Elfen Lied and Finding God in the Most Unexpected Places

I met with a friend yesterday, and among the myriad of topics we discussed was what happens when you perhaps too tightly guard your child from worldly things. I’ve been thinking more upon this topic after recently reading this article about One Punch Man. I don’t think a lot of Christian folks, unfortunately, realize that by censoring their children, they may be setting them up for a dramatic fall once they leave home. And as CJ infers in the article, many such folks are ignorant, a quality that Christians should not be known as, although I think it’s one that we’ve now taken on.

Christians vary widely in how they approach media – some will only consume pieces that are explicitly Christian. Others will accept almost anything. And many fall in the wide spectrum between. Here on Beneath the Tangles, we lie in that vast middle, more towards the end in finding that some media (especially anime and manga) can actually be beneficial, as so much of it points toward Christ, even as it is wholly unintentional.

Case in point: Elfen Lied.

lucy kaede
art by Eu-reka | reprinted w/permission

Let me start by saying this: I hate Elfen Lied. Hate it hate it hate it. It is my most hated anime series.  I think there’s very little redeeming about the series (what I’ve seen of it, that is – I only made it 75% through the anime and haven’t read the manga, which was recommended to me), spiritually or artistically.

Then I read this.

The Elfen Lied wiki has a very well-developed page about the theology of the series, focusing on a variety of religions. The discussion about Abrahamic religions was prime to me, and I really enjoyed reading through it. I especially enjoyed the discussion of Messianic allusions toward a number of characters (and on the opposite end, the comparison between Lucy and Lucifer).

The writing also made me think about the whole story of gospel. At one end, we have redemption, the work done by Christ (and in the series on a different scale by its characters), but on the other end, we have humankind and their sinful nature. We need series like Elfen Lied that demonstrate our depravity, that show the depths of our sin. I especially think of this series not only because its characters revel in violence (and in playing God), but because the series pushes us to enjoy gore. And for many of us – myself included – there is a draw there, one that I think shows our nature itself, one that enjoys destruction, that finds pleasure in impure things.

Without knowing our nature, without knowing the evil within, we can’t know our need for salvation. We can’t know that we need help. And we can’t love Christ.

There’s value in almost (almost) every piece of media out there, if we’re looking for it. We only need to keep our eyes open and realize that fictional stories, too, even ones filled with torn limbs and pouring blood, scream at the need for a Savior.

3 thoughts on “Elfen Lied and Finding God in the Most Unexpected Places

  1. Elfen Lied is a very curious anime, especially so because the anime and the manga point to the need for a Savior. Though, the manga does examine Christian themes in more detail than the anime: whether it be humanity’s need for salvation or the (Lutheran) doctrine of total depravity. One can be quite surprised where Christian ideas show up, but Our Lord is the most influential man to have walked the earth, so we should not be too surprised at that. The title of the anime does derive from a Lutheran Minister named Eduard Morike: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elfenlied.

    It is unfortunate that the Elfen Lied anime was so poorly done in comparison to the manga, the next series of the author, Gokukoku no Brynhildr, suffered from a worse adaptation, and the manga of the latter ceases to be interesting once the “Lucy” character is dealt with.

    1. Ugh, I think Brynhildr is one of the worst new anime I’ve suffered through to completion in the past couple years.

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