Hans Moleman Productions Presents: Man getting kicked by classmate.
Plenty of shows to choose from this season, but finally I’ve settled on Kokoro Connect to blog for summer. Uta Koi was a very close second, but I feel like I’ll have more to say about this one. First, some initial thoughts on the show in general and the first two episodes, then regular coverage for episode 03. Let’s get started!
At season preview time, I’d speculated/hoped that this show was hinting at having a more serious side to it aside from just the entertainment value of people swapping bodies. This is thankfully the case, though it’s doing a nice balance between the humorous aspect of the swapping and the emotional and privacy implications of it. The first episode was a good setup, and the characters figured out what was going on pretty quickly. There was a lot of comedy in it, but it also showed the beginnings of how one person living in the other’s body for a time will reveal things about the characters’ home lives and reactions to events. So far, comedy and personal drama.
Then Gotou showed up to the club room one day and things started to take on something of a sci-fi, Bokurano vibe. Which I welcome, as it’s just another enjoyable layer to add to the comedy and personal drama layers of this show. Gotou came to the door and suddenly wasn’t the laid-back, personable teacher that he was just a few scenes earlier. His voice was deadpan, he stood somewhat slumped over. And he revealed that he was there to observe the characters as they swapped bodies. Something non-human is behind what’s going on, but we’re not left with any more details or answers, except that the entity that took control of Gotou called itself Heartseed and had incredibly fast reflexes in Gotou’s body, enough to easily turn aside and throw Yui when she tried to attack him.
Aside from the plot, I’ve also liked the way the anime has been made so far. The visuals are nice, if nothing especially creative, and the character design is not bad either. I did expect a bit more in the visuals department since Oonuma Shin is the director, but I guess he’s just playing it straight for this one instead of his past flashes of abstract imagery. Inaba is definitely my favorite character thus far, but I’ve found all the characters to be likable in their own ways. The voice acting is probably the most interesting part of the production of this show. Having five different voice actors have to play their credited role and that of four other characters of different genders is definitely a cool concept, and fun to see in execution. And finally, I do enjoy how much shipping potential there is, as all the characters were close to begin with and will only become closer as they explore and deal with their body swapping. Inaba X Taichi OTP, by the way.
A Note on Names
Given how the characters can swap bodies at any moment, I thought that perhaps I should do something with this in my posts to avoid confusion. Instead of saying something like “Yui-as-Taichi” or just using the personality’s name only, I’m going to go with this format when characters are in a swapped body: [Personality name] ([body name]). It should hopefully flow smoothly enough since the first name is the person taking action or speaking, while the second in parenthesis recalls who they were acting or speaking through.
This week’s episode started out a mix between serious and light, tried to get quite serious for a bit but didn’t really execute it gracefully, though things pretty much recovered from the stumble to continue onward with the characters’ interactions. The episode opens with Taichi and Inaba cleaning up an area of the school grounds, discussing Inaba’s (Taichi) declaration of love-war against Fujishima for Iori’s heart. Inaba once again demonstrates why she’s the best, trying to pair up Taichi with Iori quickly so as to have someone there to support Iori as the group has to deal with the continuing body swapping. While I’m not sure that Iori is that weak, it is nice to see how much Inaba cares about her. Though honestly I prefer that Taichi and Inaba get together, since they’re both the nicest, most responsible and mature members of the group. Taichi’s gentleness would calm some of Inaba’s gruffness, and her directness and initiative would compensate for Taichi’s lack of perception and propensity to dither. Well, enough shipping for the moment. During the conversation, it also comes up that Inaba is the most worried about the whole body swapping phenomenon. She’s worried that it could destroy them, psychologically, and perhaps she even suspects, physically.
Even while looking out for the group, Inaba is channeling some survival game kind of vibes here. I would not be adverse to this getting a bit Bokurano or Battle Royale just with the group perhaps finding a way out of it, unlike those bleak stories.
Good. Make sure to check that Touma Syndrome that could be lurking in Taichi. Helping people is one thing, and commendable, but we don’t need him getting out of hand and acting like a harem lead or anything.
Take your time. After all, time spent alone with Inaba is time well spent. (Ship ship ship ship ship!)
Later, we come across a scene of some unlikely confessions by Yui and Inaba being recorded, which turns out to be Aoki (Yui) and Taichi (Inaba) having fun until Yui (Aoki) and Inaba (Taichi) enter the room and catch them in the act. This was also notable in that it was the first case I’ve noticed of a more complicated body swap. Instead of the simple two-way swap, Yui’s personality went into Taichi’s body (evidenced by Inaba (Aoki) yelling for her to get the cell phones, and her complaints about Taichi’s body being out of shape), but Taichi’s personality went to Inaba’s body, Inaba to Aoki’s, and Aoki to Yui’s. To speculate, this shows that whatever technology or force moves the personalities doesn’t need to transfer reciprocally. It can move personalities to bodies however it wishes, though at least thus far it’s had to fill each body with a personality when it moves the owner’s personality.
Keep trying, young Romeo. Just don’t be surprised if you blow it by fooling around while in your love’s body.
The Mutually Assured Destruction of the body swapping paradigm.
