Kokoro Connect Ep. 6: Uninhibited

The Heartseed claims it merely wants the gang of five to discover their true selves, but after the previous episode, you can’t take anything he says at face value. So what is going on anyway? Can it really be Yui’s desire to beat up guys? According to the Heartseed, she’s just acting upon her true desires, but our desires are actually very complex and multi-faceted. There’s no doubt that on one level, I want to eat delicious food until I throw up, but I also understand that (1) I really can’t afford to do so, and (2) what will others think of me? So in other words? The characters aren’t merely acting upon their deepest desires, but their most impulsive desires.

Okay, if you really want to gussy it up, you can say that for our gang of five, the id is no longer uninhibited: “Under normal circumstances, you would have shown self-restraint and stopped.” The id is rather uncomplicated and, in a sense, innocent. You are dominated by your impulses, so there’s hardly any case for culpability. It only strives for pleasure, but at the same time, it can also be thought of as being possessed by some sort of primordial evil. After all, the id is aggressive all the time; it doesn’t understand the limits of its desires. So how can we use this to understand our characters?

Yui was almost raped when she was younger. As we all know, this created her fear for men. But what else would be natural as a result of her near-tragedy? Anger. There is anger toward men for nearly raping her, and there is anger directed within for allowing herself to be put in such a vulnerable position — and by saying this, I’m not victim blaming. I’d readily agree that she wasn’t doing anything wrong at all, but it is nevertheless true that a lot of victims do end up blaming themselves for what happened. In any case, Yui’s androphobia remains resolved for the most part. If she’s still uneasy around guys, that’s not the same thing as a phobia. Her repressed anger now erupting from her subconscious, however, is an entirely separate problem. But you have to wonder if it’s a case of shame or practicality that’s really at issue here. I mean, why should she not want to fight off assholes? Again, desiring something and acting upon that desire are two separate ideas. It’s just not always pragmatic to pick fights with a sex that is generally physically stronger. In other words, there are likely better solutions, but I don’t know if I can blame Yui for wanting to kick some ass.

Likewise, Inaba’s trust issues are resolved for now. If anything, her inability to trust has been flipped on its head: she now can’t trust herself around Taichi. The anime has repeatedly hinted at the idea that she likes the guy too. That’s where our conscience comes in, doesn’t it? She knows that Iori has feelings for Taichi, so she can’t exactly compete with her own friend, i.e. “Aren’t you ashamed to do this to someone you care about?” Is it Inaba’s true desire to woo Taichi for herself? Yes, but it’s as true as any of her other desires, i.e. her desire not to hurt Iori. If anything, this seems to explain her actions in the previous episodes. To some extent, she probably does feel guilty for her feelings toward Taichi, so to compensate, she tries to play the matchmaker. If she can make him and Iori a couple, does she not both absolve herself of culpability and draw a line in the sand? In other words, Taichi’s taken so there’s nothing to be done about it.

Unfortunately, Taichi’s relationship with Iori has barely progressed since the previous episode. According to him, they haven’t had much of a chance to talk due to her injuries and some paper they had to do. I’m not sure why the two couldn’t have just chatted for thirty minutes a night before bedtime, but I guess anime characters abhor using the Internet in any shape or fashion. To make matters even worse, however, Iori wants to maintain the status quo out of some fear that they won’t be able to control their desires. This sort of repression, however, can be dangerous too, and I suspect that later episodes will pounce upon this very idea. For instance, the lack of progression on their part might just spur Inaba to regret her decision to play matchmaker in the first place. Inaba tried to draw that line in the sand, but if they won’t honor what she’s done for both them and herself, why should she hold back? Or rather, will she have to push herself away from the group to prevent anything worse from happening between her and Taichi?

So where do we go from here? I suppose the characters will have to face up to their repressed feelings. This is the anime’s chance to get creative. It’s very unlikely that the solution to repressed desires is to repress them even further. So I do think Iori and Taichi are headed for a potential train wreck there. Find safe outlets, people! I do wonder, however, why the guys are so boring in comparison. They seemingly both have paternalistic impulses. In fact, Taichi’s “true desires” can hardly be distinguished from his normal self. He always wants to help others; it just appears as though his id doesn’t mind using aggression to get the job done. With Aoki, he exhibits the symptoms of a guy who needs to be Yui’s knight-in-shining-armor. It feels as though he’s so desperate to win her love that he’ll just plain act stupid. Still, this isn’t really as compelling as either Yui and Inaba’s problems.

