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Well I Won't Back Down, No I won't back down. You can stand me up at the gates of Hell, but I won't back down. No, I'll stand my ground, won't be turned around. And I'll keep this world from draggin' me down, gonna stand my ground-and I won't back down.

Tom Petty, 1950-2017

Throughout the story of Elfen Lied, we have seen many characters who, under the horrific circumstances of the world they live in, eventually broke, sometimes even succumbing to the darkness.

Nana Shrug

"Take a sad song. and make it better." - Paul McCartney

Nana is, however, close she was to that abyss, one of the most notable exceptions to that tendency in both versions of the story.

She is perhaps the strangest case of a character archetype in this tale: The Pollyanna. An unfailing optimist, Nana is a girl with an unshakeable hope that things will get better.

Such an outlook, for the most part in the series, is brutally deconstructed and usually utterly destroyed multiple times: Lucy's desire for love and companionship is met with betrayal and deceit, breaking her mind to the point her hopes for a happy conclusion end up dashed by her mistakes, for which she's ultimately unable to atone for in life fully. Kurama's decision to do what he saw as necessary brings him to ruin as he finds that his human heart is hypocritically unable to terminate his daughter. Yuka's dream of a fairytale reunion with Kouta is ground to dust when she discovers her dream boy had become a shell of his former self. The list goes on.

When the reader/viewer first sees Nana, she had already spent seven years locked up in the Diclonius Research Institute, subjected to inhuman conditions and treated as little more than a test subject for cruel experiments. Unlike so many sharing her fate, she does not break under pressure. She managed to find a rock, a foundation to hold onto to retain her sanity.

That rock was Kurama, her "Papa." That man was the only person in that nightmarish facility that treated her with any semblance of kindness. As a result of that, Nana developed a strong emotional dependence on him, to the point she considered him her real father. This bond, in trurn helped her endure the harsh conditions of her life up to that point. This conditioning also made Nana a very gentle and loyal person, willing to do anything for him.

This loyalty will come to the first real test when, one day, Kurama came to her cell to give her a grim order: Kill Lucy.

Despite her sincere desire to please him, she steadfastly refused, valuing the ideals Kurama instilled on her over obeying his direct order. In turn, this seems to have made him rethink his goal, and instead opted to tell her to locate Lucy and secure her for capture.

With that as her new directive, Nana was dispatched into the city to confront Lucy. After finding her, she contacted Kurama and, decided to impress him, set out to face her on her own, and a brutal psychic duel ensued. However, her enthusiasm for pleasing Kurama, coupled with both her inexperience and docile nature, caused her to waver in a critical moment, which the ruthless Lucy capitalized on by savagely ripping her limbs off.

After such horrific experience, Nana was evacuated and kept hidden by Kurama, fearing repercussions from Kakuzawa. The Chief, however, deemed her useless and ordered him to dispose of Nana as soon as possible, leaving Kurama with limited options. In the meantime, Kurama had her outfitted with prosthetic limbs which she slowly learned how to manipulate with her vectors, never once losing her optimism, even after such horrific trauma.

Unfortunately, this ruse ended up exposed, and, under pressure from Kakuzawa, Kurama was forced to pretend to euthanize Nana, who Kakuzawa now saw as useless. Kurama acted quickly, pretending to administer a lethal injection to Nana, which instead contained a powerful sedative to put the girl to sleep. Nana, however, seems to have been aware to a degree of what Kurama pretended to do and, as he proceeded it, gave him a tearful goodbye before losing consciousness.

The next time Nana opened her eyes, she was utterly alone on a beach. She had been shipped away into the shores of Kamakura, with nothing more than her dress, a note (or recording on a tape, depending on the version), and a purse full of money.

Alone, in a place that she did not truly know, Nana was barely able to process her new situation before being attacked by Bando, who had mistakenly assumed she might have known Lucy's location. The argument escalated, and Bando viciously attacked her both physically and psychologically. The result of the realization of her newfound loneliness, added to Bando's casual cruelty, lead to a crack in Nana's optimism, and, perhaps for the first time, awoke the darkness she didn't even know she had within.

