The Infinite Zenith

Where insights on anime, games, academia and life dare to converge

The Kokoro Connect Incident

“We live in a fantasy world, a world of illusion. The great task in life is to find reality.” –Iris Murdoch

Kokoro Connect‘s anime adaptation is now at a pause: the first thirteen episodes have aired, and a remaining four will come out somewhere in December. A series with a lofty premise of four youth subject to supernatural phenomenon and their coping with said phenomenon, Kokoro Connect ended up being an inconsistent series after thirteen episodes – while its body-swapping arc was perhaps the most compelling, the remainder of the series gave viewers antipathy against the antagonist, “Heartseed”. The remaining narrative elements are expected to be resolved in the remaining four episodes, but beyond an otherwise unremarkable anime, Kokoro Connect is likely to be remembered for an incident where voice actor Mitsuhiro Ichiki was falsely enticed into auditioning for a role in the anime for an original character. This audition had been set up by producer Yamanaka Takahiro, who works for King Records. Unlike a conventional audition, the entire setup had been impromptu, and Ichiki did not go through the usual procedures with an audition. At the audition’s end, it turned out that there was no original character, and Ichiki’s recorded dialogue had been remixed into answering questions that, when taken out of context, would appear strange. Instead, Ichiki would take on the role of Public Relations Chief. In spite of this humiliation, Ichiki felt compelled to continue in his role, and the incident disappeared from the public eye until a series of events brought things to light: Kikuchi Hajime of Eufonius made social media posts criticising Momoi Haruko, and in the exchanges, it came to be known that Ichiki’s being deceived was being casually joked about within the industry. Ichiki himself would reference the prank on a talk show, whose host found the turn of events unfortunate.

  • Even in the absence of the power abuse, Kokoro Connect had not been a particularly standout anime, leaving hanging the viewers that did end up finishing the thirteen episodes. I admit that initially, I picked up the series because Iori was voiced by Aki Toyosaki (Yui Hirasawa of K-On!), and the artstyle here resembled that of K-On!‘s, as well: with K-On! The Movie releasing during the summer to wrap up the franchise, I had been seeking a series with a similar aesthetic, although for that, I found myself disappointed.

This prank would come to be known as the Kokoro Connect Incident, illustrating the wretched conditions that those working in the industry faced. The Kokoro Connect Incident indicates that the anime industry is a harsh area, and while a few social media posts have shown one particular instance of the excesses and abuses in the industry, it is probable that such events are of a greater scale than initially apparent. Ichiki had been subjected to similar workplace bullying previously, where lines he had performed during an audition were taken out of context, which could damage his image. That Ichiki himself could not attain recompense for what had happened and merely accepted it also shows how cut-throat things are for voice actors, and it is painful to know that the staff creating the anime, which can inspire and motivate its viewers, do not practise or respect the messages that go into their series. News of the Kokoro Connect Incident subsequently spread throughout the internet, and in the days following, viewers expressing their dissatisfaction with Kokoro Connect planned to boycott the series, its merchandise and anything related to Silver Link, the studio behind Kokoro Connect‘s production.

  • While the general reaction to the Kokoro Connect Incident is understandable, I will note that some otaku, especially those who whiled away their lives on 2ch, have begun uttering threats and slinging insults to the perpetrators by means of social media. Yes, the incident was vile, but wrongs do not beget a right, and this is an overreaction. With the break in Kokoro Connect for now, and my general disinclination to continue, I will note that once the remaining episodes air, I may end up checking them out, although at this time, I am unlikely to write about them in any capacity.

Besides illustrating the extent of abuses in the anime industry, the Kokoro Connect Incident also shows that elaborate pranks and the like have no positive impact on an anime’s performance or quality. While Kokoro Connect had started on a strong footing, unlikeable characters and petty trials rendered the series’ plot weak, difficult to relate to. Cutting the series off here, in conjunction with the fan’s intent to boycott the series, would mean that the remaining four episodes, set to release in December, will unlikely to be watched. This deals the series a double blow: the thirteen episodes already aired are unsatisfying, and if the final four episodes offer a resolution, then the decision to skip these would only leave one’s impression of Kokoro Connect as an unremarkable series – the legacy that Kokoro Connect leaves behind, then, will be one of power abuse resulting in a public relations disaster, and a below-average series that struggles to convey its themes adequately. It’s not a good combination for the series as a whole, and truthfully, even in the absence of the Kokoro Connect Incident, I cannot say that I have a particular inclination to finish this series, and on a broader note, Kokoro Connect shows that studios should not be counting on publicity stunts, least of all those that involve bullying, as a crutch for helping to make an anime series more visible.

One response to “The Kokoro Connect Incident

  1. infinitezenith July 6, 2019 at 00:00

    Author’s note:

    I am aware that some online venues, most notably Reddit, have been rather eager to respond to my thoughts on the Kokoro Connect Incident with ad hominem attacks of their own. Digging through their posts on Reddit, it is clear they’ve not read my post in full. Instead, have fixated on the bit where I argue that those making threats are overreacting and not justified in doing so.

    In light of what’s being said by some Redditors, I stand by my position: I am not arguing that the studio’s actions were appropriate, but rather, that those who feel it necessary to stoop to such low levels to express their dissatisfaction do not have the moral position to talk down on others.

    Generally speaking, I am open and inviting of discussion, but there are niceties to observe: if you’ve got something to offer regarding the Kokoro Connect Incident and can do so in a mature manner, I am more than willing to listen.

    Like

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