Mrs. Cain. Cain's wife. If, in the beginning, there were just Cain and Abel, and Adam and Eve, where did this extra woman come from? Did you ever stop to think about that?
–Spencer Tracy (as Henry Drummond), Inherit The Wind, 1960
Narrative Gaps are inevitable. No story can ever see full completion. The effort to write and read such a thing staggers the mind, and even if someone undertook this endeavor, not every answer is available. A work's creators choose a focus on different levels and stay to a great part with that. Elfen Lied focuses mainly on about ten to twelve major characters, and only on five or six of those in the main. Most actions occur in three or four locations, with two of those seeing the vast bulk of the scenes. Kamakura, Japan, is the center of this universe. While the struggle against the Diclonius in Belgium or British Columbia might make for an excellent story, such will never be the focus of this series. Invariably, an answer provided by even the most comprehensive work may only open up more questions, perhaps even much more. This limit is to say nothing of the answers that dissatisfy those taking in the work. A decision must occur about who, what, when, where, why and how, and at the root of the word decision is the Latin word for 'To Cut.' A work is not bad or weak for having narrative gaps. However, usually proceeding in an inverse to the passion for the series, such a gap, if not directly explained or addressed in series, can be badly distracting, diminishing affection for the piece or increasing intense dislike.
For this article, a narrative gap is an unknown, a plot hole, inconsistency or something that truly does not fit into the story because of other conditions of the fictional universe as stated or implied in the series.
Some things are plainly not narrative gaps. A wish that a character had met a different fate is an opinion. That we don't learn the fates of people like the Bakery or Crepes Merchant is just something the story chose not to cover, and their and other similar characters' fates do not change the outcome or the future history of that world. The actual fate of Aiko Takada or Nana's possible connection to Number 3 do fall in here, but must be shown with broad qualifiers, and are more fan controversies than narrative gaps, and in any event are fully covered elsewhere.
Explanations for these things can be extrapolated or guessed at, some much more quickly than others. What will be noted here is a lack of direct or often any explanation in-series. Items placed in here as narrative gaps must meet a high if flexible standard and are subject to user scrutiny: As the Good Doctors are apt to say, Spoilers!
Elements in the manga series' final chapters
The identity of Nyuu Jr's mother is left directly unstated. However, she is identical to young Yuka and is Kouta's daughter, meaning Okamoto most likely chose to state her mother's identity by way of her appearance rather than words. Furthermore, Nyuu tells Kouta that if they're late getting home, "Mama" will be angry with them, which fits with Yuka's character.
Nyuu Junior's exact age has context problems. She would have been born after the lifting of the worldwide birth ban, this perhaps as much as two years after Lucy's death. We first see her with her father, ten years after Lucy died, where he tells her he played at that place when Kouta was her age; in fact, if she is eight at most, then he was two to three years older. Though Kouta was likely speaking broadly, when he lightly chastises Nyuu for going to that area before without him, she counters that he just said he did the same at her age. While children going out on their own at a relatively young age is common in Japan, Kouta perhaps felt that she was below that threshold, and also had not informed her parents she was doing so, again raising questions about her age.
The final fates of much of the main cast and major characters, aside from Kouta, are not expanded upon in the last chapter. The only exception is Yuka, who, since she's hinted to be Nyuu's mother, can be inferred to be at home waiting for Kouta and Nyuu to return from their outing.
The clash between Yuka and her mother over whether Nana could remain with them is never resolved or brought up again after the first instance. However, Nana is still living at the Maple House in one part of the story's ending and is shown to be part of their lives still. Because it is brought up in-story and is not merely an inference, it meets the criteria for a plothole, but only just, quickly resolved by other story elements.
In the manga conclusion, Kouta states that the World Health Organization placed a birth ban on Humans to prevent the creation of more Diclonius. The W.H.O. does not possess any authority to enact any of its policy recommendations; it can only advise members of the United Nations on health matters and offer suggestions. Nowhere in Elfen Lied's narrative is there any mention of conditions that would give the W.H.O. power over that decision, which member nations would make for themselves, even in the direst crises imaginable.
