Kokoro Connect: Michi Random
The story involves five high school students, Taichi, Iori, Himeko, Yoshifumi and Yui, who are all members of the Cultural Research Club. One day, they begin experiencing a phenomenon in which they randomly swap bodies amongst themselves. As these five friends face many different unusual phenomena at the whims of a mysterious being known as Heartseed, their friendship is put to the ultimate test.
This chapter of the story has the Cultural Research Club undergo a situation where their emotions are transmitted to other members of the club at random -- though generally at the most inopportune times -- and hardest hit is Iori, who is already unsure of her very identity and personhood. As Iori struggles to figure herself out, the rest of the club scrambles to produce a year-end presentation in order to keep their advisor Goto-sensei and maintain the masquerade of normalcy.
If you haven't watched Kokoro Connect, stop reading right now and go directly to the original series review, as this is a direct continuation.
That being said: the deconstruction of Iori Nagase as a character (and pretty much all her relationships with the other characters in the process) was something I knew was coming, but to actually witness her break down so thoroughly is really something else. Just imagine being dressed down and called out by Yui from K-On!, because, remember, that's the voice you're hearing. This provides a huge contrast with the marked change in Himeko Inaba, who started out as being a sarcastic, mistrustful loner, but has begun to realize just how much she has grown to care for her friends, especially Taichi.
Honestly, the events in Michi Random aren't really so random at all: the thoughts and emotions projected occur at seemingly the exact times needed to catalyze further events, and you realize it's only a matter of time before these kids figure out how to turn it to their advantage. It's nice to see it happen anyway: it's almost refreshing to see characters be strong-willed and determined to help their friends even when they know they're being manipulated by something pretty far outside their realm of understanding. Also, it's fairly obvious by this point that for all his posturing, Heartseed is a blatant liar and a jerk, but always finds himself outwitted by high school students: one imagines him going into a villainous breakdown after having been foiled by the Scooby Gang for the zillionth time ("I'd have gotten away with it too if it weren't for you pesky kids!").
On the minus side, the whole subplot with the jazz club potentially taking away their advisor Goto-sensei (and leaving them more open to being "outed" as abnormal somehow) is essentially superfluous, though it indirectly ties in with a far more compelling subplot where Iori has to deal with bullying from a trio of classmates - a very real issue in schools worldwide - and one ultimately resolved with a startling amount of panache and gumption. There's also not a whole lot for Yui and Yoshifumi to do once they've decided they're together -- which essentially lessens the number of "important" characters in an already thinly-populated series. (At least we do get to see Goto-sensei be competent at something ... who knew he was secretly a refugee from Kids on the Slope?)
Granted, if nothing grabbed you in the first thirteen episodes, it is highly unlikely that Michi Random will do anything more for you. This is not a show for action fans or the more serious-minded, and there are a couple of blatant plot holes near the end that may leave your head scratching - seriously, why would you not go to the hospital after taking a solid blow to the head? High schoolers will be high schoolers, I guess -- either that or a certain character's thick skull is in fact literal and has just been turned into an asset, somehow.
By the end, many of the relationships and internal conflicts are well and truly resolved, and one would hope that the new school year brings a new crop of members to this club to face new challenges (as in the original light novels), but as it stands, Kokoro Connect has been a pleasant surprise and quite enjoyable.
Though at times a bit overdramatic and unsubtle for its britches, Michi Random is a fitting endcap to a light, but likable school drama, and brings this saga to a satisfying close while hinting at more to come. People who don't like high school dramas might drop this a star or two and are advised to look elsewhere. — Carlos/Giancarla Ross
Recommended Audience: Teens and up, due to violence and threats of violence, bullying, and one instance of kidnapping.
Version(s) Viewed: Digital source, Japanese with English subtitles
Review Status: Full (4/4)
Kokoro Connect: Michi Random © 2012 Sadanatsu Anda by Enterbrain / Yamaboshi Private High School Cultural Research Club
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