Well, dear readers, I finally broke down and decided to watch Mirai Nikki due to my sister’s insistence. I have seen about thirteen episodes of this well known series thus far, and find it rather enjoyable. The first thing to strike me was how similar it seemed to Elfen Lied: the insane, pink-haired, crazed killer, many violent, bloody deaths, and the abnormal fighting abilities of the contestants. Despite these similarities, there is a difference in mood between the two shows, which boils down to the variance with which they treat the concept of evil. (I can see it all now: people who consider Elfen Lied a vacuous show are going to hate this article.)
Haven’t you noticed this yourselves? The plot of Mirai Nikki is centered around a game prepared by “the god of time and space” in which the contestants annihilate each other in order to gain the god’s title. Creating the setting of a game does much to minimize the effect of the atrocious crimes committed therein. All the casualties become pawns in a chess game. This takes away from the impact of say killing scores of school children, taking invalids hostage, wretchedly treating prisoners, and even creating a twisted young child to be killed for the purposes of the game–I’m referring to a diary holder.
Conversely, Elfen Lied causes us to feel sorrow whenever someone is slain or even when they are merely struck. The sinfulness of the action strikes us. I believe this involves the fact that Lynn Okamoto was probably influenced by the religion of the Lutheran minister who wrote the eponymous poem. So, we are struck by a sense of sin pervading the show. Lives are lost; but, the wickedness of these acts are not lost on us, as they tend to be in Mirai Nikki. So, the main divergence between the two shows appears to be religious: the Christian God in Elfen Lied–albeit, with the Lutheran conception of the depravity of man tainting the world–vs. the rather Assyrian god of Mirai Nikki, who enjoys playing with other people’s lives.
The curious case of #9, Uryuu Minene, offers the most striking example of how Mirai Nikki‘s world misunderstands the problem of evil. We are introduced to this character as a monster who’s willing to sacrifice school children in order to achieve her goals. To speak plainly, she’s rather loathesome, right? Then, she fails in her object due to Yukiteru taking out her eye, she suffers greatly in making her escape from the police, and endures humiliation, pain, and betrayal from the “justice” besotted contestant (the conception of justice held by this character makes one fear for how the manga-ka views justice himself), and goes on to become perhaps the most likeable character in the show–at least, in my case. (Could it be a perceived resemblance to Revy of Black Lagoon?)
Then again, I might be reaching too hard or nostalgic for an old favorite.
How is it that we can so easily warm up to a character who’s first shown us committing heinous crimes? The suffering which followed her debut might be said to partially atone for her wrongs, but can they really be enough? Her character even undergoes a change as she becomes level-headed, and we only rarely glimpse her maniacal smile. And so, evil seems to result from insanity rather than malice. We cannot really hold an insane person guilty, therefore no need for atonement.
By the deep seated guilt of many of the characters, Elfen Lied acknowledges that, no matter what evil influences have twisted a person’s personality, they still sin by their own free choice. This visibly taints their souls and places a burden of judgment upon them. We, the viewers, sense this and develop true antipathy toward certain characters.
An exception to this rule in Elfen Lied is Lucy herself. Her very guilt makes her sympathetic. She would like to obtain forgiveness, and Kohta tries to give it to her. However, Lucy knows in her heart of hearts that murder cannot be taken back, that the blood tainting her soul can’t be brushed aside or blamed on anyone else. The only person who can erase such a thing is found in the lyrics of the opening song to that show: “O Lord, O Sacred Fire, have mercy!” For God alone can forgive sins. Excuses based on one’s mental state or tragic background don’t cut it.
Ultimately, Elfen Lied‘s biggest failure in understanding human nature is the doctrine of total depravity which runs through the show. But, it still knows human nature better than Mirai Nikki. This makes it the better show of these rather similar works. So, what do you think, my dear readers? Which show really has a better perception of human nature and the mystery of evil?