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Law and Legal Authority in Elfen Lied

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If The President does it, that means it's not illegal.

former United States President Richard Nixon, during the David Frost interviews

The vast majority of the characters in Elfen Lied end up as technical or literal outlaws. The authority of the Japanese government to deal with the Diclonius as they see fit and their choice to invest that authority in literally the worst person possible is as central to the premise as the Diclonius themselves,or even the star-crossed romance of Lucy and Kouta.

In fiction, aspects of the real world are often exaggerated and amplified, even in works that are otherwise accurate. A governmental authority in a work of fiction is much more likely than not to be portrayed as brutal, corrupt, uncaring and almost certainly counter-productive. It is an easy foe to portray, often being faceless and detached from both the supposed threat it is empowered to counter and the consequences of its actions. How true this is to the real world is a matter for debate. But in Elfen Lied, there is no debate. The few decent souls there might be on the side of the government are rarely the ones calling the shots. To the central characters that have to live with the government's choices, the basis or correctness of their authority is a moot point. But in studying the levels of the law and authorities they encounter in-series, certain aspects of the series once murky can at least be made somewhat clearer.

Custodial Law

Just as most of the cast knows some manner of outlaw status, much of them also knew time as wards of the state, in one form or another.

Lucy

As a foundling with no apparent custodial parent, the infant Kaede was as such an immediate ward of the government of Japan, and placed with Children's Welfare. Since she may have never reached the age of majority, it could well be that she technically lived her entire life under this authority, though as Lucy she almost certainly held herself to be an authority unto herself. That aside, while many of her actions would have placed her as an outlaw, it is likely no trial or hearing was needed to imprison her at the Diclonius Research Institute. While this is never stated in-series, it seems likely that Lucy and other horned girls were held under emergency powers and designated threats to national security. These powers, invoked in secrecy arguably to avoid the panic public knowledge might bring, also enabled those officers empowered under it to arrange the alteration of medical records and compel the silence of families under threat of penalties. Since all medical records for young Kaede would have been held by a government agency to start with, the erasure of her from the public record would simply have been all the easier.

Kouta and Yuka, by way of not reporting Nyu to proper authorities, were ironically guilty of the kidnapping that Professor Kakuzawa accused them of. However, while in court, they could have brought up issues in their defense. Simply put, they feared for Nyu's safety and felt that authorities could perhaps not be trusted with her. While not an issue likely to fully exonerate them, it could mitigate or reduce any potential punishment in the eyes of the court. That said, such an issue was unlikely to ever see a court of law, since Lucy/Nyu was not merely a ward of the state. Designated a threat, perhaps a primary threat, to the security of Japan and the wider Human species, Lucy and the other captive Diclonius might well be seen as Prisoners Of War or insurrectionists against Japan's legitimate government, placing them in an entirely different legal category.

In fact, it seems likely that an interconnecting series of legal justifications effectively deprived Lucy and all like her of any and all rights not granted by the topmost officers of the Institute. This is, as will be shown, not a situation easily remedied.

Mayu

The ease and speed with which Mayu in effect becomes Kouta and Yuka's daughter can seem off-putting at first glance. Mayu is more mature than Nyu for a long while, and she is savvier about the dark side of people than her new 'parents'. She is very clear-headed, making it firmly known that she never wishes to discuss why she fled her original home, a question magnified for Kouta and Yuka when her mother simply allows Mayu to reside at Maple House without protest.

At no time in this do the young cousins actually adopt Mayu. Her mother remains her legal guardian on paper; at any time she could have simply decided to terminate the arrangement and take Mayu back, though as any reader/viewer knows, this did not and was never going to happen. It will be assumed her abusive stepfather, if he remained married to the mother, never adopted Mayu formally, since he made no effort to come after her once again. Both the law and some of its vague corners can be studied through this arrangement.

Just as the law can in effect impose a reality on a situation, so it is also directed to observe and bow to an existing reality, where this reality does not conflict with the letter and spirit of the law. Mayu could only be made a ward of the state if there were no one at all to care for her. Technically, while the overall fitness of her mother was in deep question (no question for fans), in the eyes of the law, she would be fully capable of caring for her child or seeing to it that she was cared for in some fashion, and would be obligated if not forced to do so.

