visually appealing slice of life shows I’ve seen in a while. That’s not to say it’s bad, as character expressions and other such things are conveyed well enough, just that you won’t be watching it for eye candy. I would love to say that it has an amazing soundtrack to balance that out but the truth is that it wasn’t particularly memorable. Technically speaking, the series is pretty average.

Summary – Kokoro Connect is a stunning example of what the slice of life genre can be. Its incredibly simple formula and series of events maintain a wonderful level of entertainment because of the complexity and believability its characters and their relationships add to the near-perfect mix of romance, comedy and drama already present in the show. While it passes by a lot of opportunities for a more emotionally extreme story and therefore doesn’t quite provide the level of entertainment that would net it a higher score, much of what it attempts is done so overwhelmingly right that it deserves all of the praise I’ve heaped upon it.

Score: 9/10 – Great

Kokoro Connect2

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About Silvachief

I'm a Gamer that dabbles in a little bit of everything. I'm big on Video Games, Visual Novels, Anime, Books and TV Series, but there's more to me than just those!
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14 Responses to [Anime Review]: Kokoro Connect

  1. Lazarinth says:

    Hmm, after reading that I’m starting to think I should watch this instead of Sakura so. Obviously you think it’s better and they’re mostly of the same genre type and style of character design.
    Just tell if it has this problem because I’ve been noticing this with a lot anime I’ve been watching: Do the character get developed for the plot or does the plot itself develop the characters?
    I noticed how with Blue Exorcist they would have entire episodes to develop each character which ended up about as irrelevant to plot that it would tantamount to filler.

    • Silvachief says:

      Take everything here with a grain of salt, since i’m aware that when it comes to less action-y shows our opinions start to differ. I would personally say that Sakurasou is more of a comedy, feel good slice of life while Kokoro Connect is a gritty, emotional experience within a light cover.

      I’ve written a few times in my reviews that I hate when characters are morphed to fit the plot rather than the plot being morphed to fit the characters and that’s not a feeling I got from Kokoro Connect. However, i’m not entirely sure that’s what you’re getting at here. I think you’re asking whether character development is itself the plot or whether the characters develop while the plot moves along normally. Thinking back, it’s a little hard for me to say on this one. Character development is important here and plays a major role in what the series is trying to achieve but I would argue that it’s done well and doesn’t come across as unnatural. People have issues and work through them, but it’s not like they magically disappear so the plot can move on. Also, there’s a very important framework that influences everything that happens, so it’s not like character development is the only thing on the table.

      I realize that i’ve started rambling but i’m trying to cover all of the possibilities of what you may have meant XD

      You can rest assured there’s no Blue-Exorcist-esque filler.

  2. Lazarinth says:

    “I hate when characters are morphed to fit the plot rather than the plot being morphed to fit the characters.”
    Wait, you prefer ‘the plot being morphed to fit the characters’ over ‘ the characters are morphed to fit the plot’? – I’m not sure if you mixed these two up because that sounds a little backwards to me, like saying the whole world should change to accommodate one person. In this the world really would revolve around them and their story.
    I’ll try explaining a bit more with some examples that I think did it well.
    Bad (Contrived)
    -The circumstances of events change just to bring relevance to a character’s back-story. The plot just happens to deliver the right conflict so this character can have the spotlight for an episode to develop or evolve. Bleach and Blue Exorcist, in fact most shonen, do this a lot by having demons or Hollows show up for the very point of having an episode that brings attention to a certain character in which their development might be conveniently useful for later on in the story. The episodes are contrived to bring relevance to a character, hence ‘character episodes’.
    Good (Reactionary)
    -The circumstances the characters are put in (the plot) should determine the relevance of a character’s back-story to show why they are reacting in a certain way. These circumstances should be the reason for the characters to change by evolving or adapting to them. In this way the plot justifies the relevance of character development or back-story. Attack on Titan had an example of this kind of development, such as Mikasa’s back-story to explain her lack of fear during a battle. Lelouch’s flashback after what he did in the first episode is another.
    I think ‘characters are morphed to fit the plot’ shows how characters are influenced by the world around them in a cause and effect way rather than ‘the plot being morphed to fit the characters’ in which case the plot or world must be very convenient by ‘morphing’ just for the character’s story. Done in this way the plot can seem forced and predictably formulaic in a kind of “Oh, I guess this is another episode dedicated to [insert character name].”
    How’s that for rambling?

    • Silvachief says:

      It’s hard to put these things into words, isn’t it?

