I reviewed the 17-episode school-life/supernatural anime Kokoro Connect (lit. Hearts Connect) (2012) for this week.
What’s it about?
Taichi Yaegashi, Himeko Inaba, Iori Nagase, Yui Kiriyami and Yoshifumi Aoki are five friends who make up their school’s Student Cultural Research Club. Their world is turned upside down one day when they start to randomly swap bodies with each other. They are informed by the mysterious being “Heartseed” (aka “Balloon Vine“) that the strange phenomena will occur until he is content with the group’s reaction. Little do the group of friends know that this is just the beginning of their problems… Can the friendship between the five survive the ordeals they are put through?
One of the strengths of this anime is its interesting, off-beat atmosphere. It’s really a story about five friends getting to terms with who they are as individuals, as well as adjusting to the changing dynamics of the group. It focuses on growing up and has themes in it that you’ll see in countless other anime, movies, and teenage shows, such as self-identity, stability of personality, and romance with friends. However, instead of waiting for these themes to play out naturally, Kokoro Connect deals introduces Heartseed to create (or magnify?) problems that the five can only over-come by dealing with such themes. Personality-switching is only the first of four phenomena that Heartseed creates, and it is interesting to see just what conflicts result from the phenomena, as it is not always apparent from the start.
With such a strong focus on growing up and friendship, there are plenty of times in the anime where the characters clash, leading to dramatic and intense moments (of the high-school variety). However, there are also plenty of funny and more mature moments to keep the anime moving and prevent it from being typical crappy, teenage drama.
The characters in Kokoro Connect are very strong. Each one has a lot of attention paid to them, and the viewer learns more information about each one as each phenomenon is dealt with. Although more emphasis is placed on Taichi, Himeko and Iori throughout the anime, by the end all five characters are very detailed, unique, and realistic. The five also work well as a group of friends, and are fun to watch when they interact, especially when they are just behaving as normal teenagers.
Finally, the soundtrack and art is pretty decent in this anime. Nothing spectacular, but the art is detailed enough to enjoy watching, and the music is fitting for both fun comedy scenes, and serious, dramatic scenes. However, don’t expect to be amazed by the opening or ending themes.
Obviously the drama in this anime is one of its main selling points… but there were a number of times where it was irritatingly over-the-top. I especially found this was the case with Iori… particularly in the last few episodes (although she does annoy me earlier on- such as when she pretends to be Himeko in front of Taichi in episode five). Personally, I didn’t like her character that much, but that’s probably only personal taste. Sometimes, the anime’s believability is a little stretched (beyond the whole supernatural thing, of course), and I also found the plot to slow down a little in the middle of each arc, but it’s barley noticeable with only 17 episodes.
Art: 8/10: Good character styling, and overall nice quality
Story: 7.5/10: Interesting twist on what you’d normally fine in a high-school drama (drama being the key word here), with plenty of intense and funny moments alike.
Characters: 7.5/10: A lot of detail goes into each character, making them very realistic, but with varying levels of likeability.
If you’re a lover of high school anime and drama, then you’ll appreciate the interesting twist that Kokoro Connect offers. With detailed, realistic characters, themes of growing up and finding yourself, and good art, this anime has a lot to like about it. Overall, I give it a 7.5/10.