Changing Perspectives in Kokoro Connect
August 15, 2012 Leave a comment
One of the most fascinating elements of Kokoro Connect is how the antagonist (for want of a better word) Heartseed is not entirely bad, but is instead interfering with the central casts’ lives for their benefit. By forcefully switching their personalities around we have seen these characters begin to question how they live, along with focussing on each other and the little details that they never knew about. We see their lives thrown open for the group to see, and with their souls laid bare, they must learn to live with each other and helps those that worry through the tough times in their lives.
At first this body swapping was thrown at the audience, and many were taken aback by this sudden revelation and all the problems that accompanied it. However, upon being introduced to Heartseed it was implied that this entire situation amounted to some sort of practical joke, put in place by beings that were bored. It also had the air of a sick experiment, or circus act, with Heartseed as the ringmaster, controlling everything, and not allowing the performers even a moment to rest and think about their current situation. The body swaps remained jarring for those involved, and they demonstrated that regardless of how long our central characters had known each other, they were effectively still strangers. The shock that Yui, Inaba, Iori, Aoki and Taichi get when they come to the realisation that they really don’t know each other is tangible, and akin to a whole opening up beneath their feet.
The revelation that Yui has androphobia for example demonstrates that there are secrets we all keep from those close to us, partly out of fear, but perhaps out of embarrassment or worry that you will be ridiculed. We see how Yui suddenly begins to question her own strength when she sees her own experience and skill in karate amount to nothing during an attempted rape. She quite clearly wants to maintain her relationships with Taichi and Aoki, however it is also abundantly clear that while she gives the impression of a ‘normal’ high school girl, she continues to live with the emotional and psychological scars of her past. Yui wanted everyone to treat her normally, she does not want to be viewed as damaged, or treat like she is wrapped in cotton wool. While she avoids Taichi and Aoki, and we see her sudden jerky reactions when men or boys are near, she seems to fear being left out of the group more than her own phobia.
The revelation in particular comes as a shock to Iori, who always thought she knew everything about Yui, and perhaps because Yui told Inaba, but not her about the phobia. The suggestion then is that Yui did not trust Iori, and therefore did not tell her about these issues, although at the same time we can look at it from the perspective of Yui not wishing to cause problems for those around her. This body-swapping and discovering each others secrets brings to the fore questions about privacy and trust, along with ideas surrounding whether you need to know everything about those you are close to. We all keep secrets, perhaps because we are embarrassed, afraid, or don’t think that they are important and worth talking about. There is nothing essentially wrong with this, and indeed, to know everything about someone would be tricky, and also perhaps harm your relationship, secrets are therefore often necessary.
However, there are also secrets kept for the wrong reasons, with these characters keeping important information from the group in part for very selfish but damaging reasons. In the case of Yui there is a semblance of reasoning in her decision to keep her androphobia from the rest of the group, since she did not wish to be treated as a different person. However in the case of Iori and Inaba, their reasons, while also justified are also very selfish and potentially incredibly damaging to them and to the friendships that they have developed over time. Inaba keeps her fears and problems to herself due to her perception that everyone is out for themselves, and that a single moment of weakness could mean the end for her socially, or perhaps emotionally. She cannot, or will not trust those around her, and her cold attitude is that of a person who does not wish to get close to anyone. While Inaba’s secrets seem the least problematic, they are the ones with the potential to cause the most friction.
Her inability to trust anyone severely limits how she interacts with those around her, thus damaging her chances to learn to trust and to be a part of a group. She is deliberately alienating herself from those around her in an attempt to be free from responsibility, and yet, she is the person that they all trust and tell their secrets to. Her insecurities come to the fore during the body swapping, and Inaba publicly suggests that the girls may not entirely trust the boys not to do anything inappropriate to their bodies. However, this attitude changes largely because of Taichi’s intervention, demonstrating that it is not a question of absolute trust, and also that Inaba is over thinking and worrying over nothing. In essence she has to accept that you do not know everything about everyone and it is simpler to acknowledge that you do have to work on faith at times. She has to trust those around her and understand that they are good friends, people whom she can talk to, and trust to treat her body and private life with the upmost respect. The body swapping for Inaba and Yui has therefore changed their perspective on life and how they should approach those around her along with the various problems and issues that they may want to understand and learn about.
