Kokoro Connect 06 — The Epistles of Paul: Animated Edition

After last week’s episode, I was already prepared to look at this episode through the language of Christianity. It’s surprisingly easy to do: Kokoro Connect’s message mirrors Paul’s epistles remarkably closely.

Desires of the Flesh and of the Spirit

Heartseed’s new game is to make the characters subject to the whims of their desires, greatly weakening their powers of self-control. According to Paul, there are two types of conflicting desires:

Walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want. — Galatians 5:16-17

Not all desires are evil. In fact, I don’t think I would label any of the desires acted on in this episode as “desires of the flesh” with the exception of Inaba’s. And even hers wasn’t that bad. Aoki and Yui want to protect others out of love. Iori and Taichi desire to talk to each other and strengthen their relationship. Those two should definitely benefit from acting on their desires more.

Despite the fact that many desires are spiritual, some are desires of the flesh, such as Inaba’s. Paul says, You are not to do whatever you wantBy hitting on Taichi, Inaba hurts both Taichi, Iori and herself. As we discussed in depth last week, Inaba’s fleshly desires are a product of her fear of death. Preventing her fleshly desires outright is likely impossible, they can only be reigned in with self-control. But Heartseed’s interference makes this impossible for Inaba. Heartseed’s interference is not the increase of desire, but the removal of self-control.

What, specifically, are the desires of the flesh and of the Spirit that Paul refers to?

The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.
— Galatians 5:19-24

The last “fruit of the Spirit” is self-control, which Heartseed has taken away. Also note the language in the final sentence: “have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.” This is the same idea we discussed last week. Iori and friends have died and crucified the flesh along with its passions and desires. But it is still a constant struggle in self-control to remain free from the desires of the flesh. Paul once again exhorts:

Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. — Collosians 3:5

Becoming enslaved to the desires of the flesh is idolatry. Normally these are idols that Inaba and friends are able to partially resist, but with Heartseed’s interference they are powerless, conscripted into the service of the principalities and powers.

Heartseed’s Purpose

I still don’t think that Heartseed is evil, or just doing this to have fun. But what could Taichi and friends hope to gain from this temporary forced idolatry?

This entire episode reminds me of the teacher’s search for wisdom in Ecclesiastes:

I denied myself nothing my eyes desired;
I refused my heart no pleasure.
My heart took delight in all my labor,
and this was the reward for all my toil.
Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done
and what I had toiled to achieve,
everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind;
nothing was gained under the sun.
— Ecclesiastes 2:10-11

Perhaps they will learn the futility and meaninglessness of the desires of the flesh.

But I think an even bigger aspect is that they are afraid to act on the desires of the Spirit. Normally, Yui would be afraid to stand up for the girls. Aoki would be afraid to stand up for Yui to the police. And Taichi and Iori would be afraid to frankly and honestly discuss their relationship. I’d imagine that this will help alleviate some of that fear.

As Paul said, the desires of the flesh and the desires of the Spirit are in conflict. Let’s go back to another of Jesus’ parables about seeds (which may have a similar motivation to Heartseed’s name). Jesus is likening seeds scattered on the ground to people who hear the word of God:

Still others, like seed sown among thorns, hear the word; but the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful. Others, like seed sown on good soil, hear the word, accept it, and produce a crop—some thirty, some sixty, some a hundred times what was sown.
— Mark 4:18-20

I see Heartseed as attempting to plant Taichi and friends in good soil, by freeing them from the fear of death and its twin, the desires of the flesh.

Inaba’s Loneliness

Inaba is afraid because she believes she is alone. Taichi and Iori have each other. Yui and Aoki have each other. But Inaba is the fifth wheel. She has no one.

Loneliness is rooted in the fear of death. Death is, after all, the ultimate loneliness.

But Inaba isn’t alone.

9 thoughts on “Kokoro Connect 06 — The Epistles of Paul: Animated Edition

  1. I’m really liking this New Testament interpretation of the series; it really adds a whole new level of depth to KC’s character driven appeal that I’d have never picked up on myself.

  2. I have a difficult time seeing Heartseed as a stand-in for God, or the Sower, even in the context of this story. He actually seems to function a lot more like the Accuser in Job, actually, insomuch as one sees what the characters are going through as a series of moral and spiritual tests; he strikes me as being more amoral than benign in terms of attitude. The kind of theodicy that would be suggested by directly putting Heartseed as God is troubling to me.