In a seeming trance, perhaps even controlled by a dark influence, Nana stood up, stating that in response Bando's cold words of her being unwanted to the world, she would carve a place for herself, killing all who opposed her.

A fight between the two ensued, and while Nana quickly gained the upper hand and cornered him, a surprise attack from Bando helped to snap Nana back to her senses and lapsing into fearful tears as her loneliness fully processed within her.

This incident is the first hint that there's something not entirely right with Nana, and would not be the last time that she'd enter a Lucy-like trance.

After a brief talk, where both seemed to reach an understanding of their shared enmity towards Lucy, the young Silpelit embarked on a quest to explore the world she had so suddenly found herself placed.

Lost and confused, Nana walked through the city, exposed to the harshness of life outside the Institute. She found herself a victim of prejudice, not racial (As Bando had cruelly hurled at her), but class-based, being looked down upon by appearing a seeming vagrant without a home. Her cluelessness to the vast amounts of money in her possession also leads to her dismissal by way of her awkward attempts at buying food. Eventually, she even used some to light a small fire in the graveyard to keep herself warm.

Lost and alone, it was practically a small miracle that leads her to stumble her way to Wanta and Mayu, who she quickly befriended. Through Mayu, Nana would have her first understanding of the real world, and her introduction to a life of regular comforts denied to her all her life.

However, her entry into a new life at Maple House was not without its pitfalls. After all, that house, she soon discovered, also harbored her nemesis, the one person who took her limbs from her. After a brief scuffle, caused by significant misunderstandings, Nana came to live at Maple House with Mayu, discovering her once-dangerous enemy was now a harmless woman-child with the innocence of a toddler.

Through all these events, Nana's optimism wavered. After her initial breakdown against Bando, she remained lost and uncertain, not sure what would happen to her in the future. Her meeting with Mayu and the events that would lead her to join the slowly growing family at Maple House marked a return of her hope, and perhaps the strengthening of her idealism, as she came to believe happiness was indeed available for her.

Her newfound life, however, would be quickly challenged by a new tragedy, striking straight from her Papa's bleak past.

While she was no friend of Bando, their common enmity against Lucy seems to have made him at least tolerable in Nana's eyes. This commonality prompted her to visit him, if at least to point out his cruel words from their fight now rung hollow in the face of her new family.

Their conversation, however, was swiftly interrupted by a sudden, overwhelming presence making itself known to her. Kakuzawa had learned of Kurama's betrayal and had decided to take matters into his own hands. As a result, he summoned the most dangerous Silpelit in the facility: Number 35, otherwise known as Mariko.

Alerted and distraught by her overwhelming presence, Nana left Bando, as well as her new family behind her, and moved to confront this new threat directly. Unfortunately, she underestimated the sheer range and raw power of her opponent's vectors and spent most of the fight being virtually Mariko's punching bag. At least, until Mariko made the mistake of provoking Nana by threatening the life of her Papa, prompting a sudden, violent response from Nana that quickly turned the tables on the younger Diclonius.

Once she had her cornered, though, her dark side surfaced again, stating her intent to "punish" Mariko for her "transgression." Any further actions, however, were cut short by the arrival of Kurama, who came to take responsibility for his hypocrisy and sins. Unfortunately, he chose to do so in the worst way possible, revealing a painful truth to both girls. Not only was Nana not his biological daughter, but that he worked killing many Silpelits like the two. He also tried to euthanize Mariko, his actual biological daughter, when she was born, only to have his wife try to prevent it, dying due to a hemorrhage after complications from her birth. The infant was only allowed to live with the condition Kurama never see her again, leaving her effectively at the Chief's whims. Then, upon revealing such crushing news, he immediately pulled a gun and tried to kill her.

Mariko, perhaps unsurprisingly, took the news by exploding into a violent rage, attacking Nana a second time. The fight further escalated as Bando, and then the SAT intervened. However, the actual turning point of the conflict would be Kurama's decision to approach Mariko and embrace her as his daughter, declaring he loved her as such.