Questions have arisen as to whether Kouta and Yuka were truly of age to take in Mayu as their ward. It seems likely, based on their probable ages and Kouta's attempts at college entry, that they, or at least one of them, were in fact twenty years old at that time, being the minimum age in Japan for such an arrangement. With that said, if they did not somehow meet the letter of the law, the spirit might have been invoked to arrange an acceptable outcome for all involved.

A child living on the streets is a problem for law enforcement on multiple levels. They can be exploited in many ways, take to stealing or other lawless activity, or become a target for predators like the one Mayu fled. If alive, they draw public attention and irritation; if dead, their remains must be disposed of and, however perfunctorily, their death looked into. If Kouta and Yuka were not of age but soon to reach it, this might have been taken into consideration for the effective transfer of custody. Her homeless status would likely have been known or somehow apparent to authorities checking the application to a new school, and if the guardians' age was a problem, this could have caused it to be overlooked, since with a home, there would be someplace and someone for school officials to contact in case of a problem. It can be speculated that, however long Mayu was homeless (a fact not addressed in-series), her previous school was contacting her mother regarding her absence, likely to little result.

Privacy concerns and the lack of any accusations by Mayu against her stepfather, coupled with the probable age of her new guardians means that in all likelihood, this was regarded as a simple school transfer, as is hardly uncommon in Japan. But if any red flags were raised, the desire to have Mayu off the streets might have superseded any desire to enforce the law precisely. Again, in any event, all were satisfied. The state saw that a minor child was safe, cared for, and would continue to be educated. Mayu's mother could now completely divorce herself of responsibilty, and keep her own deserved company. Kouta and Yuka could feel their charge was safe and growing strong under their oversight. Mayu, despite some serious bumps, knew love, safety and affection, as well as safety and food for Wanta. It seems likely Mayu remained in their custody until she reached the legal age of maturity, and continued to heed their wishes and advice for the rest of their lives.

Nana and other Silpelits

In the case of Nana and her 'sister' Mariko, custody is a murkier thing than with Lucy. Kaede was born in the world outside the Kakuzawas' direct control, and (presumably) without their knowledge. But almost from birth, nearly every Diclonius not killed in a battle with authorities or perhaps quietly euthanized by their families fell under the aegis of the Diclonius Research Institute and its officials. While Mariko's transfer occurred with her remaining parent in agreement and relatively close proximity, most girls like Nana may have been written off as dead by their birth families, which in effect they were, and later almost to a one literally so. This living legal death may further explain their inhumane treatment at the hands of the staff. They were what George Orwell, in his dystopian novel 1984 called 'Un-Persons', and thus ceased to have legal rights under the law, if in fact this was ever a consideration for their overseers.

Once removed from the Institute and safely ensconced at Maple House, Nana is now a fugitive sought out for summary execution by the forces of Chief Kakuzawa. Having no legal status, and again perhaps considered legally deceased, her ability to get a job, go to school or even have a bank account are likely impossible. While her new family are a generous giving lot, she is entirely dependent on their efforts towards her.

After the events of the series, it is possible, and perhaps even likely, that Kurama, with his government connections, obtained either an effective pardon and/or a new identity for Nana. This would be useful if she simply remained his daughter, perhaps now legally, or, as Nana expressed interest in during the later manga, to become his wife.

Sadly, if any other Silpelits remained after the Diclonius War, they would be lacking connections and forced to remain in hiding, identified as part of a group that attacked all the nations of the world.

Graduateanna

"Anna will become a great lawyer! Because gosh, do Papa and onii-san need one..."

Creating The Institute

The hows and whys of such a secret undertaking reveal quite a bit, both about the series, and the workings of such projects in real life.

While the timeline of the Institute's creation and staffing remains a problem, it will be looked past here in favor of how it would or might have come about, extrapolated from facts known and stated in the series. Starting soon after her murder of Kouta's family, Lucy wandered the Kamakura Area and began to infect males with the virus that would cause their children to become Diclonius. At some point, these births were noted but likely considered a mere curiosity, possibly aided by ancient tales of horned people in the same area making researchers believe it had a harmless cause. Around the third year of many of the first of these girls (only one Male Diclonius is shown in-series, not born in this way), their vectors activated, with either a Human-killing instinct or mere childhood disconnect from consequences leading to disaster for them and their families. Both these girls and the cause of the mutation would have then become a matter of local and probably national security; since no one knew why the first births had occurred to begin with, they had no way of knowing how far and wide the outbreak would spread.

