The view from Igirisu:
The eleventh episode of Elfen Lied is all about contrasts. Nana and Lucy both survived their captivity and managed to integrate into family life with Kouta and Yuka, and they did that because they learnt how to care for other people and how other people could care for them. Lucy retained an instinct of love for Kouta from her childhood, while Nana had already developed the love of a daughter for a father in captivity, twisted though that may be. But what hope for Number 35? It seems at first that she might have a connection to a mother figure, in the same way that Nana had a connection to Kurama, but as soon as her “mother” started saying things like this it sounded like famous last words:
“I’m the only voice she really knows. She calls me mum.”
Of course it didn’t work. She was just a voice in her head, while she was kept locked away in a box since birth, to the extent that her legs hadn’t even developed the ability to walk. Once again we are in the realms of unimaginable suffering, which is very difficult to watch, and it’s not surprising that Number 35’s first act is to rip her “mother” in half. It’s not just her extra power that makes her frightening. Number 35 has no empathy for others at all. There’s no apparent chink in her emotional armour, no way to get through to her like Kurama, Kouta and Mayu did with Nana, and Kouta did with Lucy. She has been raised as a killing machine and nothing more. So Nana showing up to face her is a scary moment, to say the least.
“I don’t believe it. She came to us.”
What those scientists, soldiers and the empathy-lacking Number 35 don’t understand is that Nana is putting others first, perhaps a difficult concept to grasp for a bunch of people who have no morals and think no further than their own self interest. She knows the fight will be brought to her friends, so she removes herself from them to face the enemy alone, knowing that it will probably be the last thing she ever does. It shows how far she has come since the laboratory. She has learnt what friendship means.
I mentioned that this is an episode of contrasts, and that extends far beyond the characters. Number 35 moves from the mechanical coldness of her captivity to the bright light of the outside world. People go about their everyday business in the town, while soldiers seal off the boundary and isolate them. Kouta fails to shed a tear while Lucy begs him not to cry, tears streaming down her own cheeks in memory of hurting him in the past, while Kouta thinks she is just worried about a shell. Mayu and Nana have fun together as part of their new family, while Number 35 looks forward to the “fun” of killing people. And of course the most deadly, boss-level adversary who rips people apart, is just an innocent-looking little girl in a wheelchair. The most dangerous person on the planet is the very picture of gentle frailty. But most of all, there is that amazingly atmospheric contrast when Nana faces off against Number 35 on the bridge. One girl, who doesn’t even possess her own limbs any more, against an army, facing the ultimate horror of near-certain death, against the most beautifully artistic backdrop of the bridge in sunset. As always, this is all about challenging our preconceptions. Beauty is danger, and humans are the monsters, capable of the most unspeakable crimes. If only there were no truth in that. But there are still two episodes to go, and perhaps an even more important message will win through in the end. Against insurmountable odds, this has always been a series about hope. RP
The view from Amerika:
A terrible thing happens at this point: we get into “the finale” mode. The problem is that this isn’t actually the finale. This is episode 11 of 13. In other words, 3 episodes to go. Don’t trust my math? 11, 12 and 13. Ergo: three. (And that doesn’t count the OVA!) Let’s talk about the first of them.
At the end of the last episode, we saw that there is a superpowered Diclonius labeled #35. It has an 11 meter kill range and its vectors can be made visible. We open this episode with an introduction to who she is. Her “mom” feels reasonably confident that she can communicate with #35 but, if things go wrong, they’ve installed a bomb inside of her. The bomb was sanctioned by her father who didn’t want her to hurt anyone. So when “mom” goes to talk to #35… she is ripped asunder. Half her body is thrown through a window where she manages, with her dying breath, to press the button to detonate the bomb… blasting 35’s arm off. In pain, she is subdued. She still has to be used as a tool.
OK… I need to take a breath. A lot happens in this part of the episode and we’re only 7 minutes into it. As a science fiction fan all my life, I can appreciate a little gore or violence when it aids the story. I can even understand some less savory moments if it’s going to help sell the reality of said story. But I don’t think I needed tubes going into #35 in quite the ways they did. And when she falls and the grey liquid spurts out… yeah, I dunno… I found that unnecessary. Did it ruin the episode for me? Not at all but I think there’s got to be some decorum used especially when showing what is ultimately a young girl. On the other hands, the bloody gore is just so over the top, that it just comes off as artistic license in showing the violence the Diclonius are capable of. Think: the animated sequence of Kill Bill, for example. Maybe I’m the odd man out, but I was less bothered by that. But the biggest reveal is something I had misunderstood in the previous episode, when we discover that when Lucy touched Kurama’s head and “infected” him, he would be the proud father of a Diclonius himself; one that he would know intrinsically that he’d have to kill, but equally be unable to because his wife begged him not to with her dying breath. So who is his daughter? None other that the superpowered #35. And that was why he installed the bomb in her; to prevent her ability to hurt people. Now they can use that power over her to get her to do their bidding… namely, kill Lucy. (Perhaps that should tie in with Kill Bill… I don’t know! Seems comically apt!)
Lucy, aka Nyu at this point, is busy creating comedy for the otherwise heavy opening. She’s disassembling the clock in the foyer. When she finally reassembles it and it “looks” like everything is where it belongs, it falls to pieces. After the bit of comedy, we get one more roll call. Bando is where he always is: at the beach waiting for potential murder victims and mutants. Nyu cuts her hair to look like Kouta’s dead sister because she thinks this will make Kouta happy. Nana and Mayu are bonding; Mayu is helping Nana learn simple chores. Yuka is out shopping but comes home in time to see Kouta hugging Nyu, not realizing he’s treating her more like a father treats a daughter, so she goes out unable to stomach the idea of losing him. She finds roads closed and a joint police and military presence; she runs home. During this, Nana has an “awareness” of #35, who she believes is coming to kill her, so she does the most natural thing one could expect… she runs out to trouble. Kouta and Nyu run out looking for her. (Again, I’m reminded of a father and daughter running out to find another wayward child!)
This episode is all setup, as far as I can tell. What I have to give credit to is the magnificent writing coupled with some amazing artwork around #35 near the end of the episode. She has the first line, “This sounds like fun”. Her eyes are enormous, drinking in the glee she will get from killing. It’s an incredible scene made even more shocking and horrific when she rips Nana apart leaving her naked, legless and arm less. She giggles maniacally over the words “this is fun” (no longer sounding like fun but actually being fun) as the image changes to a gorgeous shot of the beach. The dichotomy is amazing. So, like Nana, the only natural thing to do is to move on to the next episode, immediately. ML
Read next in the Junkyard… Elfen Lied Episode 12