Sunday, August 26, 2012

Kokoro Connect - 08

[HorribleSubs] Kokoro Connect - 08 [720p].mkv_snapshot_06.10_[2012.08.25_10.54.09] [HorribleSubs] Kokoro Connect - 08 [720p].mkv_snapshot_11.35_[2012.08.25_10.59.51] [HorribleSubs] Kokoro Connect - 08 [720p].mkv_snapshot_13.40_[2012.08.25_11.01.57]

For Kokoro Connect, this was an episode that gave off a very different vibe than any that came before.


[HorribleSubs] Kokoro Connect - 08 [720p].mkv_snapshot_00.17_[2012.08.25_10.49.16]There was some interesting stuff here – as I’ve said before, this show never fails to be at least interesting.  But for me this ep felt a little flat, and that’s not a word I would’ve expected to use often when connected to Kokoro.  It was partly a lack of hard drama, of course – that’s been such a component of most episodes that its absence here leaves a discernable void – but as much as anything it seemed to me that there was a bit of an edge missing as the show slipped into more traditional anime patterns.

[HorribleSubs] Kokoro Connect - 08 [720p].mkv_snapshot_02.47_[2012.08.25_10.50.47]That’s another word that springs to mind for me in looking back at this ep that isn’t one I would have thought applied to KC – traditional.  In watching this week it really strikes me just how caught up in traditional gender roles this series can be.  The “Ah-Hah” moment was the conversation between Taichi and his little sister, specifically where she said “Boys are stronger than girls so they need to protect them” and Taichi agreed without a moment’s hesitation.  Setting aside the fact that in the average case a teenage boy is going to be physically stronger than a teenage girl, I think there’s something deeper going on in the way Kokoro Connect portrays its characters – and indeed, in the way Rina-chan intended the statement.

[HorribleSubs] Kokoro Connect - 08 [720p].mkv_snapshot_03.27_[2012.08.25_10.51.26]Certainly, this can play out in the way the released inhibitions are portrayed.  Taichi and Aoki are all about anger and physical violence, while Nagase’s impulse was food and Inaba’s was first frustrated attraction for Taichi, then righteous anger at Yui.  There’s the matter of Yui’s repressed anger manifesting in physically assaulting boys – that might be interpreted as a response to a societal assumption that girls are weak – but as in many ways, she’s an oddball in this cast and remains very much outside the orbit of the others.  And Taichi’s “white knight” impulse seems to have a strong gender component to it – or, at the very least, we’ve seen no evidence of any interest on his part in applying it towards helping Aoki or any other male.  Indeed, Aoki and Taichi’s hissy-fit this week was a sort of tussle over the alpha male role.  In their uninhibited states Taichi asserts that Aoki is “useless”, and Aoki retorts that Taichi is  “freak” for helping others for selfish reasons, and perhaps even more tellingly for the sake of the story, a glory-hound.

[HorribleSubs] Kokoro Connect - 08 [720p].mkv_snapshot_05.55_[2012.08.25_10.53.55]I think that last jibe cut uncomfortably close to the truth of the matter.  Fact is, Aoki has been pretty much useless thus far, though I blame the writing for that – and Taichi is only saying what most of us were already thinking.  As indeed is Aoki, and I think a growing theme of this arc - as I mentioned here last week - is that the desire to help others is fundamentally selfish, a drive to satisfy some urgent need in ourselves.  In effect what’s happening now is that the group is splintering, each retreating into their own head-space, with only Nagase overtly arguing to keep everyone together.  And it seems obvious that in her case, it’s out of a fear of abandonment and a loathing of being alone (which she’s experiencing far too much of at home, thanks to her flake of a mother).

[HorribleSubs] Kokoro Connect - 08 [720p].mkv_snapshot_06.34_[2012.08.25_10.54.34]This has led to what could be an interesting development, which is the expansion of the cast to include Fujishima and increasingly Taichi’s friend Watase-kun (Ono Yuuki).  The interaction between the core group and outsiders has been sparsely explored thus far, so this could be healthy dramatically – though I confess I found Fujishima’s role in this episode had a somewhat contrived and artificial feel to it.  I still don’t find KC especially good at comedy, and her comedic moments tend to fall flat – and there’s a quality to her character that suggests a “writer’s best friend”, someone to plug in whenever the plot needs a little push.  Yuri gag?  Check.  Friendly advice?  Check.  Smooth things over with the cops?  Check.  Whatever you need, Fujishima’s on the case.

