If you regularly follow my tweets, you might find that I toss around “♥” quite often.  The heart symbol, or rather the heart, has become quite an indispensable part of our modern culture—a short hand for love, a source for passion, and an organ for all we are. The convenient roles of the heart are especially fascinating when we consider just how arbitrary their designations may seem. After all, the heart is just a machine that pumps blood throughout our bodies. It is important, but not any more so than, say, our lungs, or our brains, or our medulla oblongatas.
For centuries, almost all major culture have had this idea of a soul (or spirit, or ka, or chi) that embodies one’s identity. With that idea comes the debate over where that essence resides. The first to champion the heart as the seat of the soul were the ancient Egyptians, followed by the classical philosophers. It is not all that surprising when we look at the anatomy of things. The heart is a boss-looking, super animated organ. The pumping—expansion and contraction—of those strong-looking muscles is incredibly dramatic. In fact, so powerful is the human heart that it can continue to beat for another minute or two after its removal from the chest.
As medicine and anatomy advance, people start to realize that perhaps the control centers for our thoughts, personality, memories—in a sense, our identities—lie elsewhere: the brain. Of course, the transition to this realization was hardly smooth. Along the way, different people had put forth ideas on which organs best embody us. There was the Egyptian heart versus Babylonian liver debate. The pineal gland was in the mix at some point, as were blood, each individual cell, invisible chi networks, and Thomas Edison’s crazy little factory people. Today, the legal definition of death is brain death, which of course, indirectly implies that we have decided, as a civilization, that life, our identity, lies in the brain. But what exactly does that mean?
In popular culture, the heart and brain dichotomy still persists, often leaning more toward Aristotelian ideas (heart) rather than the Hippocratic school (brain). For example, while technically, only when the brain dies is a person pronounced dead, we tend to actually judge death by checking for the tell-tale heartbeats.
Anime, as well, have often inadvertently put forth their own ideas of where the seats of our souls lie. Angel Beats! plays heavily with hearts. (“Beats!”I assume refers to heartbeats.) In the series, Ootonashi has died in real life and wakes up in a purgatory-type world, where he meets Kanade. The two form a somewhat interesting friendship and romance. Eventually, we find out that the two’s instant connection are not unwarranted; before dying, Ootonashi had given his heart via organ donation to Kanade. The two’s fate are linked by their hearts. If destiny is an extension or a representation of the life of the soul, then Angel Beats! is in a sense giving heart the priority as the primary house. However, identity still remains with the brain—Ootonashi is, after all, still Ootonashi even if he is missing his heart.
This seems to be a common theme in anime.  A person’s identity—that is, her personality, her thoughts, and all that is hers—is in the brain, yet her fate lies with her heart, most often metaphorically, but maybe also, on rare occasions, literally.
In any case, how fascinating our mind and our heart work when it comes to the abstract self! 
- As an aside, I ♥ you all
- Hint, hint.
- Post draws heavily Mary Roach’s Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers. More specifically, the chapter titled “How to Know if You’re Dead?”