|“||Regulation 42/15? Forget it. I wrote it. A good engineer is always a wee bit conservative, at least on paper. Just bypass the secondary cut-off valve and boost the flow. It'll work.||”|
–Star Trek's Captain Montgomery Scott, succinctly explaining the challenges of placing science in fiction
Many works of horror or science fiction have at least toeholds in the realms of real science, however much they end up straying from it. Even when actual science and its tenets are exceeded, super-science, more tentative but still based on known scientific theories and speculation, can step in to bridge the gap from firm established laws to takes on what could be possible. Past that is pure fantasy, which can use science as a gateway but rapidly veers into things that only work because the author says they should. Fantasy for this article refers to an idea that states a scientific basis but ends up working in a manner similar to magic in other fiction, but not to magic or magic users, something that does not appear to exist in the series in any, way, shape or form.
Elfen Lied is replete with examples of these three levels, but for the sake of common reference, we will start with a figure decidedly more iconic and usually a good deal more heroic than Lucy. This figure is the Man Of Steel, Superman. Over his three-quarters of a century, his powers show the use, abuse and the dilemma of looking at the science in science-fiction.When he debuted in 1938, Superman was not a physical god, but merely a man of high strength and durability. Often cited in that era but much less so today was his heritage from a world, Krypton, once said to even be in our own solar system, that had much heavier gravity than our own. This was science, for a heavier-gravity world would have caused development that, when the subject was exposed to the lighter gravity of Earth, could well have produced a person capable of power and toughness. Whether such a person could live in a place so much lighter without ill effects is debatable, but it starts out with known science about pressure and gravity. As time went on, again the gravity explanation was discounted, and it came that any Kryptonian arriving on our world would benefit from their bodies being living solar batteries, capable of metabolizing the light of Earth's Yellow Sun. This would be Super-Science, no pun intended. There are life forms that use sunlight to feed and grow, albeit non-bipedal non-hominid life, usually plants. Since Kryptonians are an alien life form now firmly from another galaxy, under Super-Science this excursion from standard scientific law is allowable, but only as the proverbial thing that cannot be easily disproved.
Then come the classic and still-growing range of the array of extra powers at Superman's disposal, perhaps the most iconic of these being his heat vision. In some accounts, this has been described as a telekinetic excitement of an object's atoms, causing the release of heat that travels back along the telekinetic projection and seems to be a red line moving out from Superman's eyes. Most incarnations, however, use the idea that this is essentially laser beams emitting from Superman's eyes, pure and simple. This power is fantasy, as there is no science firm or speculative that allows a living being to do this. Even the power of flight has a better foothold in science than heat vision among other of his offensive and defensive cosmic abilities.
Back in the world of Elfen Lied, the strange powers seen on a constant basis can be similar
Basic Abilities Of The Diclonius
If Lucy is the central character, the situations surrounding her species, the Diclonius, are the core premise of the Elfen Lied series. From the start, science offers some unwitting (and almost certainly unintended) glimpses into the fates of this new and besieged branch of Humanity. Lucy was partly named for an Australopithecus fossil find that some years after the series was finished, was found to likely not be the primal ancestor once believed. The Diclonius were named so after two-horned dinosaurs, another species whom fate did not allow to continue being the masters of the planet. Science allows for the thought that information and theories are open to change while remaining within a basic range and sphere of knowledge. That Fossil-Lucy was not the oldest such find does not alter the validity of analyzing such finds. The dinosaur connection foreshadows the fate of the Diclonius, whether this was the mangaka's intention or not. Science may often be a junior partner in a series like Elfen Lied, but that it plays a role is undeniable.
Starting out from science, the pineal gland cited as the place where an extra organ gives the Diclonius their appearances and abilities, is a mark of Human evolution as it stands today. If a further evolution were to present itself, it is well within current evolutionary theory and law to estimate this would again be a marker. Kurama cites this in the first manga chapter, and the pineal is the place Nana reaches into when disabling the vector attacks of other Diclonii. An evolved pineal gland would also provide a sound basis for how Diclonii sense one another's presence. When Lucy, Mariko or her clones are in a disabled or controlled state, this post-pineal organ would also not be active, explaining their being masked from tracking by this method.
