Anime Review: Elfen Lied

I just finished this series and to be perfectly honest I don’t know how I feel about it. I don’t hate it, but it was pretty f*cked up the entire way through. I’m going to try something a little different and not spoil too much with this review. However I should warn you now this post will cover gore and some sexually explicit material (seriously most nudity I’ve ever seen in anime). Buckle up.

Elfen Lied takes place in Kamakura and Kanagawa, and focuses on the “Diclonius”, a newly mutated species. Their appearance is similar to humans, but with several differences, namely horn-like protrusions on the forehead and the presence of telekinetic invisible arms called “Vectors”. One such Diclonius, Lucy, is the main character of the series: Initially held in a facility built for experimentation, located off the coast of Kamakura, she manages to escape and wreak havoc, but is injured in the process, an event which causes her to develop a secondary, childlike personality known as Nyu.

Lucy is found by two locals, Kouta, who studies at the local university, and his cousin Yuka. They take her in, and become involved with the numerous, often brutal, attempts to recapture her by a Special Assault Team and a number of other Diclonius, who shift frequently from oblivious to murderous. – Wikipedia

I figured the first thing I should probably cover are the bigger themes in the series —  social alienation, identity, prejudice, revenge, abuse, jealousy, regret and the value of humanity. I’ll do my best to separate these themes based on the characters that exhibit them.

Starting out with Kouta, he seems like your typical student — average in just about every way imaginable aside from his living circumstances. However early on in the series we get the impression that Kouta doesn’t remember his past very accurately, and begin to suspect that Lucy is involved in some way. Much like Lucy having her split personality, this eventually has an effect on Kouta’s character identity affecting his relationships with the other characters.

Other characters like the rest of the Diclonius also experience identity crises when confronting what they truly want vs what they’ve been taught to believe. Are they simply weapons born to eradicate mankind, or are they friends, daughters and possibly lovers? They often experience extreme prejudice whether it be immediate death upon birth, lifetimes spent in total isolation, abusive experiments to test their abilities, etc etc. Because of these experiences, most Diclonius view themselves as the superior race believing humans to be akin to stupid animals in comparison. Initially viewers of this show might only attribute jealousy to Yuka for her reactions to Kouta being around other girls. However, at their core the Diclonius envy the very humans they claim superiority over. They’re jealous of those who can lead normal human lives and wish for a world where they’re not discriminated against.

Abuse in this series isn’t limited to the Diclonius however. We’re also introduced to a young girl named Mayu, a homeless runaway. She left home after being countlessly raped by her step-father and abused by her mother. She also experienced prejudice from strangers because of her appearance wearing dirty and tattered clothing. Until becoming friends with Kouta, Yuka and Nyu, Mayu’s only friend was her dog whom she shared bread crusts with to stay alive.

Lucy/Nyu is by far the most dynamic character in the series however due to her conflicting emotions regarding the value of humanity. As Lucy, she’s an unstoppable killing machine who’s sole purpose is to propagate a new world full of Diclonius and to seek revenge for her mistreatment. However as Nyu, her love for Kouta and their friends creates a real struggle and sense of regret for her character later on. It’s hard not to love, fear and pity her all at the same time.

Plot: 2/5

When I’m completely honest with myself, this show had a very weak plot that was riddled with holes. Characters would act inconsistently, major plot points went unaddressed, and it often felt like gore was a fallback to keep viewers attention. Most characters would act in ways that defy all logic, and for no apparent reason other than to push the plot forwards. Also no one takes that many baths in a 13 episode series!

Character Development: 4/5

I felt the need to include this aspect for the review because although the plot was weak, the show did a great job of making you attached to some of the characters. Whether it be Kouta whom I personally dislike (Love to discuss this with anyone who’s seen the show!), or Nana who I feel had the most progression in the series, everyone had something to bring. It’s only too bad that the writers felt plot holes were necessary to bring all of these character traits together.

Art/Sound: 4/5

I’m not much into gore, but I’ve got to give this show props for doing it well. I know not everything was anatomically correct throughout the show, but they clearly tried harder than most anime in terms of making it feel realistic. This is one of the few anime that deserves the Horror tag its been given. Music wasn’t especially important in this series though the OP was fairly interesting and apparently a bigger deal in the manga as the song Elfenlied plays a somewhat bigger role from what I understand.

Elfen Lied: 3.5/5

I can understand the appeal of this anime to many of its fans, however at the end of the day I could take or leave it. I liked how it approached its themes hold from its loose harem nature. Unfortunately I think I’ll have forgotten most of it in about six months or so.


4 thoughts on “Anime Review: Elfen Lied

  1. I think the main problem with elfen lied was to try to put the more content they could in one season… Moreover the story does not end there… I never read the manga but I think it is probably well written

    1. That’s definitely an impression I got reading up on it. Though some of what got cut seemed a little weird to be included at all, I can’t help but wonder how it would’ve affected the show.

  2. I agree that a more focussed story and tone would definitely help this show out. There’s just too many ideas that don’t really get long enough to develop because the show spends a lot of the little time it has either being excessively gore filled in an attempt to shock its audience or excessively cute to really contrast with the shock and gore. The narrative really kind of gets squeezed out by the need to set the tone in a lot of episodes.

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