Immediately afterward, an attack from the SAT forced Mariko to overexert herself to protect her father. The result of such strain causing her to enter a fugue state, akin to Lucy's innocent persona of "Nyuu." Seeing this, Kurama once again attempted to kill her, but this time, Nana stopped him.

During the whole exchange between Kurama and Mariko, she felt a myriad of emotions. Nana felt horror at realizing she had genuinely thought of killing Mariko. She also experienced heartbreak as Kurama told both girls the harsh truth, then fear for her Papa's safety. She watched in worry as he tried to fight and then reason with his crazed and enraged daughter. But above it all, what shone most was her idealism and the moral fiber that, despite wavering on some occasions, now reasserted itself back in full force. She urged Kurama to make peace with Mariko and disassembled his gun when he tried to shoot the incapacitated younger girl. Nana demanded that he take responsibility in teaching his biological daughter right from wrong, just as he did with his adopted one.

Ultimately, her pleas ended up reaching Kurama at last, but sadly, this newfound realization would be cruelly cut short by the arrival of their nemesis.

At first in her docile persona of Nyuu, she was awakened by the efforts of Kurama and the SAT to kill her. Soon Lucy set her sights on the small family, recalling a "debt" Kurama owed her. Lucy's revenge would wreak great grief for the small family, ending Mariko's life, even if at the cost of her horns, and with them, her seemingly permanent reversion into Nyuu.

Upon this, Kurama moved to kill the now defenseless Nyuu, but Nana once again pleaded him to stop. She had seen and experienced happiness in Maple House and has understood that Nyuu was part of that joy for Kouta and the others. However, she also swore to her Papa that, if Lucy ever awoke again, he would kill her. A promise that, in retrospect, was arguably empty in itself.

Another, arguably empty, promise, came from Nana's reflection on her role in Kurama's life, as she was, even if unintentionally, pretty much a replacement daughter. Nana rejected such a notion and, instead, she sought to become "Papa's wife," an idea that Kurama seemed to accept absentmindedly.

Finally, Nana returned to what was now her home. She decided to wait for when her papa was "in the mood" to come for her. In the meantime, she decided to enjoy the time she had with her new family, with whom she would continue to live peacefully for the next six months, enjoying a peaceful, happy life she never experienced before.

This peace would ultimately be destroyed by Kakuzawa's cruel machinations, starting a chain of events that nearly ended the peace at Maple House forever, and even the world itself.

A chain that would start by bringing in the most repulsive being the series had in store.

This cruel monster would casually break into Nana's home seeking to track Lucy, but in his failure, would turn his sadistic tendencies towards Nana, Mayu, and even Wanta.

Still, Nana was not intimidated. Although she fell quickly after the Unknown Man attacked her, she none the less held the line. This holding action won a tiny bit of time, giving Mayu the window of opportunity to call Bando. After driving rive that vile being out, the rough man even proceeded to tend to Nana's wounds.

When Nana awoke, however, she found herself shaken by the realization of their vulnerability. After all, that monster had located them through tracking her presence, which he was able to follow after performing horrific experiments to turn one innocent Silpelit into a tracking device, kept alive in agony to serve as a glorified tracking device.

There was little time to contemplate this, however, as soon, she also sensed the awakening of Lucy, leading her to tears as she remembered the promise she made to her Papa.

Rushing to intercept Lucy, she quickly discovered she was involved in a brutal battle with Bando and the Unknown Man, whom she swiftly killed.

Although she stepped in just in time to save Bando once, she was ultimately unable to prevent his defeat at the hands of Lucy. And thus, she was left comforting the grieving Mayu, swearing to kill Lucy the next time she saw her, even if she was Nyuu.

In the meantime, Nana and Mayu spent at least one night outside the house, with Mayu cleaning up the beach next morning as a tribute, something that she would continue to do for the next few months. During this time, Nana was finally able to confess at least large part of her story, particularly of the facility, and the nature of Lucy. Her words were overheard by Nyuu, who eventually confronted Nana about it, who then prepared to kill her.

