|“||Kouta-kun? You haven't forgotten me... right?||”|
–Yuka, in the first manga chapter
Yuka is a young woman who serves as the "mother" figure of those living in the Maple House in Kamakura. She is the cousin of Kouta and his sister Kanae, and the niece (either by marriage or blood) of their father. During her childhood, she had strong romantic feelings for Kouta, and those feelings have remained consistently high throughout the series.
Yuka is chronologically first shown with Kouta during flashbacks from when they were just children, during a summer when his family stayed in Kamakura with Yuka and her mother. Yuka's mother is never depicted in the anime, while the fate of Yuka's father is not once brought up. It is also not known if that summer marked the first time the two cousins met, or exactly how long Kouta and his family stayed. Further, neither the exact degree of relationship (first or second cousin, etc.) nor through which of their parents they were connected, is ever actually made clear or even really brought up. Dialogue evidence from the untranslated original manga places Kouta's father as being the older brother of Yuka's mother, but this is never directly confirmed.
Though Yuka attempted to be kind to the young girl, she was frequently the target of jealousy by Kouta's little sister Kanae. Yuka found herself driven to distraction by the thought that Kouta was leaving Kamakura for a year till the next summer, and made him promise not to forget her. They frequented the summer-time game vendors, wherein Yuka wanted to best Kouta to impress him, though he seemed to like her already, teasing her in a friendly way to get better. Unknown to any member of their family, as summer was ending, Kouta climbed a nearby mountain and met a strange young girl with horns, a young Lucy, whose real name he somehow never learned, and their friendship led to the girl developing feelings for him.
While at the festival, Yuka was distraught that her cousin would be leaving for an entire year once the festival ended. Kouta comforted her, and both of them were unaware that Lucy caught sight of the display and the revelation of Yuka's gender. Since Kouta had previously said his cousin was male, this led Lucy to believe he had betrayed her and was lying to her all along. The cousins, not seeing her, went about the festival grounds as normal until Kouta's panicked father found them. A bomb had supposedly gone off and led to the death of many festival-goers and after a frantic search for Kanae, who had witnessed the "bomb" (Lucy using her powers to kill other people). The family left for the train station
Murders she subsequently committed while at the Festival were also taken as work of the bomber and caused Kouta's father to leave Kamakura with his family for their home in Hokkaido that very night. Yuka and her mother saw them off, with Yuka waving goodbye for every last second she could see the train. Shortly after, an enraged Lucy killed Kouta's family, and then threatened to kill Yuka as well. A heart-sick Kouta grabbed at her, the tone of which made Lucy realize too late Kouta had never meant to hurt her. The anime depicts Yuka learning of both the method of the killings and Kouta's shattered state of mind from relatives speaking of it at the funeral. A year in a hospital (it's unknown what type of hospital) helped Kouta to become functional again, but he had suppressed much of his childhood memories to escape the trauma of witnessing the murders, and this included his memories of Yuka and what they had meant to each other. Though they did not see each other again for the rest of their childhood, Yuka never surrendered the belief that Kouta would come back to her, as he promised. In high school, Yuka became Sempai (senior student mentor) to Nozomi, a nervous younger student.
As they both approached college-age, Yuka learned that Kouta had applied to a university near Kamakura, one known for taking students with lower grades. Effectively sacrificing part of her future to be near him, Yuka entered the same school and awaited his arrival that fall, when the two would finally be reunited. But however Yuka believed this might go, it is safe to say what did happen shattered all her expectations. For Lucy was about to re-enter their lives.
Maple House, Nyu and Mayu
Yuka met Kouta as he arrived back at Gokurakuji Train Station for the first time in eight years. Whether she knew before this of Kouta's traumatic amnesia, his total lack of memories concerning Yuka terribly upset her. Trying to jog those memories, she took him to Yuigahama Beach, where they and Kanae had played as children and just near the hilltop where they reunited. Staggering out from the surf, naked and with a head wound was the horned girl Lucy, now also suffering from amnesia. Kouta of course no longer remembered her, and Yuka had never known her. In the intervening eight years, she had been captured by a research facility and renamed Lucy by the staff, though Kouta, Yuka and those they would come to live with rarely if ever used or even knew of that name. Escaping amidst a bloody slaughter, Lucy was wounded while leaving the island facility, taking a head injury from a sniper's rifle that not only gave her amnesia but left her in a childlike state. Concerned about the girl's well-being, dignity, and privacy, the cousins at Yuka's suggestion took her to Maple House, a former inn and restaurant now being leased to Kouta from Yuka's mother on a maintenance agreement, thought that overwhelmed Kouta at first. But for both of them, the real challenges lay in re-starting their relationship and dealing with Lucy, who they named 'Nyu' after the only sound she seemed able to make in her childlike state.