A democratic government must answer to its people, but other factors are often in play, even before anything truly illegal or immoral is even suggested. Having people check their unborn children via ultrasound on a national scale would be prohibitive and likely cause a panic, something no government of any stripe wishes to see happen. To paraphrase the American Constitution's Preamble, a government is supposed to provide for the common defense and promote the general welfare, something these births made difficult and perhaps soon after impossible.

Emergency powers can be invoked in secret, if the need is established to be there and if all in counsel agree that this is needed. However, as will be gone into below, at a future point, very often these criteria will be again scrutinized, so such an invocation would be done gingerly and rarely, as an accumulation of secrets leads to leaks and ultimately attitudes either brazen or blase that undermine the secrecy.

The institution that here is called the Diclonius Research Institute is never called that in-series; instead it goes by the name of the National Research Institute on Human Evolution. This could have been the Japanese government taking an existing entity and re-purposing it, or the name could have been a euphemism meant to sound staid and dull, less likely to draw interest. Since the subjects of its research could be considered infectious carriers, an isolated spot still accessible would be ideal. While the island in question likely does not exist in real life, its in-series location seems to meet up with that ideal. Assuming anyone had lived there prior to this, they could have been bought off or otherwise forced to yield up their land if the government cited a pressing need for it. However, other facts from the series mean that this was unlikely. The island likely already had an owner, and possibly a facility to start with, well prior to the beginning of the series.

To the members of the Kakuzawa family, the coming of a pure Diclonius 'messiah' was an article of faith. When the horned girls began to appear, this must have seemed a sign in keeping with those beliefs. Placing those girls and information resulting from their study would be a logical step in this pursuit. If the Kakuzawas had kept title to the DRI's eventual island over the centuries, it could have been offered up as a potential site, further ingratiating the Japanese government to them and aiding in the appointment of Chief Kakuzawa as the head of this effort. On another front, the wealth and power the Kakuzawas had accumulated for their protection over time would have already made Kakuzawa a prime candidate for heading such a secret project, having contacts in government made to further financial and business interests. If the head of business and financial concerns for his family, then in the eyes of some, Chief Kakuzawa would be known as a man who was capable of running a large concern. All these factors plus his own plans and desires would make him a prime candidate for this endeavor.

If a new facility first made when horned girls began to be born and attack, then the DRI was custom made for holding, experimentation and study of its charges. If an existing facility re-purposed to deal with the perceived Diclonius threat, it would have to be rebuilt, perhaps extensively. In either case, workers would have to be vetted and checked for their willingness to keep silent about the work they did. The next step would be finding and obtaining science and support staff from a similarly vetted pool of applicants.

In this instance, signed agreements of confidentiality would be backed up by laws regarding matters kept as top or state secrets, further obligating those employed in maintaining their silence. Considering how many of their fundamental rights would be negated by this situation both by agreement and by government edict, a rate of pay meant to reinforce the secrecy by carrot (high pay) and stick (the loss of such pay, one's freedom and perhaps more) would be in order.

As an ally to Japan, the United States might be obligated to direct its armed forces (Air and Sea in this instance) to both avoid proximity to this island and to help direct others away from it. This might be done in such a way as to avoid this redirection itself bringing attention to the island. As depicted, the facility seems to conduct its activities almost exclusively internally, making satellite surveillance of it by any power less than useful, at least for standard photo and video recording. While it is not impossible that the surveillance satellites of the Elfen Lied universe had capabilities beyond the ones we know in the real world, the fact that no one seemed to learn of it till the end of the series would possibly speak against that.

Seeking Redress against governmental wrongs

In a democracy, a government may not simply do whatever it wants, at least on a technical level. On a practical level, however, wrongs committed by a government or by those acting in its name can be very hard to prove, and even harder if not impossible to seek redress or compensation for. As the saying goes, the deck is a decidedly stacked one, and can easily be reshuffled at the whim or will of the accused. That said, government malfeasance has a price that is not so easily avoided, and a cost no official, however hidebound, can simply ignore at their leisure.

For the Diclonius, the deck is particularly fragile and gamed. While Lucy certainly engaged in continuous and deliberate criminal activity, most Diclonius prior to the war described by Kouta in the concluding manga chapter committed what wrongs they did were well below the age of reason when they were found, imprisoned or killed. Even if any (besides, apparently though unconfirmed, Nana) Diclonius survived the war and lived long enough to raise a lawsuit, their path to justice would be long and vastly uncertain.

