Kokoro Connect, Volume 11: Precious Time

Book Info

Kokoro Connect, Volume 11: Precious Time
  • Format: novel
  • Author: Sadanatsu Anda
  • Cover Artist: Shiromizakana
  • Translator: Molly Lee
  • Publisher: J-Novel Club

Review

While Kokoro Connect‘s ongoing story was brought to a close with the two-part Asu Random, there’s still one more volume to go in the series. Precious Time serves as an epilogue to the entire series, showing us snapshots from the CRC’s senior members’ third year

“The Rina Report” – The first story focuses on Rina, Taichi’s younger sister who had a part to play in the events of Asu Random. She finally gets to meet the rest of the CRC – including Taichi’s girlfriend, Inaba. As with the first story in Step Time, it’s a good reminder of our characters, but not much of consequence happens.

“Couples’ Battle Royale” – Fujishima, up to her usual hijinks as the Love Guru, creates a new school event nominally as a celebration of two teachers’ upcoming wedding (following up on the CRC getting them together back in Clip Time). The idea is to get couples from the school to compete, in events of their choosing.

Once again I think that Fujishima’s story was the highlight of the volume. It brings her arc from Step Time to a close, and gives the junior CRC members some good moments together too.

“Fly High, New Kid” – It’s time for the junior CRC members to become senpai themselves, as the now third years take a back seat and the second years need to recruit new club members from among the incoming students, lest the club be disbanded for lack of membership. While the club started as a place for misfits, Chihiro and Shino need to figure out what its purpose is going forward if they’re going to be able to recruit new members. I think they came to a good answer – while it may have not been codified until now, they realize what the club has been doing all along.

“The Rest of Our Lives” – This story is not a look ahead like the title implies. Instead, Iori gets to take the spotlight for the last story – only fair, since she’s the one senior CRC member who doesn’t have a romantic partner – as she tries to figure out what she’s going to do with her life after high school. Her plan had been to be a teacher, but both the CRC’s club advisor and Fujishima give her opportunities to make sure that’s really what she wants to do with the rest of her life.

Summary

The stories in Perfect Time let Anda bring closure to some of the character arcs still left hanging at the end of Asu Random. The only real disappointment is that I would have liked to see more of the CRC going forward without its founding members; “Fly High, New Kid” could have been great setup that we don’t really get the payoff for. But that doesn’t detract from what we got: a coda tying off loose ends and giving Kokoro Connect to a well-deserved conclusion. ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Kokoro Connect, Volumes 9-10: Asu Random

Book Info

Kokoro Connect, Volume 9: Asu Random, Part 1
Kokoro Connect, Volume 10: Asu Random, Part 2
  • Format: novel
  • Author: Sadanatsu Anda
  • Cover Artist: Shiromizakana
  • Translator: Molly Lee
  • Publisher: J-Novel Club (volume 1, volume 2)

Summary

Summary’s coming up front this time because I can’t figure out how to talk about the text without major spoilers.

In short: An excellent climax for the series. The Cultural Research Club’s final phenomenon sees the Club having to work on a bigger scale, and watching them figure out how to strengthen their connections to get through it is a delight as always. ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Review

Kokoro Connect is unusual for a light novel series in that it has a finite ending instead of stalling or getting cancelled. Not only that, but it managed to stick the landing too.

(Okay, there’s one more epilogue volume to go, so this may be slightly premature – but I doubt it.)

Asu Random is very much a book in two parts, rather than two distinct entities, so I’m going to talk about them together. One note: if you haven’t read Step Time yet, I suggest reading at least the last story first. It’s actually doing more setup for Asu Random than I suspected at the time.

The first volume takes a little bit of time to get going, but that’s something it can afford. It starts off by giving us a contrast to the last story in Step Time. There, the CRC was seen by a number of other students as being “cool”, even if the first years weren’t quite sure why. Suddenly, we see them being feared. It isn’t until Heartseed shows up halfway through that we finally learn why… and also learn about the giant ticking bomb. This time it’s other students going through phenomena, not the CRC; but if they don’t do something, they’re about to lose all memories of the past two years.

The second volume is where things get interesting. What could have become a repetition of the earlier volumes in the series is turned into something bigger. By adding the memory loss threat into the mix, stakes are raised; by not giving the CRC their own phenomena, interesting conflicts with the other students are sparked. But seeing the same phenomena play out for others also serves to showcase just what makes the CRC so special.

The climax of the book requires the CRC to yet again put the title of the series into action, forging connections with the hearts of the people impacted by the phenomenon. That’s hard enough with a group of five or seven people; but now they need to do it with dozens. But when they do, Sadanatsu Anda manages to make it feel like the CRC earned it; it’s not hokey or hollow.

