The Infinite Zenith

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Reassessing A Story That Had Already Begun Before Anyone Realised It: Kokoro Connect, Cracking Heartseed From A Mental Health Standpoint and Remarks on What Defines Identity

“It’s not who I am underneath, but what I do that defines me.” –Bruce Wayne, Batman Begins

Yamaboshi High School’s Student Cultural Research Club consists of five members: Taichi, Iori, Himeko, Yui and Yoshifumi, whose lives are unremarkable until one day, they begin to experience the otherworldly phenomenon of switching bodies. As it turns out, an enigmatic being known only as “Heartseed” is behind this, desiring entertainment. Without a means of predicting or controlling the phenomenon they experience, each of Taichi, Iori, Himeko, Yui and Yoshifumi must learn to manage things and along the way, come to terms with one another, as well as their own thoughts and feelings – although the phenomenon, which extends to inhibition loss, age regression and thought-transmission on top of body-switching, places a great deal of strain on everyone and puts everyone’s friendships with one another to the test, over time, everyone comes to realise that so long as they can confide in one another and be candid in how they feel, they can overcome whatever challenges that Heartseed may send their way, discovering more about themselves in the process. This is 2012’s Kokoro Connect, an anime that had developed notoriety owing to a scandal surrounding Silver Link shortly before its release, and subsequently became forgotten owing to its unconventional storyline and a finale that had left viewers disappointed when the storyline had seemingly undermined a season’s worth of progress. While Kokoro Connect was certainly unconventional, the series is actually to be commended upon closer inspection. This anime had been a forerunner in portraying youth mental health in a time when mental health and wellness was not well characterised, and through four seemingly-unrelated phenomenon, Kokoro Connect actually presents a solution to some of the challenges youth face during a period when said problems were not always recognised as requiring intervention. However, contemporary viewers did not see Kokoro Connect in this fashion, citing the disjointed stories, lack of an overarching narrative and application of seemingly-underwhelming solutions as resulting in an unsatisfactory, unrealistic outcome. I felt it difficult to recommend the series because the romance seemed to influence things to a much greater extent than was necessary, pushing character decisions that ultimately came across as being more emotional than rational. It should therefore be not surprising that my thoughts of Kokoro Connect are not wholly correct, and that I was hasty in my dismissal of the series – when taking a more thoughtful and introspective approach towards Kokoro Connect, it turns out this series succeeds in highlighting one important piece to the mental health puzzle.

The choice of using dramatic phenomenon in Kokoro Connect, and the supernatural figure that is Heartseed, is meant to represent the murky depths of mental health. The phenomenon is a very visceral and visual show of how chaotic the world can become to those who have troubles with mental health, and because of its origins, Taichi and the others feel that they cannot speak with any adults in their lives about this. This aspect of Kokoro Connect has weight because it parallels the stigma surrounding mental health issues, in which people are often reluctant to talk about their struggles and problems for fear of creating trouble for others, or appearing weak. In Kokoro Connect, the phenomenon feels unbelievable, and this is why instructor Ryūzen Gotō, despite being a knowledgeable and helpful individual, is never considered as a resource – Taichi and the others do not feel that Ryūzen would believe them if they’d confided in him, and moreover, it feels jarring to speak with Ryūzen about things when Heartseed primarily chooses him as the vessel to possess. Similarly, although Taichi is close to his sister, Iori loves her mother dearly, and the others have varying degrees of closeness to their families, the unusual nature of the phenomenon dissuades anyone from sharing things. In spite of this stigma, Taichi, Iori, Himeko, Yui and Yoshifumi come to understand that they must necessarily trust one another: they share the same experiences and therefore will not regard anyone else with incredulity. By confiding in one another and trusting one another, the five do end up reinforcing their bonds; when there isn’t a need, or capacity to hide anything, everyone can be honest with one another, and this leads the five to devise creative solutions for managing Heartseed’s phenomenon. Early on, when Heartseed presents the group with a new phenomenon, Taichi, Iori, Himeko, Yui and Yoshifumi initially retreat, worrying that they’ll end up hurting one another. Over time, however, the characters decide to break the status quo out of frustration and, in coming forward with how they few, removes any doubt and ambiguity. Giving voice to their concerns, Taichi, Iori, Himeko, Yui and Yoshifumi often find that what they’d made a big deal of individually turned out to be something of trivial concern, or, in the case of more serious issues, being aware of a problem allows the others to find a solution. During the body-switching act, Taichi ends up helping Yui overcome her androphobia, and later, when impulse control is lost, everyone realises that speaking their minds isn’t always a bad thing, even if people inadvertently get hurt in the process. Similarly, when Heartseed instigates age reversion, Yoshifumi is able to reaffirm that living in the moment is what matters most to him, and Iori recalls why she decided to put on a façade when around people. With support from the others, Iori is able to help her mother find her strength in forcing out a violent partner. Kokoro Connect‘s original three acts concludes with the five realising that so long as they have one another, they can overcome anything. It is the case that with mild or moderate mental health problems, professional intervention isn’t needed, and sometimes, all one needs is a friend to speak to.

In this way, the Hito Random, Kizu Random and Kako Random acts reach resolution in a fairly cut-and-dried manner, and each time, Heartseed is content to let things end whenever the characters are no longer conflicted by their own internal thoughts, enough to open up a little more to one another. Michi Random, on the other hand, appears to undo this: when the characters’ thoughts are transited to one another, Iori begins to regress. For Iori, she’d come to define her identity as how she was perceived by others, and when the body-switching phenomenon begins, Iori wonders if, since she has no defined personality, she’d be lost. Taichi had mitigated this by saying he’d recognise her from anywhere, but as the relationships among the Student Cultural Research Club become more complex, Iori becomes increasingly lost. The question of what constitutes identity is another central piece in Kokoro Connect – people are preoccupied with their identities because it shapes how others regard and perceive them. For youth, this is a source of conflict because they are still learning about themselves, and the world around them. This is why cliques are so common amongst youth, who define themselves based on who they associate with and what their interests are. For Iori, who adapts her personality to fit a situation, she feels that she has no defining characteristics, and these phenomenon continue to erode at what she knows of herself. Taichi’s efforts to persuade Iori are unsuccessful initially, but after an incident that results in Himeko’s kidnapping, Iori ends up realising that what Taichi says had been correct the whole time: she’s defined by her actions. Kokoro Connect‘s conclusion is valid and consistent with how I approach identity; one’s identity is defined wholly by the sum of their actions. In my case, for instance, my self-image is based on how I treat people, and what I do to generate value for those around me. Choosing to put in an effort and ensure I put out work I can be proud of, spending time with family and giving the clerk a “have a nice day”, for instance, are things I do, and therefore, are things that I readily associate with what’s “me”. In the case of Kokoro Connect, the question of “who is Iori Nagase” can be answered in a similar manner. While Iori believes she’s always adapting to what she thinks others want, there is actually a counterintuitive answer: the Iori Nagase that is friendly, cheerful and always wanting to make friends of others is her real self, since this is how she acts. She desires to be happy with those around her, and her actions mirror this. In accordance with this, Iori’s identity was actually never in question, but when things became difficult, her own negative thoughts fuelled troubles. When guided by her friends, she’s able to reconcile with another girl in her class and reaffirms the idea that actions are what shapes one’s identity by promising to live on her own terms, which, ironically, is actually how she’d already lived previously; she just needed a bit of support to remember this fact.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • A decade earlier, I had entered Kokoro Connect with no idea of what to expect, beyond the fact that Silver Link had brought Yukiko Horiguchi onboard as the anime’s character designer. Horiguchi had previously worked with Kyoto Animation on K-On!, and would later return to design the characters for Tamako Market. Seeing K-On! style characters outside of K-On! had admittedly piqued my curiosity in Kokoro Connect, and although I never stated as such at the time, this is actually why I picked up Kokoro Connect during a time when I was staring down the MCAT. I had originally intended to write about Kokoro Connect once I had finished the series, and when the first three arcs had concluded in September 2012, there’d been news of a fourth and final arc, so I decided to wait things out.