To wrap this up, I want to question the argument put forth by some bloggers that the Heartseed isn’t evil. Since the net effect of his meddling is that everyone’s condition in life has improved, it’s tempting to say that the Heartseed is an agent of good. This is a rather utilitarian point-of-view, however, and it also puts a lot of faith in the Heartseed’s ability to prevent situations from ever escalating out of control. For instance, the Heartseed has to know beforehand that throwing Iori off of a bridge wouldn’t permanently damage her body. The Heartseed also has to to know that Yui wouldn’t pick fights with any guy who could and would actually do serious harm to her. Suppose someone was concealing a knife and had no qualms about hurting a high school student. In other words, the entity is putting people in real danger, and this fact is only hand-waved away without much of any explanation from the anime or its viewers.

I suppose we could assume that the Heartseed is some sort of cosmic force with omniscience. It just knows that our protagonists won’t be in any real danger. Nevertheless, utilitarianism has always bothered me with its implications. How far are we willing to go in order to advance the good? Do you really need to invade both my physical and mental space in order to solve my problems? For most people with trauma, they might rely upon therapy to resolve their deep-seated issues. The results are obviously unpredictable, entirely contingent upon one’s willingness to change, the qualifications of one’s therapist, etc. The Heartseed, on the other hand, might boast a 100% success rate, but even so, I’m not sure I’d be willing to allow another person to assume control of my body in order to get the job done. Perhaps the Heartseed isn’t evil, but I have a hard problem believing that it is good.

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24 thoughts on “Kokoro Connect Ep. 6: Uninhibited

  1. alsozara

    I’m glad we didn’t just go straight back to body swapping. Not that the show really fully explored that avenue, but it feels like it’s keeping up more momentum, and is less likely to linger and pad its content this way.

    Pretty much agreed with everything you said about the repression potentially leading to a train wreck and what the significance of all this is to our protagonists.

    I swear though, if this all concludes in some big dramatic love triangle between Taichi, Iori and Inaba I will be very disappointed. In general it’s been pretty solidly entertaining so far, so here’s to hoping this new arc does a good job of exploring these issues.

    Reply
    1. E Minor Post author

      Well, I dunno if the body swapping is completely out of the picture. Imagine if a way for Inaba to combat her desires for Taichi is by taking Iori’s place for a day. Though this won’t likely happen, the possibilities are out there.

      The love triangle itself doesn’t and won’t bother me. I mean, we’re watching another love triangle at the moment so the concept itself is not the problem. It’s just a vehicle for the larger thematic content. It remains to be seen if KC can deliver on that front though.

      Reply
      1. alsozara

        That’s an interesting point about the body swapping thing.

        I do feel there’s a difference between ex-husband-widow-new suitor love triangle and indecisive-high-school-oh-god-here-we-go-again love triangle, but it’s a fair enough point, I suppose. If KC delivers on the thematic content the vehicle won’t matter too much. I just hope more interesting aspects of the characters aren’t pushed aside for the usual angsty romance situation we see so much of.

        Reply
        1. E Minor Post author

          Insofar as teenagers are concerned, the wishy-washy drama of the heart is probably accurate. Sure, not every teenager sits around thinking about the object of his or her affection, but I’m willing to bet that many did. On the other hand, there’s no reason why the story should have been about high schoolers at all. I think anime comes up with all these neat premises, but then artificially limits itself to characters that will rarely have the well-rounded experience to fully take advantage of an idea like body-swapping. What am I getting at? I don’t know. I guess I’m saying the love triangle subplot makes sense, but at the same time, it could’ve been avoided.

