|“||That means that she's a new species, chosen by God.||”|
–Kurama, offering a situational description of Lucy somewhat counter to his personal view
Theology, the study of the concepts of God and religious beliefs, plays a subtle but pivotal role in the Elfen Lied series. Some references are found only in the manga, while others are more prominent in the anime series. For this article, the term will be a catch-all for all religious concepts in the series.
No derision of or dismissive comparisons between faiths of any kind will be tolerated. This article is strictly for those theological ideas construed from what Lynn Okamoto has presented in Elfen Lied. Examples may be used to extrapolate or speculate as to the meaning and possible intent, but those must be measured. Only registered users who are not newly-registered may edit this article.
Buddhism, Shintoism, and other Eastern Religions
The setting of Kamakura in Elfen Lied is, in contrast to its real world equivalent, serene, almost empty, beautiful yet hauntingly devoid of crowds of people. In real life, Kamakura is popular among tourists for the many beautiful and historically significant Buddhist and Shinto temples and shrines, some of which are over a thousand years old, speckled within its city lines. Among its most famous tourist attractions is Kotoku-in, which boasts an enormous bronze statue of the Amida Buddha. The statue is often the first thing that comes to mind for tourists when you mention the city by name. But aside from the Buddha statue, Kamakura hosts so many temples, shrines, and historically significant structures that some of the city’s historic sites, such as Kamakura Daibutsu of Kotoku-in, Kamegayatsuzaka Pass, and much more, are suggested for inclusion in UNESCO’s list of World Heritage Sites.
It comes as no surprise that Elfen Lied references Buddhism and Shintoism in its story when it’s set in a city that possesses so many sites that are important to these religions. Most of these references pertain to goddesses, which itself is also not very surprising since the story is driven primarily by female characters.
Mentioned in Chapter 62 by Kurama, Hariti (known as Kishimojin in Japan) is a goddess in Buddhism whose domain is the protection of children, easy delivery, happy child rearing and parenting, harmony between spouses, and the well-being and safety of the family. However, before she became so benevolent of a goddess, Hariti was a rakshasi who lived at the same time as Gautama Buddha. She had hundreds of children she loved and doted upon, but to feed them, she kidnapped and murdered the children of others. The mothers of these children pleaded with the Buddha to save their children and stop Hariti, so he kidnapped and hid Aiji, the youngest of Hariti’s children. After a fruitless search for her youngest child throughout the cosmos, Hariti appealed to Buddha for help, at which point he told her that if she was suffering the loss of just one of her children, she should imagine how much the parents of the children hers devoured must feel. Realizing the enormous pain she caused to so many families, Hariti then vowed to protect all children, and thus became the patron of children and women in childbirth.
Since Hiromi, Kurama’s wife, had such a turbulent pregnancy to begin with, it makes sense that at some point the couple might have prayed to Hariti to bless them and help them through their troubles, but it is far more likely they would pray to Jizo. However, it is an irony that brings Kurama to invoke her name when he meets Mariko in the manga. While the pregnancy did succeed and Mariko was born, she was born diclonius, and Hiromi perished from the stress of witnessing her husband trying to murder her child. Kurama likens himself to Hariti in that he was able to kill so many other people’s children, yet couldn’t bring himself to kill his own child when he knew what she would become.
Jizo (originally called Ksitigarbha in Sanskrit) is a bodhisattva in East Asian Buddhism. He is greatly revered, particularly in China and Japan, and is one of four principal bodhisattvas, with the other three being Samantabhadra, Manjusri, and Avalokiteśvara. He is known for his vow to take responsibility for instructing all beings in the six worlds between the death of Gautama Buddha and the rise of Maitreya, and for his vow to never achieve the status of Buddha until all hells are emptied of souls. He has had several incarnations in Indian, Chinese, and Korean tradition, including Sacred Girl and Jijang.
In Japan, Jizo (also called Ojizo-sama) is much beloved as the patron deity of children, deceased or living, children who die before their parents, stillborn, miscarried and aborted fetuses, firefighters, and travelers. In Japanese myth, it’s believed children’s souls, particularly those that die before their parents, cannot cross the Sanzu River to the afterlife because they haven’t yet had the chance to accumulate enough good deeds and because their deaths have made their parents suffer. Jizo saves these souls from having to pile stones on the bank of the river as penance by hiding them in his robes and letting them hear his mantras.
Statues dedicated to Jizo are present in much of Japan, commonly seen by roadsides and in graveyards. The former is due to his patronage toward travelers, and the latter is due to his status as the savior of souls in the underworld. These statues sometimes come with small piles of stones or pebbles placed there in the hope it will shorten the time the deceased children will have to suffer in the underworld. The statues tend to be dressed in small children’s clothes or bibs, as well as toys placed at their base. These items are placed by grieving parents to help their lost children and request Jizo to offer the child special protection. The offerings can also be placed there to thank Jizo for saving their children from illnesses or other maladies that could potentially kill them.
In the world of Elfen Lied, Jizo certainly has his work cut out for him. One of the series’ staples is children constantly in danger, children in despair, or children killed before their time. Following Japanese Buddhist belief, these poor children’s souls would still have to spend time in Hell, especially the Diclonii since they killed others with their powers. However, due to their innocent nature and the suffering they endured throughout their lives, the bodhisattva would work tirelessly to make sure they too ascend to Heaven and possibly to rebirth. This measure, of course, includes Lucy’s bullies and the Orphanage Girl, as no child is beyond saving for a god dedicating his life and afterlife to saving them. Mariko is implied to be spared from Hell due to her actions in the manga, as she’s shown going to Heaven with her mother. In her case, her saving her father, soothing his suffering, and sparing Nana, also telling her to live a happy life with the man they both call their father, must be the good deeds securing her young self her rightful place beside her mother in the afterlife. Jizo also clearly had a hand in Lucy and Nyuu’s rebirth, since their reincarnated selves appear to be happy, healthy young girls at the end of the manga.
Jizo’s statues appear most often in relation to Nana, and in the anime in particular. When she's had her arms and legs torn off by Lucy, statues of Jizo loom over her while she's lying on her back, staring at the sky, and mumbling for her "Papa" to save her. When first meeting Mayu in the cemetery, she accidentally knocks one over, to which Mayu visibly blanches, and later, she cuts one in half at the shrine to Jizo to show Mayu her powers. Any old statue and location would have served the same purpose, so why Jizo’s statues? Why Jizo’s shrine? It’s to call attention to the god’s presence, to show the intended audience of Japan that even in this terribly bleak world where the most minute abnormalities of a person determine their worth and their status as human, there's still someone who cares for these lost children. It’s significant that it’s Nana who is present to call attention to him as well, as she is the only Diclonius who consistently adheres to her refusal to harm or kill other people, with exceptions here and there for Lucy and those who would harm her family. She is an ignorant child, but ignorant only in regards to the ways of the world. In the ways of benevolence toward other people, she is indeed very rich, and her constant struggle to always do good toward others results in her being the only Diclonius to survive by the time the story comes to a close.
Benzaiten is a Buddhist goddess originating from the Hindu goddess Saraswati. Worship of her dates back to the 6th-8th century in Japan through Chinese translations of the Sutra of Golden Light, and she is also mentioned in the Lotus Sutra. In Japanese Buddhism, Benzaiten is a goddess of “everything that flows,” meaning such things as water, time, words, speech, eloquence, music, and even knowledge. The Sutra of Golden Light promised protection of the state, leading the goddess to be seen as a protector goddess in Japan. At first, she protected the state, but eventually came to be to the protector of the people within the state as well. Enoshima Island, which appears in Elfen Lied as a setting, houses a cluster of shrines to Benzaiten, and a statue of her appears near the Sea Candle in episode thirteen. The island was also said to be created by Benzaiten, hence why it has so many shrines dedicated to her. Benzaiten is a prominent figure in the first part of the Enoshima Engi, a history of the shrines of Enoshima as written by the Buddhist monk Kokei in 1047 AD.
In the OVA, Nana and Nyuu both take shelter in the Zeniarai Benzaiten Ugafuku Shrine. It is a shrine dedicated to both Benzaiten and the Shinto kami Ugafukujin, whom she gradually became merged with over the centuries. Her merger with Ugafukujin references her being seen as one of the Seven Gods of Fortune, as one of her roles is to bestow financial fortune. However, the connection with the snake god Ugafukujin is made even stronger due to Saraswati’s connection to rivers, the gods of which often are depicted as snakes or dragons in Japan due to their winding shape.
Benzaiten appears behind Lucy when she ultimately rescues Nana from death at Isobe’s hands, and just before Lucy departs to make peace with Kouta before what looks to be her demise at the end of the anime. It is one of her shrines that Lucy and Nana are hiding away from the rain, a time where Lucy is also tormented by visions of the past where she failed to protect one of the only people who cared for her. Lucy’s personality possesses an ever-changing, ever-flowing nature; she is neither good nor evil, but somewhere in the middle. Just as she can commit deeds which are seen as evil, she can also commit good deeds to the surprise of those who only know her destructive side. The presence of this goddess when she uses her powers for the better is a sign of her blessing. As Lucy's demeanor and wishes flow toward more benevolent goals, there is a divine being overseeing her and hoping for her fortune to change.
Benzaiten's origin goddess Saraswati makes up a third of the trinity of herself, Lakshmi, and Parvati in Hinduism. A standard feature of gods and goddesses in legends is to feature them in groups of three. Elfen Lied echoes this trend within the three personalities of Lucy herself: Lucy, Nyuu, and the DNA Voice.
The primary facet of Benzaiten, Parvati is a Hindu goddess of love, fertility, and devotion. As with many Hindu gods, she is but one aspect of another god, and is the gentle, nurturing aspect of the goddess Shakti, who herself is the personification of divine feminine creative power often called “The Great Divine Mother.” Parvati is the wife of Shiva, the destroyer and regenerator of the universe and all life within it, and is the recreative energy and power that connects all beings and provides a means for their spiritual release.
Legends of Parvati are tied to those of Shiva, with whom she represents fertility, marital felicity and devotion, asceticism, and power. Like Hera of Greek myth, Parvati is the ideal wife and holder of the house and is a nurturing mother goddess. Shiva’s destructive nature is often tamed by Parvati, who calms him with her dances. In the epic of the Mahabharata, Parvati suggests that the duties of wife and mother are to be of good disposition, sweet speech and conduct, and soft features. Her husband is to be her friend, refuge, and God, and she should find happiness in the physical and emotional nourishment and development of her husband and children. Their happiness is her happiness, and thus she should always be positive and cheerful even when her husband and children are angry, and should be with them through all adversity and illness. She takes an interest in the world around her, and is cheerful and humble of family and friends and helps them whenever and wherever she can. She welcomes all guests, feeding them and encouraging them.
Parvati can be seen to manifest in different characters in different ways in the series, primarily in Yuka and Nyuu. Though she is far from the motherly figure in the Maple House, that space being occupied by Yuka, Nyuu’s nature places her close to Parvati when one looks at her as the calmer aspect of Lucy. Kali is an aspect of Parvati, but in Elfen Lied, it is the reverse. Nyuu is the sweeter side of the more destructive and complex Lucy. She is kind to all and nurtures others through her actions, such as trying to cheer up Nana, who before had hurt her, Mayu, a girl she didn’t even know, or Kouta, whom she wronged by breaking the seashell she thought was a terrible memory for him. She even took care of a baby bird in the dead of winter, though the fate of the bird is never shown after Lucy is again forcibly taken from the Maple House. Nyuu appears incapable of seeing the bad in other people, and even when she is attacked by others such as Bandou, she doesn’t appear to hate them but instead is frightened of them and merely wishes to run away. She readily takes up her chores without complaint, and is shown getting up early to tend to chores when it’s her turn. Similarly, Yuka is stated by Mayu to be the mother of the Maple House, and this reflects in her actions toward other characters. In regards to Kouta, Yuka may not be the ideal wife in terms of behavior, as she’s very outspoken and often strikes him in that typical manner that’s comical for fans of the tsundere archetype. However, in regards to the girls under her care, she is very loving and nurturing. When she and Kouta first find Nyuu, Yuka suggests they take her with them to keep her safe since she is injured and cannot even remember her own name. When Nyuu runs away, Yuka is the first to go after her to make sure she’s safe. Likewise, she tells Kouta they cannot turn Mayu back over to her parents, as Mayu ran away from home for a reason in the first place. When Nozomi cannot practice her music and study for entry to a musical college in her own home, Yuka invites her to stay at the Maple House and practice to her heart’s content. When Nana first arrives, she feeds her despite her scuffle with Nyuu before, and later buys her clothes of her own and holds her when she’s upset. In this manner, Yuka is the loving mother that is Parvati, though her sweeter nature can often be overlooked by those who only see her brashness toward Kouta in the beginning of the series.[[File:Destruction.png|thumb|360x360px|Can mercy be found in the heart of her who was born of the stone?] Were she not merciless, would she kick the breast of her lord? Men call you merciful, but there is no trace of mercy in you, Mother. You have cut off the heads of the children of others, and these you wear as a garland around your neck. It matters not how much I call you "Mother, Mother." You hear me, but you will not listen.
Kali is a Hindu goddess associated with empowerment, change, time, and destruction. She is the fierce aspect of the goddess Durga (who is also called Parvati), and is aptly named, as her name comes from the word “kala,” meaning “black,” “time,” “death,” and “lord of death” (a reference to the destroyer god Shiva). As an aspect of Parvati, Kali is Shiva’s consort, and shares in his destructive tendencies. However, the destruction carried out by Shiva, and thus Kali, is viewed as necessary for the continuation of the universe. Things must be destroyed in order to be reborn or rebuilt. She is also seen as a sort of supreme mistress of the universe, and in her union with the god Shiva, she creates worlds even as she destroys others. In more modern times, Kali has been seen as a maternal goddess as well, and this is shown best in a legend where she nurses a crying infant, not knowing it’s Shiva in disguise, as he planned to calm her frenzy by appealing to her maternal instincts. As Ramprasad stated, to be a devotee (or child) of Kali, is to be denied of earthly delights and pleasures. The goddess refrains from giving what is expected, and her refusal to outright give unnecessary boons gives her faithful the chance to reflect on themselves and on a reality beyond the trappings of the material world.
In many ways, Lucy mirrors Kali or at least appears to invoke her. Many of the people Lucy kills, or at least those whose deaths are shown, are those who can be said to be “evil” or those who commit evil acts. Such people would be the bullies in her childhood, the Unknown Man, Professor Kakuzawa, and Chief Kakuzawa. However, she isn’t at all averse to killing humans as part of collateral or to suit her own purposes, such as during her outrage at the end of the manga and the many times in both manga and anime that she’s killed others for the sake of her own survival. As Kali fought and slayed many different asuras, Lucy herself has caused the death of other Diclonii too. However, her attacks on other Diclonii are not done out of malice, and her reasoning for doing so is muddled. The Diclonii who perish during the sinking of the island facility don’t appear to be a concern to her, and others, she attacks because they present a threat to her or her loved ones. But, as shown with her half-brother, Lucy’s slaying of the Diclonii is an act of mercy as well. Considering the suffering they’ve faced at the hands of humans, being used as tools or test subjects, killing them can be seen as freeing them from the potential of suffering.
Adding on to this, Lucy’s appearance and mannerisms also reflect Kali’s own. Her face is consistently hidden by her bangs and cast in shadow, often to the point where her face appears black. All that sticks out from her shrouded face are her eyes, a deep red not unlike Kali’s. In her first appearance, though her face is hidden, she invokes her image even more. Like Kali, Lucy is remembered for being naked when she’s first shown to audiences. For Kali, this nakedness is a show of how she is a pure being and needn’t be covered by the clothing and trappings that humans cover themselves in. Lucy bears no clothes for multiple reasons. For one, she was clad only in a helmet, with only a constricting body bag covering her prior and limiting her movement. From a realistic standpoint, it’s natural she would wear nothing under this. However, there’s a deeper meaning to her nudity, which soon becomes clear. After she breaks out of her restraints, she’s holding a severed head in her left hand, as Kali herself is often depicted to be doing. After dropping the head of the guard, the Diclonius proceeds to bathe the halls of the Diclonius Research Institute in blood on her way to the outside. She’s naked for the entirety of her escape, and while any other character would be made vulnerable to the hail of gunfire while in the nude, here, it isn’t the case. Lucy boldly strolls down each hallway through wave upon wave of gunfire without a single injury, and the only blood that spatters the floor is that of her attackers. Though she appears weak, she’s far from it and can cause more damage to a human body than anyone could ever expect. She doesn’t need protection from the typical human weaponry. Only when they pull out the big guns, literally, does her protection falter. All other times, covering up is unnecessary.