  • The first three stories enjoyable enough, but once Michi Random ended, I was left at a loss for words, and a discussion never materialised; Kokoro Connect, I concluded, had been an interesting concept, but otherwise had not told a particularly meaningful story. During a revisit a few years later, I concluded that while the series was somewhat enjoyable, it was something I couldn’t readily recommend to others. However, I’ve recently been revisiting old anime with the aim of giving them another chance. 2012’s PapaKiki was a show I’d similarly had trouble writing about, but returning with ten more years of life experience, the story’s goals became significantly clearer. I subsequently wondered: had I also misrepresented the other two anime of that era (Kokoro Connect and RDG: Red Data Girl)?

  • After all, if I was able to gain significantly more from PapaKiki and Kantai Collection: The Movie following a re-watch, it was possible that I might see things in Kokoro Connect and RDG: Red Data Girl differently, and so, to this end, I decided to rewatch both series. I was, however, quite busy towards the end of the last year, and while I’d intended to write about Kokoro Connect to coincide with the end of Michi Random ten years earlier, there hadn’t been enough time to do so. What eventually led me to return to Kokoro Connect was Eufonius’ tenth anniversary album, καλυτεροζ (Kalyteryz). This album includes Eufonius’ very best songs, and I’ve listened to the songs often while exploring this new side of town. In particular, the tracks Hikari Kagayaku Sekai and Paradigm stand out, and unbeknownst to me, Paradigm had actually been the first opening song to Kokoro Connect.

  • My curiosity rekindled, I set about going through Kokoro Connect, which initially starts with body-switching (Hito Random) and uses this phenomenon to drive comedy, as much as to establish the extraordinary circumstances that the Student Cultural Research Club’s members find themselves in. Although Taichi and Yoshifumi are quick to abuse the situation by doing things with Iori, Himeko and Yui’s bodies that would raise a few eyebrows, Kokoro Connect quickly uses the situation to raise a few interesting questions about what constitutes as identity, and also giving the characters a chance to literally walk in someone else’s shoes to understand their problems. Here, Taichi and Yoshifumi, as Himeko and Yui, react after their antics are found out, leading to hilarious facial expressions that Himeko and Yui would never sport under normal circumstances.

  • Although Yui had kept her androphobia hidden, once it gets out, Taichi makes it his mission to help her along. Taichi’s tendency to stick his nose where it doesn’t belong is initially viewed as a shortcoming, and Himeko believes that Taichi tries to help everyone to offset his own inadequacies, Taichi’s heart ends up being a vital asset for the Student Cultural Research Club as they experience the extraordinary. During the body-switching, he quickly works out that he can help Yui feel a little more confident in getting out of difficult situations with the classic nut shot.

  • Yui is voiced by Hisako Kanemoto, who I know best as Ika! Musume‘s Squid Girl and Sora no Woto‘s Kanata Sorami. On the other hand, Iori is played by Aki Toyosaki (K-On!‘s Yui Hirasawa and Aoi “Inuko” Inuyama of Yuru Camp△). Each of the characters in Kokoro Connect have their own unique traits: Iori is defined by her bubbly and cheerful personality, while Yui’s a former martial artist. Yoshifumi prefers to live in the moment and does his best to win Yui’s heart, while Taichi himself is a fan of professional wrestling and is the first to react whenever a phenomenon manifests itself.

  • A decade earlier, I gravitated towards Iori’s character, but in the present day, I concur with the consensus that Himeko is “best girl”: although Himeko puts on the façade of a no-nonsense, tough-talking individual who prefers to solve problems methodically and rationally, she’s actually quite kind and more caring than she’d care to admit. Miyuki Sawashiro voices Himeko, and I am most familiar with Sawashiro’s roles as Strike Witches‘ Perrine H. Clostermann, Masami Iwasawa of Angel Beats! and Sword Art Online‘s Shino “Sinon” Asada. As Himeko, Sawashiro delivers her lines with a mature confidence, but in moments where Himeko teases Taichi, her voice takes on a rather sexy quality.

  • The question of identity is explored with the first phenomenon; body switching leads Iori to wonder if people only know and remember her for her appearance; when she was younger, she would try to act in a way as to minimise conflict after her mother began seeing a violent and abusive man. Over time, Iori believes she’s lost her original sense of self. While identity is something that gives even philosophers trouble, being a pragmatist, I hold that identity is governed by actions. Tachi isn’t quite able to spot this, and apparently, neither did I when I watched Kokoro Connect a decade earlier. Today, however, I contend that the best response to Iori is that how we choose to act is what defines us. For Iori, her true self is bubbly and energetic, and this is what matters.

  • As memory serves, what had made Kokoro Connect infuriating was the being known as Heartseed; inexplicably appearing and causing trouble for the characters to little end beyond its own amusement, I had been sufficiently irritated by Heartseed’s actions that I ended up overlooking the obvious. Heartseed is a supernatural being that cannot be reasoned with, or trifled with; in discussions about mental health, people often report that when they’re in a difficult situation, it feels as though there are no options, and there is no one to talk to. Since Heartseed’s actions are implausible and unbelievable, Taichi and the others find themselves in a similar position; since they can’t talk to their instructors or family, Heartseed is in effect, forcing Taichi and the others to work out a solution with one another.

  • Before delving further into Kokoro Connect, I will remark that most would consider any discussion of Kokoro Connect to be incomplete if the controversy is not mentioned. I have previously written about the topic, and while what happened was unprofessional, the internet’s response to things was even more immature and irrational. The incident had created many flame wars in the past, and if site metrics are to be believed, the topic is still a point of contention in the present day. I’ve previously written about my thoughts on the matter, and will remark that in this post, the controversy is strictly out of scope: I will not be entertaining any conversation about the incident here, and comments suggesting how I’m immoral for not being sufficiently outraged, or similar, will be met with swift deletion.

  • For the present, my only comments are that I am glad that the controversy happened before social media had become ubiquitous as a means of deplatforming individuals and organisation for perceived slights. Back then, Twitter and Reddit’s reach was a fraction of what it is presently, and while furious discussions vilifying Silver Link were widespread, communities weren’t so coordinated that they could do any sort of tangible damage to the studio. In this way, Silver Link survived the controversy and has since gone on to become a respected studio; from Non Non Biyori and Brave Witches to Mitsuboshi ColoursBofurand even Yuri Kuma Arashi, Silver Link’s portfolio since Kokoro Connect is impressive.

  • After the Hito Random act, Kokoro Connect moves onto Kizu Random, which deals with the sort of chaos that accompanies reduced inhibition control. The light novel describes this as “unleashed desires”, and per Heartseed, it strikes randomly, causing characters to act out in ways that they wouldn’t otherwise. The first instance of this was when Himeko is filled with a want to mess with Taichi, and later, Iori unexpectedly cheers out in class. While some desires are harmless, Yui ends up beating up several male students who were harassing a female classmate, and subsequently isolates herself from others for fear of hurting anyone else.