From the start, Nyu's lack of restraint on all fronts would prove a handful for the pair, leading to many an awkward, tense moment between them. When Kouta took ill after an argument with Yuka and some antics from Nyu (including an ill-fated attempt to change her clothes), Yuka regained her resolve to maintain the relationship, despite what she saw as Kouta's perversion and seeming insensitivity. Her world was rocked, though, when Kouta's recollection of his family's death differed radically from what Yuka knew to have happened. Whatever she had or had not known of it before, Yuka now firmly realized that Kouta did not remember her because he could, in fact, remember nothing of his childhood past a certain point. Yuka also realized that Kouta's false memories were a defense mechanism against his past trauma. Moving in with Kouta and their charge, Yuka also began to keep an eye on the unpredictable but loving Nyu. Originally, when the confused girl ran off after being scolded by Kouta, it was Yuka who decided to retrieve her. This effort would lead to a brief and painful encounter with the former agent Bando, who was searching for Nyu's other self. It would also result in a much longer association with the girl Mayu and her small dog Wanta, who became first the concern of the cousins and then their responsibility as they took her in and gave her a home. Both Kouta and Yuka were thrown off by how readily Mayu's mother agreed to let her relocate. If either suspected the grim secrets of Mayu's past, they kept to their agreement with her and asked no more questions about it. Mayu in effect became their daughter, in all ways but a formal adoption. Though rarely seen, Yuka's mother was alive throughout the series, and it seems likely that she was asked to give her approval for each new resident.
With no one home to watch over the rambunctious Nyu, the cousins started bringing her with them to college classes, hoping she would keep quiet and not draw attention to herself. This hope proved impossible in the worst ways.
Confused when separated from the cousins for even the briefest of times, Nyu found herself bumping into the wounded Bando, an encounter more comical than dangerous, as well as some curious students. Recovered by the pair in time to avoid those mishaps, a later attempt to pull this off went wrong. Kouta and Yuka were both attending a science class where the instructor was none other than Professor Kakuzawa, who knew full well who and what Nyu was. When he tricked the cousins into believing Nyu was his relative, first Kouta and then Yuka broke down in tears, their bond to Nyu already a strong one, and the choice to leave her not sitting well with either. Upon questioning from Mayu, Yuka recalled that the Professor (who while attempting to rape Nyu revealed it was he who had helped Lucy escape those months ago) had a less than sterling reputation. Kouta, who now felt that they had accepted his story too readily, went back to the University to find Nyu and perhaps bring her back. His refusal to bring Yuka with him on this search led to yet another awkward and tense moment between the two.
During and before the time of this disappearance by Nyu (one of many during the series), Yuka had been adjusting to Nyu's antics, which varied from a profound (if innocent) lack of modesty to an invasive presence that bordered on sexual assault. Despite herself and knowledge of Kouta's condition, she was not above striking him when angry or frustrated. On some level, she perhaps wanted Kouta to overcome his amnesia just for her, again while knowing full well that memory loss did not work that way. Kouta for his part found it difficult to ignore the sexually curious Nyu, and also found it hard to gain a measure of Yuka's level of upset over all this. Needless to say, their long-awaited reunion had fallen and would continue to fall far short of Yuka's childhood expectations. To make matters even more awkward, Yuka found that her desire for Kouta and her affection (perhaps on more than one level) for the grabby Nyu caused her repressed sexuality to manifest itself in ways she felt significantly improper. These instances of rage, upset and confusion has in the eyes of some readers/viewers come to define Yuka's character.
Kouta returned from the university without Nyu but with a lot more questions about who she was. When he was ready to begin searching for her once more, he this time asked both Yuka and Mayu to help him. While Mayu and Wanta explored the beach (and again encountered Bando) Yuka and Kouta searched the series of shrines built along a long stairwell (an icon for tourists and natives of the Kamakura Area). Eventually, they became caught in a rainstorm and seeking shelter inside a shrine. There they engaged in a deep passionate kiss and Kouta's declaration of affection plus revealing that he had started to remember Yuka from their past places Yuka once again in an embarrassing near-ecstasy. When they came out after the rains, they believed that they found Nyu, but it was, in fact, her other self, Lucy, remembering how she met Kouta and then murdered his family, wondering if seeking to be near him was just pointless against that trauma and guilt. At first nearly attacking Yuka, a suddenly coherent 'Nyu' said she had found her family and was leaving, only to be stopped by a skeptical Kouta. An attempted confession meant to awaken Kouta's memories caused a nervous Lucy to become once more Nyu, who fawned over Kouta, once again raising Yuka's ire.