Vectors stand better within super-science. As with the Kryptonian example cited earlier, since Diclonius are a new evolution, what they could or could not have as enhanced abilities cannot be disproven. Ironically, if the vectors themselves are on scientifically unsteady ground, the explanation for their lethal nature is more grounded, even if the process involved in how this is created is not. Vectors are said to be capable of cutting through matter on a molecular level, perhaps undoing the bonds in the affected molecules. If this were so, then most everything they accomplish in-series is easily explicable. Deflection of any object not of great density or weight, for example, can be thought of as slicing at the air before them, creating a field of wind to slow down projectiles to the point the vectors can just turn them back. Even the seeming miracle Lucy achieves when healing Kouta becomes less murky when thought of as repairing wounded tissues and organs by first breaking them down further and then reworking those bonds, a feat whose precision likely accelerated Lucy's death. This would also explain why, despite being so healed, Kouta still had to return to the hospital, with an analogy to emergency field surgery (and hardly in an antiseptic environment) only staving off death.
But if vectors veer between science and fantasy, their prime secondary function seems a thing of pure fantasy. While explanations can be asserted for it (Including in the main vectors article), the ability of Diclonius to infect Human males with the Birth Virus seems to be an ability that serves the needs of the story, an infectious propagating tool of stealth and ease. Nowhere in the series is this process explained, except that the mere brushing of a targeted male by the vectors creates the infection. Somehow, something of this process generates the virus in the target, proven by the eventual isolation and weaponization of the virus, as well as its counter-agent generated through the same research. But even in these, what is present to be isolated is wholly unknown. Energy wavelengths of an intense and powerful nature can and do cause diseases such as cancer, though the locations and characteristics of the carcinomas are not at all certain or predictable. Even modern methods of delivering therapeutic disease treatments through precision within the most infected areas do not guarantee success, merely narrowing the area that might be adversely affected by the same therapy. Creating a result certain based on mere passage through the vector wavelength is not something science can currently accomplish or can be speculated about, again making this ability, so vital to the plot, a thing of mere fantasy.
The Diclonius Research Institute was at times a literal house of horrors. If the mangaka were to, post-series, reveal some sub-set of monstrous facts about heretofore unknown activities and experiments performed there, few familiar with Elfen Lied would feel this was an impossibility. While it was at the coldest and most steely edge of the discipline, the DRI was a place of science, though rarely has the overwrought term 'mad scientist' been quite so applicable. The scientific method applied there. The qualities of mercy, empathy, and compassion did not. The cruelty of their methods sadly reflected their effectiveness, but in a measure of rare justice in the series, it was almost to a one the staff's undoing.
The chief scientific method used by all the staff was arguably a needed one, in an environment of government fears of the Diclonius and a top leadership that secretly saw itself as historical allies to the Diclonius. This method is one of the oldest and saddest indictments of Humans everywhere, the development of a mindset that states at its core that certain people are not 'true' people. Once this mindset is embraced or accepted as an unalterable status quo, then all else is possible just to proceed to. Not for these scientists are the idea, as expressed by Jeff Goldblum's Dr. Ian Malcolm in the film of Jurassic Park, that just because you can do something, doesn't mean you should. Again, for this attitude, they would meet with fates that might make them envy the victims of reborn dinosaurs.
Firmly within this mindset and the scientific method was the practice of firing small projectiles of an unknown composition sent at the heads of the Diclonius children at escalating rates of speed to check the development of their vectors and skill at utilizing them. Logically, this could only end one way, achieved by differing means. In the first of these, the projectiles would eventually be fired at a rate exceeding the girls' ability to turn them back and also lethal upon impact. In the other main scenario, any girl found to have powers capable of turning away almost any small-arms-level conventional projectile would likely be euthanized before she could become a real threat in their eyes.
Indifference to the fate of these Silpelits, aided by the view of the Kakuzawas that they were mere worker drones extended to most of the regular staff, but this was rarely clearer than with those tasked with maintaining and guarding Lucy and Mariko. In the case of Lucy, already powerful when taken, there are questions that arise about how rapidly her containment area was prepped and ready for her. Those aside, at least once, Lucy was being prepared for transfer to a more secure prepared location as her power grew. It is unknown when Mariko was born relative to Lucy's capture, though if her power emergence followed the pattern of other Silpelits, it might not be till near her third birthday, marking off an overlap in the crafting of her own containment chamber and Lucy's, with lessons learned from one feeding the improvement of the other. In addition, Mariko's high power level might have been somewhat anticipated, being the only known (at that point) Silpelit born one generation removed from Lucy. Given the enormity of the measures taken to contain Mariko, it can be safely speculated that the body count of those tasked with watching over her and maintaining her equipment could be as high as the openly stated/implied one for those overseeing Lucy.
