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.