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Kokoro Connect Complete TV Series Collection Blu-ray Anime Review

11 min read

Kokoro Connect Blu-rayWhat happens when teenagers are forced to actually reveal things about themselves and live their life with consequences – and benefits.

What They Say:
The five members of the Cultural Study group that meets in class 401 have spent a lot of time wondering what it would be like to be in someone else’s shoes. But they’re about to learn that there’s a huge difference between thinking about it and literally BEING in someone else’s shoes! That’s exactly what happens when, suddenly and inexplicably, they each find themselves inside the body of the girl – or boy – next door!

What happens next? Well, besides bringing a whole new meaning to the term “exchange student” and the to-be-expected freaked-out runs to the bathroom, it’s not hard to do the math: take one wrestling geek, the resident cool girl, the class clown, the popular chick and one sultry maid of mystery, scramble thoroughly and divide, and you can bet that pretty soon they’ll be answering ALL of the questions they never wanted to know about the opposite sex in ways they never anticipated!

Contains episodes 1-13.
The Review:
Audio:
The audio presentation for this release is pretty solid as we get the original Japanese language in stereo as well as the new English language dub, both of which are encoded using the DTS-HD MA lossless codec. The show is very much a dialogue driven one, but one where the five main characters are often conversing with each other across a room and in relatively small spaces, making for some good placement throughout. It’s not a standout mix in terms of what it offers since it doesn’t go big for the most part, but the music cues work well and the opening and closing sequences have a good bit of life about them. The dialogue aspect is what really shines in its own simple way because everything is communicated effectively and cleanly and also adding right to the mood since it runs the range from quiet to loud scenes with a lot of normal conversation in between. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we didn’t have any issues with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.

Video:
ORiginally airing in 2012, the transfer for this thirteen episode TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. The show is spread across two discs with nine on the first and four on the second. Animated by Silver Link, the transfer generally looks very good as the series has a great color design to it and hits some beautiful moments throughout with backgrounds and atmosphere. The greens in particular stand out very well for me but the blues hit some great notes as well. The transfer itself is free of problems, though there are some very mild and minor bits of gradients visible in a few scenes which comes from how it was animated in the source material. It’s more noticeable on larger screens and it doesn’t detract since it doesn’t cause anything in terms of breakup or significant noise. Overall though, there’s just a whole lot to like here and the show its its visual marks very, very well.

Packaging:
The packaging for this release comes in a standard sized Blu-ray case to hold the two discs inside. The front cover goes with one of the more common images used to promote the series early on with the five main cast members outside in the city where we get them grouped together as the sun sets, giving it a darker feeling overall, especially with the color of their uniforms, but also a good sense of atmosphere about it. There’s not a huge amount of detail here but it looks good and does evoke a particular mood. The back cover works with a largely white background with a tinge of purple in a few places and with some of the text to tie it together. THe bulk of it is taken over by text with the premise of the series covered well and we get some nice shots from the show and some other character artwork. The production information is all laid out clearly and we also get a good look at the technical grid which is accurate and makes clear how the discs themselves are put together with all the key points. No show related inserts are included nor is there a reversible cover.

Menu:
The menu design for this release is simple but certainly effective as we get a static screen that’s light and full of color as we get the core group of five walking down the street with some smiles and fun that certainly fits all the personalities right. The layout is good in that we get the full body shots and lots of city space around them that adds to the lightness of the color palette which makes it feel friendly and inviting. The left side has the navigation strip, which doubles as the pop-up menu as well, with a black box with purple lining it and some white thrown in to tie it all together. Standard layout design with episodes by number and title make up everything so you can see where you are easily during playback and submenus load quickly and easily

Extras:
The only extras on the set are on the second disc where we get the clean opening and closing sequences.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Based on the light novel series written by Sadanatsu Anda, with illustrations by Shiromizakana that also spawned a manga adaptation that began in 2010, Kokoro Connect is a thirteen episode from Silver Link. The series is directed by Shinya Kawamo who has done some episode direction work over the last few years and also took on the full directorial duties for the Otome wa Boku ni Koishiteru: Futari no Elder OVA. The series is one that definitely fits into the real world slice of life mold dealing with a group of school students going through their lives. With Silver Link doing the animation, it certainly has a cute look and you can tell quickly that they’re hitting all the expected marks, right down to the cute bounce the girls have in their steps as they move about.

With the show focusing on a private school, the students here have any number of required things that must be done and one of them is that they must belong to a club and be involved in that group activity. The series introduces us to a group of students who all have kind of off interests in a way that end up forming their own club in order to meet the requirements. Calling it the Student Cultural Society, they’ve managed to come together so they can do the things they want since the clubs they wanted either just didn’t exist or there were enough conflicts early on that kept them from staying there without any future problems. Being a loosely formed group like this, that keeps them from being on the same page with a lot of things but it also makes it fun in that everyone comes to the clubroom with different things going on in their lives.

