Representing the culmination of progressively apparent changes, characters in Kokoro Connect’s ongoing, alien-initiated experiments are subject to two influences in the third arc: physical and mental regression to a random moment in youth, and the deluge of emotions resurrected after being restored to proper year and physique. Unlike previous arcs, this one involves both physical and mental effects that can be noticed by others. While competently bringing together the themes of the first two arcs, the third arc, which stands at a much shorter three episodes, fails to deliver the same degree of impact despite its number of resolutions.
Although arc three starts a little more inventively than the others and promises the possibility of some very interesting situations because of the experiment’s very observable consequences, brevity forces some damaging shortcuts. Other arcs occur during school, but this one takes place two days before (but mostly during) winter break. This smacks of convenience, as the StuCS members get to hide away to keep their changes from being noticed without disrupting life at home or school. Yet this, too, might be planned.
This arc truly shines when all bets are taken off the table, and the all-too-safely executed experiment is left to chaos in terms of timing and participants. Kokoro Connect makes the most of its limitations up until this point, having characters learn even more about their friends by observing, interacting, and protecting their childhood selves from themselves and the outside world. However, having to do all of that in the outside world makes for more pandemonium, which seems more in-line with what Heartseed would want if looking for entertainment. The stress created from an arc where the StuCS members were to constantly deal with instant physical changes and emotional disruptions throughout the group amidst the rest of the world would be hard to pull off but ultimately more complex and rewarding. Unless the arc were longer, however, I doubt it would be possible to build such a sense of disconcertion without the contrast of control and bedlam. So what effects are reaped from the anachronistic turbulence that does exist in this arc?
The depth of repressed emotional trauma as exposed via physical flashbacks is present but feels superficial in these episodes, especially given the solidly portrayed, character-changing consequences for Yui’s sense of helplessness, Iori’s family issues and faith in her own soul, as well as Aoki’s questioning, realization, and subsequent galvanization of his own amorous intent. Most issues feel as though they're solved via self-realization or a few sentences exchanged among friends. There’s a lot of resolution for one arc, let alone one comprised of only three episodes, and that’s what makes these episodes feel unjustified to me.
That almost everyone should almost completely wrap up their life-long issues in one arc seems rushed. Even if said resolutions come as the result of three arcs worth of working through issues with friends, the construction and execution of these episodes make it feel as if the there's a direct correlation betwixt this particular phase of the experiment and each character's respective conclusion. Even the abrupt manner with which the experiment is forced to a close, without contest, seems like an easy way out. The one post-credits thread left intentionally dangling, combined with those characters who’ve yet to fully resolve their selves, points to what the finale will encompass, but that arc will only be available when the series is released on DVD/BD. Enjoy the wait until then!
Kokoro Connect is now streaming on Crunchyroll.