While several explanations can be inferred, the apparent final surprise of Lucy/Nyu's actual name brings to mind the question of who knew it and who didn't. Kouta, despite spending a day or so with this girl, apparently never learned it, as even when his memories were restored, he only learned it a decade later. He does comment on this in the manga, however, remarking along the lines of "Oh yeah, I never heard her name." yet did not ask her for it afterward. While Kurama and the Kakuzawas did not have an interest in humanizing Lucy, knowledge of her original name and origins would seem natural, though such information in and of itself would be far less relevant than knowledge of Lucy's nature and powers. If Kurama and Professor Kakuzawa learned of her partly from the report of the murders at the orphanage and if she were reported as missing, then part of that story would likely contain her actual name. While they and Lucy seemed to have little use for that original name, it was seemingly kept from only two groups: Those dwelling in Maple House and the readers themselves. Of course, "Kaede" is possibly not her "right" name at all, as she was abandoned as an infant and was perhaps only given a name upon being sent to the orphanage. Chief Kakuzawa makes no mention of what name her mother would have known her by, so the name is lost with the lack of Lucy's father in the story and the deaths of her mother and Chief Kakuzawa. However, Lynn Okamoto said the origins of the name were "a secret," leaving it a mystery how she came to have the name.
A major plot point as the series ends is Lucy's final rejection of the Kakuzawas' agenda. This dismissal is based at least in part on her sensing that, their ancestral claims aside, they are not real Diclonius like her. While part of this is also based on affection for those at Maple House and her love for Kouta, the former has an alternate interpretation. She could not know for certain the Kakuzawas' claims were false since, by their account, their supposed non-Human bloodline was diluted, and she had never encountered such a person before since characters are Diclonius or they are not. Of those and many more unseen, she and her brother are the only ones capable of creating children. There would in effect be no way she could compare a pure bloodline to a diluted one. Again, though, her rejection was not only based on this idea.
In the final chapter, as the ladies of Maple House greet Kouta as he leaves the hospital, Nana is seen without headwear of any kind, her horns out for all to see. She may have been under some form of protection arranged by Kurama, and this exposure could have conceivably imperiled her during the tensions to come, no evidence for that exists. It is also possible most people would look at her horns and think them a hairband or accessory, but those in the know about Diclonii certainly wouldn't think so.
Not truly a plothole but seemingly a deliberate cliffhanger left to the readers' imagination is the standing of Kurama and Nana's relationship. The debate in this instance centers on whether Kurama was set to tell Nana (gently) that she was being silly about becoming his wife, or if he would allow for the future possibility of it. The various aspects of this option are in this article.
Again seeming like a deliberate cliffhanger are the stated, depicted but unresolved fates of Anna Kakuzawa and the Agent. Alive but in the underground grotto that once housed Anna's monstrous shell, their survival is by no means certain. The place was said to be oppressive, radioactive and sealed off by the sinking of the island facility. Add to that, to be rescued; someone would have to realize that they were alive, where they were, and how they might be gotten to safely. Still, the Agent was resourceful, and her fear of being alone would have her keeping Anna alive until a possible lucky break came their way.
Less of a cliffhanger, yet still an unresolved question is the final status of the relationship between Bando and Mayu, the controversies of this gone into elsewhere. Also at issue is just how cybernetics were able to keep a man so destroyed by Lucy alive and mobile. In this case, the fate of Diclonius Silpelit # 28 offers a clue about the mechanics of how this might have happened. Also stated in Number 28's narrative was the fact that her attachments could only keep her alive for about a week. Whether Bando suffers shortened life expectancy is never brought up or addressed.
Another supposedly deceased individual possibly revealed to be alive is Lucy's only other childhood friend, Aiko Takada. In Wanta's wanderings, a poster seeming to show her as a young woman is seen, with an advert for her art show. Of all those revealed to have possibly survived certain death, only she remains unseen.
The development of the Vector Attack Craft tanks seems to have been a joint development between Chief Kakuzawa, his Diclonius Research Institute and the forces in the Japanese government that would come to oppose him. These tanks were not used by or even seen at the island facility. Also, each tank seemed to require the spinal columns of many Clone Diclonii, yet they seemed abundant during their last uprising. It can be surmised that the Chief knew of this weapon's profound and vast limitations, and used cooperation on this front to maintain the pretense of an alliance even as both sides prepared for war.
