|“||Kouta-kun? You haven't forgotten me... right?||”|
–Yuka, in the first manga chapter
Yuka is a young woman who serves as the "mother" figure of those living in the Maple House in Kamakura. She is the cousin of Kouta. and his sister Kanae, and the niece (either by marriage or blood) of their father. During her childhood, she had strong romantic feelings on Kouta, and those feelings remain strong throughout the series.
Yuka is chronologically first shown with Kouta during flashbacks from when they were just children, during a summer when his family stayed in Kamakura with Yuka and her mother. Yuka's mother is never depicted in the anime, while the fate of Yuka's father is never mentioned in either version. It is also not known if that summer marked the first time the two cousins met, or exactly how long Kouta and his family stayed for. Further, neither the exact degree of relationship (first or second cousin, etc.) nor through which of their parents they were connected, is ever truly made clear or even really brought up.
Though Yuka attempted to be nice to the young girl, she was frequently the target of jealousy by Kouta's little sister Kanae. Yuka found herself driven to distraction by the thought that Kouta was leaving Kamakura for a year till the next summer, and made him promise to not forget her. They frequented the summer-time game vendors, where in Yuka wanted to best Kouta in order to impress him, though he seemed to already like her, teasing her in a friendly way to get better. Unknown to any member of their family, as summer was ending, Kouta climbed a nearby mountain and met a strange young girl with horns, a young Lucy, whose real name he somehow never learned, and their friendship led to the girl developing feelings for him.
While at the festival, Yuka was distraught that her cousin would be leaving for an entire year once the festival ended. Kouta comforted her, and both of them were unaware that Lucy caught sight of the display and the revelation of Yuka's gender, which Kouta had previously said was male, led her to believe betrayed her and was lying to her all along. The cousins, not seeing her, went about the festival grounds as normal until they were found by Kouta's panicked father. A bomb had supposedly gone off and led to the death of many festival-goers, and after a frantic search for Kanae, who had actually witnessed the "bomb" (Lucy using her powers to kill other people). The family left for the train station
Murders she subsequently committed while at the Festival were taken as the work of a bomber, and caused Kouta's father to leave Kamakura with his family for their home in Hokkaido that very night. Yuka and her mother saw them off, with Yuka waving goodbye for every last second she could see the train. Shortly after, an enraged Lucy killed Kouta's family, and then threatened to kill Yuka as well. A heart-sick Kouta attacked her, which made Lucy realize Kouta had never meant to hurt her. The anime depicts Yuka learning of both the method of the killings and Kouta's shattered state of mind from relatives speaking of it at the funeral. A year in a mental hospital helped Kouta to become functional again, but he had suppressed much of his childhood memories in order to escape the trauma of witnessing the murders, and this included his memories of Yuka and what they had meant to each other. Though they did not see each other again for the rest of their childhood, Yuka never surrendered the belief that Kouta would come back to her, as he promised. In high school, Yuka became sempai (senior student mentor) to Nozomi, a nervous younger student.
As they both approached college-age, Yuka learned that Kouta had applied to a university near Kamakura, one known for taking students with lower grades. Effectively sacrificing part of her future to be near him, Yuka entered the same school and awaited his arrival that fall, when the two would finally be reunited. But however Yuka believed this might go, it is safe to say what did happen defied and shattered all her expectations. For Lucy was about to re-enter their lives.
