From left to right: Taichi, Inaba, Yui, Aoki, and Nagase.
The "love and teen pentagonal comedy" follows the five members of Yamaboshi High's Student Cultural Society club—consisting of three girls and two boys—and their everyday lives as they deal with some very strange phenomenons such as randomly switching bodies with each other or having their innermost desires unleashed. It is revealed that the phenomenons are caused by a mysterious supernatural entity that goes by the name 'Heartseed,' who wants to be entertained.Kokoro Connect deals with what would happen if people could see different sides of their friends—their darkest and even their most vulnerable sides. Each arc addresses curious dilemmas such how someone would react if they switched bodies with someone else, especially the opposite gender, or what it would be like if people had no inhibitions. This series explores the ramifications such bizarre situations would have on the people themselves and how they might try to fix each others' failings and complexes as they discover them. It is a story of Ordinary High School friends dealing with the ordinary struggles of teenagehood, all the while in the middle of very unordinary situations, and how their friendships survive it all.US viewers can watch this show legally on Crunchyroll or Hulu.The original light novel series currently consists of eleven volumes, three of which are side stories.
Vol. 1 Hito Random note Random People
Vol. 2 Kizu Random note Random Wounds
Vol. 3 Kako Random note Random Past
Vol. 4 Michi Random note Random Courses
Vol. 4.5 Clip Time - Short Stories
Vol. 5 Nise Random note Random Fakes
Vol. 6 Yume Random note Random Dreams
Vol. 6.5 Step Time - Short Stories
Vol. 7 Asu Random (I) note Random Tomorrow (I)
Vol. 8 Asu Random (II) note Random Tomorrow (II)
Vol. 8.5 Precious Time - Epilogue
The light novels have a fan-translation here.The anime, by Silver Link, ran for 17 episodes. A new arc covering the material from one of the books starts every few episodes. The series is separated like this:
Vol 1 - 5 episodes
Vol 2 - 5 episodes
Vol 3 - 3 episodes
Vol 4 - 4 episodes
A PSP (non-canon) Visual Novel, Yochi Random, has also been released on 22nd November 2012, featuring an original story taking place in an alternate timeline after the events of Hito Random, with different, serious arc based on each of the 5 main casts' perspectives, as well as a number of comedic side arcs.We have a Character Sheet right here.
Absurdly Powerful Student Council: In Asu Random II. When the entire school is trapped in an Isolation Dimension by Number Three, the Student Council steps up to keep order amongst the confused students, and its president has some very extreme ideas on how to escape the dimension.
Adaptation Dye-Job: The eye and hair colors of some characters differ slightly between the anime and novel art.
A Date with Rosie Palms: In episode 4, Taichi tells Inaba a secret that he hoped to take to the grave with him after she reveals that she worries a lot and can't trust anyone. He said he masturbated to pictures of her, as well as Iori and Yui. Inaba seems shocked at first, but then starts laughing. At the end of the episode, she also reveals one of her secrets, she did the same thing with his picture.
Adults Are Useless: Averted, but the stuff the main characters go through is so weird they figure no one would believe them if they asked for help. It also doesn't help that the supernatural entity toying with them leaves no evidence to work with.
All Love Is Unrequited: Oh boy, is it! We have Aoki for Yui initially, Fujishima for Iori, Watase for Fujishima, Shiroyama for Iori, Setouchi for Shiroyama (initially, but she managed to win the guy few months later in the novel) and for a brief time, Taichi would qualify this for Iori during the Michi Random arc.
And the Adventure Continues: Since the body switching ended so early, did you actually think Heartseed would stop messing around with the cast after just 5 episodes?
Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: The Desire Unleash phenomenon forces our heroes to give into all kinds of horrible impulses such as random acts of violence, verbally assaulting each other and eating lots and lots of food.
Beach Episode: The first Drama CD, "Summer, Swimsuits, and a Storm."
Beauty Contest: Iori wins one in Clip Time, effectively earning the title "No.1 Beauty" of Yamaboshi High.
Because You Were Nice to Me: Two of the three main girls seem to be falling for Taichi largely because of his willingness to help them out with their problems.
Yui seems to be lowering her guard against Aoki as well because of this trope. Despite all of her attacks, insults, and rejections, he still wants to be with her.
Beta Couple: Aoki and Yui become this later to Taichi and Inaba. They have their rough moments, but tend to have it easier than the other two.
Betty and Veronica: Throughout Kako Random and Michi Random, Taichi is conflicted between Iori (Betty) and Inaba (Veronica). It takes some soul-searching, but he ultimately chooses Inaba.
