Kokoro Connect – Episode 1

Kokoro Connect starts off with a somewhat uneven first episode. That doesn’t really come down to the production, or even the storytelling – the show has nice painted backgrounds that give everything something of a faded, nostalgic look, and the story moves quickly and gracefully into a compelling premise (suddenly we’re swapping bodies for no apparent reason!). The character designs are distinctive and expressive, and nothing really drags. As far as fundamental composition goes, this premiere is a very solid affair. The real issue here is based in the uneasy relationship between the show’s clear goals and its fundamental nature.

Kokoro Connect

Kokoro Connect is clearly a show about coming to understand other people, a theme almost implicit in its body-switching premise. The show stars five high school freshmen: Taichi, Iori, Aoki, Yui, and Inaba. None of these five have all that much in common, but they’re brought together into a single club by virtue of all being slight weirdoes who weren’t happy anywhere else. The first third of this episode is dedicated largely to banter between Taichi, Iori, and Inaba, where we learn that Taichi’s a low-key version of the usual snarky protagonist, Iori is very upbeat but also far from innocent, and Inaba is basically the straight man, sometimes playing along with Iori but also sometimes getting exasperated with her acquaintances’ behavior.

All of that is well and good, and Kokoro Connect is actually better about establishing grounded personal characteristics than most shows. There’s actual banter here – characters take the lines of others and run with them, twisting conversations in silly directions based on their own personalities. Conversations are allowed to serve no purpose beyond articulating the tenor of various relationships, which is a very valuable thing in a character-focused show. The only problem is, well, that some of the dialogue just doesn’t sound like human beings.

Kokoro Connect

Kokoro Connect’s biggest issue so far is that it’s simultaneously trying to be a character story and a capital-a Anime. Inaba falls back on canned lines like “I don’t recall asking you to elaborate on that topic,” and Iori’s big introduction involves her advertising panty flashes to Taichi. Later on, a side character walks across Taichi-in-Iori’s-body groping himself and reacts by saying “it’s more effective when someone else fondles them for you.” All of this stuff is fairly routine by anime standards, but it’s also very bad, completely inhuman dialogue. Legitimately good character stories can’t be Anime in this particular way, or at least, moments of this diminish the show they could potentially be (like Oregairu’s miserable Sensei jokes, for example).

Of course, stuff like that only annoys me because everything else here has great potential. While some of the overt lines about getting naked and whatnot seem unbelievable, it’s nice to see a show acknowledge that teens of both genders definitely have sex on the brain. Conversations and jokes build across a diverse set of characters, and people actually discuss each other’s feelings. Exchanges like “I guess that was Iori trying to be considerate” followed by “the problem is that you never know if she’s doing it on purpose” both ring true to insecure friendships and seem like great lead-ins to the show’s central conceit. The fact that Inaba doesn’t switch bodies in this episode seems to make her feel left out in a way the show never directly highlights, merely having her describe the switching as “something that happens to the four of you” near the end. And the slight illustrations of each character’s disparate home life add a lovely capstone to the episode, adding just a little more context to each of their feelings.

Kokoro Connect

Plus, I haven’t even gotten into this episode’s (and likely this show altogether’s) real appeal – seeing animators and voice actors depict characters swapping between each other’s bodies. The show flat-out wouldn’t work if it weren’t absolutely clear when characters have switched, and in this episode, the flip between Taichi and Iori is a clear and tangible highlight. Seeing Iori’s vocal affectation and body language applied to Taichi was probably the most fun part of this episode – after spending half an episode establishing Taichi as a low-energy guy whose body language matched his sardonic personality, he was suddenly bouncing around the room, gesticulating wildly and pitching his voice to match the energy of his friend. Moments like that, of pure visual and even vocal storytelling, are a real treasure.

So I’m alright on Kokoro Connect, all told. The fragments of canned dialogue make me worry, but the show is clearly about people being people in a way I can really respect, and it’s also making the most of its very entertaining premise. I’m happy to ride this train out.

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8 thoughts on “Kokoro Connect – Episode 1

  1. I agree that some of the dialog just feels like it’s trying to meet some kind of sex comedy quota, but iirc that tones down as the show goes further. And/or it comes more naturally from the characters’ personalities.

    Or maybe not and I’m just looking back on the show through rose colored glasses.

