Thursday, January 3, 2013

Kokoro Connect – Michi Random

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In reading my series review of Kokoro Connect, I’m struck by how little my mind has been changed by anything in “Michi Random”.


The first thought that pops into my mind after watching the first episode of “Michi Random” is “Random, my ass” – because more so than with any of Heartseed’s prior phenomena this one is clearly timed for maximum impact (though the others have hardly seemed random either).  That Heartseed should be a liar is no big surprise, though I suspect he was telling the truth when he said “They’ve taken an interest in me” – though as I write this I don’t know just exactly what that means.

It’s fair to say I went into this arc expecting almost anything.  Kokoro Connect is a pretty erratic show to begin with, and then there was all the ugliness surrounding the now legendary “incident” (I see no need to re-hash it again), which delayed this arc by several months.  But on balance things got off to a pretty good start.  Iori’s arc is the most interesting of the five as far as I’m concerned, and the additional focus on Go-sensei (or perhaps I should say “You go, Sensei!” after seeing him rip up “You’ve Got Rhythm” on sax) has potential.

This arc seems to have a lot going for it.  The so-called “random” emotional transmissions are an interesting wrinkle, and the added elements of a group challenge and a potential rival for Iori’s heart in Shiroyama give the series some much-needed breadth of plot.  I’m choosing to ignore the continued hints that Taichi’s sister is a brocon – “true love chocolate” indeed – as purely for comic effect (I hope so) but I like the fact that the show confronted what’s been the elephant in the room all along, namely that Aoki is a serious fifth wheel.  “Most useless in the group” indeed – let’s see if he does anything with that information, now that Heartseed has thrown it in his face.

All that said, I think the second episode reveals some of the problems that have intermittently dragged Kokoro Connect down.  It’s certainly no secret that the males are woefully underwritten and so is Yui to a lesser extent, but when things get serious on-screen it really becomes a problem.  Aoki, after the promising end to episode 14, disappears into his usual mostly irrelevant butt monkey mode, and Taichi into his normal plot device function.  Yui’s big moments tend to fall flat because her motivations never seem authentic.There’s also a limit on how much self-pity I really want to see in any one series.  The cycle of the characters feeling sorry for themselves (the girls, anyway) and the other characters tying to save them really hasn’t changed much since the beginning – it just happens to be Iori’s turn now.

And boy, has she become insufferable.  I don’t know whether that’s a compliment to the series or not, because she’s certainly supposed to be in this arc, but her transformation is impressively complete.  Iori’s crisis plays out in pretty broad terms, because the simple truth is that what she’s going through is universal – no one is who others think they are.  The only difference is that Iori has turned it into a syndrome, in her mind anyway.  It’s not as though she doesn’t have extenuating circumstances what with her mother’s irresponsible behavior, but ultimately she’s a personification of normal teen identity issues.  That makes it a little harder to feel sympathy for her – though I’ll make an exception for the moment she told Inaba off at the end of the episode, because I agree with every word she said there.  Kokoro Connect still has a tendency to lapse into speechmaking the way Broadway musicals lapse into song, but this one at least rang true.


But here’s the real problem with “Michi Random”, at least for me.  It comes down to the fact that Kokoro Connect just isn’t the kind of show you want to watch for two hours at one sitting.  There’s a fatigue factor that sets in – there are only so many “spontaneous” heartfelt speeches and so many dramatic crises and so many Taichi bonehead martyr moments you can take before it all starts to become a blur, like the world as Yuki from Tsuritama sees it as he’s re-living his panic attacks.  It’s not the show’s fault of course – this isn’t the time or manner these episodes were intended to be released under.  But I still think it exposes a fundamental flaw in the writing – issues that have always been present, but were rubbed raw here, like a runner’s lingering injury that flares up because they do too many miles in one day.

If there was one moment from the third episode that summed up the issue as far as Yui and Aoki are concerned, it was “You two wait here!”  That’s some unintentional irony right there.  And the rest of the episode was mostly more of those dramatic monologues – this time Inaba confronting Iori and Iori finally cracking and baring all.  People just don’t talk like that, especially teenagers.  Drama is the heart of what Kokoro Connect is, I know, but it requires a lot of suspension of disbelief to take this seriously.  When Heartseed’s phenomena are the least outlandish element, you know you’re got a series that’s pretty over-the-top.

This is all brings us to the finale, which is pretty much stock Kokoro Connect material – loud, histrionic, sort of compelling if you switch your logic circuits off.  Iori’s “Let’s be friends” parlay with Setouchi after Inaba almost got raped because of her was the start of the insanity (interestingly, this is the second anime this year – Binbougami did it too – that had a heroine almost get raped because of the actions of a girl, who was abruptly forgiven for it as soon as the guys she put up to it were pummeled).  I think my favorite absurd moment, though, was when Inaba said “Should we take you to the hospital just in case?” when Taichi woke up after getting knocked unconscious by a metal pipe.  What do you think?  And she’s supposed to be the smart one?

