“Shoene Erinnerung (Reminiscence)”
The view from Igirisu:
Last week we had a flashback sequence for about a third of the episode, exploring Lucy’s past. This week that continues for virtually the whole episode, and it’s the important revelation of the past that Lucy and Kouta share, which Kouta cannot remember. By the end of the episode we still don’t have an explanation of exactly why that is, or what happened to his family, but we now know how important Kouta is to Lucy, and it’s clear exactly why she sought him out after her escape. We also learn the significance of the opening credits music, which is a tune that plays when Kouta opens his music box. Lucy is immediately a kindred spirit when she enjoys the rather melancholy tune.
This episode explores their childhood relationship, which develops over just a few meetings but is absolutely fascinating. The backdrop to all this is Lucy committing murders, a lot of them, driven to hatred of the whole human race by her horrendous treatment by… well the whole human race, unfortunately. This is a bleak representation of humanity. Even at the festival Lucy gets knocked down by a cruel thug, and then the other festival-goers assume she is on drugs rather than just a child in need of help. Nearly everyone in this show is a jerk. It’s no wonder she snaps.
But before she finally loses all her faith in humanity, she regains a little of it, thanks to Kouta. When they first meet she has just killed every single person in her orphanage, but she stops short of killing Kouta on sight because his reaction to her is something she has never experienced before. Instead of mocking her different appearance, he thinks her horns are the coolest thing ever. He celebrates difference rather than hating it. This, in a nutshell, is why Kouta is the main hero of Elfen Lied.
We then get a series of quite astonishing contrasts, with Lucy and Kouta spending happy times together and enjoying an innocent, budding romance, while Lucy commits more brutal murders when she is away from him. Murder is simply a convenience to get rid of people who live in a house and get her a place to stay, most shockingly when we hear a mother talking to her child before Lucy enters the house. But these are not quite the most scary scenes of the episode. Those are the dream sequences, with Lucy wrestling with her inner demons. Here we also have some important context. In the present day we have seen the split personality of Lucy/Nyu, but in the flashback we have the origins of that split, represented by two very creepy mental iterations of herself.
Sadly, the voice in her head urging Lucy to kill is the one that wins through, and that’s because of a simple lie. When she asks Kouta if his cousin is a girl or a boy, he says a boy, and that’s a lie. It’s understandable. Kids will make those kinds of mistakes, especially when they are dealing with the confusion of their first love, and as crimes go it’s not a severe one, but in Lucy’s mind the significance is huge. The last time she thought she had a friend, she was betrayed, and that had horrible consequences. Now she assumes Kouta is the same kind of traitor in disguise as a friend, and finally she feels “completely alone”. It’s such a sad moment.
So as Lucy and Nana face off once again, we finally have the context of what made each of them who they are, at least to a large extent. If they are truly just those same people, defined by what has happened to them, then there is little hope for either of them. But the past is not the present, and they both have friends now. In fact they have a shared friend: the boy who once told a little white lie, with devastating consequences. The full extent of those consequences remains to be seen… RP
The view from Amerika:
I admit, I thought the flashback last episode was all we were going to get in the line of backstory, but Reminiscences doubles down to add more complexity to the character. Seeing the origins of Lucy in episode 8 may show us how her power developed, but like absolutely everything else in this series, there are two sides to this coin. We need to see what sharpened her as a weapon… and as a person. Enter: Kouta. He appears seemingly out of nowhere with his music box. And he loves Lucy’s horns. I’ve been letting it go for too long: those are not horns, Mr. Translator. Those are cat ears. Call them what you will, I too like them, and I’d be delighted to have a friend with horns …or cat ears. But make no mistake: they are cat ears! Still, Kouta thinks they are the coolest things he’s ever seen and convinces Lucy to go to the zoo with him. Here, Lucy experiences the happiest day of her life. She finds a friend in Kouta and actually feels like she might belong somewhere. But she then has to face “the day we say goodbye”. She tries to accept it like a trooper, knowing the day was coming, but her inner demons start to get the better of her.
I was fascinated that her inner demons appear with facial bandages on and one eye exposed. Odin, often referred to as Odin One Eye, sacrificed an eye to gain knowledge. Does this represent knowledge? I would argue that any new information may be knowledge and thus the answer is yes, but I’d counter my own argument saying knowledge has to be accurate. My dual nature would then try to convince myself that knowledge can be updated in the presence of still newer data. This could go on all night, so I’ll cut to the chase. I don’t think the one-eye represents knowledge. If it had, Kouta would have been lying to her and secretly her ideas would have been right: he would have thought of her as a subhuman animal. I don’t buy that for a second largely because I can’t even convince myself of that, and she’s only a cartoon from my point of view! No, I think the one eye represents something else. Lack of depth perception. Cover one eye, and you lose some of the ability to detect depth. Her approach lacks depth of understanding. She’s taking things on a surface level only and tries to see beneath the surface, but only ends up seeing all the wrong things. Those voices inside her head are self-doubt, and they look like a grotesque monster, wrapped in bandages. They are not telling her things that come from the wisdom of age. The eye we see in her shadow selves simply lacks depth and I think that was at the heart of her confusion. As a result, she strangles Kouta accidentally because she loses sight of what she is doing. Upon realizing this, she asks Kouta to kill her. It’s a sad moment.
Kouta, by contrast, has wisdom enough that he understands Lucy’s question about his cousin: is it a boy? He says yes, knowing full well he’s lying to her, but he’s lying for the right reasons: he doesn’t want to hurt Lucy. He recognizes jealousy and doesn’t want her hurt. And I think he truly was doing it altruistically. Yuka has feelings for him, but he did not have feelings for her. He clearly liked being with Lucy. Seeing this leads Lucy to unimaginable pain, exacerbated by a wandering idiot in the crowd who knocks her over. She unleashes hell on everyone around. And Yuka sees it all. As Lucy comes out of her coma, she mumbles “liar” and gets out of bed. The reminiscences are over. She now steps outside to confront Nana.
I love the fact that throughout this animation, life is still going on. There are news broadcasts talking about the children murdered, the police are actively looking for the killer. No one suspects it could be a child. I also love the innocence of the two children sitting together allowing their clothes to dry without any creepiness to the scene. (I kept worrying that someone was going to come along and things would get ugly.) And I utterly loved the innocence of the scene of Lucy humming the music from the music box; a lovely melody to be sure. But more than anything, I love how much this series makes me want to tune in for the next episode. Which I think I’ll do… now! ML
Read next in the Junkyard… Elfen Lied Episode 10