Follow TV Tropes


Literal Change of Heart

Go To

Is your hero an unsympathetic bastard? Does he need some good Character Development to make him more likable, but you don't know how to express his change of heart?

Well, as it turns out, you can do exactly that: stick a new heart in your character's chest, and watch him suddenly improve! He'll care more about people, he'll act like less of an asshole, or maybe he'll even take on personality aspects of the person who gave him his heart.

Depending on the genre, this may involve actual heart transplants, but it also counts symbolic hearts (in the case of things that do not literally have the organ, or who want to make the transfer without the Squick involved with a literal heart transplant) or heart-like objects (such as the pneumatic "heart" of a robot). Note that the change of heart is not always for the better. In some cases, the new heart makes you more... well, heartless.

This trope can also be played heroically, if one character nobly sacrifices his or her heart to another character who is not necessarily bad. In these cases, the emphasis may be on the sacrificial giving of the donor, rather than on any potential changes in the recipient's personality. The two versions of the trope aren't necessarily exclusive: if the noble character sacrifices his or her heart in order to rescue or convert an evil character, the "bad" nature of the recipient serves to highlight the generosity of the sacrifice.

For less literal changes of heart, see Heel–Face Turn or Face–Heel Turn. For other heart-related tropes, see Heart Trauma and Cardiovascular Love.


    open/close all folders 

    Anime & Manga 
  • Angel Beats! has the rare heroic example of Otonashi donating his heart to Tenshi after dying.
  • This is the premise of Angel Heart: receiving a heart transplant changes the life of an assassin.
  • Happens very early in Area no Kishi: While Kakeru Aizawa is talented at soccer, he has an inferiority complex over his older brother Suguru who is the top player representing Japan in international U-15 championship, effectively reducing his performances in the field. After receiving heart transplant from his dead older brother after they both had an accident, he re-embraces his love for soccer and inherits his brother's spirit.
  • In Blue Submarine No. 6, it turns out that the doctor everyone blamed the world's problems on removed his own heart and used it to power the Earth's destabilizing magnetic field. So, in this case, the one who received his heart was the planet.
  • Buso Renkin: Both Kazuki and Victor have their hearts replaced with an alchemical device known as a kakugane after their own were damaged beyond repair, allowing Kazuki to become a Stock Shōnen Hero while triggering Victor's Start of Darkness when the unknown side-effects became apparent.
  • A variation in Princess Knight - Princess Sapphire was accidentally given two hearts at birth (shown in the manga as heart symbols). She gives the spoiled Prince Plastic one of them, turning him brave. After she gets the heart back, Plastic's personality change remains.

    Comic Books 
  • In Creature Tech, an alien symbiont knocks Dr. Ong unconscious, rips his heart out of his chest, and attaches itself over the hole, serving as a replacement heart.
  • In the Superman Verse Metallo has a Kryptonite heart. In various versions, he may be a robot, cyborg, or just have an artificial heart.

    Fan Works 

    Film — Live-Action 
  • The Best of Me: The film concludes with the heroine learning that the heart of her recently murdered lover, Dawson, was unknowingly transplanted into her son following a car accident. The title is actually referring to this.
  • Dragonheart: Draco gave half his heart to the prince hoping it might redeem the prince from the ways of his wicked family. It didn't work because he was always a jerkass, but due to this trope the hero assumes that Draco is at fault for corrupting him.
  • In the movie Heart Condition, a heart transplant patient ends up stuck with the ghost of the donor, a black man whom the recipient hated because he was racist, and because the recipient a cop and the other guy a lawyer. This of course brings about an emotional change of heart as the movie progresses.
  • Mamas Boy, an Egyptian comedy about a famous mafia boss who gets seriously injured in a fight and gets transferred to a hospital where he needs an urgent heart transplant. Coincidentally, the mother of an ordinary young man dies in the same hospital and the doctor then decides to transfer her heart to the mafia boss to save him, but he starts acting like a mother towards the young man. Hilarity Ensues when the young man, called Jonas, is bewildered by the way the gang leader acts and what he has to do with him as he doesn't know about the heart transplant situation.
  • In Repo Men, the main character only acts like a decent human being after losing his heart and having it replaced with a mechanical heart.
  • In Return to Me, Grace receives a transplanted heart that previously belonged to Bob's late wife. Although the movie is mostly not supernatural, there is one brief moment which suggests a connection between Grace and Bob due to the transplanted heart.
  • A heroic version occurs in Terminator Salvation. John Conner gets mortally wounded and Marcus makes a Heroic Sacrifice giving him his own heart.

