Elfen Lied – 13 (Fin) – A Brief Dream in This Hell

As Kouta wanders home in a daze, his memories returning thanks to the violent sights he’s seen, Kurama fishes Nana out of the water, saving his daughter once again and admonishing her for not moving much, much further away (though his instructions should have been more detailed). Lucy neutralizes Bando (though notably doesn’t kill him), and Shirakawa’s assistant keeps the dormant Mariko safe—and keeps her self-destruct safely in his hand.

Mariko’s powers return and she escapes her captors, and then she and Lucy find each other and have a duel. It’s a testament to Lucy’s experience and toughness in Diclonius combat that she manages to last as long as she does against a far superior opponent. But while she loses a horn and a fair amount of blood, Mariko fails to kill Lucy off…because her dad arrives in time to stop her.

Just as she could tell her “mother” was a fake, Mariko can instantly sense that Kurama is indeed her father, and is shocked when he pulls his gun on her. When she spots Nana with Kurama, and hears her call him Papa, Mariko’s jealousy spills out and she proceeds to beat Nana up with her Vectors.

Then Kurama drops his gun, draws in close, and wraps his real daughter in his warm embrace…for the first time. He carries her off while ordering the assistant to activate the device. This time the child whose life he takes is his own, but he goes out with her, assuring her that both her parents loved her to their last breaths.

The assistant is about to shoot Nana, but his head is blown off…by Lucy. She can’t go back home to Kouta after what she’s done, but Nana is innocent and good and kind, so she asks Nana to do what she can’t and live a good and happy life. Nana obeys.

Back at the facility, Kurakawa reveals he’s a wannabe Diclonius just like his son, while Arakawa quietly hides Kouta’s record, feeling bad for him. We’ll never know if she ever got that bath…

Then we have an extended and emotional goodbye between Lucy and Kouta, who finally realizes that she, Nyu, and the girl he met at the orphanage were all her. Lucy tells him the happiest days were the ones with him as a boy. They were a brief and beautiful dream in the hell that was her life, and she survived this long so she could tell him how sorry she was for what went down.

She turns to leave, but Kouta won’t let her go just yet. In fact, he wants her to stay, even if he can’t forgive her. They kiss and embrace, reenacting the Klimt painting, with Lucy flashing an El Greco hand. We then see Lucy on the bridge, facing a huge military force, and a battle ensues…with an intentionally ambiguous result.

Some time later, the household of Kouta, Yuka, Mayu and Nana is a happy one. Nana’s cooking skills are improving, and they have an extra place setting for Lucy. Then they hear Wanta barking outside, and Kouta goes to see who it is.

The silhouette behind the paper door looks a lot like Lucy in her dress, but before he can open the door to confirm it, the grandfather clock Nyu always messed with, which he could’ve sworn was permanently silent, begins to chime.

And so we say farewell to the brutal, haunting, and poignant Elfen Lied, a story as much about how some can continue to endure, love, and be loved after living through unspeakable suffering—and how some can’t—as it is about scientific arrogance and ambition gone awry. Heck, it’s about a lot more than that, and I’ll be thinking about its hard-hitting symbols and themes for a long time.

Elfen Lied was also a blast from the past in the best possible way. Anime character design and animation has evolved quite a bit in sixteen years, but like the Dicloniï that evolution wasn’t necessarily all for the better. I’ve also rarely seen a series mix body horror and comedy with such effectiveness. What could have been a tonal mess only draws you in deeper and made me care about the characters more. You feel every horrible act of violence and cruelty, just as you feel every pulse of warmth and kindness.

Finally, the series is greatly elevated by music from the duo of Konishi Kayo and Kondou Yukio (who’d go on to score House of Five Leaves and … sigh … Pupa). I don’t think I’ll ever see or hear an theme as hauntingly beautiful and sad as “Lilium”. Mine eyes welled up Every. Damn. Time. They truly don’t make ’em like they used to.

Elfen Lied – 12 – Total Recall

Shirakawa and the assault team can only stand around and watch in horror as Mariko continues to toy with Nana like a child rips wings off an insect. Only Nana is, horns and prostheses aside, a human being. Despite this, they allow 35 to have her way with Nana so she’ll be more cooperative. It’s frankly sickening to see other humans stand by and let this happen.

I know they see Dicloniï as an existential threat to humanity, but Shirakawa and the soldiers are abdicating their own humanity by allowing such sickening, wanton cruelty to occur. Lucy may be one thing and 35 another, but Nana is living, breathing proof that Dicloniï can coexist peacefully with humans. Mayu sees Nana and Nyu as sisters and Kouta and Yuka as their mom and dad.

