|“||I just want you to be here...||”|
A painfully traumatic past can, in many cases, destroy one's ability to trust others and to believe in a better future. This is especially true for those who suffered these traumas at very young ages. For Mayu, this was the case for a long time throughout the Elfen Lied Manga. The following essay seeks to explore this evolution of her outlook, from the frightened, broken child that escaped her abusive home; to a stronger young woman, slowly regaining her belief and hope for a better future in her life.
This journey is one of the hardest and its rewards the most well-earned, yet it is scarcely shown in the Manga, even less so in the Anime. After all, how can you trust in others when the ones closest to you, those with the responsibility and duty to raise and protect you are those who betrayed you in the worst way imaginable?
When Mayu first appears, she is a homeless girl, barely finding shelter and keeping out of sight, with only her little pet dog Wanta as a companion. From her first appearance, it's clear that she has a story and not a happy one. Her first two actions in the show, however, serve to bring home to the viewer that despite all the hardships, she is not completely broken. Despite the pain she feels, she is still willing to do what she perceives to be the right thing. When she met Bando right after Lucy savagely maimed him, he was, then, little better than her stepfather, almost nothing but a sadistic thrill killer. She gathered the courage to calm the wounded, agonized man down and try to provide what little help she could give him, making a tourniquet for his severed arm to prevent further blood loss. Next, upon finding a lost umbrella, Mayu decides to return it the address found on it, despite the fact that it could almost certainly be of use. Later on that very same day, upon stumbling onto the deadly duel between Lucy and Nana, she would make a futile effort to stop the battle, only to find herself providing the distraction Lucy needed. Mayu became a witness to part of Nana's brutal maiming, only to be knocked unconscious immediately afterward by Lucy herself. Her selflessness, even in the face of the suffering she had endured and continued to experience at that point, and even in the face of potential danger, represent that part of her the abuse couldn't extinguish.
But despite this, her pain and trauma are no less evident. Having nowhere else to turn, she ended up calling Maple House's phone from the hospital, where Kouta picked her up and paid the bill for her stay. Taken back, and having had a nice dinner and a warm bath at their home, Mayu runs away from Maple House desiring to not be a burden to them. Such feelings of worthlessness that are, unfortunately, not uncommon in abuse victims.
Neglected by her aloof mother, she was alone and unable to defend herself of her stepfather's sexual depredations. Such a tragedy is, depressingly enough, a common enough occurrence the world over, and one likely to leave marks that may last for the rest of the child's life. It was in such an instance where Mayu needed her cold and distant mother the most. Finally unable to bear it any longer in silence, Mayu ultimately decided to tell her mother of the abuse her stepfather was putting her through. However, far from providing her daughter with any comfort or help, her mother's reply was to strike her down. Refusing to acknowledge her daughter had been a victim of horrible abuse, she instead chose to view her child as a competitor for her husband's wicked "attentions."
The revelation of her mother's callous indifference, even jealousy, and scorn, at her plight, is what finally pushed the girl over the edge, deciding that anything would be better than continuing to live in that wretched home that had become a prison for her.
Thus, the flashbacks show how she ended up homeless in the first place, finding herself alone and broken, barely surviving on her own. And through those hard days, the trauma and loneliness slowly eroded the girl's will to live, until, at her lowest point, she would outright attempt suicide (Although not explicit, her actions demonstrate suicidal intent via the customs of Japanese people regarding suicide).
However, what happened next could serve to show that even in one's lowest points, there can be a small light, hope that can keep you alive. For Mayu, that materialized as she tried to drown herself when a lonely and lost puppy called out to her. The cub, who Mayu would call Wanta, became her lifeline in those harsh days. Her only friend, and only family.
And it was in such a state that Mayu enters the story: As a lonely, broken girl who lost her innocence and her home, who now faced a life of constant struggle, with Wanta as her only company, and too scared to try and reach out to other people. And, as if fate had not finished with its cruelty, Mayu would then, albeit temporarily, lose Wanta to a complete stranger, who would then callously dismiss her as a thief and a vagrant.
That would not deter Kouta or Yuka, though. The young couple, by pure kindness alone, managed to bring Mayu to the fold of their house. In the Anime, by finding her and bringing her home to escape the police, and in the manga, purely because the lost, lonely girl returned to their home on her volition, to be greeted by a surprise party they had prepared just for her.
It would be nice to say this was the end of Mayu's journey, and that with a new house, she'd live happily ever after and overcome the misery she had endured until them with the love and support of her new family. However, as it's true for most victims of childhood traumas, the reality is not that simple, nor is it as kind.
The initial time in Maple House for Mayu (an unspecified amount of time neither Manga nor Anime could fully clarify) seemed blissful for the young girl. Mayu eagerly helped the college students that were now de facto (and likely de jure once her mother surrendered custody of her almost immediately upon being contacted by them) her adopted parents with all sorts of house chores. Mayu's gratefulness was evident, and she had put both Kouta and Yuka in a great pedestal, a pedestal that was as high as it was fragile.