The one complaint I have is that the two first-year club members are given shorter shrift than the second-years. That’s perhaps inevitable when you are adding two new cast members to an already-large series; but I would have liked to see them contribute more, or even just be included in more of the “Club” scenes that left them out.

But even with that, the two first-years still had their moments to shine. Overall, Asu Random was (were?) fantastic, and I’m glad the climax was everything I could have hoped for.

Kokoro Connect, Volume 8: Step Time

Book Info

Kokoro Connect, Volume 8: Step Time
Kokoro Connect, Volume 8: Step Time
  • Format: novel
  • Author: Sadanatsu Anda
  • Cover Artist: Shiromizakana
  • Translator: Molly Lee
  • Publisher: J-Novel Club

Review

It’s been over a year since read the previous volume in the Kokoro Connect series, so Step Time was a great reintroduction to the series for me. The second (of three, it looks like) anthologies in the series, it’s split between the beginnings of the Cultural Research Club, and the current-day Club happenings.

Unfortunately, these stories are all Heartseed-free – no supernatural phenomena this time. Instead, the Cultural Research Club members have only themselves to blame for their awkward shenanigans…

“First Encounter”: This story is exactly what it sounds like: the gathering together of the Cultural Research Club at the start of their first year at school. There’s not much to the plot here, but it was a good character piece, showing how much these characters have, and haven’t, changed over the series.

“A Tale of Two Loners”: Another flashback, to about a month into the Cultural Research Club’s first year. This time it focuses on Inaba and Iori, showing how they became friends instead of just clubmates. This is the most plot-heavy story in the book. It felt a bit weird seeing Iori as she was back at the start of the series; thinking about it, she’s probably the character who’s grown the most.

“DATE X DATE X DATE”: The back half of the volume is set in the present, and is more heavily focused on romance. Iori, the only member of the second-years without a partner, and another member of her class (Kurihara Yukina – I don’t remember her, but I won’t guarantee she’s actually new) are frustrated with the lack of romantic progress for the two couples, as well as another couple from their class (that I believe *is* from earlier books). So they champion a massive group date where the two loveless ones can teach the three couples the ropes.

This is my favorite story in the book. While there’s very little plot, there’s lots of fun character moments for all three couples. And most importantly, they realize at the end that it doesn’t matter if their romance isn’t “normal” – as long as they’re happy, everything is good.

“A Mad Dash Down My Destined Path”: While Iori cheers on her fellow second-year students in their romantic lives, the first-years (with the help of the Love Guru) try to figure out why the CRC seems so “cool” to both them and their fellow students.

Despite being an investigation of the other CRC members, this ends up being more about the two first-years better understanding themselves. There’s always been hints that they’re interested in each other, but now they both seem to finally realize it.

Summary

Overall I liked the anthology. While none of the four stories seem particularly essential, none of them were a duff either. They were enjoyable character pieces that helped jog my memory going into the finale. ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Banner of the Stars, Volume 3: Dinner With Family

Book Info

Banner of the Stars, Volume 3
  • Format: novel
  • Author: Hiroyuki Morioka
  • Cover Artist: Toshihiro Ono
  • Translator: Giuseppe di Martino
  • Publisher: J-Novel Club

Review

Where earlier volumes of the Stars saga did a good job of keeping both of the protagonists in play, Dinner with Family sees its focus firmly set on Jint. The “family” here is his family on Martinh, going back to the beginning of the saga in the first volume of Crest of the Stars. As promised in the epilogue of the last book, What Needs Defending, Jint finally goes home to take over as the Count of Hyde, lord of his home planet of Martinh.

So far we’ve mostly seen Jint in a military context. Dinner with Family shows that he’s familiar with his political duties as well. The book starts with Jint staffing up his countdom, preparing for his work as the Count of Hyde. While Lafier doesn’t get much of a spotlight in this volume, she’s still by Jint’s side, giving him advice and reminding the reader of the Abh perspective on things.

Of course, with the Empire still at war, Jint’s trip home isn’t as straightforward as he might have hoped. Martinh is chosen as a site for military maneuvers, not only delaying Jint’s return but increasing tensions with the reluctant landworld.

When Jint finally gets home, he is forced to confront the fact that Martinh doesn’t want him. The volume ends on a bittersweet note; Jint ends up having to do what’s best for his people’s future, even if it hurts him personally.

In the afterword, the author mentions that the original plan was to have Jint and Lafier part at the end of this volume. I’m glad that plan changed – seeing these two characters bounce off each other is always a delight, and I’m looking forward to that continuing in future volumes.

Summary

While “let’s go home” doesn’t seem like enough to sustain an entire book’s plot, author Hiroyuki Morioka manages to provide enough political and military hijinks along the way to keep the reader entertained on the way to the unexpected fate for the Count of Hyde. ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