Lucy resembles Kali most in the many facets there are to her. She possesses the bloodlust, mania, and similar imagery, but ultimately, it is her complexity as a character that makes her resemble her the most. However, Kali has another side to herself known as Kali Ma, who is Kali herself but depicted and worshiped as a kind mother goddess instead of her destructive self. Where Kali Ma is seen as the kindest of all goddesses, not at all different from Nyuu, this loving and motherly side doesn’t cancel out her more destructive form. Kali’s fearsome form is seen as a protector to counterbalance her maternal side; Lucy herself is the fierce side to protect not only those she loves, but the innocent version of herself that resides within. This protector side of her cannot be near such loved ones, of course, as she has the tendency to hurt them when she’s around them for too long. This can be seen best with her feelings and situation regarding Kouta. Kali only realized her error in attempting to destroy the universe when she realized she’d trampled her husband under her feet, and Lucy only realized her mistake in killing Kouta’s family after he’d already been indelibly scarred by her actions.
An Asura in both Hinduism and Buddhism is a demigod, referred to as “lords” of specific domains. In Hinduism, they compete against Devas (also called Suras). Suras are considered more benevolent than Asuras, who are superhuman and possess both good and bad qualities. Those who are considered primarily good are called Adityas, and those who are considered malevolent are called Danavas. Though initially Asura was a catchall term for many sorts of mythological beings, including gods such as Indra, later texts describe them as totally malevolent compared to the benevolent gods, Devas. Due to their wicked nature, these later Asuras are described as being enemies of the gods. In essence, demons. Furthermore, Asuras can go either way in some Hindu text. There are “Asura who become Deva” and “Asura who remain Asura,” and the difference between the two depends on their actions, choices, and what their intents of the first two contain. The Asuras who become Devas naturally possess more noble or “good” qualities and behave in ways that benefit others. The Asuras who remain Asuras, on the other hand, crave wealth and power and are violent. They will even steal from the Asuras who become Devas in order to get what they cannot achieve. Interestingly, texts that revolve around the conflicts between these two groups tend to take a neutral viewpoint, not viewing any side as right or wrong or condemning either.
In Buddhism, Asuras are similar to their counterparts in Hinduism in that they have some malevolent tendencies, sometimes being referred to as demons, but they are portrayed as more passionate than outright evil. They are similar to the gods, but are addicted to their passions and emotions, especially wrath, pride, envy, and deviousness. Their lives tend to be more extravagant and pleasurable than those of humans, but they greatly envy the Devas, whom they are said to see in the same light as animals see humans. They typically possess three heads with three faces, and four to six arms.
Like the Asuras, the Diclonius race has a tempestuous relationship with another species, but in their case, it is humans the Diclonii envy and wish to be like. They also share the tendency to give in to their passions and are often ruled by them, but that is only natural since the Diclonii are children save for the exception of Lucy. Children cannot help but give in to their emotions, and Diclonius children in particular can be so ruled by them that their vectors destroy the lives they once had with their human families. However, instead of their envy being directed at what material wealth humans possess, the Diclonii envy their sense of normalcy and their acceptance by the world at large. They themselves are hated by those they wish to be like, being locked away, tortured in the name of science, and murdered, and once they break free (freed by Lucy, no less), they waste no time in showing the humans around them of the grievous error they’ve made in treating them as animals. While they don’t possess three faces, the experimental Diclonii born from Kakuzawa’s inhumane experiments do possess many eyes and arms. The majority of Diclonii, though, superficially resemble Asuras thanks to their vectors, which manifest as arms. These arms needn’t hold any weapons either; they are all the weaponry these demigod children need to retaliate against the species that possesses everything they wish they could have.
Life, Death, and the Cycle of Rebirth
In Buddhism, the cycle of life, death, and rebirth is referred to as samsara. Samsara, meaning “continuous movement” and often translated as “cycle of existence,” is defined as the continual repetitive cycle of birth and death that comes from an ordinary being’s grasping and fixating on themselves and their experiences. It refers to the process of cycling through one rebirth after another within the six realms of existence, where each realm can be either a physical realm or a psychological state of being characterized by a type of suffering. The cycle arises through ignorance and is characterized by suffering and dissatisfaction, but an individual can be liberated from it by following Buddhist teachings.
Three of the six realms mentioned in the samsara are the realms of demi-gods, humans, and animals. Within the demi-god realm, the demi-gods (some of which can be considered Asura) possess pleasure and abundance almost as much as the gods above them, but constantly fight the gods or each other out of jealousy and can die within this realm. The human realm pertains to humans and the suffering they face within their everyday life. Humans suffer from hunger, thirst, the elements, separation from friends, conflict with enemies, not getting what they want, and getting what they don’t want, sickness, old age, death, and life itself. However, the realm of humans is the one most suitable for practicing the dharma that will lead to liberation from samsara, as humans, unlike gods and demi-gods, aren’t completely distracted by pleasure or, unlike the beings from lower realms, wholly distracted by their pain and suffering. There is also the animal realm, which pertains to animals. Wild animals are constantly under fear of death from being attacked and eaten by other animals, and domesticated animals suffer exploitation from humans.
In Elfen Lied, the afterlife is not very much explored yet still holds a presence, as each of the three realms mentioned above are explored in some fashion.
The realm of animals is shown through the misfortunes of Lucy's puppy, as the dog faces exploitation and brutality by humans in order to elicit emotion from the girl who loves it most. Misfortunes are also given to Wanta at several points, such as when he is hurt when he comes to Mayu's defense when she's under attack by the Unknown Man, and even Piyopiyo, for how briefly it appears, suffers as well due to falling out of its nest during the cold of winter. However, the suffering of Wanta and Piyopiyo is averted due to the compassion of the people who come to take care of them.
The human realm is the most often showcased throughout the series, as is the afterlife as it relates to humans. The afterlife first appears when Mariko saves Kurama from certain death, and Kurama has a vision of her and Hiromi walking away into a bright light. This light, naturally, can be seen to be heaven by some, and with the assistance of Jizo, the unfortunate souls of mother and child can leave for a higher plane of existence that is either the paradise of heaven or a chance for a happier life in rebirth. The other instance of the human realm's afterlife is brought up at the end of the manga, where a pair of twin girls appear to Kouta and his daughter. These girls, based on their mannerisms and the name of one of them, suggest that Lucy and Nyuu have been reborn. Not only have they been reborn, but they’ve been reborn into a life free of suffering if one takes their overall dress and health into consideration. The girls are also waiting at the spot Lucy told Kouta to meet her at someday in the future, and admit they’ve been waiting for an important friend of theirs to arrive. The girls’ remembrance of Kouta and their promise is in line with Buddhist tradition, as it is possible for a transferal of consciousness to occur after rebirth.
The realm of demi-gods, some of which can be called Asuras (again, mentioned earlier), can be seen to relate to the Diclonius in general. In Buddhist belief, due to the passions they hold during life, being reborn as an Asura is considered to be one of four “unhappy” births, with the other three being reborn as an animal, a preta (a supernatural being whose suffering is greater than that of a human), or being reborn in Naraka, a purgatory where the soul awaits final judgement. Being reborn as an Asura reflects the individual being obsessed with themselves, the use of force and violence, and being unable to seek peaceful resolutions in life. The Diclonius face such suffering, as they seek vengeance for their poor treatment at the hands of humans, resulting in massive bloodshed on all sides. However, they are more sympathetic than the often demonic Asura in that they are children who are merely lashing out at circumstances that would otherwise be beyond a child's control.
If the Diclonius race can be seen as Asura, then Lucy’s rebirth can be seen as a change from the life of an Asura into the life of a human. The human realm is not without its own suffering, as Elfen Lied has shown in abundance, but her suffering is lesser now since she is no longer a demi-god surrounded by humans. The human realm is the ideal realm to practice the dharma that will eventually lead to Nirvana itself, so, for the suffering she faced when she was a "demi-god" of a Diclonius, Lucy has earned a rebirth into a world and form where she can be happier and someday be free from pain entirely.
Kurama, The Mountain, and the Tengu
Immediately, Kurama brings to mind the famous Mt. Kurama of the Kansai region. Granted, the names of the man and the mountain are spelled differently in kanji, with Kurama's surname written as 蔵間 and the mountain's being spelled 鞍馬山. Though Mt. Kurama is far away from Kamakura, its evocation in Elfen Lied is meaningful when coming from a character with such a tumultuous life as Kurama's.
Mt. Kurama is also said to be the home of Sojobo, the king of the tengu. As a powerful daitengu, Sojobo was to be feared, but ultimately he was a hermit, secluded from the world. His most famous interaction was with the young Minamoto no Yoshitsune, then called Ushiwakamaru, who he taught the ways of swordsmanship, battle tactics, and magic. Minamoto no Yoshitsune was the ninth son of Minamoto no Yoshitomo, the head of Genji clan, one of the two emerging powerful samurai clans. He fought with the opposing Heike clan and was defeated. Yoshitomo and major members of Genji clan were killed but a few of his sons were not killed as they were too young and exiled to rural areas instead. Yoshitsune was transported to Mt. Kurama and Yoritomo, Yoshitsune's elder brother and later the founder of Kamakura Shogunate, was transported to the eastward area that included Kamakura. However, it is worth noting that the tengu of which Sojobo is a part were long considered to be demons or harbingers of war. In older periods, they were seen to be the ghosts of those who were arrogant, and as such became symbols of pride and vanity. By following the links between Mt. Kurama, Sojobo, and the tengu themselves, one can make the connection of Kurama himself is beset on all sides by the pride and vanity of others, namely the Kakuzawas themselves. While Professor Kakuzawa persuades Kurama to join him in researching the Diclonius, who are often treated like monsters, it is Chief Kakuzawa's self-centered wishes and schemes that cause him the most harm. The Diclonii are supposedly the "demons" and bringers of war in this situation, Lucy especially, as Kurama has come to believe over time, but in actuality, Kurama would have been a normal man with a normal family without the interference of the Kakuzawas. Without them, he would have a wife who, though unable to have anymore children, would still have given him a daughter they could both shower with love and affection.
Like Kamakura, Mt. Kurama is a place of vast spiritual importance in Japanese Buddhism. It is considered the birthplace of reiki, a holistic healing practice which promotes healing via an "universal energy" spread from practitioner to patient via "palm healing." In real life, this form of healing is controversial and considered pseudoscience, but in Elfen Lied's world, it has a vicious opposite. Kurama experiences this opposite firsthand during his days working for the Diclonius Research Institute. When Silpelit #3 touches him with her vectors, often called "arms" or "hands" by the Diclonii themselves, she transfers to him not a healing flow of energy, but a virus which alters his DNA. This infection leads his life onto a downward spiral from which his character never appears to fully recover for much of the story.
Though Kurama never experiences reiki aside from the twisted version of it performed by Silpelit #3, he does reach what one could consider a healed state of being in both anime and manga. In the manga, living to see the world free of the Diclonius appears to lessen his burden, as he is shown interacting with Nana in a more relaxed way than he has been for most of the story. With no more Diclonii to threaten the world, he has found a sense of peace and can live normally with his adopted daughter. However, the manga never makes clear if he still feels guilty for killing children as he did before, or if he ever came to realize the harm he committed in treating Lucy and other Diclonii like her as monsters rather than people. Most likely, it would be a longer road to acceptance and forgiveness. In the anime, his fate is much different. Kurama makes peace with Mariko and makes up for leaving her in isolation and fear by being with her in her final moments, giving her the love he always wished to give but never could. Though he perishes in doing so, his remorse is clear: in dying with his daughter, he can no longer harm anyone else and the daughter he never knew would no longer be scared, hurt, or alone. While the manga shows him further along in the path toward healing, the anime more directly shows him coming to terms with his actions and rectifying it by making sure he can harm no others as he already has.
The Abrahamic God
The term "Abrahamic God" refers to the deity of western and middle eastern faiths derived from the Hebrew god, "Yahweh", such as Judaism; Christianity; Islam and many others. While the religions have evolved independently over time, one of the more frequent comparisons is the idea of a monotheistic god (known simply as "God" in English-language countries) who is credited with the creation of the universe, and possesses such qualities as transcendence and ineffability (the inability to be understood). Nonetheless, He is said to sometimes interact with His earthly creations on a personal level, of whom these chosen few are referred to as "Prophets". The ancient Biblical figure Abraham is considered a Patriarchal figure across the west and Middle East, and as the common ancestor of the Hebrew tribes. He is therefore considered the common remote founder of the faiths that would become Judaism, Christianity and Islam. The god he held to is, for all intents and purposes, the god most refer to in their view and imagery of the godhead. Since many ideas common to various views of the Abrahamic God are invoked in the series, it is this view we will proceed from.
Possible intent and will
The very first mention of God in the series comes in the very first chapter of the manga series, from Kurama, who declares to a doubtful Japanese Vice-Minister that the captive Lucy is the first of a new species chosen by God to replace Humans. This reference contains some possible difficulties. Kurama seems to be saying that God's will can be subverted by keeping this mutant species under lock and key, which calls into question whether, in his view, God is all-powerful. On another front, he may be accepting the inevitability of the implied judgement against humanity, but feels he must keep this back for as long as possible, for all the people that would be killed, should Lucy's destiny be fulfilled. This then calls into question whether his view of God includes omniscience. Another possibility is that Kurama is in fact not at all religious, and uses God as a term to personify the fact that a new species with the power to supplant Humans as the dominant species has emerged. It is a fact of his world that this has occurred, so perhaps God is simply used by him in this case to refer to the course of natural evolution and selection, not an actual being with a comprehensible will and direction. Kurama also mentions the importance of the pineal gland region in Diclonius, making a statement of uncertain origin that this was where Humans once had a sixth sense in this same area of the brain. However, he states, it was said to have been taken away when Humans received knowledge. Whether he meant basic knowledge such as gets Humans by in the world, or Biblical accounts of knowledge of good and evil, is not known. This seems to have echoes in the works of Carl Sagan, in his work The Dragons Of Eden.
The effort to supplant by the Chief
The next major instance, and perhaps the most important, comes from Chief Kakuzawa who asserts his desire to be seen as God to the new Diclonius race when it takes over the Earth. Some part of this declaration seems to be aimed at a game he is playing with Kurama, in order to gauge his responses and set him on the path to abandoning his post at the Diclonius Research Institute. Chief Kakuzawa's own beliefs in God, if any, are difficult to gauge from these ambitions, which run far deeper than the mere grandiose statement he makes to Kurama, wherein he speaks of mating with Lucy himself. Something of the mangaka's intent and subtext may be garnered from the fact that Kakuzawa desires to be God, but is deceiving several people on several levels, from the Japanese government all the way down to his eldest son (who does not seem to know of his younger half-brother's existence) and also hides his horns from most, which can be seen instead as aspects of Lucifer, who is said to have coveted God's position as well.
One possible point of view has the Chief actually believing that setting the rule of the new race in motion and thereby receiving their eventual worship will truly make him the Supreme Being, which makes God's position a utilitarian one, something that can be gained in a hostile takeover. Backing up this notion is his declaration after launching the satellite containing the weaponized Diclonius virus that not even God can stop it, as though God were simply a rival CEO who has been financially outmaneuvered. Needless to say, this would seem to limit the potential power of the position he craves.
Another idea is that Kakuzawa is bypassing religion entirely and only focusing on the fame and name recognition of being viewed and worshiped as God, incarnate. His view may be one where either nature or a non-transcendent being like himself got the credit for the creation of Humans, and that what was luck last time will in this instance be the result of his own planning.