    However, it’s also possible to see Kokoro Connect as a set of parables too, which I think is how you’re looking at it, as exemplifications of the battle between flesh and spirit or, in episode 5, dying to self. I’m not so sure that any of them map so neatly to what the New Testament is talking about though. With this episode in particular it’s hard to put the desires that Heartseed is unleashing as necessarily reflecting the flesh/spirit dichotomy; that’s a classically Western/Greek kind of dichotomy and in the Pauline context the “flesh” (sarx) is seen almost exclusively negatively. I see it much more in the context of the Japanese concepts of honnae and tatemae, about emotional openness versus restraint. The worry is less about morals and more about causing discomfort and embarrassment to others, which I think is what is at work when Inaba tells Iori about her “moves” on Taichi.

    Finally, in terms of the morals, a big component of sin is that it’s an act of will. The “deepest desires” that Heartseed is unleashing is literally being motivated by a voice in their heads that they are unable to resist—they’re not even in command of themselves. To me this suggests they are not culpable in a traditional sense, though they will have to deal with the consequences anyway. This is what kind of bothered me about episode 5 with Iori’s induced suicide attempt too; I suppose I expected something like that to grow out of her struggles rather than being an event that was orchestrated from without, in puppet-string fashion. I don’t think that is how God works or how sovereignty works.

    Whew. This is pretty much what I was intending to say last week really, sorry this is so late 😉 Hope that adds some fuel to the discussion! Love to talk about theology, the Bible, and other matters, I haven’t done it on my own blog for a while.

    1. The kind of theodicy that would be suggested by directly putting Heartseed as God is troubling to me.

      I can definitely see your point here. Seeing him as God is a stretch, even for me. I guess it boils down to whether we evaluate Heartseed based on his intentions or on the effects of his actions. His intentions are completely unclear: he could very well just be trolling. If we evaluate him on the effects of his actions though, they seem overwhelmingly positive, at least so far. Even if he is an accuser figure who intends to bring Taichi and friends to ruin, he seems to have ended up doing God’s work anyhow.

      I see it much more in the context of the Japanese concepts of honnae and tatemae

      I see these two concepts as complementary more than contradictory. Heartseed loosens their self-control, forcing everyone to act emotionally open, giving into their desires, both fleshly desires and spiritual desires which they would otherwise refrain from. Loosening their self-control due to shame over their spiritual desires can lead to good things, loosening their self-control over fleshly desires can lead to bad things.

      To me this suggests they are not culpable in a traditional sense, though they will have to deal with the consequences anyway.

      Agree with you all the way here. I don’t think the show is trying to suggest that they are culpable for their actions, though. Does it really matter if they’re to blame? Do we refrain from sin because we don’t want to be blamed, or because sin hurts people?

      I don’t think that is how God works or how sovereignty works.

      I don’t think God forces people to jump off bridges either, let’s not take the metaphor too far here. 🙂

      Still, I think there are large areas of overlap between what Paul says and what Kokoro Connect is trying to say, which are definitely interesting to think about, at the very least. Thanks for your thoughtful comment, I appreciate it!

  3. Have you considered the possibility that the Heartseed is possibly the metaphysical extension of us, the viewer? I’ve been sitting on this for quite a while, plus I also love your post on KC being analogous to the NT, so I wanted to post here! I too think Heartseed to be more amoral than benign, but I also think he is actually us, the viewer.
    “Why are you doing this?” the cast would ask, to which he would reply, “because it’s interesting.”
    “Because we’re interested too,” I tend to think as well.
    Whenever he shows up, it’s to add more interest into what he finds otherwise boring. And consequentially, we in turn are never bored.

    1. I think that’s a great way to think of it. That fits in with Iori’s supposed death quite well too. We want drama and excitement to spice things up, but of course we still want a happy ending at the last minute where no one gets hurt!

  4. Fujishima’s trolling has been the funniest anime scene in a while for me. It was quite relieving to have a good laugh between all this angsty stuff.

    1. Haha that was the one part I thought was kind of out of place… I guess we have very different tastes when it comes to this show. 🙂

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