Kokoro Connect – 10

The field trip begins with Iori all over Taichi, but when Inaba cuts her finger, Taichi tries to help, and she runs off. Iori follows her, and realizes Inaba is in love with Taichi too. Eventually losing her patience, Iori demands an explanation. Himeko didn’t want to break up the group, so suppressed her feelings. Iori insists she fight her for Taichi; Inaba agrees. Heartseed inhabits Iori to tell Inaba Taichi fell. Fearing the worst, Inaba races to him, but it’s only a minor fall. Back at school, she confesses to him, announces she and Iori will both fight for his heart, and kisses him. The unreleashed desire episodes cease.

Can Heartseed manipulate horoscopes? Because Inaba was warned she wouldn’t be able to hide her feelings for Taichi from everyone any longer, and Taichi’s worst possible luck on the day of the field trip invariably leads her feelings indeed being exposed, but not to Taichi, at first, but to Iori. The central setpiece of this episode is an intense, highly emotional argument between Iori and Inaba. But Iori doeesn’t get mad because Inaba likes Taichi, as Inaba fears: she’s angry because Inaba has such a low opinion of herself and believes her friends will abandon her if she tells them the truth. The powerful, well-acted verbal sparring shows Miyuki Sawashiro and Toyosaki Aki at the top of their games, bringing more life than ever to the characters.

We’re totally okay with these two deciding to engage in a [relatively] friendly, fair fight for Taichi’s heart. “Let the best girl win”, and all that. We now understand and appreciate Inaba’s dogged insistence on suppressing her feelings (the StuCS members are the only real friends she’s ever had) but also give Iori a lot of credit for setting her straight (she’ll love Inaba no matter what). And what can we say: Inaba’s confession and kiss are friggin’ adorable as all hell – especially the aftermath when she’s short of breath and in a state of crying-laughing bliss and surprise at her own audacity – another wonderfully acted scene. Now, everything’s out in the open. Will it all be smooth going? Of course not; love triangles rarely are. But if we have to have a triangle, we couldn’t have asked for a better one.

Rating: 9 (Superior)

Kokoro Connect – 07

At first, the unleashed-desire episodes seem mostly harmless, like Taichi oversleeping or Iori shouting “Yahoo!” during a pop quiz. But gradually the effects of the episodes take their toll: Aoki must fight the urge to take revenge on Heartseed for hurting Yui, Iori suddenly snaps at a classmate who asks about Yui, and Yui herself has holed herself up in her room and won’t leave. The club visits her, but while reprimanding her Inaba goes to far and makes it worse. Later when Inaba doesn’t show up for club, Taichi confronts her and he too goes too far.

If we didn’t know he was so hard to please, we’d say Heartseed is quite happy with the way things are turning out. The club’s unleashed desires are causing unpredictable outbursts of far higher entertainment value than, say, simply observing them with their self restraint intact. Moments of interpersonal tension and drama are accelerated with the lack of any filters. There’s a lot of shouting, but it isn’t of the bawdy Sket Dance or Binbougami type – nobody is capable of pulling back before their words cause deeper wounds than they intended. The mood of the episode deteriorates rapidly as the club starts to come apart at the seams.

The body-swapping and subsequent suicide attempt brought Taichi and Iori apart. We like how their affection for one another is out in the open (at least amongst the other club members), but Inaba makes a good point about Taichi: he was and still is willing to die for Iori, so he has to watch his step, or he could end up dying. Similarly, while she is ultimately too harsh on her, Inaba is right that if Yui stays in her room, Heartseed will punish her and probably everyone else for trying to deny him his entertainment. There’s no sitting on the bench with this: everyone’s in the game, and that game will go on as long as Seedy sees fit. How severely will it affect the club’s friendships?

Rating: 8 (Great)

Kokoro Connect – 06

Three weeks after the body-swapping ceased, the group is focusing on club activities, but they start acting strangely: Inaba makes a move on Taichi; Yui smashes a table and beats up guys; and both Taichi and Iori are unconsciously drawn to one another. They get answers for their behavior when Heartseed pays them a visit: he has unleashed their deepest desires, to the point where their usual self-restraint cannot prevent their bodies and voices from doing whatever their minds want deep down. They agree to stick together and play it by ear, and under the circumstances, Iori and Taichi agree to maintain their distance.

As it turns out, Kokoro Connect isn’t just going to be about body-swapping. That arc got better and better, we like how the godlike being Heartseed is now imposing a new behavioral experiment on the unwitting StuCS, one that further explores their personalities. As a result of “unleashing their deepest desires”, they all start acting like amplified versions of themselves. Inaba’s hidden feelings, Yui’s fiery temper, Aoki’s white knight complex, and Taichi and Iori’s budding romance – all of them come to the surface. We like how gradual this was: starting as a mystery before Heartseed steps in and lays it all out – we also like how the atmosphere of the scence changes whenever he’s around, like his aura is a pall over their lives.

Most interesting is how realistically and rationally Taichi and Iori deal with their new situation vis-a-vis their feelings for one another. Moving too fast could jeopardize their relationship before it can get started, and right now, they’re not sure they can control themselves if left alone together too long. As a result, they limit contact to phone conversations. We must say, other than Hazuki and Rokka, this is probably our favorite couple of the season. They’ve certainly faced some odd challenges, but so far they have the fortitude to brave the storms and stay true to one another. Iori’s anticipation of learning more about her true self through this phenomenon is also an intriguing prospect.

Rating: 8 (Great)