[HorribleSubs] Kokoro Connect - 08 [720p].mkv_snapshot_06.39_[2012.08.25_10.54.39]Lastly, there’s the matter of Go-sensei.  When he entered the classroom where Taichi was moping, my immediate reaction was the same as his – “Is it Heartseed?”  My second reaction was that this was indeed Heartseed, but for the first time pretending to be Go-sensei – trying a new tack to make things interesting by getting the group back together.  In hindsight it seems unlikely, but I still wonder if that wasn’t Heartseed for at least part of the interaction.  What makes this difficult to unravel is that his advice as a teacher could be seen as quite solid, though his goals would be the same as Heartseed’s – to stop everyone from feeling sorry for themselves on their own and get them back together.  Even his last “So – did I sound like a teacher there?” could as easily be a quest for validation from an insecure man as a subtle jab from Heartseed.  From a viewer’s standpoint it doesn’t really matter, because this episode did have way too much of the individual CRC members sitting with their head in their hands feeling sorry for themselves – and here my goals align with Heartseed’s, because that’s a lot less interesting than seeing them interact with each other.

[HorribleSubs] Kokoro Connect - 08 [720p].mkv_snapshot_07.07_[2012.08.25_10.55.06] [HorribleSubs] Kokoro Connect - 08 [720p].mkv_snapshot_07.08_[2012.08.25_10.55.24] [HorribleSubs] Kokoro Connect - 08 [720p].mkv_snapshot_08.02_[2012.08.25_10.56.18]
[HorribleSubs] Kokoro Connect - 08 [720p].mkv_snapshot_09.00_[2012.08.25_10.57.17] [HorribleSubs] Kokoro Connect - 08 [720p].mkv_snapshot_10.01_[2012.08.25_10.58.18] [HorribleSubs] Kokoro Connect - 08 [720p].mkv_snapshot_11.44_[2012.08.25_11.00.00]
[HorribleSubs] Kokoro Connect - 08 [720p].mkv_snapshot_11.57_[2012.08.25_11.00.13] [HorribleSubs] Kokoro Connect - 08 [720p].mkv_snapshot_12.29_[2012.08.25_11.00.46] [HorribleSubs] Kokoro Connect - 08 [720p].mkv_snapshot_12.38_[2012.08.25_11.00.55]
[HorribleSubs] Kokoro Connect - 08 [720p].mkv_snapshot_15.38_[2012.08.25_11.03.54] [HorribleSubs] Kokoro Connect - 08 [720p].mkv_snapshot_16.35_[2012.08.25_11.04.52] [HorribleSubs] Kokoro Connect - 08 [720p].mkv_snapshot_17.12_[2012.08.25_11.05.29]
[HorribleSubs] Kokoro Connect - 08 [720p].mkv_snapshot_17.54_[2012.08.25_11.06.11] [HorribleSubs] Kokoro Connect - 08 [720p].mkv_snapshot_18.54_[2012.08.25_11.07.10] [HorribleSubs] Kokoro Connect - 08 [720p].mkv_snapshot_19.00_[2012.08.25_11.07.17]
[HorribleSubs] Kokoro Connect - 08 [720p].mkv_snapshot_20.07_[2012.08.25_11.08.23] [HorribleSubs] Kokoro Connect - 08 [720p].mkv_snapshot_21.28_[2012.08.25_11.09.44] [HorribleSubs] Kokoro Connect - 08 [720p].mkv_snapshot_21.36_[2012.08.25_11.09.52]


12 comments:

  1. Why would you say that Aoki's uselessness is the writing's fault? Maybe it was intended to be that way. Maybe he really couldn't find a way to help others the way Taichi did... Aoki, after all doesn't force his way in to help someone like Taichi does. He's ordinarily helpful, sure, but in such special circumstances, a simple helpful attitude isn't going do much change.

    And I really don't think that was Heartseed even though there are chances that it could've been otherwise. So far, he has only escalated their situation, which means if he really did intervene to give friendly advice then he's got a broader role than we suspected. I doubt that, but we'll see.

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    1. Aoki's uselessness is a problem because it's not just about being useless to his friends - it's about being useless to the plot. As a character, he's served no function thus far. That, as I see it, is an issue with the writing.

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    2. Well in Aoki's defense, I'd say he's finally being useful in the next episode and if I'm not wrong then I'd say that Taichi's outburst directed towards him set him in motion. Like I said before, it was a well-made setup. He won't be inactive anymore.

