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Kokoro Connection Complete Collection TV/OVA Anime DVD Review

6 min read

kokoro-dvdA melodrama of teenage secrets and fears

What They Say:
The five members of the Student Cultural Society have spent a lot of time wondering what it would be like to be in someone else’s shoes, but they’re about to get in touch with each others’ feelings in the most unexpected way: a five-way body swap! What happens when five teens suddenly find themselves inside the body of the girl (or boy) next door? Aside from suddenly making trips to the bathroom VERY uncomfortable, it also brings a whole new meaning to the term “Exchange Student”! If THAT wasn’t enough of a problem, the emotional trauma literally gets multiplied when a new affliction strikes, causing peoples’ innermost feelings to suddenly transfer from person to person! Get ready for a trip through the emotional wringer as three girls and two boys see the world through each others’ eyes in KOKORO CONNECT – The Complete Collection!

The Review:
Audio:
Both the English and Japanese Dolby Digital 2.0 audio tracks are encoded at 48 kHz at 224 Kbps. Most of the series is dialog, and it ranges from the subdued speech of the possessed faculty sponsor to wide range of emotions from the main characters. I reviewed the Japanese language track, but I went through much of the English language sampling the audio. The Japanese track seems slightly quieter with a vocal range from soft whispers to passionate cries. The English track had a consistently sharper track with more of the vocal range louder and crisp. Both sub and dub fans will probably be satisfied because both audio tracks offered consistent mastering and voice acting.

Video:
As originally released in 1.78:1, the video is encoded for anamorphic playback in variable bitrate. With so many scenes of saturated colors, the design was similar to josei anime. Kokoro2Even with a rich color palate, the design of the outdoor and indoor scenes offer interesting hard lines, like brickwork on a wall, and small detailed ornaments that really set the stage in a naturalistic manner. The encoding allows the scenes to move without aliased lines and distracting artifacts. Light and CGI often set the mood, and the production of the DVD maintains the original vision.

Packaging:
The collection comes in a standard size keepcase with all four discs on the front and back of two hinged leaves. I personally like this because it means that there’s less chance of a disc coming loose in transit or even when moving it around on my shelves. The cover offers a portrait of all five characters with emotional expressions that foreshadow their personalities. The saturated golds, browns, and greens often appear in outdoor landscapes scenes.The spine has the logo and head shot portraits of the five main characters. The back cover offers one more scene of original art of the five characters looking at the reader, and four screen caps from the show offers emotional interactions between them. The summary is written in black font over a ghosted image of the characters’ legs. The special features are clearly listed. Credits and copyright information are clear black font on a white field. The technical grid offers complete and easy to read information. Each DVD has a print of one of the female characters, but the chosen design does not directly mirror the anime version of the character.

Menu:
Menus are clean and simple. Each disc offers a piece of original art on the right side of the screen. Menu choices are written in hot pink on a black field. All menus work as expected with all selections easy to access with a remote directional pad.

Extras:
In addition to clean opening and closing animations, the disc contains trailers made for the Japanese market.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Kokoro Connect, I guess the title could mean that hearts, heartbeats, or lives are connecting. After watching the series, I feel that the connections are social links to the stresses and the problems of contemporary Japanese society.

On the shallow end, I could easily compare this to the 80s film, The Breakfast Club. A movie where a group of high school students sit in detention, and their only way to connect has been to tell each other how crappy their lives have been due to family, peer pressure, and the abuse they received from everyone. It could be argued that Kokoro goes one step further by having the characters’ personalities enter the others’ bodies, their emotions transmitted to each other, compulsively acting out their dark desires, and even having their thoughts seemingly transmitted to each other at the most problematic times. As this “phenomenon” occurs over a long period of time, they have to either work together or withdraw from the group.

Kokoro1Not many mainstream anime series discuss the trauma of a victim of an attempted gang rape. Not many will allow the most kawaii character to have a history with what appears to be a long term response to her mother in abusive relationships. Out of nowhere, a suicide attempt, a kidnapping, threats of non-cartoon violence… For a show that I watched with a serious desire to learn what would happen in the next episode, I still feel lost as a reviewer.

Unlike the sad moe stuff of a decade ago, this series offers growing frustration and paranoid anxiety. In so many ways, telling “the story” doesn’t get to the heart of the series. Instead it is the social pressure that each main character deals with that drives the sometimes silly “phenomena.” Everyone has a face they project to the world. Yui is a small blond who once practiced competitive karate but now seems to withdraw from social situations. Iori is super cute and always trying to brighten the day for others. Inaba, a girl with firm boundaries, offers her intellect and pragmatism to the group. Taichi is a guy who always puts others ahead of himself, prompting Inaba to label him a selfless loser. Then there is Aoki. He tries always to live life to the fullest and loves Yui, but nothing about him is special except he struggles as a student.

Kokoro3Together they form the Student Cultural Society, and as a group, they are targeted by an entity called Heartseed. This entity often possesses their club sponsor Mr. Gotō, and speaks through him. Heartseed claims that he only interferes with the group to be entertained, but for the group members, the continual hijacking of their bodies and minds at first reinforces bonds and then wears them down from the strain.

In Summary:
Kokoro Connect is a rather traditional teen drama with a supernatural component. The show is dialog heavy because the real conflicts are interpersonal. While the creators offer a few heavy themes like rape and abuse, the series never deals with them directly or in a realistic manner. Fans of teen dramas will find enough frustration and angst for a satisfying 17 episodes. Even though the series doesn’t really end with finality, it offers a strong, full series arc, an interesting climax, and a responsible resolution.

Recommended for anyone who thinks growing up is the hardest thing to do.

Features: Japanese and English language with English subtitles, Clean Openings and Closings, and Japanese trailers

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

Released By: Sentai Filmworks
Release Date: March 14th,2017
MSRP: $59.98
Running Time: 425 Minutes
Video Encoding: MPEG2 480i
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic

Review Equipment:
Samsung KU6300 50” 4K UHD TV, Sony BDP-S3500 Blu-ray player connected via HDMI, Onkyo TX-SR444 Receiver with NHT SuperOne front channels and NHT SuperZero 2.1 rear channel speakers.

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