Nozomi and Nana
Nozomi at this time despaired of finding a place to sing without earning her father's wrath. In the midst of this concern, she ran into her old Sempai, Yuka, who offered up Maple House as a place she could stay and practice. Realizing that the recurring chaos that seemed to envelop her home might be too much for an outsider, Yuka warned against any such nonsense when Nozomi came to visit. But perhaps there was no avoiding such for her housemates. Kouta, when leaving to get some groceries, ran into Nozomi, only for the wind to raise her skirt, revealing that, rather than panties, the incontinent Nozomi wore an adult diaper, an indirect result of her overprotective father's abusive discipline. Nozomi showed she was embarrassed by her 'secret panties'. When Kouta returns to find Yuka and Mayu comforting Nozomi, she runs off. Unseen by Yuka, Kouta again sees Nozomi's secret shame but chastises her for putting herself down; Yuka, unfortunately, sees Kouta's effort to hide her urine-stained clothes and sees it only as Kouta attacking her friend for no reason. When she goes to strike him, Nozomi moves to take the blow instead. This mistake may have served as the beginning of the end of Yuka's hitting Kouta. The tense couple has no regrets in Yuka's choice to invite Nozomi, whose voice enchants them all. However, a mild argument erupts when Kouta nobly keeps the secret of Nozomi's 'panties.'
In the wake of this, Mayu excuses herself, takes Wanta for a walk, and re-encounters Nana, another horned girl who once tried to bring Lucy in, only to be maimed and nearly killed. Thinking that the Nyu of Mayu's description might be Lucy, she agrees to return with her to Maple House. Yuka and Kouta meanwhile watch Nozomi teach Nyu how to sing, and then rescue Nozomi from Nyu's raging sexual curiosity, with Yuka so used to take Nyu in stride, she doesn't learn the full extent of Nyu's intrusion.
When Nana arrives, she panics upon sighting Nyu and attacks, only to be chastised by Kouta, while Yuka attends to Nyu's wounds. Nana flees with Mayu in pursuit while Kouta and Yuka aid Nyu, who in her sick bed has reverted to a weakened Lucy. As Yuka goes to fetch medicine for her friend's fever, she ironically warns Lucy against any of Nyu's more sexual antics, which confuses and angers Lucy, still too weak to move.
By the time Yuka returned with the medicine, yet another shift had occurred between Nyu and Lucy, and Yuka once more found herself walking in on an embrace between the childlike Nyu and Kouta. While even more innocent than many such moments, it was a scene that fed right into Yuka's tremendous self-doubts and fears for her relationship with Kouta.
Every bit of anxiety Yuka had ever felt about her love for Kouta boiled over at that time. Running to the beach, perhaps even feeling suicidal, Yuka fantasized about her later life with Kouta, only to chastise herself for not recognizing (as far as she saw it) that he loved Nyu more. Kouta's sudden appearance changed all this, and in a reversal, he slapped her lightly across the face for worrying him so. In his anger, based in concern and love, Yuka found the answers she wanted, and after that became a calmer, more mature individual.
When the pair returned to Maple House, they reconciled with Nana for what they saw as her unprovoked attack on Nyu, though the new horned girl and Kouta kept clashing as she settled in and became Maple House's last new resident for the series.
A Somewhat Diminished Role
Perhaps owing to the resolution of her fears about Kouta's affections, in the second half of the series, while still a main character, Yuka was more in the background of major events. During the Mariko storyline, she largely remained at Maple House with Mayu, even when Kouta and Nyu went to find Nana.
Six months after the death of Mariko, Nana notes that Yuka is evident in her love for Kouta and that she is still thrown off by his lack of memories concerning her, though she is handling it better than in times past. It seems Yuka must have at some point informed the others about Kouta's amnesia, though how much they all learned cannot be determined from the text. If Yuka knew of Nozomi's crush on Kouta, she seemed to be able to take it in stride, and for her part, Nozomi respected her sempai's prior claim, so to speak, in this matter. She also seemed more comfortable with Nyu's presence as the once woman-child suddenly matured and became able to speak, possibly owing to the total (if temporary) suppression of her Lucy persona. This period of peace was, sadly, the prelude to the events that would end the series.