Kouta relates in the finale that Doctor Arakawa became revered as a worldwide hero for her creation of the Diclonius birth vaccine, yet always looked sad when he saw her on TV. This narrative would indicate her role in helping to create the weaponized form of the birth virus went undiscovered. However, whether this was due to an effort by the government of Japan (and perhaps allied ones like America's) or because most of those who knew her secret were dead.
On a similar note, the results of the efforts by the Japanese government to keep quiet their sponsorship of Chief Kakuzawa are unknown.
Nothing of the very process by which the birth virus was isolated and weaponized is known, though this is not without precedent; the many media adaptations of Mary Shelley's novel Frankenstein offer far more explanation for the Doctor's creation than the original book ever did.
Elements in the anime
In Anime Episode 3, there is perhaps the most obvious goof in the anime. While Kurama is lecturing to an injured Bando about the nature of the Diclonius, he includes X-rays and visuals with his presentation. Bando was still blind in that scene and wouldn't have been able to see these visuals. They were included solely for the sake of the audience in what is nearly a 4th wall break.
In Anime Episode 12, Kouta and Nyu find the police and soldiers at a barricade unconscious. The DRI staff depended on this barrier to keep civilians away from the island. Nothing ever is shown or said to indicate, that say, Bando did this at the behest of Kurama, or anything of the sort. The most likely reason for so many people being left unconscious is that Nana incapacitated them, as she arrives in front of Mariko, Shirakawa, Isobe, and a team of SAT soldiers on the bridge leading to Enoshima, reachable by the path blocked by the barricade. While it is insinuated that this is well within her abilities if she can pinch a pineal gland and disable vectors, we are never shown an onscreen example of her using this knockout power.
In Anime Episode 2, Yuka has a still-image flashback to when she saw Kouta and his family off at the train station for the last time. Accompanying her is a man in a kimono. Later on, when this same scene is replayed in full and animated, she is alone. In the similar manga scene, she is accompanied by her mother. Yuka's mother does not appear in the anime, while even the broadly implied fate of her father is never broached in either version. It seems likely this was a mere error during early production of the anime, but with who this man even might have been remaining a mystery.
In Anime Episode 13, Yuka states that Kouta spent one year in a hospital following Lucy's murder of his family. It is not stated what sort of hospital it was, and though Yuka states it was for shock, it is also unknown if this was for the physical or mental shock. If he had been ten to eleven when this occurred, and possibly/likely as old as 20 when he returned at the start of the series, then seven years of his life are unaccounted. Not even the vaguest mention of who he stayed with or where he stayed is brought up. Also left out is the criteria for releasing him from care when his memories had not yet returned. In the manga, no information for Kouta's years between the murders and his return to Kamakura is offered. However, the manga mentions that he is from Hokkaido, and his grandmother is referred to in present tense just before his family is murdered, leaving her a strong candidate for guardian during those missing years.
Whole Series Elements
Ages of the main characters; aside from Mayu's age, none of the main characters are given precise ages aside from Nozomi, who must be somewhere between 16-18 since she is in high school. In the anime, Lucy's age is 18 according to a file on Professor Kakuzawa's desk, which also contains her height and weight. In the manga, she is assumed by Kouta to be 15 (which he notes would be Kanae's age if she were alive), but when they are children, Lucy is as tall as Kouta, if not taller. Due to Lucy being in her Nyu personality at the time, he perhaps based this assumption on her behavior or incorrectly assumed it based on her appearance (which is faulty judgment since many people can be older than they look or vice versa). Kouta and Yuka also must be around 20 years old for them to be allowed to adopt Mayu under Japanese law even with her mother's permission, as twenty years of age is the age of majority wherein one is a legal adult, and minors are not allowed to adopt children. Since Mayu attends public school, it is impossible that her guardians would not be on file within the education system. The narrative doesn't clarify whether they can adopt her because of their age or if Yuka's mother perhaps took up the adoption instead, but the simplest answer is that either one or both of them is of the proper age. Following this train of thought, Kakuzawa's threat of kidnapping when he took Nyu from them would hold more weight to a pair of adults than a pair considered to be minors in the legal system. Since very little information is given, all of the above is left to conjecture to find answers.
