Kokoro Connect: Nise Random

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

This volume had its work cut out for it, at least in regards to me. The title translated as “Random Fakes”, and it’s not spoiling anything to let you know that we get a pile of “Heartseed’s magic lets me impersonate another person so that I can quietly destroy their lives”. This plotline makes me very uncomfortable, always has, and so I was cringing through a large part of the first third of this book. Fortunately, the author knows that our heroes have been down this road before, and we eventually end up going in a completely different direction. What the book really is is an extended character study of the new first-years, going into their personality quirks (and flaws) in a much deeper and more traumatic way than the short story volume ever could. The book trusts that you will go along with the author’s good judgment and understand that these are good kids at heart. Unfortunately, with Chihiro, I worry the reader may give up and just quietly hate him.

We pick up after the start of the plot has happened offstage. Chihiro’s narration reveals that he has been approached by Heartseed (who, let’s remember, the main cast has NOT QUITE told the newbies about yet) and offers his usual “I will give you a power, entertain me” bargain. The power is the impersonation tactic I mentioned above. Unfortunately, Chihiro is still dealing with being cynical, arrogant, and bitter, so he resolves to screw up the Club as much as possible. Fortunately, there are a few plot twists that get in the way. The first is that the club (minus Taichi, who admits he was being stupid) have been down this road too many times to not realize something’s going on with Heartseed. Secondly, when it comes right down to it Chihiro is a lonely kid who breaks pretty easily, and when he realizes that things are going bad and they’ll catch him, he tries more drastic tactics. Which have more drastic effects.

Chihiro is not the only main character in this book, of course, as we also get Enjouji’s POV for several scenes. She’s a more tolerable type, being the “why would anyone be interested in me when I am so normal and ordinary” girl. This is why she admires Taichi so much, besides his voice, as he has that ability to unite everyone around him. (This comes as a surprise to Taichi, who is still going through a bit of an identity crisis, and this book REALLY doesn’t help.) I liked the constant ship tease between her and Chihiro, even though it may not go anywhere – we’ve all seen the two friends who everyone just assumes are a couple even though they really aren’t. As for flaws in the book, well, Chihiro pretending to be Taichi and getting Inaba to strip was a bit beyond the beyond, and I kind of feel she didn’t get mad enough at him afterwards. (You could argue he wasn’t punished enough for his actions, but a) everyone agrees Heartseed is really to blame, and b) he already hates himself so much punishment would feel odd.) Honestly, lovesick Inaba really doesn’t work for me at all. I like her with Taichi, but not like this.

So despite its premise, this ended up being an excellent volume in the series. It’s definitely worth picking up, especially if you liked the anime.

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