And it’s Kouta who comes to Nana’s aid when no one else will, putting his own life at grave risk. Not only is Mariko eager to have more “fun” killing people, she resents the fact Nana has a friend, something Mariko didn’t believe was possible because, well, she’s been encased in a giant steel enclosure who whole damn life! I can’t blame Mariko for being the way she is, which is a direct result of the dehumanizing, self-defeating actions of the researchers at the facility.

Nana uses her remaining strength to keep him from being hurt, demonstrating she’s far more human than those who wish her dead. She ends up falling off a bridge into the water, and her fate is left unknown. However, when Nyu finally catches up to Kouta, she slips on a pool of Nana’s blood and hits her head. Lucy reawakens and kills Shirakawa and the soldiers one by one right in front of Kouta, whose long-repressed memories finally surface.

The story that unfolded in episode nine is thus completed, as Lucy followed Kouta’s family on the train out of Enoshima. Kanae claims to have witnessed a “girl with horns” killing lots of people at the festival, but Kouta doesn’t believe her. When Lucy appears, Kanae confirms she was the killer, but Kouta won’t hear of it, slaps Kanae, and orders her to apologize.

Kanae just wants to get Kouta away from Lucy, worried he’ll be her next victim and putting herself between the two, but Lucy snaps her in half, and then beheads Kouta’s father. When Kouta asks why she did these things when he thought they were friends, she calmly responds in her cold Lucy voice: “I didn’t kill you because we’re friends,” then vows to kill Yuka next.

Let me be clear: Lucy is this way because of humans. She killed the bullies because they bullied her; had they been nice to her she’d have been nice back. She punishes Kouta by killing those close to him because he lied to her. It may have been a white lie meant to protect her, but someone with her past didn’t make that distinction, and it doesn’t change the fact it was not the truth.

Back in the present, Kouta finally reconciles those newly surfaced memories with Nyu’s true identity, but he has little time to process them as Bando arrives ready to kill Lucy. She flees, baiting him to follow her, and urges Kouta to meet her at the stone steps. Kouta and Lucy have hurt each other gravely, but perhaps, like Shirakawa briefly hoped, there can be a resolution that doesn’t involve killing. Okay, that involves minimal killing. Bando obviously has to go.

Elfen Lied – 11 – Doing Whatever You Can

This week we meet AKIRA Number 35, AKA Mariko, who beyond the massive steel shutters is merely a frail five-year-old girl. Only one person has ever interacted with her in her lifetime: a researcher named Saitou, who likens Mariko her daughter and is eager to see her for the first time. Shirakawa has no choice but to unleash Mariko in order to deal with Lucy, and Saitou is the only human Mariko will trust and listen to.

Uh…yeah…that doesn’t go so well.

In the very likely chance Saitou was disemboweled, de-spined, and de-kidneyed by Mariko—who after all correctly assessed Saitou was not her mother—Mariko has bombs placed within her body that can be detonated if she refuses to come to heel. I was sure Shirakawa was a goner too, but in a last-gasp gesture, it’s Saitou (or at least the top half of Saitou that clings to life for a minute or so) who presses the button that blows off Mariko’s arm.

It’s good that Spring 2020 has its share of feel-good shows (Arte and Princess Connect among them), otherwise I’m not sure I’d quite be able to endure the unrelenting pitch-black darkness of Elfen Lied. It loves to show us idyllic moments in Kouta’s house as his little family of misfits begins to gel, knowing much if not all of that family could soon end up as expressionist splatter on the fusuma.

Nevertheless, I’ll take the good times while there are still good times to be had. They include Kouta officially welcoming Nana to the household not as a guest, but a member, and leaves her chore training to Mayu. Seeming similar in age (and both haunted by unspeakable trauma) Mayu and Nana continue to develop a friendship closely bordering on sisterhood. Then there’s Nyu.

When Kouta shows Nana a photo of his dead sister Kanae, memories well up in Nyu, and in those moments, Nana senses Lucy. Nyu then chops her hair off to more closely resemble Kanae so she can forgive Kouta for being mean to her just before she died. It’s looking more and more like Lucy killed Kanae and Kouta repressed the memory.

Yuka comes home from the grocery store just as Kouta is embracing Nyu and telling her he “likes her too”, sending a heartbroken Yuka off to sulk. That’s when she discovers the entire area has been cordoned off by police in preparation for Mariko’s arrival on the mainland, now in a wheelchair and escorted by Shirakawa. Kurama, meanwhile, is off on his own, and conscripting Bando to hell him kill Lucy.

