Kokoro Connect gave me far more than I was expecting from the series. Looking at the blurb on the DVD it sounds like little more than a body swap comedy. Those are fun, so I thought I would give it a go. But that is just the starting point for the series.
It’s actually a brilliant starting point, because it does something different to most body swap comedies. In fact, every time you think this series is trying out an old trope it confounds expectations by finding a new twist. I’ve never seen a body swap comedy that affected more than two people, but in Kokoro Connect a group of five friends is subjected to the phenomenon, swapping over seemingly at random. The cause is a person or entity known as Heartseed, who remains unidentified and unseen but can simply take over somebody’s body in order to communicate with the group. Its purpose seems at first simply to be for the entertainment of it, but it soon becomes apparent that the phenomenon is forcing the children to face up to some of their issues, bringing stuff out in the open so they can tackle their problems and deal with them as a group, testing and strengthening their friendships in the process. Heartseed’s motivations remain shrouded in mystery, but it is a strong possibility that it is actually trying to help these five teenagers. If so, it does that in a way that pulls no punches. It’s certainly a cruel-to-be-kind sort of help.
The body swapping is the starting point, and when Heartseed has (a) got bored or (b) the phenomenon has achieved its purpose, depending on your interpretation, the body swapping ends and some different freaky weirdness starts happening. Next up is the liberation of desires, with the five unable to control their emotional responses, and later in the series we have regression to childhood, followed by emotional thoughts being transmitted randomly from one to another. They are all fascinating, and apparently there are a couple more in the manga series after the anime concludes.
This was a series that kept on surprising me. The phenomena are often played for laughs initially, and just when you are lulled into a false sense of security there is a major dramatic moment or things take a turn for the sinister or tragic. The characterisations are very well rounded, with the three girls in particular all facing up to major emotional and psychological issues. There’s some serious stuff here, including a girl who is afraid of all men due to past abuse, and that has left her unable to form a relationship. This being a teen anime there is of course a love triangle, but it heads off in a surprising direction that I approved of wholeheartedly. I felt like I was rooting for the underdog and was very surprised at the outcome, and also very happy that we do actually get a proper resolution. With the manga series ongoing at the time, I thought this would be one of those anime series that offers up a love triangle and then leaves it unresolved at the end, which so often happens.
If you want to buy this series on DVD and live in the UK you will need to purchase two sets. The first one is the main series of 13 episodes (as usual for nearly all anime, about 20-25 minutes an episode). The second set is marketed as an OVA collection, but was actually broadcast in Japan later the same year as a short second season of 4 episodes. It just feels like watching one continuous series, so you really do need to get both sets if you don’t want to miss what is effectively the season finale and its build-up. This is one of those anime series that can’t seem to settle on an opening and closing sequence or song, and there is a remarkable tally of three opening themes and four ending ones. Most of them are very good, but the best by far is the final opening that begins with the 12th episode, a great song called “Kimi Rhythm” by Masaki Imai. It’s relatively rare to hear a male singer on an anime theme tune, and this one is tuneful and catchy.
Although the series wraps up very nicely, I am tempted to get the manga series to find out what kind of continuation the writer came up with, and to satisfy my curiosity as to the remaining two Heartseed phenomena. “Fantasy projection” and “perspective dreamland” both sound fascinating. Until then, I’m happy to have had the chance to watch this great anime series. It would have been so easy to overlook, on the assumption that it is just another body swap comedy, but Kokoro Connect is so much more than that. “Kokoro” can be translated as “heart”, “mind”, “emotions” or “feelings”. The brilliance of this series is that it connects all those things in the five main characters, and in doing so engages all of them in the viewer. RP