So fragile, in fact, that all it would take is one misunderstanding to send the poor broken girl into a spiral of suspicion and self-doubt. Said dispute involving, of course, one of the various awkward incidents Nyuu would cause through her time at the Inn.
Seeing Nyuu in the bath with Kouta, one might say, was practically a common occurrence among her perverted antics. But witnessing it firsthand would cause Mayu to remember her stepfather's cruelty instantly, and coldly shut down any attempts from Kouta to explain the situation, her previous experiences souring her to Kouta, and even made her close herself off from Yuka, who seemed to realize something was wrong almost immediately.
This attitude would carry on, at the very least, until Nyuu's antics put Kouta and Yuka alike into a compromising situation, leading Mayu to, at one point, just muttering that the house was full of perverts, only to get fondled by Nyuu instantly. Curiously, though, Nyuu let her be after her protests; but whether that was due to a sense of how upset she was, or just not being impressed by her small breasts remains unknown.
That said, as she began developing inside the Maple House, the most curious part of her journey would be, without a doubt, her budding bond with the resident violent maniac: Bando.
Their first encounter, as previously mentioned, involved Mayu treating a physically crippled and raging Bando and making a small, but meaningful attempt to nurse him back to health. Some time later, she would find Bando seemingly fully healed. At first, Mayu is relieved to see him alive and well, to which Bando expressed immense frustration at the notion of owing his life to such a young, harmless-looking girl. Nonetheless, he still is willing to make true to his life-debt, giving her his phone number so she may call for his aid anytime she needs it.
Their talk, however, quickly turns sour as the topic of Nyu comes up, resulting in Bando aggressively interrogating her, to the point of physically attacking her. Mayu, however, cleverly used the very same favor he owed to her to make him leave her alone, with the girl left to ponder why was he seemingly so obsessed with revenge against the seemingly innocent and child-like Nyuu.
That would be the start of an awkward relationship between the two, which would continue to evolve as the Manga progressed, with the Anime marking this moment as the end of any interaction they may have.
Shortly afterward, two new members of the slowly growing family would come, or in one case return, to her life: the chirpy, naive Nana, and the quiet, but talented Nozomi.
In Nana, Mayu found a girl, seemingly of her age, to share experiences with, and furthermore, she found in her a lost, scared little girl who had no clue of the workings of the world and was in dire need of guidance. It should be noted, however, that upon meeting Nana, Mayu had seemingly gone into a deep denial of Nyuu's darker identity of Lucy. Discovering Nana's artificial limbs, her first reaction was to faint, only to quickly shove the memory of Lucy off to the back of her mind, refusing to make the connection with Nyuu.
Her interactions with Nozomi, on the other hand, would become scarce throughout the manga. A real irony, and perhaps a lost chance, for Nozomi's suffering at the hands of her father, would very much be something Mayu would know.
After the incident with Mariko, of which she was kept entirely in the dark, Mayu would spend the next six months slowly beginning to grow out of her shell. Of course, it would have been naive to assume that even those six months of relative peace would come to be the final remedy of her traumatic experiences. As Nana would point out in narration, Mayu is ultimately still "not good with boys." This fear, however, would not stop her from visiting a particular homeless man to provide him food. Said man being none other than Bando himself, who she seemed to have been trying to approach in those six months of peace. Moreover, it would appear, after the passage of months, that Mayu had begun to trust, or at least grow to care for, Kouta again.
Unfortunately for Mayu and her new family, this peace was soon to be perturbed. With horrific consequences for all those involved.
The beginning of the end would see perhaps Mayu's second most traumatic experience shown in the series, as she and Nana would receive perhaps the most unwanted of visits.
While waiting for Kouta, the two girls would find themselves assaulted by a vicious monster whose name we never learn, who swiftly and brutally incapacitated Nana, seemingly killed Wanta and then quickly moved to attempt to violate Mayu.
Assaulted by traumatic memories of her past, Mayu initially broke down at the monster's demands to strip. However, seeing Nana in immediate danger snapped the girl into action, rapidly rushing to call in for Bando's help. Despite being cut off mid-call and subdued, Mayu put up a fierce struggle, fighting back his attempts at further assaulting her, keeping him busy long enough for Bando to arrive in the nick of time, as the Unknown Man nearly mutilated Mayu's face, and drive the man away.
It's interesting to note Mayu herself being the one to ask Bando to spare the Unknown Man, despite the monstrous act he attempted to commit on her. Despite being confronted with evil on par with her stepfather, Mayu ultimately chooses to be a pacifist, refusing to sink to the level of cold-blooded murder and urging Bando not to do the same.
As the Unknown Man escaped, however, Mayu would be forced to confront the fact that she's been hiding the very person Bando had been relentlessly searching for the past six months. Being callously told off by the man that previously saved her from rape and mutilation broke the girl's heart, who eventually ended up rushing to find Bando, now dueling with Lucy.