  • Taichi, Himeko, Iori and Yoshifumi work out that stronger emotions make it more likely for one to act recklessly, but owing to disagreement in how they should best convince Yui it’s okay, rifts begin forming amongst the Student Cultural Research Club, which results in the phenomenon becoming more strongly felt. The loss of inhibition in this act is meant to show that it is natural to have questionable or frivolous impulses. Initially, everyone in the Student Cultural Research Club see these desires as an ugly side to themselves, and conflict brews as a result of how everyone’s worst seems to be brought out.

  • However, there isn’t anything inherently wrong or shameful in having such desires precisely because as people, we have the agency to master ourselves. As such, even negative desires are a part of who one is, and what matters more than the presence of such desires is how one manages them. Taichi quickly realises this after he unintentionally slams Iori into a locker while arguing with Yoshifumi about how to best handle Yui’s situation. Once Taichi is able to understand how desires are a part of being a person, spots precisely this, and that one’s desires and how they go about managing things is what’s important.

  • Throughout Kokoro Connect, Maiko Fujishima crosses paths with the Student Cultural Research Club. Although she counts Taichi as a competitor for Iori’s heart, Maiko is also a self-professed “goddess of love” and outside of her own eccentricities, is a studious and focused individual who enjoys helping others. On occasions, she offers advice for Taichi and the others, and I found her character rather likeable because, even though she isn’t fully aware of the phenomenon impacting Taichi and the others, her pragmatic advice does provide Taichi and the others with a bit of support nonetheless.

  • With this, Taichi decides to apologise to Yoshifumi, and the two end up reconciling. Although I’d picked up Kokoro Connect purely for the fact that Iori and the others resemble K-On! characters, revisiting the series has allowed me to appreciate what the anime had strove to accomplish. The episodic phenomenon means that Kokoro Connect lacks a traditional story structure, and cannot be readily approached from a conventional standpoint: this is why reception to the series was so varied during its airing. Random Curiosity’s Cherrie, for instance, indicated that Kokoro Connect‘s draws had been presenting relatable circumstances and using the supernatural to drive things forward, but the series also dragged things out as it continued.

  • Managing one’s impulses is exactly the answer that Yui needs: although she can indeed put the hurt on, she is shown as not wanting to do so. Taichi indicates that one’s intentions are just as important, and that Yui might be able to fight off her impulses if her desire to not hurt someone is stronger than her wish to beat down someone. This is a clever way of approaching the problem that Heartseed poses, and once Yui realises this, she’s able to return to classes. Meanwhile, Himeko struggles with a newfound problem: although Taichi’s in love with Iori, she’s developed feelings for him and worries that if this becomes known, the Student Cultural Research Club would fracture.

  • It turns out this is not the case, and once Himeko tearfully admits this to Iori during a class trip, Iori simply decides that the better girl wins, speaking to the importance of communication: what had been a show-stopper for Himeko turns out to be something that could be managed in a satisfactory manner. The presence of relationships in Kokoro Connect is why Cherrie felt that the series was ultimately a romance-drama that presents five youth as they struggle with their problems, which have been dramatised to illustrate how they must feel from a youth’s perspective. Although Cherrie had been on the right track, she never mentions youth mental health; this is something that I found common to almost all period discussions of Kokoro Connect.

  • A decade earlier, all conversations surrounding Kokoro Connect dealt with the characters individually. While such analysis allows one to understand why characters may act the way they do in a given moment, without a larger context, it becomes difficult to see what the story as a whole seeks to accomplish. It’s easy to criticise characters for struggling with making a decision or feel like they’re backed into a corner whenever a new phenomenon arises, but it’s much more difficult to see why the story has its characters making the choices they do.

  • A part of the reason why period discussions couldn’t quite hit the nail on the head, and consequently, why reception towards Kokoro Connect had been quite polarising, then, was precisely because people had entered expecting a romance comedy rather than a coming-of-age drama, and because, rather than one unifying narrative, Kokoro Connect breaks things up into distinct acts. Learnings from a precious act appear to be thrown out the window whenever a new phenomenon appears, and any progress appears undone. However, this is done deliberately to show how mental health issues aren’t something people can always prepare for.

  • I do not fault older discussions for drawing incomplete conclusions because mental health awareness was not really well-characterised a decade earlier. My alma mater didn’t begin pushing for mental health awareness until 2014, and I myself didn’t study mental health extensively until my first start-up began looking at mental health three years later. Better exposure to mental health and wellness in the present means that Kokoro Connect‘s themes and execution makes more sense than they had previously. It is fair to say that the me of a decade earlier didn’t fully appreciate or understand what Kokoro Connect had aimed to convey.

  • The third act of Kokoro Connect deals with age regression and the return of old memories from childhood. Although this particular phenomenon appears little more than a nuisance at first glance, as it can be easily managed (Heartseed indicates it’ll only affect someone between 1200 and 1700 JST, and Taichi is supposed to be immune to its effects), Yoshifumi, Yui and Iori become distraught when childhood memories come back to them. This causes Yui to wonder if Yoshifumi loves her for who she is, or if he’d fallen in love with her simply because she resembles his childhood crush.

  • For Yui, memories of when she’d been assaulted are fresh on her mind, and Iori struggles with recalling how she’d felt when her mother began seeing an abusive man. This act gives Yoshifumi some focus, and he decides to visit his old crush to see if his heart still feels as it once did. While the age regression itself isn’t particularly bothersome, everyone’s old memories are a source of trouble for them. As people age, and new memories are made, the more painful or embarrassing memories begin fading away, so one can imagine how difficult it’d be for these thoughts to resurface.

  • How Yoshifumi ends up dealing with things is a more dramatic variant to the solution I hold as being appropriate: what’s past is past, and these things can’t be undone, so one’s only real responsibility is to make the most of the present and conduct themselves accordingly. For Yoshifumi, he chooses to live in the present because he’d always worried about dying before he could do anything of note, after a classmate had unexpectedly passed away. To this end, he makes the most of every moment so if anything should befall him, he’d be able to make peace with his past and depart without any regrets. For someone who had looked pretty laid-back and carefree, this moment shows another side to Yoshifumi and explains his actions throughout Kokoro Connect.

  • While Taichi had started Yui’s journey towards overcoming her androphobia, it is ultimately Yoshifumi who finishes things: he reaffirms that his feelings in them here and now are for Yui and Yui alone. Seeing Yoshifumi so sincerely expressing himself prompts Yui to embrace him. It turns out her fear of men had stopped her from participating in a karate tournament some years earlier, and this is why another girl had been quite unhappy with Yui, as she’d broken their promise. With this, Yui and Yoshifumi’s are resolved in full.

  • The phenomenon that Heartseed creates is to an unknown end, and while Kokoro Connect‘s anime adaptation never explains what this end is beyond Heartseed’s desire for entertainment, it does precipitate accelerated growth amongst the characters by forcing them to confront their worst selves and work out a solution on their own. In this way, Kokoro Connect‘s first three stories actually do a fantastic job of showing how important it is to have people in one’s corner. Even though Taichi, Himeko, Iori, Yui and Yoshifumi lack any support from adult figures in their lives, having one another still lets them regroup and talk things out.

  • Thus, when Heartseed reappears after Himeko forces Taichi to reveal Heartseed had rendered him exempt from the phenomenon and introduces chaos, the five continue to deal with things as they have, and Iori even declines Heartseed’s offer of helping Iori sort out her past. This single moment shows Iori has being someone who’s figured things out now, and with friends in her corner, it does feel as though she’s able to overcome any problem. Throughout the age regression (kako random), Iori was forced to relive memories of her time with her mother’s second husband, and when he returns unexpectedly, Iori is torn between trying to appease him and helping her mother.

