By Sadanatsu Anda and Shiromizakana. Released in Japan by Famitsu Bunko. Released in North America by J-Novel Club. Translated by Molly Lee.
This final volume of Kokoro Connect, as you might guess by the ‘Time’ subtitle, is a short story collection, with one shorter story and three longer ones. It’s a fitting finale for a serious that has really dragged its cast across razor blades at times, and fortunately is not nearly as stressful as previous books in the main series have been. The series has always been, to a degree, about growing up and moving forward, and this final volume really emphasizes that, with each story hammering the point home. The first three don’t have the main cast as the regulars, although they do get narrative voice at times. Fittingly, the final story is in Iori’s narration, the one member of the CRC not paired up (OK, there’s Uwa and Enjouji, but come on, we all agree it’s just a matter of time, right?) and someone who’s still excellent at putting on a mask to disguise her own pain. Fortunately, there are answers for her here.
The first story is the shortest and the slightest, as the CRC are coming over to Taichi’s house one afternoon, and his sister Rina decides she’s going to interrogate… erm, interview them all to make sure that there’s nothing wrong with them. This is, for the most part, amusing, and of course the real issue is that she feels he’s growing up and leaving her behind. The longest story in the book, Fujishima organizes a giant couples-only battle royale event, mostly to give the third years something “unique” to remember the year by. This is the most CRC-focused of the stories, though it includes the entire school cast, and does finally hook Maiko up with a guy (sorry, fans of her glomping Iori). The third story is the weakest, though its themes are good, as we get an introverted first-year determined to “fit in” at high school but unable to expend any effort to do so, finding a home in the CRC, which just did that the previous year with Uwa. Finally, Iori’s future is laid out for her… so why is she so depressed?
There’s no real drama or conflict in this story, which fits given it’s basically a final “present” from the author to the readers. I did like seeing Gossan as an actual slacker teacher (who still gives good advice when he needs to) rather than the usual “I have been possessed by Heartseed” version we’re used to. Heartseed are blissfully absent from the whole book, as is typical with SS books but also as it’s the final one. Our heroes are getting ready to graduate and move on, and hare making decisions about what to do with their lives. For the most part, they’re good ones (and I do wonder how long Inaba and Taichi are going to wait before getting married – the tsun and dere of Inaba’s personality are perfectly blended here, and it’s a definite highlight). Taichi is not leaving his little sister behind, but the cast is leaving us behond, as they go off to do whatever they want to. (Technically there are fanfics, but alas, very, very few.)
Despite the fact that it seems I spent most of these reviews talking about how angsty and depressing everything was, in the end Kokoro Connect, was a wonderfully solid series with a terrific cast. Kudos once more to the translation by Molly Lee, which really gives you the great sense of a bunch of teenagers having terrific conversations. I’ll miss this a lot.