        2. alsozara

          Yeah, I feel pretty much the same way, in fact I think I’ve argued along very similar lines on this very blog before. Pretty much it makes sense for the age of the characters, I can even personally associate in a fair few cases, but then why base it around this age group to begin with? It does bother me when people act as if such indecision or emotional turmoil is unnatural, and there’s certainly a place for drama focused around these age groups and these sorts of issues, but at the same time, why do we have to focus so much on that over other topics? I think Natsuyuki is really stellar, and very well handled so far, but honestly, being about a mature topic with mature characters was all it needed to stand out, which is a little sad.

          As I said though, I’ve generally been enjoying Kokoro Connect quite a bit. However, when I see other people blindly praising it (not pointed at you, in case that wasn’t obvious), I do get a bit of a knee-jerk reaction to start focusing on all the flaws. In general I tend to approach hyped shows with more apprehension and doubt than shows nobody talks about, so I’m probably coming across as overly negative.

        3. E Minor Post author

          when I see other people blindly praising it

          The cynical me sees two very alluring but nevertheless overlapping qualities about KC:

          (1) The characters are likeable — in which case, they usually mean Inaba is likeable — and

          (2) with Inaba, it’s like The Taming of the Shrew.

          You have this girl that’s a little rough on the edge, but if you can unlock her deredere side, that’s when the HNNNG starts popping off in most people’s heads. Anime fans just love that shit, man. The show knows this too, and it’s totally capitalizing on it. All of the more sexually-charged scenes feature Inaba in some shape or fashion, usually as a way to contrast her typically brusque demeanor.

        4. alsozara

          Honestly, I really wasn’t convinced when you first ascribed some of Inaba’s actions (e.g. telling Taichi’s she’s masturbated to him before) to nothing more HNNNNGGing appeal, but after this episode I’m starting to think you are absolutely right. It’s starting to get a little suspicious how these scenes always focus on Inaba.

  2. draggle

    the entity is putting people in real danger, and this fact is only hand-waved away without much of any explanation from the anime or its viewers.

    Heartseed’s an alien being who clearly has powers that we know nothing about, so I figure, why worry about it? He apologizes for what he did to Iori, and knows that she’s going to be fine before the doctor says anything. If he’s not omniscient, he at least knows a lot more than we do. We have no clue either way what his intentions are, so it seems fair to judge him by the results of his actions.

    Nevertheless, utilitarianism has always bothered me with its implications. How far are we willing to go in order to advance the good? Do you really need to invade both my physical and mental space in order to solve my problems?

    You sound an awful lot like a utilitarian! Just one who considers invading physical and mental spaces as a cost in their utility function! :P

    Reply
    1. E Minor Post author

      We have no clue either way what his intentions are, so it seems fair to judge him by the results of his actions.

      But what if I never asked to be helped in the first place? It is my personal right whether or not others can do anything with my body, is it not? Even if we value a consequentialist ideology as a way to determine what we generally consider to be the right course of action, shouldn’t our basic liberties nevertheless be lexically prior to this maximizing of some vaguely defined sense of utility?

      You sound an awful lot like a utilitarian! Just one who considers invading physical and mental spaces as a cost in their utility function! :P

      Well, hold on here. Before we make stabs in the dark, we should first make clear what utility even entails. If it means maximizing the total aggregate happiness of the world, it does not follow that my personal valuing of my physical and mental space necessarily accomplishes this. Perhaps in solving my problems, you make everyone else slightly happier, but you make me immensely unhappy. Nevertheless, we have a positive net happiness as a result of your actions. I nevertheless oppose your actions. How does this make me a utilitarian?

      Furthermore, just because I value the my right to decide what happens with my physical and mental space, it does not follow that I do so out of some sense of obligation to utility. It may simply be that these are inalienable rights that I hold dear regardless of the consequences. Even if the Heartseed is omniscient, and he somehow knows that everything will turn out well — this is not exactly a position I have much faith in either — I may nevertheless be uncomfortable with the idea of him toying with my body and mind. I think this is a valid concern.

      Reply
      1. draggle

        But what if I never asked to be helped in the first place? It is my personal right whether or not others can do anything with my body, is it not?