Upon confronting Bando about to kill Lucy, Mayu pleaded with him, refusing to accept all his boasting about him being an evil monster. Despite everything she suffered at the hands of two men just as vicious, and despite the fact he had her at gunpoint at the moment, Mayu refuses to see Bando in such a light, insisting in him being a good person deep down.
Her pleas are, however, interrupted as Bando's arm was severed from his body. At such a gruesome sight, Mayu was forced to come to terms with the one horror she had, until then, refused to acknowledge: the soft, innocent Nyuu was in truth a psychotic mass murderer. Such a finding would lead her to attempt to confront Lucy, which would, in turn, lead the Diclonius to try and kill her. A death she only averted (Whether or not she intended to kill her or if it was a ruse to lure Bando to lower his guard is another matter not to be discussed here) by Bando pushing her out of the way on the last second, resulting in getting bisected himself.
Now seemingly at the verge of death, Bando demanded to know if he had succeeded in killing Lucy, making Mayu make up a lie of Lucy having died from Bando's last bullet. Amused, Bando said that she now was more indebted to him than ever, and jokingly demanded compensation. It was at that moment that Mayu did something no one could expect: she kissed Bando.
The context of her actions had become clear. Mayu had learned to trust again. Furthermore, this young girl, whose innocence had been shredded and destroyed completely in her younger years, has fallen in love perhaps for the first time in her life and was finally willing to confess her feelings to him. The kiss itself, some would say, symbolizes a step for her to recovery, as a way to reclaim herself from the trauma of her step father's abuse. Whether or not Bando would reciprocate her feelings is never shown. But the fact that Mayu was able to start overcoming her trauma, and her fear of males, shows us just how far she has gone.
Such an idea goes double for a man such as Bando, who never showed her any genuine warmth and whose behavior ranged from abusive and hostile, to only a grudging acceptance. It makes one ask "why?". And indeed, why would she fall in love with, of all people, a man like Bando? Explanations can fall into two categories: idealistic or cynical.
For the more idealistic side, the idea is, to put it simply, that Mayu wanted to see more in Bando than what he seemed. Her original family was not what they seemed, and her current family proved to be just what they seemed. But with Bando, Mayu saw a man who exceeded expectations. Bando, a beast of a man who only ever knew to dish out violence, was able to rediscover his humanity by bonding with this young girl. A parallel exists between her and Bando with the most famous case of "monster turning a new leaf thanks to a pure-hearted child" in anime: Piccolo and Son Gohan. Like Piccolo, Bando lived only for death and violence and actively pushed everyone away, acting cruel and vicious to the outside world. And yet, like Gohan, Mayu refused to step away from him, regardless of how badly he treated her. And like the example mentioned above, Bando would show how far he's come by giving up his life to save hers.
Of course, a darker, more sinister implication exists. Mayu goes to see Bando because of his violent, aggressive behavior, not in spite of it. Mayu could have become warped in her view of men and sexuality. So warped, she could see in the vicious Bando, who some would put as prone to become an abusive partner in any relationship, as a way for her to replicate her traumatic experience in an attempt to cope. Her feelings for Bando, in this regard, could be a coping mechanism in of itself, the fruit of her trauma instead of a move to defeat it. Be that as it may, Bando seemingly lost his life, and Mayu a man she had come to adore, but both had gained back a great deal as he passed.
Shortly afterward, Nana would finally reveal to her the full truth of her prior life, as well as confirm the worst details about Nyuu's true self. Added to what they had previously witnessed, it made further denial of Lucy impossible. Once again, her kind heart would show. When Nyu came to them, Mayu refused to let Nana kill her when she was defenseless, instead, convincing them both to return with Kouta. Unfortunately, their pleasant dinner would be cut short by an invasion from the SAT, led by Nousou and The Agent. In the aftermath of this tragic night, again we see her development as a person. Her mistrust of him long gone, she shows grave concern for the injured Kouta, going so far as to look after him in the hospital, and being the first to notice when he abruptly left to confront Lucy.
Mayu had come to see the Inn as her real home, and those at Maple House as her family, a connection that was only implied in the Manga but openly stated by her in the Anime. Moreover, her bond with Bando would push her to continue the almost-ritualistic practice of cleaning the beach in his memory. A few months later, during the series finale, she would be reunited with him.
Like most of the cast, Mayu does not appear in the epilog set ten years later. It is impossible to know what sort of life she could have lived, or if her feelings for Bando flourished somehow.
Mayu suffered indignities no one should ever have to. Indignities that, for a while, made her unable to trust even those who genuinely wanted to help her. However, thanks to the kindness of a couple of strangers, she gained a new home. She could now live the life taken from her by her callous mother and wicked stepfather, and the peace of mind that comes with safety, even in the world of Elfen Lied. In doing so, she slowly regained her faith in the future, and the power to trust others, once again. Arguably most importantly, this renewed faith would enable her to help a man driven by hatred and violence to find his light. But alas, that is another journey in and of itself.
|“||Umm, Nana-Chan? Let's Go Home.||”|
–Mayu, in a late manga chapter, now relating Maple House and its residents as home, hearth, and family to a shaken Nana