Another Anime Double Feature 2

The anime topic for the week is trust. Last week in Mysterious Girlfriend X, we saw a couple building trust by sharing spit. This week, in Kokoro Connect, we find out about learning to trust people by sharing your bodies. It’s about a group of five HS students (shy, boy-scared Yui, outgoing Iori, mature Inaba are the girls; laid back Aoki and white knight Taichi the boys) who, because of outside intervention, start swapping bodies, giving in to primal urges, and reverting to younger ages. Each of the students has their own secrets and personal traumas and despite the on/off nature of the changes, these start to come out.

The Five Musketeers

The change agent is someone or something called Heartseed. He can take over bodies at will (he regularly takes over their homeroom teacher to explain his latest experiment), and has other powers that become evident throughout the series. We don’t know if he’s an earthly villain, an alien, or an intelligent plant (heartseed is one of the names of Cardiospermum halicacabum, AKA balloon vine)

Swaps
The body swaps arc takes up the first half of the season. The swaps

Boys will be boys, even when they’re girls

totally move consciousness and memories, so when A is in B’s body, A is still A, including speech and body mannerisms, with no access to any of B’s knowledge.

KC seems to be unique in using this concept as the main storyline. A quick search pulled up references to fewer than ten true body-swap episodes across all of anime (although there is a playlist on YouTube that lists 100 vids, however most are more in the gender-change or video-deleted categories).

The question is, what do you do when you’re in someone else’s body? What might they be doing in, or to, yours? Sometimes it’s useful to have the alternative perspective — when Taichi and Yui swap bodies, he teaches her how not to be afraid of males. The trust issue is highlighted when Inaba (voiced by the incomparable Sawashiro Miyuki) confesses to the group that she worries about being held responsible for a crime one of the others commits while in her body, and that she doesn’t feel she can trust any of them and that she can’t sleep at night for worrying, and that she worries they will reject her when they hear this. The others reaction, after a long dramatic pause, is revealing:

Iori: You mean..you’re trying to tell us that…you worry too much?
Yui: I know exactly what you mean, Inaba. Every time Aoki’s been in my body I have to check myself over, and then go through my stuff to make sure nothings been changed.
Aoki: Let’s be clear on this, Inaba. It’s everybody you don’t trust, not just me?
Iori: Lunch break is almost over. Can we talk while we eat?

The end of the first arc is an emotional roller-coaster. Taichi finally tells Iori that he likes her and wants her to be his girlfriend. She tells him she likes him too, at which point Heartseed takes control, tells Taichi the group has become boring and that he wants to liven things up. He then makes Iori throw herself off a bridge. End of episode.

Not exactly a cliff-hanger

In the next episode, Iori is unconscious in the hospital and all the group is there. Heartseed shows up and tells them Iori is going to die and it’s up to them to decide who is going to be inside her body when she does. That turns out to be a lie, but not before we see each one (including Iori, temporarily swapped into different bodies) trying to deal with the emotional and ethical aspects of the problem.

Emotions

The middle arc is a bit of a disappointment. After Inaba tries to seduce Taichi in the clubroom, and Yui karate-chops a table in half when she catches them, Heartseed tells them he’s changed the rules and now they will be unable to control their innermost desires — the Id has been released. Unfortunately for suspension of disbelief, nothing much happens over the rest of the arc. Instead of normal teenlike reactions — I’d expect sex, drugs, and rock and roll to have a more prominent place — this mini-arc features overeating, and unwillingness to walk very far on a school outing.

It also finds Yui and Inaba hiding out in their bedrooms because they don’t trust their reactions, and they don’t trust their comrades to be able to help them. The friends are able to talk Yui out of hiding, but it takes a confrontation with Heartseed to bring Inaba out, and to have her admit to herself that she’s in love with Taichi, just as Iori is. Iori realizes this almost as soon as Inaba does, and the two agree to be friendly rivals. Yeah, right.

In any event, they survive, and Heartseed tells them that he’s done playing with them and life will be normal from now on.

Kids

The final arc is driven by Heartseed 2. Not exactly a different individual, but not the same. With no more information than this, I’m going for Heartseed as an intelligent vinelike plant, either an import from Ceti Alpha 5 or something growing on the wall at Fukushima. Heartseed 2 decides it will be interesting to have them revert back to their childhood selves, not in their current bodies, but in their actual childhood bodies. The opening scene is one of the funniest in the series, with Taichi and Inaba playing parents to preschool Yuri, Aoki, and Iori.

Family outing

The questions here are, who do you trust with your childhood? Which mental state do you trust, today’s or yesterday’s? We see various elements of these questions as four of the five (H2 has told Taichi that he’s exempt, because someone has to keep an eye on the kids, but that he can’t tell anyone, because if he does, the condition becomes permanent, like some fairytale curse).

Conclusion

The ending is only semi-satisfying. H1 saves them from H2, Yui and Aoki decide they really are a couple, Iori and her mother realize they’ve been putting up with idiot men because each thought that’s what the other wanted. And Taichi? Well, in the very last frame, Iori monologues that she isn’t sure she’s really in love with him. But we don’t find out what happens, because the series producers have decided that a good business model is to hold the last four episodes until the BD comes out sometime next Spring.

Comment
These two show take very different approaches to the issue of trust. MGX deals with it in a one-dimensional way — who do you trust to stick their…finger…in your…mouth…? KC looks at trust of others when you are vulnerable, a much deeper issue. MGX is a lightweight romantic comedy. KC is weightier overall, but is uneven in execution, and I can’t say I like this new business model, where a major chunk of the story is saved for the BDs, so they can charge Japanese prices for the set. Bakemonogatari is doing the same thing — the original story, plus the three missing Tsubasa Cat episodes, are now available for $150.

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