Kokoro Connect, also known to fans by the name Kokoro Connect: Because Inaba, is a show centered around the characters being subjected to strange "phenomenon" by a strange entity. The first of these phenomena is random body swapping. From there, we launch into a deep character drama.
As mentioned, the entire show pivots on various "phenomena" that the characters are forced to cope with to get through their lives. The first one is that the five main characters are repeatedly subjected to random body-swaps with each other. This phenomena is also followed by others as the series goes on.
The characters are Taichi, Inaba, Iori, Yui, and Aoki as members of Yamaboshi High's Student Cultural Society club (or however this gets translated in your preferred sub). How they interact and cope with the things they are put through are the central element of the series.
The overall plot Kokoro Connect is much like I have explained. The phenomena are a rather unusual and appealing plot device that is used very well in advancing the character development. The actual framing for the plot doesn't make much sense, but the concept is actually pretty bold and well-conceived. I haven't seen a mechanic like this used so seriously in a very long time.
A key problem with many body-swapping plots and similar ideas is they get bogged down in the exact same tropes every time. The same jokes get made, the same plots are explored, and the end is always the same. Luckily, Kokoro seems to sidestep this to explore relatively different territory (or at least mostly new) and avoids the terribleness of most plots like this.
I also must say that I enjoyed the subtle lampshading crossed with leaning on the fourth wall that occurred in the series. I mean, someone saying that this has gotten boring and it needs to change? It's like they read our minds.
The plot that Kokoro is using is usually used for comedy and lighthearted stuff, but here it is being used to explore the darker side of what will happen. It is literally almost a deconstruction of the body-swap trope.
Kokoro's characters very literally portrayed as living tropes at the start of the series. It makes it so absolutely blatant and obvious that you think you already know everything about them and how this show is going to go.
Sucker, you've been played like a fiddle.
Kokoro's character development is all about breaking down the walls that we build around ourselves to protect ourselves from reality. What really would happen if you were body-swapped into a body of the opposite gender? You'd be freaked out and realize that someone is in your's! What the hell are they going to do in your body?
The phenomena show us that the seemingly trope-ridden characters, that we thought we knew everything about, are actually just using this as a front. In reality every single member of the main cast has issues that they've hidden from each other and the audience. They have flaws and it starts to grind on them immensely as they slowly are forced to reveal their hidden sides to the others.
The phenomena break these characters. It is actually incredible to watch how something as simple as a body-swap can destroy a person because of their own insecurities.
As a result of everything I said, Kokoro Connect is far less about body-swapping hijinks and far more about the development that the main cast is practically forced to go through. Each character gets a very good dose of this too, no one is really that left out.
Of course, this show wouldn't be complete without the relationships between the characters. The phenomena basically force the characters to acknowledge their true feelings, so that begets the romantic ones as well. This leads to some complex relationship development between the five main characters as they slowly have to decide if they'll acknowledge their feelings or if they'll painfully keep trying to hide them. It's a very nice relationship development plot too.
...The framing for the plot is a little weak. The whole Heartseed thing doesn't make any real sense in the real world, so I'll just assume this is fantasy. Similarly, some of the dialogue and plot elements come off a bit strong and melodramatic.
If you can accept this and move on, you'll be fine.
That's actually all I've got. Awkward. I'm supposed to be a harsh reviewer.
I'll be honest, I think I've skewed towards the positive side too much in this review. I loved this series because it was practically made for me. I love character dramas and character development to death, that's why shows like Attack on Titan didn't fare that well against me, they are rather shallow on this side of things.
Kokoro Connect on the other hand? It is practically drowning in character moments, drama, and a helping of trope deconstruction on the side. It's all about breaking down the character's barriers and exposing what they're really feeling, not just what they're telling everyone. It's amazing for a character-focused watcher like me. It was like living in paradise; a 17-episode long paradise.
The dialogue can be witty and the characters feel real after their little mental walls start collapsing. The plot, while a bit weak, is really just a backdrop for the character development. I overlooked pretty much all the weaknesses about it instantly.
All the main cast is given enough time in the character development spotlight (maybe Aoki was a little left out), and they manage to shine as characters that you'll like at times and hate at others. They transcend the tropes that they display at the beginning of the series and go through a remarkable amount of development in a short amount of time.
As if it weren't obvious: this is for people looking for a character drama that prides itself on character development. It is an amazing character drama at that.
Also, Inaba. Because.
As usual, I claim no ownership of the images herein.
This is part of Anime Marathon 2014, a continuation of Anime Marathon 2013 by popular demand. I'm on a mission to review every anime I can for the TAY community and anyone else that wants to read it. I can never guarantee when these reviews will be posted, but I'll do my best to keep it consistent.
You can see all my articles on Dex's Corner.