  • With Yui, Himeko, Taichi and Yoshifumi in her corner, Iori decides helping her mother matters more, and she ends up voicing their concerns to her mother. As it turns out, Iori’s mother had also worried about her, and once Iori had spoken up, she puts her foot down and throws the other man out, surprising everyone. This outcome suggests that although youth won’t be able to directly take on issues in the lives of those around them, it’s still important to speak up, since adults can often act where youth cannot. Of course, as adults, one does have a responsibility to listen and act where appropriate, and good communication underlies this.

  • Had Kokoro Connect ended here, the anime would’ve been satisfactory. I wrapped up Kokoro Connect in September; by this point in time, the MCAT had been done, and my undergraduate thesis project proposal was accepted, allowing me to start things off in earnest. Kokoro Connect fell to the back of my mind: although I had been looking to return and write about things once Hito Random finished, what happened subsequently appeared to have undone and contradicted the progress that had been made throughout Kokoro Connect up until now.

  • With a decade’s worth of additional life experience and a new perspective on things, I now find that Michi Random was meant to achieve two things: address the question of what counts as identity, as this question disappeared in Hito Random after Heartseed forces Iori to leap into a river and sending her to the hospital, and secondly, illustrate that the journey of both mental health and light novel was an ongoing one. Had Kokoro Connect wrapped up with a happily-ever-after ending, the series would’ve suggested there are points in life where mental health is no longer a concern, and one is “cured” of their problems once they find something. Life doesn’t operate in this fashion, so continuing the story and showing one more instance of the Student Cultural Research Club dealing with a phenomenon as the stakes increase was the anime adaptation’s way of showing that, even as things become more difficult, Taichi and the others can still handle things.

  • Michi Random is the result of this, and while the phenomenon of thought transmission would, on paper, be one the Student Cultural Research Club should have no trouble handling, it is also the one that brings the club closest to the brink of destruction: instructor Ryūzen learns that scheduling conflicts may result in his being forced to choose between the Student Cultural Research Club and the jazz club. When thought transmission begins, the Student Cultural Research Club’s members don’t think much of things and set about preparing an exhibit of local attractions to convince the instructors they’re worthy of having an advisor.

  • However, Iori’s troubles threaten the club’s project. Although her troubles appeared to be solved since the events of Kako Random, the transmission of thoughts suddenly has Iori doubting her identity again: she worries that the persona she projects and her actual thoughts, being incongruous, means that Taichi and the others won’t understand her true self. When Iori turns down a male student from the jazz club, she earns the ire of a female classmate who’d also had a crush on him, and this precipitates a conflict Iori wants no part of. There is more drama in Michi Random than the other stories, and it became difficult to reconcile the events here with what had happened in the earlier stories.

  • Things come to a head when the female classmate’s friends convinces her to send some goons from another school to trash the Student Cultural Research Club’s work. Although Taichi, Himeko, Yui and Yoshifumi are quite unbothered by this (to them, they’re confident that they can start over and still do a good job since everyone’s been pitching in), Iori all but suffers a breakdown; she’s furious that her actions have caused trouble for others. After Taichi and Himeko catch up to her, Iori finally explains herself: ever since the phenomenon started, she’s been struggling to understand who she is.

  • Michi Random thus seems to come out of the blue since Kokoro Connect had given the sense that Iori’s problems had been addressed to a satisfactory extent. However, after Heartseed took over her body and injured her in Hito Random, matters of identity were set aside as Taichi strove to make his feelings for Iori known. The question of what constitutes identity is therefore never fully resolved in the context of the first three acts. Because Kokoro Connect had already shown the Student Cultural Research Club as having significantly stronger bonds as a result of the previous phenomenon, the only way the anime could show the difficulty of this new scenario was by raising the stakes: anything less, and viewers would comment on how it should be easy for the Student Cultural Research Club to manage things this time around.

  • The need to do this was why Michi Random feels so out of place compared to the remainder of Kokoro Connect, and it also illustrates a challenge that light novels face when being adapted. Although some story ideas work well in the written format, as an anime, their progression might feel unnatural or forced. In the case of Kokoro Connect, this is exactly what ended up happening: Michi Random is important in that it resolves the problem of what is identity, but the way it happens feels gratuitous. After Himeko spots some of the male students bragging about their handiwork, she confronts them, but they end up kidnapping her.

  • Fortunately, thought transmission allows Yui, Taichi and Yoshifumi to save Himeko; Iori overhears everyone’s thoughts and chooses to act despite her own feelings of guilt. She too exploits the phenomenon to help buy enough time for everyone to rescue Himeko. The male students’ actions appear irrational, written purely for drama’s sake, but folks familiar with some of the more macabre crime stories in Japan would get the chills from their presence; when Himeko is rescued, one cannot help but breathe a sigh of relief that no serious harm had come to Himeko.

  • In the end, Iori reconciles with both her friend and her classmate: it takes extraordinary circumstances to help her to spot this, but the important detail here is that she does recover. This is another piece of the puzzle that mental health awareness has made easier to address: while wellness can be maintained or improved through non-clinical support (mainly social contact and self-care), there are situations where professional intervention may be necessary. Kokoro Connect doesn’t mention this explicitly, but the more extreme events of Michi Random do reflect on how sometimes, conventional methods don’t always work.

  • The mental health piece is precisely what I was missing when I watched through Michi Random, and this was ultimately the reason why I had a difficult time in writing out my thoughts for Kokoro Connect, as well as why I didn’t initially feel justified in recommending the series or giving it a fairer chance. The me of a decade earlier, however, did not have this additional knowledge, and this is why a revisit has proven valuable in helping me to reassess a series I’d previously dismissed. While I am doubtful that my comments in this post will be read by folks who’d watched and written about Kokoro Connect a decade earlier, I believe that this exercise remains a worthwhile one in allowing me to revisit some of my old thoughts and see if time has changed them.

  • The Michi Random storyline draws to a close on a positive note: although one of the male students ends up injuring Taichi, thanks to Maiko’s father being in law enforcement, the three students are taken care of, and when the time comes to give their presentation, the Student Cultural Research Club performs extremely well to the point where Ryūzen is allowed to continue advising for both clubs: the extent of the Student Cultural Research Club’s efforts show that they do contribute to Yamaboshi’s student experience without the need for supervision, and in this way, Kokoro Connect ends in a satisfactory manner.

  • Opinions of Kokoro Connect are subjective and unique to the individual, so it is not my place to judge other perspectives on the anime. However, I am allowed to challenge my old thoughts and decide whether or not they still hold true in the present day. After revisiting Kokoro Connect, I am happy to say the anime is significantly more meaningful and enjoyable than I recall. The series’ reputation following the controversy was quite undeserved, and while the story has a few frustrating moments, overall, it is a sincere and valid portrayal of youth mental health. As a result, I retract my old remarks about Kokoro Connect and indicate here that, contrary to what I’d previously said, there is merit in watching this anime.

