Kokoro Connect: Michi Random

By Sadanatsu Anda and Shiromizakana. Released in Japan by Enterbrain. Released in North America by J-Novel Club. Translated by Molly Lee.

A running theme of both Kokoro Connect and Book Girl, a series I’m finding it very easy to compare to, is that, unlike your typical anime or manga, problems and traumas are not magically “solved” or gotten over just because the characters now realize they exist. The first volume of this series had Iori talking about how she’s never been able to really figure out who her true self is, and theoretically she had moved past that. But it’s not that easy, especially when you’re a teenager, and Kokoro Connect is pretty much using a sci-fi plot to examine the mindset and foibles of emotional teens. And the phenomenon this time around, where the five protagonists occasionally broadcast their thoughts to each other, is the absolute worst for someone like Iori who’s hiding her darker self. As a result, everything blows up after Taichi decides to finally confess to her on Valentine’s Day. The confession does not succeed, but that’s only the start of everything being terrible. Oh, and they also have to save their club from losing its advisor.

The rest of the cast also gets a good look in. Yui and Aoki both have POV scenes, which is important as they both individually meet Heartseed, something that’s unusual. Yui in particular is getting a lot more aggressive and natural, and is slowly coming to terms with liking Aoki, though despite her inner thoughts she’s not ready to act on it yet. And of course Taichi confessing means Inaba is on the losing end… but let’s be honest, most readers never saw Taichi and Iori as the main couple, mostly as, due to her core issues, Iori is a lot less developed than Inaba is. I think Taichi is better off with Inaba, particularly if he’s going to remain as stupid as he is in this volume, sacrificing first his reputation and then his body in order to solve the issues. Sure, Inaba’s main character description is basically “hot mess”, but at least the two are sure of themselves. That said, we aren’t even halfway through this series of books, so who knows?

I was not all that enamored of the dramatic ending, which featured Inaba getting kidnapped and tied up by thugs (somehow I doubt THAT fear will linger into future books) and everyone coming to the rescue. Better was confronting Iori, which amounted to Inaba basically yelling at her until she broke down. It’s something that should be obvious, but the entire book talks about how it’s easier to think of solutions than to actually put them into action. The book also amusingly has a lot of “but this isn’t fiction, this is real life” references, which I might have appreciated more were it not for the rescue from thugs fictional drama. That said, the dialogue (wonderfully translated as always, though with Inaba in this book it’s at least an R rating just for language) is fantastic and quotable, and I really like these kids. Next book is short stories, so perhaps we can take a break from teen angst and move into teen comedys being SNAFU.

Oh yes, and “Random Paths” seems to be the translation of the title.

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