For years, children in distress, be it emotional, mental, or, God forbid, physical, would turn me into a mess of tears. One such instance would be when a friend of mine was streaming Heart and Souls, one of Robert Downey Jr's earlier movies, and when the deceased spirits who made up a child's friends/guardians had to pretend to leave him which naturally resulted in him sobbing and begging them not to leave. The scene required us to pause the movie for several minutes because I myself was crying too much to actually focus on the film.
Elfen Lied is no exception to this, as not only has Lucy's childhood incited such a reaction, but so have Mariko's, Mayu's, Nana's, Kanae's, and all the diclonius children's predicaments. The entire series has a major theme of "children in peril" that makes it hard to watch/read sometimes even for someone who's loved it, flaws and all, for ten years now.
So when I would see people back in the early 'aughties (2000s) act like Kanae and Mariko, and sometimes even Nana, deserved to die for going against Lucy, it left me absolutely baffled. I could never understand how someone could watch a show where so many of the cast are children who have suffered and think "well they deserved it!"
In the fights between Lucy and Nana and later Mariko, there are no winners. Lucy lashing out at the bullies she faced is meant to be seen as horrifying yet understandable. You can understand why she would react that way, but more horrifying than her puppy being murdered is the fact that the adults around them did nothing to stop what happened in their own orphanage. Lucy being bullied should never have happened. Tomo's obvious psychopathic/sociopathic tendencies should've never flourished and he should've gotten help before he became a bully and definitely before he murdered an innocent animal. Lucy should have been snugly at home with her mother, with her father accepting she had a harmless physical trait. Mayu's mother should've realized her new husband was a scumbag and left him and protected her child. If Lucy had been accepted by her parents, Nana, Mariko, and the other diclonius children would have been born human and their lives would have been better. Kouta's life would have been left intact. Aiko Takada's mother should have taken her child with her when she left her husband. Instead of see them as monsters, the researchers should've seen these children as children and carefully researched them and made sure they stayed safe instead of tortured them in the name of "science."
So much of Elfen Lied showcases the terrible world children can live in, lives that could have been happy had the adults in their lives not failed in protecting them. Yet somehow, viewers would show no sympathy toward them or wouldn't realize just how horrific their lives were. Thankfully, older audiences tended to be free of this troubling view, or at least, most of the time the are.
I'm reminded of the view of the director of the recent Carrie remake. Said director said she wanted people to see Carrie lashing out at her peers, all still technically children, as a "superhero origin story" instead of what Stephen King intended: a horrifying act that chilled your bones the more you realized how it could have been avoided. Children being harmed, by adults and other children, isn't something to cheer or encourage. In all aspects, it should sicken everyone watching, just like real life violence toward children does, and it's always troubling to think someone could look at the children suffering and villify them because they sympathize with one more than the other.