Reading the manga of Gokukoku no Brynhildr inclined me finally to read the manga of Elfen Lied, which is by the same author, Lynn Okamoto. I will say that the manga Elfen Lied is more violent and sexually graphic than the anime, but it explores its themes more thoroughly. (Yes, I argue that Elfen Lied is a very intelligent work, though the case can easily be made that the author should have restrained himself in regard to its repulsive images.) In this article, I shall remark a little on the nature of evil, which appears to be the main subject of Elfen Lied. The manga focuses on the fact that man is tainted–or, to speak more precisely, in a state of total depravity–by original sin, which we see in the characters’ self-absorption, focus on baser things, and the dehumanization of other people. Most of the characters are victims of some kind–whether one speaks of Mayu flying from her perverse step-father or Lucy, whom people see as an instrument for breeding Diclonii or–in her earlier years–a fun object to torment.
The viciousness displayed by the Diclonii are impelled by their forced isolation or their desire to revenge themselves on the human race. In the latter case, it is important to remember that the general run of people are mirrors: we reflect goodness or ill-will as it comes at us. Only the truly vicious person does evil things to people who show him goodness. Only the saint or man dedicated to repentance returns good for evil. People who have never known love can hardly help reflecting the hatred and malice directed at them.
Take the famous flashback to Lucy’s past. She is beaten, tormented, and ostracized by her fellow classmates. She feels loved only by a puppy. Once she finally gains a human friend, she discovered that this girl had only befriended her in order to betray her. With the dog–her sole friend–butchered, she kills her malicious classmates and flees into the woods, producing total isolation.
As spiritual writers remark, the devil likes to tempt people when alone, whether they are Our Lord Himself, St. Anthony the Great, or my dear readers. The devil wishes to lead us into sin, especially that most terrible capital sin of invidia or ill-will, often translated as envy. I am afraid that Lucy is a particularly easy soul to tempt from ill-will to the blackest misanthropy. Though, the devil commonly appears in Elfen Lied and–I would argue–is the main villain of the show, scientists can’t perceive him. The scientists come up with the absurd reasoning–which smacks of superstition–that murder is written into the Diclonii’s genes. If they had not made themselves out to be so righteous, they would have perceived the same affliction in their own natures–original sin! If murder were really written into the Diclonii’s genes and not the result of scientists exacerbating fallen human nature’s inclination to evil through ill-treatment, then we could not have a Diclonius as sweet as Nana–my favorite character, by the way.
Indeed, the devil is more apparent than God in the manga because people have forgotten God. Perhaps this, more than isolation and envy, is the main cause of the crimes committed in Elfen Lied. Forgetfulness of God means disbelief in the idea that people are created in God’s image and likeness. As many people aptly argue, ethics become emotivism without God. The villains of this series are particularly warped and hardhearted.
But, good exists in the world too, as shown by the love of Nana for her papa and Kouta and Yuka’s willingness to take in homeless people. (I shall argue in another article that goodness starts to shine more brilliantly as the manga shows evils multiplying.) In a sense, we’re all wandering and homeless without God. Though imperfect and marked by frailty, people are often the vehicles for bringing God into other people’s lives. The recognition Kouta gives to Lucy and Mayu affirms the value of these two persons. Due to their perception of themselves as lovable and valuable beings, they work to make other people feel valued. Love, most importantly, the love of God, turns people from selfishness and malice. Yet, one wonders whether love can save Lucy, who is simultaneously the most guilty and most victimized of the characters?