The depictions of Lucy's puppy vary. In some sequences, the dog looks very much like Wanta, while in others it is seen to be brown with patches of white fur. This mistake seems to originate in a scanlation error that washes out the dark brown spots on the pup's fur.
While easily dismissed as subjective to young Lucy's frenzied state of mind, individual story elements concerning the girl who befriends Lucy at the orphanage can be placed in here. Her real motivation and her possible half-hidden smile (again explained any number of ways) aside, the bloody aftermath of Lucy's outrage over her puppy's killing seems to show the girl died by decapitation. Lucy later imagines her as an undead taunter with a hole blown through her head but still attached. The earlier scene is unclear, and again, Lucy's state of mind makes this worth noting only on a technical level.
After Lucy escapes from Professor Kakuzawa, she is once again struggling to avoid reverting to Nyu. By the next time she is seen only a few chapters later, this seems to no longer be a concern.
No accurate information about the line of blood relation (or even if there truly is one) between Kouta, Yuka, and Kanae is ever offered up. If one of each of their parents is siblings, it is not known who, though this would be needed for the three to be first cousins. If two of their parents were first cousins themselves, then the three would be at most third cousins. As is mentioned elsewhere, there is simply no knowledge of the fates of Kouta and Kanae's mother or Yuka's father. There may be an unconfirmable but likely explanation in the manga version of the train departure scene in Lucy's childhood flashback. In this, in the original untranslated version, Kouta's father uses a form of address to Yuka's mother that one would only use to a younger sibling. While nothing more is ever stated, it now seems likely that Kouta's father was the older brother of Yuka's mother, also making they're staying together allowable to polite society.
No mention is made of the fate of Mayu's birth father, or of her mother and stepfather after she leaves them for good. Given the acrimony and pain of her departure, this is hardly surprising.
The woman who claimed Wanta from Mayu, saying he was her dog, James, is never seen again after Wanta returns to Mayu. While the vanishing of such an ancillary character is not noteworthy, in her one scene, she was vociferous and determined to reclaim what she saw as her dog. While any number of explanations exist (including Mayu being on the lookout for this woman), Mayu was known to the police in the area, and her new home would have been registered. This lack of effort at least calls into question either the woman's veracity or her attachment to a dog she had already lost once.
When Nozomi is first introduced, it is said that her family opposed her singing, feeling instead she should train to take over the family business. In a special manga chapter focusing on her, only her father is seen, and not only is the company or other members of the family not brought up, but his sometimes-violent opposition is said to stem from health concerns regarding her mother's death.
While many factors can and do rob gifted singers of their voice, Soprano Dramatico, the particular throat flaw said to give and then rob Nozomi and her mother of their singing voices (perhaps their speaking voices as well), does not exist in the real world. Further, her father cites that the Japanese throat is not made for opera, a claim that is wholly unsupported.
Most characters in the series have either only a given name or only a family name. Some few otherwise important characters have no name at all; as stated above, this may include the series main character.
In the anime, Kurama leaves a voice recording in Nana's escape pod explaining his actions in sending her away. In the manga version, however, he leaves a note which the unworldly Nana should not be able to read.
Thankfully for the residents of Maple House, none seemed to have been arrested or held and questioned for harboring a fugitive so wanted and dangerous, the Japanese government felt it necessary to invade a private home and neighborhood. While the government's desire to keep things quiet was also in play, this just as easily could have been achieved by locking them all up. While the residents' cooperation could be inferred after the fact since they had no information to bargain with, they would at least be in the peril of imprisonment, yet even as a possibility, this is never mentioned.
After rescuing Mayu and Nana from the vicious Unknown Man, Bando offers to bury the mutilated body of Number 28. As he leaves Maple House, he at last encounters Lucy as Nyu, and attempting to kill her, instead, awakens the Lucy personality. The two decide to settle their feud at Yuigahama Beach and proceed there to do battle. Given the immediacy of this confrontation, including Nana still being ill from the toxins fired into her by Unknown Man's specialized crossbow, and Bando's fate from that battle, there seems to be little to no time for him to have buried Number 28, even in a makeshift grave. The possibility exists that when Bando's body was taken away (presumably by government forces opposed to the Kakuzawas), Number 28's remains were taken as well. Analysis and reverse-engineering of her life support could explain the equipment later used to keep Bando himself alive, though his long-term survival remains an open question.