Nana can sense Mariko’s arrival, as well as her overwhelming murderous intent. In order to protect Mayu, Kouta, Yuka, and yes even Nyu (whom she hopes stays Nyu forever), she runs off to meet Mariko face-to-face. Unfortunately, Nana is woefully outmatched and uninformed; she isn’t even aware of just how many vectors Mariko has, nor how far they reach.

Mariko proceeds to “have fun” by toying with poor Nana like a cat with a freshly-caught mouse. As far as Shirakawa & Co. are concerned it’s all good…as long as 35 ends Lucy as well. Feel-good this show is not…but it is damned compelling.

Elfen Lied – 10 – The Man Behind the Glass

Kouta and Yuka turn out to be fine; they left the bedroom before Lucy got up to leave. She and Nana prepare to fight, but Mayu comes between them more than once, and very nearly gets killed for trying to be the peacemaker. Mayu’s pleas remind Lucy of Kouta’s in the past, and she reverts to Nyu once more. Thanks to Mayu’s decency and diplomacy, Nana is welcomed to the dinner table.

From there we’re sent back to the past, when Kurama is first recruited out of college by his friend Professor Kazukawa. They managed to capture a young but murderous Diclonius and have commenced horrifically cruel experiments to test the strength of her Vectors. Kurama is initially not okay with this, but Kazukawa impresses on him how dangerous and unable to coexist with humans they are.

Kurama comes around when the Diclonius Three escapes and goes on a bloody rampage, and very nearly kills him before Kazukawa shoots her in the head with an armor-piercing round, killing her. After committing more than ten infanticides Kurama stops seeing them as simply humans with horns and starts seeing them as an enemy and a blight to be wiped out without mercy or humanity.

Poetic justice strikes when his own daughter is born with horns; he later realizes that Three infected him when she touched him with her Vectors. He aims to kill her like all the others, but his wife, not far removed from major surgery, fights for her daughter’s life with all the strength she has left. She ends up dying of blood loss in the nursery, but not before convincing Kurama to spare their child’s life.

Nana may not be Kurama’s daughter, but she was a proxy for the sliver of fatherly love he had left, which enabled him to free her. That hardly makes the horrible things done to Nana that resulted in her ending up a bloody naked mess (and having dreams about “naked crucifixion”) any less horrific. But on one side of him is Kazukawa, whose word is law, and on the other is the truth that Dicloniï seem to inevitably end up uncontrollable murder machines.

Needless to say, he should have never set foot in that god-forsaken facility. It’s sad that just before Shirakawa begins to unleash Kurama’s biological daughter, Number 35—the “most dangerous” Diclonius, sporting twenty-six visible Vectors—Nyu and Nana are happy as clams with Kouta, Yuka, and Mayu. (A bit of trivia: Akira was designated Number 28, so 35 is seven higher.)

I can’t imagine we’re headed for anything resembling a happy ending here, so I’ll take the happy, peaceful moments in this and future episodes where I can get them.

Elfen Lied – 09 – Unusual Animals

Since Lucy has only interacted with hateful bullies and traitorous two-faces, it stands to reason she’d have a problem with any other human who suddenly approaches her. But Kouta brings an olive branch in the form of a music box playing a pretty (but sad) tune and an offer of friendship, no strings attached. The appallingly lonely Lucy may not completely trust him, but can’t turn him down either.

For a few blissful days, Lucy gets to spend time with Kouta as an ordinary kid…in between squatting in houses whose occupants she murders. Kouta proves to be a man of his word when it comes to showing up. He thinks her horns are cool, but when he senses she doesn’t feel the same, he offers a hat to hide them on an extended date that starts with a visit to the zoo, where Lucy is delighted by the elephants and giraffes.

The pair end up cooling off in a pond, but Kouta instigates a splash battle that results in both having to strip down so their clothes can dry in the sun. This whole day is the last Lucy will get—Kouta is leaving the next day, after attending a festival with the family he was visiting. She tells Kouta it’s the most fun day she’s ever had, and while he’s sure she’s exaggerating, it’s heartbreaking that she’s not.

At points throughout the date, Lucy hears people chattering about the murders going on, and descends into her head where bandaged “clones” of her feed her negativity. When Lucy fears the cousin Kouta promised to go to the festival with is a girl, those voices intensify, and all of a sudden she’s choking Kouta on the bus. But Kouta is so guileless he shakes it off. The two end up humming the music box song as they watch the sun set, then part ways amicably.

