Lucy is a special breed of human referred to as "Diclonius," born with a short pair of horns and invisible telekinetic hands that lands her as a victim of inhumane scientific experimentation by the government. However, once circumstances present her an opportunity to escape, Lucy, corrupted by the confinement and torture, unleashes a torrent of bloodshed as she escapes her captors.
During her breakout, she receives a crippling head injury that leaves her with a split personality: someone with the mentality of a harmless child possessing limited speech capacity. In this state of instability, she stumbles upon two college students, Kouta and his cousin Yuka, who unknowingly take an injured fugitive into their care, unaware of her murderous tendencies. This act of kindness will change their lives, as they soon find themselves dragged into the shadowy world of government secrecy and conspiracy.
Elfen Lied is based on Lynn Okamoto's seinen manga series of the same name and premiered while the manga was still in publication. The anime follows the source material through the first 7 volumes, with several alterations to the story, and concludes with an exclusive ending. In an interview, director Mamoru Kanbe expressed his disappointment in having to 'condense' to story into 13 episodes and felt that more were needed to include significant plot details that would have made the series more emotive.
The artistic design of both the opening and ending sequences are heavily inspired by the works of Austrian symbolist painter Gustav Klimt. Colors and patterns resembling Klimt's distinct style were used and characters of the series were drawn to recreate several paintings from the artist’s golden period, including The Kiss (Lovers). The opening theme Lilium, which is sung in Ecclesiastical Latin, uses lyrics taken from The Bible, the Renaissance hymn Ave mundi spes Maria, as well as the alchemical compendium Theatrum Chemicum.
Elfen Lied: Infamous for its bloody mess of gore, cruelty and nudity. A combination that could make many a person turn away. Yet, a huge number of people watch this, knowing (to some extent) what they're going into, and it's one of the more popular and well-rated series here on MAL. Some people call it a 'masterpiece', people some call it 'perverted', some people don't know what to say, and some call it 'horrible'. The first is true, the second is an exaggeration, the third is understandable, and the fourth is so wrong.
The first episode starts off with what is the bloodiest and nuditiest 10
minutes of any show I've ever watched, and I'll tell you this: If you live through that, you'll live through the series. And vice versa. Lucy, a naked girl of the Diclonius race, a species of mutant humans with invisible 'arms' called Vectors, is escaping from a facility (more like assaulting her way out), killing countless guards and whatnot on her way out (all in the nude). When she's finally outside, she's sniped, but she doesn't die. Instead, two teenage cousins (the two other main characters), Kouta and Yuka, discovers her on a beach. She has lost her memories, and is only capable of saying "Nyu", which is what Kouta and Yuka names her. They also decide to take her home, and
The story suddenly drops severely in its gore level there, and slowly builds up again throughout the remaining twelve episodes. Along with the gore come cruel events upon cruel events, as more Diclonii and their sad pasts are revealed. Nyuu 'awakens' as Lucy more frequently as the story progresses, in the end completely reverting to her old self. However, there might be an obstacle preventing her from going completely psychotic...
The characters are all okay, though they do act really stupid at times (if you find a girl with horns lying drenched in blood on the beach, you don't just take her home and decide to keep here there, do you?). They've all got some back stories, which contents are mostly those of cruelty, blood and relationships. Especially note the latter; relationships. It's an important aspect of the series, as they are the main factor as to why the Diclonius are so "cruel" as they are. "Cruel" because they aren't the real cruel ones; that dubious honor goes to the humans. Treating the Diclonius as mere research subjects, being shunned by the very people who should take care of them, and being killed off for stupid reasons. Among the main characters, their love (there is a love triangle between Kouta, Yuka and Nyu/Lucy), broken promises, lies and "lies" have all had their effect on how they are in the present, and what happened some years ago is connected to their development in the present day.
The series is only 13 episodes long, and in that short time quite a lot happens, which may make it seem rushed at times; it does move forward at a too high pace. The end result however, is actually extremely good, and a really tragic, enjoyable and gory experience.
The artwork is extremely good, yet very average. While backgrounds and scenic details are very meticulous and a real pleasure to the eyes, the character designs are way below what you'd expect after seeing the backgrounds. There is too little detail on them, the coloring is too bland, and they don’t fit in with the detailed surroundings in any way. The camerawork is very good at times though; at the rare occasion it reminded me more of the camerawork used in anime movies rather than anime series. The artwork during the opening theme is pretty interesting too; I think it's based an Austrian painter (Gustav Klimt)'s works.
The soundtrack is decent, with a marvelous Latin opening theme named Lilium that fits right into the series' overall tone, and an ending theme that, while a bit more cheerful, fits in with the love triangle between the main characters. The background music during the series is very repetitive at first; just a bunch of instrumental variations of Lilium. It gets better a few episodes into the series though, but overall I feel they used the variations of Lilium too much.
All in all Elfen Lied is a anime that does a very audacious thing by having so much cruelty, gore and nudity in one series, but the end result is a masterpiece anime that wouldn't have been good without. Just remember that it doesn't have the R+ rating for no reason - events ranging from a man watching his naked daughter to a dog being bludgeoned to death with a vase and live dismemberment takes place.
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An anime can be critically successful for many reasons, it could be due to a well written and engaging plot, innovative ideas that are perfectly handled or even have a deep plot revolving around thought-provoking themes. More so, "depth" has been a cause for the critical success of many anime over the course of time for example "The tatami Galaxy", but for a show to have a level of depth is not an easy task for any writer. However, superficial depth can be achieved easily and even more easily confused for genuine depth. Such superficial depth ranges from cheap shock factor to random philosophical questions which
have no relations to the core plot or characters and Elfen Lied is a prime example of such superficial depth.
