Kokoro Connect 04 — Apologetics

Now that Taichi has “cured” Yui’s drama, it’s Iori and Inaba’s turns! Whoo-hoo!

This show continues to be getting a lot of heat. Some of it is for good reason, like Yui’s recovery from rape, which I also complained about last week. But all in all, I still enjoy the show.  Sure, you can guess the general outline of the story. You can do that with most stories. Sure, the show is constrained by gender stereotypes. But honestly, what show isn’t? I think Kokoro Connect deserves some credit for even bringing gender stereotypes to the attention of people who normally wouldn’t even notice them. What show doesn’t have weak, submissive females who need a man to save them?

This episode had its problems. Namely, the way they phased into both Iori’s and Inaba’s conflicts was awkward and stiff. Iori’s and Inaba’s worries were both silly, as well, although Iori’s more so. But I still think there’s a lot to like. In particular, these are great characters. You may have noticed that this episode didn’t even need to rely on body-swapping to keep things interesting.

Iori’s Identity Crisis

We head straight to Iori’s problem. Seems a bit over the top, but hey, I have an uncle who’s been married five times so I’ll buy it.

Actually, though, this isn’t Iori’s problem. She had some difficulties dealing with one of her fathers, but she got over it. Now her biggest problem is that she doesn’t know what she wants to do with her life, now that she can do anything she wants.

Well, Iori: let me be the first to welcome you to humanity! I’ll let you in on a little secret: no one else knows what they want to do with their lives either! So no worries. Welcome to the club.

Iori seems to be under the illusion that her next problem follows from the first, but I don’t think it does. She’s forgotten who she was. Well, I don’t think anyone else knew who they were in the first place. No one knows where they’ve come from or where they’re going: that’s just the way it is.

So how does Taichi solve this problem? With my favorite quote in all of anime! “You’re you, you!” Ah, everything makes sense now.

Not really though. For once, I hope this “wisdom” will be revealed for the inane drivel it is. You should have told her you loved her, Taichi. The problem I have isn’t with the quote, though: it’s with the identity crisis itself. Be whoever you want to be. Do whatever you want to do. If you don’t know what you want to do, figure it out later. I don’t get why this is such a problem for anime characters.

I can’t help but wonder if my inability to appreciate Iori’s identity crisis, and all the similar crises in anime, is rooted in linguistic differences. In the Japanese language, names are an essential part of everyday speech. And there are important differences depending on which honorific you use and whether you use the first or last name.

In English, these differences are mostly moot. I call my friends, my boss at work, and little kids all by their first name. The name is used mainly as an attention-grabber and a referent, but the name itself doesn’t carry much weight. Perhaps this is part of the reason why anime characters are so hung up on who they are.

Inaba’s Crisis

Inaba is worried that her friends will commit crimes using her body and she’ll get blamed. This of course implies that a) people don’t commit crimes only because of a fear of punishment, and b) her friends wouldn’t mind if she were sent to jail. Her crisis is a deficit of trust. In my opinion the most frightening aspect which reveals the most about Inaba isn’t (b) the lack of trust, which Taichi seems to focus on, but (a). Does Inaba not commit crimes only because she’s afraid of being punished? She may be an even more broken person than this episode has led us to believe.

But Inaba isn’t worried about her lack of trust or her lack of morals. She’s worried about what her friends will think if they find out her secret. Will they hate her and abandon her? This seems on the surface to be a silly problem, just like Inori’s. But Inaba’s fear strikes me as more genuine. The viewers would be more concerned about Inaba’s lack of trust and apparent lack of morals. But Inaba sees nothing wrong with this— that’s just the way she is. Hers isn’t a crisis of identity like Inori’s. What she’s afraid of is being rejected by others for who she is. And I can accept that, much more than Inori’s trumped of fear of not knowing who she is.

For once, I really liked Taichi’s approach to Inaba’s fears. She is afraid to risk it all by telling her friends her secret, so he does something really dumb: he shares an even more humiliating secret with her.

…God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise, God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong, God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are… — 1 Corinthians 27-28

It works. And unlike Yui’s case, I can actually buy this one. Taichi is a Christ-figure here. He disgraces himself so that Inaba can lift herself up. He’s a selfless freak of the highest order. Incidentally, this is perhaps related to why I have difficulty relating to Inaba’s problem, even if I can understand it… with a tradition of a god who befriends prostitutes and tax collectors, and lets himself die in the place of a murderer, why worry about your best friends accepting you? Seems silly.

Inaba’s segment had a great ending too: the only thing everyone gets out of Inaba’s confession is that she worries too much. I liked how even Taichi is taken a bit aback by their reaction. Perhaps even he doesn’t trust his friends as much as he ought to.