However, ascribing a completely atheistic point of view to the Chief is contraindicated by several things. While a man who transacts in hard science, he expresses no doubt in his family's legends of a time when his people were true demons with immense powers, and he sees Lucy as the rebirth of the pure bloodline, a messiah that will reinvigorate 'their race'. Demons need an opposite number in religious terms, yet perhaps again Kakuzawa saw his 'demon clan' as merely another convergent evolution like the Neanderthals.
Some mix of true religious belief and mechanical takeover must have been in play, since among the Chief's pillars in achieving his plans was the birth and existence of his youngest son, the male Diclonius who is also Lucy's half-brother. His view in this was, since his son would be a new 'Adam' to his half-sister's 'Eve', that the father of Adam is God, and this along with his plans would 'promote' him (Christ is described in some Christian literature as being a second Adam as well). This also led to a potential problem in his eugenics-based plan. Possibly, since Lucy and the boy were the first two of the new species, the usual problems with such a union could be avoided. But their mother, while capable of bearing Diclonius children, was herself Human, as were their fathers and all their ancestors. Ignoring the possible consequences of incestuous unions, not to mention the implied repetition of these unions in their potential children, speaks both to the Chief's insanity and to the thought that he saw his as a mission with cosmic sanction, able to put aside scientific concerns such as diversity of the genetic pool, to say nothing of his son's age. Throughout all this, his view was grandiose enough to also ignore Lucy's possible rejection of his plans (and possible revulsion at the idea of union with her own little brother) and to completely dismiss the notion that his family's legends of Diclonius ancestry were just that and nothing more, when a simple test in a facility replete with genetically-savvy scientists would have revealed that he himself was Human.
Away from direct aspirations to becoming God in whatever view he held, some of the Chief's more loathsome actions are worth noting in a religious light, albeit an appropriately grim one. By way of a mutative series of operations, he transforms his young daughter Anna into a monstrous creature he calls a 'goddess', and gifted with near-perfect future sight. Such a 'promotion' is the province of 'pagan' gods of old, as most Abrahamic-based faiths preclude not only the worship but even allowing for the existence of other gods. Also in that (as traditionally depicted) polytheistic light is his dismissal of his elder son's death, and his rape of Lucy's mother, in ways a twisted parody of both Christian and pagan tales of the births of great men and beings. Rather than seduction, trickery or blessed informing through messengers, the conception of Kakuzawa's would-be Adam involves the captivity and destruction of someone who wants nothing to do with him.
Secondary efforts to supplant
The Professor sought to rape the captive Nyu, seeking just as his father had (by all indications without the Professor knowing about it) to become the father of the new species. When Nyu receded in favor of the Lucy personality, he made an attempt to bargain his way into his desired position, but Lucy had no use for him and ended his life quickly. Despite ending up as a minor schemer in the series proper, he could be viewed as evidence of a guiding hand, whatever form it ultimately takes. Because in fact, if not for his ultimately futile plans, Lucy would likely not have escaped, and the vaccine that truly saved Humankind would never have been developed. Like the nature-versus-nurture debate about Diclonius violence, the evidence offered by the mangaka is far too inconclusive to offer up anything other than speculation about the roles of fate, irony, blind luck and even perhaps some manner of supreme being.
On the other hand, of all those seeking a form of legendary immortality from the Diclonius conflict, only Arakawa really succeeds. At first, her goals are no less selfish and greedy than those of her employers. In fact she is perhaps worse, lucking into an opportunity to almost recreate the world with one hand and then provide the cure for this savage recreation with the other, while back-stabbing both her first employer (by building on his vaccine research) and then that man's father (by stealing his thunder while serving him in a genocidal scheme), however loathsome they both were. While she warns Kouta against keeping Lucy around, she worries not so much for the danger she poses to the world as the obstacle Lucy presents to her own plans. At this time, she deeply regrets the wager that may place her into sexual bondage, but shrugs off as merely disturbing the horrible Unknown Man's abuse of Diclonius girls in the facility.
Perhaps it is only the mangaka who wishes to teach her a lesson, and yet it is worth noting that each time her star rises further, the regret she feels and cannot shake grows all the stronger. It starts when she informs her boss of the location of Maple House, fully realizing she has probably doomed those inside and likely the world as well, trying to place the blame on Kouta for not heeding her warnings. It is almost exactly when she at last perfects the vaccine that, by happenstance, Lucy's final battle with the Chief plus the bloody uprising of the Clone Diclonii shatter the foundations of the corrupt facility. Her rescuers, the controlled clone Diana and the dual-loyalty Agent are sacrificed before her eyes when her life and knowledge become more important than anything else. Yet rather than feel elation, entitlement or confirmation of the status she tried so hard to achieve, it is only her guilt and sense of despair that deepen, a feeling that only intensifies when the leader of the Saseba-sent operatives tasks her in no uncertain terms for how her plans have threatened the world. In fact, that Operative has no idea of just how complicit Arakawa was, having helped weaponize the virus that will one day infect all men into becoming the sires of Diclonius, who will likely then kill them. But Arakawa knows this, and her guilt does not decrease as the once-lost vaccine is recovered, and learning of the Chief's death at Lucy's hands, which would seemingly confirm her victory, only deepens her sorrow. As Lucy's last power-bursts hasten her own death, they also seem set to destroy the world. Yet the world and Arakawa endure, but again this is through no effort of hers. The scheme she is stopping she helped to start; the research was gotten off the ground by her first boss; and finally, it was no chess-game of her making, but the power of the love Lucy held for Kouta, and he for her, that removed the threat of the Diclonius Queen once and for all. If Kouta's narrative of the Diclonius War is correct, Arakawa would live in a ravaged world whose people narrowly avoided extinction, and who saw her as the one who averted the Apocalypse, a heroic figure widely revered, perhaps one day worshiped, and only she would know the lie and shame of it all. By getting what she wanted in so many respects, but also now seeing it all as utterly worthless and even wretched, far from earning divine status of any type, Arakawa can be said to be in a kind of Hell.
The psychological make-up of these characters also supports setting aside all religious connotations. One could argue that to the Kakuzawas, the word God was a throwaway term, one meant strictly to denote their desired position. Since the stigmatizing of their ancestors was so much in their thoughts, and they often referred to their own line as demons of some kind (though many different ones exist in legend, both in and outside Japan), it is possible their family had its own version of the creation myth/story, and if it practiced a faith, it taught ideas radically different from most known faiths. Setting aside real-world/real-life debates about the nature of the universe, within the series itself, it seems that many characters hold to the idea of God, whatever their beliefs on the issue of existence, will and level of power. On the inverse, it is worth noting that it is those who speak most often of God (Kurama, the Kakuzawas, Arakawa) who ultimately cause or aid in bringing great suffering to the world. Then again, theirs are empty, shallow ambitions, focused on prestige and power, rather than any sort of true religious zealotry.
Suffering within the series vs. Concepts of God
Religious scholars have, throughout recorded history, struggled with the Problem of Evil - "if God has the three qualities of omni-benevolence; omnipotence and omniscience (all loving; all-powerful and all-knowing) as religious scripture suggests, why do bad things happen?" . While impossible to answer for our world, and for the world depicted in Elfen Lied, what can be addressed here are possible answers for that fictional world (Admin's Warning: Only For That Fictional World, and it must be supported by in-series events) using the characters and situations we know.
One of the simplest and most intensely provocative answers is that of the God-figure's non-existence. What rhyme, reason or cosmic purpose can be gleaned from the unspeakably awful life and death of Number 28? In this viewpoint, if a cosmic being with any master purpose existed, where would the suffering seen, Diclonius and Human alike, possibly fit in? Oddly, a cold creation with no topmost guide can seem a comfort. Things simply happen, so why not merely accept them and live happier as a result? Intense belief can cause misery in and of itself. Wouldn't the Kakuzawas and the world have been better off without their family legends guiding them to genocidal conspiracy? Wouldn't Yuka have been better off letting go of the memory of a boy she might well never see again? If Lucy had put Kouta aside, wouldn't this have gained her the world? Was a hope that things would get better a lifeline for Nana, Mayu and Aiko Takada, or a chain around their necks?
Yet these goals focused these characters, and gave them purpose. That which would make us happiest is a great goal, but it doesn't make much of a story. On a technical note, it is finally confirmed that something ineffable and mystic in nature does exist in that universe. Many things can be explained by science and super-science in that world but not all. The twin girls that appear at the very end of the manga series, who are the play-friends of Kouta's young daughter Nyuu, are also the apparent reincarnations of Lucy's two main selves, Lucy and the first Nyu, and one of them is even called Kaede. Using only in-series evidence, this reunion is a genuine miracle. But while this possible answer is mostly rebuffed, it leaves of host of other possibilities in its wake, some more potentially troubling than "Does Not Exist".
The next commonly-arrived at answer has the deity/supreme being not wishing to eliminate evil because it is not their concern. A myriad of viewpoints converge and diverge all at once, from cold uncaring Lovecraftian powers that barely notice the world they created/inherited, to a rough parental figure, feeling they have done enough by giving life to their 'children'. At worst, this point of view allows for the travails of mortals to be as much concern to a deity as a reader holds for characters in a story, or even finding amusement in their pain. The works of master mangaka Go Nagai often use a deity who is even sadistic and cruel, with the world as we know it a doomed time loop meant to punish Satan's rebellion, with Armageddon coming and going repeatedly. While there is sadly far too much in the Elfen Lied story that meets this grim outlook, the hope inside it is also real. Despite Kouta's heated denials, he loves Nyu too much to let her die, and at first cannot bear to be the one to end her suffering. Yuka's bouts with hopelessness over her love for Kouta end not with her suicide but with his affirming what she has always wanted to hear. While it is hard to look at Nana's life and not feel sorrow, it is also difficult not to feel joy at her dogged perseverance and recognize that she ends up happier than most people will ever know. But if God as viewed through the prism of Elfen Lied is neither uncaring nor indifferent, another disturbing option also comes into play.
The idea (for the moment accepting God's existence for the sake of the question) that God started a creation that is not fully under control and not subject to the deity's will and whim seems to deal with concerns about indifference, but reduces the status of such a being to the point where their will and direction is merely a guideline. In the viewpoint of the argument that God is in fact not all-powerful, the deity is brought down almost to mere superhuman levels, perhaps even mortal in some way, able to be replaced by the deity's own creations if they just work the angles. This notion seems to jibe with the expressed ideas of Kurama, the Kakuzawas, and Arakawa. Yet the series does not shy away from showing them as deeply flawed and at times even deeply immoral individuals, engaging in or not fighting against sometimes hideous actions and policies. Arakawa expresses the idea, perhaps not entirely seriously, that she will be sent to Hell for her actions, there to meet her old boss, Professor Kakuzawa. Again perhaps, her view of God is not clear; while both she and the Kakuzawas want that name and worship, it could be that they either dismiss the idea of the deity's existence (not uncommon among scientists) or that they view the actual deity as separate from the faiths and worship associated with the idea. They in effect can't become the transcendent eternal God, but they can usurp the public view of the deity and gain a foothold for their names in all of Human history as a result. In the end, Elfen Lied's evil or morally conflicted characters may see God in this manner, ironically almost a 'mad scientist' like themselves, albeit elevated, but of course it remains unclear if this is also the view of the mangaka, or the view he wished to impart on the series.
The least satisfactory answer, and yet the most commonly accepted in the overall debate, is that the evil and depravity seen in worlds real and fictional occurs as a mix of the supreme being's overall plan and the free will of Humans to act one way or another, and where that mix falls in terms of balance between the two is as ineffable as any divine plan. Elfen Lied is not a world of easy What-If's. Even if Tomoo had not killed the puppy, he and the others at the orphanage had already deeply alienated the young girl. Even if Kouta had told the truth to Lucy about Yuka's gender, Lucy's reaction might have been just as bad. If Mayu's mother had never remarried, Mayu would avoid a hideous trauma, yet her mother's innate coldness would have eventually come out, maybe even making Mayu just like her in time. If Kurama had avoided Number 3, he might have never realized the source of Diclonius infections, and may have eventually lost his wife and child to the war that he would now likely be on the wrong side of. Yet at the same time choices mortals make remain pivotal, and every step in the series leads to the final sad choices the would-be lovers must make. In this view, the final answer is that God is neither uncaring nor low-powered, yet all this only serves to make finding even speculative answers exasperating.
The word Messiah itself simply means 'The Anointed One', a reference to a practice of pouring a ritually blessed and scented oil onto the forehead of one who is to be a ruler or one of similar importance. The term in practice refers to a redemptive figure sent by a positive force of creation, like God, to save either a select group or perhaps all people from not only evil itself, but the very influence of evil. This figure is often predicted in prophecies that range from the vague and easily re-interpreted to the highly specific and yet easily shaded for the purposes of a faction. The word is derived from the Hebrew, and the emergence of this figure, called 'Immanuel' by the line of Hebrew Prophets, was awaited by the peoples of ancient Israel, subject to many invasions and dispersals, as an expectation of restoration to justice and homecoming. In the ancient world, there were many such figures said to be this messiah both inside and outside the Jewish peoples, and the idea was so common even wary Roman authorities shrugged off their existence, so long as their own power was not preached against. One such figure, and usually the one considered the archetype in such discussions, was Yeshua Bar-Yossef, also known as Jesus Of Nazareth, the direct founder of the Christian faith. That said, messianic figures in the world continue to emerge to this day, with followings of various size, and many times associated with eschatological worries, the idea that the end of the world is approaching and must be spiritually prepared for. The Messiah is a transformation figure to some, but in many instances, they are said to have arrived to punish those who meet the criterion for this. The Messiah is often said to be arriving or returning to bring the world back to an Edenic state, but ideas of what this Eden looks like differs as much as the invoked figures. Not all Messiahs are there to save all they can.
The Reluctant One
The primary example of one seen as a Messiah is Lucy herself, though she never uses, seeks or invokes that title. In fact, her efforts to remake the world are stated as being blatantly selfish : As she sees it, Humans have no place for her, so she must replace them with Diclonius like herself just so she can live and maybe be happy. The redemption or saving of others only comes into mind when she begins to care for those in Maple House, especially Kouta, the great love of her life.
She is not a leader of her people, if indeed the Diclonius would even accept one. Her role as Queen is an evolutionary one, and although she may have more power than most others and more skill, she is not looked to or called upon to lead them into a new world. Lucy wants her utopia not for any of them, but so that she herself can live there. In fact, not only are her relations with others of her kind strained, almost every instance in the series of one Diclonius meeting another involves fighting and death. Even Nana is more fearful of her species than any notion of 'loyal'. They are not a unified species, and seem to have no desire to be so. At no time does Lucy state any common cause with the girls she has helped create, and her escape from the Diclonius Research Institute is aimed solely at reuniting her with Kouta, so she can offer an apology for murdering his family. The other girls trapped and likely miserable within the Institute are not in her thoughts at all. In Lucy's case, as with his false connection to the Diclonius, thinking of her as a messiah is largely the delusional invention of Chief Kakuzawa. In a way, Lucy does save the world - but only by choosing not to destroy it, and then again only because of her love for Kouta.
The Lead-Footed One
Some fans look to the series' other lead for a messianic figure. On the surface, an argument can be made on Kouta's behalf. He offers friendship and love to the spiritually starved young girl without hesitation, all while fully aware of the horns that have caused others to reject and berate her. His first real sin is made out of caring, not wishing to hurt Lucy with the thought that he is seeing another girl. Wrongly thought to be a cruel liar like those she had known, Kouta is made to suffer at Lucy's hands, and in a way he himself dies along with his family, his memories of much of his life 'killed' in order to spare him the pain brought about by his offer of love to his new friend, who was not ready for the fact that love can also mean pain. When he finally gains back his memories, in essence he returns to life and is now a figure of stern judgement over Lucy, yet still pushing for love to prevail, which it does when he is almost literally brought back to life. Through love, he has convinced Lucy to end her life and the threat that life unwittingly poses to the world. Arakawa gave the world a vaccine. Kouta's love kept the planet itself from being ripped apart by Human hatred, ancient and modern. His continued love for Nyu even moves the often-demonic DNA Voice to ask him to show Nyu's savaged body the final mercy of release. In the anime, Mayu describes Kouta in glowing terms, opening his house and heart to those like herself, Nyu, Nana and in the manga, Nozomi.