That is, after Kouta tells her that his cousin is a boy, which is a lie. Lucy discovers this because she goes to the festival and spots Kouta with Yuka. A crowd forms around her, watching her, commenting on her, and the voices inside draw closer and become more determined to drive her to the dark side permanently…and she kills all of the people around her.

Kouta doesn’t witness it, but a little girl—perhaps his sister?—did, and described the killer. Lucy glares at Kouta and the girl from a rooftop, betrayed by his lie. A white lie he told to spare her feelings, but a lie all the same. Which makes him just like every other human she’s interacted with.

Back in the present, Lucy comes to, her memory restored. And who should be standing over her but Kouta the liar and his pretty girl cousin. Then we cut back to Mayu and Nana outside the house, where Lucy appears and leaves the premises. It’s ambiguous whether she killed Kouta and Nana inside, though the preview shows them alive and well, so more likely than not she simply left without harming them.

A Lucy this hardened by the years between her encounters with Kouta surely wouldn’t soften her stance on his status as just another liar in her life; someone momentarily interested in an “unusual animal” like her. Her inner voices—and Director Kazukawa—may be right in calling her next level of human evolution, and that her kind is predisposed to wiping out their inferior predecessors.

But what if Lucy is only the way she is because she was always around the wrong humans? If she had had someone kind like Kouta in her life the whole time, maybe things could have been different…

Elfen Lied – 08 – Doing Nothing Wrong

Nana’s visit to Kouta’s house is brief, as no one takes her side when she says Nyu is the bad person (referring to Lucy). Mayu takes her duties as new friend seriously by chasing Nana down.

As Nana describes someone Mayu has never seen (the violent Lucy), she admits that it’s strange that she can’t sense “Nyu”, and that it doesn’t feel right trying to kill someone who won’t fight back.

Even after Nana leaves and Nyu comes to, she’s running a high fever that concerns Kouta and Yuka, and wakes up as Lucy. Being cared for in bed reminds her of another time she had a fever, when she was at the orphanage as a child.

While there, Lucy was relentlessly bullied by boys while a girl was always a little too late to stop them, and her only friend was a puppy. She tells the girl about the puppy, and she leaks the info to the boys. You can guess what happened next.

Lucy never wanted to hurt anyone. She was a kind soul who shared her food with a weaker animal. But people around her—supposedly “normal” humans—kept pushing and pushing until she simply couldn’t control herself anymore, and killed them.

After that incident, while burying the puppy the bullies killed for no reason other than to try to make her less happy than they were (mission accomplished), she meets a young boy…named Kouta.

To be continued…

Elfen Lied – 07 – Let’s Be Friends

It’s fitting that the seventh episode of Elfen Lied is all about #7, or Nana, back from the (near-)dead. Shichi is another way to say seven in Japanese, but because shi means “death”, nana is more commonly used. In western culture seven is considered lucky, yet Nana is unfortunate enough to immediately cross paths with Bando on the beach.

He has a few new anti-Diclonius tactics—social distancing(!) and harder bullets—but his new arm crumbles from his gun’s recoil, and their duel ends in a stalemate. When he learns they both consider Lucy an enemy, he tries to give her his number (the same one he wrote for Mayu) but she doesn’t know what a “number” is, so he gives up.

Mayu doesn’t know much of anything about the outside world, but she is hungry. She watches people exchange coins for crepes, but doesn’t realize the stacks of paper in her bag are hundreds of thousands of yen. It’s another scene that comments on the dearth of general kindness and empathy in this society, as the crepe guy tells her to buzz off and the other women comment on her clothes. No one asks if she’s okay.

Even if Dicloniï didn’t possess the potential for lethal mayhem, they’d be ostracized simply for looking different. Nana understands this is not her world and never will be, so she considers destroying it and making a new one where she does belong. But for the time being, that’s beyond her abilities, and she could settle for a meal.

Nana isn’t done with chance encounters, as #2 involves Wanta leading Mayu to the spot where Nana and Nyu fought, and finding Nana there, warming herself by a fire made from the money. Most people in this town might be assholes, but Mayu certainly isn’t, and has very recently been in Nana’s shoes: nowhere to go and unsure what to do.

Mayu notes that at least someone (Nana’s “dad”) cared enough about her. They agree to become friends, and Mayu notes how Nana and Nyu both have horns. That makes it the second episode in a row where Mayu has told someone something she couldn’t that puts Kouta, and Yuka in danger…not to mention herself.