  2. Having only seen the first arc a little over a year ago, it definitely keeps up it’s bad dialogue quota, but seemed very solid beyond that.

    After what happened with Erased I’m not going to officially endorse anything I haven’t finished though

  3. I remember a MAL reviewer comparing kokoro connect to an IKEA product; you can see what it’s trying to get at, but the viewer has to piece a lot of things together for himself. This was meant in a bad way. Still, I think it’s worth examining the show for its flaws. It does try.

    Glad you got around to the first episode!

  4. Interesting show dragged down by probably the dumbest plot hole I’ve ever seen in anime. That “I wish it was better than it is” feeling you’re getting isn’t going away, unfortunately.

  5. Finally, you made an episodic review/analysis of my #1 favorite anime! (I’ve finished it 3 times over already.) Let’s see how your thoughts agree or disagree with mine.

    the show has nice painted backgrounds that give everything something of a faded, nostalgic look

    Heh. I never noticed that.

    the story moves quickly and gracefully into a compelling premise (suddenly we’re swapping bodies for no apparent reason!)

    One great thing about this show is how something is always happening.

    the uneasy relationship between the show’s clear goals and its fundamental nature.

    What’s wrong with a light-hearted show trying to handle tricky concepts?

    Kokoro Connect is clearly a show about coming to understand other people, a theme almost implicit in its body-switching premise.

    My interpretation is that this show is about understanding one’s own identity. Understanding others and understanding oneself are close enough interpretations, I guess.

    Taichi’s a low-key version of the usual snarky protagonist, Iori is very upbeat but also far from innocent, and Inaba is basically the straight man, sometimes playing along with Iori but also sometimes getting exasperated with her acquaintances’ behavior.

    Nice way to sum up these characters’ personalities, at least for what is revealed in this episode, anyway.

    Kokoro Connect’s biggest issue so far is that it’s simultaneously trying to be a character story and a capital-a Anime. … All of this stuff is fairly routine by anime standards, but it’s also very bad, completely inhuman dialogue. Legitimately good character stories can’t be Anime in this particular way, or at least, moments of this diminish the show they could potentially be (like Oregairu’s miserable Sensei jokes, for example).

    I’m very surprised by this paragraph. In fact, one reason I like Kokoro Connect so much is that it manages to be a really good Comedy Anime (where almost 100% of the jokes are funny) and a really good character-based drama at the same time. Maybe it’s just a preference of mine that jokes are welcome almost anywhere in an anime as long as they are funny. In other words, I’m totally OK with some dialogue serving no other purpose than trying to be funny.

    nice to see a show acknowledge that teens of both genders definitely have sex on the brain

    I usually hate sexual jokes, but this show somehow manages to make them ridiculously funny for me.

    Exchanges like “I guess that was Iori trying to be considerate” followed by “the problem is that you never know if she’s doing it on purpose” both ring true to insecure friendships and seem like great lead-ins to the show’s central conceit. The fact that Inaba doesn’t switch bodies in this episode seems to make her feel left out in a way the show never directly highlights, merely having her describe the switching as “something that happens to the four of you” near the end. And the slight illustrations of each character’s disparate home life add a lovely capstone to the episode, adding just a little more context to each of their feelings.

    I don’t know if this was intentional, but you somehow managed to mention pretty much every single instance of foreshadowing in episode 1 here.

    The show flat-out wouldn’t work if it weren’t absolutely clear when characters have switched

    Due to my absolutely terrible memory of who is who, I had to constantly open up the list of characters while watching this the first time. Apparently, that doesn’t happen to other people. 🙁

    One other thing that has been bugging me about this show that you didn’t mention was the opening scene (a bird’s eye view zooming on Taichi’s house, with camera-like transitions). Do you think it means anything in particular?

  6. Been a long time since I’ve watched this, but iirc I had similar thoughts to yours. For me, the successes made it a worthwhile watch, but the shortcomings never really made it a favorite of mine. Best of luck with however much of the rest is funded, Bob

    • I have the same impression, give or take. But funnily enough I wouldn’t have gotten into anime if it weren’t for KC’s shortcomings. I went in looking for more because this show promised so much.

  7. Iori’s big introduction involves her advertising panty flashes to Taichi

    Now that I think of it again, maybe the purpose of this was to establish that Iori is not a stupid hyperactive girl, but a clever hyperactive girl.

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