But to call Kouta a messiah is perhaps as inaccurate as it is for Lucy. Throughout the series, his temper is short, and his words to the people he loves go from the impishly teasing to the outright hateful, and at times he dispenses affection only when it is absolutely needed, and arguably at those times he can look heroic. The only residents of Maple House he does not end up clashing with are Mayu and Nozomi, and in Mayu's case, his inability to handle the rambunctious Nyu costs him a period of suspicion from her, and his lack of realization of Yuka's feelings on occasion draw Mayu's anger. His efforts to be protector can seem pathetic in a house of self-sufficient women, two of whom are vastly more powerful than he, one of whom is arguably much smarter, and one who has survived the streets for at least a few months. His refusal to forgive Lucy's murder of his family and dismissal of her apology and stated reasons for being who she is makes him neither divine nor superhuman, but in fact very Human.
In his favor, even at his worst, he is often still better than many would be in similar circumstances. His hateful and ill-timed final words to his little sister were not spontaneous, but the result of firmly believing that she was lying about his new friend, and given Kanae's jealousy towards Yuka, this is not out of the realm of possibility. If his relative density causes Yuka pain, part of this can be laid at the feet of her own confusion, and the mental building-up she did prior to their awkward reunion. He slaps Nana and chides her, but all he witnessed when they first met was her attacking the helpless Nyu. Mayu's trust issues transcend him, and it can be argued he unfairly carries the weight of her anger towards the parents she fled. But if Kouta has an iconic figure of any type to look to for understanding his drives, it is not Jesus Christ but Peter Parker (even if the figures involved are iconic on vastly different levels). As Uncle Ben Parker's death is for Spider-Man, so is Kanae's for Kouta. Yet also like the wall-crawler, this is a lesson that the drag of life and the rush of events can cause one to forget. In the vein of forgetfulness, it is easy to forget that Kouta has forgotten much of who he was, and his mind possibly suffers some restraints from this, leading to his repeating some errors more than once.
But Kouta also learns to take this lesson forward and adapt it. Rather than risk pushing Mayu back onto the streets, he and Yuka accept that she does not wish to discuss her past. He becomes most angry at the ladies under his 'care' when they try to vanish for varying reasons, or fail to live up to who they could be. Once Nana is part of their household, even after her attack on Nyu and early disagreements, he doggedly pursues her return in both versions. Mayu may not trust him and even snark his behavior for a time, but he never calls her on it. In Yuka's case, he struggles against the most hideous moment of his life to try and remember their childhood together. Yuka's offer to Nozomi is merely one of a safe place to practice singing; Kouta's is for a place of unfettered support, and it is this pushes Nozomi to make peace with her father on the loss of her mother. Even at his moment of outright hatred for Lucy, he offers to let her stay and nearly dies for her. If Kouta is to be any sort of example, it is not one of flawless wisdom from on high, but in overcoming the flaws of Human nature. The story of Kouta could easily form its own Biblical book, but probably not its own testament.
The Patient One
The series' final possible focus of messianic analysis is the main character who has known the most suffering and yet maintained the most optimistic outlook: Nana.
Certainly, her story has all the trappings of a great literary, legendary or biblical heroine. Born with a mark of scorn, raised as a pawn and slave with only one person showing her love and kindness, and despite massive cruelty, refusing to do what she sees as wrong: Kill another being. Be it Human or Diclonius, this is a line Nana will simply not cross, and such steadfastness is not unknown in heroes and religious figures. Her obedience to her father-figure is not only an unquestioning one, it is a joyfully devoted one. Taken a step further, some of her worst suffering occurs when she disobeys the father's rules for dealing with a figure seen as demonic, and even that figure offers to let her walk away out of a twisted sense of kinship. In that light, Nana can also be seen as a potentially demonic figure who instead chooses to be angelic out of devotion and love, and a simple yet burning desire to be of use to the one she holds above herself.
Yet Kurama is also the source of much of her suffering. While he does what he can to protect her under circumstances he does not fully control, he does allow her to be chained, naked, attacked in the name of experiments, and washed off by pressure hoses. So great is her disconnect with things most other children take for granted, simple rice dishes offered to her later on at Maple House seem like elegant gourmet meals. His first real use for her contains incredible risk to her life, and would have even if she had directly avoided confronting Lucy. While saving her life after this, and even attempting to punish Lucy for her savagery, Kurama moves to stop her euthanizing by sending her out into a world she is very badly prepared to handle. Kurama's love is real and deep for this makeshift daughter. But it is only at Maple House, ironically in the company of the one who maimed her, that she finds a real family and a place where she is, species aside, finally Human. It is not too much of a stretch to say that Nana's devotion to Kurama borders on true worship, perhaps even with divine honors in the mix. But like many another faith-holder throughout history, this worship is sorely tested, repeatedly and harshly. Yet even though Kurama leaves her repeatedly, albeit under vastly different circumstances each time, her belief in eventual reunion and perhaps even wedded bliss with her 'Papa' never wavers.
If Nana has messianic moments, they should probably be separated from her suffering. Rather than seeing her dismemberment by Lucy as some manner of crucifixion analogy, it might simply be thought of as a prime example of Lucy's sadistic and utterly cruel nature, coupled with Nana's naivete and lack of worldly experience. Rather than see the way she almost yielded to the DNA Voice as some manner of temptation (in a sandy place, no less), it could be recalled instead that this was a combination of something that Lucy as Queen Diclonius might have broadcast to all like her, the voice's true status aside, and also Bando's intense and practiced cynicism, as deadly as any other weapon he wields. Kouta is not some entrenched religious elder refusing to heed her message. Despite his justification for acting so, he is a bit of a jerk, reflexively defending Nyu, who he himself knows has many mysteries, putting all those questions aside and tasking Nana, just as he once did to his own little sister, to grim consequence. Any character's suffering can be viewed as having religious implications, with some effort. Even when their love causes Kurama to overcome his grief-driven mental fog, letting go of Mariko's memory and his prior cruel declaration that Nana was only an experiment to him, there is no need to declare miraculous the hard life of two characters in the hardest part a very hard story. Even towards the end, when Kurama is falling to his death and a nearly-flying Nana saves him, angel-like, such devotion in a Japanese setting is not unique, and in manga and anime, flight is as common as an onsen scene.
Nana's possible anointed status, if it is there, comes not from what is done to her, but rather from what she does in the series.
Despite her unworldliness, she chooses a life that puts her straight in the heart of the series' driving conflict. Both for strategic and moral reasons, she refuses to strike at Nyu, despite the fact that this would accomplish her and her 'Papa's' goal of destroying Lucy. She would seem a monster to the others, there is evidence that this would merely awaken Lucy, and she cannot bring herself to kill someone who is by a technicality innocent of Lucy's crimes. Nana does not forgive Lucy, but is sharp enough to see the greys in a situation. At first, she finds reason to be angry with almost everyone at Maple House. Kouta nearly attacks her for her attack on Nyu, while Yuka and Nozomi attend to Nyu only. Mayu earns her wrath at least briefly by tricking her a couple of times, to say nothing of her understandable wariness of Nyu. Yet she also finds reason to like living there, and all those she lives with, even to a certain extent Nyu herself. She seeks to leave when she fears that she will draw in threats like Mariko, and even manages to mourn for Mariko when she is gone, this despite the young girl's cruelty and heartless games at her expense. In the intervening six months, she struggles with the loss (temporary in the manga, permanent in the anime) of her beloved Papa while getting to know her new housemates, solving some mysteries while finding others. By the time their home is invaded, she is a ready defender of everyone there, but sadly no more capable than Kouta of truly being its protector. Their past tension aside, she is as shocked and scared as anyone when Kouta is shot during the attack, and seeks to bring him in on her and Kurama's final assault on Lucy, which never comes to pass, and which for Kouta is moot. During this time, Nana also faces down Mariko's vicious clone Barbara, and is in a way willing to die at her hands if Barbara agrees to become their father's daughter.
Nana, while no patriot for the Diclonius cause, seeks understanding and happiness for all she knows, but that is not always extended back to her. Once she ignores Lucy's warning, she almost gets killed in a horrible manner, the warning merely a twisted courtesy based on a racist view of Humans not being 'real people'. Her rescue by Kurama is followed by her seeming euthanizing, then being 'cast out' from his presence, though to save her life. Her first encounters with those at Maple House leave her looking violent and foolish, which even Mayu to an extent chimes in on. Her battles with Mariko are not only deadly but humiliating and emotionally draining, as the disconnected girl goes from being Nana's assassin to her rival and then finally to a kind of sister, only to be taken forever relative moments later. Again in a sickeningly short time frame, she gains an understanding and appreciation of Kouta only to almost lose him, then to face her now-insane Papa's harsh rejection of her, yet another reminder she is not his true daughter, all while wondering if the people and place she has come to love will be stripped from her by the worries of Yuka's mother, who, as the true owner of Maple House, has every right to throw her out. She is there when her great enemy, Lucy, is finally killed, but she can take no joy from this, and had already found an accord with Lucy, being told by her to protect their family when she was gone. Even the relatively happy ending of the manga finds unanswered whether the one she loves best of all can ever see her as anything more than a daughter. Even if he does, she, being sterile, can never 'make babies' with a man who likely had himself sterilized after Mariko's birth. Her doubled aging gives her perhaps another forty years of life, this assuming she survives a war in which her kind would be reviled and done away with.
But for every setback, both stated and implied and even those extrapolated from the plot's implications, Nana remains the best candidate for an icon for people to emulate. She forces herself to see wonder in life and the living of it, and in all the little things and all the people in life. If a rationale in some of the anti-Yuka feelings can be found, it may rest with Nana: Yuka sometimes makes herself more miserable than she should really be, as her worries overtake her. Nana is the opposite, making herself joyful when she has every right to sink into despair. While at times this is merely a defense mechanism, it is easy to place the notion of a teacher for the world with someone who sees clearly that the world, such as it is and can get, is still full of so many wonderful things.
The role of the devil varies widely throughout history, theology, legend and philosophy. The name most commonly associated with this figure is Satan, derived from a word that not only means 'Adversary', but also 'Accuser'. In some early biblical texts, it is the devil's job to keep God aware of Humankind's flaws and failures, in effect making the devil himself the Devil's Advocate, kind of a cosmic prosecuting attorney. Later interpretations place him as the ultimate failed office-seeker, cast out when his takeover failed, and eternally playing games meant to drag down Humans to join him in his misery. To say that Elfen Lied has examples of this sort of figure is like saying that Sailor Moon on occasion mentions Heart.
Lucy or Lucifer?
Whatever version we see first, the series begins with a figure with horns killing with abandon and without remorse, merely by staring at her victims. In a pivotal instance, she slaughters the person who arguably had the least to do with any wrongs against her, and in the manga, she taunts the victim's desire to die serving a purpose. We find out later that the facility she escapes from is chock-full of girls just like her, largely her daughters of a sort, but helping them is never on her mind for a second. She is called Lucy, but always by others, and never uses that name herself. Given the words about evolution and new species, an identification with the Wikipedia:Lucy (Australopithecus) famous fossil find seems the obvious source. But given how very cruel the lead character can be, another association should not be dismissed without analysis.
To avoid raising further issues, let it be said here and now that the young girl did not become Lucy all of a sudden, or out of some innate desire to become a monster. A very good argument can in fact be made, and has been made, that she saw no other path, since the views of others placed her as a monster long before any hint of powers, voices, or evidence of either surfaced. Yet it would be equally dismissive to put aside the list of deaths she caused, directly or indirectly, once her grimmer persona emerged. It is her activities as Lucy, both before the Institute and during the series, that must be the focus of this question.
While the name Lucy was given to her by staff at the Institute, it can reasonably be said that Kaede first became Lucy when she saw her puppy murdered in front of her by the other children. This savage act was merely the capstone to a childhood of taunts, exclusions, whispers and isolation, badly served by her defense mechanism of shutting down emotionally. Yet it was responded to by an act of far greater savagery, which could well have been an instinctive lashing out at those that hurt her. Absent vectors, Kaede might well have had an adrenaline surge and quite possibly even killed all four children with her bare hands, or at least made them badly regret their actions. It is not impossible to believe she had witnessed by this point other wrongs against her go unpunished, further closing down normal options in her mind. But the fact remains that four children died by her hands, and in a horrific manner. If taken to a biblical level, she has, beyond murder itself, usurped the delivery of vengeance reserved by the deity for themselves. But taken even further, her actions against these children, however loathsome they might have been, now becomes the greater crime. Even if the pup's life is made to equal their own, four lives have been taken for one, and only Tomoo actually killed it. While Tomoo's overall behavior had troubling indications of future sociopath behavior, there is no guarantee he would not have changed, given time. One or both of the other two boys possibly faced threats to their own well-being if they did not go along with him. While the evidence largely seems to support the girl's complicity and possible deliberate betrayal of Kaede, there is no irrefutable evidence of this, and so she might well have killed someone who meant no harm, or at least this level of harm. To use another biblical saying, these children sowed the wind and reaped the whirlwind, or to be modern, played with fire/dynamite and got burned/blown up. But Kaede killed a sixth victim - herself. Whether she is Lucy once and for all at this point or if traces of the girl she was remain for a time, she has locked her future and made herself think that violence of this sort is acceptable in certain cases. She has killed what she could have been, and what her targets could have been. Worse, to paraphrase Milton, she has begun the process of deciding that it is better to ruin and restart the world than be an outcast in it.
What happens next can be seen as either her greatest missed opportunity or a cruelty that she suffers, a taunt of what she can now never have, and perhaps never could. Lucy would likely never pick a world where she did not know Kouta, their brief time together being what she would later call a dream within a nightmare. Yet it is hard to see how Kaede as she exists after the orphanage can truly turn away from the path she has started down. Again, Kouta's truth about Yuka might have gone over no better than his lie, even though in his mind Kouta has only made a new good friend; it is Kaede/Lucy who is head-over-heels in love. While this is common for boys and girls of their age, it bespeaks why perhaps this relationship was doomed in any event. One hopes Kouta's family would have greeted his new friend/girlfriend with open arms, and this is not impossible; recall adult Yuka never looked down upon Nyu or Nana for their horns, and Kouta's open and tolerant attitude likely did not spring up on its own. Yet the problem would likely not lay in Lucy's horns. Kouta's father and Yuka's mother might have concerns about where this girl comes from, and where she lives or lived, questions Lucy would obviously want avoided. Even if one sets aside the intense fan-debate over Yuka's personality, it seems a fair bet that neither she nor Kanae would want another rival for Kouta's time and attention. Even if the first scenario was wholly averted (Kouta and Yuka were wise enough not to push Mayu about her past) and even if the other girls liked Nyu enough to make their rivalry a very friendly one, Kaede herself is still the problem. Lacking a social skill-set, she would have no preparation for even friendly teasing, since no such thing existed for her at the orphanage. Kouta's impish teasing could easily have gone too far, a household parental punishment been too harsh, or what have you. Not only is this alt-Kaede not prepared, but when a perceived injustice of any sort strikes (and for a child that age, this is next to inevitable), Kaede has a fall-back most do not. In short, she does not have to take it. She is incredibly capable of striking back, no matter the person or circumstance involved. Her vectors alone do not make this a problem, nor does her past treatment by others. But with one striking example of savagery, she is again locked in. In that one moment, she learned that the rules of others neither protect her, nor do they apply to her. In some heated moment, regardless of the exact situation, the carnival and the train seem destined to repeat themselves.
Without reciting every death brought about by Lucy, she sadly gains some aspects of traditional devil-characters. Not evil in her case, though many of her actions clearly are. Yet she has herself caught in a trap created by the very power that seems to free her. Because she does not have to put up with the nonsense, chaos and injustice life often puts to most of us, and because her first use of that power destroyed someone who thought themselves above her and all consequences, she becomes a devil who wants to be better but is long past really knowing how to be so. This one level of disconnect can take her from being the persecuted girl we all sympathize with straight to the laughing monster who revels in cutting people to pieces. The sorriest part is, the two are never really all that far apart, but by the time the girl who wants better realizes what she has done to try and get this and its consequences, she is further lost.