During the course of these antics, the characters revert to their own bodies and Aoki asks if Yui is scared of the guys since she shakes when they’re around. She denies it, but the denial becomes so strong that it gets the other three worried. Taichi wants to figure out some way to help, but he can’t think of anything. Aoki is still impressed by him thinking about Yui like that, but he also acts a bit insecure and is worried that Taichi might win over the girl he has his heart set on. Thing do come together courtesy of a body swap late that night between Yui and Taichi, and the two call each other and meet up. Yui had been crying when Taichi woke up in her body, and he starts to ask her about it and her shaking. She says that she’s afraid of men after having gotten out of a rape attempt when she was in middle school. Her lack of ability to overpower the man who attacked her despite having practiced karate scared her the most. Taichi wanted to do something to help, and here things got a bit wonky. He says that he’ll teach her a way to overpower any man, and he kicks her/his body in the nuts in a mock fight, and then quickly swaps bodies back since whatever controls the swaps seems to have a sense of humor. This part of the story has been a point of contention among the ani-twitter-blogosphere-whatever [skip to the next paragraph now if you don't care for a short rant/statement of opinion], since some felt that it didn’t realistically portray or address post-traumatic stress disorder or rape/near-rape victims, or that it used the topic of rape as a cheap plot device. Personally, I felt that it was a huge oversimplification of a complex topic, but it didn’t bother me that much in the context of the story. Plenty of things get oversimplified in fiction, and this show isn’t billed as a treatise on PTSD or rape victims. While it was airheadedly simplistic, it didn’t cross the line into offensive in my view. If the show had Taichi blame her for being in that situation, then yes, I would count it as offensive. But it didn’t, it just oversimplified the issue and then moved on. I also don’t see how in general there seems to be this entirely negative response in fiction to rape being part of a character’s background. Since the Tomb Raider thing came out people have charged that it’s a cynical ploy for attention that devalues the gravity of the topic. Maybe it was in that instance, trying to restart a dead franchise. But honestly, in very few mediums is a topic like rape and rape victims going to get discussed in a way that jives with the study of psychology and the nuances of the issue. So then, should it never be brought up in popular forms of entertainment? I feel like that would be sweeping it under the rug. Very few people are going to read the scholarly research and works of literature where such a heavy topic will be properly addressed. But if it’s in more popular mediums, even if it’s done in a hamfisted and grossly oversimplified manner, it at least keeps the topic in people’s minds and may drive them to educate themselves on the actual detail of the topic. For an example that’s more in my territory, sure movies like Braveheart and 300 got a lot of the history really wrong. But some people who saw them became interested in studying the actual historical facts, and I think that’s a net plus for society. At the least, they realized the such history exists and that might work its way into the way that they think about the world. Disclaimer: I do not claim to be formally educated about this topic, this is merely my observation. My higher education degrees are in unrelated fields and I have no personal first- or secondhand experiences with the topic. So if you disagree, do so respectfully or I’ll just ignore you.
Catch convince more flies with honey than vinegar, and all that. [End]
Back to the show. After the Dance of the Nutcracker moment was over, the two end up running away when someone comes along walking a dog, who turns out to be Fujishima. Yui’s androphobia quickly falls away, which is a bit sudden and convenient, but in service to the larger story at least she and Taichi become closer and more open with each other. They definitely have a moment together, which you could either interpret as a close moment of friendship or the basis for a ship, if you prefer. The next day Taichi tells Inaba about what happened, and she reconsiders her stance on the body swapping. Perhaps some good can come of it and it won’t descend into a brutal struggle for survival like she thought. But just then, we’re given the hook for the next crisis when she collapses for no apparent reason.
A nice match for talking out an issue, even if it wasn’t handled superbly.
I did like how Taichi and Yui were paired up for this episode. It would have been simpler to have Inaba straight talk her, or Aoki have to come up with a way to help the girl he likes, but instead it’s Taichi, who is relatively neutral towards Yui in terms of interest or responsibility. It also kind of tested him in terms of how he will try and help people. Again, kinda a maladroit way of addressing the topic, but I liked how the solution was ‘internal’ to the characters rather than ‘external.’ The writers didn’t have him protect her from an external threat and then have her think ‘well all guys aren’t so bad’ or anything like a white knighting Touma might have done. Instead he tried to offer advice, and the humor in him kicking himself in the nuts probably contributed to Yui being able to move past her trauma.
Ship it if you want, it’s ok.
It may yet. And as much as I like these characters, and expect a happy ending to the show, my mind can’t help replaying Uninstall in my head.
I’m guessing some hidden health problem, but who knows. Maybe this was the first time that the body swapping has left a body without a personality to inhabit it?
Final Thoughts: - Really enjoyed the first three episodes overall. Episode 02 especially, since it introduced the rather menacing aspect of the story in the form of Heartseed. But aside from the sci-fi mystery aspect of this, I also just really like the characters so far. Inaba is far and away my favorite, but I like all of them and they interact well.
- As mentioned previously, the voice actors and the roles they have to play are also very interesting. It’s also just a cool idea to have them have to play five different characters, and maybe more if any other characters get drawn in. I’m starting to wonder if Fujishima might start playing a larger role since she’s been coming in and out of a few scenes, or if she’ll just remain a secondary character.
- More on Gotou and Heartseed is at the top of my ‘want’ list now that we’ve gotten a taste of what’s going on. With this episode and the cliffhanger about Inaba, I’m thinking the show might go on something of a ‘problem of the week’ single episode arc format for some or most episodes. So clues about the larger story and Heartseed will either have to be dropped in bit by bit in the margins of those episodes, or have some episodes all to themselves. I guess we’ll see.