Big Damn Heroes: The CRC members do this in episode 17, after Inaba is kidnapped by some thugs who ruined their club room along with the materials they were working on for a presentation.
Similar scenarios occur in the PSP visual novel, 1) when Iori was about to get hit by a truck and 2) when Inaba was plummeting onto the ground off a cliff.
Bland-Name Product: Bazkin Robin ice cream, Inaba's VAIA laptop, Cola-Cola, Sontory (Suntory) and Melpis (Calpis) drinks, and a Seike (Seiko) clock all make appearances.
Blue and Orange Morality: Heartseed's methods to interacting with the club members can seem rather strange to most people including the main characters, such as the random warping into different bodies, and especially episode 5 when he takes over Iori's body and throws it off a bridge into the river below.
Breaking the Fellowship: The various character's problems cause them to avoid each other in episodes 7 and 8. In episode 9 and 10 however, they largely make amends for the strife they caused the group.
Brick Joke: In Episode 9, Aoki requests Yui dress as a bunny girl and she refuses. Come Episode 17...
Does Not Like Men: Justified, double subverted, then reconstructed with Yui — She was a victim of attempted rape in middle school and, as a result, developed androphobia. She seemed to get along alright with the male characters, but people closer to her are somewhat able to tell she has a fear of men. Taichi then gives Yui a little push to start overcoming her fear.
First Kiss: Taichi gives one to Iori while she's in Inaba's body in episode 5, because Iori was going to die, and she wanted a memory from him before she went. Later, Inaba gets upset that he stole her first kiss, and threatens that it'll "cost" him big time.
First Name Basis/Last Name Basis: The other four main characters all call Taichi by his first name. Aoki and Inaba are almost always called by their last names. One can be forgiven for forgetting that Taichi's last name is Yaegashi, or that Aoki and Inaba's first names are Yoshifumi and Himeko, respectively.
Five-Man Band: The main characters. A possible interpretation of them:
Deconstructed in Michi Random where Iori is further frustrated and alienated by her friends' repeated attempts to help her. It culminates with Iori raging at Inaba for pretending to be her friend when Inaba has created many hardships for Iori in the past.
Got Volunteered: In episode 2 of the anime, Taichi is about to volunteer to help Fujishima with cleaning up litter when he and Inaba suddenly switch bodies.
The Greatest Story Never Told: The Cultural Club choose to keep their supernatural encounters secret from their friends and families. In Asu Random II, a select few other characters like Rina and Iori's mother learn the truth.
Hidden Depths: Arguably everyone. For example, Yui, who loves cute things and is usually the quiet one, is actually a karate champion.
Idiot Ball: The reason why Taichi and Aoki thought it was a good idea to take cute pictures of themselves while controlling Inaba and Yui's bodies. Also, they did so in the Cultural Society's clubroom of all places!
Ironic Echo: "If you're worried about something, say something!"
Is That Cute Kid Yours?: Various people ask this in episodes 11 and 12 when 4 of the 5 members start reverting to younger ages due to No.2's phenomenon.
It's All About Me: Taichi's Selfless Freak tendencies are revealed to not actually be as altruistic as they seem. He admits that, deep down, he's helping other people to relieve himself of the pain of watching them suffer. So, technically, he's performing kind acts born of self-serving intentions.
I Want My Beloved to Be Happy: When Iori runs away, Taichi chases after her, but doesn't know where she went. He asks Fujishima, who says she saw Iori run through the front gate, then gives him the key to her bike lock, and tells him that he's the one she needs right now.
Inaba also attempts to invoke this trope for Iori and Taichi, but ultimately subverts it herself.
Lighter and Softer: The anime distilled and toned down some of the harsher elements from the novel. For a few examples:
Hito Random, Taichi was swapped out of his body and was prevented from reaching out for Iori as she plummets into the river.
Kizu Random, the anime distilled some of the casts' darker desire during their individual BSOD moments, such as Taichi smashing things in his room, Inaba shoplifting etc. And Inaba also appeared to be much less of a jerk than she did in the novel.
Love Confession: Aoki has given several to Yui, who also has repeatedly rejected him.
Played straight with Taichi towards Iori in episode 5. She smiles when she hears it, but then her body is taken over by Heartseed, and he apologizes, and throws her body down the river.
Inaba gives one to Taichi in episode 10. While he appreciates the thought, he tells her he's currently in love with Nagase, but Inaba says she already knew that. And since they're not dating, she figures she still has a chance, and tells him that both Nagase and herself agreed to compete for him fairly.