It has been pointed out that many people in real life and even in manga/anime have seen worse than Lucy, and not come out as she did. But in Kaede's Devil lies one of our greatest fears : That the power to hit back would not be our sword, but the shovel with which we dig our grave. The bullies were very arguably asking for it. The residents of Kamakura at the end of the series were definitely not. But beyond hope for Lucy, which we want for her despite all her sins, the mangaka by this stark picture offers a potentially hopeful bit of advice : If you don't want a devil like Lucy could be, then look at how we build them. Responsibility must exist on both a personal level, and on a societal one for all of us as well.
Get Thee Behind Me: The DNA Voice
And the devil, taking him up into an high mountain, showed unto him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. And the devil said unto him, All this power will I give thee, and the glory of them: for that is delivered unto me; and to whomsoever I will I give it. - From The Christian Gospel According To Saint Luke
Just because your instinct is to kill Humans, you're just gonna give in and say it can't be helped? Humans have these kinds of instincts, too. But don't we live normal lives while turning our backs on them? - Kouta to Lucy, Memories That Can't Be Killed
The origins of the DNA Voice, the supposed voice of Lucy's Diclonius instincts, driving her desire to kill all Humans, are problematic and unsolvable. While it could be fully real and independent, another personality, or a mix of some kind between the two - even if it quite literally was the voice of Satan himself - is for our purposes irrelevant. Where it came from is unimportant, because it was real to Kaede, something she either never had control of or simply lost control of, it existed and had an unqualified impact on the series.
The Voice's role is not immediately apparent as the series begins. The situation seems at first almost perfectly Jekyll and Hyde, or perhaps, Banner and Hulk. But in neither of those older examples are things really that cut and dry. Jekyll originally sought Hyde for knowledge of evil and the thrill of releasing all that Victorian society locked away. Had the Hulk not personified Bruce Banner's lifetime of rage, likely he might have built things far worse than a gamma radiation focused nuclear weapon. But would a Kaede who had known a better life been mostly free of the Voice's influence and guidance? Again, a moot point. Just like the practical fact of its existence, the fact of its influence is also beyond dispute. Kaede heard it, whether it was there or not, and she listened to it, whether it was her own reflected desires or an evolutionary beacon.
So if the Voice is real for all intents and purposes, we must watch for any sunlight between Lucy and this grim mentor, and look at what that sunlight shows us.
When we first meet Lucy in her pure killer persona, the DNA Voice does not seem like an issue. Lucy was the pure killer, and Nyu the pure innocent. Yet individual in-story statements about Lucy's multi-persona set up must be viewed within the series as a whole. Nyu exists to the point that she seems a separate soul near story's end, yet Lucy describes her as merely being an ideal self mere chapters earlier. Lucy is again proven wrong within a few chapters when she says that the Voice can only urge her actions, not control them, yet when Kurama attempts to kill her, her restraint is undone when the Voice indeed takes her over in bloody self-defense. If Kaede/Lucy's own self-knowledge is imperfect or even very poor, then it is her actions, not her confused and biased statements that show where she and the Voice really stood.
The Voice is really only confirmed as a presence when the backstory of Lucy's tragic childhood is told, and we see its chosen form, a bandaged younger version of Lucy herself. In many stories, either God or Satan will appear as the person they are speaking to, a method of disarming resistance to the message they deliver in that instance. In the case of the Voice, the imagery is doubly reinforcing. It never appears to age along with Kaede, forever remaining the naked, lonely angry child Kaede likely imagined herself as. Through this image, the Voice adds one more layer of control or influence : Even as Kaede is 'looking' at it, the Voice reminds her immediately of the worst time of her life, and even her early abandonment.
The debate over what actions were directed mostly by the Voice and which ones mainly by Lucy's own anger becomes more muddled when one looks at the Voice as neither an evolutionary survival guide nor as merely another persona created by the repeated breaking of a young girl's heart, but as the Devil itself. The Voice wanted Kouta's influence out of Lucy's life, and perhaps knew as Kaede did not that murdering his family would cement this in one way or another. It perhaps even realized that Kouta's innocent lie was not meant to hurt Kaede, but fought off any attempts by Kaede to reach this conclusion. In stories and older lore, Satan and other devil figures act like a sinister salesman, setting up events to force their target to reach a certain conclusion, seemingly at random or on their own. In this way, the target, if they give in to bad behavior, can only hate themselves, believing that, whatever advice they were being offered, it was they who made the final choice. In fact, simply by hearing the devil-figure's words, even if they are not somehow lies, the target is already mostly defeated, for those words will be carefully chosen, structured to not allow for debate, and utterly self-serving. One could even speculate that the Voice was always capable of controlling Kaede, but preferred she simply give in, which she usually did. Another possibility is that, each time Kaede obeyed what the Voice coaxed her to do, its ability to control her increased. In any event, by the time Lucy saw Kurama for the last time, a monster of pure hate was now able to step into reality.
Sadly, some of this may be laid at the feet Kouta himself. In his understandably angry rejection of Lucy's explanations about the Voice and its role in their tragic lives, he forgets an old saying : The best trick the devil ever pulled was convincing people he doesn't exist. Perhaps Lucy's resolve to oppose and deny the Voice was weakened by Kouta's admonition of her story of the Voice's influence as being merely an excuse. Understandably perhaps, Kaede thought that, merely because it never had taken over before, it couldn't. Yet either because she had allowed its influence so often, or because it somehow was her, in fact the Voice easily could and did, when faced with death at Kurama's hands. From then on, it took a joint agreement from Lucy and Nyu to restrain it until they departed Lucy's dying body. But taken as a devil figure, this control also makes sense. When it serves a devil's purpose, it can act to influence the material world, even if doing so confirms to its target for corruption that events are not all their own doing. Desperate for results, the devil-figure will simply try to push its way to sealing whatever bargain they have offered. While at their most dangerous at such times, the devil-figure has often sealed its own doom. Up until this point, the positive forces often regard the target as sowing what it has reaped, for even dealing with the devil, and the tricks and traps laid down by demonic entities are the concern of the one foolish enough to treat with them. But when and where coercion is used, especially after the target begins to turn away from a dark path, the help of the Light, in whatever form, begins to finally happen.
Perhaps knowing that the seeded Diclonius will do very well in a shattered world, the Voice rages and is confused by Lucy's turning from purest carnage to saving Kouta. Lucy wins another victory even as her body melts ; There will be no Queen to lead her pretty soldiers into the last war, either to clear the way with her great powers or to rally the troops to finish their grisly task. All along intending to isolate Kaede and leave her at the mercy of the Voice's dictates, making her realize that her struggle was futile all along, instead it is the Voice that is left dying, alone and in pain, and at the mercy of one it despises, who it is forced to beg the mercy of death from. The spiritual devil of the series dies and is no more, killed in this case by an amateur carpenter Kaede had made a purer sort of bargain with.
But Kaede/Lucy can not be let off the hook entirely. For many years, she, while fighting the Voice somewhat, showed little resolve in actually leaving its shadow. As many of us might, she allowed the harsh things in her life to often erase the good, even when there was ambiguity. Phrasing is a funny thing. Lyrics from classic or older songs or other works can contain words that become awkward later on. In the 1960's, viewers were told that they would have a 'gay old time' with the Flintstones. In the 1940's, Judy Garland in 'Meet Me In Saint Louis' sings in 'Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas' that 'from now on our troubles will be out of sight'. In the prior meaning, this meant that these troubles would be 'out of sight, out of mind'. In later eras, this could have been mistaken for troubles that are so large and ominous, they are unable to be viewed with any perspective, a cause for panic.
In Lucy's case, this becomes even tragic, when the title of this section is considered against her choices. During his desert temptation, Christ responds to the devil's offers by saying : "Get thee behind me, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve". In parlance of its day, the phrase 'get thee behind me' simply means he wishes to put his taunter and tempter behind him, as in part of the past, to be seen no more. But in a more modern meaning, absent the context of the Biblical story, 'behind' can refer to a sponsor or supporter, and in that, Kaede could not have chosen more poorly. It is only when she decides to choose the archaic meaning that she finds the start of her redemption. If one is at last tempted to look for another parallel to the devil in the Voice's time causing mayhem and misery, consider the Christian Book Of Revelation ; the devil is finally beaten and lies broken and despairing at the feet of the one whose love won the day, and perhaps in so doing, saved the world. It is implied that the Devil in Revelation is defiant to the last ; The Voice at least has the savvy and smarts to realize before oblivion takes it that the one it deceived and misled best of all was itself.
"It lies to her. It tells her things only a child can understand. It has been using her to restrain the others. To her, it simply is another child. To us, it is The Beast." - Abjurer Tangina, Poltergiest
The Little Devil
Whatever they are or do in real life, orphanages are fertile ground as the back-story for many a fictional devil. Not all are as cold as the Kamakura orphanage, but in an atmosphere where no direct parent is there to guide in any direction, a chill wind seems to follow for souls that might have had problems anyway. Marvel Comics' Carnage, Harry Potter's Voldemort, and so many others seemed to find their apex of immorality in these places. Kaede is an obvious example, though she was at the bottom of the social ladder in Kamakura. But one stands above her in this. He may not be the one truly responsible for who and what she became, though it is hard to see her being quite as bad without his actions. While there were others there who showed Kaede the back of their hand, and while he himself might have been more of a bottom feeder than a shark, no look at devils in Elfen Lied is thorough without taking a hard look at Tomoo.
The best way to investigate the devil Tomoo is to state outright that he was not the devil. He was a little boy in an orphanage system that many times has no exit. Probably Kaede of all people pegged him best as being in one of several miserable layers, each turning on the next, with she herself at the bottom. We do not see enough of him to truly judge his attitude and mentality. It could very well be, as Kaede herself again implies, that Tomoo in effect had a Tomoo of his own, and so on up the ladder in a place where nobody felt they had much worth to start with. Quite possibly the sorry attitude a worker displayed toward the ailing Kaede extended to a lesser degree to all of her charges, and by that thinking, perhaps her co-workers had similar thoughts. Yet with those same workers lies part of Tomoo's alibis, if he has them. For just as children with parents learn the unfortunate lesson of 'Don't Do As I Say, Do As I Do', best intent aside, any disdain the workers and teachers had for Kaede would have been picked up on by the other children, magnifying their own hate and fears. While he would likely have a few choice words for Kaede, her much better-known fellow manga series protagonist Naruto Uzumaki would understand how the transmitted fears and hates of elders can make matters worse. As said with Kaede, it is entirely possible that wrongs against her were not a high priority of those who ran the orphanage, if in fact most wrongs by one child against another even caught their attention with so many in their charge. Being the product of such a place, and without knowing of his background and circumstance, Tomoo could easily be dismissed as an unpleasant little boy who, for want of a better term, pushed the wrong button.
Yet with all that in mind, if all we have is the series' information, then that information is by simple definition all we have to proceed on, and it is not an unreasonable assumption to think that the mangaka meant these glimpses to be all we need to see of these characters' actions. It is hard to imagine, for example, the kind Bakery Merchant who aids Mayu in her time of need, kicking a cat she keeps as a pet at home. While not impossible, it would be strange to see Professor and Chief Kakuzawa working on soup lines at Christmas, unless doing this fed a specific scheme or shored up their public image, which never seemed a concern of theirs. On these fronts, we don't know everything, but we also cannot know everything, so perhaps the presented information is a better sampling than it first seems. Judging a real-life Tomoo without checking back through records and such would be wrong. Judging the fictional one only by what is presented is what we must do, and what we likely should do. So the idea becomes that, in a work of fiction, a supporting character like this is exactly who they come across as.
In that light, Tomoo has horns that make Kaede's look like pimples. He seems to go out of his way to harass a girl who has plainly done him no harm, and even invents a whole litany of insults meant purely to degrade her. His actions against her are done loudly and openly, indicating he has little or no fear of consequences. Again, the questions come up. Does he have another group of kids he also teases and bullies? Is Kaede the only target that he, next to the bottom of the food chain, can safely strike back at for all the things done to him?
He is presented as completely uncaring, and not merely in the monstrous puppy scene. Barring scenes of him also being bullied, we have no choice but to believe there are others on his list, and that Kaede could have been just as easily targeted for freckles. He is a little boy holding a pup, but at no time does he threaten to steal it from her, or taunt that it likes him better than her. His only intent is to hurt her, this by way of as innocent a creature as one is likely to find, who almost looks like it would rather be licking him. Kaede does her best not to react to Tomoo's taunts and pranks, but in reality it is he who is emotionally dead, needing a sickening situation like this in order to feel amusement, or perhaps, anything at all.
The issue of the orphan girl's true intent aside, even her threat to call a teacher, which seems to scare him off, is unclear in what it might mean. Tomoo is in theory doing a lot of the things he does in areas where, presumably, a teacher could walk in at any time, yet neither of his followers seems to be playing lookout. He is, in his cruelty, seemingly always happy in a place where it is said no one really is. A possible conclusion is this : Either through suffering just as Kaede has, or through perfectly adapting to a cruel place by using his own innately crueler nature, Tomoo is unafraid of anything that might happen to him. How can he be kept after school when, for all intents and purposes, he lives at school? How can they take away toys he really doesn't have? How can even a disciplinary beating faze him when this is a place where fights break out all the time, with himself being a likely initiator? TV privileges, being held back a grade (which would make him automatically larger than his classmates, something a bully would relish), being yelled at - almost none of the things a child in a 'traditional' parental-school situation would respond to have any meaning for Tomoo, and from little we see, in this circumstance he not only survives but thrives.
While the mangaka's statement, through Kaede, that each layer of misery in the place sought the next, comes directly from the series itself, it has a flaw. Like George Lucas' statement in the opening crawl of 'Revenge Of The Sith' about 'heroes on both sides' of the Separatist conflict, and like JK Rowling's call for unity among the Houses Of Hogwarts via The Sorting Hat, evidence beyond the statement is lacking. In the Star Wars feature films, there simply are no heroic Separatists, merely greedy leaders and their battle droids. Until the introduction of Slughorn, notably of a different generation than the Blood-Supremacists who make up the Death Eaters, we see no Slytherins worth uniting with, Malfoy's emerging Humanity aside. So it is with the misery seeking levels in Elfen Lied and Tomoo. In one respect, the author/creator says this, and it should be enough. But in most others, the lack of direct evidence makes the fan-hatred for Tomoo and his two (or three) cohorts a bit more comprehensible. Tomoo is not seen as the devil by accident, nor is it a label he can really avoid.
Most obviously, his wicked actions begin the heroine's downfall. Up until this point, there seems hope, whether there was or not. But the puppy incident was not merely casual cruelty by someone who caught Kaede with the puppy and decided randomly to get their kicks. This was an orchestrated effort merely to force her to react to his harassment. But even if we presume that this is a response to one kid picking on another who picks on another on down the line, Tomoo finds his horns, for in that, he is the devil that wants Human souls for no other reason than misery loves company.
But perhaps he is something far worse than that. The Tomoo we see outside of the mitigating statement by Kaede seems to dance happily amid the ruins. Not yet past ten years old, and he already knows the movements of the staff well enough that his attacks never catch their attention, however thorough it might be. He either has the orphan girl on his side, or knows precisely how to cause her to break her word to Kaede about the pup. In this view, Tomoo is not only unafraid of consequences, he has rarely faced them. There is no where he will not go, because why would he show constraint when it has never served him to do so? In this, he is the devil that makes bad things happen merely by his existence. His very presence creates a wrongness, and in fact the inevitability of wrongness and bad fortune.
A lost little boy with no prospects in life is not the devil. But a cackling, scheming, destructive, innocence-breaking murderer? Him it is hard not to see as the devil. Perhaps so many are glad that he died when he did because the little devil will now never have the chance to become a bigger one.
A Man Of Wealth And Taste
A sense of entitlement that extends to all of known creation is as defining a hallmark of the devil as one really finds, and for that alone, the devil in Elfen Lied is without question Chief Kakuzawa.
