Kokoro Connect Uses Maturity And Unpredictability To Create A Memorable Anime

Image result for kokoro connect

Anime: Kokoro Connect (Complete Series)

Released By: Sentai Filmworks

Release Date: March 14, 2017

Retail Price: $69.98

The anime series Kokoro Connect is one of that is most definitely full of surprises. Initially based on very little information and scarce examples of art, I assumed the series would strictly be a romance with dramatic fragments but Kokoro Connect swiftly puts that theory to rest by involving an otherworldly transition – but before detailing that, let’s begin with the basics. At the Yamaboshi Academy, five young students that have a history of feeling disconnected link up and form the Student Cultural Society (StuCS – but I prefer the lengthy label.) The characters that make up this ‘StuCS’ group are Taichi Yaegashi, Iori Nagase, Himeko Inaba, Yui Kiriyama and Yoshifumi Aoki, each with their own distinct quirk to fairly balance out the well sized ensemble in Kokoro Connect.

Now even though you may be thinking this isn’t anything out of the norm, what sets Kokoro Connect apart from other club/dramedy animes would be the fact that these five soon become subject to a supernatural element that forces the teens to body swap. In the beginning, it seemed as if it were only two, but the series begins to introduce each of them in new ways by swapping bodies and having their feelings and emotions on display for the opposite person. Sure, having a boy/girl switch bodies does indicate their will be some obvious and expected humor (the bathroom bit is something any anime would act on) but it has so much more that it wants to progress through aside from the typical wackiness that ensues in animes of a similar vein.

Kokoro Connect tries its very best to pull from an emotionally rich place with the struggles of not only youth, but love and friendship. Even early into the series, two characters with a connection swap and it becomes a momentary comic relief, but a history of abuse gives everyone else (viewers included) a glimpse at what exists beyond the surface of things for these five. Trust becomes a part of this, with one’s innermost secrets and feelings being able to be accessed or left private, testing the waters of friendship. There isn’t an exact answer to the mystery behind the events in the first place, but it is certainly an evaluation of humanity, bonds, and the way people would handle taking on information that isn’t something we’re supposed to be privy to.

As mentioned, the plot and depth of the series truest concept sets up many opportunities for praise and narrative, but it still finds the time to showcase budding romances. This unwanted closeness tends to ignite a spark in multiple of the five that they already had (just needing a push) setting the table for an extensive melodrama to find its way in the narrative of Kokoro Connect. This aspect of the anime series can be helpful and problematic, by telling a story about love (fulfilled and unrequited) yet the four OVA’s that act as a sequel take more time to deal with than I would have assumed after understanding the bases Kokoro Connect tried to cover. I wouldn’t describe the romantic developments in Kokoro Connect as a bad thing, it just takes appreciating the transitional direction to appreciate the full scope of the series with a lot going for it. By acknowledging real-life anxieties as well as confronting the scope of a healthy or damaging relationship, the maturity in Kokoro Connect proves that genre boundaries aren’t always so black and white.

Animation quality is something Kokoro Connect has down. The characters do have their own small unique traits and artistic separation, but the art uses an entire scene to recreate an emotion behind a character’s mood which is easily one of the major pros to Kokoro Connect. The opening and ending themes contain colorful art that is enjoyable on a recurring basis and the songs add a sense of lighthearted happiness and hope that fit the struggles the five feel in the 17 episodes (if you count the OVA’s with 13 episodes.) There is a background song that plays during the more serious parts of the series and upon every play, I found myself understanding why it was a critical choice to produce a well-planned ambiance with art, music, plot and characters. The English dub was a great choice on Sentai Filmworks considering they are selective and overall, Kokoro Connect had great ambition with only some minor stumbles along the way.

Overall Score: 8/10

Aedan’s Final Thoughts:

– Yui confronting her androphobia was a brilliant anime plotline that signified something usually unheard of in anime.

– The ending between Taichi and Iori wasn’t expected, but was a bittersweet wrap-up before giving an idea of the future for them.

– I didn’t expect the series to be so philosophical in moments – even with a few select issues, Kokoro Connect was a needed change of pace for genres and its unpredictability was appreciated.

