Kokoro Connect: Asu Random, Part 2

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

This is, as the author notes, the longest book in the series. It’s not as long as some other light novels in my collection, but in terms of Kokoro Connect it’s pretty chunky. And it does what we’ve always known the series does well and want it to continue doing: traumatize our protagonists as much as possible. They’ve gotten their wish to be put in the place where the other students are trapped, but I’m not sure they were prepared for everyone to think of them as the villains who won’t tell the truth about why they’re really trying to do this. (Because if they tell the truth, they lose.) Even worse, the student council seems to be their adversaries, friends they’ve known their whole high school life are breaking apart, relationships are fracturing, and, yes, people are STILL losing their memories. Kokoro Connect is VERY good at making everything seem completely hopeless about the halfway point of each book, and that’s what we get here. That said, the real hopelessness comes with the special bonus round.

Given the series is essentially a metaphor for teenage hormones and growing up, it’s less of a surprise than expected that the conflict in the first three-quarters of this book is “should we punch each other till we forget everything and disappear?”. Needless to say, the CRC are not in favor of punching. Unfortunately, it turns out “guys, we just have to stand together and unite!” doesn’t actually achieve concrete things, while the punching, while no one knows if the things it causes are good or bad, is at least something to do. What’s more, of course, the CRC are being painted as the suspicious, untrustworthy kids, which, well, is not 100% wrong? Through no fault of their own, they can’t open up about this. That said, the solution they do come up with (start small with their closest friends, then work outward) ends up being fine. Well, almost fine.

Whoops! The last quarter of the book is the seeming worst case scenario – Heartseed does a takeback and everyone really does lose their memories. This is not as emotionally volatile as the first section of the book, but hurts more, because seeing the club interacting with each other like they’re casual acquaintances is just too depressing. Fortunately, all the things they did in Book 9, while mostly erased by Heartseed and company, do manage to clue them in that something is wrong (kudos to the first years) and they end up retracing the steps of the moments in the series where they became the closest of friends… and, for two couples, where they confessed. Kokoro Connect always reads like a roller coaster where it’s just one big down and one big up, and this is the same. It’s a feel good ending.

That said, there is one more book of short stories still to go. But man, this was one of the most emotionally draining light novels I’ve read, managing a lot of supernatural content while ALSO being a slice-of-life high school romance series. Highly recommended, especially to anime fans who want to see what happens next.

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