Sure enough Mayu invites Nana to her house, where Nana has her third change encounter of the day: one with her self-appointed nemesis. Notably, she cannot sense Nyu’s presence the way she can sense Lucy’s; her personality shift to Nyu apparently has the effect of nullifying her Diclonius signature.

The second she spots Nyu, Nana goes into attack mode, shocking Kouta and Mayu. Will Mayu’s hastily forged friendship with Nana be enough to calm her? Will Lucy wake up and just make things worse? Whatever the case, it looks like it’s going to be another long night for everyone.

Elfen Lied – 06 – Debts Paid and Unpaid

Kouta and Kakuzawa’s assistant Arakawa find the professor’s body (and head) in the basement. Arakawa isn’t particularly devastated by the sight of her lover beheaded, but perhaps she’s in shock. Not to mention she has no idea why he has horns like a Diclonius. A shaken Kouta returns home, but in the middle of talking with Yuka a switch seemingly flips in his head. He suddenly can’t remember what he was saying, and goes to bed.

Out on the street and still lucid, Lucy reaches into the head of a passing girl, either wiping her memory of seeing her…or killing her. The next day, Yuka insists on accompanying Kouta as he continues his search. The two end up taking shelter at a shrine, revealing their feelings for each other, and kissing. In a show with so much violence and cruelty, a tender scene like this is welcome, and Noto Mamiko’s voice emanates kindness and gentleness.

While walking to school, Mayu spots Bando on the beach, and makes the terrible mistake of approaching him. Mayu can’t help it; she was worried about the guy and is glad to see he’s alright, because she’s a good girl. To repay his debt, Bando gives her his number for her to call if she needs help. Ironically, when he learns she knows about Lucy, Mayu has to use that call immediately…on him. His honor forces him to let her go, but his toxic masculinity put her in that situation in the first place.

The rain stops, and Yuka’s lovey-dovey-ness turns to embarrassment, and then jealousy when she and Kouta encounter Lucy. They’re shocked to hear her form complete sentences, but when Kouta insists they return to his house, she tells him she doesn’t deserve his charity. She mentions something from the past that triggers a memory in Kouta’s head. Lucy herself remembers her and Kouta playing in the ocean as youths, before reverting to Nyu and cuddling with him.

I wonder if Kouta will continue to remember those repressed memories involving Lucy, and how he’ll respond to them. He’s thrown caution to the wind regarding “Nyu” to this point because he thought they had no prior connection. What if she killed his sister Kaede?

In the meantime, Kurama couldn’t kill Nana. We learn he’d already killed his birth daughter in the past (presumably for having horns) and lost his wife to suicide shortly thereafter. But if he wanted Nana to survive, you’d think he wouldn’t have left her on that god-forsaken beach, where Bando (who apparently lives there) can immediately find her. I’d have shipped her to the other side of the country, if not continent…

Elfen Lied – 04 – Remembering a Strange Dream

Poor Nana never had a chance.

Not just when it came to going toe-to-toe with Lucy, but throughout her tortured existence. All but brainwashed by Kurama to do his bidding as some kind of superhuman replacement daughter, Nana sought his approval any way she could, whether it was taking on the task of bringing Lucy in, to going beyond her mandate and trying to punish Lucy for the trouble she caused.

All the while, Nana and Lucy would be on the same side, as both are victims of the utterly inhuman research Kurama and his criminal ilk have been undertaking. Instead, Nana is Kurama’s puppet, giving Lucy no choice but to turn against her own kind to preserve her freedom.

Nana’s vectors may be longer, but Lucy’s pack a bigger punch, and she’s more experienced in their use. But none of her shortcomings matter to Nana: she has a job to do and she’s going to do it…or die.

Things reach a boiling point between Kouta and Yuka, with the latter sick and tired of him talking about nobody but Nyu, Nyu, Nyu. She slugs him and runs off, but later regrets it, considering Kouta is suffering and Nyu is little more than a young child in need of care and guidance, and definitely not a romantic rival.

Then there’s Mayu, whom Yuka sees getting her daily bag of free bread crusts on which to live. Mayu ends up witnessing the battle between Lucy and Nana and tries to get them to stop fighting. Nana, not willing to cause collateral casualties, withdraws her vectors from Lucy, giving Lucy an opening to relieve Nana of her arms and legs in what is, and is supposed to be, a sickening spectacle.

Kurama and his men arrive, surrounding Lucy, but she manages to slip away, leaving Kurama with a critically wounded but still conscious Nana. He can’t very well scold her for disobeying orders, since he knows all she ever wanted to do was please him and make him proud, like any daughter would.