      I won't make too many assumptions, so lets just let the next episode speak for itself.

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    3. I thought it was really clever for the writer's part. They undoubtedly went, "hmm...Aoki was pretty much useless in the last arc. Oh, let's use him more then." Instead of denying that fact, they outright admitted it and hopefully will use it address this issue. I mean, how often does it happen in LN, where a character gets sidelined, even in an ensemble cast, and the story never recognizes that that's happening?

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  2. I think you're generalizing a little with the "message" of this arc. It isn't the message, it's character development and exploration of Taichi specifically. I think that you're giving the writer too little credit by saying this is meant to be a general theme.

    This episode really hammers the point Inaba made in episode 5: Taichi is selfishly selfless. Normally, his composure and his determination let him moderate himself, push his honest reactions aside, and do what he needs to do to help people. That's what his "martyr complex" seems to be: It hurts him less to suffer than to see others suffer, and he acts accordingly. But when it comes down to it, he helps people so he doesn't have to see them suffer. The actual helping is secondary. Normally, this distinguishing factor doesn't matter; the two look identical from the outside.

    That was the point of this episode. When Taichi has the choice between letting someone be hurt or hurting them in the course of solving the problem, he shuts down and stops trying. If his priorities were the other way around, he'd push through it, but he doesn't.

    That's part of why Aoki is yelling at him. Taichi isn't thinking of Yui as a person, he's thinking of her as a problem to be fixed. Aoki, as someone concerned for Yui the person, finds this offensive. If the theme of "all helping is ultimately selfish" is general, then Aoki is just jealous and in denial. That's part of it, but he's also meant to have a point.

    Aoki seems to be designed as a foil to Taichi. That's the role he serves in that scene, and his normality helps offset Taichi's abnormality. The problem is that "normal guy" is the worst kind of foil. While the contrast can help showcase and develop the other character, it also makes the foil blander by comparison. If your distinguishing feature is a lack of them, how interesting can you really be?

    Poor Aoki.

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    1. I think the scale of disagreement between us is pretty narrow here, to be honest. I'd say you aren't giving the writer credit enough, but I think it's much a question of semantics as anything else.

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  3. I wasn't so sure that it was Heartseed and not actually Go-sensei.

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    1. I think that was the actual teacher all the way.

      During previous incidents when Heartseed obviously takes over, he ignores typical human behavior like posture or appropriate facial expressions, and has Go sensei slouch with a slack, near apathetic expression.

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  4. It irked me when Nagase hit her head on the shelf/ desk, and both Taichi and Aoki were still at each other's throat, rather than being at least concerned for Nagase.

    I'm curious what kind of experience Fujishima went through to be able to give such sound and concrete advice to Taichi. It does seem rather contrived, although my impression of fujishima has improved greatly with this episode.

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  5. I thought Gotou's interference / advice was right on point for the kind of teacher he's professed to be before - friend to the kids, average guy, new agey kind of person. And yeah, the inclusion of Fujishima and Gotou and Watase did introduce a new dimension into the show, and one that was ultimately helpful, even if it was primarily "let's move the plot forward" stuff. But seeing Taichi forced to interact with other people gave a nice reset from the building tensions between the CRC members.

    I was definitely starting to feel for Iori as the show went on. Here she's always had a loneliness issue, and just as she gets closer to a group of people, they all start pulling away. Even her mom can't spend time with her. So she'd already come to the same conclusion that Taichi needed to be pushed to. Hopefully they can wrap the rest of the group into the same attitude. The question I am left with is who would be most resistant: Yui or Inaba?

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    1. The worst thing for Iori is that the persona she's chosen to wear is the smiling, genki helpful role. This question of the roles society places on us and the ones we place on ourselves is central to the story, I think.

      I agree that Go-sensei's advice was advice was on-point for the story of teacher he's supposed to be - but the interesting thing is, I think it plays into Heartseed's interests too. It makes you think at the very least.

      And Kentai, I think Taichi and Aoki did show concern for Iori - they just cut away from it pretty quickly.

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    2. I think it's great. Remember the beginning of the arc, where Inaba is basically saying, "Let's keep this between ourselves. Let's not get anyone else involved." But the thing is: inner desire cannot be fully understood without someone to interpret it. The feeling that no one understands you will never go away unless you actually talk with someone about it. It was such a joy to see them go from "separating ourselves from others" to the inevitable "separating ourselves from each other." In the end, the 3rd party was necessary to properly sort out your feelings

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