Desire in Kokoro Connect
August 31, 2012 Leave a comment
The sudden body swapping in Kokoro Connect presented the central cast with numerous curious problems, along with raising issues about trust and identity. It became clear early on that while this group of students were in the same club and had a certain amount of contact outside of school hours they were not true friends. It was a shallow friendship in places, with numerous problems being kept secret from everyone else, although the reasons for this differed depending on the character. The body swapping remained a jarring experience for those involved, demonstrating that regardless of how long these characters have known each other, they were 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 characters are more complex than their outward appearances may suggest, with numerous instances involving Taichi, Inaba and Iori demonstrating that there will always be secrets kept even fro friends. The idea of trust becomes paramount for the cast, with questions raised about whether they can trust each other when they are swapping bodies. Ultimately it is a combination of Inaba and Iori who suffer the most, with Iori being taken to hospital. But, it is Inaba who arguably has the hardest time dealing with the body swapping and freely admits that she cannot truly trust anyone, let alone herself. Furthermore, she views Taichi as her worst enemy because he willingly trusts everyone and in Inaba’s words is a ‘selfless freak’. But, the body swapping brought them closer together, creating strong and arguably lasting bonds within the group.
However, with the most recent developments, these bonds are being strained to breaking point, with the group cohesion starting to slip and break. While the characters may no longer be swapping bodies, they are now subject to what is arguably worse. Their hidden desires and feelings are coming to the surface, with each character unable to control them and therefore acting upon whatever desire is in their mind at any given time. The body swapping was relatively easy to control, with the characters able to hide when it happened, and while it may have come with questions of trust the situation was manageable. They are now effectively controlled by their desires, at least to a point, but these desires cause far more trouble than the body swapping ever managed.
This situation is similar to the idea of someone who cannot lie, they would constantly tell the truth even when it is clear that to do so would be damaging and potentially dangerous. By acting on their desires these central characters are allowing secrets or feelings that should perhaps be kept hidden to come to the surface and control them. For example, Yui using her karate to beat up some boys who were hitting on girls in her class, but because of her fear and perhaps hate towards males she goes too far. The concept of acting on your desires has wider implications when taking into account Japanese culture and how is has impacted upon peoples everyday lives. Japanese society places a great deal of importance on maintaining harmony within personal relationships as well as business dealings and other social groups and spaces. Working in groups and fostering non-confrontational relationships is essential to creating a functioning harmonious environment.
Individuals tend therefore to avoid confrontation and conform to social norms. Japanese culture, in essence, promotes conformity with passive social norms and avoids confrontation with others. With this focus on harmony and homogeneity within not only the work or school space but also broader society have significant implications for personal desires or feelings. The emphasis on this group ethos rather than the individual makes it significantly harder for people to not only confront someone over a disagreement or other problem, but also impacts the way with which personal desire is dealt with in a society that stresses a notion of social cohesion. The sudden release impacts upon all who are involved, and brings to light the problematic nature of group relationships especially when there are budding romances and hidden desires that were deliberately buried.
It is this hegemonic notion of the group over the individual, along with the naturalisation of keeping your desires and feelings hidden that makes it so difficult and problematic for the main cast when these desires are ultimately unleashed. Inaba’s secret desire to monopolise Taichi is suddenly unleashed, and although she may claim that she was not in control of her body, the simple fact remains that this is what she wants someone deep inside. Her cold attitude towards Taichi from this point is in part due to her wish to take a back seat while continuously pushing Taichi and Iori. She continues to do this under the mistaken belief that it is the best course of action, believing that her desires and feelings and secondary to those of Iori. This also presents a problem for Inaba who has already confessed that she cannot fully trust anyone else, but not due to this sudden turn of events she can no longer even trust herself.
Everyone keeps particular desires hidden or in check, perhaps because they are embarrassed by them or because they would be not be acceptable or get you into trouble. Similarly, when talking with friends, people at work, or those in a class (school or university) there are social niceties and norms to be observed. A simplistic example may be complementing someone on a bag or some piece of clothing that they are clearly very happy about and think its great, despite you not liking it at all. To suggest that it were ugly or disgusting would be to offend those whom you are talking to and potentially threaten your friendship or relationship with them. Schools by their very nature are spaces for education and socialization; the focus on harmony (wa) and hegemony therefore has significant implications on people’s ability to speak their minds and act on instinct. Those who do may be labeled as outsiders or troublemakers, and could therefore be ostracized from the social space and viewed with distrust.
In fact, it is often perceived as impolite to express ones individual wishes and feelings within a group, especially for women. Individuals who have been harmed or subject to sexual harassment (Yui/Iori) are often under tremendous societal pressure to maintain the social order; and failure to uphold social harmony brings shame and embarrassment. Such pressures often dissuade those who have suffered either harassment or some other trauma in their past from making any public statements for fear that airing their grievances or problems will incur disharmony. Yui doesn’t want to cause any trouble so she shuts herself in her room, refusing to leave, fearing that she may be controlled by her desire and hurt others. But in doing so she makes people worry, and she is in effect alienating herself from the group of friends who would be capable of comforting her and allowing her to deal with these pressures and worries.
The group harmony that had been created due to the body swapping incident and particularly Iori’s injury has been strained to breaking point. Taichi, Aoki, Yui, Iori and Inaba are all being partly controlled by their desires, but instead of facing them they are running away and hiding. In particular, the relationship between Inaba and Taichi which has been the solid base of this group is strained and in parts crumbling. Inaba has always kept her feelings to herself, and yet when they met Yui she started berating her, saying that Yui was foolish to try and hide away from the world. Inaba in this respect is not wrong, and in hiding away from the world Yui is only making things worse, and potentially drawing out the whole affair. It is the process of saying something that many may agree with but no one is willing to admit to which causes rifts and pain within the group.
Inaba is worried that she will hurt others or cause a scene; she can no longer trust herself, particularly when it comes to Taichi. The situation is only worsened by Taichi’s sudden outburst, suggesting that he is ashamed of Inaba, who appears to be abandoning those who she is supposed to be friends with. What is important however is to think about what these outbursts, suppressed and repressed feelings mean, and whether they are detrimental to the group as a whole. Speaking your feelings is not always a bad thing, and often is needed to stop them from building up and over flowing into a single tirade. Furthermore, while these characters may be speaking their minds, they are taken too seriously, in part because of their current situation.
But, it is also the case that none of these characters truly know each other, and while the body swapping may have given them some insight into their daily lives, it never went as far as thoughts or feelings. By unleashing these hidden desires the main cast and beginning to learn more about each other than they ever thought they would. It is bringing to the surface feelings and thoughts that are potentially damaging, but are also a part of the characters. The problem is that this happened too suddenly, and none of the characters had enough time to properly react or to come to terms with what is happening. Overall it is the self-imposed alienation by specific characters that will ultimately prove to either be self-destructive or force others to bring everyone back together.