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.