There’s this outrageous story floating around right now linking Kokoro Connect to a bullying incident. I’m told it’s true, and it’s supposed to explain why the show ends so abruptly. In the end, however, I can only judge what’s in front of me. If you’re curious about the bullying incident, it’s everywhere so it’s not like it’s hard to find. Besides, it’s not as though Kokoro Connect was reaching some high point before having its life cut tragically short. I firmly believe the first arc was the best arc, and as such, it should’ve been the only arc, if that makes any sense. If not, I’ll try to explain what I mean.
I suppose it’s first necessary to address the content of this “final” episode. Iori’s mom sounds like she’s in trouble, because her second husband is a deadbeat wife-beater. Iori blames herself, but her friends convince her otherwise. So even when Heartseed #1 offers to send Iori back to any point in time in order to fix her domestic situation, she refuses. Heartseed #2, we’re told, “will no longer be able to meddle with [the five friends].” Is this a rush job because of the bullying incident I mentioned above, I can’t really tell. It is a wholly unsatisfying conclusion either way. Speaking of unsatisfying conclusions, Iori then has a chat with her mom and… that’s it. Like a Sunday morning cartoon, all’s well that ends well. A simple talk fixes everything, the deadbeat wife-beater is thrown out, and then the episode–… no, the entire show ends.
As much as its fans would like to toot the anime’s horn, the problem with Kokoro Connect is that its problems never get very deep. As soon as something intriguing is about to develop, the arc essentially finishes and the story starts over. In my mind, the first arc was the best as it seemingly spawned the best discussions. With all the body-swapping going around, the anime had a chance to deconstruct not only gender roles vis-a-vis anime, but also the character stereotypes that typically plague these types of shows. For instance, it would seem as though Taichi’s bland, gotta-help-them-all personality could actually be his downfall.
But none of this is fully explored as we instantly jump to the arc where everyone’s “innermost desires” are realized. I put those words in quote because the characters never come close to even actuating their ids. Oh, you yelled at a friend when you’d normally just bottle it in? Oh, you ate a bunch of snacks when you really wouldn’t have pigged out? These examples are all very mundane, but in Kokoro Connect, they’re somehow supposed to be life-changing incidents that our five friends are supposed to learn from. But if the lesson is “Well, sometimes friends fight, but we just have to stick together,” c’mon… what are we? Twelve?
The format, however, is largely to blame for the uninspired writing. If you know you’re only given three or four episodes at most to introduce a problem and resolve it, are you going to throw something complex out there? Some series can handle this, some can’t. Kokoro Connect simply can’t. The characters thus have to act stupidly just to make a serious problem out of a simple one. Case in point, Inaba scolds Yui for isolating herself from the group because it might lead to drastic consequences. The characters know from experience that the Heartseed isn’t reluctant to exacerbate the situation for its own amusement. So what does Inaba do for the rest of the arc? Isolate herself. Taichi yells at Inaba for abandoning the club. So what does he do? Abandon Iori. The characters are forcing themselves to be stupid just for there to be any drama whatsoever.
Like I said, I would’ve just focused on one of the problems and made it the entire series. As such, I would’ve picked the body-swapping stories. It’s not everyday that you get to see characters experience the world through the eyes and bodies of the opposite gender. But even the second arc could’ve been interesting if not for the horribly contrived stupidity. Given proper development time, maybe we’ve would seen something truly id-like from any of the five characters rather than, y’know, punching some mean boys for being mean. The final arc is the shortest of them all, and doesn’t even feature two of the five characters (Taichi and Inaba). They’re like side characters while the other three rush through their epiphanies.
I’ve heard the excuse before that Kokoro Connect is enjoyable because the character interactions are top-notch. Hey, whatever floats your boat, right? This, however, just isn’t enough for me. I see an anime with a whole lot of potential — decently animated and acted to boot — but we can’t live on potential. Kokoro Connect is not a terrible show, but I can’t say it’s a good one.