What’s Cruising the “Crunchy-Catalog?”
When it comes to watching anime, it’s easy to stick to your preferred genres and to never venture outside your comfort zone, but “Cruising the Crunchy-Catalog” might guide you toward a change of heart. Each week we provide additional information and cultural context to help anime fans decide whether or not they’d like to take an unknown series for a test drive.
What’s Kokoro Connect?
Kokoro Connect is a 2012 TV anime with direction by Shin Ōnuma and Shin’ya Kawatsura and animation by Silver Link. It is based on the series of light novels written by Sadanatsu Anda and illustrated by Shiromizakana that are published by Enterbrain under their Famitsu Bunko label. Crunchyroll decribes the series as follows:
“Five members of the school culture club – Taichi Yaegashi, Iori Nagase, Himeko Inaba, Yui Kiriyama, and Yoshifumi Aoki – encounter a bizarre phenomenon one day when Aoki and Yui switch personalities without warning. The same begins to happen to the other club members, throwing their daily lives into chaos. At first the five students find some amusement among the confusion, but this connection also exposes the painful scars hidden within their hearts… When their calm lives are shattered, the relationships between the five students also begin to change!”
Kokoro Connect is a high school drama with romantic elements and a science fiction twist. By the second episode, it’s revealed that the members of the school culture club are being experimented on by an inscrutable and alien intelligence known as Heartseed, a being which exposes them to strange phenomena and observes how they react.
The Troubles of Youth.
With such an outlandish premise, it would be easy for Kokoro Connect to veer into dark and psychologically disturbing territory, but one of the most surprising aspects of the series is how it remains firmly grounded in reality. The problems that the characters experience mostly involve adolescent anxieties, such as worrying about how their peers will perceive them or fretting that romantic attractions will ruin friendships.
When Kokoro Connect does examine darker material – such as the trauma of surviving sexual assault or an abusive familial relationship – it does so with delicacy and care. The show never feels exploitative. It treats its cast with dignity and respect while maintaining a positive and optimistic tone as they confront their problems.
Another element that makes Kokoro Connect feel so realistic is the way in which it addresses the conflicts that arise. Outside of a few moments of slapstick comedy, violence is never used as a solution to a problem. Instead, the members of the school culture club talk it out, discussing their feelings and hashing out their experiences with clarity and emotional nuance. Often teenagers in anime behave like over-grown children, but Kokoro Connect treats its characters like responsible young adults.
The Story Continues.
Crunchyroll currently streams the Kokoro Connect TV series in 75 territories worldwide in the original Japanese language with subtitles in English, Latin American Spanish, and Portuguese. Kokoro Connect is also released on DVD and Bluray in North America by Sentai Filmworks, who also publish the 4-episode OAV series that continues the storyline of the TV series.
Additionally, although there is no official English language translation currently available for the original Kokoro Connect light novel series, Seven Seas Entertainment publishes an English language version of the seinen manga adaptation of Kokoro Connect, which features artwork by Cuteg.
When it comes to representing the challenges of the transition from adolescence to adulthood, it’s easy for a high school drama to lay it on thick, piling on traumatic situation after traumatic situation in an effort to escalate the tension. Kokoro Connect avoids this snare, instead presenting a story with well-realized characters, realistic stakes, and rewarding emotional payoffs. If you’re in the mood for a mature drama, why not give Kokoro Connect a try?
Special thanks go to resident dish assassin Joshua (@10BowlSlayer) for suggesting the series for this week’s “Cruising the Crunchy-Catalog”. Is there a series in Crunchyroll’s catalog that you think needs some more love and attention? Please send in your suggestions via e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or post a Tweet to @gooberzilla. Your pick could inspire the next installment of “Cruising the Crunchy-Catalog”!
Paul Chapman is the host of The Greatest Movie EVER! Podcast and GME! Anime Fun Time.