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Veteran Member - Level 13
The story of Kokoro Connect centers on a group of five friends in a club together: Taichi, Iori, Inaba, Aoki, and Yui. One day while in the clubroom they bear host to an unusual phenomenon; their souls are randomly swapping between each others bodies for short periods of time. Now, this would cause just about what you'd expect with situational comedy due to girls and boys being transferred into each others bodies, as well as changing hosts at awkward periods of time, but it quickly turns into something more serious. As the story progresses the show rapidly drops the humorous premise due to the characters discovering the emotional scars that each one of their friends has been carrying around with them, all the hurt and pain that they've been doing their best to hide from one another. Will they be able to work through their problems as long as all five of them are together or will the problems be too much and threaten to irreparably tear the group apart?
And so is the premise that the series is based upon. First thing first, you NEED the Michi Random arc to finish the story. It's listed under "special" on MyAnimeList, but for all intents and purposes it's episodes 14-17 of the show. Anyhow, I absolutely love the ideas behind this. It has comedy and tragedy, drama and weirdness all in perfect measure. The bonds that they developed through the club are strengthened, shattered, and reforged stronger than ever only to be put under strain once again. While I'm not sure if I love or hate the addition of a character named Heartseed in episode 2, otherwise there's very few things I can pick at in the story. I find it very hard to be objective with this part though because as flawed as it is it just strikes at so many things that I like and that resonates extremely well with me.
The characters are likewise great. They start off as seeming like pretty standard anime fare before you really start delving into their pasts, into their thoughts and memories to find out what made them the person they present to the world under the facade that is their persona. As the barriers they put up start breaking down when their friends can see who truly are it causes unimaginable pain and drives them almost to the point of breaking and beyond throughout the series. All five of the main characters end up getting what I feel is more than an adequate amount of development throughout the series even if some are focused on more than another. There's friendship more deeper than words can express, there's blooming love and heartbreak, and hearts connect and are exposed throughout the world throughout the series. They also have to realize that they're not alone in the world and they can also form connections with the other people around them and bring them closer to understanding what makes them who they are and how they can help with something as simple and poignant as a few words.
Inaba is the kind of character who likes to build barriers to keep people out of the inner sanctum of her mind. At any time, her friends could commit a crime or something else inside her body and that absolutely terrifies her. Yui is a strong person who acts tough, but under it all she harbors a phobia that makes it hard to live life to its fullest. Iori is the bright and cheerful innocent one but throughout her life she's felt as if she has to put on these personas to please those around her to the point where she feels as if she no longer has an identity to call her own. Aoki is the type to be airheaded and carefree but he deeply cares for Yui and hidden in the murky past he still harbors love and regret from a past relationship. And as for Taichi, he's the kind of person who will charge headlong into helping his friends whether or not it will end up hurting them in the process and he takes it to the point where he'd be willing to lay down his life to help someone else. These are the five that the story centers around and it creates some of the most complex and emotional character relationships I've seen in awhile. While other series may fall prey to ignoring some of their main characters in favor of others (*cough*Clannad, Angel Beats*cough*) this one drags all five of them through a metric crapton of development.
As for the visuals and music I'm gonna combine them into one section as quite frankly neither of them merit their own paragraph. There's nothing wrong with the visuals per se but basically I have never seen a series that is more "average" on that than Kokoro Connect. They're not bad, and they do a good job at remaining solid and serving the story but they never really go farther than that. I was never once wowed by a background or a certain character design. Likewise the music did well enough for the duration of the series yet I can't recall a single snippet of the soundtrack literally one day after I completed it. Average is the perfect word in the art and sound department.
Final verdict: 9/10. While there might be some flaws in the story and nothing of note in the visual or aural experience the true strength lies in the hearts and souls of the five characters that the anime presents. Long story short if this review sounds appealing to you at all the series should be well-worth the watch. To fully translate the title it is called Hearts Connect, and that is the absolute perfect way to describe what is going on here. Bonds are tested and broken but as long as their hearts connect friendships can be repaired and reforged. Throughout the entire story they try to stick through thick and thin to remain friends that transcend any problems they might have so long as they're together. No matter what happens, as long as they can remain steadfast they can overcome any hurdle their emotions and pasts can throw at them. So long as their hearts continue to connect.~Stranger 2013