The Diclonius are mutants, born with incredible psychic powers capable of destroying the human race. For this reason, they are confined to laboratories… all of them except Lucy, who uses her powers to make an escape. The next day, she awakens on a beach, having lost her memory and the ability to speak. While in this amnesic state, she comes into contact with humans, befriending them and residing with them. However, they know nothing of the power that lurks in her mind, and the evil that is ready to escape.
summary by Mana
Highs: Character relationships; remarkable storyline
Lows: Too much gore; ending leaves many questions unanswered
Between the comedy and the blood, the romance and the fanservice, Elfen Lied looks like an anime that can appeal to everyone, making good use of gorgeous artwork for the entire journey. Unfortunately, it incorporates so many elements into the same show that they all contrast appallingly with the plot, leaving many scenes with a disjointed feel.
A large amount of horror relies on blood and guts to keep things scary, and Elfen Lied is no exception. This show kicks off with scenes of gore and violence that could rival Berserk, and it doesn’t stop there. Trust me, this is not a show for children or the faint of heart. Thankfully, after the first episode, the death count lowers somewhat, and underneath the brutality we see the core of a well thought-out story. The three main characters leave a lot to be desired in terms of personality and depth, but what they lack individually they make up for in their interactions with each other and with the side characters. The relationships between people and their ties to the plot leave the episodes running with a fluidity that keeps the story whole and relatively seamless.
The biggest downfall to the plot is the brevity of the series. With only 13 episodes, it seems that many events get only the feeblest of explanations, thus plot holes abound. The story leaves you wanting more, but only offers you vague hints and allusions. This is compounded during the middle episodes when scenes of comedy and implied incestual romance break away from the narrative in an effort ease the tension. However, these attempts only fall flat; it’s hard to laugh at Kouta touching Lucy’s breast when you’ve just witnessed a puppy being beaten to death. The ending song, a cheery J-Pop tune, also clashes with the mood, and I found myself skipping through it more often than not.
For fans of horror and in-depth plot structure, Elfen Lied is a good, short series to pick up, provided you can sit through the gore. Those with weak stomachs need not apply.
Highs: Opening theme and sequence; story starts off well…
Lows: … but turns lacklustre pretty quickly; annoying characterisation; a mish-mash of clashing genres
There are very few anime that have set my expectations so high yet let me down so very much. Elfen Lied is one of them. It started off alright. The opening sequence is one of the best I’ve ever seen. It melds images of the main characters with the art style of Gustav Klimt (Google it). Pair this with a hypnotic and foreboding theme and it gave me overall the impression that what would follow was going to mess with my mind, and for the first few episodes, it almost looked that way. Although it certainly isn’t for the faint-hearted, I have no problem with the pool-fulls of blood and gore this anime has, because for the most part it’s necessary. Violence is the means in which this anime explores the extremes of power given to those who aren’t equipped to handle it. It’s an interesting theme, and it was used with great effect in the first few episodes, but it became apparent that it would only become obscured and cheapened as the series wore on.
I blame this firstly on the characterization. Most of the main characters just aren’t interesting enough. Kouta and Yuka have your typical shounen, non-committal, relationship and their actions are as predictable as the sunrise. Kurama is the same tall-dark-mysterious-stranger-but-with-a-heart-of-gold that you’ve seen in every other anime, so when the story’s focus shifted to him towards the end, it was even harder to sustain any interest. But perhaps the most awkward and irritating element is its notion of sincere romance between pre-pubescent children. Kids don’t handle a relationship with the same maturity of an adult, and considering a good deal of the story relies on flashbacks to character’s childhoods, it made it incredibly hard not to cringe at the way it developed.
Secondly, I blame its salad bowl of genres. Elfen Lied dabbles in horror, drama, romance and comedy and they clash with each other badly. Fear and humor are at the opposite ends of the emotion spectrum and too often I was left in the clumsy grey area in between the two. Many good romantic moments were outright wrecked by poorly placed humor, most of which seemed like it was copied straight out of Love Hina. The use of nudity was a double-edged sword. When it was used in conjunction with horror, it was effective, when used for comedy and fanservice; it was mind-numbingly lame. When you have heads rolling in one scene and a panty shot in the next, it really makes you wonder just what the hell the creator’s intentions are.
Elfen Lied showed promise and I really wanted to like it, but I just couldn’t. I attribute it’s downfall to clichéd and unrealistic characterization and the failure to devote enough time to each of the genres it covers or even meld them together adequately; the fanservice cheapened the horror and the comedy cheapened the romance. By the end of the series the dramatic tension had all but disappeared and I couldn’t take any of it seriously enough.
Elfen Lied can be downloaded legally in the United States HERE.