The last time we checked in with the students of Yamaboshi High School Student Cultural Research Club, drama was at an all-time high. Now the students are being given a much-deserved break in Kokoro Connect Volume 5, which takes a step back from the action and delivers a selection of short stories focused on the everyday. Without a supernatural phenomenon to fight off, what do the ordinary lives of our cast look like? Let’s find out!
This volume of Kokoro Connect is made up of four short stories which take place throughout the timeline of the series so far. The first is set before the first volume of Kokoro Connect and showcases the Student Cultural Research Club getting their hands on a romantic scoop involving their teachers! Wanting to use it in their monthly cultural bulletin project, Inaba devises a plan to distribute the news throughout the school without being caught.
The second entry is one of the most interesting and takes place just after the first volume. Here we see Yui asked out on a date by a female classmate, a move which draws Aoki’s jealousy and makes Yui question her sexuality. Having been repulsed by boys for so long at the time, Yui begins to wonder if she’d be happy dating a girl and if that’s something she’s always felt. Unfortunately, Yui also considers it weird and sees herself as not normal for even considering dating a girl. It’s a mixed bag in terms of enjoyment and is certainly likely to put a few readers off, at least until Yui becomes more accepting of the concept later in the novel.
The third story in the collection takes place after Volume 2 and showcases Inaba’s growing affections for Tachi. It was obvious even back then that Inaba had begun to see Tachi as a romantic interest, but it’s nice to have a story dedicated to fleshing it out anyway. Inaba is one of the characters with the most depth in the series and any chance to take a peek under her tough exterior is always welcome!
Finally, the fourth story takes place after Volume 4 and presents two new students named Shino Enjouji and Chihiro Uwa who are looking to join the Student Cultural Research Club. With the mysterious Heartseed phenomena still on-going, Inaba and co are worried about letting anyone else becoming embroiled in the chaos but they also want some underclassmen to pass things down to in the future. While conflicted, the group reluctantly let the two shadow their activities for a few days to see how things go.
This fourth story is the hardest to talk about for both being at the end of the book and having a consequence on the story going forward, so I won’t spoil the hi-jinks the club get up to. Just know that these new characters seem to be as lovable as the current five and if they do join the club, I’m sure we’ll enjoy spending time with them. I think introducing them in a setting without a multitude of drama was also a great approach by author Sadanatsu Anda because it gives us the chance to get to know them before the next Heartseed incident.
My only complaint about this volume is the story about Yui because it’s dangerously close to writing off homosexual relationships as being wrong or a phase. Thankfully that doesn’t come to pass, especially as Yui never once judges the girl who asked her out for being gay. The story concludes with Yui accepting that perhaps she’s bisexual and being okay with that. However, this doesn’t make up for some of the comments Yui makes early on either. Undoubtedly a lot of this is due to the fact this volume is a product of its time. Japan has never been the most progressive country for gay relationships and this volume of Kokoro Connect was published there in 2011, which is quite some time ago. Coupled with an unfortunately common trope of high school girls going through ‘phases’ of believing they’re gay and then later ‘growing out of it’ in Japanese media, this is just one of those things I had to ignore. It’s obviously not meant to be homophobic, but in the current day, it sadly comes close to crossing that line.
This volume of Kokoro Connect once more comes to the West thanks to J-Novel Club and continues to be translated by Molly Lee. As always both the pre-pub and eBook release of the book have been problem-free. While reading the volume, I found myself especially fond of some of the dialogue choices Lee has made for Inaba when she’s embarrassed or enraged.
Overall this is a refreshingly calm collection of stories. Without the high stakes of the usual plot, the cast of Kokoro Connect come to life in whole new ways. This volume is not only a chance for the cast to relax but also for us as readers as the series approaches its halfway point.