Clubs are a school requirement, so The Cultural Research Club is founded by five students who don't want to join any existing clubs. With completely different interests the club is unfocused, but it brings them together in a friendship hard to find. That friendship is about to be pushed to the breaking point.
A mysterious entity known as "heart seed" takes an interest in the group. At times, someone in the group switches bodies with another random member. Navigating confusion (and more importantly - the bathroom) is difficult enough, but this is only the first of their trials. Everyone has secrets, and as each member has theirs exposed in new bizarre scenarios, it's not clear if their friendship will survive.
Kokoro Connect shows potential, but it's easy to feel indifferent about the approach (school stuff + the scenario). The direction is clear early on, and I wondered if it would be worth the effort to watch to the end. Things work out as expected, but I think this one has enough depth to still make it worth the watch.
Everyone in Kokoro Connect appears normal, but of course they all have secrets, and it comes as no surprise the upbeat cheerful girl is the most screwed up out of all of them. Many anime titles concentrate on the generic usual stuff, then only half ass the features making them unique (assuming they have any). It's easy to assume Kokoro Connect does likewise, but it gives proper attention to the scenarios and relationships.
The division into four segments, about 4 episodes each; is a great feature. They're long enough to flesh out the idea, without lingering so long it becomes tired. Success at how things play out varies. The "body swapping" scenario is fun, and the "uncontrolled desires" is dramatic. I didn't think the random person "reverts to childhood" idea would be very good, but it was surprisingly insightful. As thoughts and emotions forgotten in childhood become vivid, the group has a tough time coping with hurdles they've passed in life. The last part is more about concluding the story than the scenario (broadcasting emotion).
Everyone grows by the end, but not to the extent where all of their life problems are solved. I appreciated characters not having that "one flaw" which redeems them once fixed. There's an odd romance I liked most in Kokoro Connect. Yoshifumi declares his love for Yui early on, but she blows off his advances believing he's not serious. The group struggles through the scenarios, revealing secrets and thoughts kept hidden, but Yoshifumi's heart never wavers. By the end Yui (after getting her issues ironed out) notices that. I really liked the idea of a guy winning the girl through sincerity. The love triangle with the other three isn't anything great but interesting enough. There's also the spin of the "nice guy's" weakness essentially being a nice guy (obsessed with helping others).
Kokoro Connect has a great dub and it's worth watching that way. Inaba is probably the only sticking point. Her dub voice doesn't quite portray her personality the way the Japanese version does.
The performance I noticed most in the dub was Monica Rial as Iori. She's been around forever, and her voice is distinct enough to follow through the years. She's often cast as the high pitched little girl voice (due to vocal range I'm guessing). She did a truly amazing job as Iori, and it's been interesting to hear how she can truly excel in other roles when given the chance.
Kokoro Connect is centered around a fascinating idea, but lets face it; many anime titles have interesting concepts and they're still crap. This one gets it right because it makes the full effort to explore the idea. Even the length feels right. It's not uncommon for titles to misalign because they pack too much in, or pad time in order to meet a specific episode count. 13 + 4 episodes is a weird count, but feels like things unfold at just the right pace. It's a strong show in all regards, and well balanced, making it worth the watch.
Iori: "Live your own life." Those words left me stunned. What did I like? What did I want to do? After spending most of my life trying to live as someone else wanted, I'd apparently forgotten who I was.
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