With the club made up of three girls and two boys, it’s got a kind of fun feeling and relaxed nature about it that even has one of the girls, Iori, asking one of the guys which of the girls he’d like to see naked. And he actually gets an answer out. But where the show goes in an unusual and unexpected direction (if you didn’t read the promo material!) is that two of the members, Yui and Aoki, come into the club one day and reveal that their souls have swapped bodies. To make matters worse, it doesn’t take long afterwards for the other boy, Taichi, to end up in Iori’s body. Seeing how he reacts inside her body is certainly amusing at first, as is when Iori comes to find him while in his body, since Taichi’s being accosted by another female student that has a crush on Iori.

This in general leads to some fun confusion, especially as the four of them present what’s happened to Inaba who has a hard time swallowing some of it. Inaba’s questioning does get to the heart of the matter in a sort of smutty way and you have to laugh at it, especially since Inaba does it in a way that just incriminates both of the boys. It’s a bit of a mildly convoluted series of events in order to get to the point of where the series is, having the swapped students settled and trying to figure out what to do next, but it does go by surprisingly quickly as we see it play out. What helps is that early on we get the trick of things laid out for us, not completely, but enough for it to exist and run its course. Through a teacher whose body is taken over temporarily, we’re introduced to Heartseed, a creature of some sort that is conducting his own experiments on these kids, somewhat for entertainment, just to see what will happen. And they pretty much have to do their best to keep it to themselves too.

The thirteen episode run of the series adapts the first three of the light novels and does so in a pretty good way where it really doesn’t feel like any of the arcs overstays its welcome. In the first arc, we get that exploration of the characters getting to know each other a bit better through the mind swapping aspect. Some of it is obviously for gags and fun as they come up with rules about how to handle it when the genders swap, especially when it comes to dealing with the bathroom, but there’s also some fun in how they get back at each other as one of the girls threatens to strip down and run across campus naked for a slight that was given. But they also get to do more than just have fun. With them being part of a club where they had no other clubs to partake in, they know some but not much about each other. This draws them into each others lives as it happens at seemingly random times and that puts them into those lives for a bit and helps their understanding.

The first arc is easy to work with in terms of visuals and how it operates but the second one is a bit more complicated with what it does. That one has Heartseed running a new experiment where their desires, when raised and seemingly stronger than normal, end up going through an “episode” where they become very, very intense. Yui defends some girls from her school from boys harassing them and ends up using her karate skills to really, really hurt them. But the hurt can also be done verbally and emotionally as they get caught up in their feelings and lash out at each other. That starts to cause the group to splinter in order to avoid hurting each other, but it also makes their newfound deeper friendships harder to hold onto. But if they stay apart too long, Heartseed will mess with them again, which can have disastrous results. The feel of this arc is complicated but it does have some really good material.

Similarly, I liked the third arc for what it does but felt that it just had too many big problems to overcome as during a set period of time, a being similar to Heartseed will turn some of the members to younger ages. That can mean a year or two or down to a baby and plenty of time in between. It’s silly with what it does since you have the cast coping with taking care of younger versions of themselves who are unaware of the situation but still know who they are for the most part. Naturally, there are reveals along the way about some of the characters and that’s the big draw, but the fun of turning young and then back – with clothes that no longer fit -makes for some cute fanservice moments. It also has the added twist of the second Heartseed, who is doing this secretly, and some of the problems that crop up because of it as on Taichi knows and can’t reveal it.

While the show plays with pretty much set arcs, which are overall pretty fun, what really drew me to the series when I watched it in simulcast form was the things that it did with the characters. The swapping and changing is fun enough to be sure, but what we learn about the characters is what makes it work. Taichi and Iori end up revealing feelings for each other and have to actually work with those revelations in the midst of all these problems. Yui and Aoki get closer, but her learning that she looks like a girl he used to love drives a wedge between them. Relationships are obviously a big part of things and it plays well. But there’s also some welcome honesty when you have a sequence where Taichi, in an effort to draw Inaba out of her problems, reveals his darkest secret to her that he used to (and likely still does) masturbate to her. How often do you hear such a thing in most series, anime or not? And then to take it a step further and have Inaba reveal that she’s done the same to him. That’s even rarer to really admit female sexuality like that. These kinds of moments are sprinkled throughout the show and really made me connect with it all the more since there are changes, reveals and growth going on here that feels real.

In Summary:
I was a bit unsure of Kokoro Connect the first time I saw it, but I liked the initial push of it with what it wanted to do. And as the series went on week by week, I found myself really enjoying it even more as it became a show that I looked forward to. With a marathon viewing session, the structure of the series is all the clearer and the results are even better. The characters here most definitely grow and change across it and it provides for some very engaging entertainment that makes you feel invested and connected to the cast. The situations may be outlandish because of what Heartseed does, but it’s just the door to the real meat of the story which is worth the investment in time. Sadly, the OVAs are not included here, which covers a separate arc from the light novels, but considering there are four normal episode length ones, it’s not a surprise that it was a separate license and one that will expand the kids stories all the more. Kokoro Connect is a very engaging show and one that had me from the start here and kept my attention throughout. Very recommended.

Features:
Japanese DTS-HD MA 2.0 Language, English DTS-HD MA 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Clean Opening, Clean Closing

Content Grade: A-
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: A-
Packaging Grade: B+
Menu Grade: B+
Extras Grade: B-

Released By: Sentai Filmworks
Release Date: October 22nd, 2013
MSRP: $69.98
Running Time: 325 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen

Review Equipment:
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.

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