As opposed to his ambitions to become God, the Chief is almost a ridiculously good fit for his role as a Satanic figure. He deceives and misleads literally everyone he knows, even to himself. He used a government project meant to contain a potential threat to instead ensure the dominance of that threat. His stated desire to mate with Kaede/Lucy and become 'God' in that way serves not one but two smokescreens: it starts the game he plays with Kurama meant perhaps to force him to kill Mariko, and it makes his own elder son think that he can out-play his father by mating with Lucy first. Like so much with the Chief, this deception ties into one of his greatest crimes : The kidnapping and subsequent rape of Lucy's mother, leading to the creation of a younger son who perhaps never knows an uncontrolled second in his entire short life. The death of his elder son is almost a non-event for the Chief, and while this is not unknown among powerful families in all fiction, in particular anime and manga, even the sight of his son's severed head seems not to move him at all. This is to say nothing of what he asks of his daughter, Anna, who, her ultimate fate aside, takes on not only a monstrous form, but a monstrous power - nearly perfect knowledge of future events. While not including all such knowledge, Anna is sadly tormented by what she knows her father's fate will be, and that his ambitions are all delusions so deeply seeded, even his deeply intelligent mind has cut logical breakfronts around this knowledge. He has in effect created multiple networks of supporting delusions for his unworkable main ambitions.
Sickeningly, the lives and fates of legions of innocents are placed into his hands by a fearful yet well-meaning Japanese government. But even their mixed intent to protect Japan is corrupted by fears of Kakuzawa, and this corruption is deepened twice-over by the creation of nightmarish weapons made from the harvested girls in their keep.
The numerous and obvious holes in his master plan will be covered elsewhere. But inherent to a look at him as a devil figure is how corrosive his very existence was to the series' events and characters.
It is not possible to know how the Japanese government might have reacted to the Diclonius problem without Chief Kakuzawa. But investing in him led to policies that, by story's end, conceivably could make Japan an international pariah, on a global scale far exceeding even the scorn some Asian nations still hold towards it regarding World War Two. The drain of resources towards Kakuzawa's goals would have to have been at least notable, and not merely money directly spent on the main holding facility. Trained military personnel would have been recruited at the expense of the JSDF. Scientists who might have gone to other fields and made breakthroughs untold instead served as keepers in a kind of concentration camp and ultimately died nearly to a one. Obviously, the JSDF would be directed to keep air and sea traffic from the island housing the Diclonius Research Institute. On some level, the leadership of Kamakura and perhaps even Kanto region itself would have turned from servicing their charges' infrastructure to whatever happened to be on the Kakuzawa agenda on that moment. As time went by, resources concealing the tragedies many families had to endure as a result of a crisis that could never be discussed would also be strained, while cynicism grew and morale dropped, both inside and outside the government. Worst of all, Japan, which faces demographic age gaps and slowdown in its population growth, would have been one of the worst hit as the Diclonius War took hold, being right at ground zero for the infecting explosion. Add to this the destruction Lucy caused to Kamakura and Enoshima as she died, and a grim picture arises. Japan's government made a deal with this devil, and in this corrupt bargain its soul was almost the least of the casualties. Not only did they not get rid of their problem, they gave him the means to pass it on to the world.
A stereotype, however vicious or ignorant, usually has some connection to reality, and in the case of scientists, the exaggerated trait in question is a bias towards moving forward on research, pushing all other considerations aside, especially those of an ethical or spiritual nature. However fair or unfair this image may be in the real world, in Elfen Lied, many if not most of the scientists in Kakuzawa's employ seem almost to be molded from it. It is not known and cannot be known how many of these were recruited for their lack of such scruples, perhaps kicked out of degree programs at universities for a lack of ethical grounding or similar flaw. Certainly Kakuzawa's charismatic, compelling nature would have played a part in this. Another explanation for their seeming coldness and inhumanity could easily be assigned to the idea that they were protecting their country from a virus that made their children turn on them with the power to kill, the veneer of self-defense and patriotism overcoming moral objections and even revulsion. Another thought is that not everyone knew everything that was going on at the Institute. Just as next to no one outside the Chief himself knew of the Male Diclonius birthed by Lucy's mother, it is not hard to imagine certain personnel not knowing certain secrets and processes, perhaps hearing rumors of things above their station, but knowing better than to speak of it. That said, even the lowest-ranking personnel surely knew that their charges were little girls, and that they were being experimented on. At least some must have seen that most of their research was in no way guided by stopping the spread of this virus. While the most intelligent person can also be the most willfully ignorant (witness the Chief himself on the matter of his ancestry), it should have also been clear that mistreating a child with superpowers was a supreme version of the lesson about being careful how you treat others on your way up. Through a combination of secrecy oaths with teeth, threats veiled and otherwise, the unfettered sating of a scientist's curiosity, and likely outright lies told to placate and misdirect, Kakuzawa managed to so utterly desensitize those who rode herd on the Diclonius in their custody, they were more surprised than they had a right to be when the end came. Assuming for one moment the existence of a classic afterlife Hell, while it can not be certain one and all of the staff ended up there for their actions, it can certainly be said that, for serving Kakuzawa, the Clone Diclonii made certain they saw Hell while still alive.
But one scientist in particular, the most often-seen character not living in Maple House, paid for his service to the Chief by seeing Hell on a constant basis. Director Kurama fell as hard as any angel, and learned too well of the path carved by good intentions.
Though Kurama was never quite as callous towards the situation as say, Nousou, who only cared for his specific charges, one could say his fall was all the greater for how high he started from, and for how often he seemed to tumble to the Kakuzawas' schemes, only to fall ever deeper into them. An almost iconic scene of temptation first draws him into this world, vanity, power, wealth and ego all playing a role in his signing on. In the place he was told he would gain insight into God's next design for Humanity, he instead watched small children tortured and his objections met with not even ridicule, but incredulous glares and incomprehension. In a twisted world where up is down and wrongs called right, his call for mercy is met by an encounter that is even called The Annunciation, but what is it truly to him? In the short term, he can only see it as damnation, a figurative and nearly literal punch in the privates as reward for decrying a sin. While its long-term value to his journey back to worth is, as we shall see, undeniable, his infection by Number 3 utterly shatters the delicate balance he had made between his life doing research he found repulsive and tending to his wife, delicate in her own way and determined to risk her health by having the child they both want, evidence indicating her not knowing his secret work has him watching as other women's babies suffer. Once more, as their prayers for a private miracle are answered with yes, the trap he is in both springs and pulls him in ever deeper.
Kurama remains a practical man, and this is how his employer continues to keep him under his thrall. His morals must give way to the sad facts: These horned girls exist, and, at reaching a certain age, murder those around them, including those closest to them. If these murderous acts are a function of the then-unknown force that makes them Diclonius, then there is no hope at all. If these acts are a function of the tender, narcissistic age they receive their powers, then what level of resources would have to be mustered to train them properly, how many would die while this happened, and how many were willing to? While humane, wise and just, the second solution would be an undertaking most politicians would run away from at warp speed. It can be speculated Kurama believes that this idea must have already been considered and rejected, or else the facility he works at would never have come to be. In time, even the testing comes to make sense, ballistics' data to enable police to deal with these unfortunates before too much harm occurs. Without fully realizing it, Kurama has fallen for the most sinister of traps. He is a good man who now enables evil to move forward by sitting back and doing nothing. And when he finally does something? Having accepted evil arguments, his choices, however logical, will be tainted by that evil.
The biggest and hardest part of his downfall sadly occurs when he begins to take personal responsibility for euthanizing Diclonius infants, this to spare others from this grim task. He is attempting to spare parents, including his former assistant Oomori, from having to decide something so awful. Even as he awaits the birth of his child, he is not only doing something morally reprehensible though arguably necessary, he has left behind entirely the man who decried the treatment of these girls, and to best evidence, his wife has no idea of his work. Once more, evidence and logic says these sad children will, sooner or later, kill or be killed by their families, and at an age where the bonds of family are at the very greatest. Kurama can argue that he is sparing them all that pain, but a job repeated is a job made easier and routine, no matter how repellent at first. The only thing that shows Kurama is still Human is the very saddest as well; that he cannot separate his reaction to his own child's horns from the actions he has so far hidden from his wife (or at the very least, her direct view). Now, some part of him must realize, not only has he in essence attempted to kill Mariko right in front of a fragile Hiromi's eyes, not only has he attempted to destroy the treasure that has been her and his heart's desire, and at this point her lifeline, he has tried to murder his own daughter almost out of reflex and muscle memory. The reward for his effort to spare others and remain a part of Kakuzawa's cold equations? To spare the child who is all that is left of his dear wife, he goes from being in a contract with the devil, to being his indentured servant.
On a separate note, not only does the Chief likely already suspect Shirakawa of spying, but, likely also spotting out or learning of her feelings for Kurama, it is Chief Kakuzawa who directs her to give in to her dark side, so to speak, by choosing which potentially lethal method will be used to keep Mariko under control.
Nothing in his immediate subsequent life makes his servitude any less damning. By dint of the agreement, he is kept back from the daughter he sacrificed so much to save, possibly not even knowing that her earliest beliefs about him will be not of a man tormented, but of a cold-hearted abandoning monster. In this lie, not only are his own motives vastly simplified, but his wife, who fought for this child literally with her dying breaths, is painted with the same brush. While his relationship with Nana is inarguably a redeeming factor in his life, given the Chief's thoroughness in knowing and planning around his staff (possibly aided by Anna), the Chief would know that the two were forming a bond. So while a lifeline for his heart, Nana also becomes another chain by which the Chief can control him; unable to keep her away from the harsh experimental regimen, the chain digs ever deeper from wishing better for Nana, yet by word and deed being helpless to do anything about it. Seemingly, he gets a break when his work is in large part responsible for the capture and containment of the one causing the infections. Yet even this moment of triumph is tinged with horror and hubris. A young girl dies at his hands while capturing Lucy, and the monster he has sought to shut down shows great Humanity in surrendering for the promise of aid for her fallen friend, aid that proves futile. Perhaps angry that such a great achievement cannot possibly be celebrated, Kurama vents upon the devil he has in his captivity, not only accusing her species of not wishing to co-exist, but in a moment of savage hypocrisy, blaming Aiko Takada for her own death, simplifying the crime which she was accused of with no real knowledge of the event. The hell he now dwells in is now also indwelt in him, foolishly not only fixing Lucy's vengeful gaze on him, but forever blowing the opportunity to communicate with and understand her. While the idea of Lucy's cooperation is a dubious one, it is also not impossible to imagine, and whatever he could have gotten out of her would have to be considered of worth. By focusing his anger on the 'devil' that he has chained and caged, Kurama not only more willingly walks with the one who has him caged, but breaks an article of scientiific faith in antagonizing Lucy. He has mistaken isolating the source of the infections for isolating the source of all his problems. Now, he is set to simply do his job and keep Lucy under lock and key, and for the grimmer aspects of his job, endure the unendurable. As it usually is with these matters, the unendurable will win out.
In effect, the war between the two aspects of the devil known to him makes his quest to forever contain Lucy pointless. To outdo his father, Professor Kakuzawa, the devil who tempted him into the world that has repeatedly broken Kurama, orchestrates an opening that Lucy exploits and uses to escape, pausing to kill someone Kurama cares for, almost solely for that reason alone, cementing the not-misguided but hardly thorough picture of Lucy as the devil, when he knows of at least two other better candidates. It could be argued that attempting to keep the situationally-fragile Kisaragi in so casually dangerous an environment indicates part of Kurama's continuing self-delusion that what he is doing still somehow serves a greater good, his own suppressed qualms aside, and the apparent evidence that the gentle Kisaragi is perhaps made clumsy by dealing with the horror of that place pushed aside.
While it is never stated exactly how Nana came to regard killing as wrong, Kurama himself is a fair bet for having imparted that lesson. While he can be forgiven for misunderstanding how deeply she took that lesson to heart, less forgivable is how little he seems to understand Nana herself. He has all but adopted this girl. While any allowances he made to make her life there less torturous might cause them both trouble, the hellish conditions there are something Nana notices well before she glimpses a better life. Kurama, Hiromi forever taken from him, Mariko kept from him, and poor Kisaragi ripped from him, has made Nana the repository of everything good in his life, even, if you will, his very soul. But like his soul itself, he treats her shabbily, because she like his soul is a thing he no longer understands or feels directly compelled by. Whether Nana is a messiah for the series, even outside of religious terms she is without question one for her 'Papa'. This, like her, is a fact he may know, but does not at all understand, demonstrated most ably when he asks her to kill his POV's devil, only to have it refused by the one person who sees him in nearly-divine terms.
Once more, the draining of his morale, his soul makes him fail to see how very badly Nana wants to please him and make him proud. Altering his orders from assassination to reconnaissance and tagging, he fails to consider that a child who knows nothing of the world and who is devoted to him might move to exceed those orders. This could be in large part because Kurama no longer understands anything of devotion. He is a man doing a sickening but badly needed job for an employer he knows to be cold and distasteful, but who he still assumes is a man on the right side of the struggle to stop the children of Man from sending him to the scrapheap of history. He has sent his angel in pursuit of the devil, and warned her to be careful. As is said, what could go wrong?
In a heartbeat, Nana is cut to pieces, the laughter of Kurama's personal devil ringing in her ears as all four limbs vanish, her head to follow. Kurama is perhaps determined to die alongside his heart. But his angel is just as determined that he should live, and overcomes immense pain to make a stab at Lucy that hurts more than losing all her own limbs ever could. Kurama strikes at his devil, fully expecting to join his lost loved ones, and is perhaps so determined to finally provoke Lucy's final wrath that his scientist's brain, already upset over Nana, at last shuts down entirely. A man with great powers of observation and an incredibly intutive mind fails to reason out that Nana has, if only for the moment, succeeded in killing the devil. So lost in anger, despair and resignation is he that, in waiting for Lucy to do what she does best and destroy him, he is in fact in a position to finally kill her. A pistol whipping followed by a single head shot at point blank range, and the series is over. Among Lucy's many failings is not failure to withdraw when overmatched, and she gets out. Sadly for him, if all Kurama did was block her escape, Nyu would have emerged, ending the battle just as decisively. In his pursuit of one devil, Kurama is so far in the pocket of the devil he serves that the scientist is now merely a foolish bureaucrat, wondering why none of his intentions came to pass. Whatever Kurama's beliefs regarding a supreme being, he has broken faith with science, which could have told him how to end the vendetta against one devil that keeps him in service to another, arguably worse one. As Batman Announcer William Dozier once said, the worst was yet to come.
Amidst transcendent concerns for Nana and possible reprecussions for his failure to capture or kill Lucy yet again, Kurama is faced with a cosmic horror. His boss, never a likeable man but perhaps seemingly admirable for his commitment, expresses a desire to mate with the one he has thought of as the devil, and thereby somehow become God himself. Worse still, this newly revealed devil demands he cast aside his angel like trash. But while he begins to realize the depths of the Chief's insanity, he still fails to catch how deeply the hooks are sunk into his flesh.
Amidst many other events in the series, Kurama preps Nana for living without him, and for faking her death for however long he can escape the Chief's scrutiny. But a deal with the devil traditionally is laden with many loopholes, all favoring the House, so not only does Kakuzawa know instantly, he no longer feels bound by his earlier promises about Mariko Kurama. In fact, it is likely that a need or scheme that fit Mariko into it would have him breaking the deal anyway. But Kurama's defection/betrayal/self-emancipation enables Kakuzawa to break this devil's bargain with sanction, and he seems to draw near-pleasure from the dual penalties he invokes on the one who has cast him off (or attempted to). In the first instance, Kurama will watch as the child he cares for but has spurned is sent to kill the child he has taken into his heart. In the second instance, he will watch helplessly as Kakuzawa makes his grand play for no less than the throne of God. Kurama talks his child by blood down, though not without the loss of Isobe, relatively speaking the most humane of his team, killed because his latent compassion for a little girl becomes blatant and therefore manipulable. Nana is pained and humiliated, but once again quietly proves her own worth by disabling the more powerful Mariko. In a stroke of seeming good fortune, even Lucy falls into his hands, and in a fashion where she can be threatened without being a threat herself. With one of Kakuzawa's pillars in his control, Kurama feels a win, or at least a stalemate, can be pulled out of a disaster.
