Kokoro Connect is a 13+4 episode series by Silver Link based on the light novel by Sadanatsu Anda. The story starts off with a group of 5 friends: Taichi Yaegashi, Iori Nagase, Himeko Inaba, Yui Kiriyama, and Yoshifumi Aoki in the Cultural Research Club who suddenly start swapping bodies at random. The phenomenon is caused by a being known as Fuzen Kazura (Heartseed), who appears to be experimenting with the five club members. When the club confronts Fuzen Kazura, they realize that they can’t do anything against him and must find a way to deal with their problem until he is satisfied.
When I first heard the plot summary for Kokoro Connect I thought it sounded like some hentai series. Even if it wasn’t, it seemed obvious that it would be a provider of ample fanservice. After all, if you swapped bodies with someone of the other gender, what would be the first thing you do? I was pleasantly surprised to see that my assumptions about the series were completely off the mark. Kokoro Connect is a very serious drama that focuses on the strains of friendship, overcoming the scars of the past, and experiencing the pains of love.
Each of the five main characters has a positive personality trait that helps them overcome the trails that Fuzen Kazura puts the group through. Taichi, for example, always finds a way to help his friends and never lets them down. Conversely, all of them have emotional baggage that Fuzen Kazura exploits to see if the group can be torn apart. Yui, for instance, resorts to violence when she feels threatened because of a previous incident with a group of men.
Most anime will just toss character traits into the story without any lead-in or even any hints that they exist. Real people don’t change overnight and neither should characters. This is an aspect that Kokoro Connect does very well. The personalities and tendencies of each character are well-established at the beginning of the story. Hints of Taichi’s nosy but helpful nature and Yui’s fear of men are subtly revealed in their interactions with other characters in the first episode. This doesn’t mean that there are no surprises; Iori reveals that she is hiding a dark past through her behaviour throughout the series, but the audience doesn’t find out what it is until the final 4-episode OVA. Kokoro Connect does a perfect job of maintaining character growth and development, and avoiding the problem of the insta-hero which plagues many other series.
Adding to the well-written characters was the great voice acting. Each of the five main characters go to every emotional extreme by the end of the series, displaying happiness, sadness, anger, and sympathy. The main actors also had to portray the different personalities that take over each of their characters’ bodies. For a drama to really make the audience feel for the characters, they have to be able to believe the acting. While some of the crying seemed forced, for the most part the acting was convincing.
The flow of Kokoro Connect takes some aspects out of the classic harem anime – where a few episodes are focused on one character - but adjusts it so that attention is also brought to the friends closest to that character: Himeko’s arc encompasses Taichi and Iori, Yui’s arc encompasses Yoshifumi and Taichi, and so on. Not only does this allow time to give each character the spotlight, it also helps to lead into the following arcs and reveals the strength of the bonds between the characters.
In terms of the animation, I am personally getting tired of the K-ON-like moe look; whether you like how the characters are designed is really based on personal preference. As for quality, Silver Link doesn’t offer anything as stunning as a P.A. Works anime, but it manages to hold its own. There were no noticeable mistakes in body proportions, angles, or object size and the quality remains consistent throughout the series.
Kokoro Connect was definitely an emotional roller coaster and one of the better series from last season. It has been a long time since I have seen such well-written characters and a story that flowed almost seamlessly. With the support of great voice acting and good animation, Kokoro Connect was a joy to watch.