Maple House, Nyu and MayuYuka met Kouta as he arrived back at Gokurakuji Train Station for the first time in eight years. Whether she knew or had been told of Kouta's traumatic amnesia, his total lack of memories concerning Yuka badly upset her. Trying to jog those memories, she took him to Enoshima Park Beach, where they and Kanae had played as children. Staggering out from the surf, naked and with a head wound was the horned girl Lucy, now also suffering from amnesia. Kouta of course no longer remembered her, and Yuka had never known her. In the intervening eight years, she had been captured by a research facility and renamed Lucy by the staff, though Kouta, Yuka and those they would come to live with rarely if ever used or even knew of that name. Escaping amidst a bloody slaughter, Lucy had been wounded while leaving the island facility, taking a head wound from a sniper's rifle that not only gave her amnesia but left her in a childlike state. Concerned for the girl's well-being, dignity and privacy, the cousins at Yuka's suggestion took her to Maple House, a former inn and restaurant now being leased to Kouta from Yuka's mother on a maintenance agreement, a thought that overwhelmed Kouta at first. But for both of them, the real challenges lay in re-starting their relationship and dealing with Lucy, who they named 'Nyu' after the only sound she seemed able to make in her childlike state.From the start, Nyu's lack of restraint on all fronts would prove a handful for the pair, leading to many an awkward tense moment between them. When Kouta took ill after an argument with Yuka and some antics from Nyu (including an ill-fated attempt to change her clothes), Yuka regained her resolve to maintain the relationship, despite what she saw as Kouta's perverted nature and seeming insensitivity. Her world was rocked, though, when Kouta's recollection of his family's death differed radically from what Yuka knew to have happened. Whatever she had or had not known of it before, Yuka now firmly realized that Kouta did not remember her because he could in fact remember nothing of his own childhood past a certain point. Yuka also realized that Kouta's false memories were a defense mechanism against his past trauma. Moving in with Kouta and their charge, Yuka also began to keep an eye on the unpredictable but loving Nyu. Originally, when the confused girl ran off after being scolded by Kouta, it was Yuka who decided to retrieve her. This would lead to a brief and painful encounter with the violent soldier Bando, who was searching for Nyu's other self. This would also lead to a much longer association with the girl Mayu and her small dog Wanta, who became first the concern of the cousins and then their responsibility as they took her in and gave her a home. Both Kouta and Yuka were thrown off by how readily Mayu's mother agreed to let her relocate. If either suspected the grim secrets of Mayu's past, they kept to their agreement with her and asked no more questions about it. Mayu in effect became their daughter, in all ways but a formal adoption. Though Yuka's mother was rarely seen, she was alive throughout the series, and it can be extrapolated that she was asked to give her approval for each new resident.
With no one home to watch over the rambunctious Nyu, the cousins started bringing her with them to college classes, hoping she would keep quiet and not draw attention to herself. This proved impossible in the worst ways.
Confused when separated from the cousins for even the briefest of times, Nyu found herself bumping into the wounded Bando, an encounter more comical than dangerous, as well as some curious students. Recovered by the pair in time to avoid those mishaps, a later attempt to pull this off went wrong. Kouta and Yuka were both attending a science class where the instructor was none other than Professor Kakuzawa, who knew full well who and what Nyu really was. When he tricked the cousins into believing Nyu was his relative, first Kouta and then Yuka broke down in tears, their bond to Nyu already a strong one, and the choice to leave her not sitting well with either. Upon questioning from Mayu, Yuka recalled that the Professor (who while attempting to rape Nyu revealed it was he who had helped Lucy escape those months ago) had a less than sterling reputation, and Kouta, who now felt that they had accepted his story too readily, went back to the University to find Nyu and perhaps bring her back. His refusal to bring Yuka with him on this search led to yet another awkward and tense moment between the two.
During the time before this disappearance by Nyu (one of many during the series), Yuka had been adjusting to Nyu's antics, which varied from a profound (if innocent) lack of modesty to an invasive presence that bordered on sexual assault. Despite herself and despite knowledge of Kouta's condition, she was not above striking him when angry or frustrated. On some level, she perhaps wanted Kouta to overcome his amnesia just for her, again while knowing full well that memory loss did not work that way. Kouta for his part found it difficult to ignore the sexually curious Nyu, and also found it hard to gain a measure of Yuka's level of upset over all this. Needless to say, their long-awaited reunion had fallen and would continue to fall far short of Yuka's childhood expectations. To make matters even more awkward, Yuka found that her desire for Kouta and her affection (perhaps on more than one level) for the grabby Nyu caused her pent-up sexuality to manifest itself in ways she felt greatly improper. These instances of rage, upset and confusion have in the eyes of some readers/viewers come to define Yuka's character.
Kouta returned from the university without Nyu but with a lot more questions about who she really was. When he was ready to begin searching for her once more, he this time asked both Yuka and Mayu to help him. While Mayu and Wanta searched the beach (and again encountered Bando) Yuka and Kouta searched the series of shrines built along a famous stairwell (an icon for tourists and natives of the Kamakura Area), eventually getting caught in a rainstorm and seeking shelter inside a shrine. There they engaged in a deep passionate kiss, and Kouta's declaration of affection plus revealing that he had started to remember Yuka from their past places Yuka once again in an embarrassing near-ecstasy. When they came out after the rains, they believed that they found Nyu, but it was in fact her other self, Lucy, remembering how she met Kouta and then murdered his family, wondering if seeking to be near him was just pointless against that trauma and guilt. At first nearly attacking Yuka, a suddenly coherent 'Nyu' said she had found her family and was leaving, only to be stopped by a skeptical Kouta. An attempted confession meant to awaken Kouta's memories caused a nervous Lucy to once more become Nyu, who fawned over Kouta, once again raising Yuka's ire.