But whether in fictional or religious works (Admin Note : Yes, the two are separate and distinct for our purposes), using the devil's tools to try and beat the devil almost never works. Kurama uses land soldiers and sea/air power ; Kakuzawa launches his plan from space. Shirakawa provides vital last-minute information ; this seems to be solely so they can all know for certain of Kakuzawa's triumph. Kurama attempts to use the unexpected addition of Lucy and play things as ruthlessly as the Chief would ; yet retrospect lets us see that, via Anna, the Chief may even have known Lucy would be there, and Kurama's attempt to kill Nyu has a result that is by this point sadly predictable.
Kurama had lost control, and he never was in control. His child, doomed by the bombs placed by a would-be lover, embraces both him and her destiny, only to be overwhelmed and as destroyed by Lucy as she would be by the bombs. The woman who planted those bombs, already rendered ineffectual as a spy by the Chief's planning, is rendered doubly so as a penitent by Lucy's sadistic savagery. Even Lucy herself loses whatever joy she gained from all this as she is once again shorn of her killer persona. Finally, Kurama finds he cannot either remove Lucy from the equation or avenge his fallen, because his angel won't allow it. For all his counter-planning and all that it has cost him, all Kurama has is his status as witness to Kakuzawa's re-creation of the world, one of the few people intelligent enough and steeped enough in what is going on to understand what the Chief has really done. In this light, neither his attempted suicide nor his complete mental breakdown are difficult to understand. Both the religious and the non-religious have cited reasons why there is no Hell in the classic depiction, but for Kurama, it is at this point a very real place.
Bando's reasons for stopping Kurama from killing himself likely combine some measure of his emerging humanity, honor-bound disgust at trying to ditch his life's responsibilities through dying, and more than a little need to keep someone on hand who knows Diclonius, even if mentally absent for that time. If his angel cannot locate him at this time, then the one she holds to be a sister does, and Mayu feeds Kurama, who at this time is living very much like Mayu herself once did, and she keeps caring for this once-removed step-Papa even after Bando's apparent death. Attracted by the sounds of battle during the invasion of Maple House, the lost man finds other benefits Kakuzawa reaped from their broken agreements, ones perhaps created well before Kurama even hinted at defection. For his beloved Mariko is alive once more, and he will be able to be the father he knows he should have been.
But even in Hell, the devil's illusions continue to torment the former follower still too foolish to reject his works entirely. For the girl he holds is a copy, and though she reaches to him in tender recognition, it is a dying act. The devil he continues to focus on has cut her in two, although even this is not what it seems. For Lucy, however harshly, was defending those she, against all odds, has come to care for, even to her supposed enemies, Kurama's angel and a girl she once vowed to kill. To them she has entrusted her home and her heart, respectively, but while Kurama grieves anew for the copied Mariko, Lucy falls in battle to the one person who sees her only as a target, not as a messiah or nemesis. Through his madness, Kurama is still lucid enough to be taunted and reminded by Lucy, as trapped as he is on many levels, of how their feud began when he, like her, focused only on personal losses and ignored another's grief.
Clinging to the torn and broken gift from his true tormentor, Kurama in the depths of his hellish madness turns at last on his angel, calling their whole relationship a lie and a trifle. But Nana refuses to leave him, burying the poor copied Cynthia and staying with the one she loves. The small investment he once made to save his own soul has paid off grand dividends. But when another of the copies, Barbara, tasks his angel for not falling in line, it is at last enough, and the man comes forward. Nana is alive, Mariko is dead, and Barbara, corrupted reminder of her, must die. By fulfilling the part of the plan the Chief likely never thought Kurama would be able to follow through on, the servant and prisoner is now free. The outright servitude began with the deal for Mariko's life, a hypocrisy against all the other children he put down. It ends with embracing his angel and accepting Mariko's loss once and for all. Almost as a final swipe from his doomed former master, Kurama saw hesitancy in the eyes of Barbara, who had loudly declared him nothing to her. Yet as a tainted gift from the devil, Kurama had no choice in this case. He is still a mortal man, not yet redeemed, but now capable of better choices. He is once more horrified when an innocent gets in the way of his killing Lucy, and chooses to bear the loss of his arm in honor of his angel. By giving up his quest to die in a blaze of glory, Kurama has at last rejected the devil Kakuzawa, and all his earthly works.
Fall Of The Haughty Chief
So, after all the corruption and pain he has spread, how does the one who wanted God's place see his final days?
Despite offering his would-be 'Messiah' the world she has always wanted, she rejects this in favor of living with a group of people who will at least be suspicious of her, and very likely will scorn her for her past deeds, especially the only man she has ever loved. Despite having crafted a 'Goddess', she is too fearful of his own fragile emotions to tell him a harsh truth, and so his knowledge of the future is skewed, the prophecies, like all such future-glimpses, as open to disaster as for the king who was told a great empire would fall. His driving ultimate scheme turns out to be an Adam and Eve plot, something even most religious scholars say is likely a figurative parable rather than a literal account, and not truly possible. He fails to consider that the tale of his would-be rise includes the kidnapping, rape, drive to suicide and dissection of the mother who never stopped looking for her, and by inference, never stopped loving her. In this, he undermines one of the assumptions that has driven her angry life, yet still expects her to act in the way she has always has, based as that was in the grim assumption both parents had abandoned her. Further, after telling a tale of her mother's destruction at his hands, he somehow still expects her agreement and acquiesence, part of which involves mating with her own brother.
The place which is sacred origin grounds to him and hell to so many others begins to sink beneath the waves, which, while not strictly a Biblical fate, is very evocative of legends of divine wrath. His "goddess" proves unequal to the task of stopping Lucy, and the Diclonius Queen almost welcomes the news that power use at that level will mean her death, thus making his arguments against resistance pointless. Having based his life-goals on the persecution shown his ancestors, his plan is dependent on the Silpelit Diclonii, whom he has treated worse than trash, and whose uprising is one of the major physical causes for the sinking of his island. The probable lone survivor of the species he championed? Nana, the girl he repeatedly declared useless. Of his two male heirs, one is too much like him with too crafty a brain and schemes of his own; the other is rendered all but brain dead by his own schemes, and is off the stage in a heartbeat: Both are set to mate with Lucy, and both meet their end by her, in the exact same manner. Notably, Lucy kills him before verbally tasking him on the holes in his plot, as though she wants no smooth rebuttal or recitement of some obscure text to allow him wiggle room. Only when his own head flies free does Lucy cut away the last vestiges of his supposed power : His claims of 'demon' lineage are just that, and this Lucifer is a Morning-Glory. Perhaps a fallen angel might overthrow Heaven, but a stupid silly man who wrongly read the bumps on his head never will, and never could have. Apocalypse is a word that, translated from the Greek, means 'Revelation', and Kakuzawa's is telling. Like Lucy herself, he was in the end all too Human, and made many mistakes a Human does. If his name is known, it will be through the scorn of generations, who in time, may make of him a legend that speaks of the once-mighty fallen one who wanted to be God, but ended up cast down into the pit he came from, along with the son with whom he had intended to reshape the world. This legend would, fittingly, be the smallest part of the greater legend of the boy and girl whose love saved the world from his plans.
One noted atheist was Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry, who nonetheless oversaw many episodes that featured beings with godlike powers. One recurring theme was that of an ordinary Human who suddenly gained these abilities, and who lost perspective as a result, endangering all they knew. Two of these came right at the beginning of the original series, in episodes broadcast back to back. So who would one consider more dangerous? Gary Mitchell (Where No Man Has Gone Before), a worldly, cunning man who had too much power and knew exactly what to do with it, and what it all meant? Or would you choose Charlie Evans (Charlie X), a teenaged boy raised in isolation with too much power, and next to no ability to understand what he was doing or what it all really meant? Is the knowing, savvy devil a worse threat than the one who only understands what makes them happy or unhappy? Questions to be asked about a Charlie Evans, or a Mariko Kurama.
If Kaede-Lucy has mitigating factors that somewhat explain and arguably lessen her evil status, then Mariko is replete with them. Within hours after birth, the father that had awaited her birth happily, his only fear for his wife's fragile health, tried to strangle her on sight. He attempted this again before a full day had passed, and could have had the image of her dying mother pleading for her little life filling her eyes and ears. As the scientist relented of his hateful intent, she was torn even from this questionable parent and given to a scientist who made damned sure the first thing she was told was that neither parent had ever wanted her, while in fact one died to have her, and the other bargained away his soul to keep her alive. Her life was complete isolation, with only the manipulating voice of a woman who thought herself in control of a portable storm as company. One fact, played straight and then taken speculatively, makes all these things one step more hellish.
Consider that, despite years in isolation, Mariko knew that Saito was merely trying to control her. While she did not know that Saito lied about her parents not wanting her, she could tell that this would-be "Mama" was not on the up-and-up. In the anime, this is not made clear, and Mariko's act seems merely a horrific spiteful act, nearly one of betrayal. She also knew where to throw Saito's torso, in order to disorient her captors. She understood that the restriction against killing Lucy did not apply to Nana. She knew how to play on Isobe's latent sympathy for her, and managed, despite taking his arm off, to con him utterly with her 'sweet little despondent' act into yielding up the secondary control codes for the bombs inside her. She then knew how to input the codes into the remote. By either the level of her power of through her innate understanding of it, it did not take a personality switch for her to overcome Nana's disabling of her vectors. There seemed to be little of Kurama's flashback narrative she failed to grasp. Finally, though it came at the ultimate cost of her life, Mariko managed strategies that succesfully delayed Lucy until her doom came.
Many things can be over-analyzed, and certain events are merely a writer's gift to the plot, a needed imperfection to bump a dragging narrative along. But it is possible that all these things point to something that is not so great a stretch. Mariko Kurama inherited her father's innate genius, and was perhaps, by virtue of her evolution and doubled aging, even smarter than he. Despite his flaws and errors, Kurama's intellect is arguably the greatest in the series, and his child showed signs of this, if not greater intelligence. Yet given her story, this genius is not a blessing. For while she does not know everything she could or should, she is a powerful little girl wronged on many levels with the brains to see that clearly, yet still lacks the maturity to understand and take in all that has happened. Mariko is sometimes presented as being deadlier than Lucy, and she may well be, her various fates aside, for in her are powers over matter greater than Lucy's, and powers of intellect greater than her father's. Lucy and Kurama may hate each other, but the one they faced was their own child, with good reason to get rid of both of them. The "daughter" of the man who fell into Hell and the girl who never left it and sometimes liked it was a devil the likes of which neither of them had ever seen.
If on a religious footing, or a study of same, we should walk well away from talk of deserved fates. If religious, one assigns such judgments solely to the deity; if not, then such judgments are invalid, merely reflections of mortal judgments and, some might say, petty grudges. But if many of those Mariko kills, or are killed in the events associated with her story and arc may not be said to have directly earned their fates, it is equally presumptive to argue that their actions played no part in their fates. Harder to assign is Mariko's own responsibility. Does her doubled aging place her past the age of reason, whether defined Biblically or by measuring her own formidable intelligence? Even with reason, she is still a child who has seen nothing of the world. Her method of reasoning it out arose from voices overheard in a small lab in a facility with, pardon the expression, massive multiplayer overlapping agendas and the dialogue of same. Though her speaker-link could be turned off, one can speculate that there were many times it wasn't, either needing to remain active or simply overlooked. Mariko's arguably brilliant but impressionable mind would have been filled with small-minded office politics in a particularly corrupt world. Given the skill with which she worked Isobe, even with her intelligence, it seems likely she picked this method up from exchanges between co-workers. Since at some point Nousou had to have entered her holding area, one can only imagine what the captive child might have heard between Nousou and her would-be mother, Saito, as snark and emotional manipulation went unchecked. Given her age, what she was exposed to from her earliest moments, and the rapid way in which she looked to a better path once offered, Mariko has perhaps the greatest chance at being excused for her many wrongs, on both a Human and a Divine level. If a corrective lesson or punishment must be looked to, her repeated cloning, if each clone brought only a little of her essence, her spirit, to them, than all terms for her forgiveness can likely be satisfied. Her fate in this instance, if each cloning kept her from being at rest, can be compared to that of Harry Potter's foe Lord Voldemort, though hers was a condition she did not ask for, and would have been relieved when the last clone finally died. As to the others, killed by her or because of events related to her? From the guards she is implied to have killed to Shirakawa, who died at Lucy's hands trying to redeem her wrongs against Mariko, the answer is somewhat easier. They were one and all adults, who knew what they were getting into. Saito was playing with a child's emotions, already an iffy venture, especially when that child's power was the entire reason she had custody of her. Whatever Isobe's objections to Mariko's treatment, he still had his hand on a trigger meant to maim or destroy her. The guards are probably the least in control, but to claim full and pardonable ignorance in a facility like that one invites the proverbial sale of a Bridge in Brooklyn by comparison. No one can really be said to 'deserve' death in an unimpeachable, unarguable way, even to the worst of the known characters. But if some choose to walk in a mine-field, the lack of a marking map is their own affair.
Yet if Mariko earns by whatever means a final pardon, either from God inside Elfen Lied's universe, or from the readers (whose sympathy she does seem to get), the fact remains that for most of her time on Earth, she is dangerously powerful and disconnected from the reality of she uses that power. A devil who isn't evil, but whose rampages can still kill and break in ignorance and fear is still a devil to the one threatened by her.
Mariko's journey away from being a devil is that of her many forebears. Like Lucy, she discovers she does not want to be alone, and dies saving the ones she loves. Like Saito, she discovers that being clever has hard and fast limits, and eventually, a price is called for. Like her 'elder sister' Nana, she is maimed while adhering to their Papa of dubious worth, but regrets less as she loses more. Like Number 3, she gains her goal of meeting Kurama, only to die soon after. But most of all, her journey back to the mother who always wanted and always loved her reflects the Papa she connects with far too late for both of them. Fittingly, it is he who dispatches one of her most effective clones, releasing a large part of her spirit, also freeing himself of the devil he had become enslaved to. Both the end of her story arc and the end of the series itself indicate that it is her sister, Kurama's angel Nana, who will always keep the memory of her devilish sister alive, and honor it as a sister should. That the angel of the series weeps for her closes the book of Mariko very effectively.
Devil vs. Devil: Bando Versus Unknown Man
There are perhaps as many views of the Devil as there are of a Supreme Being. Two to look at here involve a long-running main character and a short-lived interloper so horrific, he nearly edges out the series' true masterminding villain in memorability.
The first view is more in line with the Book Of Job and recent films like Drive Angry. Forget the ego-tripping office seeker; this devil knows his place, and it is to kick Humankind's tires to see if the purchase is worth it. He is the beat cop/traveling judge who, if you're not doing anything wrong, you should have no reason to be afraid of, yet who also seems to have a much harsher view of right and wrong than a relativistic sinner like yourself. This devil is not God's opponent. He is his good left hand, and with a grin, he will send you back to God to settle up those fines you've amassed - and he knows about them all. He is not as gruff as he would have you think; he has no problem with the truly good or innocent. But as with a real life policeman, he has sometimes seen too much to believe that anyone is that good or innocent. He has a job to do, and that's that. That sometimes he wants more is his weakness, and it is one he fights against. But as little gradiation as he gives his charges for their sins, should he encounter someone really rotten, he has no greater delight than showing the little monster who God put in charge of the scum of the universe, and why they should have never have done what they did to get his attention.
The second view is of a darker sort. This is the devil of both medieval times and most modern horror. Things rot in his presence, because they want to die just to be away from him. He is a ravening beast, a monster that breaks souls for that lowest of all reasons : Because He Can. There are no restrictions on him, and his every action causes the deepest believer to wonder either at God's existence or his love. This is the Anti-Christ, this is the Beast. Maybe he could appear as anyone or anything, but he doesn't bother to. He also doesn't bother with deceptions, or waiting to be invited. He is there, he wants you to know it, and he wants you to know its him, because there is nothing you, a mortal, can do about such evil. He doesn't cheat, because cheating involves rules, and he does not adhere to any rule or restriction. If his pleasure does not also involve your pain, only then does he feel sad, but all this means is he will redouble his efforts to cause you pain. He doesn't cause every last bad thing that happens to you, but he doesn't mind if you think he does. Like the man once said, what's puzzling you is the nature of his game, and that is how he likes it. He is what Michael Caine so aptly described as one who merely wants to watch the world burn, and fan the flames at every turn.