While transporting her back to the lab, Kurama receives a summons from his boss, Secretary Shirakawa. Yuka manages to run into Lucy, who has transformed back into Nyu, and Yuka realizes she erred in being jealous of her.

Mayu, whom Lucy tossed into a tree for safety during the battle, ends up in the hospital, and calls Kouta to pick her up, since she clearly has no one else. The two arrive at Kouta’s house to find both Yuka and Nyu home, and the four have dinner together. Yuka and Kouta agree that the homeless Mayu should spend the night, considering they have plenty of rooms to spare.

Shirakawa orders Kurama to kill Nana, as she’s no longer useful to their plans. It’s a gut-wrenching scene, and I wept bitter tears for poor Nana, a gentle soul who was never given a chance. It’s apparent Kurama also grieves for Nana, but the fact is he played an active role in her lifelong bondage and suffering, as well as that of Lucy who knows how many others. I for one hope he pays for that at some point.

Perhaps Nana’s early exit was a mercy; who knows what further carnage and torment await Lucy and other Dicloniï, representing both the future of humanity and the manifestation of their collective sins.

Elfen Lied – 03 – Unlucky Number Seven

When Yuka walks in on Kouta undressing Nyu, a lot of things must run through her head. While it makes sense to get soaked clothes off someone before they catch cold, Nyu is also a beautiful woman, and one with serious mental differences. Yuka’s initial thoughts probably dwell on how bad it looks. But on a more basic level, Yuka doesn’t want Kouta doing anything with another woman, whether it’s harmless or not. As far as she’s concerned, Kouta belongs to her.

A lot of questions ran through my head during Chief Kurama’s encounter with Nana in her detention cell. Like “why is she naked?” or “why is she drenched in blood?”, or “how long has she been like this?”. The exact nature of her situation is kept pretty vague, but suffice it to say Nana has lived her whole life in the facility, enduring what amounts to unspeakable torture with a smile.

As such, Nana knows no other life, and no other comfort but Kurama as her “father”. So she’ll do anything for him…except kill. Instead, she’ll try to detain Lucy for him if she can. All she asks for in return is his necktie, which she uses to conceal her horns.

Yuka tries to stay away from the house where watching Kouta with Nyu causes her so much discomfort owing to her Deep Feelings for him (incidentally, the episode’s title). But when she drops off some of her clothes for Nyu, she finds Kouta has caught cold from his beach excursion, and Nyu is absolutely helpless to care for him.

Back at the lab, Kurama speaks to Bondo about undergoing castration…which is probably not what he should have started off with. He then describes who and what it was that Bondo lost so badly to, and the reason castrating him might save humanity: Lucy can “reproduce” through her vectors, causing the mutation in whomever she touches with him. In that way, she and her kind could one day overrun humanity as we know it.

Yuka decides that if Kouta won’t take Lucy to the authorities, then she’ll just move in to keep an eye on both of them. She puts Kouta to work cleaning up the house, and Nyu is eager to pitch in. That’s when Mayu, the runaway girl with the dog, shows up with Kouta’s umbrella. He has many questions about that night on the beach with Nyu and the soldier.

Nyu ends up slipping and falling, and whether due to the impact of the fall or the music box that plays the show’s theme song (or both…or neither), she reverts back to Lucy. She comes this close to killing Kouta with her Vectors before a flash of a younger Kouta stops them dead. Lucy runs outside, and for a moment the show makes us wonder if she killed Mayu’s cute puppy. It turns out she just set it free, but it soon runs back to Mayu.

As Yuka tries to talk to Kouta about whether he has any feelings at all for her (he seems to have lost a lot of the memories of the two of them that she cherishes), Lucy wanders off, eventually encountering Nana, whom she sensed was coming. Kurama’s underlings don’t think Nana is any match for Lucy, but Lucy’s problem is she never knows when she’s going to devolve back into Nyu…and Nyu isn’t a match for anyone.

Darling in the FranXX – 24 (Fin) – A Word They Were Never Taught

Despite the hope from their Squadmates that they’ll one day return victorious, there is every indication that Zero Two and Hiro’s insane odyssey through space is a one-way trip, at least in their current forms/lives. As they near the VIRM homeworld and fight off wave after wave of their warships, Hiro becomes a little more Zero-y, and Zero Two becomes a little more Hiro-y.

Back on Earth the gang returns to Mistilteinn, where they find things are growing again, and set to work rebuilding their food supply in order to survive without magma energy they relied on for so long. With Zero Two and Hiro’s lessons, as well as their own experiences, everyone ends up changing and growing up. Kokoro has the baby. The rejected parasites are brought out of hibernation, including Naomi.

