Thursday, 3 January 2013

Kokoro Connect - Episodes 14-17 (Completed)

After a not inconsiderable delay, Kokoro Connect returns to deliver its final story arc, Michi Random.  In other words, this means a new phenomenon for the quintet of the Cultural Research Club to deal with - and it couldn't come at a worse time, coinciding as it does with Valentine's Day.

Before we even get the skinny on what this latest phenomena might be, we see Taichi getting shot down by Iori as he uses Valentine's Day to reaffirm his love for her - a surprising turn in itself, but perhaps less so once we learn that the group are currently suffering from "emotional transfer", where an individuals inner thoughts will be randomly broadcast to some or all of the other members of the group until Heartseed has had his fill of this particular scenario.

Needless to say, having your personal thoughts blurted out to your friends and crushes is an uncomfortable business, particularly in the case of Nagase, who is already trying to reconcile her outward personality with her inner feelings.  Torn between these two different sides of herself, and after finding herself exposed thanks to Heartseed's meddling, Iori pushes away her friends in the belief that they don't know, and could never understand, the "real" her, even going as far as lashing out at Yui and love rival Inaba for what she perceives as their selfishness.

When Iori turns down the advances of another boy who has taken a shine to her, she finds herself the target of bullying from another girl who had a crush on the same person - along with her friends, rumours soon spread about Nagase's "bitchy" true identity, in a series of events which eventually spirals out of control, swallowing up the rest of the club's efforts and even taking a violent turn.  But perhaps this is exactly what Iori needs to confirm her feelings about her friends, and to come to terms with her own identity....

Even after a substantial break from the series, this was a top-notch return to conclude Kokoro Connect - another strong core concept which drilled fearlessly into the show's backdrop of teenage insecurity and self-identification, with a major focus on the one character who struggles the most with those issues without losing sight of the other love stories and relationships going on within the group.  This makes for a great ending to a very good series, filled with the kind of characters you don't typically see in your average high school anime show - no matter how caricatured they might be to some extent, there's something easy to relate to in watching the main cast comes to terms with who they were, are and want to be, and how that fits in with how the rest of the world views them.  In short, I really hope we get to see some more from this light novel adaptation in the future, so fingers crossed the controversy which plagued this series last year (understandable though it was) doesn't undermine the larger project as a whole.

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