      What I meant was that I hate when characters suddenly have an opinion or perform an action that doesn’t fit with their personality thus far just because it fits the direction the writers want the plot to go in. This is opposed to making sure that the plot fits the characters established personality from the beginning.

      As for your example, I recognize the latter technique as the superior one (by a long shot), though i’m not fussed by the former technique. It’s not the best way to do it but some fans enjoy having entire episodes dedicated to their favorite character, which may be why they’re used reasonably often.

  3. fire says:

    I admit that I couldn’t really get into Kokoro Connect, which is strange, because I’m usually very impressed with any anime/VN that tries to deal with weight or philosophical issues (e.g. SSY, FZ).

    I spoke to a friend about this, and we kind of agreed Kokoro Connect didn’t take its premise to its logical conclusion – it didn’t go far enough. Nor was it as intense and gripping and thrilling as it *should* have been. And the characters were… alright, but somewhat flat.

    How has Comyu been? Not a disappointment, I hope.

    • Silvachief says:

      I can definitely understand feeling disappointed over Kokoro Connect’s failure to take things further than it did. I could try to make the excuse that it was aimed towards lighter audiences…but that doesn’t change the fact that it would have been a better series if it had jumped right into everything its premise could be. Still, as the review says, I still really enjoyed the series. There’s a whole bunch of content (many, many volumes) in the source material that hasn’t been covered, so i’m going to hold out and hope that there’s another adaptation that takes things to the next level.

      Comyu’s been good so far. I’m part way through the second route, though i’m planning to start reading more starting today. It has some major problems when it comes to its battle scenes and lack of CGs, and it has far too much exposition, but it’s entertaining and i’ve been interested in reading it the whole way through. If it can pick things up in the later routes I could see it making the recommendations list without much trouble.

      • fire says:

        Glad to hear it!

        Comyu does get somewhat weaker with its side-routes, but if those are ignored…

        By second route, do you mean Hisaoka? How is it – and how was Benio’s?

        Thoughts on the heroines in general, and which you’ve found to be the most interesting? (Correct answer: Kagome Best Girl 🙂

        • Silvachief says:

          Yep, i’m on Hisoka’s route now. I think it’s better than Benio’s (and the fight with Ms JH was the best so far) just because there’s a little more going on, though I can’t call either fantastic…so far the VN as a whole would be sitting at an 8/10, perhaps.

          The Heroines? Hisoka is a little blank but i’m interested in finding out more about her, Kagome’s a little too aloof and haughty for me to form an opinion at this stage, Haru is a tad too promiscuous for me but I still like her, Rondo is…Rondo (i’m not even sure how to describe her XD), Ayaya’s a little too needy (but looks like she has some interesting stuff coming up) and i’m not a massive fan of Mayuki. Benio is a little too focused on her whole justice shtick, but she’s probably my favorite at the moment.

          Basically, while there’s no one that I dislike there aren’t any characters that I absolutely love either.

          • fire says:

            Regarding Kagome – I think her route lives up to expectations, but a significant part of the emotional impact lies in what went implied – it doesn’t just punch you with feels the same way e.g. G-Senjou in Haru’s route would. I’ll say Comyu is a very intellectual VN, and rewards close reading and thinking on the reader’s part – but an also be enormously frustrating at times.

            On a related note: which VNs would you say you’ve experienced catharsis from, while reading? Comyu was frustrating precisely because I don’t think it offered catharsis, despite building up to and promising it – leaving a lot of feelings and ideas unresolved.

            • Silvachief says:

              I do have to say that much of Comyu is extremely well written (or translated?), and I find myself smiling at a particular sentence or phrase for how clever it is quite often.

              It would be helpful if you could give me an example of what you mean, so that we’re on the same page.

  4. fire says:

    By catharsis, I just mean emotional release. Hard to describe, but it’s what I felt at the end of GSM, with Haru crying to Kyousuke not to go, followed by the interrogation scene, and then the final meeting with his daughter – it was cathartic because it brought emotional release. All the feelings Kyousuke had for Haru, finally took shape, and that final Daughter scene proved so powerful because it provided that closure – all the pent up emotions finally released – Kyousuke feels saved, and everything ends on that perfect note.

    • Silvachief says:

      Just wanted to check, since i’ve seen people use catharsis to mean relaxation. Without going into super detail for each one, i’ll have to go with G-Senjou no Maou, Muv-Luv Alternative, Sharin no Kuni, Little Busters!, Deardrops, Planetarian, Kira Kira and Tomoyo After.
      If you want a bit more discussion of any of those, I can certainly give it a shot =P

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