Because of the increased awareness for mental health amongst youth, it is unfair to look back at these old opinions and dismiss them as being wrong; I reached my conclusions about Kokoro Connect based on the information that had been available a decade earlier, as did the numerous other reviewers that similarly felt disappointed by this anime. Two years after Kokoro Connect began airing, students on campus had begun campaigning for improved mental health and awareness, and following my graduation, I began working at a health information start-up. Among the projects we were involved in was a potential partnership with the local mental health association, CMHA. CMHA provides mental health services to those who pass through their doors, and whereas traditional mental health treatments entailed professional support and medication, CMHA promoted the idea that mental health must be constantly looked after. Their surveys would almost always encourage people to consistently maintain strong, postitive connections to people, be open about any problems and talk things out with those in one’s circle. Kokoro Connect deals precisely with this and treads into territory that wouldn’t be explored for some time. In the presence of this knowledge, the anime had done a remarkably solid job of presenting another perspective of mental health, and more importantly, some solutions people might be able to take. As an anime, Kokoro Connect ends up deserving more credit than it received, and for this reason, I rescind my old conclusions of Kokoro Connect: while it’s quite unconventional and can be frustrating at times, the journey it shows is a plausible one. Kokoro Connect ended in December 2012 with relatively limited fanfare, and has since been forgotten, but of the stories it did portray, it has done a satisfactory job. There is presently no continuation of Kokoro Connect that adapts later volumes of the light novel, but this is actually for the better – Kokoro Connect‘s anime works only because it shows four phenomenon that challenge the characters in different ways, but once Taichi and the others get a handle on things, they resolve things in a fairly consistent manner, using similar steps. There is only so much the story can do before things get repetitive, and in the light novel, to keep the stakes high, the Heartseed phenomenon must become increasingly outrageous. This does not advance the theme any further and may create a scenario where the story stretches credibility. It was for this reason that The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya was not adapted past the Disappearance volume. Once Kyon accepts his enjoyment of Haruhi’s adventures, there is no further growth to his character. Here in Kokoro Connect, after Taichi and the others find their footing, getting through the phenomenon is a given, and the outcomes end up being identical, so concluding the animated adaptation with Iori reaffirming her sense of identity was an appropriate conclusion, rounding out the questions that first came to mind when everyone began switching bodies early on.

Controversed: Moyatori’s November Workshop, The Kokoro Connect Incident, Unseen Japan versus the Red Cross and Remarks on Anime Controversies

“When a thing ceases to be a subject of controversy, it ceases to be a subject of interest.” –William Hazlitt

Before delving into the core of this post, I will briefly introduce Controversed, a special workshop fellow blogger Moyatori is hosting for this month. The objective of this programme is simple enough: to consider the matter of controversy, its matters and implications on the anime community, in such a way as to understand controversy. It goes without saying that this programme is not intended for courting flame wars or espousing particularly touchy perspectives, but rather, to understand different perspectives around topics that are polarising. The topic for this first week deals in controversies in our chosen field of interest. Per the prompts Moyatori has defined, I will address two aspects of controversy, specifically my thoughts on controversies surrounding anime, and also explain my preference for steering clear of these topics. In the realm of anime, it should be unsurprising that controversies exist: as a form of entertainment with a large viewer base, it is inevitable that occurrences, either in the industry producing these titles, or within the work themselves, can result in discussion that produces different conclusions. Where these conclusions differ wildly and clash with the individual’s values, disagreements can result. While conflicting values and conclusions are a natural part of human interactions, so is the journey towards understanding another side. The latter is often forgotten, and exacerbated by a persistent, deep-seated belief that one must stick to their guns and defend their position unto death. The end result is inevitable: a flame war lasting weeks, or even months at a time. These are exhausting events to deal with, and rarely yield any meaningful conversations. The fact that emotion, rather than reason, drives controversy means that as a blogger, my initial inclination is to steer clear of active controversies, and only make passing references to them if they are relevant to a topic that a given post discusses.

Of course, I didn’t always have this mindset, and back when my blog was still relatively new, I wrote about the venerable Kokoro Connect Incident, where voice actor Mitsuhiro Ichiki was deceived into auditioning for a non-existent voice role for the anime Kokoro Connect and was humiliated when the recorders were taken into a different context at his expense. While the event disappeared from public eye shortly after, it was referenced during a talk show, and netizens, outraged at how the industry handled things, organised a massive Twitter campaign with the intent of punishing Kokoro Connect‘s producers, going to lengths such as online harassment, issuing threats to the studio and the like. While I found the Kokoro Connect Incident unfortunate, I also felt that the choice of actions netizens took to be more deplorable than the original incident itself. This stance evidently put me at odds with the online community; as I was not espousing extreme actions despite disagreeing with the studio, I was not “on their side” enough. Redditors soon found my thoughts on the Kokoro Connect Incident and began vilifying my blog far and wide; their intention was not to understand or have a conversation, but rather, to bolster their own credibility and reputation online by means of upvotes. To this day, my post on the Kokoro Connect Incident remains the only time where I’ve scrubbed comments from: none of them were conducive to good discussion. The Kokoro Connect Incident was a reminder of the depravity some sections of the online community would go to stand above others, and furthermore, gave me a first-hand demonstration of what wading into a controversial topic is like. While I may be able to coherently, and clearly argue my points about a controversial topic, the same cannot always be said about those who had more time to expend than I did: after the Kokoro Connect Incident, I concluded that discussion of controversial anime topics would, at best, be a challenge, and opted to avoid controversies in order to stave off the necessity of fending off folks disinterested in discussion.

That approach has served me well enough until this year, when Uzaki-chan Wants to Hang Out! began airing during the summer anime season. While the anime itself is quite unremarkable, a bit of background reading done to gain a measure of the series uncovered one of the most petty, ill-conceived controversies of all time. As it turns out, the Red Cross had used Uzaki’s image during a blood drive event a year earlier, and one Jay Allan of Unseen Japan took personal offense to the advertisement, feeling it to be exploiting “sex appeal” to drive up interest in the blood drive. Allan subsequently wrote a Tweet decrying the practise and sent it to prominent social media activists with the aim of utilising their outrage to increase Unseen Japan’s visibility. This was successful: within a day, the original post had received two thousand likes and a thousand retweets, along with an outpouring of support. However, not all of the reception was rosy, and Allan took advantage of the more adverse responses to “prove” his point that anime fans were immature people lacking any sort of understanding of social issues in Japan. This much is fact, and anything pertaining to Allan’s motivations and objectives reside in the realm of speculation, which I will not delve into. However, I did find it petty to instruct others not to watch a series based purely on controversy, and consequently, I wrote about Uzaki-chan Wants to Hang Out! with the aim of making it clear that whether or not the anime adaptation was worth watching was to be determined purely based on the series’ merits (or lack thereof), rather than the opinions of someone whose credibility in anime and manga was dubious at best. By writing this post, I ventured again into the realm of a controversial topic, but by focusing purely on the outcomes for the reader, I was able to have a more productive conversation about the issue that mattered to readers: whether or not Uzaki-chan Wants to Hang Out! is worthwhile, rather than whether Jay Allan’s personal opinions hold any weight.

Additional Remarks

  • The short version of this post is simple: my least favourite anime controversies are the Kokoro Connect incident and the trouble the Red Cross had with Uzaki-chan Wants To Hang Out, primarily because I saw for myself how the anime community handles controversial topics. Honourable mentions include whether or not Miho’s decisions in Girls und Panzer were justified (she’d abandoned her tank to save classmates, costing her the champion ship match). While the community would likely count The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya‘s Endless Eight, Legend of the Shield Hero‘s portrayal of victim-playing and Isshuzoku Reviewers‘ upvote brigading at MyAnimeList as being larger controversies, I never wrote about those as they happened, and so, I never experienced the exhaustion of having to endlessly discuss them.