Goro sets off on a journey of exploration on Earth seeking supplies and other lost children, making sure to kiss Ichigo before he leaves. After two years, the constant onslaught of VIRM has exhausted Hiro, allowing the enemy to “caress his consciousness” and knock him out, leaving Zero Two vulnerable.

They’re both saved not just by their own love, but by the fruits of those whom they inspired: Ai, the daughter of Kokoro and Mitsuru, named for the Japanese word for love, a word humanity had all but forgotten and which the children were never taught.

When the gang realizes the stone statute of Zero Two is a conduit through which both Zero and Hiro can hear them, they join hands and pray as loudly as they can for as long as they can, until their prayers get through to the two out in space. Hiro wakes up, green-eyed and blue-horned, rejects the pooh-poohing of the VIRM, and becomes even more one with Zero than they were before.

Apus is destroyed, but a new entity emerges; a total merging of Zero Two and Hiro, and they rend the VIRM homeworld asunder in a light that manages to reach Earth. The Klaxosaur fleets return to the earth and become one with it, and the green returns with it. Zero Two’s statue, no longer necessary, crumbles, leaving a small tree sprout.

While still hoping their friends will one day return, Squad 13 doesn’t assign them any time table, and instead begin writing their own stories. They help rebuild human civilization, without magma energy, while building families. Ikuno manages to slow their rapid aging, even though it’s too late for her. Ichigo and Goro have a kid. Futoshi finds another to love and has several kids. Zorome and Miku…continue to bicker with one another.  The more things change, the more they stay the same, and all that.

Then, centuries pass, Zero Two’s cherry tree grows larger and ancient, and a huge futuristic city rises around it, only no longer hidden within a plantation dome, and no longer populated by emotionless humans. It’s in this city built by love, the thing never taught its founders, where a boy and a girl one day meet who look an awful lot like our starring pair. Circle of life, baby.

And that’s a FranXX wrap. These last few episodes sure got BIG, as in expansive in both time, scale, and theme, culminating in a resolution for all of Squad 13 and an ending a franchise like Evangelion may never give us; instead of the story stopping before it ends, the book is closed on Hiro, Zero Two, and the others, and a new story begins, built upon what they started.

The VIRM may one day return, but mankind is in a much better position to oppose them, thanks to Hiro, Zero Two, and Squad 13 not living to fight, but fighting to live…and love.

Darling in the FranXX – 23 – New Battles to Fight

As Hiro and most of Squad 13 and the surviving Nines head into space aboard a gigantic Klaxosaur mothership, part of a massive fleet on autopilot to Mars orbit, Michiru stays behind.

Kokoro believes that because she can no longer pilot a FranXX, she has no more purpose, other than perhaps staying by Zero Two’s side as she continues to get remotely cut by the VIRM attacking Strelizia. Since she feels herself so useless, she neither expects or wants anyone burdening themselves for her sake, but Mitsuru won’t hear of it.

A VIRM fleet intercepts Hiro and his Klaxosaur fleet, attempting to block them from reaching Strelizia, who they’re surrounding. But thanks to Nine Alpha being compatible as Hiro’s pistil, and some teamwork on the part of Squad 13 and the other Nines, Hiro is able to blast through the walls of enemy ships and reach Strelizia, which is believed inert due to not having a Stamen.

Alpha gets Hiro to the access hatch, but self-destructs soon after to take out a particularly large, nasty VIRM. The other Nines sacrifice themselves in similar fashion, going out doing what they were always created and designed to do: to fight in battles like this.

Humans like Squad 13 have other battles to fight, whether it’s the fight in which Kokoro and Mitsuru have to start over after losing their memories, protecting one another and awaiting the new life they created, or Hiro keeping his promise to Zero Two.

When he makes contact with her in Strelizia’s cockpit, Zero Two tells him she left Earth so that Hiro could remain a human, and help rebuild civilization with his Squad 13 family. But that’s not what Hiro wants. He wants to be with Zero Two, like they promised they would be, even if he becomes a “monster” like her.

He believes even Zero Two wanted this despite her actions, because she left the last page of her story blank. By returning to her side Hiro is filling that blank page with a new ending, one in which the lovers never part.

Their reunion triggers a major transformation in Strelizia Apath (or Apus, as it’s spelled in the subs this week), its mask shattering to reveal an enormous Zero Two, replacing or transporting her human body on earth into the cockpit with Hiro.

Now fully awake and in her true form, Strelizia unleashes a new and devastating arsenal of weaponry that annihilates the VIRM fleet in moments, likely ending Squad 13’s last military battle and freeing them to begin the next battle: surviving and rebuilding.