Near the end of the series, Chief Kakuzawa shows Lucy her half-brother, the only Male Diclonius seen in either version of the series. Kakuzawa declares the boy to be rare, almost unheard. No reason, scientific or science-fictional is ever asserted as to why the overwhelming majority of Diclonius shown or inferred were female. However, since all Diclonius except for Lucy and her brother were sterile, this point, while a curiosity, is moot.
Chief Kakuzawa's plan to erase Humanity by causing all future births to be Diclonius seems to have concerns. If the Diclonius being born are Silpelit-only, then even if Lucy had agreed to join him, she and her brother could not have even begun to reasonably repopulate the Earth with fertile Diclonii, all concerns about inbreeding aside. Given that he wished to control this situation, it seems unlikely he would allow other "Primary" Diclonius to exist, if they did or if they were to emerge by accident. This discrepancy could be chalked up to the Chief's other delusions corrupting his logic on these questions as well.
The alignment of Doctor Kurama against the plans of Chief Kakuzawa does not depict his learning of or joining Saseba. During the Mariko arc, he is obviously in command of military forces not under the control of the Chief. It would seem likely he was recruited by his former subordinate Shirakawa, secretly a Saseba mole (at least in the manga), but again this is never stated or implied after Kurama sends Nana away to save her life and prepares to flee the Diclonius Research Institute.
While fighting Bando, Nana has part of one of her artificial arms shot off by gunfire. This damage, which would require plastic repair she has no access to, is never seen or brought up again.
Since Lucy's initial method of seeking shelter (killing whole families and staying in their homes) while on her own drew attention and the scrutiny of law enforcement, it is reasonable to assume she adjusted her strategies in doing so. How she did this during the five years between the murder of Kouta's family and her capture is never addressed.
The exact nature and origins of the Diclonius DNA Voice are never made entirely clear. Evidence exists to support any number of conclusions concerning its dependency to Lucy and its impact beyond her to other Diclonius.
Time Frame Examples
Mayu's time of living homeless is vague at best. It simply could not have been much more than a few months, since her clothes still fit her and are still intact enough to be worn. She is known to the local merchants, so it could not have been too short a time as well. A related issue is precisely how far away her mother's house is from where she fled to and from Maple House. Mayu had to register at a new school, yet Kouta and Yuka found her mother easily once Mayu was willing to let them contact her, and they made no indication the trip was long or expensive.
The period that Anna Kakuzawa spent as the monstrous oracle is very indeterminate. She appears to be roughly the same age as before her operations, which could indicate either a short time frame or her real body being kept in stasis while she was the oracle. In any event, no narrative clues exist as to even a rough period in which Chief Kakuzawa would have made his request of her.
The capture, captivity and eventual suicide of Lucy's mother at a minimum push the time frame and what few narrative clues exist to near the breaking point, though it can still work. Chief Kakuzawa asserts that once Lucy was known of, finding her mother was his next step. At no time does he indicate whether it was merely the knowledge that a Diclonius Queen existed or the actual capture of Lucy herself that precipitated this. The former is possible, since, if his son and Kurama knew of Lucy from her class photo, they might also know her name (while never referencing it). Once that name was known, a search for a woman who had such a child (presuming Lucy was born in a hospital or had another legal record of her birth) and was known to be inquiring about her would narrow the search dramatically. No time frame can be gleaned of how long Kurama's search for Lucy took. It is somewhat difficult to imagine Lucy's mother being taken too far before Lucy's captivity, and her being taken sometime after this seems to make more sense.
Also, a puzzle is how old Lucy's half-brother was, especially when placed against Lucy's captivity and the time frame of the series itself. If the rules governing aging were the same for both siblings, then the boy Kakuzawa presented to Lucy could have been seven at most, and then only if every last factor broke the way of his conception and birth. In short, the search for Lucy would have to have been nearly a year in duration, with her mother captured sometime during the search. She would have to be impregnated almost immediately after this. The series events would then have to stretch over more than three years when the depicted passage of seasons does not support this. The greater likelihood is that he was less than five since not all of the events needed for him to be older would likely fall into line. The boy seemed quite tall for someone who likely could not have been that old, and who his father presented as ready for imminent mating. Adding to the confusion, in this case, is the directly depicted and inferred height of Chief Kakuzawa, perhaps one of the tallest characters in the series. If the boy comes up to his waist, this implies an age past five years. The boy's mental maturity is made impossible to measure due to the control device his father implanted in him. As shown with the viable clones of Mariko, use of these devices inhibits coherent thought.