In Defense of Taichi

Taichi sure is getting a lot of hate from the viewers.

Many of the complaints seem to be centered around the fact that he is a goody two-shoes. with no personality. Well, sure, he’s a good guy. But so what? Most people are, when you get down to it. If your friends are in trouble, who wouldn’t try to help them? I see nothing wrong or unrealistic about this.

The astute reader will be quick to point out I just got finished saying Taichi is like Jesus. Just like Ouma Shu! Well, no, that’s not exactly what I meant. Ouma Shuu is the form of Jesus (the crucifixion) without the essence (Ouma Shuu has never loved a damn thing other than himself). Taichi is the essence without the form (I mean, who heard of a Christ figure who masturbates?).

As for no personality? Flawfinder complains about characters who are “all action and no personality.” But, this gets back to the earlier discussion we had: what is a personality, even? From my perspective, a personality is defined by actions. Taichi is a person who cares for his friends and is extremely pushy about doing so. I think this is a point that many people accusing Taichi of lacking a personality are missing. He continues to press the issue past the point of politeness. And as his secret-sharing with Inaba proves, he is a selfless freak, willing to humiliate himself to help solve her problem.

From my perspective, he has a stronger personality than either Yui, who is defined by her shyness and her violence, or Iori, who is defined by her cheerfulness. Taichi doesn’t have any quirky traits to make him stick out. Well, no readily apparent quirky traits. He does love people who lose in wrestling. Taichi is defined solely by his actions. And to me, this makes his characterization all the stronger than the typical anime characters who rely on funky hair colors, quirks of speech and overused tropes.

Now, you can certainly criticize Taichi’s approach to helping his friends. But, hey, these people have serious problems, so let’s cut Taichi some slack.

Perhaps more pertinently, we can criticize Taichi’s pride and vanity for presuming that he can solve his friends’ problems. But I see this as a character flaw, not a flaw in Taichi’s characterization. Taichi is not the perfect do-gooder precisely because he thinks he can be the perfect do-gooder.

Further Thoughts

We know that Inaba is typically a very stoic person, who seems like the most unlikely person to tell anyone about her problems, much like Taichi. And yet she does so. Why?

On the surface, it’s because she’s sick. The transition is still awkward, though. But let’s consider something else. Inaba believes that Taichi loves Iori because she needs someone to help her. I wonder if (even subconsciously) coming to Taichi for help is Inaba’s way of getting Taichi to love her.

What is this line supposed to mean?

6 thoughts on “Kokoro Connect 04 — Apologetics

  1. I enjoyed this episode. I do agree that the transition was a bit rough and not well executed. Having said that, I kind of related with Iori’s crisis, heck I have even used a few of the same words in my head before. Still, it was a pretty cliche crisis.

    I don’t really have the time to comment on it, but I really liked your approach to analyzing Inaba’s character. You said right things.

    Oh and I totally agree with you on the whole “Taichi is not a bad character because he is a good guy” thing. Way too many people see a nice anime character and decree said character as boring and generic.
    Taichi actually has some reasoning behind his actions. He isn’t just nice cause the writers thought that would be popular.

    Oh and did you see the preview? I am placing my bet on that HeartSeed fellow taking control and trying to make her jump.

    1. Yeah, I think part of the reason people hate Taichi is because they conflate “nice guy” with “generic harem league.” The generic harem league is quite a different beast from Taichi, though. The generic harem lead is innocent and oblivious to the charms of women, and kind to everyone for no reason. Taichi is kind to Inaba, Yui and Iori because they’re his friends. And he certainly isn’t oblivious to women as we discovered this episode.

      I saw the preview, should be good. I kind of doubt Heartseed would take such an activist role, but we’ll see.

      1. Given the amount of shit I give Yuuji Sakai, Tsubaki from Mysterious Girlfriend X, and the main from Dusk Maiden of Amnesia, is it really a surprise that I don’t like Taichi? 🙂

        1. Well Yuuji Sakai and the guy from Dusk Maiden of Amnesia legitimately suck so it’s completely different!

  2. I agree that he isnt a bad character, Reminds me of Emiya Shirou from fate/stay night…

    Also did you play/read it? (watching the anime doesnt count), if you didnt than you should cause its quite good (especially once you finish the “fate” route- not that I think it was bad but it isnt the best compared to unlimited blade works and heavens fell).

    P.S. Also the voice actor of Kotominei Kirei is the same seyiu of Alucard.

    1. Yeah, I played the light novel. It was great, particularly Heaven’s Feel.

      The main difference I feel is that Taichi hasn’t let the idea of being a hero get to his head nearly as much as Shirou. 🙂 Taichi admires the people who lose and get beaten up.

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