Ah, it’s hard to watch five people acting so dumb.
• Taichi tries to apologize to Inaba for the “mean” things he said at the end of last week’s episode, but Inaba just replies, “You couldn’t help it.” Now then, this is tricky. We often say that moral culpability requires agency. In other words, I cannot be punished to the fullest extent of the law if I couldn’t have done otherwise. This is the reason why insanity defenses are a thing. This is also the reason why a lot of people are uncomfortable with the idea of determinism, which asserts that given a certain set of conditions, nothing else could happen.
But really now, could our five friends really not help themselves when these id-fulfilling impulses kick in? Just by putting the problem like that, it would seem so. Again, however, we have to remember that these actions only reflect the characters’ true selves. Maybe at that very moment, Taichi couldn’t stop himself from berating Inaba, but he chose to be one of those bland, altruistic anime protagonist a long time ago. It’s because of that choice that he is now compelled to yell at Inaba. Basically, we are responsible for who we are; Taichi may not wanted to have said those words, but those words were inside of him regardless.
• So… Yui continues to avoid the rest of her friends even after what Inaba said to her, i.e. if the Heartseed isn’t entertained, something worse may happen. Does Yui disagree with Inaba’s premise then or is she just a selfish person? Then again, Inaba is now avoiding the clubroom too. Is she just a hypocrite then?
• As Taichi and Aoki are arguing, why does the anime cut away from the drama? Even in anime, you can discern a lot from the characters’ facial reactions. As such, I’m not sure why the anime cut to a shot of the friends’ three bags. What I do like, I suppose, is the state of bewilderment that Iori is in. This is highlighted by the fact that the camera angle suddenly shifts to a lower height, i.e. it’s looking up, whenever the anime cuts to either Taichi or Aoki. On the surface, you can say that Iori’s sitting down so this is what she sees, but the fact that Iori’s sitting down is also deliberate. But she’s also had multiple father figures too so I’d imagine things are not always super peaceful at home between her mother and those multiple father figures. The camera perspective reminds one of a child stuck between two arguing parents.
• Let’s grant that Taichi subverts the typical do-gooder protagonist because he has a constant need to help others without thinking ahead. By calling Aoki a “useless clod,” is this too a slight subversion on a character typical of anime? Until now, however, Aoki has pretty much been invisible. And while that does point to the fact that he’s a “useless clod,” it also makes him a very underdeveloped character. So which way do we lean? What’s funny is that he then disappears from the rest of the episode. Welp, I guess Aoki is useless after all.
• Iori: “Are either of you actually worried about Yui?! You guys just don’t want to see Yui looking sad.”
Those are two strange sentences to say back to back. If you don’t want someone to look sad, aren’t you worried about them?! But we’ve talked about this in the past: is there no such thing as selfless altruism? I’ve concluded that this worry is nonsense, but I suppose the anime doesn’t agree.
• Damn, Taichi shoves Iori out of the way. It’s one thing to fulfill your impulsive desires, it’s another thing to have an impulse to hurt your friends. Honestly, this is the first time anyone innocent has been hurt. Again, Yui never hurt anyone who didn’t deserve it. If our friends are just showing their true selves to the world, what does this say about Taichi? You may not be able to control your impulses, but you’ve made the choice a long time ago whether or not to be a good person. If it’s in Taichi’s personality to slap Iori around, you have to wonder….
• His imouto tells him he should make up with Iori, but Taichi stay depressed when he thinks about the day’s events. He then wonders if this is how Yui feels. I’m sorry, but when your friend tells you something very reasonable and logical, i.e. the Heartseed may do something worse if we just sit around and be angsty, I still think it’s selfish of any of the friends to avoid each other. I don’t care how bad Yui feels when her desire to avoid hurting her friends should outweigh that. And if the reasoning is something along the lines of “Well, what if I hurt my friends by being around them,” that doesn’t fly either. Are these characters just content to sit around and wait for things to get worse?
Something that nobody has tried since they’re all babies who want to avoid each other: just talking. Just being open and honest about your feelings. If our friends are really acting out repressed desires, then the obvious solution is to vent them in a controlled, safe environment. Unfortunately, typical of anime in general, people don’t communicate. Instead, we’ll just have shots of people lying around in beds, pitying themselves. They presumably do this for hours. God knows how that works. What makes this arc so infuriatingly hard to enjoy is that the characters just continue repressing themselves against all logic. Even if they end up fighting, man, that’s what friends do sometimes, and true friends get over it. Basically, our five friends need to quit being so dramatic.
• So the unlikeliest of unlikely scenarios occurs to fix our five babies’ problems. Somehow, Fujishima of all people get to organize the class trip any way she wants. Luckily, she has the intelligence to force our friends to interact with one another instead of stewing in their own pathetic juices. Wow, of all the characters to admire, Fujishima is the one. I guess when she isn’t being a ridiculous yuri caricature, she is actually smart.
• Unlikely scenario number two: the teacher dispenses with some sage advice: “Isn’t hurting and troubling each other just what friends are for? … But it’s better to talk things through instead of dodging the issue. If you talk to your friends face-to-face, everything will work out.” That’s what I just said! I totally just said that! But on a more interesting note, is this really the teacher or can the Heartseed act? It’s all just too convenient how the guy shows up out of nowhere. After all, does the Heartseed always have to be monotone? I guess I wouldn’t know. The best part: “Hey, I actually sound like a teacher!”
• Fujishima: “If you have resolve, conviction, and a firm grasp on what’s important, everything else just kinda flows.” This kind of reminds me of virtue ethics, which has gone through a revival of sorts. For a while now, there has between two major schools of ethical thought. Thinkers like Kant represented the side that we have rules to follow regardless of the consequences. You may this as deontology, i.e. duty-based ethics. The opposite side of the coin has often been consequentialism, the idea that the ends justify the means. You have Bentham and Mill in this corner; if you think the Heartseed is justified in what it’s doing because the friends inevitably improve at the end of every arc, you’re taking a consequentialist approach.
In any case, what I’ve been harping on all along is that the five friends shouldn’t be afraid to act out their repressed impulses, because deep down, most of them are good people. Well, Taichi may have lashed out at Iori today, but that’s a tricky situation. We have to remember that he did it because he didn’t want others to interfere with him helping Yui. So again, even if he acted out a repressed anger, that repressed anger is primarily motivated by the need to help others. So where does virtue ethics come in? Virtue ethics is actually an Aristotle sort of thing, so it’s old. That doesn’t make it any less legitimate, however, and virtue ethics tell us that it is our character that largely determines whether or not we are a good person or not — whether or not our actions or good or not.
Ah, so on the surface, it may seem as though Yui is hurting others, but we know her character: she simply wants to help girls that guys might be picking on. On the surface, Inaba said some “harsh” things to Yui, but it is in her character to protect and help her friends. She didn’t want the Heartseed to do something worse, which is why she said all of the things she said. Likewise, Taichi’s character is to help others in need, blah blah blah. Basically, the five friends have good character. Why worry if you may hurt others if you’re truly a good person? If your conviction is to be a good friend, for instance, everything else, as Fujishima says, will just flow from that. You will break a few eggs in the process, but that is not the end of the world.