  • In Clockwork, by Philip Pullman, a character's mechanical heart is winding down, threatening his life.
  • In Meredith Ann Pierce's book The Darkangel, two characters switch hearts in an attempt to save one of them at the expense of the other's life. They both live, because as it turned out, there was a way to revive the vampyre's heart without Aeriel giving up hers.
  • The titular warlock in the Harry Potter fairy tale The Warlock's Hairy Heart attempts this. It doesn't go well for anyone.
  • In Howl's Moving Castle (both the anime and the novel) Calcifer had swallowed Howl's heart as part of an old contract between them. The ending involves the heart being returned to its original owner, with some improvement of said owner's character.
  • In How the Grinch Stole Christmas!, the Grinch has a change of heart about stealing the Christmas gifts from Who-Ville after he heard the Whos celebrate anyway and his heart, which was originally "two sizes too small", grows three sizes.
  • In the Magic: The Gathering Scars of Mirrodin block novel, Venser gave his heart to Karn, whose original Heartstone was full of Phyrexian Glistening Oil. This allowed Karn to leave New Phyrexia and begin work in removing their evil once again.
  • Wilhelm Hauff's story "The Marble Heart" is a about some giant (or perhaps a devil) who offers people wealth, but in return, they must have their hearts replaced with marble.
  • In Three Fat Man by Yuri Olesha, the titular villains demanded from a scientist to replace the heart of their future heir with a heart of iron in order for him to grow up the way they wanted. When the scientist tried to explain it cannot be done, they put him in a cage. A rumor eventually spread among the population that the Fat Men did replace the boy's heart (a completely false one - the boy was shown as kind, although rather misinformed).
  • One of the older print examples is the Tin Man from The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. Because of the curse on him and the Emergency Transformation he underwent to survive it, he does not have a proper heart. He wants to ask the Wizard for a replacement so he can return to his girlfriend and become a proper husband for her. He succeeds in his task and gets a sawdust and silk one. Too bad his girlfriend was seeing someone else on the side, and got married when he was rusted by the roadside.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The premise of the Korean Drama Beating Again revolves around Min-ho, the ruthless, cutthroat investor who takes advantage of the people around him. One day, he has a heart attack and undergoes a heart transplant surgery, and his personality changes dramatically. He's no longer the cruel and cynical man he used to be, as he now became warmer and learned what it is to fall in love.
  • Highway to Heaven: Totally reversed in the late Season 2 episode "The Torch," where Everett Soloman, a Nazi death camp survivor whose parents were killed during World War II, is speaking against the growing Neo Nazi movement needs a heart transplant. Meanwhile, one of the Neo Nazi groups, led by Jan Baltic, is determined to silence Soloman and eventually they kill his son. While Baltic and his group — engaged in a campaign to convince the public that the Holocaust was mere propogandalized fiction — are planning their next move, his son accidentally sets off a machine gun, mortally wounding Baltic and killing two others. The change of heart comes when Baltic's heart is a biological match for Soloman. The transplant is successful ... but when Soloman learns the heart of his sworn enemy now beats inside him, he suddenly becomes ill and wants to die. While in his coma, Soloman has a dream where he is visited by his son and his parents, convincing him that this literal change of heart came for a reason and that he needs to continue his public speeches before a new Neo Nazi group is able to take root. He agrees and, once well, he resumes his (presumably ultimately successful) public speaking tour.
    • In a cruel case of irony, Herschel Bernardi, the actor who played Everett Soloman, died of a heart attack in May 1986, less than six months after this episode was filmed.
  • Occurs in Kingdom Hospital. A shady, sleazy, overweight lawyer needs a heart transplant. Otto's dog finds a suitable heart, and Antubis transplants it.
    Antubis: Out with the old...and in with the new.
  • In the Mission: Impossible episode "The Miracle", the IMF team convince a hit man that he's had a heart transplant from a priest, and is no longer able to kill, to get him to betray his boss.
  • In the series finale of Smallville, Darkseid takes Lionel's heart out and plants it in the Lex clone's body.
  • Played with in an episode of The Ricky Gervais Show. In the episode, Karl talks about a made-up TV show he came up with called "Look What We Can Do With Science" and has him explaining how he thinks human organs can just be either removed or replaced. He then states that they could replace a person's heart with a pacemaker, but Ricky is quick to point out that they don't really replace the heart with a pacemaker in real life.
  • Star Trek: The Next Generation: In "Samaritan Snare", Captain Picard recounts how he got into a fight with some surly Nausicaans as a youth and got stabbed right through the chest. Now he's got an artificial heart. During a near-death experience in the later episode "Tapestry", he was asked by Q if he would like to change that part of his past that lead up to that (and the subsequent malfunction of the artificial heart years later); however, by doing so, he wound up becoming a person who never developed any guts or took any risks.
  • The Twilight Zone (1985): In "Appointment on Route 17", the callous businessman Tom Bennett begins to act strangely after receiving a heart transplant. He does things that he has never done before such as loosen his tie at the office and have hot dogs on the beach for lunch. At the beach, Tom is immediately attracted to a young woman who seems upset. After driving around for almost an hour the next day, he arrives at a greasy spoon on Route 17 and discovers that the woman, whose name is Mary Jo, is a waitress there. Tom can't explain why he is drawn to Mary Jo but he visits the diner every day in an attempt to bond with her. After a while, she refuses to serve him as she finds his interest in her creepy. Tom eventually learns that she is mourning her recently deceased boyfriend Jamie Adler, who donated his heart after being killed in a car accident. After calling his cardiologist, Tom discovers that it was Jamie's heart that he received. He returns to the diner and tells Mary Jo that he will be waiting for her when she decides that she is ready to date again but doesn't say anything about the heart. The experience also causes Tom to become more ethical in his business practices as he allows a client to set his own price as opposed to charging an exorbitant one as he originally intended.

