“Im Innersten (Deep Feelings)”
The view from Igirisu:
There are many different kinds of friendships and there are many different kinds of love. This episode of Elfen Lied explores the fine line between friendship and love and how it can be twisted into some unnatural shapes. Bubbling under the surface of the series from the start has been Yuka’s attraction to Kouta. It is an unhealthy obsession and has so far made Yuka the most difficult character to warm to. Despite the two of them being cousins she is clearly in love with Kouta, and rewards his accidental shenanigans with Nyu with a couple of slaps in the face. It’s played for laughs, especially the second time when a visible hand impression can be seen on Kouta’s face, and it is actually a very funny moment, but despite that I always find it uncomfortable when a girl slapping a boy is portrayed in any form of media and goes without comment on how female-on-male violence is no more acceptable than any other form of physical abuse.
In contrast we have the much happier developing relationship between Nyu and Kouta. Nyu’s attempts to understand what “water” means is very touching to watch, especially the moment when we see the results of her efforts and she has brought everything she can think of to his sick bed in a panic. She clearly cares deeply for him already. The less wholesome moments between them are a vital insight into her character. Note how she encourages Kouta to touch her, and he says “I wonder who would have taught her to do this.” That’s perceptive, because it surely can’t be natural behaviour for somebody with such a young mental age, and it raises the hideous spectre of her treatment in the hands of the scientists going beyond anything that they could attempt to justify as in any way scientific.
That brings us on to one of the two major new characters this week, Nana, whom the scientists refer to as Number 7. We get confirmation that Kurama is not in fact her father, but she has been indoctrinated in that belief to give her something to live for. She lives to please him. It’s a revoltingly warped picture of a father/daughter relationship, wrapped up in Stockholm Syndrome. Also interesting is Nana’s refusal to kill, so she is clearly a gentle soul, and sending her up against Lucy surely can’t end well.
Our other new character is Mayu, representing another unhappy twist on the theme of friendship. The way she describes her dog as a friend is a clear hint that she almost certainly has no others. There’s something wrong there, because the dog isn’t actually hers, and when Kouta asks for Mayu’s address she does a runner.
This is an episode that is full of clues to the mysteries that are developing. The biggest mystery of all is of course Kouta’s past. We get a flashback to a festival which helps to illustrate Yuka’s obsession with her cousin, but more importantly Kouta’s memories are failing him. In particular he believes his father died in a car accident, but Yuka knows they were on the train that day. Kouta and Lucy’s past seem to also be intertwined in some way that neither of them are quite aware of. It turns out that the opening music has a narrative significance when the music box triggers Nyu to turn back into her Lucy persona, but when she is about to kill everyone with her vectors she has a brief flashback to Kouta as a child shouting out “no, please stop!”, and that is enough to hold her back and make her walk away. So whatever connection there is here, it is a powerful and emotional one.
So many questions remain, and the most pressing one is what will happen between Nana and Lucy. Judging by the preview at the end, it’s going to be tough to watch. RP
The view from Amerika:
Episode three picks up where the previous one technically ended: with Kouta sitting on the floor having just pulled Nyu’s pants off. Her top is raised, her pants are off, and Yuka is standing there in shock. And I’m sitting in front of the monitor hysterical laughing. That’s not even the funniest the episode gets. But before we go exploring the comedy of this so-far-brilliant series, I’m amazed by the new Psi-op, known as #7.
I want to find the interview with the creators of Stranger Things because I am convinced it exists wherein they admit that they’ve seen this series. We get “El”, short for Eleven, who is psionically enhanced, who calls Matthew Modine’s character “papa” and she can go on a killing spree with her mind, but befriends a bunch of kids she meets by accident… yeah. I’d say that matches this series complete with a number (7) and a papa character. In fact, I’m now fairly sure that the creators of Stranger Things were talking about this idea over Slurpee’s and decided the most obvious thing to do was come up with 11 to go along with 7. (You see where I’m going here right? Do I have to put it in order? Fine… 7-11?) Regardless of the inspiration, both series are brilliant in their own ways and I am delighted by this one, so whether my prediction is right or not, I don’t care. Both are great and I’m not complaining.
That said, this episode really does move at a slower pace than the last one offering us an episode that’s more “slice of life”. (Rather apt, for a series about a being that can literally take a slice of life, eh? See what I did there? I’m not spelling it out. Bad enough you made me do that with 7-11!) Kouta gets sick and needs to be cared for. Elsewhere, we are given a little exposition to build on: the psi-creatures are called Diclonius. Let the word flow over your tongue, even if you only do it mentally. I love the word. Bando is still alive and in a hospital room, bandaged, blind and as grumpy as ever. And we discover that the future of mankind depends on the destruction of Nyu. The rest of the episode takes place in the home of Kouta who is trying to convince Yuka that nothing weird is going on between him and Nyu. As if the opening scene is not enough, Nyu seems to enjoy having Kouta touch her breast, while Yuka sneaks up to witness the events. Again! We’re also introduced to Mayu and Wanta, which brings further hilarity, but we’ll come to that in a second. The biggest realization we get about Yuka is that she loves Kouta but he has very little memory of her because right after they parted as children, his dad died and his sister got terribly sick and also died. Yuka has to come to terms with that, but it’s not going to be easy.
As for the comedy: I laugh often and many times out loud while watching good shows. Some of the series that Roger has introduced me to have had some great moments but this one I had to pause from laughing so hard. When Yuka first smacks Kouta, it’s when he tries to explain the situation that she walked in to. But when she smacks him later, I laughed because it happened off-screen. We hear it but don’t see it. But moments later, we see the hand print on the side of his face and that just cracked me up; I lost it. To compound matters, he mumbles “glad she didn’t punch me” which was perfectly delivered. As if this isn’t enough, when Yuka goes out, she comes home later to see Mayu, in the house and she mutters “another girl”, while her eye starts to twitch. There’s a skill needed to be funny especially in dire circumstances and this series demonstrates an understanding of that aptitude. It’s close to perfect. The subtlety is matched by moments of beauty too, as a lone cherry blossom petal falls into the house while Yuka is preparing a rag for Kouta. And while I love subtlety for getting a point across, sometimes you need to be direct, like Bando when he asks “what do my balls have to do with the fate of all mankind?” Typically “crude” is not my thing, but sometimes it catches you so off-guard that you have to laugh. And I did!
But all this praise ignores one magnificent part of the episode. While cleaning the floor and listening to a music box (that plays an instrumental version of the opening credits), Nyu slips and hits her head. Her Ms. Lucy Hyde side comes out but Kouta and Yuka are oblivious to it. Lucy reaches out her hands for a … slice of life… when something she sees stops her. The invisible hands hover in the air around Yuka and Kouta and they walk on unaware. It’s a moment of stunning tension, artfully done. It lasts for a beat and then it’s gone. Nyu walks off and no one realizes why, nor do they think anything of it. Outside, she sees the dog, Wanta, and something happens, but we discover later that all she did was freed the dog from captivity, clearly knowing full well what it’s like to be strapped to a wall.
I don’t know what to expect at this point, but Lucy knew 7 was coming for her, and when she arrives, the calm “you’re coming with me” might as well have been directed at me. I’m definitely coming along for the ride… ML