Still within the realm of science is the disparity between the weapons typically used by the Security Guards at the facility and the heavier-caliber weapons that can turn back and even kill them if needed. The knowledge that Bando gained at great cost, that heavier-caliber bullets and arms were harder for Diclonius to turn back, was already known to Professor Kakuzawa, demonstrated when he killed the escaped Number 3. Aside from arrogant neglect of their staff, the idea comes that the leadership of the Institute did not wish those girls they had not euthanized to be killed by nervous guards, who became living alarms rather than a deterrent force. Once the euthanizing of all future births became standard policy, those Diclonius that remained would become even more valuable, with their accidental deaths outside of experimentation being now undesirable.
Beginning the steps into super-science are the various breakthroughs in the fields of biological, mechanical and cyborg technology, much of which likely derived from research on the Diclonius. As with so much else associated with the DRI, most of the price of this investigation and development stated and hinted, seems to fall squarely on the captive, helpless Diclonius.
One thing aiding any such research would be the demonstrated high threshold for pain shown by Diclonius as depicted in the series. This knowledge would allow for efforts usually not survivable by Human subjects, or at least not while able to function while conscious. This endurance, coupled with the practiced indifference of the staff towards their charges, meant that breakthroughs in these fields would be limited only by the imaginations involved. Sadly, it seems from the narrative that they were quite imaginative.
It is not known whether the DRI was the source of the cybernetic replacement parts Bando was fitted with after his devastating initial encounter with Lucy, but given the familiarity of the doctor performing the surgery with the need and method for Bando's presumed castration, it seems at least possible. If this were the case, then it seems likely that Diclonius wounded by experiments would be among the first these replacement parts would be tested on.
The origin of the life-support apparatus used to sustain Number 28 and later possibly Bando again was likely not created on the spot for Number 28. One possible source was to sustain Diclonius severely wounded by the experiments, but whose continued life was needed to finalize test results. Also, in certain circumstances, mortally wounded staff members could pass on vital information, though with Human endurance being less than Diclonius, this use would be uncertain in its success.
Pushing at the edges of super-science are the mixed-bag successes of the Vector Attack Crafts. Developed from the harvested nervous systems of the rejected clones of Mariko Kurama, these tanks have at their core an amalgamated Diclonius brain, powerful but exceedingly fragile and mostly useless against a non-Diclonius enemy. Given the advanced nature of both the science and the unknowns of Diclonius biology, such a weapon forged from the very source of Diclonius power seems distant but not impossible.
Straddling the line between super-science and fantasy is the process that provided these hideous materials. For in the world of Elfen Lied, the DRI achieved a dream as old as science-fiction and successfully cloned a sapient being. In fact, cloning has been accomplished in real life, though the results are not clones of sapient beings, nor are they of great longevity or durability. The cells of Mariko Kurama, likely taken from her by Saito and given to Nousou for boilerplate did follow some patterns of verifiable science as they were duplicated. Of perhaps over one thousand attempts, only four of these were viable, which is to say, expected to live and be able to function as well as the original. More within super-science is the rapid aging of these clones to an age close to that of the original subject. Once the genetic thread that ages Silpelits twice as quickly could be identified within these clones, causing that process to occur ever faster would not be much of a stretch, though controlling this acceleration might well be one of the factors that kept the viability rate so low.
As with the base Diclonius abilities that are the core of both the birth virus and the later anti-birth vaccine, so are these two products mostly fantasy. Once the reality of vector transmission of the birth virus is allowed for, the process of weaponizing said virus and culling a vaccine from it fall more firmly back into science. Whatever process brings the virus to its target, once that virus can be identified, it can be studied, and so then distilled or negated.
In the end, one aspect of the DRI's activities remains a pure fantasy, though an understandable one once they had reduced their charges in their eyes to non-persons. This fantasy is the one that finally undid them one and all, from Chief Kakuzawa to the most junior technician or guard. It is a fantasy that reaches into our world as well. This nonsense is the idea that one can engage in this sort of activity and forever have nothing come of it. For even had they all lived, the shriveled things they once called souls would surely have cursed them.
The Paths Of Human Evolution
While a much-debated topic, and in some cases a derided one, for the purposes of Elfen Lied and this essay, current scientific theories on Human Evolution will be a signpost here, both a guide out, a guide in, and something easily lost sight of.