Nozomi and Nana
Nozomi, who at this time despaired of finding a place to sing without earning her father's wrath, ran into her old sempai, Yuka, who offered up Maple House as a place she could stay and practice. Realizing that the regular chaos that seemed to envelop her home might be too much for an outsider, Yuka warned against any such nonsense when Nozomi came to visit. But perhaps there was no avoiding such for her housemates, as Kouta, when leaving to get some groceries, ran into Nozomi, only for a gust of wind to raise her skirt, revealing that, rather than panties, the incontinent Nozomi wore an adult diaper, an indirect result of her overprotective father's intense discipline. Embarrassed by her 'secret panties' being revealed. When Kouta returns to find Yuka and Mayu comforting Nozomi, she runs off. Unseen by Yuka, Kouta again sees Nozomi's secret shame but chastises her for putting herself down; Yuka unfortunately sees Kouta's effort to hide her urine-stained clothes and sees it only as Kouta attacking her friend for no reason. When she goes to strike him, Nozomi moves to take the blow instead. This mistake may have served as the beginning of the end of Yuka's hitting Kouta. The tense couple have no regrets in Yuka's choice to invite Nozomi, whose voice enchants them all. However, a mild argument erupts when Kouta nobly keeps the secret of Nozomi's 'panties'.
In the wake of this, Mayu excuses herself, takes Wanta for a walk, and re-encounters Nana, another horned girl who once tried to bring Lucy in, only to be maimed and nearly killed. Thinking that the Nyu of Mayu's description might be Lucy, she agrees to return with her to Maple House. Yuka and Kouta meanwhile watch Nozomi teach Nyu how to sing, and then rescue Nozomi from Nyu's raging sexual curiosity, with Yuka so used to taking Nyu in stride, she doesn't learn the full extent of Nyu's intrusion.
When Nana arrives, she panics upon sighting Nyu and attacks, only to be chastised by Kouta, while Yuka attends to Nyu's wounds. Nana flees with Mayu in pursuit while Kouta and Yuka aid Nyu, who in her sick bed has reverted to a weakened Lucy. As Yuka goes to fetch medicine for her friend's fever, she ironically warns Lucy against any of Nyu's more sexual antics, which confuses and angers Lucy, still too weak to move.
By the time Yuka returned with the medicine, yet another shift had occurred between Nyu and Lucy, and Yuka once more found herself walking in on an embrace between the childlike Nyu and Kouta. While actually even more innocent than many such moments, it was a scene that fed right into Yuka's tremendous self-doubts and fears for her relationship with Kouta.
Every bit of anxiety Yuka had ever felt about her love for Kouta boiled over at that time. Running to the beach, perhaps even feeling suicidal, Yuka fantasized about her later life with Kouta, only to chastise herself for not recognizing (as far as she saw it) that he loved Nyu more. Kouta's sudden appearance changed all this, and in a reversal, he slapped her lightly across the face for worrying him so. In his anger, based in concern and love, Yuka found the answers she wanted, and thereafter became a calmer, more mature individual.
When the pair returned to Maple House, they reconciled with Nana for what they saw as her unprovoked attack on Nyu, though the new horned girl and Kouta kept clashing as she settled in and became Maple House's final new resident for the series.
A Somewhat Diminished Role
Perhaps owing to the resolution of her fears about Kouta's affections, in the second half of the series, while still a main character, Yuka was more in the background of major events. During the Mariko storyline, she largely remained at Maple House with Mayu, even when Kouta and Nyu went to find Nana. When the story picks up six months after this, Nana notes that Yuka is obvious in her love for Kouta, and is still thrown off by his lack of memories concerning her. Given a narrative told by Nana, it seems Yuka must have at some point informed the others about Kouta's amnesia, though how much they all learned cannot be determined from the text. If Yuka knew of Nozomi's crush on on Kouta, she seemed to be able to take it in stride, and for her part, Nozomi respected her sempai's prior claim, so to speak, in this matter. She also seemed more comfortable with Nyu's presence as the once woman-child suddenly matured and became able to speak, possibly owing to the total (if temporary) suppression of her Lucy persona. This period of peace was, sadly, the prelude to the events that would end the series.