  • This trope is in one origin story for Xuanwu (Genbu) of The Four Gods: as a mere mortal, he was a ruthlessly brutal butcher until he had a vision where he saw his horrifically disgusting insides being swapped out for much nicer ones. This resulted in him getting religion and becoming a saint, then going back to battle his old insides (which had become monstrous).

    Tabletop Games 
  • In Dungeons & Dragons, ancient red dragon Ashardalon was already a arrogant monster of greed and violence when his heart was badly damaged in battle. But after he replaced it with a literal demon, Ammet the Eater of Souls, it got worse as Ashardalon basically became pure evil incarnate.
  • Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay: A risky bit of Ritual Magic lets an alchemist transmute their heart to living gold, making them permanently immune to all emotional pain.

     Video Games  
  • In Brütal Legend, Demon Emperor Doviculus keeps his defeated enemies' (including Drowned Ophelia's) hearts in his chest. It doesn't influence his Neutral Evil morality much.
  • In Detroit: Become Human, the android Markus is forced to replace his damaged "heart" (actually just the regulator for it) with a new one after being shot and disposed of in a dump. Later on, in "Battle for Detroit", if Markus is badly wounded while leading a violent revolution, North (if she became Markus' lover) or Simon (if he has a friend-level relationship with Markus) can sacrifice their own regulators to ensure that he survives, in which case they actually refer to the regulators as hearts.
  • The Elder Scrolls
  • During the Old World Blues DLC for Fallout: New Vegas, the player has his/her heart (and brain, and spine) removed and replaced by a synthetic one. Later on, you have the choice of keeping your powerful synthetic organs or putting your old ones back in (upgraded with a bit of tech, of course). Your upgraded original organs give better boosts to your SPECIAL stats and Damage Threshold, while the synthetic ones give smaller boosts but will also make you immune to poison and being crippled in the head and torso.
  • In Kingdom Hearts, this is how a Grand Theft Me by Big Bad Xehanort is performed.
  • Legacy of Kain features the Heart of Darkness, which is heart of the last ancient vampire Janos Audron, ripped still-beating from his chest by Sarafan vampire hunters and christened as such. In the first game, the Heart simply acts as a healing item, but eventually it's revealed that the same heart was used by Mortanius the Necromancer to resurrect Kain, and it's also the only thing that can resurrect Janos himself.
  • In The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel III, it's revealed that the reason why Rean has his powers is because his father used his own heart to transplant it to his son. It's revealed in Cold Steel IV that he can do this because of Ishmelga's powers and that as an Awakener, Osborne cannot be killed by any means. It's also why Crow, Rutger, and the legendary Lianne Sandlot/Arianrhod are still walking among the living despite dying due to a stab to the heart, a three-day epic duel, and walk around two hundred and fifty years after the previous Civil War.
  • In Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance, Senator Armstrong's nanomachines (son) are controlled/powered by his artificial heart that you must cut out of him in order to put him down for good.
  • In Pathologic 2, Artemy has a...dream? which a man of the Kin offers to reintegrate him back into the group by replacing Artemy's sick heart with his own. He is unconcerned about how the process might hurt him, stating that "a river of good can wash away a drop of rot."
    • A sidequest involves The Atoner Anna trying to discard her heart, because she doesn't want to be hounded by her conscience anymore. She tries everything she can to get rid of it- throwing it in the trash, selling it to an organ trafficker, dropping it in a river- but it always reappears when she isn't expecting it. Eventually the local menkhu tells her that a heart can only be traded away, and finds a spindle to give to Anna in exchange. He predicts that her guilt will remain, however. Several days earlier, he met a woman (Nara) who had the opposite problem: a spindle where her heart should have been. She couldn't be saved either.
  • One mission in the Sega Shadowrun game has you stealing a cybernetic heart in order to save the life of one of your brother's friends, because he's installed so much cyberware on his body that his biological heart can't sustain him anymore.
  • Tales of Vesperia: Raven's heart was replaced with a modified blastia after he died during the Great War, which took place 10 years prior to the events of the game itself. It not only sustains his life, it allows him to unleash the very same power as an offensive weapon; as seen during his Mystic Arte.
  • In Team Fortress 2's "Meet the Medic" video, the Medic accidentally destroys the Heavy's heart when trying to attach the Ubercharge device to it. He substitutes a larger heart from a "Mega Baboon" for it instead.

  • A Heartfelt Andante:
    • Da-ul begins the story a bitter, apathetic youth. When he finds out that his heart donor was a young piano prodigy whose life was cut short by a car accident, he resolves to better himself and become worthy of the heart.
    • Discussed Trope by Da-ul's friend Hyo-seo, who says in Episode 8 that if this were a movie, Da-ul would become a piano genius after getting a pianist's heart.

    Web Originals 
  • C0DA, written by former The Elder Scrolls series writer/designer Michael Kirkbride, takes place in the far distant future of TES universe. The heartless god Lorkhan makes an appearance, having a hole in his chest from where his heart was "violently" ripped out. It is now full of "neon blood".