While context clues and inferences from the limited account by Kouta concerning the Diclonius War provide some guidance, some questions are raised by what is said. Chiefly, it seems, though it is never stated, that the Diclonius born from Chief Kakuzawa's engineered virus were attacking much earlier in their lives than Diclonius born from Lucy and other horned girls vector-based infections, who seemed to gain their powers at three chronological years of age. While certain time points are mentioned, the time frame of the war said to place Humans on the edge of extinction is not made clear. It seems likely that the rules stated in-series for Diclonius aging and power usage did not apply for those created by the weaponized virus.
One of the major settings for the series after Maple House itself is the Diclonius Research Institute, and while not truly a plothole, questions are raised about how and when it came into being. Lucy could only have been infecting males on a meaningful scale since the end of the summer she first met Kouta; her powers only fully manifested shortly before this. It would have been at least nine months after this that the very first horned children would have been born, and, by Kurama's and Yu Kakuzawa's accounts, three years after that before their powers manifested. Since not every one of these children would automatically begin killing right after this, it would seem odd that such a large facility already existed to contain them. While an existing building could have been re-purposed from the original National Institute of Human Evolution, one so large would require at least some construction and quite a bit of refitting. If Lucy was captured five years after meeting Kouta and taken to a facility already built, built-up, staffed and ready for her, then this leaves a very brief period for this facility to have been planned. Its construction or enhancement had to be financed and authority enacted, and its holding areas filled up to the point of ordering further births euthanized. Add to this, Kurama was recruited to work there when the facility was already completed. It is hard to ascertain, absent a real or perceived immediate threat, why this would have been made as it was depicted.
Mariko Kurama was said by one source to be about five years old at the time of her release and subsequent death. The Elfen Lied series proper (present time frame) seems to have run two years or less in-universe, from Lucy's escape to her death. Mariko was said to be the result of Kurama's infection by Diclonius Silpelit test subject Number 3. Together, these events create timeline puzzles, not impossible to resolve, but still leaving a very tight window for events to occur. At best, Lucy could have infected her first surviving male at the summer festival where she first killed on a large-scale basis. Possibly, a male orphanage worker could have been infected by her emerging powers, but that still places such infection within the same year or so. Presuming this very first male infectee were to sire a child immediately, and that child was Number 3 (Low room number aside, no indication was ever given that Number 3 was the first such child ever found), the time frame is still tight. Whether she was taken away immediately or found out later, the girl Kurama and Oomori met would have had to have been circa four years removed from the year of young Lucy turning against humanity. One account has the tests on Number 3, in fact, taking place four years after the first known (which Lucy was not at that point) appearance of horned infants. Kurama's narrative indicated that Mariko's mother, Hiromi, found out she was pregnant six months after this encounter, placing Mariko's birth very near to Lucy's capture and captivity, said to last three years. The confrontation between Mariko, Nana and Lucy seems to have taken place within a year of Lucy's escape. It is not impossible for Mariko to have been five years old at the time of her death; it merely places the timeline in a straitjacket, with every last coincidence falling in place to achieve this. However, given that Okamoto is no stranger to contrived coincidences (ex: Lucy's escape coinciding with Kouta returning to Kamakura; Lucy washing ashore at the moment Yuka and Kouta go to the beach), it's not at all unreasonable for the series to take place in a very tightly constrained series of events.
In episodes 10 and 11 of the anime, as well as the OVA, there are two pictures of Nana are shown wearing the dress she was given shortly before being sent to find Lucy. This dress was later her only outfit after being sent away by Kurama to be spared from Kakuzawa's orders for her death. One of the photos is in possession of Kurama, with Nana doing a mock-dance with a smile on her face. The other is in possession of the two Kamakura Police detectives seen in earlier episodes. In neither case was she near a position where these photos could have been taken, and never for very long. Their origins can be speculated on, but are otherwise muddled.