While the basis of the presumed emergency orders that placed them in government custody might be questioned, the government could and likely would cite the real threat Diclonius children posed, firstly to their own families. Also, while certain aspects of the practices and authorities cited might be judged invalid, it is unlikely that the entirety of these would be judged against. While what was done to the young girls after they were taken likely would be scrutinized, those taken into custody or killed after harming others would likely be held as a matter of public safety. Given likely vast deep resentment and hatred of the Diclonius after the war, public pressure against even a small settlement or admission of wrongdoing would be considerable, if not insuperable.

Another matter aiding the government in escaping direct culpability would be the activities and death of the prime architects of these sorry matters, being Chief Kakuzawa and Lucy herself. Lucy was never under government authority, and is the one responsible for the initial threat they were responding to. The government, at least to a degree, could place responsibility for the operation of the Institute and all that went on there on the Kakuzawas and their operatives, almost all of whom died as a result of their plans and schemes. The suing Diclonius might well find herself completely out of luck in the courts.

The residents of Maple House would also have slippery legal standing to seek redress. While they did not know who Lucy was, a sharp lawyer/solicitor for the government would have a field day with some of the choices they made and the questions they failed to ask. That said, the government seemed to let them pass on aiding and abetting a fugitive, possibly to keep the silence they hoped would see them through the crisis. But if the government was its own judge for legal matters, there remained an arena or two where their victory would be not only a hollow one, but a hollowing one.

The sheer scope and scale of the Diclonius War makes it at least somewhat unlikely that Japan's government would continue to be successful in keeping its role in aiding the Kakuzawas a secret. The first outbreaks were seen in Kamakura, and silencing every last person would be difficult, even if every last person with knowledge was known to them and recorded properly. A worker at the Institute might have been on sick leave when the island sank, and assumed dead. A parent whose Diclonius child was not born in a hospital or been outside Kamakura or Japan when she was born might have heard from others what became of these children and stayed away. Even in a totalitarian state or a democracy in panic mode, cracking heads can lead to as much caution and silence towards government as acquiescence. A citizen fearing persecution can be just as apt to simply steer clear of authorities as seeking them out. In any event, with a worldwide war decimating the Human population, secrets would be hard to keep. This would lead to two consequences no gutted investigation or kangaroo court could see the government past.

One would be the wrath of other countries upon Japan. Even if in no shape or possessing no heart for further war, sanctions or simply a refusal to trade with Japan would devastate the country, and the populations of many of its allies would be just as upset. This, coupled with suspicions stemming from Japan's role in the Second World War would place the country in a dire position indeed.

The second would be a complete lack of confidence in the government by its people. While likely accepting justifications for various aspects of their Diclonius policy, the fact would remain that not only did their leaders fail to keep them safe, it enabled the worst possible person to pursue a deadly agenda with their tax dollars backing him up. A change in political parties might well not be enough to address this mistrust and loss of faith.

Alternately, even if neither occurred and Japan kept its role secret, this would mean a continuing paranoid stance for many generations, each new leader and their followers jumping at shadows, fearing the very things listed above, and pursuing that needed silence in ways that would only make things worse down the road. As the US President quoted at the top of the page learned, the activity can be argued legally, but the attempt to cover up that activity is what precedes the fall.

Like many if not most fictional characters, those in Elfen Lied may not live by the laws we know or always see their benefits or proper scrutiny. Whole video series on YouTube are devoted to why the application of laws in fiction are sometimes insane in order to advance the story, the stock run in The Dark Knight Rises being one often cited. But in understanding how the law ought to be applied and how it is and isn't applied, we see both the differences and the similarities between reality and fiction in a contrast that is useful for studying both.

List Of Crimes and Possible Legal Wrongs committed by Elfen Lied Characters

  • Lucy - Felony Murder, Bodily Assault
  • Kouta, Yuka - Failure to report and surrender a legal minor not of sound mind
  • Mayu's Parents - Sexual assault upon a minor, failure to report same
  • Kurama - Kidnapping a legal minor who was a ward of the state
  • Bando - Possibly AWOL from the SAT; failure to follow bio-hazard procedure
  • Professor Kakuzawa - Possible sexual assault upon students at his college
  • Chief Kakuzawa - Misuse of government funds, conspiracy to overthrow the government of Japan; conspiracy to make war against other countries
When the people fear their government, there is tyranny...

Thomas Jefferson

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