But, it is Iori who is the most problematic character in the series, taking elements from Yui and Inaba, but also having her own problems and inability to talk to and trust others. Her past weighs heavily on her, making her question who she is and why she exists, her cheerful nature is an amalgamation of her insecurities and ability to create numerous personalities and attitudes to fit a given situation. Iori’s inability to understand who she is and the insecurities that this creates within her create a tense situation within the group. What makes this worse is the way with which Iori hid her feelings and attitudes towards life from everyone, and while she, like Yui tells Inaba about her problems, she continues to act as if nothing is wrong. When we see the shock on Yui’s face once she finds out that Iori often spends a lot of time alone because her divorced mother works late this further demonstrates how our casts perspectives on their and their friends lives have changed.
Taichi, Aoki, Inaba and Yui all appear to have dealt with the body-swapping situation by accepting that this is the case and learning more about the people around them. It has changed their perspectives on life and on their friendship, arguably bringing them together more than anything else. However, for Iori it has had the opposite effect, she was already anxious about who she was, questioning whether the ‘real Iori’ had long disappeared due to problems in her past. Iori is a character whose perspective perhaps changes for the worse, with the body swapping making her question her own existence and place with Taichi and everyone else. As Iori tricks Taichi into believing that she is Inaba, we catch a glimpse of a character on the verge of psychological meltdown, someone who is reaching out for help, or perhaps gasping for air.
Her ability to switch personalities depending on whom she is with, or changing who she is depending on the situation is an escape mechanism, a way with which Iori does not have to think about the unpleasantness in her life or the ramifications of what she is doing. On countless occasions her comedic antics have been used to mask the deep pain that she is feeling and her inability to truly express herself. She loves Taichi, but cannot seem to express her feelings in a normal way, resorting to acting as Inaba to get a surprise confession from him. She continues to question her own existence, even considering that she may not be the true Iori, but an amalgamation of various ‘Iori’s’ that have been created over several years. But, as Taichi points out, they are all her, and like everyone else, she changes how she talks depending on who she is with. Everyone adjusts their speech and language depending on who they are with and where they are, this is nothing new or unique, but instead an integral element of social interaction. Iori is different in her conscious change, and how she uses something familiar to everyone in a conscious fashion.
The genius of Heartseed and potentially other beings that are all involved in this body swapping is how they help Yui, Inaba, Iori, Taichi and Aoki change their view on life. This change of perspective comes to a head when Iori is in hospital and according to Heartseed will die very soon. The choice that they are given is a hard one, but also one that finally makes them confront certain difficult truths about their relationship and who they are. The emotion that seeing a good friend die, along with the notion that to change her fate would be wrong and create a pain that none of them could live with appears to force our characters to accept their lives the way they are. There are clear signs that not all secrets are known and that their family lives still remain largely a mystery, but this incident has forced them to open up to each other.
Heartseed is not exactly an antagonist, and while this entire situation bares a remarkable resemblance to a scientific experiment there seems to be no animosity towards our characters. Heartseed suggests that the reason behind the body swapping is because they are bored, but at the same time, it was clear that they never intended to harm our characters, but instead sped up the process of changing the perspectives on life. But, this does not, and should not solve everything, Yui still suffers from androphobia, Inaba appears to remain unable to fully trust everyone, and it is safe to assume that Iori still has her own problems. This entire experience is not supposed to completely cure these characters of their pain and problems, what it has done is forced a confrontation, and made our characters face their problems instead of running away.
However, it is safe to assume that Heartseed has not stopped yet, the body swapping and the problematic nature of the entire situation has not disappeared. Instead, what we have are characters who have begun to deal with certain problems, but are still unable to truly acknowledge their feelings for each other. While Iori and Taichi appear to share mutual feelings of love, there is the distinct presence of Inaba, who appears to be in love with Taichi. There is also the curious relationship of Aoki and Yui, with Yui seemingly in love with, or at least attracted to Taichi, whereas Aoki is besotted with Yui and will not leave her alone. The trials and tribulations of Culture Research Club are only just beginning, and they are in the unique position of being able to find out everything that need to know about those around them. What this first arc has done is opened everyone up to each other, and in doing so made the club a much tighter group of friends who know the intricacies of each others lives in ways that they would have been incapable of achieving before hand.