In terms of the phenomena, we don’t really get an explanation for all that – just a brief farewell from Heartseed where he indicates they’re probably over with – but there’s a substantial amount of unadapted LN material so that doesn’t surprise me.  The romance side lands about where you’d expected – Iori and Taichi decide there’s no “there” there in the romantic side of their relationship, and he ends up with Inaba.  We’ll see how that works out – hopefully for her sake Taichi doesn’t get tired of being physically abused for no reason and his imouto doesn’t decide to make her move.

As I step back and try and reflect on my reaction to “Michi Random”, I realize I’m probably being too bard on Kokoro Connect, for a couple of reasons.  First off, this year has many examples of what happens when serious-minded teen series give us fully developed characters of both genders and not just one, and KC really suffers in comparison.  I also think the show simply doesn’t wear well – all the headdesk moments, moemoe pandering and grand speeches start to wear on me after a while, and that’s only exacerbated when it comes out in movie format.  I certainly give it points for being ambitious and trying to tell an emotionally powerful story using what’s undeniably an interesting premise, but in the final analysis there just aren’t enough things executed well for me to really call Kokoro Connect a successful series. 

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19 comments:

  1. You might want to reread this post. There are a few missing words and typos here and there, more than usual I think.

    But as usual, great analysis. I felt pretty fatigued myself watching this final arc all in one go. I had to break it up and do other things before watching the last two eps.

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  2. I think the magic of Kokoro Connect only lasted the first arc for me. After that I just got weary of how forced some of the characters reactions are & how random shit keeps happening to them. That.. & I thought we have already moved on from Iori's identity issues?

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  3. I watched it in two sittings, and that probably helped a lot. I have tended to like the speechifying that the show does, although I have thought this might have been a good show to be set in first year college rather than in first year high school, where the philosophical parts of their monologues tend to be a little less believable for their age.

    I thought the show actually did a good job inverting the gang rape 'trope', with one of the kidnappers saying "what, do you want to be a REAL criminal?", in essence saying "We've already screwed up enough to get here, why do you want to make it worse?"

    In the end, I'll tend to like just about any show that ends up with a couple, and I thought it moved from the seemingly inevitable Iori x Taichi pairing to the more suitable Inaba x Taichi pairing. Despite her protests throughout the series about Iori 'needing' Taichi, I thought it was clear since the end of the first arc that Inaba was far more in love with Taichi than Iori ever was. And even if it gives a feeling of 'second best' since Taichi asked Iori out first, I thought they conveyed pretty well that Taichi is not 'settling' for Inaba at all.

    All in all, I thought the Michi Random arc was the second best one, after the Hito Random first one.

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    1. Watched it in 4 sittings. First ep long time ago. Rest of the series in a day with 2 meals in between. So maybe I am clouded. But i like this show. Its not the usual RomCom you would think body switching would give. It explores deep true feelings. Perhaps it is too much that the characters are all very much different. They all have some unique trait that is at level 100. But I like how they are solved. How Nakamas help each other out. And I wont analysis this show like Enzo. Want this feel good anime feeling to last.

      But seriously, I think the chap is more siscon then his sister being a brocon. He was visibly more excited getting kissed on the cheek by his sister then by two classmates on the lips. And he did reacted to an Onii-chan in the previous arc... Hmmm... Siscon alert. Even set down to talk with his sister about the chocolates. Was he that bothered by them. Hmmm.

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  4. I kind of liked Kokoro Connect before realising that Iori is not the main heroine. Inaba is just meh.

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  5. The complete lack of subtlety drags this show down, there is simply too much drama going on to be truly compelling. The first arc was great, but after three arcs of the same setup, I was getting pretty bored. Don't think this one here changed my opinion by much.

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  6. I think this show found an idea and kept recycling it without giving depth to the characters and the story -- I got bored after a while with all the drama. However, with all the dramas presented, I actually liked the one when the characters turned into their kids' form and remembered events that shaped who they were.

    ~Ronbb

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  7. "In reading my series review of Kokoro Connect, I’m struck by how little my mind has been changed by anything in “Michi Random”."
    Don't worry. It's rather common problem with bloggers, that after a first impression they are too obstinate to change their opinions. It makes reviews sometimes rather uninteresting (as with Tonari no Kaibatsu-ku - Enzo kept praising even mediocre episodes), but can't blame Enzo for being just one of a pack. Not everybody can be exceptional.

    "Iori’s “Let’s be friends” parlay with Setouchi after Inaba almost got raped because of her was the start of the insanity"
    OK, ruining presentation was rather a bitch move, but blaming that girl for actions of wannabe rapists? That was rather low. As far as I remember, she tried to make things right (she should probably call the police, but trying to reason with schoolmates isn't very moronic) and situation was turning rather bleak for her as well.