  • As to my own stance on writing about controversial topic, the rule I follow is that I won’t write about it unless I can do the topic justice, and it is relevant to my readers. I certainly don’t like writing about things just to pull a few extra readers in, and find that this approach is typically counterproductive for a blogger; if I were to rush blindly into a topic, as I did with the Kokoro Connect Incident, the results can be troublesome to deal with in the aftermath. The practise of starting a controversy for views, retweets and upvotes is even more dishonest: while no doubt effective, it brings the sort of attention that typically isn’t wanted, and even where that is avoided, comes across as being a means of begging for attention.

  • The key to dealing with polarising topics is simply to listen, and in this day and age, not pay any respect or attention to those who would respond to controversy with memes. One of the reasons why controversies become viral is because when context is lost, things can become more black and white, and as such, are capable of evoking stronger emotional responses. If one were to then throw a few memes into things because they thought it amusing, they run the risk of giving all of that anger and hatred either a symbol, which conveys a sense of legitimacy, or target. The reason this happens is because memes are inherently context-free, and as such, can miscommunicate intentions.

  • The state of politics and journalism in the world in recent years, then, can be thought of as a consequence of taking memes too seriously and giving them an undue, inordinate amount of attention, giving the incorrect impression that memes are not just a form of reaction, but an acceptable method of responding to someone. The most damaging memes are created by bad faith actors who are aware of the ramifications of their actions, although the amusement-seeking individual can also find there materials misappropriated for memes. Webcomic author Matt Furie found this out the hard way, when his creation became used as a symbol of hatred, intolerance and racism. Today, the symbol is further used to indicate disdain and sarcasm; that people have accepted such symbols as a valid form of communication means that it is impossible to hold a conversation with them.

  • Altogether, I find that while controversial topics can be safely discussed, it demands that all sides of an issue be willing to listen, first and foremost, and that individuals communicating must make an active effort to make themselves clear. I’ve had healthy disagreements with people, and they certainly didn’t see it as a “us or them” deal; we left the conversation with a better appreciation of the issue at hand. Listening and being clear are essential for good communications, and this bit of common sense is how prickly topics can be approached. However, until the world rejects memes as a valid form of response to others, I imagine that polarising issues will be tricky to discuss, simply because individuals holding various perspectives are unwilling to listen to one another.

Both the Kokoro Connect Incident and Unseen Japan’s battle with the Red Cross represent two controversies I am not fond of, and also represent two different approaches I took towards handling things. By the events of the latter, I framed my discussions around the merits of the show itself and reiterated that I was not here to talk about identity politics. Through the post on Uzaki-chan Wants To Hang Out!, I found that there was a means of smartly addressing controversial topics without opening oneself to endless harassment. The key here is to clearly define the impact of a given controversy on one specific area and my specific stance on things. I cared whether or not a work was worth consuming on its own merits, as well as what extent the controversy had on my decisions. Even though I’ve established an approach for discussing controversies, it is not my preference to write posts surrounding polarising topics: there is a sense of being disingenuous and dishonest when one exploits a controversy for views, retweets and upvotes, and similarly, because controversial topics move very quickly, one could find themselves on the receiving end of considerable trouble if they accidentally (or intentionally) offend the wrong people (especially those with the dangerous combination of rudimentary technical knowledge and unlimited leisure time). Building up a readership around polarising topics is always a gamble, and while it can yield a large reader base at best when done properly, it’s also a delicate balancing act where the price of making mistakes can become heavy. I certainly do not like to participate in controversies, and in general, prefer keeping opinions to myself: I am of the mind that, unless one were qualified to fairly, and critically consider a controversy, they should not act as though their opinions hold any more opinion than those of the next individual.

Anime Night at the Archives: What happened to Papa no Iukoto o Kikinasai!, Kokoro Connect and RDG: Red Data Girl?

“Sir, finishing this fight.” —Spartan John 117

I typically see things through to the end, to the best of my ability, so while looking through the more ancient sections of this blog (dating back to the summer of 2012), I realised that there were three anime that I began watching, and wrote the first episode posts to Papa no Iukoto o Kikinasai!, Kokoro Connect. At that time, my old website was still being maintained, and I imagined that I would eventually find some time to write a proper review there for these shows (as I did for Ano Natsu de Matteru and True Tears). However, both anime had unique circumstances that led them to fall by the wayside. A year later, I reviewed RDG: Red Data Girl‘s first episode on a brand new machine, but also failed to give it a final impressions talk here and at the old website. While these posts would likely be missed by all but those with an uncommonly solid power to recall things, it’s high time I dug back into these anime and provide my thoughts on the anime. In this post, I will merely be reviewing them based on my memories of what I can remember feeling while watching said anime: it is not the best use of my time to go back through them and watch them a second time.

Papa no Iukoto o Kikinasai!

I started Papa no Iukoto o Kikinasai! officially in mid-July, just a few days before the K-On! Movie came out, and watched the episodes several at a time during the mornings prior to my MCAT courses. When I finished, I saw a series where the protagonist, Yuuta Segawa, overcame difficult odds to look after Sora, Miu and Hina. Though somewhat unrealistic, seeing the dedication and lengths to which Yuuta would go to keep their family together was touching. In the end, Yuuta’s efforts are recognised as genuine, and he’s provided with the resources to look after everyone without unnecessary burden to his degree. It’s a classic tale of overcoming the odds to do what is right for children, and although there might be a few scenes that toe the line for credibility, on the whole, it was a fun anime to watch.

  • Given that some three years have elapsed since I’ve actually watched Papa no Iukoto o Kikinasai!, I cannot fully recall all of the details for the anime, and therefore, won’t be going into great detail about the screenshots I’ve elected to show here.

  • Raika’s paper fan apparently was quite the object of interest when Papa no Iukoto o Kikinasai! was airing: she uses one to discipline Shuntarou Sako for his perversions.

  • Despite its frequent use of comedy, Papa no Iukoto o Kikinasai! did not hesitate to depict the grittier side of things, whether it be the girls’ grief surrounding Shingo and Yuri’s deaths or the financial difficulties Yuuta encounters as he tries to care for Sora, Miu and Hina.

  • In spite of these difficulties, Yuuta’s friends do their utmost to help him stay on top of things. His neighbour, Kurumi Atarashi, is a voice actress and also helps Yuuta by watching over Miu and Hina.

  • The fine balance that Papa no Iukoto o Kikinasai! strikes between more realistic elements associated with their situation, and the more lighthearted moments, together signify the value of family.

  • Papa no Iukoto o Kikinasai! was based off a light novel that concluded just four months ago. There’s definitely material for a second season, and I would probably pick it up out of curiosity. The first season was worth watching, so I would probably see such a continuation through to the end.

  • I vaguely recall that Papa no Iukoto o Kikinasai! is set during the summer; university students do not typically have lectures during this timeframe and consequently, Yuuta is able to direct all of his time towards earning enough money to keep everyone together.

  • Mid-series, Sora and Miu’s efforts to help Yuuta out lead them to become exhausted, as they also have activities from their daily lives to handle. This leads Sora, Miu and Hina’s relatives to intervene and take custody of the children, but ultimately, Yuuta’s earnestness convinces them to change their minds.

  • Thus, while the outcome of Papa no Iukoto o Kikinasai! is not probable by any stretch, it is an ending that the characters deserve. As the main season wraps up, Yuuta is given the deed to the girls’ old home, which solves the problem of shelter (rent constitutes a large portion of one’s income) and presumably allows him to balance caring for the girls and his own studies more effectively.

  • My memories of Papa no Iukoto o Kikinasai! are largely positive, and consequently, I will swing by at some indeterminate point in the future to do a discussion for both of the OVAs.