Advertisements

Blood Blockade Battlefront Complete Series Review

blood blockade battlefront
Funimation

Anime: Blood Blockade Battlefront (Limited Edition)

Released By: FUNimation

Release Date: August 16, 2016

Retail Price: $84.98

blood blockade battlefront

FUNimation

The anime series Blood Blockade Battlefront may have been one of the most peculiar and captivating animes recently, in a bizarre production that was somewhat confusing yet consistently providing heart. The series is produced by Studio Bones, the creative minds behind Space Dandy, Fullmetal Alchemist, Darker than Black and the phenomenal Cowboy Bebop film Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door, solidifying the series was in good hands from the beginning. The concept is (kind of) explained in a timely fashion over the first episode — noting that there was a massive opening between Earth and the netherworld hovering right above New York City, forever changing the once bustling city to a new (even crazier) identity known as Salem’s Lot.

In this altered city lies humans and otherworldly creatures that have now found home in Salem’s Lot, forced to attempt coexisting together under the indestructible bubble that covers the city entirely. Enter Libra, a group of superhumans who take it upon themselves to protect/supervise the necessary peace between humans and creatures from different dimensions. A young photographer named Leonardo Watch comes to Salem’s Lot and is mistaken as someone Libra was looking for, an act of fate that alters the course of his life. Leo becomes a vital part of the Libra organization, hoping to give his best efforts at preventing the downfall of the world, starting with Salem’s Lot. Of course, nothing can be so easy — and the group of those who want to wreak havoc and destroy are willing to dedicate their existence to a being labeled the King of Despair.

The plot of Blood Blockade Battlefront varies from fairly comprehensible to downright perplexing, which can be extreme enough to experience both in a single episode. The over the top aspects of the series are (I assume) intended, which enlivens the anime with a outrageous energy and make the more serious dramatic moments pack even more of a punch. It’s rare when a series can go from carefree and happy to gut-wrenching in any medium, but Blood Blockade Battlefront succeeds, which is essential to make the series as well-rounded as it is. For example, one episode starts out with Leo befriending a young alien/mushroom hybrid creature with a humorous dynamic, but, by the episode’s conclusion, it hits a grueling emotional high note that will be sure to pull at a majority of viewers’ heartstrings naturally as if it was effortless.

Character development is something enjoyable in Blood Blockade Battlefront, just not exactly for every character we discover in the short-lived anime. Of all of the central figures, Leo and White are certainly the series’ biggest hidden weapons to achieve the solid quality of the series. While we know a good amount about Leo (following from his point of view), White is an ambiguous character for a lot of her role, popping in and out of the central plot in between the random installments of episodes to establish the strange world. Introducing herself as a ghost, you can’t help but become curious by the unusual girl who takes an interest in the series’ protagonist. As you learn more about White, her role in the series becomes a big piece of the plot but also manages to develop her role and make her arguably the best factor to Blood Blockade Battlefront. White is someone who I began to care for with every bit of light shed on her identity and ensured that she was a brilliant addition to the series, despite having not been a character present in the manga. It was a bold move to create such an original idea to add to a story that has material to pull from, but, by the end, I would certainly say White proved that an anime series can make their own path without completely depending on a previous ending (similarly to Black Butler’s second season with Alois.) Characters may have come in large number in Blood Blockade, but it’s those like Leo and White that deserve a majority of credit in the anime.

Blood Blockade Battlefront uses unique anime art stylings, creating outlandish creatures to counter the humans of the series (whilst providing exceptional designs as well). Every character’s mood or personality can be determined by the series’ visuals, often reminding me of a cinematic experience. Black and White were both interestingly created to show similarities yet differentiates enough to be viewed as separate entities (especially Black…). The English voice cast all felt like a perfect piece to the puzzle of Blood Blockade Battlefront — and the best fit for character was certainly Aaron Dismuke, who grasped on to everything needed to make Leo a lively character. The anime deserves your attention and is one that will leave an impact for the quirky attributes that can somehow find a goofy atmosphere with intensely dramatic bouts of seriousness. Make sure to pick up Blood Blockade Battlefront on DVD and Blu-ray now so you can find out why the series is a must-watch!