Since it improved Nyu's socialization skills, the cousins still took her to college with them during the day. But all this ended as they were waylaid by the nerve-wracked Lucy-seeking scientist Arakawa, whom they only narrowly escaped from. A demonstration of Yuka's concern for Nyu occurred when Kouta used a crude sexual comment to irritate Arakawa, and Yuka let it pass without comment, since it was meant to distract their awkward pursuer. Unknown to any of them, Mayu and Nana at Maple House faced down a pedophile rapist assassin, driving him off with the aid of Bando. Bando's reaction to seeing Nyu awoke Lucy once more, and as she left to face him down, neither Yuka nor Kouta could dissuade the enemies. A short but painful period followed as Kouta, Yuka and Nozomi knew next to nothing of the fates of their three most vulnerable family members. With the aid of Wanta, Kouta reunited them just in time for them to face a home invasion by the forces seeking to recapture Nyu/Lucy. Yuka was repeatedly silenced and even struck during the assault, and then faced her worst nightmare when Kouta was shot trying to defend their home. She and the others also learned unequivocally of the Diclonius when attacked by clones of Mariko, only to see an enraged Nyu join with her Lucy persona and slaughter nearly the entire assault team. As Lucy left to deal with their enemies, she asked Nana to care for their home and family, and for Yuka to care for Kouta. The thing that ended Lucy's happiness was the source of Yuka's : The open use of vectors and one death in particular triggered the return of Kouta's memories. But Yuka had no time to celebrate, and little cause to do so. Kouta was badly wounded, and her mother began to push her to evict Nana, fearing she would become like Lucy. It remains unclear as to whether or not anyone besides Kouta now knew that Lucy was the one who killed Kouta's family. More of Lucy's feelings for the makeshift family emerged during her captivity by the insane Chief Kakuzawa, as she thought with longing of returning not merely to Kouta, but to Yuka and the others as well.
As Kouta's condition remained uncertain, Yuka waited by his side, with she and Mayu trading turns on watching over both Kouta and Nozomi, whose throat was injured during the assault. To their mutual shock, as well as that of the visiting Nana, Kouta rose from his hospital bed and went to the beach, where he somehow sensed that Lucy would return to. Yuka could do little but fret as the two friends hashed out why their lives together had gone so horribly wrong. Even as she and the others searched for the two, disaster followed disaster when Lucy's arch-enemy and Nana's adoptive father, Doctor Kurama, shot Kouta in an attempt to kill Lucy herself. In despair for the one they all loved, Lucy began to move to destroy the world. Yet she stopped in time as she realized that her power could be used to heal Kouta as well. Dying herself, Lucy/Nyu felt her body melt as she performed this miracle. Before the eyes of a horrified Yuka and their friends, Kouta executed their dying friend to spare her further pain.
Kouta recuperated in the hospital following the lighthouse incident, Yuka directed the other ladies in rebuilding their home in time for his homecoming. When he did get out four months later, she lovingly admonished him to promise to never go away again. Yuka was last seen attending a summer festival with their family on the last day of the season, only to see Kouta walk off to keep a promise made to the late Nyu.
Yuka's ultimate fate is not clearly stated, but it is heavily hinted she and Kouta married due to the fact that Kouta's young daughter looks exactly like her. For in the ultimate tribute to their fallen friend, she either named or allowed the child to be named Nyuu. Give the young ages of the two special friends Little Nyuu introduces her father to, it seems unlikely Yuka would fear their return, and would instead welcome them back with open arms.
Yuka in the anime series was a concentration and distillation of many of Yuka's traits in the first half of the manga series. Here, she is noticeably more jealous and suspicious of Kouta's relationship with Nyu. Also, almost all instances of her striking Kouta from the manga are shown in the much shorter television series, making what had been an occasional theme seem instead constant. Her mother is barely referenced and never seen at all, even in the childhood flashbacks, though someone who appears to be her father is shown once during a flashback. Yuka takes the initiative in bringing Nyu home with them, is the first to go out looking for Nyu when she runs away, and seizes the initiative from Kouta in the idea of essentially adopting Mayu.
