Kokoro Connect–Anime Early Impressions

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Kokoro Connect doesn’t strike me as an “obvious must watch” series. It’s more of a “worth keeping an eye on” series.

It looks like it might turn out to be pretty good if it’s handled right. Or, if left in the hands of the usual anime hack writers, it could turn out to be pretty awful.

This show has drawn a lot of flack because the character designs look so much like K-ON. This is hardly unique. This season’s (less interesting) Tari Tari and 2010’s (disappointing) Sora no Woto also have character designs that look like K-ON. I can just hear the suits at the production company saying “Make sure it looks like K-ON. K-ON sold a ton of merchandise!”

(Which could easily backfire. Suppose this show is a big hit but the fans say “I don’t need to buy Kokoro Connect merchandise. It looks just like the K-ON merchandise I already have!”)

In any case this is not like K-ON. K-ON was cheerful unapologetic fluff. (“Fuwa Fuwa Time” indeed!) Kokoro Connect is basically a comedy but it has a somewhat darker and more serious feel. Just dark enough that I almost suspect it of planning a surprise tragic ending.

Except that it’s based on a series of light novels. I don’t think you can get away with a surprise tragic ending for a series of light novels. You’d probably be lynched. You can do light novels that start out with a tragic premise (see Sword Art Online) but you can’t pull a switcheroo at the end.

So the premise is that we have a private high school that requires all the students to participate in at least one extracurricular activity. And we have five misfit students who don’t fit in with any of the available clubs. So they get together and form a “Culture Club” that will allow them to do whatever interests them. (They all share a single home room, Class 1-3, which is presumably how they met.)

So far so ordinary. The main point is that we have 5 friends who don’t know each other very well and don’t have a lot in common. They are (counterclockwise from lower left):

Yui Kiriyama (Hisako Kanemoto) is a cute girl who loves cute things. She is very timid and seems particularly afraid of boys (in spite of having studied karate) but she puts up a brave front.

Iori Nagase (Aki Toyosaki) is the president of the Culture Club. She is cheerful and outgoing, though less confident than she seems.

Himeko Inaba (Miyuki Sawashiro) is a prickly computer geek who got kicked out of the Computer Club after fighting with the president. She serves as vice-president of the Culture Club. She has a rather cold and boyish way of speaking but is actually pretty insightful.

Taichi Yaegashi (Takahiro Mizushima) is a thoughtful, kind and capable boy, but perhaps a bit too self-effacing. He is a big fan of professional wrestling, especially of the “Jobbers” who specialize in taking falls to make the stars look good.

Yoshifumi Aoki (Takuma Terashima) is Taichi’s best friend and something of a bad influence. He is can be thoughtless and irresponsible. He keeps trying to get Yui to date him, which frightens her.

In addition to the Culture Club members there are at least two other regular characters:

Maiko Fujishima (Shizuka Itou) is the Class Representative. Most of the other students seem scared of her. She is an aggressive lesbian and puts the moves on Iori, who seems scared of her.

Ryuuzen Gotou (Keiji Fujiwara) is the homeroom teacher and adviser to the Culture Club.

At the beginning of the story the members of the Culture Club gradually realize that they are the subjects of a bizarre alien experiment. At various times, randomly and without warning, members find that they have switched bodies with other members. They return to normal after about 30 minutes.

When they get together to try to figure out what is going on in walks Mr. Gotou, apparently possessed by an alien entity called “Heartseed.” Heartseed tells them that he intends to keep switching them around at random whenever he chooses until he gets tired of it. He warns them not to tell anyone (not that anyone would believe them anyway.) He then walks out of the room.

When Iori encounters Mr. Gotou a bit later he seems normal and doesn’t remember anything about it.

So what are they going to do about the body-swapping? One thing that is not on the table is hentai stuff. The boys are either too honorable or too afraid of retaliation. (After all, the other person has control of your body.)

What seems to be happening so far is that they get to know each other a lot better and help each other out. It’s a reasonable start. So far it has been handled pretty well, with a reasonable balance of comedy and sentiment.

What the author thinks a body swap should involve is interesting. Basic personality, memories and speech patterns get swapped. (After all in anime one’s choice of pronouns is pretty central to one’s identity.) The speech pattern switch makes if fairly easy for the club members to figure out who is who. On the other hand phobias and certain physical skill remain with the body.