The view from Igirisu:
We pick up where we left off, with Number 35 attacking Nana, but she doesn’t want to kill her straight away. First she wants to play with her, to torture her, like a cat playing with a mouse, or a child “tearing the wings off an insect”. Number 35 is shocked that Nana has friends, and simply can’t understand how that could have happened, once again reminding us that she has been made the way she is by her isolation, not born like it. One of the friends who turns up is of course Kouta, who is placed squarely in the middle of a lethal situation for the first time since his childhood. Previously he has been kept on the sidelines while other people battle it out, blissfully unaware of the full extent of what has been going on, so this feels new and dangerous.
With Lucy/Nyu there as well he isn’t actually in much danger, and she has no problem wiping out an army in seconds. It makes you wonder why she runs from Bando at the end. We have just seen exactly what she is capable of, so it seems odd that she would fear one man, whatever weaponry he carries, but perhaps it is just a reminder that she is putting Kouta first and doesn’t want to risk his life.
Witnessing all the carnage triggers the return of Kouta’s memories, and we finally find out exactly what happened to his father and little sister. It was always pretty obvious that Lucy had killed them, but the manner of their deaths, torn apart in front of Kouta’s eyes, is horrendous. The fact that his final words to his sister are cruel ones, accusing her of lying and saying he will hate her forever, makes it all even worse, and serves as a reminder of the importance of kindness in life. Who knows what words might be the last somebody hears or the final thing spoken. It’s a theme I’ve seen explored in other anime series: the grief of being unable to make peace with a departed loved one. It’s always powerful and troubling to watch somebody suffering with that.
Before we get to that moment there is some repetition of the time Lucy and Kouta spent together as children. Some reiteration is helpful, but there is surely more than is necessary here, even replaying virtually all of the water splashing sequence. I don’t suppose many viewers will have ever watched this episode without seeing the previous ones, so it seems like a lot of unnecessary padding, as if there wasn’t quite enough story to stretch across the 25 minutes.
But what we do get is an important insight into Kouta’s character. Despite the most unimaginable trauma, just look how he deals with Lucy. He doesn’t run. He doesn’t try to attack her or get revenge. He just hugs her and begs her to stop. Then Mayu puts things into perspective about the way Kouta’s past has affected him:
“I don’t think he can turn his back on people who need help.”
His suffering has made him kind. That’s a theme Doctor Who has played with as well, and very effectively. Perhaps it’s easier said than done, but if everyone could take their moments of suffering and sadness in life and turn them into kindness then the world would be a much happier place. RP
The view from Amerika:
It’s hard to express all the thoughts in my head with this episode. It’s an incredibly powerful episode yet half of it is a flashback to events we’ve already seen. That kind of writing should impress you, because if we are given 20 minutes per story and half of that is spent on stuff we’ve already seen… you’ve got to make what remains important. And that’s just it: they do! The writers give us a powerhouse for a penultimate episode, as we come into the final moments of the series.
It’s hard to watch the start of the episode as Nana is utterly brutalized. Her naked body is beaten repeatedly into the ground until she is held up like a crucified messiah sans cross. The order comes down to end the torture. #35 says it’s boring anyway, to Shirakawa’s horror. When 35 tries to kill Nana, though, she makes the mistake of getting too close and Nana reaches into her head. She cries “my arms aren’t coming out!” So this poses an interesting thought in my head: can the Diclonius stop each other without killing? Can they do something to the brain that makes them less dangerous?
Meanwhile, back at the ranch (more or less, literally), I was truly delighted by the conversation Mayu has with Yuka. She compares the relationship they have to parents with children, putting Kouta and Yuka as the parents, Mayu, Nana and Nyu as children. I felt absolutely justified for my feelings from the previous episode. To further make me happy, Mayu says of Kouta that he “can’t turn his back on others when they need help.” This may be a young man without any powers caught in a minefield beyond his understanding… but he is a hero. And I think that’s a testament to the way the characters are written.
I also think it’s a testament to the writers and animators that they understand that we are dealing with heavy topics and action in this story so they combat that with little moments of humor, like having Nyu trip over the head of a dead guy or slip in blood landing on her face. Yes, morbid, but it adds a sense of humor to an otherwise bleak moment. But when Shirakawa comes to talk to Kouta, who has ingratiated himself into the situation, the comedy ends. As she dies, having been ripped in half by Lucy, we hear her internal, dying thoughts: “chief, please forgive me”. The artwork here is particularly shocking/brilliant too, as we get the view from behind her, her upper body falling past her still-standing legs. When Kouta witnesses this, we flash back to his youth. All of the background we received in episodes 9 and 10 are relived (albeit in slightly truncated form) until we get to the last moments of his youth when he witnessed Lucy killing his sister and his father. Earlier, Kouta told his friends (and by extension, the audience) that he had said something horrible to his sister before she died. We discover all about it now. In an utterly devastating sequence, we learn that his sister Kanae saw the entire massacre and knew it was done by Lucy. When she tells Kouta, he smacks her in the face and tells her to apologize or “I’ll hate you forever”. Immediately she is ripped in half and left for dead. He never gets to say sorry or to tell her he loved her. Heartbreaking. Then their father walks over and, somehow having missed ANY of what was going on – good dad, that – gets his head ripped off too. (Not sure it was much use to him anyway!)
The episode starts to wrap up with a face off and a beautiful image of Kouta standing face to face with his family’s killer. He may still not fully understand why she did what she did any more than she understands why Kouta “lied”.
In the last few minutes, our beachcomber friend, Bando shows up just as Kouta dives on Lucy. I had to watch the sequence more than once to see if I could identify: was this to hurt her or help her. His eyes widen and he dives, and his arms are behind her, not trying to pin her or hurt her, leading me to believe this was to protect her, which is in keeping with the mantra about him: he can’t turn his back on others when they need help, even if they did kill his family. Lucy pushes him to safety and as Bando chases her, shooting maniacally all the way. She gives Kouta a message: “wait for me at the stone steps!” I’m as bewildered as Kouta, but guess where I’m going next… ML
Read next in the Junkyard… Elfen Lied Episode 13