While her history was essentially unchanged from that of her manga counterpart, bits of emphasis differentiate Yuka's anime version from the manga version. In a nightmarish scene, she is a child again, hearing faceless relatives whisper about Kouta's mental breakdown while at the funeral services for her uncle and Kanae. Towards the series' end, it takes Mayu to show her that she is in fact a good "mother" figure for those at Maple House, and that her anxieties stem from how much she loves Kouta and her worries that he will forget her or not return her feelings. Never the fan-favorite girlfriend for Kouta, Yuka remains the 'normal-girl' counterpart for Lucy/Nyu, while showing also that not having horns is no guarantee of perfect happiness.
Yuka has arguably lived the least traumatic life of any main character in the series, perhaps even of any character period. Also, for the most part, she simply does not know about her housemates' grim pasts, though she certainly knows why Kouta has amnesia and seems to strongly suspect, based on her encounter with Mayu's mother, that Mayu had run away from a bad situation. In the case of the others, she knows nothing of Lucy/Nyu's past, Nana works at keeping her artificial limbs a secret, and perhaps thinks that Nozomi's father is merely somewhat opposed to her dream, as opposed to his fierce, bordering-on-abusive, opposition to it. Even with her limited knowledge of the three whose pasts she knows of/suspects, she cannot know it all, and this can leave her seeming unsympathetic. Yet it is she who recommends bringing Nyu to Maple House, quickly seconds the idea of adopting Mayu, and stands firmly by her kohai Nozomi when she needs a place to go.
Yuka's main personality flaws come from her self-doubt and the strong deep emotional investment she made in her eventual reunion with Kouta. One of the series' pivotal plots emerges from how this reunion did not even remotely follow her plans. Yuka is intelligent, but still seemed to wish that somehow, Kouta would regain his memories just for her, and may feel on a deeper level like his amnesia is a punishment for her. In fact, neither the loss of his memories nor their ultimate recovery had anything to do with her. Despite her suspicions towards and jealousy of Kouta's relationship with Nyu, Yuka regards the lost girl as part of their family, and even Lucy in the end chooses to tell Yuka to be the one who cares for Kouta. Whatever her resentments, if Yuka is eventually Kouta's wife, then she either named or allowed her child to be named after her sisterly rival. Yuka's occasional flashes of violence against Kouta are actually in keeping with many an manga/anime romance. The Elfen Lied anime concentrates several of these instances into the course of 13 episodes, whereas they are rarer in the manga and stop entirely around Chapter 50, when Kouta makes his love for her clear.Yuka does possess a caring and mature side, and is protective and motherly toward those living within the Maple House. One such example is her defending Nana to her own mother. Yuka often found her dignity compromised in situations created by her own nerves as well as Nyu's presence and actions. Yuka has stated she knows that some of her behavior is less than endearing, but that her love for Kouta makes her unable to focus past those nerves on many occasions. At least in the anime, Mayu openly refers to Yuka as the mother of their house, though Yuka's self-doubts make her feel like she is not worthy of this.
Since Japan has no customary or legal restriction against cousins marrying, it can be said that Yuka serves as a mundane counterpart to Kouta's more exotic, dangerous love interest, Lucy/Nyu. Simply put, she is the equivalent of the "normal" girl next door. For those uncomfortable with this type of relationship, Yuka can simply be seen as Kouta's childhood friend, but it is important to keep in mind the cultural background of their relationship rather than damn it outright.
The pictured map from wikipedia shows the global status about the cousins marriage. Statistically abnormal are the regions that prohibit it as illegal and not the regions that admit it. To be more specific, the regions where the first cousin marriage is illegal are a part of USA and whole China as well as s small part of former Eastern Europe and a part of Asia like the Philippines and Taiwan. A marriage between the first cousins is completely legal in most parts of the world, including Japan. For example, it is well known that the Nobel prize winner scientist Einstein got married with his first cousin.
- Yuka's hairstyle appears to be a favorite of Lynn Okamoto's to draw, as the main protagonists from his later works bear the same hairstyle. These characters are Nono Nonomiya (and thus her twin, Yuuta) from Nononono and Ryouta Murakami of Brynhildr in the Darkness.
- Yuka appears by herself on twenty-nine manga chapter covers, and once with Lucy/Nyu. This ranks her second for all such appearances, just behind Lucy/Nyu.
- Yuka appears on the back of the 2013 Blu-Ray boxset release of Elfen Lied and the subsequent English language and international release versions of this DVD/Blu-Ray version. She, Mayu, Shirakawa, and Arakawa are depicted as a choir like that of the choir of women from the Beethoven Frieze by Gustav Klimt, with the art style reminiscent of the anime's opening credits.