Overall Grade: 8.5/10

– Being thrown into the world of Blood Blockade Battlefront was confusing at many moments, but the constant randomness becomes easier to embrace as how the series is intended to be received.

– White absolutely was a vital factor in making Blood Blockade Battlefront a triumphant anime.

-Leo was probably the other strongest component to the series, which made his and White’s dynamic a stronger plot line.

Absolute Duo (Anime Series Review)

absolute duo
Funimation

Anime: Absolute Duo

Released By: Funimation

Release Date: August 9, 2016

Retail Price: $64.98

absolute duo

Funimation

In the Funimation licensed anime title Absolute Duo (initially based on a light novel series), the anime takes place in the distinguished school of sorts known as Koryo Academy. At this unique academy, the entire student body consists of students who are determined and prepared to undergo intense battles that deviate from a traditional fight. The weapons are soul-based manifestations that take shape depending on each wielder’s personality and essence attributes to make each weapon different from most others. The goal would be to harness their individual abilities, but in the process of getting there – they must partner with another to ultimately go through each obstacle together in what is meant to be an extreme team-building exercise.

The first character of importance we encounter in Absolute Duo is Tor Kokonoe. Tor is the protagonist of the anime, mainly motivated by avenging the death of his sister in the beginning of the series. Tor differs from other soul-armed weapon wielders for the fact that his actual enhancement comes in the form of a shield, whereas everyone is typically armed with something similar to a sword, axe, or offensive artillery. Opposite of Tor Kokonoe is the “mystery” known as Julie. Julie and Tor soon become partners as are the others, but Tor didn’t manage to predict just how much they would actually be forced to jointly do. From the early moments of their partnership, Absolute Duo shows that it will largely take focus on the relationship between Tor and Julie – but with quite a few tropes along the way.

Tor is predictably likable for the protagonist role of Absolute Duo. Having his weapon be something defensive (a shield as mentioned above) is reflective of who Tor really is. His motives start from an admirable place by wanting to seek justice for someone taken too soon and at the hands of another. It proves that he could best be described as a protector – one with noble (sometimes) reasons behind his actions. These qualities aren’t lost on others, because Tor is pursued relentlessly to become a “duo” with other girls in the series (taking a harem direction.) His character type can be common in other series of the same genres, but many positive takeaways come from him as opposed to his counterpart.

Julie fits many female character cliches of a harem/ecchi (how utterly disappointing.) When she is introduced, she finds great appeal towards Tor – being that female role who seems harmless or in need of saving, with so much naivety they act like they are new to the world. Julie needs reassurance that he’s dedicated to her too, which makes a surprising turn of events when he then switches his goals from avenging his sister to keeping Julie safe from harm. She isn’t completely defenseless thankfully, getting in on more than a few battles to make at least one positive change. Julie is the main character (in a sea of others) used to make that uncomfortable male fan appeal but nearly every female is added to have one scene that has nothing to do with anything other than fanservice.

Absolute Duo has some unexpected yet appropriate fighting sequences that add extra dimension to the 12 episode anime series. The battle from the first episode made me think it could be a mislead to take a backseat from action in the future, but it actually continued to have importance during the length of the animes run. When multiple characters joined in on the action, the series had enticing rounds of fighting to keep you on edge (in a slight way however.) Had Absolute duo ditched the ecchi and harem impulses they originally had, it could have been regarded as a decent action series with some emotional moments at play. The voice cast for the English dub were chosen well, only somewhat following the depiction of a vulnerable girl from the level headed male lead. Absolute Duo is a series that includes some fairly enjoyable action on occasion, unusual fanservice and a plethora of women involved to make the anime what it is.

Overall Score: 6/10

Aedan’s Final Thoughts:

  • The suspenseful action scenes surprised me given the genre, a perk of Absolute Duo.
  • Numerous episodes seemed dedicated to focussing only on those fanservice aspects regardless of if it’s with food or a beach trip – nothing is safe.
  • The anime trope of several women fighting over a man’s attention has returned to show it’s still very much alive in Absolute Duo.