        Hm, since I’m seeing Heartseed as a force of nature rather than as a person, this question is difficult to even parse for me. Do you have a personal right to be born? Do microbes infringe on your personal rights by making you sick? Do you have a personal right for rain to come and make your crops grow? Sure, sickness, droughts and (perhaps) Heartseed are terrible. But ideas of “rights” are purely a human construct and are meaningless to them.

        It may simply be that these are inalienable rights that I hold dear regardless of the consequences.

        So then you have a utility function where taking away control of someone’s body has infinite cost. No? Not to imply that utilitarianism isn’t so ill-defined as to be practically meaningless…

        Reply
        1. E Minor Post author

          The Heartseed is probably not a person, but it has thoughts that it can communicate. It certainly has a sense of amusement as it seemingly derives entertainment/enjoyment from observing the protagonists undergo various trials. It definitely has a purpose. As such, I think it’s silly to equate the Heartseed to microbes or rain. Sure, we may not understand its intentions, but it definitely seems as though it has more intentional content to its actions than, say, “sickness [and] drought.” I mean, honestly, I don’t know if you’re trolling me now. Are you willing to debate this with good faith? It’s one thing to say that the Heartseed isn’t a human, but it’s a far cry to say it does not have a sense of culpability above and beyond thoughtless objects.

          So then you have a utility function where taking away control of someone’s body has infinite cost.

          You’re needlessly obfuscating the argument. This is a simple matter of the “the ends do not justify the means.” We probably do not agree on this matter, but you’re not going to convince me I’m somehow a utilitarian in some roundabout way.

        2. draggle

          It’s one thing to say that the Heartseed isn’t a human, but it’s a far cry to say it does not have culpability above and beyond thoughtless objects.

          Sorry, I’m explaining this poorly. I agree that he does what he does intentionally and has culpability for his actions. What I’m not convinced of is that a) his ultimate intentions are something he has control over, and b) whether his nature leads him to the same ethical conclusions as humans. Perhaps he is simply a being who exists for the sake of swapping bodies (or whatever his ultimate goal is). He accomplishes his goal willfully, but it is in his nature to do so. He can’t do otherwise, that is simply what he is.

          In this case, we can hold him culpable for the results of his actions. But we can’t expect him to act any differently, or to consider human sensibilities to body swapping when it is simply his nature to cause humans to swap bodies.

          Let’s stretch our imaginations and imagine that if he doesn’t let humans swap bodies, Heartseed will die. Swapping bodies is like eating dinner for him. From his perspective, he has a “personal right” to swap people’s bodies. And he’s such a nice guy that he makes sure to do it in a way to help the humans! But the humans say they have a “personal right” to keep their own bodies. To Heartseed, this seems ridiculous, since he never even had a body in the first place!

          Heartseed’s alien nature may lead him to form wildly different notions of “rights” than humans have. He has intentions and culpability for his actions, but his nature (which may be fundamentally incomprehensible to humans) leads him to different ethical conclusions.

          So do you have a personal right to retain control over your own body, or does Heartseed’s right to exist trump this right?

          You’re needlessly obfuscating the argument. This is a simple matter of the “the ends do not justify the means.”

          Ah, I didn’t realize that’s what we were arguing about. I completely agree that the ends don’t justify the means. I don’t see how this necessarily conflicts with utilitarianism though.

        3. E Minor Post author

          We’ve strayed far off-topic. You are arguing that since Heartseed can’t do otherwise, it cannot be considered evil. Okay, fine, but my original contention is that while the Heartseed may not necessarily be evil, it is also difficult to justify it as morally good: “Perhaps the Heartseed isn’t evil, but I have a hard problem believing that it is good.” From my point of view, moral goodness entails more than just obtaining desirable results. After all, desirable results are often due to nothing more than sheer dumb luck. Certainly, corn is good for my health, but it cannot be considered as something that is morally good (unless you’re the Kellogg dude). Likewise, if you want to argue that Heartseed can’t be held responsible for his actions because we cannot determine whether or not he can even control his intentions, i.e. bodyswapping is simply a part of his nature, then he cannot be praised either.

          But we can’t expect him to act any differently,

          I’m not expecting him to act differently. I’ve only been arguing from the start that he simply cannot be considered good from what we know of his nature.

