Bodyswapping is a classic trope of anime. It was nearly done to death back in the 80s and 90s, used as a filler plot device that appropriately associated it with a poor episode to come. Then, the whole genre died off -- or perhaps morphed -- as things such as traps, genderswaps, and their ilk took rise. Not that it ever became a popular genre or anything, but these were all still reliable tropes.
Somewhere along the line in episode two, they plainly lay out the big thesis of the show: Are we still us when our souls switch bodies? We are judged primarily by our appearance -- Misaki is Misaki because she looks like Misaki, even though Tamaki’s soul is currently swapped inside her. So is she Misaki, or Tamaki?
That’s something pretty deep to ponder on, all by itself. But that does not appear to be the main thing preoccupying these students’ minds. Naturally, some of the male characters find it most important to play with their newfound breasts in order to determine if they’re really a woman. At first, Kokoro Connect treats itself as a comedy with tired stereotypes and unoriginal character archetypes. An inauspicious start, to say the least.
The characters can’t control who they switch with, or for how long they switch. Sometimes it’s only a few minutes, sometimes it can last an hour. Who knows just how long it will end up lasting in the end? All of these people, barely acquaintances before this point, must now learn to play each others’ roles so as to not arouse suspicion. Learn how to interact with each others’ parents. Learn how to not overachieve, or struggle to keep up. Try not to start new relationships.
There’s one particularly poignant scene where one of the girls is chastising another for living at home all alone at night and how that’s unsafe. She doesn’t put two and two together, realizing the girl has a single mom who must work odd hours and possibly do degrating work in order to keep a roof over their heads.
This is the drama that can make for a great show.
What complicates things is that their homeroom teacher is occassionally possessed by an alien that is the one controlling the body-swap, who warns the kids to keep the whole thing to themselves and let him continue to amuse himself with the entire process. Great, an external threat to mix with this internal one they’re already facing.
How the show moves from this point on -- balancing humor with deeper questions and problems -- is a bit of a crapshoot. I can’t really judge for certain how the show is going to work out, but I’m interested in what’s possible. There is a lot of great groundwork laid out here, but the show needs to settle on what exactly its tone is before it can prove itself.
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