“You don’t need your shy and introverted self anymore?“
“That’s not true. For me to truly be myself, I will need a bit of my shy and introverted self. That’s why I love my shy and introverted self.”
– a conversation between Tsubomi Hanasaki (Cure Blossom) and her alter ego, Heartcatch Precure, Episode 38
How much do you really know about yourself? Besides the basics: height, weight, the fact that you are addicted to coffee and irrationally afraid of tornadoes, it’s frightening to delve into your own mind. In spite of the fact that you, above all, are expected to know the motivations behind your own actions, you may find that the person you’ve come to know and understand the least is yourself.
Perhaps this is why we are endlessly presented with the idea that in order to grow, one must “know thyself.” This idea is expanded on, and exploited, by many mediums, anime being no exclusion. Most recently, the anime adaptation of Persona 4 touches on Jungian psychology; the idea that we project personas, or idealized versions of ourselves, when interacting socially, along with battling a shadow self, where all of our negative or social unacceptable thoughts are collected. Our true self is a meeting in the middle, or a combination of the two.
What Heartcatch Precure offers is Persona 4 lite, but that doesn’t make it any less powerful, or intelligent.
“I can’t be helped! A shadow that makes up everything negative about me is still me!
I don’t hate you, you know. I love everything about myself.”
-Erika Kurumi, Heartcatch Precure, Episode 37
In Episodes 37 and 38, our heroines, the four Precure, must do battle with their shadow selves in order to gain the power needed to defeat their greatest enemy. The setup is fairly standard as the girls are confronted by their shadows (in separate arenas, of course, no Precure fighting combos allowed) each of whom express the fears and doubts of their owners. In succinct and emotional fashion, they allow for each of the Precure to confront their innermost socially unacceptable thoughts, not by beating them (as many other series would have done) but by accepting their existence.
The first Precure to accept her shadow self is Cure Marine or Erika Kurumi, continuing to reflect her overall strength of character. Erika is the first person to have her heart flower stolen in Heartcatch‘s first episode, leaving only the desires of her shadow self to run rampant as a desertarian. The same fears we hear from her shadow self in Episode One are repeated again in Episode 37, only now, when Erika is confronted with them, she can easily accept them as part of her overall self and move on, not through change but acceptance. Fellow Precures Sunshine and Moonlight quickly follow suit, acknowledging their darker thoughts on their respective pasts in order to leverage them as strengths for their futures.
These battles cleverly act as a microcosm for Heartcatch Precure as a whole, bookending key thematic elements presented in every standalone episode and bringing them to an emotional climax prior to the series’s final story arc. Each episode deals with a person who is struggling with their own darker thoughts; a girl who becomes frustrated with playing a motherly role to her younger sister, the boy who thinks his parents care more about the ramen shop than him, even Erika’s own sister, Momoka, who becomes tired of being idolized as a model and wants people to approach her as a friend. While many of these situations could have been resolved more easily by simply speaking one’s mind, Heartcatch does a solid (not overly melodramatic) job of showing why sometimes, due to the personas that we present to others, speaking one’s mind can be scary and difficult. The villains of Heartcatch Precure (the desert trio of Sasorina, Kumojacky, and Cobraja along with their leader Professor Sabaaku) represent what could happen if one is completely taken over by their shadow self.
Which brings us back to the challenge that the Precure faced: accepting their shadow selves. You may have noticed that only three out of the four were mentioned as having passing the test, which leads us to our final main heroine, Cure Blossom, or Tsubomi Hanasaki. From the first episode, Tsubomi is introduced to us as someone who is shy, introverted, and most importantly, someone who wants to change herself. Throughout the series, this idea that Tsubomi wants to become more outgoing and less shy is reiterated constantly. It climaxes in Episode 38, where she continues to do battle with her shadow self long after the others have passed their tests. Continuing to insist to her shadow that she has changed, Tsubomi fights a losing battle, culminating in her shadow telling her to give up her fight.
It is here where the viewer sees how wonderfully Tsubomi has changed, not by drastically altering her personality, but by altering her attitude towards it. Going forward to meet her shadow, she explains that had wanted to change because she had hated the fact that she was introverted and shy. She goes on to say that because of her friends she has been able to be strong when she has needed to be. Embracing her shadow, she admits her love for her shy and introverted self because it is also a part of who she is.
Recommended Reading: Overcooled wrote a nice little article about Persona 4 and the psychology of Carl Jung. Definitely check it out.
This TED talk given by Susan Cain was brought to my attention a bit later on the power of introverts. Indirectly related but very interesting.