Reviews: Kokoro Connect
Normal people in abnormal situations
I love high school romance series, but anything can get old the more you watch it. Kokoro Connect was like a breath of fresh air to me, having one of the most unique stories I've seen in a while. I say "unique," but Kokoro Connect's premise is actually very simple — it's a story about teenagers angsting over the silliest things, leading to genuinely human lessons being learned. Kokoro Connect's strongest point is its cast of diverse but believable characters. Despite the bizarre world they are thrown into, all of the characters remain extremely human in their actions. They get scared, they get mad, they misunderstand, but they reevaluate themselves, correct themselves, apologize and grow. The way the characters develop over the course of the series is so natural, it's easy to sympathize with them as they overcome their personal struggles and grow. Romance is also handled well. Relationships and "love" do not happen over night. The characters have to carefully nurture it, and sometimes they back off and give each other time when they realize it might be too early for them. Love is treated as something wonderful, but also delicate and kind of scary, but not so egregiously to the point of Can Not Spit It Out. I will always consider the Inaba-Taichi romance one of the most well-handled and deserved relationships I have ever seen in anime. Heartseed's phenomenons provide a quirky, unique element to the story, giving something for the characters to rally against, but it does not take center stage. The story is not really about a conflict against Heartseed — the focus is always on the developing characters maturing and learning about each other. It's about observing teenagers being human — not "heroes," just human. It's not a story about doing the impossible or saving the world, it's about doing something as simple as asking for help and how doing just that can mean so much. There are a few breaks from reality, such as Mihashi's brief fight with Yui, which seemed a bit out of place. Also, the humor did a good job breaking the tension at the right times, but wasn't exactly side-splitting. Nonetheless, Kokoro Connect is a personal favorite in the slice of life category and a good watch for high school romance lovers. Don't be fooled by people promoting it as a comedy — each arc goes Cerebus Syndrome fast!
I'm not entirely sure what to think.
(This is my collection of thoughts after watching the first three episodes of the anime.) My feelings of the series are entirely polarizing, even internally. It's hard to remember the last time I've felt this simultaneously positive and negative about an anime. Let me get my biggest problem out of the way first: It deals with serious issues the same way it does jokes about how old teachers are. In the episode I just watched, the show dealt with rape and androphobia, and it wasn't believable in the least. The character who was almost raped was just far too positive overall. She angsts for a little bit, but she gets help from another person, and she's suddenly all better, at least from what I can see. It was far too positive - there was none of the complexity or nuance that the issue should've been handled with, making it seem like a slap in the face to anybody who's been a victim of attempted rape. That said, once you get passed that, the show is actually really, really good. The characters are the best part. They sort of remind me of something from Animorphs or Everworld - they're based off one central idea, but they're fleshed out beyond that and handled with depth. These are real, genuine teenagers here. I especially enjoyed the show's handling of sex through these characters, despite my complaints about the rape above. I liked that it wasn't afraid to face the fact that, yes, teenagers think about sex the way that most of us think about food: necessary, beautiful, and only allowed in small amounts without disapproval from others. I also liked the magical realism on display, the way that the supernatural plot backed off when there were personal issues to be faced. The combination of the supernatural and the realistic has been a problem in the likes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Den Of Shadows, but here, it's off seamlessly. That being said, the core concept made everything a bit confusing. It took me a really long time to get a handle on who was who; due to the constant switching, you couldn't always rely on someone's body to get an impression of who they were. This meant that I often struggled to figure out who was who, making the experience distancing and confusing. In conclusion, this is a great anime... that really needs to handle rape better.