The Diclonius are a Human mutation or offshoot, which is to say, their existence proceeds from the existence of their predecessors. The narrative of the series renders moot the question of, absent interference, whether the new species would have ever been in a position to displace the existing Humanity. As Arakawa tells the Chief before learning of his master plan, it might take thousands of years, presuming a Queen and Silpelits were spreading the Birth Virus, for this all to take hold. Adding to these unknowns is a lack of knowledge as to whether prior displaced species were in a position to attempt to turn back their replacements or even knew of this as an imminent possibility. It renders analysis confusing as to whether the powers of the new species were raised higher by nature or the author to compensate for this.
Completely unknown are the factors that caused Lucy's mother to be born with the capability to conceive and birth Diclonius offspring who were also capable of siring and conceiving themselves. Any number of factors can cause a mutation, which may or may not have beneficial effects, or indeed any noticeable effects at all, let alone the dramatic start of a new species. If one is tempted to think of chemical, energy or biological advances unique to the past century causing this manner of change, it could as easily have been an agent that limited Humans in times past being overcome by modifying health patterns and knowledge of same. Rather than simply emerging for no discernible reason or on some sort of timetable, evolution seems to respond to a need. Body hair or fur enables survival in cold climates. Upright mobility creates access to food not able to be reached by quadrupeds. A thicker skull protects a brain used for higher reasoning. Evolution is caused by external forces and stressors. It is not an inherent quality of the cells of a living organism.
Implied throughout the series is the notion that the emergence of the Diclonius in the modern era could be a judgment upon the current Humanity, either by a supreme being or the biosphere of the planet, for wrongs as varied as cruelty or pollution. A dim light is cast upon this talk for the nature of the prime advocate of this evolution as destiny viewpoint, being the madman Chief Kakuzawa. While an intelligent man capable of rational thought, thinking that he has sighted his fate in Lucy blinds him to other ideas and information, which together help craft his downfall. The uncertain origins of the DNA Voice also muddy these waters, since it could be anything from a self-help instinct twisted by Lucy's experiences to another alternate personality.
It is also entirely possible that absent Kakuzawa's interference, the Diclonius mutation might never have reached the position of displacing Humankind. With only the children of Lucy's mother being able to have children of their own, even spreading their abilities by intermarriage with non-horned Humans would take a long path, possibly subsuming those abilities within the Human genome, as the legends of the Original Diclonii told the Kakuzawas happened. Even with the Chief's schemes, the only Diclonius created were Silpelits who could only displace, not replace Humans due to their sterility and faster aging process. The Chief's need for control seems to downplay the possibility of the weaponized virus creating other fertile Diclonii, though variations in the potency of the virus and the genetics of their targets could have created these by accident. Since the birth ban Kouta describes in the manga finale (covering both Human and Diclonius births till the vaccine could be distributed) effectively prevented such displacement, whether any of the Diclonius killed or euthanized might have been capable of creating children is simply another unknown.
Evolution is reactive, not anticipatory, so the odds of the Diclonius being 'sent' in order to keep a form of Humanity alive against some future disaster seem small. More likely in the end is that, like her possible fossil namesake, Lucy was once thought to be the mother of a new race but was found to be merely one of many such possible ancestors, a Lucy rather than being THE Lucy. While evolution is widely accepted scientific theory (much different than literary theory) to some, and a resisted idea to others, it seems its treatment in Elfen Lied was dictated less by science than by the author's narrative needs, it almost all falls in the realm of fantasy. The closest the series comes to a hard science view of evolution is when Chief Kakuzawa tells the Unknown Man the role the birth canal plays in limiting the size of the Human brain. This limit, in turn, necessitates Anna Kakuzawa's mutation into the gigantic oracle, restricted to a waterborne existence due to the enormity of her brain in that form. However, since the process that changes Anna so is never described almost at all, including how she was able to survive and regain her original form, the term fantasy is called forth once again, not in derision, but in classification of where its view of the science it claims as its basis falls.
Like much of science fiction, Elfen Lied has a use for the mystique and trappings of evolutionary theory, but much less for the less interesting but pivotal minutiae of the past century and a half of accumulated evidence and conjecture.
|“||However, the Human brain cannot grow any larger. The size of the birth canal will not allow for it.||”|
–Chief Kakuzawa, with a rare piece of hard science from a character known for his fantasies