What happened to Papa no Iukoto o Kikinasai!? I finished in late July: by this point in time, the MCAT preparation course had concluded the in-class sessions. I therefore spent most of my days reviewing concepts and doing practise full-length exams. Between the studying, I could barely find the willpower to write about (or even watch) anime- breaks were directed at watching Survivorman or playing Team Fortress 2 (with a bit of MicroVolts). By the time exam day rolled around, my thoughts were a million klicks from Papa no Iukoto o Kikinasai!, and soon fell from my mind after the exam concluded: I spent the remainder of the summer on a publication. However, these circumstances notwithstanding, Papa no Iukoto o Kikinasai! was able to tell a rewarding story of how Yuuta manages to keep Sora, Miu and Hina together as a family: this anime would earn a recommendation if it were to be reviewed in full.

Kokoro Connect

July 2012 also saw me begin Kokoro Connect. I admit that the K-On!-style artwork grabbed my eye first, and the premise (switching bodies) seemed quite interesting, potentially leading to discussions about what constitutes as identity, whether it’s our physical bodies, personalities, or the unique combination thereof. Later episodes dealt with Taichi and the others hearing the thoughts of their friends, acting on impulses and even changing ages. These phenomena are perpetuated by a mysterious entity only known as Heartseed, and while various aspects of human nature are touched upon, the main theme in Kokoro Connect appears to deal with the immeasurable complexity of love and how some phenomenon, prime facie appearing to help individuals comprehend love, merely serve to obfuscate its understanding further. This is demonstrated through the stresses each of Taichi, Iori, Himeko, Yui and Yoshifumi experience. Their friendships win out over the drama (overcoming even a kidnapping), and the events strengthen their bonds with one another.

  • I recall watching Kokoro Connect on one of the hottest days of 2012 after a full morning’s worth of MCAT review, and had taken a walk to the local Subway for a sandwich. After a memorable first episode, I took up Kokoro Connect, and three episodes in, I saw an interesting anime that merited following.

  • Kokoro Connect cannot be said to be particularly deep after the first arc’s body swapping, which raised questions about how dualism might play a role in determining how individuals identify themselves. However, despite lacking any philosophical and academic merit beyond the first arc, Kokoro Connect does a spirited job in illustrating the implications associated with the stresses of constant assaults on one’s identity.

  • The second arc involves releasing each character’s inhibitions at random, leading them to act in ways that they would otherwise contain. Ibara’s actions most strongly suggest that, far from focusing on the meaning of identity, Kokoro Connect intends to be about “Connecting Hearts”, a not-so-subtle metaphor about love.

  • The only character I had any sort of antipathy for was Heartseed: this unfathomable character simply couldn’t be cracked, and its motivations for triggering these phenomenon is limited to its own amusement, and as such, is a catalyst for would otherwise be an unremarkable love story. However, the outcome itself allows for love to be explored in a relatively novel manner.

  • The body-swapping arc ended five days before my MCAT, and August 2012 was a month that saw me relax while preparing a publication. Soon, September arrived, and with it, Kokoro Connect moved into the age arc. The body-swapping arc had the strongest impact on me, accompanying me as I revisited concepts as disparate as Diels-Alder reactions and how to best take on verbal reasoning.

  • The aging arc proved to be one of the most interesting stories, as the group is forced to relocate somewhere quiet to keep their age changes quiet. By the time this arc began, my final undergraduate year began, and I started to draft the research proposal to my thesis project. Kokoro Connect takes an intermission here, and I set about working on my thesis project, resolving to return and write about the series as a whole once the final episodes had aired.

  • All four episodes released on December 30, 2012, a mere two days before 2013 began. The phenomenon for this arc was the random transmission of emotion from one member of the group to all the others: this puts a severe strain on the group when their emotions lead to ugly rumours propagating around their school.

  • While an interesting arc, the unknown hooligans’ motivations were not mentioned, and in the absence of motive, appear quite irrational. Some suggest that the sheer ridiculousness of the situation is intended to illustrate just how far gone Iori was, if this is what it took to restore her to her original state.

  • Kokoro Connect‘s episode titles bear a great deal of similarity to the quasi-contemplative titles found in OreGairu, although the former’s light novels ran between 2010 and 2013, whereas the latter started in 2011 and is ongoing. Kokoro Connect ended on volume four, and there are eleven volumes in total.

  • With three years having elapsed since Kokoro Connect first began airing, and limited discussion about any continuation since then, Kokoro Connect has largely faded into obscurity now. If there’s a continuation, I will probably pass on it if it fails the three episode test, and with that, I’m pretty much done talking about this anime.

What happened to Kokoro Connect? As one of the anime during the Summer 2012 lineup, I watched this in conjunction with Tari Tari, and each week proved to be a modestly suspenseful adventure. One could never be sure what Heartseed’s intentions were, or how Taichi and his friends might react to the various phenomenon. It might’ve been simple to review the anime in September, after thirteen episodes: during this time, I was starting my undergraduate thesis proposal, and my schedule was quite light. However, there was one caveat: Kokoro Connect was not truly over yet, and by the time the final arc aired, it was the new year, and I was completely occupied with my thesis work. The time delay meant I’d also forgotten most of what had happened prior to the intermission, and admittedly, my eyes were on Girls und Panzer at the time. From what I can recall, Kokoro Connect‘s strengths lay with depicting how the characters each learnt more about themselves and their friends through the phenomenon, but weaknesses lay with how the narrative devolved into a love story. Moreover, the handling of the last arc felt a little out of place (with respect to Himeko’s kidnapping). Taken together, Kokoro Connect would earn a neutral response if I were to return and review it in full (“I think it’s not a waste of time to watch this, but I won’t argue in favour of this anime”).

RDG: Red Data Girl

After Tari Tari, I decided to try out P.A. Works’ then-latest work, RDG: Red Data Girl, which followed Izumiko’s transfer into Houjou High School and discovery that she is the vessel for a Shinto Goddess. Despite a rough start with Miyuki, he and Izumiko eventually grow closer to one another in this coming-of-age slash supernatural story. This is about the upper extent to what I can remember of RDG: Red Data Girl, and my limited recollection naturally precludes extracting a theme from it. What I do remember is that Miyuki was a disagreeable character, and that all of the factions at Houjou High School had ulterior motives that were inadequately explored and interfered with what would otherwise be ordinary high school events, culminating in a culture festival fraught with tensions.

  • All truth be told, of the three anime to discuss, RDG: Red Data Girl is probably the most difficult. When this anime finished, I found myself lacking the motivation to write about it; this is why I have no review of it by the time July 2013 rolled around.

  • Even having Saori Hayami providing Izumiko’s voice (i.e. of Tari Tari‘s Sawa Okita, OreGairu‘s Yukino Yukinoshita and Gochuumon wa Usagi Desu ka?‘s Aoyama Blue Mountain) cannot save RDG: Red Data Girl from my verdict.

  • We recall that my assessment here is based purely off what I can recall of RDG: Red Data Girl. It is quite conceivable that, if I were to go back and re-watch the anime again, with smaller gaps between the episodes, things might make slightly more sense.

  • What if I were to begin a series of posts called the “Terrible Anime Challenge”, which encompasses my watching shows that are outside my domain of interest? I would pick anime that have seen reasonably widespread discussion on other anime blogs. If there is enough interest in my doing so, I will consider re-watching  RDG: Red Data Girl to see whether or not the show was unenjoyable on a shortcoming on my part.