          So do you have a personal right to retain control over your own body, or does Heartseed’s right to exist trump this right?

          I cannot see how anything can ever have the right to trump one of my basic liberties.

          Swapping bodies is like eating dinner for him. From his perspective, he has a “personal right” to swap people’s bodies.

          What does this even mean? You have a right to hurt me just because you might die if you don’t? That’s ludicrous. If someone needs a kidney to live, does he have a right to one of mine?

          But the humans say they have a “personal right” to keep their own bodies.

          I don’t know why you keep putting “personal right” in quotes. Nothing I’m saying is conceptually out there. My body is mine, and an unwanted intrusion of it from the outside is wrong. You say that the Heartseed is just a “force of nature,” but nothing seems to suggests this. Rather, he acts and communicates in a very humanlike fashion. He is even seemingly entertained by his actions. What force of nature derives entertainment in any of its actions? Why then do we assume that the Heartseed has no ability to control his intentions? Why do we have to make the leap to a “force of nature?”

          I completely agree that the ends don’t justify the means. I don’t see how this necessarily conflicts with utilitarianism though.

          Utilitarianism is a consequentialist doctrine.

        4. draggle

          We’ve strayed far off-topic.

          Can’t argue with that. And I agree that we don’t know enough about Heartseed to justify him as good, evil, or in between.

          You have a right to hurt me just because you might die if you don’t? That’s ludicrous. If someone needs a kidney to live, does he have a right to one of mine?

          We make choices like this all the time, it’s a question of the degree and kind of the hurt and the harm it would prevent. Sure, I think taking a kidney is too far. Temporary possessing a body may be too far as well, although not as far as the kidney example. But people are “hurt” when they have to pull to the side of the rode for an ambulance. People are “hurt” when they pay taxes to cover medical care for the poor and the sick. People are hurt when they are drafted into the army to fight a war against invaders. These examples may pale in comparison, but we do accept to some extent that certain rights can be infringed upon on behalf of other people.

          Now if you want to say that swapping bodies is a fundamentally different type of hurt than these other examples, that I could understand. But it seems a stretch to say that people have a right not to ever be hurt when by being hurt they could save other people’s lives.

        5. E Minor Post author

          C’mon, the mere fact that you have to put quotation marks around the word hurt in your comment implies that you don’t really buy this line of thinking. We are talking about serious violations of basic liberties, and you’re trying to bring “[pulling] to the side of the rode for an ambulance” into the discussion? No one in their right mind would argue for one’s right to drive on the road regardless of prudence. Some ridiculous people might argue that taxation is slavery, but they’re clearly nutjobs. On the other hand, we’re debating the merits of assuming unwanted control of a person’s body in order to teach them a thing or two about life. That is so far removed from your examples, I wonder if you’re just being argumentative.

        6. E Minor Post author

          But it seems a stretch to say that people have a right not to ever be hurt when by being hurt they could save other people’s lives.

          Just one more thing. Your examples, other than the mandatory military draft which I find highly debatable, can hardly be considered substantive cases of “hurt.” Rather, you bestow upon me a minor inconvenience for a result that will clearly benefit me in the long run. To borrow a Rawlsian term, behind the “veil of ignorance,” I would certainly agree to a law that requires motorists to pull over for an ambulance because I may very well be the person in that ambulance. If I happen to be one of the motorists, I am merely inconvenienced, but no mature person of sound mind and logic would say that they were “hurt” by this law unless they were being needlessly pedantic. On the other hand, what I do with my body is often seen as an inalienable right by many people. Even if you disagree with this, you certainly must understand why other people may hold this idea to be sacred. To a lot of us, there is a substantive sense of hurt being done when one loses control of one’s body. You cannot compare this to the inconvenience of pulling over for an ambulance.

        7. draggle

          No, of course I don’t think getting out of the way of an ambulance or paying taxes are equivalent to swapping bodies. My only point was that it is a question of tradeoffs, not an absolute “I have a right to never be harmed, even for the sake of other people,” as you also point out in your second comment.

          Personally, I would be happy to temporarily swap bodies if it would save someone’s life. I can certainly see the perspective of thinking this is an unacceptable tradeoff though.

