「壊れてゆく日々」 (Kowareteyuku Hibi)
“The Days Fall Apart”
Kokoro Connect is back for its final 4 episodes and it wastes no time jumping right back into the story. We open up with Valentine’s Day and to my surprise, Taichi makes the bold move of asking Iori out. I thought that with the new development between Iori and her mother (and finding out Himeko’s feelings), the romance department would’ve taken a back seat. But no, Kokoro Connect would not be the drama that it is without the awkward situations and Heartseed’s influences. Of course, there’s also no better way to get to know someone than by reading their thoughts. I’d have to say though, not only is it a pain to have your own thoughts overhead, but to hear what others thought of you, I think that’s the worst… and I can definitely relate to Iori’s breakdown.
Along with this new phenomenon, the club members also discover that Gotou cannot be an advisor for two clubs in the upcoming year. In order to keep Gotou as their advisor, they will have to compete against the Jazz club in a presentation – what kind of presentation? Well I wasn’t too sure of that myself until the finale. This poised issues for our group since it required teamwork and Iori was clearly not in the mindset for company (or friends for that matter). I found her drastic change in attitude a little hard to believe at first, but if you can imagine having all your thoughts contradict your words and actions, I can imagine how someone would go antisocial. Unfortunately, this doesn’t get much better next episode.
「なにも見えてない なにもわかってない」 (Nanimo Mietenai Nanimo Wakattenai)
“You Don’t See it, You Don’t Get it”
Iori has always been the clear favorite of mine, but within just two episodes, I already couldn’t stand her new personality. What bothers me was her lack of explanation of why and where this comes from. I understand that she felt misunderstood all this time – she felt that she had to pretend to be someone she wasn’t so people would approve of her and like her more. I can definitely empathize since I’m sure everyone wants to blend in and be accepted as part of society. Iori didn’t want to be this “person” anymore and she felt that the nice/bubbly/cheerful side to her, wasn’t her and she flipped 180 degrees to become this antisocial/quiet/uncaring character. I think the deal with Iori is that she tried too hard to be one way when she did have another side to her. It’s clearly eating her up on the inside and when she straight up rejected Taichi and Yui, I felt extremely bad for both parties.
Heartseed shows up several times these past couple of episodes – with Aoki and Yui on two separate occasions. I thought he would play a more devious role in making things “interesting”, but luckily he only gave them a quick evaluation. I can’t believe he said Aoki and Yui were uninteresting! In hindsight though, that’s not a bad way to be categorized when the goal is to escape Heartseed’s watch and trials.
I know that the romance between Aoki and Yui is pretty clear-cut right now, but I can’t help but wonder what it would be like between Yui and Taichi. They’re great as friends, and ever since Taichi helped Yui overcome her phobia, I’ve always secreted hoped that there could be something there. Even if that ship has sailed though, I believe that Yui brought up a good point – Taichi has the ability to help Iori and he needs to reach out to her more.
「覚悟と氷解」 (Kakugo to Hyoukai)
“Determination and Resolution”
Iori’s problems quickly spread to those beyond the club and we’re introduced to a few new characters who I feel are just being slotted into the show “just because”. Not that Setouchi Karou (Uesaka Sumire) isn’t a good character, but I felt like her presence was so forced. From a simple rejection? Shouldn’t Karou be happy that she has a chance with the dude now? Nevertheless, I underestimated Karou and her friends and would have never believed that they would go all that way to trash CRC’s presentation. Iori quickly came to the conclusion that it had to be Karou’s doing (who else right?) and it set her on fire! I would’ve liked to see Karou’s ass handed to her, but I guess she’s really just a coward on the inside.
Unfortunately, this movement was still not really enough to bring our group back together. Iori was still distant and cold while Taichi and Himeko tried to get through to her. I felt bad that all their attempts just seemed to flop over because Iori was a stubborn and seemingly aware of what she was doing (which makes it worse). I laughed when Himeko finally admitted to having dreams about Taichi and to the extent that she could draw out their position! That takes guts (to all the men out there that never hear girls talk about this openly) so I give her my full respect. Taichi also steps it up and this is probably what got through to Iori (as Yui predicted). She wants to know that people would love her regardless of how she acts. What Taichi means is – he loves her as a person and who she is. How people show their affections may vary, but she has good intentions and that’s probably who he fell in love with. Too bad it just… didn’t last.