  • Granted, the title “Terrible Anime Challenge” is rather provocative, but it would be interesting to see if I can find positives in anime that do not constitute what I would normally watch. The concept was inspired by Matimi0’s “Terrible Weapon Challenge”, where he would run with poor loadouts or self-imposed challenges to see if killstreaks were possible.

  • I’ll probably drop by in August to discuss the “Terrible Anime Challenge” in greater detail, so for the present, we’ll return to discussions about  RDG: Red Data Girl. Curiously enough, RDG: Red Data Girl was also adapted from a light novel, and the novel concluded before the anime adapation aired. Apparently, the anime only scratches the surface of what the light novels cover.

  • With this, it’s quite amusing how all of the anime in this here post are actually adapted from light novels. Light novels appear to offer a lower barrier-of-entry for aspiring authors compared to novels proper, and consequently, most of them are unlikely to hold a candle against Tom Clancy or J.R.R. Tolkein’s works. With that being said, there are some light novels that are well-written out there.

  • P.A. Works is said to be an studio that never goes back and do sequels: all of their continuations thus far are set somewhere in the middle of their respective anime’s runs. Assuming trends continue, it is most unlikely that they will air a continuation to RDG: Red Data Girl.

  • In the unlikely event that a continuation of RDG: Red Data Girl were to come out, I would probably skip it. I’ll elaborate more on what made RDG: Red Data Girl unfavourable for me in the main paragraph below, but one must wonder which parts of this anime did come across as being positive for me.

  • The superior animation and artwork P.A. Works has put into RDG: Red Data Girl, alongside an above-average soundtrack means that, while the story was a challenge to follow, the anime nonetheless looked and sounded good. I understand that some people did enjoy this anime: while I didn’t like it, I certainly won’t object if others liked it.

What happened to RDG: Red Data Girl? This time, it certainly was not scheduling: the anime wrapped up close to the Great Flood of 2013. Perhaps in part owing to my complete lack of knowledge in Shintoism, I found that there were many elements that simply did not fit. Yes, there were groups coveting Izumiko’s powers, but the reasons or aims of possessing this power were never made clear. Consequently, the overarching idea of competing factions feels inconsequential (in fact, it felt blown out of proportion, considering the age of the individuals involved), and this is why I eventually dropped the idea of providing a review; there was no discernible theme that I could pick out. While there are numerous people who feel that this anime was good, I was unable to find enough positives to outweigh the negatives. The sales figures reflect this, given that RDG: Red Data Girl is second only to Glasslip in terms of fewest volumes sold (the former’s 1556 to the latter’s 584). I don’t specialise in tearing down shows, so in the end, this anime was not given a full review: had it been given a full review, I would have not recommended this anime.

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.

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 unfortunate, but wrongs do not beget a right, and this is an overreaction. With the break in Kokoro Connect for now, I will treat the continuation as a separate season when reviewing it.

From a personal perspective, the way the events proceeded is almost expected of the otaku and their disagreeable methods for handling things. The events vilified the original voice actors on Kokoro Connect and unfairly damaged Sadanatsu Anda’s reputation as a writer. Granted, the publicity stunt was poorly executed, but apologies were issued swiftly, rendering the online community’s reaction disproportionate and unwarranted, reflecting on the immaturity of users on image-boards. I do not judge media based upon scandals and controversies surrounding the parties involved in their production, and while people wasted hours debating the morality of Silver Link’s actions, I merely continued to watch the anime. With Kokoro Connect having ended for the time being, the entire controversy has disappeared, and along with it, the community’s malignant nature  which has since faded into obscurity. With this being said, the Kokoro Connect Incident also shows that elaborate pranks and the like have no impact on an anime’s performance or quality: studios that use such measures may be met with disproportionate backlash. The end result of this incident may overshadow the things Kokoro Connect had done well, dealing the series a double blow when taken together with the delay in the final four episodes’ remaining: the thirteen episodes already aired are not the whole story, and a combination of delay and antipathy means that, by the time the final four episodes are aired, viewers will have likely skipped them – the legacy that Kokoro Connect leaves behind, then, is an anime that was unfairly tainted by a public relations disaster and seemingly incomplete storytelling. This is untrue, and I will complete the anime, and make my assessments of things once the final four episodes air: incident or not, Kokoro Connect is a reasonable anime with unique merits.

Kokoro Connect

The five members of the Cultural Study group that meets in class 401 have spent a lot of time wondering what it would be like to be in someone else’s shoes. But they’re about to learn that there’s a huge difference between thinking about something and literally BEING in someone else’s shoes! Because that’s exactly what happens when, suddenly and inexplicably, they each find themselves inside the body of the girl (or boy) next door! What happens next? Well, besides bringing a whole new meaning to the term “Exchange Student” and the expected freaked out runs to the bathroom, it’s not hard to do the math: Take one wrestling geek, the resident cool girl, the class clown, the popular chick and one sultry maid of mystery, scramble thoroughly and divide, and you can bet that pretty soon they’ll be answering ALL of the questions they never wanted to know about the opposite sex in ways they never anticipated!

That’s a lot to read for a season summary, isn’t it? Now that that’s done, it appears that the outline of the series appears rather questionable on first glance, and upon watching the first few seconds of the episode, one would probably drop it. Fortunately, we live in a world where open-mindedness and patience are both virtues.

Taichi Yaegashi, Iori Nagase, Himeko Inaba, Yoshifumi Aoki and Yui Kiriyama are all members of the Cultural Research Club. One day, Yoshifumi and Yui claim to have temporarily switched bodies the previous night. Although everyone is pretty sceptical of this, it is soon proven to be real when Taichi and Iori end up switching places. After spending the rest of the afternoon convincing Himeko what had happened is real, they eventually switch back to their original bodies.

  • The first thing viewers are treated to is the Google Maps-like opening, and a song that bears resemblance to Ace Combat 5’s Sand Island, giving the show a supernatural feel even from the beginning and contrasting the normalicity seen in the visuals.

  • The character design is reminiscient of those in K-On! This is hardly a surprise, considering that the art was by Yukiko Horiguchi. Those who have noted the relative absence of males in K-On! will note that there are male leads in Kokoro Connect.

  • The entire notion of the Cultural Studies Club is merely the background for the show and is what allows for such a character diversity.

  • I was enjoying a BBQ pork rib-lettuce-tomato flatbread sandwich when watching the first episode, and this scene was sufficiently funny as to have prompted me to put down said sandwich so I wouldn’t drop it as a result of laughing what had been happening on-screen. Kokoro Connect may be a supernatural show, but its comedic elements are definitely present.

  • From left to right, Yoshifumi Aoki, Yui Kiriyama, Himeko Inaba, Taichi Yaegashi and Iori Nagase. Casually note that Iori resembles Mio Akiyama from K-On! and is (ironically) voiced by Aki Toyosaki (i.e. Yui Hirasawa).

Kokoro Connect delivers the story in a fashion such that it is differentiable from other anime with a similar ‘out-of-body experience’ based plot. Instead of solely dealing with the decidedly more questionable elements, Kokoro Connect also explores the psychological impact of switching bodies at random, as well as its consequences on the individual’s interactions with others. Coupled with the character’s personalities, sets up for some interesting and amusing character-driven conflicts. Given that it is episode one, the mechanism and complexity are not particularly great, but future episodes will doubtlessly address what happens as things become increasingly random. This is the part where my (limited) experience with graph theory comes in handy: the idea of body-switching is reminiscent of Futurama, where the switching is unidirectional. Through a quick bit of directed graphing, one quickly realises that the path taken there is correct. Whether or not this will hold in Kokoro Connect will be interesting to see.