    "but there’s a substantial amount of unadapted LN material so that doesn’t surprise me. The romance side lands about where you’d expected – Iori and Taichi decide there’s no “there” there in the romantic side of their relationship, and he ends up with Inaba."
    I can't believe that one sentence leads to another. With substantial amount of unadapted LN material one would rather expect ending sticking to status quo, so last part of Kokoro Connect was a very pleasant surprise. Much stronger finish than many other romantic series (and Dereban is best Inaban).

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    1. So you think that you are an exceptional person? Regardless, I have trouble changing my opinion after first impression and I'm not a blooger. In fact, isn't that true for ever human being that lives on this Earth. Don't seven billion people kind of disprove your theory?

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    2. There are plenty of people who do the opposite of what you state. Don't try and lump the opinions of seven billion people together, that is madness.

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    3. Idk, the first Anon has a point. Remember when Enzo kept calling Shin Sekai Yori the best show this season even after those episodes that took an awkward animation dip?

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    4. This isn't madness. This is Sparta! But seriously, is this why Enzo had a poll for the Anons? This is just bloody confusing. And I don't think animation dip is the right choice of words. Animation dip would be the same animator had a drop in quality. This was the case where there was a different animator in charge all together. An idea that realy didn't work for episode 5, but was just fine for episode 10.

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  8. Hmm. Even the very kind and tolerant Enzo critized this anime.
    I am glad that I decided not to download these 4 last episode.
    I lost count of how many times I almost fell asleep during prior 13 episode.
    Shit anime is shit.

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    1. Kind and Tolerant? I think you should take a look at those Blood-C Reviews.

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    2. Well, there are a lot of sucky anime, that Enzo praise nonetheless. Focusing on their good points and such.
      ->btoom!
      ->sakurasou

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  9. I don't quite hate the show however it was pretty much a disappointment for me. The first arc was good, only to be ruined because I kinda knew Iori didn't die, the second arc started out great but eneded kind of weakly, and the third arc just stunk in execution. This arc took me a while to mentally process because my expectations were already extremly low and it merely supercedded it by just a little bit. overall I compare that arc to the second arc, started off nicely and ended sorta...meh-ishly, only slightly better cause we got a romance situation resolved, but even then I was still iffy.

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  10. Great post. I went into this arc having positive feelings for the series as a whole, but it all went sour. And my gosh, the fatigue! I couldn't finish it! I had to have a break 1.5 episodes in. Maybe I'll never finish this thing after reading your review. Anyway, I'm feverish and my thoughts are all over the wall atm. Had to rewrite this brief comment several times to get a coherent thought out of it. I'll try again when I'm well

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  11. Yeah I have to agree with the fatigue aspect. Overall I don't think this show was awful. Don't get me wrong, it wasn't really good either, I feel that every single arc without exception wasted a shitload of potential, settling for mediocrity instead. But it was a lot more tolerable when I only had to watch 1 episode a week. Marathoning the whole arc in one sitting was... difficult. In the end this arc was maybe a little worse than the previous ones, primarily because it went back to the "Iori identity crisis" well which was ALREADY dealt with in a previous arc. Overall I think this show's lasting legacy will be the RL drama that accompanied it with a healthy dose of wasted potential.

    I'm glad Inaba won in the end though, Iori has gotten progressively more and more insufferable as the show progressed to the point that I can't even stand her character anymore. Inaba is rad though.

    Also, Enzo, 3rd anime this year to use the "gang rape set up by another girl" trope. It happened in Mirai Nikki as well only it was obviously a lot darker in that show.

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  12. I regret to say that I'm disappointed by this review. Not because I liked the show - although I did like this arc, since it was definitely better than the second and third ones - but because of just how incredibly unprofessional the review was.

    A good number of the points you raise are addressed in the show itself. The timing not being random at all? Iori calls out Fuusenkazura on that exact issue. Taichi being a walking white knight martyr plot device? For once, he more or less contributes nothing, and only has a single white knight martyr moment, after Yui has more or less told him he should do something. Iori's issue really just being insignificant teen angst? That the show itself eventually outright tells the characters themselves that their issues are insignificant teen angst is the one consistent thing *every arc* has done.

    Were they addressed well? Possibly not. The entire reason why this show eventually lost me around the third arc was, in fact, because the narrative was somewhat forced. I always got the feeling that the author knew where he wanted his characters to end up - had an idea what he wanted them to go through to get there - but wasn't terribly good at resolving those individual conflicts in any kind of realistic manner. That doesn't mean, however, that the show deserves accusations of requiring 'extreme suspension of disbelief' (because really, SAO and Eureka Seven AO had character moments that went beyond mere 'derp', and you were far more forgiving of both shows), or cheap shots such as that crack about Himeko physically abusing Taichi for no reason, which happens exactly *one time* this arc, and frankly for a pretty good reason.

    The impression I've gotten from previous posts is that you're a better blogger than this, Enzo. You deserve to make better reviews than this yourself, because this one felt halfway like a Flawfinder post - and I read all of three reviews on that guy's blog before resolving to never bother with him again.

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