Kokoro Connect, Vol. 3

By Sadanatsu Anda and CUTEG. Released in Japan by Enterbrain, serialized in the magazine Famitsu Comic Clear. Released in North America by Seven Seas.

Like many series I review here, I had assumed I’d do a main page review of Vol. 1 and the rest of the series would be consigned to the Bookshelf Briefs column. This despite the fact that the second volume improved on the first. And now the third has improved on the second, taking the cast to surprisingly dark places. It still has a tendency to have people lecture other people to advance the plot, but I’d really like to see how this Heartseed thing resolves now, if it ever does. It’s also very much a manga of two halves, or rather two-thirds and one-third, as the last part of the volume involves Yui wondering if she should date another girl… which is handled awkwardly, but looks like it’s trying.

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In the first two volumes, Heartseed was more of a plot mcguffin than any sort of villain, possessing a teacher in order to explain the bodyswapping to the cast, and then making itself scarce to watch the fallout. But the fallout isn’t good enough for them, as Taichi and Iori manage to resolve their issues a lot faster than anyone was expecting. Like Inaba, Iori’s identity crisis ends up having a solution that’s a lot less complicated than one would expect, and I hope she manages to resolve a few more things going forward. But we can’t let all the problems be resolved like that… so Heartseed literally attempts murder, by tossing Iori into the reservoir and swapping Taichi and Yui at the same time, so that he can’t save her.

What follows is a classic sadistic choice. Iori’s near death, and Heartseed says she only has a half hour to love… provided one of the others doesn’t swap out before she dies, dying in her place. Of course, it’d only be their mind dying, their body would live on with Iori in it. And mostly, this is an excuse to show off how Taichi’s ‘selflessness’ is actually a really bad case of selfishness, as seeing anyone hurt makes him feel so bad he’ll do anything to stop it. Luckily, his friends are there to punch sense into them. Also luckily, Iori gets to swap out one last time to point out that she’d never be happy with any of them sacrificing themselves for her. And also also luckily, this was all a test/game, and Iori was never really at risk after all.

After all this, it’s nice to have a lighter story (this appears to be the end of the first novel, and the rest of the volume adapts a short story from “Volume 4.5”) that focuses on nadrophobic Yui. She gets a love letter in her locker, which turns out to be from another girl. Reactions range from Aoki’s, who adamantly says that man/woman relationships are the only natural ones (I know he’s in love with Yui, but still, shut the hell up, dude) to Inaba’s (who wants to leave things up to Yui to decide, but still uses the word ‘lesbo’), to Fujishima’s (we’ve seen her lust for Iori before, so she’s the one who’s best suited to tell Yui to follow her heart. I’m not sure how this will resolve itself in the next volume (though I can guess), but so far it’s a wildly uneven handling of the issue.

Which, to be fair, fits with this series in general. It’s dealing with the emotions and feelings of teenagers in general more than most high school comedies, and kids say stupid things. Awkward emotions are the order of the day, and this volume continues to serve them up. We’ve only got two more to go, so I’m interested to see how the adaptation wraps up.

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