However, Hiro and Zero Two won’t be joining them, at least, not for a while. Devices emerge from the Martian moons of Phobos and Deimos, and their combined beams open a warp gate to systems heretofore long out of mankind’s reach (though at this point the couple can probably no longer be called 100% human, what with the horns and all).

The VIRM’s fleet at Mars is destroyed, but their main fleet is still out there, and their mission to enslave humanity and the Klaxosaurs remains in force. Rather than wait for them to threaten the solar system again, Hiro and Zero Two will take the battle to them.

That means saying goodbye to Futoshi, Ikuno, Zorome, Miku, Goro, and Ichigo, as well as Kokoro and Michiru. It would be nice if they could all fight their individual battles in the same place, but it’s not to be, so they’ll all have to just wait and see if Hiro and Zero Two will ever return to them.

 

Darling in the FranXX – 22 – Nothing Remains Stagnant

The aftermath of the huge battle between the Klaxosaurs and VIRM is even more bleak than that following the destruction of Plantation 13. Squad 13 are just trying to scrape by with their year of rations remaining, hoping to grow crops to one day restock their food supply.

The goal to survive, not fight, hasn’t changed, but nearly everything else has. Everyone is worn out and hungry. A pregnant Kokoro can barely keep down the tiny ration food she’s eating. Zero Two is in a vegetative state, and worryingly, cuts are starting to appear on her arms out of nowhere.

Zero Two kept her promise and went to where Hiro was, but despite sitting right beside him, Zero Two is currently too far away for him to keep his.

The Klaxosaurs don’t offer any help; they’re busy fighting the VIRM, and the dead bodies of both entities falling to the ground, narrowly missing their meager crops. Adults like “New Nana” don’t help, absent explicit orders from “Papa” (who let’s face it, is never “coming home”.)

Finally, Kokoro collapses and upon examination learns she is pregnant. All Nana says that means is that she can’t pilot a FranXX as long as she remains with child. She gives her the option to abort the fetus or not, but carrying the child to term isn’t mentioned.

It seems clear at this point that Mitsuru remembers something of his role in Kokoro’s current situation; how else to explain how helpless he feels in wanting to help her. He reaches out to Hiro, but Hiro has is own problems, and feels just as helpless over his inability to help the one he loves.

The episode continues to pile on, as Squad 13 wakes up to find their crops are not long for this world, apparently due to nutrient deficiency in the soil as a result of magma energy mining. The world itself seems to be rejecting their existence.

Two Adults who look to contribute a crucial role in helping the children survive and create a future are Hachi and Nana. After what he heard from and saw with Dr. Franxx, Hachi isn’t your typical adult human automaton, and follows the late doctor’s posthumous e-mail, retrieving Nana and discovering that all of the rejected parasites are in cryo-sleep.

Franxx’ last orders for Hachi and Nana were to become the surviving children’s new adults, and to take care of them until they can take care of themselves.

While chasing a “sleepwalking” Zero Two, Hiro witnesses wounds spontaneously appearing. He finally discovers the reason after reading her last illustrated page of her storybook, in which the prince is “left alone” when the princess has to go far away. Zero Two’s mind is still one with Strelizia Apath, which is out in space fighting against the VIRM. Its wounds become her body’s wounds.

At around the same time, Goro and Hachi learn that Mistleteinn still has soil with enough nutrients to grow viable crops, allowing them to survive after their rations run out.

Hiro and Goro’s opposing positions on how to proceed clash when Hiro announces to the others that he’s going to space (specifically, Mars orbit) to where Strelizia is fighting. Keeping his promise to Zero Two is the only reason he’s alive.

Goro is pissed by Hiro’s selfishness, but also the timing of his announcement, just when he’s found a glimmer of hope for the rest of them. But there’s no convincing either of them that the other is right. Hiro will go to space, and the others can’t stop him.

Meanwhile, Nana, who had been convinced she no longer served a purpose, finds a new one in comforting a crying injured parasite.

After saying goodbye to Zero Two, Hiro prepares to launch, using the Klaxosaur ship left to them by the princess, along with the choice to “fight or accept your ruin.” Well, turns out nobody wants to accept their ruin, because every Squad 13 and Nine member who is able decides to join Hiro on his interplanetary odyssey, committed to making sure it isn’t a one-way trip.

They’ll go to Mars, help/save Strelizia, come back, and build their future—because while nothing is ever stagnant, they deserve a little stability after how hard they’ve worked, fought, and suffered.