Yui gives one to Taichi in episode 12. However, she just said it as an example of her current issue of avoiding the subject, which she's been doing the entire time since her attempted rape and how she used to be strong and now relies almost solely on everyone else.
Chihiro gave one to Yui near the end of the Nise Random arc during their sports event, which distracted Yui enough for Chihiro's team to win, as he had planned.
Love Epiphany: Inaba has one with the help of Heartseed of all people.
Love Hurts: The main reason why Inaba was skipping out on club activities around episodes 7-9 was because she was in love with Taichi, but didn't want to act on her impulses with him as she believed that it would destroy the group's friendship if they found out, and more importantly, Iori's feelings, which causes the latter to lash out at her in episode 10 for burdening herself like that.
Male Gaze: A couple throughout the series towards Inaba and Iori.
Not So Different: Despite having drastically different personalities the Cultural Research Club members get along quite well due to being able to relate with each other's circumstances.
A more serious example, Heartseed claims he and Taichi are in many ways similar in the Yume Random arc.
Not What It Looks Like: Having experienced a body switch (with Iori, no less) for the first time, Taichi naturally decides to check his suddenly female body just to be sure. At that moment, Class Representative and School Girl Lesbian, Fujishima, shows up and enthusiastically offers to help the apparent Iori grope herself. Hilarity ensues.
Episode 6: Taichi says this word for word when caught by Aoki and Yui after Inaba has her inhibitions suppressed and comes onto him.
Oh Crap: Taichi gets this expression when Inaba tells him that will be reprecussions when he kisses Iori in her body. She gives him a Slasher Smile and laughs evilly.
Setouchi has this look after an angry Iori finds her in episode 16 after the latter finds out the former was indirectly responsible for destroying everything her friends had been working hard on.
Passing the Torch: In Precious Time, Chihiro and Shino become the Cultural Club president and VP respectively.
Poor Communication Kills: The whole drama in the Michi Random arc might have been averted had Iori been more open to her friends or her friends been more intuitive to catch on to the cause of her angst.
Taichi gives one to Inaba, harshly berating her for running away and abandoning their companions. A tear can be seen in Inaba's eye before she walks off and he snaps out of it.
Heartseed essentially does this to Inaba in episode 9. He tells her about her insecurities and trust issues, and how her attempts to hide her true feelings for Taichi is causing strife within the group that she also is trying not to break up.
Iori also does this to Inaba in episode 15 when the latter tries to dig into why she's going through her Heroic BSOD and doesn't seem to want anyone's help. Iori then flat out tells her she hated how Inaba kept pushing her to date Taichi, and when she finally considered it seriously, Inaba then decides she likes him too, and messes things up as a result. Then when Iori rejected him the second time he confessed to her, she also hated Inaba getting on her case about that as well.
Also played with in the visual novel, where one of the scenes, depending on the player's choice of action, Taichi will end up groping ANY one of the other 4 members of the cast. To fuel the tease, besides the endings with either Inaba or Iori, the game also features gag endings with Yui, Aoki and Fujishima. And then there is that "harem route".
Sadistic Choice: Heartseed gives the group the choice of which personality will die with Iori's body.
Sacred First Kiss: Inaba does not take it well when she hears from Iori that the latter shared her first kiss with Taichi in the former's body. To fuel the Ship Tease, technically both girls had shared their First Kiss with Taichi.
Inaba's grudge is played for laugh in the PSP visual novel. In one of the side route ending, Fujishima stole a kiss from Iori. Inaba and the rest of the club try to comfort Iori, but as soon as Iori starts lamenting that it was her first kiss, Inaba immediately shifts to a nonchalant attitude and said: "You gave away your first kiss already... with MY BODY! This is what you get for using someone else's body without care!"
Scandalgate: "Auditiongate", in reference to Hisako Kanemoto and Takuma Terashima allegedly hazing a rookie voice actor with a prank related to the anime adaptation. This becomes a subversion when you realize that those involved didn't have the time to plan the stunt properly. Oh, and the voice actor in question? He's actually going to be on the series—and this time for real—during the second half.
For those that are curious about this incident, here are some linksthat provide some background to this. And this is an example of why Internet Counterattack can be quite brutal.
Second Love: Between Yui and Aoki, it turns out that Aoki used to love a girl similar to Yui.
Inaba is this for Taichi
Secret Keeper: Taichi is usually the go-to guy for the various characters regarding their issues. Then in episode 11, No.2 forces him to keep the current situation a secret from everyone else, lest he wants all of the club members reverting to a younger age for the rest of their lives. And then when Inaba and Iori wonder how long their current situation would last, he lets it slip that it shouldn't be long. Which then causes both girls to start grilling him about exactly how much he knows.