Since it improved Nyu's socialization skills, the cousins still took her to college with them during the day. But all this ended as they were waylaid by the nerve-wracked Lucy-seeking scientist Arakawa, whom they only narrowly escaped. A demonstration of Yuka's concern for Nyu occurred when Kouta used a crude sexual comment to irritate Arakawa, and Yuka let it pass without comment since it was meant to distract their awkward pursuer. Unknown to any of them, Mayu and Nana at Maple House faced down a pedophile rapist assassin, driving him off with the aid of Bando. Bando's reaction to seeing Nyu awoke Lucy once more, and as she left to face him down, neither Yuka nor Kouta could dissuade the enemies. A short but painful period followed as Kouta, Yuka and Nozomi knew next to nothing of the fates of their three most vulnerable family members. With the aid of Wanta, Kouta reunited them just in time for them to face a home invasion by the forces seeking to recapture Nyu/Lucy. Yuka was repeatedly silenced and even struck during the assault, and then faced her worst nightmare when Kouta was shot trying to defend their home. She and the others also learned unequivocally of the Diclonius when attacked by clones of Mariko, only to see an enraged Nyu join with her Lucy persona and slaughter nearly the entire assault team. As Lucy left to deal with their enemies, she asked Nana to care for their home and family, and for Yuka to care for Kouta. The thing that ended Lucy's happiness was the source of Yuka's: The open use of vectors and one death in particular triggered the return of Kouta's memories. But Yuka had no time to celebrate, and little cause to do so. Kouta was severely wounded, and her mother began to push her to evict Nana, fearing she would become like Lucy. It remains unclear as to whether or not anyone besides Kouta now knew that Lucy was the one who killed Kouta's family. More of Lucy's feelings for the makeshift family emerged during her captivity by the insane Chief Kakuzawa, as she thought with longing of returning not merely to Kouta, but to Yuka and the others as well.
As Kouta's condition remained uncertain, Yuka waited by his side, with she and Mayu trading turn on watching over both Kouta and Nozomi, who suffered an injured throat during the assault. Yuka was also forced to defend Nana's place in their home against the suspicions and wishes of her mother. To their mutual shock, as well as that of the visiting Nana, Kouta had already risen from his hospital bed and went to the beach, where he somehow sensed that Lucy would return. Yuka could do little but fret as the two friends hashed out why their lives together had gone so horribly wrong. Even as she and the others searched for the two, disaster followed disaster when Lucy's arch-enemy and Nana's adoptive father, Doctor Kurama, shot Kouta in an attempt to kill Lucy herself. In despair for the one they all loved, Lucy began to move to destroy the world. She stopped in time as she realized that her power could be used to heal Kouta as well. Dying herself, Lucy/Nyu felt her body melt as she performed this miracle. Before the eyes of a horrified Yuka and their friends, Kouta executed their dying friend to spare her further pain.
While Kouta recuperated in the hospital following the lighthouse incident, Yuka directed the other ladies in rebuilding their home in time for his homecoming. When he did get out in the spring, she asked him to promise never to go away again or leave her behind. Yuka was last seen attending a summer festival with their family on the last day of the season, only to see Kouta walk off to keep a promise made to the late Nyu.
Yuka's ultimate fate is unknown, but it is heavily hinted she and Kouta married since Kouta's young daughter looks exactly like her. For in the ultimate tribute to their fallen friend, the pair agreed to name the child Nyuu. Given the young ages of the two special friends, Little Nyuu introduces her father to it seems unlikely Yuka would fear their return, and would instead welcome them back with open arms.
Yuka in the anime series was a concentration and distillation of many of Yuka's traits in the first half of the manga series. Here, she is noticeably more jealous and suspicious of Kouta's relationship with Nyu. Also, almost all instances of her striking Kouta from the manga are shown in the much shorter television series, making what had been an occasional theme seem instead constant. Her mother is barely referenced and never seen at all, even in the childhood flashbacks, though someone who appears to be her father is shown once during a flashback. Yuka takes the initiative in bringing Nyu home with them, is the first to go out looking for Nyu when she runs away and seizes the initiative from Kouta in the idea of permanently adopting Mayu.
