So what I’ve been missing in the last two weeks is that the characters — other than Taichi — are now reverting back to their younger selves. Oh…kay. And along the way, Yui and Aoki learn some valuable life lessons about their forgotten childhood promises. Kokoro Connect is trying really, really hard to make profound statements, isn’t it? But like with the previous arc, the de-aging arc (I don’t know what else to call it) doesn’t really use its premise to its fullest potential. Remember how the five friends unleashing their innermost desires just turned out to be a bunch of lame “Oh I’ll tell you off and end up hurting your feelings” and “I punch boys who are mean to girls” scenarios? Yeah, it doesn’t get any better here.
My first problem with the arc right now is that it focuses on Yui and Aoki, i.e. not exactly two of the more interesting characters on the show. So what’s Aoki’s deal? What is he supposed to learn from becoming a kid again? He remembers how he used to date another girl by the name of Nana, and she looked a whole lot like Yui. Oh dear, has Aoki’s feelings for Yui been a sham all along? While moping around with his friends, Aoki suddenly remembers how an old classmate died, and how he had promised to live a carefree life as a result. Uh, okay?
The problem here, however, is that Aoki has never once seemed like an uptight person. In fact, he’s always seemed like the goofy member of the fightin’ five. So y’know, I’m a little mystified by how Aoki’s story here is supposed to resonate with me. Is Aoki supposed to be even more carefree that how he already comes across? Is that the valuable lesson he’s supposed to learn? In the end, it seems like the story felt it should give Aoki his proper due in the spotlight, but because he’s done nothing but played second fiddle to Taichi throughout most of the series, there’s just not that much to work with. As a result, we get this flaccid story.
So Aoki decides out of nowhere to pay a visit to his ex-girlfriend. It’s one of those “I gotta be honest with myself” moment where Aoki confirms his true feelings for Yui (did anyone think he didn’t really love her?), but I’m not sure why he needed to drag his ex into it. Also, did anyone else find Nana’s reaction a little strange? After years apart, Aoki comes out of nowhere to tell her that he loves someone else now. Uh, okay? Had I been the ex, I would’ve just said, “Who cares, buddy? You couldn’t have just sent me an email?” But she smiles because they’re all standing in the snow, so shh, this is a poignant moment — a breakthrough!
As for Yui, I never really minded her story (i.e. her androphobia). I just never liked her character, but at least she has a serious problem that needs resolving. So anyway, Yui’s childhood promise was to meet some friend/rival at a karate tournament, but that went by the wayside due to her androphobia. With the help of her friends, she realizes that she’s been too reliant upon others. And I can only assume she’s developed some feelings for Aoki, so as a result, if she’s no longer scared of him, she can stop being scared of other men. We see this play out as she shakes while tying to embrace Aoki. The only incongruous thing to me, however, is that it has never felt as though Yui was uncomfortable around Taichi ever since that ball-kicking episode. With that in mind, why does she need Aoki’s reaffirmation of his love for her in order to inspire her to come out of her shell? Maybe I just don’t get kids.