          I’m still not certain about calling not being forced to swap bodies an “inalienable right”, since in our universe it’s impossible to swap bodies. This would be akin to saying people have an inalienable right to be subject to the laws of gravity. Sure, they do, but that’s not a very meaningful statement. If we lived in an alternative universe where people can and did swap bodies, would we see this as a right? I’m not sure.

        8. E Minor Post author

          My only point was that it is a question of tradeoffs, not an absolute “I have a right to never be harmed, even for the sake of other people,” as you also point out in your second comment.

          This has been a discussion over whether or not it’s okay to indiscriminately force others to swap bodies, and you’re bringing in all sorts of irrelevant counterexamples. Forcing someone to pay taxes is not harming them. Forcing someone to get out of the way of an ambulance is not harming them. We know what an ambulance is for. We know what taxes are for. Only a pedantic asshole would think that they’ve been harmed because they had to pull over for an ambulance. On the other hand, we have no idea what body-swapping will do; we can only take some weirdo at his word. As a result, it is very reasonable for someone to say, “Look, I know you claim this will help me, but this is my body and I don’t want to partake in this.”

          I’m still not certain about calling not being forced to swap bodies an “inalienable right”, since in our universe it’s impossible to swap bodies.

          I didn’t call swapping bodies an inalienable right. I said I have a right to decide what happens with my body. This extends to a possible universe where one can potentially swap bodies.

        9. draggle

          This has been a discussion over whether or not it’s okay to indiscriminately force others to swap bodies

          Ah, then we are having two different discussions. I was considering the hypothetical case where Heartseed would die if he didn’t cause people to swap bodies, to which you responded that it was ludicrous that Heartseed be allowed to swap bodies and potentially harm others to preserve his own life. In this case, there certainly is harm to Heartseed if he cannot swap bodies.

        10. E Minor Post author

          Ah, then we are having two different discussions.

          It really isn’t. If I was going to die without stealing your kidney, is it okay for me to take it from you without asking for your permission? Why is it okay for the Heartseed to invade my physical space and do whatever he wants with my body just because he might die as a result? And don’t bring taxation into this. Even with taxation, both parties establish beforehand what is fair and isn’t fair. The government doesn’t take your money indiscriminately just because it needs it.

        11. draggle

          We clearly are not going to come to an agreement on this. You see temporarily swapping bodies as an action of insurmountably high cost, akin to giving someone your kidney. I see temporarily swapping bodies as an action of low cost, comparable to paying taxes or getting out of the way for an ambulance. If swapping bodies is as costly as giving away a kidney, then I completely agree with you that Heartseed should not be allowed to do so without consent. If swapping bodies is no more costly than paying taxes or going to jury duty, then withholding that consent would be akin to murder.

        12. E Minor Post author

          If swapping bodies is no more costly than paying taxes or going to jury duty, then withholding that consent would be akin to murder.

          These are the keywords here. In the anime, no one has the opportunity to withhold anything. I value agency. Would I be willing to make a sacrifice to save someone’s life? I sure would! But it has to be my choice.

  3. AidanAK47

    Heartseed is neither good nor evil. He is a being making use of his powers to provide entertainment for himself while at the same time giving these kids life lessons. But the real conundrum is that we we deem Heartseed as evil for messing with and watching these kids for his own amusement then we would also have to declare ourselves evil. As we are doing the exact same thing.

    Reply
    1. E Minor Post author

      I don’t think this is a fair assessment. In horror movies, where the outcome is pretty much expected, i.e. we all know what’s going to happen if that hot teen decides to take a shower, I can see where you’re getting at. Plus, at critical moments in such films, the camera angle will adopt a first-person perspective that gives us the eyes of the killer, so to speak. In that sense, the crime becomes voyeuristic; we watch because we expect a gruesome murder to happen.

      Perhaps some people watch KC because they expect the Heartseed to toy with the kids’ feelings, but I don’t think the majority of us can confidently expect bodyswapping to lead to such melodramatic outcomes. On that note, I’m not convinced that the audience is complicit.

      Reply

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