It may well be that Bando has done more horrible things than Unknown Man. Perhaps at one time, he was even worse. Certainly his early appearances show him stoked to kill Lucy - or really, anyone. Yet while there may be a subtle difference between quickly sliding down the pit and jumping in face-first, that difference can be very, very real. That difference is one between the person who knows the dark place is somewhere they must travel into, and the one who wants to shout 'Boo!' and scare the things that live deep within the darkness. Both may be like little boys, and both may start petty fights, but one will keep swinging until pulled away, and the other will time their blows to the teacher's arrival, then switch to defense mode, feigning victimhood with a grin. Neither may be on your preferred list of best friends, but if forced to choose, the devil who is what he is at all times seems a likely choice over the one who plays the old shell game with who he is.
Being the one in a more morally defensible position does not make one superior by definition. Often lost in views of the classic American sitcom (after a UK transplant and alt-versions in many countries) All In The Family is the fact that both male leads were caricatures, not merely Archie Bunker. His son-in-law Michael Stivic may not have been the racist and celebration of ignorance his wife's father was, but in many respects, he was just as badly out of touch with realities like money, workplace politics and the possible. While Unknown Man has not one single moment in which he does not eat, breathe and sleep loathsome, Bando himself fails the roommate test on more than a few levels.
One thing that definitely separates the two is how they came to be who they are. Bando, whether violent monster or misunderstood monster, worked for a living. Despite his complaints about not being able to kill anyone, it would be fair to assume as the top agent in an elite force, he may have done so in an operational mode which he would not count the same as going out for the sole purpose of killing. In any event, a non-lethal mode for Bando would likely still be far more violent than most would ever see or know. Bando moving in quickly to disable and overtake an opponent, even sans killing, sounds a lot like a nightmare for the target of the operation. But whether he ever got to kill or if all he was used for was non-violent ops, Bando became who we saw by his own efforts, and likely despite the ire of higher-ups who had to clean up after his messes. While not every one of his targets can be judged guilty (or really any of them, since we never see or hear of them), the likelihood is that these were not people of a good character. Bando became Bando by being worse than any of those who considered themselves the worst, and he was made this way by Bando's own efforts.
By contrast, Unknown Man hunts only that which he can render helpless, or that is already helpless. Whether or not he was in fact a Kakuzawa (and that is purest speculation, not directly supported by canon), his position seems like that of a nephew of the boss ; do no work, act how you like, deal with people however the mood strikes you, and never see anything resembling consequences. But this is no harassing braggard drunkard with a no-show salary. If Bando's targets tended not to be innocents, this monster's targets were almost exclusively innocents with no means to fight back.
It is an innocent who serves as the litmus test for which of these two devils is worse, albeit an innocent whose original innocence has been forcibly ripped away on too many levels to really comprehend. Mayu has chosen innocence once again, moldy traditions of "ruined" women aside, and grabbed at the hope offered by her new family. Even the most murderous of her new clan, who in fact considered murdering her for the most selfish of reasons, showed profound regret as she made the attempt, which, relative to a casual killer of thousands, is almost astonishing (though it wouldn't have helped Mayu much if she had succeeded). She is the linchpin of her new family. Her sisters, Mama and Papa are badly distracted by their pasts, and the dangers of the present. Though she mistrusts him for a time, she is most like her 'Papa' Kouta, piecing together a life ripped apart by violence and betrayal, and using some denial to see past the very worst of it. Also like Kouta, she chooses to aid and befriend one most would consider a monster. Bando has no split persona, merely a conflicted one. But also like Kouta, Mayu would witness a horrific incursion by a monster.
Another measure of the two devils are the old warnings about admitting the uninvited to your home and venturing into a demon/monster's lair. Almost vampire-like, Unknown Man does not enter Maple House until invited by Mayu. While this is merely how the story flows, and not an actual restriction, the feeling of intrusion and wrongness is enhanced when Mayu and Nana expect a member of their family, and see this thing instead. But in Bando's case, it is Mayu's knowing choice to venture down to the part of the beach he has claimed as his home and battlefield, and her persistence secretly starts to bring back the man Bando could have been. The monster that goes to her home taunts and nearly kills her, and the girl she calls her sister. The one she goes to see turns that other monster back.
Both devil-monsters meet their final fate when, in an inversion, they are at their most tender, or seemingly so. A dark super-villain wannabe to all others, the Unknown Man is finished when he reverentially approaches Lucy to protect her, yet another Kakuzawa fanboy she dispatches like she does all the others. Bando sees Lucy in a moment of grim tenderness towards Mayu; she likes and perhaps loves the girl, but she has become an obstacle between her and Kouta, and must die. In saving Mayu by taking the blow himself, Bando arguably suceeds in killing Lucy, however temporarily. The sole true irony comes in that he himself is not even sure why he has done this.
In a way, Bando's rough-hewn can-do legacy is passed down to the Agent. This sees her through, the way that the specialized crossbow cannot. An attitude does not run out of ammo. In the final chapter, though Bando emerges half a man, from the big things like saving Mayu to the little things like burying poor Number 28, he is thousands of times the man his grim counterpart ever dreamed of being. By losing half of himself, Bando escapes being a devil, while, belief allowing, Unknown Man has become the plaything of the real deal, with real horns, and, justice allowing, a ready supply of 'Little Nicky' pineapples waiting each and every day.
Hope Of Deliverance
In as dark a world as that of Elfen Lied, is redemption even a possibility? The manga ending seems to say so, but is this a gift from the mangaka to the character he has put through so much? Is it his insurance against a fanbase that would not like seeing Kaede roasting in Hell? Can a true and reasonable path to the light be gleaned from a sequence less than ten pages long? Writers let characters, primary and secondary and on, coast into Karma Houdini territory often without realizing it, in all genres, and on all levels. The writer may have a personal reason for doing so, or be too busy ending the story to properly let that deserving someone have what for. But the writer's reasons don't always mesh perfectly with the beliefs of the audience. How does a fan of Return Of The Jedi's final accounting for the wicked Palpatine feel when the post-series novels and comics have the Emperor returning not once but multiple times? Yet endings aren't always neat, and no ending can satisfy all fans, especially the most passionate. So, whether an ending satisfies or disappoints, the question becomes, where redemption is offered up, is it done so honestly? A fair number of bad people are punished at the end of this series, yet others walk away despite a noted list of crimes, sometimes horrible ones.
Anna Kakuzawa is a pivotal part of her father's plans, but she is a child, obedient to her father, so her sins easily fall on him instead. The Agent actually shoots the hero Kouta after invading his home, but her concern is stopping both Lucy and Kakuzawa, and to be fair, she gives him full warning of his fate to come, though rage and panic excuse Kouta's efforts at heroics. While personal responsibility can never be shrugged off, various characters have various levels of mitigating factors to leaven or alleviate their culpability. Certain characters obviously pay for their flaws, often with their lives or parts of themselves, even to the utter ruination of their grand ambitions to seize the Godhead itself. Even the Japanese officials who treated with Kakuzawa cannot be said to have gotten away with it; whatever the truths of Japan's history, falling on one's own sword is a deeply held political tradition in all cultures, and after this fiasco, many of them would be lucky to have pensions of any kind - assuming they survived the Diclonius War.
So if we are talking about the problems, complexities and difficulties of redemption in the series, then in the end, we are talking about the person we talked about from the start, and pretty much all along : Kaede herself.
The first premise must be that Lucy's salvation is an ultimate thing, shown at the last second, and given by one only. To coin a phrase, God Forgives, but Kouta does not. Even in the anime, he does not forgive; his actions are merely more tender and his feelings more plain. So if the one who always loved her and likely loved her best of all no matter what cannot offer forgiveness, it's a fair bet that the opinion held by the war's survivors are even more unsparing. Even when the real instigator of the war was known, and even when separated from responsibility for even part of it (though this was generally speaking in her plans), her crimes over the years and especially at the end of the series will be what she is remembered by, if she is known of at all. Some of these deaths have their own mitigating factors - the pilots trying to kill her at the end showed no more regard for Kamakura than she did, but imagine trying to tell that to their surviving loved ones. It is not inconceivable for Kurama to realize his own mistakes with Lucy, but their vendetta was deeply personal, and in many respects, her very existence tainted his, choices made by him aside. Nana seemed to understand Lucy better than some, but while she might miss Nyu, it would not be a surprise to find she didn't miss Lucy. Mayu and Nozomi might be thrown off for quite some time to come by the truth of who and what their dear friend was, and Mayu's denial about how Lucy attempted to murder her might fade. The one who might forgive her the best is the one she once swore openly to kill : Yuka, who named her probable daughter after their friend. Given her personality, it's hard to believe that this was done against her will. But even she might have to adopt a lighter version of her mother's visible upset, given the shock. There would be, fairly or unfairly, very few on the mortal plane willing at first glance to give Kaede the second chance she obviously got.
The second premise is to acknowledge that, in fact, Kaede was saved from a darker spiritual fate. It does happen, and cannot be denied or fudged. More, she is actually rewarded. Though romance is impossible (at least at that point in time, which we cannot see past), that reward is plain - she is restored to Kouta's side. Even more astonishingly (though not wholly uncommon in modern fiction), the reincarnated duo know who Kouta is, either partially or completely. It seems a complete win for her/them, but is it an unearned win? Kaede in her first life not only killed, but did so casually and cruelly, often stopping to gloat over and taunt her victims, including Kouta's family. Before this, she killed four children who, while guilty of a horrid wrong, did not rise to deserving death by most measures. Then there are families who died so that she could have a home for as little as one night or even a few hours. To a point, the list is fairly long and includes a large amount of people who knew nothing of the Diclonius until the post-series war broke out. The same can be said of others in Elfen Lied, including perhaps the scientist Nousou, who made a profound realization about the worth of his charges far too late to save his life. But why does Kaede alone net the ultimate reprieve, as noted, with bonuses? One area that should be both looked at and yet at the same time heavily discounted is the theory of Kaede as an agent of divine wrath. While this seems possible, most evidence and inference seems stacked against it. Kaede makes no instructive or prophetic pronouncements, and the end often comes for people who have not even had the chance to glare or stare at her, let alone wrong her. However, if somehow, the world itself is condemned as was Sodom and Gomorrah, then the world of Elfen Lied shares one major sin in common with those parables or stories. In the stories of Abraham and his family, the two cities were doomed not for any physical vice, but for the seflishness of inhospitality. Strangers and outsiders are not only not made to feel welcome, they are threatened and abused, even when those strangers are angels in Human guise. But these angels and the God they serve in fact give the residents of the doomed cities many chances to survive; those who encounter Diclonius seem often to get no chance at all. The series makes no bones about the fact that Humans can in fact be quite cruel. But many of those supposedly meant to replace Humans are shown as replete with major flaws and bad judgment, most especially their Queen. With that in mind, if the God of the Elfen Lied universe sees the horned girls and their attacks as anything, it is a wake-up call to Humankind for its cruelty, though even this doesn't entirely bear up. Certainly the ones they kill, outside of the Diclonius Research Institute, often have no idea about these girls until they themselves are cut to pieces.Since a call to repentance or at least awareness that it is too late for such is the supposed aim of any such divine wake-up call, the messaging here falls far too flat to declare Lucy or the other Diclonius as angels by another path.
Another premise comes from this thought : While Kaede certainly could never be fully excused for her actions merely based on her sad painful history, nor does it seem that God in the Elfen Lied universe has discounted it entirely. But now the even more painful process of 'sorting' Lucy's sins begins, and not enough is known to place every last crime in proper context. Even for those where details are known, other considerations must be made. For example, what if the rude man who shoved her down at the carnival was a good man, having the worst day of his life, and the helpful woman she so memorably decapitated seconds later was as cold as Mayu's mother, but having the most empathetic day of her life? Outside of the bullies, where the reaction was arguably instinctive, assigning where to excuse and where to condemn, or by what percentages to mix the two seems futile. Lucy's ledger, no pun intended, was firmly in the red, but not everyone she killed, even those she could have avoided doing so with, was just walking down the street minding their own business.
So with such an estimation unable to be computed by our level of mind, we must accept that some intermix between sinner and sinned against has taken place. But that can mean nothing to a thousand faceless nameless dead we will never meet, none of whom get to come back as twin kawaii beacons of hope. Yet it is in the mere staggering fact of all these innocent deaths we find an answer. Kaede spent much of her life, especially as Lucy, in cold callous denial of the wrongs she did or in fact delighting in it all, laughing and even cackling at her targets' pain and tears. Yet it perhaps accurate to say that Kaede did not spend all her time this way. Fighting against both pain and a debatably existent killer instinct, she also spent a great deal of her time in confusion. She at times seems to know of right and wrong, but her loneliness and need have long since rubbed away her ability to connect with other people, or hold them in any sort of real regard. Yet even in the depths of this nihilistic spiritual gravity well, Kaede tried to reason her way back to a life that did not involve killing, and did involve ones held dear. The fact that she failed spectacularly each and every time she tried may not count against her. In fact, this serves as the ultimate key to the question of why one with so much blood on her conscience isn't given some manner of penalty fate.
Lucy's is a greatly burdened soul even before she takes her first life, and each death and loss piles on that burden with abandon. That her soul is not smothered entirely by all this could be seen as a small miracle all by itself. She is the ultimate loser at the game of life, going from being an unjustly reviled figure in a small place to being a justly reviled figure on perhaps a worldwide scale. She doesn't get her man; she has no friends among her own kind, and threatens to kill many of those who love her other self, often for the pettiest of reasons. The vendetta she conducts against Kurama quickly becomes unrooted from the wrong he actually committed. She can be called a deadbeat mother to many thousands of girls altered by her quest to undo this world to make her own. The bad breaks she gets, and she gets plenty of them, bring her less sympathy than they might, for her choices are often just that poor and badly-timed. Even in her most innocent state, she is apt to cause embarrassment and discomfort. Because she was isolated as a child, Lucy can do little but kill, and Nyu do little but grope. A brick wall of bad luck seems sensor-locked on her, moving as she does. She has in short had the worst luck and made the worst choices to such an extent, it is impossible to separate the two.
The answer finally comes in reversing the questions, turning them on their heads. Does Kaede's escape from perdition mock the lives of those like Kanae, the families killed for their homes, Kisaragi, and so many others from so many angles? Perhaps it instead honors them. From another point of view, their lives are ended by the same horror that consumed Kaede's and made her so miserable. Could it be that a happy life for two little girls can satisfy restless spirits wanting some good to come from all they endured? Since true justice is elusive on many levels, could vengeance be foregone in the name of a verifiably good result?
We know that Kaede was spared eternal damnation, by a force or being highly placed enough for it to be beyond appeal. We know that she showed honest reluctance to be who and what she was, if not actual repentance. We know that at least some part of Lucy's bloody ledger is balanced by what was done to her, and the part of the plots by Kakuzawa that she lived but had no control over. Now we see another question turned on its head : What value does the hard-fought for redemption so many seek and torment over have if an often callous mass murderer can simply have it offered over to them on a silver platter with bonuses?
One answer binds the series back up as surely as do the concluding pages of the manga. For if Kaede, with all her flaws and misdeeds, can find her way to a happy ending, then for the rest of us, slightly less flawed, there is hope as well, whether found elsewhere, within ourselves, or some combination thereof. In saving Kaede, Lynn Okamoto's often disturbing, occasionally beautiful narrative ends by telling us that there is in fact, hope of deliverance from the darkness that surrounds us, whether we're finding it all on our own, or waiting patiently for our special friend.
Theology In Elfen Lied offers up the same question as it does for many in real life. It is a question that faces us day to day, just as it faces the wounded young people of Maple House. It is the one question that can never be answered, at least not on this plane, one that horns, vectors, conspiracies and well-aimed Desert Eagles with heavy rounds cannot help with. It is also in the end the only question worth asking, one Kaede surely asked quite often throughout her turbulent lives.
That question is the eternal one : Why?
A manga series cannot answer this, nor can an anime, and certainly not an essay.
Gojirob, Thursday, April 4, 2013