While her history was virtually unchanged from that of her manga counterpart, bits of emphasis differentiate Yuka's anime version from the manga version. In a nightmarish scene, she is a child again, hearing faceless relatives whisper about Kouta's mental breakdown while at the funeral services for her uncle and Kanae. Towards the series' end, it takes Mayu to show her that she is, in fact, a proper "mother" figure for those at Maple House and that her anxieties stem from how much she loves Kouta and her worries that he will forget her or not return her feelings. Never the fan-favorite girlfriend for Kouta, Yuka remains the 'typical girl' counterpart for Lucy/Nyu, while also showing that not having horns is no guarantee of perfect happiness.
Yuka has arguably lived the least traumatic life of any main character in the series, perhaps even of any character period. Also, for the most part, she only does not know about her housemates' grim pasts. Though she certainly knows why Kouta has amnesia and seems to suspect strongly, based on her encounter with Mayu's mother, that Mayu had run away from a bad situation. In the case of the others, she knows nothing of Lucy/Nyu's past. Nana works at keeping her artificial limbs a secret, and Yuka perhaps thinks that Nozomi's father is merely somewhat opposed to her dream, as opposed to his fierce, bordering-on-abusive, opposition to it. Even with her limited knowledge of the three whose backgrounds she knows of/suspects, she cannot know it all, and this can leave her seeming unsympathetic. It is she who recommends bringing Nyu to Maple House, quickly seconds the idea of adopting Mayu, and stands firmly by her kohai Nozomi when she needs a place to go.
Yuka's main personality flaws come from her self-doubt and the deep emotional investment she made in her eventual reunion with Kouta. One of the series' central plots emerges from how this reunion did not even remotely follow her plans. Yuka is intelligent but still seemed to wish that somehow, Kouta would regain his memories just for her, and may feel on a deeper level like his amnesia is a punishment for her. In fact, neither the loss of his memories nor their ultimate recovery had anything to do with her. Despite her suspicions towards and jealousy of Kouta's relationship with Nyu, Yuka regards the wayward girl as part of their family, and even Lucy, in the end, chooses to tell Yuka to be the one who cares for Kouta. Whatever her resentments, if Yuka is eventually Kouta's wife, then she either named or allowed her child's name after her sisterly rival. Yuka's occasional flashes of violence against Kouta are actually in keeping with many a manga/anime romance. The Elfen Lied anime concentrates several of these instances into the course of 13 episodes, whereas they are rarer in the manga and stop entirely around Chapter 50 when Kouta makes his love for her clear.
Yuka does possess a caring and mature side and is protective and motherly toward those living within the Maple House. One such example is her defending Nana to her own mother. Yuka often found her dignity compromised in situations created by her nerves as well as Nyu's presence and actions. Yuka has stated she knows that some of her behavior is less than endearing, but that her love for Kouta makes her unable to focus past those nerves on many occasions. At least in the anime, Mayu openly refers to Yuka as the mother of their house, though Yuka's self-doubts make her feel like she is not worthy of this.
Since Japan has no customary or legal restriction against cousins marrying; Yuka could be said to serve as a mundane counterpart to Kouta's more exotic girlfriend, Lucy/Nyu. Simply put, she is the equivalent of the "average" girl next door. For those uncomfortable with this type of relationship, Yuka is merely Kouta's childhood friend, but it is important to keep in mind the cultural background of their relationship rather than damn it outright.
The pictured map from Wikipedia shows the global status about the cousins' marriage. Statistically abnormal are the regions that prohibit it as illegal and not the areas that admit it. To be more particular, the areas where the first cousin marriage is illegal are a part of the USA and the whole of China as well as s small part of former Eastern Europe and a part of Asia like the Philippines and Taiwan. A marriage between the first cousins is completely legal in most parts of the world, including Japan. For example, the Nobel prize winner scientist Einstein got married to his first cousin.
- Yuka's hairstyle appears to be a favorite of Lynn Okamoto's to draw, as the main protagonists from his later works bear the same hairstyle. These characters are Nono Nonomiya (and thus her twin, Yuuta) from Nononono and Ryouta Murakami of Brynhildr in the Darkness.
- Yuka appears by herself on twenty-nine manga chapter covers, and once with Lucy/Nyu. Yuka ranks second for all such appearances, just behind Lucy/Nyu.
- Yuka appears on the back of the 2013 Blu-Ray box set release of Elfen Lied and the English language and international release versions of this DVD/Blu-Ray version. She, Mayu, Shirakawa, and Arakawa are depicted as a choir. This image resembles the choir of women from the Beethoven Frieze by Gustav Klimt, with the art style reminiscent of the anime's opening credits.