Kokoro Connect: Yume Random

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

Oy. I’ve had several reviews of this series where I’ve talked about Taichi, how annoying he can be, and the way he and everyone else around him struggle to have him be more than just “generic visual novel protagonist”. Which means I need to find new things to say about THIS book, which finally takes all of this and turns it up to eleven, destroying Taichi so that he might be reborn. (No, that is actually what one character does.) When we finally get to that point, it’s fantastic. The setup for this book is also great. The middle second and third quarter of this book, though, while well-written and necessary, felt like I was stabbing my legs with forks constantly while reading it. I’ve mentioned I’m not a big fan of cringe comedy, and it turns out I don’t like cringe drama much either. If you have trouble watching people make bad decisions while watching the other shoe about to drop for pages on end, this will be a very difficult read.

Heartseed shows up and says that this will be the last time he messes with them (I know this isn’t true, there’s four more books after this). This time they (they being the core five, the first years are exempt) are given the ability to see other people’s hopes and dreams. This very quickly divides the group in two, with Taichi and Kiriyama being on the “we should use this to help people” side, and Inaba and Aoki being on the “we should just let this be” side, with Iori, as always, in the middle. Because they are in high school and surrounded by teenagers, most of these hopes and dreams end up being love-related, and Taichi and Kiriyama get reputations as “love gurus”. This despite the fact that Kiriyama still has not managed to tell Aoki how she really feels, and that this may be the last straw in Taichi and Inaba’s relationship. Oh yes, and everyone’s about to go on the class trip. But, most importantly, Taichi is determined to make up for the fact that he feels empty as a person by sticking to his guns on this decision, even if that turns out to be the worst thing possible.

As I said, how much you like this book depends on how tolerable you find Taichi attempting to finally realize that he needs to have his OWN hopes and dreams. His dilemma reminded me a lot of Tsubasa Hanekawa from the Monogatari series, who is verbally shredded by Senjogahara (the Inaba of that series) for not having anything she really dislikes… or, as it turns out, likes. Similarly, Taichi is so used to turning his attention to others that the mere sight of a future career survey can paralyze him. This is what leads him to decide to make a decision and stick with it, even if it’s a bad one. Fortunately, by the end of the book he seems to have come to terms with the ability to actually think about himself for once, let people deal with issues on their own, and actually tell Inaba he loves her out loud. Oh yes, Kiriyama and Aoki also get together, in a very sweet confession that spurs Taichi on, and almost makes up for another subplot involving Aoki’s family that I will gloss over as I don’t want to stab things.

It’s odd that I sound like I’m bashing this book, which is very good. You’re frustrated and angry, but in a way that makes sense for the characters and plot. I will note that if this had been stretched to two volumes, I might actually have been unable to continue. Fortunately it isn’t, and we have another short story volume next time. I need it.

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