「心をつないで」 (Kokoro o Tsunaide)
The final episode started off by tying off all the major plot points. From the destruction of the club room to Iori’s realization that “hey! I’m not such a bad person!“. It came off as abruptly as it started, but like I said previously, I never thought of her as a bad person – both her personas are part of her as a whole person. She just has to learn to embrace it and accept it. Overall, I thought it was a good way to tie in Karou to the story too. She’s made a few new friends and gets her own appearance in the aftermath as well (looks a bit like Himeko…). I’m not completely satisfied with the way that she was dragged into the story, but it proved as a good trigger for our ending. And hey! It looks like Gotou can continue to advise the CRC while helping the Jazz club at the same time… Trolololol? That in all honesty, felt like wasted efforts for the club members.
Now the answer that everyone’s been waiting for…. who did Taichi pick?! I’ve been purposely avoiding this aspect of the story for the sake of keeping it condensed to this one paragraph. I know what a lot of people will say here – Dereban! Knowing my readers (or at least the ones who leave comments), I’m sure a lot of you will be satisfied with this ending. Himeko finally gets her man after taking the back seat for so long and pushing the Taichi x Iori ship. I can’t say that she doesn’t deserve it because she does! After all the three of them have been through, I can see that Iori is really not ready to be in a relationship. Himeko is and she is mature enough to admit that she is selfish. She wants to be with Taichi and I feel bad for her because Taichi’s never seen that. On the other hand, I don’t blame Taichi for being so tunnel-visioned when he was in love with Iori (most people are). I’m just glad that Taichi and Iori had their closure. They admit that they were in love… but sometimes that’s not enough to sustain your relationship. In this case, Himeko and Taichi are a better pair right now and I don’t deny that it’s a very fitting ending to the love triangle.
ED4: 「I scream Chocolatl」 by Team.ねこかん［猫］featuring.Lia (Team.Nekokan [Neko] featuring. Lia)
Kokoro Connect started off as one of the most anticipated series to air during the Summer of 2012 and I for one, admittedly went in with very little knowledge of its source material. I didn’t see what all the hype was about until the end of the first arc. The sudden twist of fate involving Iori and the body swaps made it a very entertaining first few episodes. The story was funny, original and the cast of characters were so broad and easily relatable. Amongst the 5 of them, you can see that they each have their own individual issues, but at the same time, they’re also all teenagers trying to discover who they are and what they can do to help one another survive Heartseed’s phenomena. In the end, I think there’s a little bit for everyone to empathize with – whether you suffer identity issues (like Iori) or can’t get your crush to notice you (like Himeko), Kokoro Connect brings to surface a lot of troubles that teenagers go through.
With that said, my interest level does drop gradually as the arcs progress. As “realistic” as the story tries to be, there are moments that drag on and on. I understand that in real life, people can’t be expected to change personalities on demand – that’s just not how human nature works. In an anime though, I would hope that the story develops in a way that keeps me intrigued and brings in new issues without the same ones reoccurring. This was probably the only thing that the series suffered from, and although a lot of people may disagree, I would’ve liked to see more progression before the final 4 episodes. A large part of me would also rant and complain about Heartseed’s involvement – mainly due to the lack of explanations! However, I’ve learned to accept that as random as it seems, it’s only a minor part of the show that’s meant to bring out the “real” characters and how they deal with each phenomena. You learn to accept it at face value.
In the end, Kokoro Connect is definitely one of the more dramatic slice-of-life series that I’ve seen in 2012. It brings together 5 seemingly normal teenagers and throws them in awkward, random and very uncomfortable situations. With each new arc, the audience learns that each character has their own flaws and how they deal with their past and identities. The premise is fresh and beats the typical love-triangle angle that most romantic comedies try to spin. On the surface, I thought the series would be light-hearted and comedic, but there are definitely some dark undertones to it. You can’t underestimate the level of emotional impact some of the these scenes have so for those that haven’t seen the series – don’t take it too lightly!