Shaped Like Itself: Heartseed is using vague mind-control to make the gang act upon impulse. In Iori's case, no one notices a difference.
Inaba: They seemed to write it off as Iori being herself.
Iori: That was the worst part! If everyone thinks I'm being myself when I suddenly shout "Yahoo!" in the middle of class, what does that say?
Taichi: That you're the sort of person who likes to shout "Yahoo!" in the middle of class.
She Is Not My Girlfriend: In episode 2, when the class rep asks Taichi what his relationship with Iori is, he proudly boasts that they're dating. Cue a shocked Inaba looking at him making that proclamation. In actuality, Inaba and Taichi had switched bodies, and Inaba claimed to be doing it to help move their relationship along, as well as get the class rep away from Iori. Taichi was not happy about it nonetheless.
Taichi's response when his sister calls Iori his girlfriend in episode 6.
She Will Not Cry So I Cry For Her: Played with. When it looks like she is about to die, Iori tries to be strong and spends her last moments cheerfully speaking to each of friends while not shedding a tear herself. Everyone else, on the other hand, can barely keep it together. Everyone, that is, except for Taichi who refuses to cry so that Iori may be allowed to.
Split Personality: Or personalities, for that matter. While not as potent as a Jekyll & Hyde case, it's arguably just as bad— when she was younger, Iori began assuming any persona she felt was necessary to please or placate a person or situation. Now that she no longer needs to assume a persona, she never really developed her own sense of self, and as a result, she worries that she'll lose the definition of who she is. Her dilemma is made that much worse with the Freaky Friday Flips.
However, in Episode 5, Taichi successfully argues that her making personas is no different to anybody else adapting to a given scenario.
Not as successful as you would think. By the events of episode 14, she began to be aware of her darker feelings, and mistakes those as her true self while dismissing her friendly persona as yet another facade, not realizing that they all define who she is.
Status Quo Is God: Iori tells Taichi in episode 6 that they should put off a relationship for now due to Heartseed screwing with them, which would likely complicate matters. He agrees to it.
Inaba tells Nagase she wanted to put this trope into effect as to why she was trying to hard to get her and Taichi together. Nagase gives her a good tongue lashing regarding that.
Tempting Fate: In episode 10, while taking out some trash on the field trip, both Inaba and Taichi notice that the garbage collection area is right in front of a steep cliff. Taichi mentions reading that he was going to have bad luck today according to his horoscope, but assures Inaba the only way he'd fall was if he jumped off deliberately. Cue Heartseed showing up later in the episode to tell Inaba that Taichi had a little accident and fell...
Thanks for the Mammary: Taichi to Inaba in episode 6 after she got her lust unleashed. Fortunately, Yui and Aoki arrive at the scene before the situation got any further.
There Are No Therapists: Iori, Inaba and Yui each have some kind of psychological issue they struggle with. Though this is justified since, at the beginning of the series, all three deliberately hid their issues as best they could.
Invoked in episode 10, when Heartseed takes over Nagase again, this time to tell Inaba that Taichi had a little accident and fell. She immediately fears the worst, and wonders if Taichi really did fall off the cliff they saw earlier in the episode. Then its subverted again when it turns out Taichi only fell a short ways from a small tree while trying to rescue a cat.
Unresolved Sexual Tension: Between Iori and Taichi. And later Taichi and Inaba, though both cases are eventually settled after Michi Random.
Villainous Rescue: Heartseed comes to the StuCS's aid near the end of the Kako Random arc when they are completely at the mercy of Number 2's phenomenon.
Wham Episode: Episode 5, which takes a very dark and dramatic turn in contrast to the fairly lighter earlier episodes.
Invoked in episode 10, when Heartseed once again shows up to tell Inaba that Taichi fell. She thought he may have fell down the cliff from earlier, but it turns out that he fell from a small tree while trying to rescue a cat. Both Taichi and the cat were okay, but Inaba imagined the worst.
Episode 16, Iori going on an rampage of fury and then Inaba being kidnapped at the end.
What the Hell, Hero?: Happens a few times throughout the series, but they immediately regret what they did, such as Yui beating up some guys, or Taichi accidentally knocking Iori over and causing her to hit her head on a cabinet while arguing with Aoki.
Which Restroom Dilemma: Happens when members of the club switch bodies with the opposite sex. Also leads to some hilarious moments when they forget and go into the wrong bathroom. Inaba asked the rest of the club which of them had made that particular mistake, and all four of them raised their hands.