It’s been two and a half whole weeks since my last post, and Kokoro Connect hasn’t once stopped growing in popularity—especially with the advent of Iori’s near-death experience last week. But for all the maturing both she and the show as a whole have done lately, one fact remains steadfastly true to me:
I still just cannot determine if I like Iori’s character or not.
From the early episodes, the reasons for me to like and dislike her were actually fairly straightforward. Right from the get-go, it was clear that Iori was the genki girl of the series—the cheery one with the somewhat-naïve attitude. And typically, that would’ve been enough reason to make her a heavy candidate for my favorite character of the series; I love genki girls. Some people see them as emotionally shallow, but I view them differently—in ways far too elaborate for me to go into detail on here. Suffice it to say that the moment we were introduced to Iori’s character, my opinion of the show went from ‘apathetic’ to ‘looks like I’m watchin’ more’. (Mind you, we’re still talking episode one here.)
My main reason for disliking her is still just as straightforward, but a bit more…complicated: I have a strong dislike for people who can’t keep track of their identities. People, not characters. Whether or not judging a character based on your opinions of real people is a good idea is yet another topic that I won’t delve into here, but the point is that finding out about Iori’s secret was the first time I ever doubted how I felt about her character. I used to have an opinion rather similar to Taichi’s—that even if a person goes to extremes to appeal to others, their unique, underlying personality still colors their identity at all times. These days, though, while I won’t go so far as to say he’s wrong, I can definitely say for sure that I’m just not sure if that’s really true or not.
Regardless of personal bias, throughout most of episode five and the beginning of episode six, Iori really started to give me hope that she was going to come through as a character, smack me in the face with the genki, and leave me able to like her best without feeling guilty about it. Her talk with Taichi on the bridge before things got serious in episode five is probably the best example of this: for at least a few minutes, she began to have faith in her own identity. I like to believe she was thinking something to the effect of: “It’s alright, Natsusa. If you can’t determine whether or not Taichi’s right, I’ll just prove it to you by being awesome. Cause I’m awesome like that.” And for a fleeting moment—which really ended up being something more like a half hour of screen time total—I was okay with that.
Course it couldn’t last. Of course there was just no way I was going to get out of this conundrum quite so easily—and so, by the end of episode six, she just had to go and dash all my hopes. Again. Argh. Anyway, to elaborate, I felt that her phone conversation with Taichi, the decision she made to keep an emotional distance between them, and the defeated depression that struck her after hanging up really tore down everything she had built up. I’ve no intention of arguing with the logic behind it, because the new affliction set upon them by Heartseed forces them to be extremely careful with their emotions. But even before we get into the idea that she could have made the reckless choice regardless, it still seems painfully obvious to me that her decision was colored more by her lack of confidence and less by the situation—and right back to zero we go.
I want to love this character. I really, really do. It’s more than just a preference for genki girls—it’s an odd sort of kinship I feel with them, and with Iori personally as well. And there’s more to it than that, even: in all honesty, I’m holding onto a hope that Iori will ‘wow’ me enough and grow just enough that I can stop being so biased towards people with a less-solidified identity. Regardless of what my hopes are, though, I really just don’t have the slightest idea where this show is going to take Iori as a character—and since every time I try and shift one way or the other, something comes along to completely negate it, I’m just gonna wait out the rest of the series before coming to any sort of conclusion.