“Beginn (The Beginning)”
The view from Igirisu:
Sometimes we can be so convinced that we are right about something that we never step back to see the bigger picture. Then when we realise we have been wrong all along, it’s a bit of a shock. That’s something that all but the most closed-minded of people must face in life, and it’s an important part of life, being able to face up to our mistakes. This episode of Elfen Lied portrays that moment on a grand scale, with Nana questioning for the first time whether she has been doing the right thing by fighting Lucy. The shock and confusion of finding out that she might have been one of the bad guys after all is palpable.
“Why does everyone think I’m bad?”
Of course, she comes through all this as a blameless character. She has been tortured and brainwashed. This is her first opportunity to recognise what is right, and she immediately starts the process of change, helped by her friendship with Mayu.
This is an episode that plays out in three very individual acts. The second concerns the plight of the late Professor Kakuzawa’s assistant, who continues to prove that intelligence and common sense don’t always go hand in hand, perhaps a compelling reason why not too much power should ever be placed in the hands of scientists. That’s another strong theme of this series. A couple of weeks ago we saw her blurt out a load of top secret information to Kouta. This week she is summoned to the director to deliver the professor’s head in person, and doesn’t stop to think why that may be. It looked like her last words were going to be “this can’t be it, can it?” which would have been a horrifying ending, but Elfen Lied is all about second chances and last minute reprieves, and she lives to bungle another day.
After a mention of a mysterious Number 35, who is apparently going to kill Nana and bring Lucy back, we are into a much-needed flashback sequence. The background to most of our main characters is shrouded in mystery, so this offers some important context, starting with Lucy herself. It turns out she was a bullied orphan, and this sequence goes really strong with the theme of humans being the monsters. You know that bit in horror movies where the family pet gets killed, often the first victim? It happens so much, and I can’t stand it. “No, not the dog!” is a common expression in our house whenever we watch one of those kinds of movies. So you can imagine how hard this was for us to watch. And this was one moment where Elfen Lied truly, unequivocally, showed us a monster in human form. Nobody who does that to a dog deserves the title of human being, and background or age is no excuse. What makes it worse for Lucy is the way her friend betrays her, the one friend she thought she had. This sequence also shows us the development of Lucy’s vectors, first in her sleep (a fabulous shot of handprints all over her bedroom) and then in her quite literally explosive moment of revenge. Then Lucy says something very important:
“Why do I have to be treated like this, just because I’m a little different? It’s not fair.”
Take it as an allegory for racism if you like. That works. But this is simply how bullying works. A difference is identified (and that encompasses race, along with all kinds of other things, however trivial) and used as an excuse for cruelty. There are three ways to deal with difference: celebrate it, ignore it, or fight it. It’s high time there was a lot less of the last of those three in this world. Go on, pick one of the first two. Don’t be a monster in disguise. RP
The view from Amerika:
How can we have an episode called “The Beginning” 8 episodes into the series? We’ll come to that.
First, we open with the continuation of the cliffhanger wherein Nana is kicking the daylights out of Nyu, literally. Rather than incite the Lucy personae, Nyu is knocked out. An unexpected development to be sure. More than that, Kouta’s smack across Nana’s face is shocking. He’s not wrong in doing it because from his point of view, this girl turns up out of nowhere, comes to his home, and attacks his friend. Typically “no-no’s” in the book of etiquette. Rather than retaliate in any way, Nana yells at him then runs off. As a culmination of a cliffhanger, I was a bit let down by this non-resolution, but it opens the door for Nyu to be fighting a fever which causes her to remember her youth.
I want to end with the beginning so before I get there, let’s see about the other small part of this episode: the Director and Dr. Arakawa. Arakawa is brought to see the director, who is an absolute jerk. He claims she knows too much so he shoots her in the arm. Nice guy. Probably went to class with Bando. He offers to save her if she’ll help him. That’s all well and good, but it’s actually her line that I found fascinating as she’s lying in a pool of her own blood, questioning if that’s all there is: her life is boiled down to a nobody, dying alone. It was a deeply satisfying comment for an anime to tackle. There’s no right answer to it, nor is there much else to say about it, but it was an amazing line. Of some interest besides that, when the Director is talking to Kurama, he mentions sending #7 and #35 to find Lucy. This leads me to the obvious question: how many of these creatures does he have? (He also lets us know that he is not looking for a cure…) If nothing more, I feel justified for not realizing Nana was Nana at the end of episode 6, since there are clearly more of them. Or perhaps that shouldn’t help at all, as the line wasn’t stated yet…
So we go back to the beginning during Lucy’s fever and we see how she was treated by her classmates. It’s the typical thing: you’re different, ergo no good, ergo you need to be mocked and ridiculed. Perhaps my own youth impacted me more than I realized because I always want to be there, so I can help the outcast. Probably a result of not looking like the rest of my family, or any of the kids I grew up around and being the only kid into the things I was into growing up (namely Sci-fi). I don’t mean to imply I felt alienated, but maybe on a psychological level I was because all I want to do every time I see a show with someone being treated as an outcast, is to befriend them. When Lucy develops her powers, we know the classmates are going to push her too far, but what happens was hard to watch. A bunch of sadistic pricks (and I’m trying to be nice, so forgive the unchecked rage) find out she has a pet dog and proceed to kick the crap out of the dog and then beat it to death. I was horrified. Genuinely hard to watch. I kept hoping Lucy would do something before the dog died. But then her one “friend” lets slip that she was the reason the boys even found out she had a dog in the first place, and that’s when she cracks. And I felt very good about why Lucy did what she did. I could no longer see her as evil. I was at peace with what she did to the miserable retches. But the janitor probably won’t like it…
After burying the dog, Lucy hears a music box, turns and sees Kouta. Now I understand how that can be the title. Kouta was there from the beginning… ML
Read next in the Junkyard… Elfen Lied Episode 9