|“||Nothing is wrong...||”|
–Yuka, realizing why Kouta remembers little of their history together
Amnesia is a mental and physical condition involving a loss or blockage of memory in a living person. This is not a simple thing, and it can be brought about by traumas on many levels. Amnesia functions differently in nearly every person who suffers from it. At least three main characters in Elfen Lied suffer its effects at some point in the series, though, again, the depth, severity and reasons vary widely.
Kouta is the primary character suffering from this particular affliction, in his case a response to the intense trauma of witnessing his family's murder at the hands of Lucy. Kouta's form of amnesia is called "Dissociative Amnesia," which occurs when a person (usually a child) experiences an event so terrible that they repress the memory rather than try to process that information ever again. This disorder actually exists in real life, but is extremely uncommon. In real life, Dissociative Amnesia is far more common in females, but the reason is not currently known.
While Kouta suffered only partial amnesia as a result of these suppressed memories, the effect on his life going forward was profound. Yuka recalled a sharp boy of high intelligence, good at logic puzzles, music and challenging carving games. By the time she met him again, he was a poorly motivated student forced to seek a 'safety college' for those with poor grades like his own. Kouta's sometime confusion and addled nature may well have been a result of these suppressed memories.
Kouta suffered from both suppressed memories and partial amnesia, and one often dovetailed into the other. The memories of how his family died were 'edited' by his mind into two separate but less dramatic tragedies, although the details varied as his true memories fought against these false ones. In order to keep a wall around these false memories, Kouta blanked out all associated memories of the summer his father and sister were killed, including those of Yuka. Yuka's reaction to this blanking was one of great upset, an upset shared by many with an amnesiac loved one, even when they know or should know better. From the point of view of Kouta's illness, it was necessary to blank out the whole summer at Yuka's home. The more 'unedited' events he recalled, the quicker his memories and their attendant pain would return. Kouta's suppression may have also come from feelings of guilt and remorse; in his mind, he brought his family's killer into their lives, and engaged in a hateful fight with the little sister he felt he was supposed to protect just before she was killed. The doctors at the hospital he stayed at for a year may have regarded this denial as preferable to the boy living as a shattered wreck.
In both versions of the story, Kouta witnesses Lucy's power in a way that fully awakes his memories of Kanae's murder; in the anime, Lucy splits Shirakawa in two; in the manga, it is a clone used during the invasion of Maple House. In real life, a similar incident is not necessarily needed as a trigger, and in fact, Kouta had been showing signs of overcoming his block since the start of the series, with slightly conflicting accounts of Kanae's death emerging at different times.
Lucy both suffers from and makes use of another form of amnesia, though this ties in more closely with her own Dissociative Identity Disorder, as well as the conflicting and common desires of her two main personalities. The series over-represents a common fallacy: a secondary blow to the head restores an amnesiac after suffering the initial trauma. While this is not wholly unsupported by real life research, it is greatly exaggerated by TV and film, and has come to be accepted as a cliche of visual media, as well as an assumed common occurrence in real life cases of amnesia. While the initial blow from the sniper's shell almost certainly caused the escaping Lucy to become amnesiac and led to the creation of the Nyu personality, it was not necessarily the second blow to the head that caused Nyu to revert to Lucy. Panic at the incident and pain from being struck might have frightened the child-like Nyu into retreating.
Consciously, Nyu seemed unaware of Lucy's existence, though Lucy later told Kouta that Nyu frequently argued against her actions on an internal level. Nyu, when she later matured and became largely more coherent (in the manga), was shocked and repulsed by the thought that she shared a body with the killer Lucy. Lucy described Nyu to Kouta as being her idealized self, one she maintained even after she regained her faculties, in an effort to remain around her new family, most especially Kouta. As opposed to Nyu, Lucy at times seemed to be conscious of Nyu and her memories, as well as aware of when Nyu was taking over her consciousness, but other times, she would be surprised to see Nyu living happily with Kouta when she woke up again. Nyu's conscious ignorance of anything to do with Lucy and her past could be seen as directed amnesia, but it still had its origins in the original unplanned blow from the sniper's shell. Nyu's amnesia could be said to finally end at the same time as Kouta's, since seeing him shot during the invasion of Maple House was what enabled her to realize she could use vectors. Her enraged killing of the Mariko clone Cynthia in turn triggered Kouta's lost memories to at last return.
While originally the product of amnesia, Nyu herself would not be forgotten, even as Lucy seemed to predominate in the final chapters, to the point where the Nyu personality seemed to possess a distinctive soul of her own.
Mayu can be said to suffer from a form of amnesia, though in her case, it is more a form of denial. Within the series, Mayu never discusses her past of sexual and mental abuse at the hands of her stepfather and mother, but nor does she suppress or try to hide these memories from her own mind. Instead, the event that puts Mayu off her mark and makes her deny and put aside memories is the initial battle between Nana and Lucy, in which Lucy savagely dismembers Nana and nearly kills her. Seeing Lucy as Nyu once she came to live at Maple House, Mayu made her first attempt to try and distance those memories from reality. In short, she decided that the childlike Nyu could never have done such things. Her denial was challenged once more later on when she once again met Nana, deciding that, since Nana once again had four limbs (artificial but deceptively real to the eye), there was no way for what she saw to have been real. When her denial was challenged by one of Nana's arms popping off, she fainted dead away. Mayu kept varying levels of denial in effect as she roomed with Nana over the next several months, telling herself different excuses as to why what she saw wasn't real. She used similar logic in dealing with Bando's wounds, and this also has similarities to Kouta's more deeply seeded mechanisms for guarding against his own harsh childhood memories.
Her denial ended when Nana explained her life and times to her best friend. Mayu still had trouble relating Nyu to Lucy, this despite Lucy trying to kill her, ironically while trying to keep Mayu's recovered memories from awakening Kouta's. In an odd way, Mayu's mind could deal with the harsh realities and memories of her old abusive home-life, but she found the hidden truth about Diclonius and their powers to be something her mind simply couldn't process.
As in Mayu's case, Kurama suffered more from denial, or, in his case, the reordering of memories and their meaning. In his case, none of his memories of Nana were actually hidden away from him. In grief over his failure to raise, protect or save Mariko, Kurama turned on the one he had given his heart to in place of his own child. Perhaps seeing his feelings for Nana as a betrayal of Mariko, he told Nana--and presumably, himself--that his attachment to her was only part of an experiment, and she was never anything more than a test subject. While an extreme outlier in this subject, it bears enough similarities to the other circumstances to belong here. For just as in the other instances, a single moment forced the proper memories into place and shattered the denial. When Nana was set to be killed by Barbara, the clone of his dead Mariko, the hard facts hit him that an out-of-control copy of his very dead child was set to kill the only one that had kept him sane for all that time.
|“||Is it like Nana-chan and Bando-San said? Are you not Nyu-San?||”|
–Mayu, realizing the truth about Lucy at a very bad moment