Once again, despite the intent present, Nana is incapable of finishing the deed, as she can't help but listen to Mayu's plea and spare Nyuu, eventually returning to meet Kouta and have a peaceful dinner at Maple House.

However, once again, Nana would find her peaceful times cut short by the actions of those pursuing her kind. Once more, Kakuzawa sent his forces to their home, this time with an entire battalion of SAT operatives, led by an anonymous Agent and, perhaps curiously enough, a head scientist from the facility, who himself led a team of four Diclonii cloned from the late Mariko. Sadly, Nana's efforts to fend them off failed miserably, and she was as impotent to prevent Kouta getting shot, resulting in Lucy reawakening, followed by her swift capture.

Desponded and guilty, Nana blamed herself for her family's predicament, her optimistic persona starting to crack...

She initially sought refuge in the embrace of her new family. However, eavesdropping on Kouta's room, she overheard Yuka's mother discussing Nana's presence on the house, citing Lucy's existence as an indicator of the possible danger Nana might pose to the other members of the household.

Disheartened, but refusing to give up, Nana puts up a cheerful façade, still seeking solace in their acceptance, eagerly taking up a task Mayu had done the last few months: To feed a homeless man Bando had taken in six months earlier.

To her horror, the man was none other than Kurama, driven insane by grief, cradling the corpse of one of the Mariko clones killed by Lucy's reawakening. Her attempts to reach him were initially futile, as Kurama coldly dismissed her as a mere "test subject."

In that very moment, once again Nana's world began crumbling down. And once again, the voice started echoing in her head, further seeking to corrupt the seemingly broken girl. The narrative even leads us to believe she had, indeed, fallen down the same path as Lucy. However, this is but a clever ruse.

Nana, against all odds, even as her mental state deteriorated from the strain and trauma, refused to surrender to the voice. Instead, she clung to the man who had just rejected her righter than ever, vowing never to leave him as she dragged him into the depths of the forest.

As she tried to make sense of her situation, however, she was approached by the last of Mariko's clones, Barbara. She immediately branded her a traitor for "not heeding the voice" and set her sights on the grieving Kurama, prompting Nana once again into action. The two fought, and in their duel, Nana shone through the fight as her experience and speed were able to give her an edge against the stronger but slower Mariko clone. However, much like in her battle against Lucy, she failed to take into account her opponent's willingness to exploit their environment to their advantage, including taking hostages.

Once again, Nana saw the tables turn on her, her victory denied, as Barbara took Kurama hostage, leaving Nana defenseless as the Mariko clone pummeled her senseless, leaving her close to death.

Believing the end was near, Nana looked back on her life, reminiscing about everything that happened, her only wish to reincarnate as Kurama's biological daughter next time.

The final blow never came, however, as a gunshot rang across the forest, and Barbara fell dead. Looking up, Nana saw the man she refused to give up on, finally recovering his sanity.

After a joyous reunion, Nana and Kurama marched to confront Lucy, where they, in separate instances, were made to witness the true horror behind Lucy, as the dark embodiment of her instincts took control of her and nearly destroyed the world itself.

In the end, Lucy was felled by the one person she loved most. In the end, Nana apparently either moved with Kurama, or she got him to move into Maple House. But in the end, she was happily living with her family (although the manga leaves it ambiguous whether or not Kurama's feelings for her ever went beyond their father and daughter bond).

Nana's journey, from her first to the last appearance, is a tale of perseverance. Despite all the hardships, despite the horrible pain, physically or otherwise, Nana stood firm. Even as all he held dear seemingly crumbled before her, Nana ultimately refused to stop believing, in her goodness and her family's, and especially her Papa's love for her.

In the end, despite the close calls, she truly was unbreakable.

I won't let it go. Even if it's fake I won't give up! I don't care what you say! I don't care if I'm a fraud or a hypocrite! Just... I know my dream is not a mistake!

Shirou Emiya, Fate/Stay Night: Unlimited Blade Works

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