The harem genre has never been an interesting or innovative genre in terms of plot and character since the beginning of time. Most harem shows consist of a bland protagonist surrounded by fetish fulfilling bimbos, who are head over heels for the bland protagonist for the most stupid reasons. Pandering, useless fan service and sometimes being an insult to one's intellect; most harem shows lose all entertainment value to a mature audience. The mass production of such shows led to the belief that "anime" is only meant for kids and adolescent teens and have nothing of value to offer for someone more mature. However, this notion surprisingly changed after the release of the infamous, Elfen Lied an original story written by Okamoto Lynn which got a one cour anime adaptation, produced by studio ARMS who are also famous for producing other works like Ikkitousen, a ton of hentai titles and Genshiken.
At first glance, Elfen Lied is anything but a harem. The show starts with 10 minutes of outright nudity and gore which leaves the viewer in a state of utter shock and terror. These 10 minutes were enough to drive away the weak hearted. However, after these ten minutes, the story is just a hackneyed amalgamation of cliche, plot devices, plot conveniences, plot holes and last but not the least some "smart" and fetish pandering wrapped up into a harem. Plot conveniences and cliche are in abundance, for example, Lucy, loses her memory (amnesia cliche) when shot with a bullet in the head with a magnum sniper and floats down to a beach. One would expect the military to be present there, anticipating her arrival on several shores as she is indeed a top secret project and above that a threat to the human race, but she conveniently meets up with her one and only friend she ever had, Kouta. The author tries to handle pandering with different tricks such as using "horns" for cat ears(Kemenomimi). The whole amnesia cliche is further used as a plot device and conveniently too which involves Lucy, regaining her memories and her other personality whenever the plot asks for it and reverting back to her childlike personality whenever the plot asks for it. As the story progresses the writer cleverly turns what could have been a genuinely mature story about racism and discrimination into a cunning little harem. Every female character introduced is forced upon with some miserable past. It almost seems like the writer is a misogynistic sadist who creates female characters just to torture them. One would expect the writer to use these angst-filled backstories to weave up an emotional tale but fails at doing so as how forced these backstories come off and the overall lack of any development of the character doesn't help either. The story also tries to be dark but only fails as it's an edgy mess due to the abundant amount of unnecessary fan service and the whole over the top nature of the show.
Many claim this certain title, Elfen Lied, to be "deep", though I fail to understand why. It touches upon the concepts of racism and discrimination in the most superficial way possible. Lucy and other diclonius were born to kill humans, just like the wolf is born to prey on the sheep. It's in their genes, it's a natural instinct. Now if a man were to cage a wolf and let his sheep roam free, it wouldn't be discrimination, but an act of defense. The same logic is for elfen lied, where most diclonius are caged up and kept in miserable states so that they don't end up wiping out the human race. This is not racisms, neither is this discrimination, it's just simple self defense. This is not depth, this is just ridiculous and superficial handling of a theme that could have been done well.
The plot progression in Elfen Lied can be only described as utterly stupid. As mentioned before, a "TOP SECRET PROJECT" washes through the sea only to land upon some beach where there are no military personnel to take care of such an important event. Then the couple who encounter Lucy, a naked girl with random horns, takes her home, because yeah, when you meet naked a creature with horns, you take her home and give her a nickname as if it were a stray dog, instead of going to the police to report the event. The military sends the worst soldier to find Lucy. Seriously, what kind of a soldier goes ahead and beats up his own comrade when going up against a man killing diclonius. Then the secret military group sends another diclonius to capture Lucy. It is to be noted that Lucy is the queen of diclonius species, and as a queen, she has the ability to order other diclonius to do her bidding. What kind of a "secret" organization sends an inferior being of the same species to take out its queen, specially when the queen has the ability to order the other around at her bidding through telekinesis? After this attempt fails they send in another diclonius because, yes, when "plan A" fails, you repeat "plan A" again. This organization must be run by a bunch of retards. And when one thinks of it, it's even more stupid as the second diclonius has been known for its sheer hate for humanity to the point of killing any human at sight. What kind of a secret organization sends in such a creature to an inhabited area with the ulterior motive of "saving humans"? Is this some sort of joke? Kouta later finds out that it was Lucy who had killed his entire family and ends up forgiving her in the blink of an eye. Completely logical.
The show is comprised of two clear phases. One phase where Lucy regains her memory where the anime becomes edgy and over the top. The other phase is when Lucy is in her amnesia mode where the anime becomes a Harem/SOL. The writers tried hard to make her cute but she is nothing more than pathetic. Roaming around naked for fanservice to the point where she needs help to even change her panties.The changes between these two phases depend absolutely on the convenience of the plot and we yet don't know when she decides to be a pokemon and when a mindless yandere.
The characters are the blandest bunch of characters to be ever written and this might not even be an exaggeration. One would expect to have sympathetic feelings towards Lucy due to her tragic past, but everything is so "plot convenient" that the tragedies seem fake and lose any impact if possible and come out extremely forced. Other than Lucy, every character is just a bland stereotype. Kouta is your generic harem lead and Yuka is the "imouto in love with her brother" archetype. Oh! you thought the bullshit ended with random gore and nudity ? You're wrong, the writers also decide to introduce an incest romance subplot that goes nowhere and just add to the convoluted mess. Other than Lucy and Yuka every other female in the show is a stupid loli as if the "clever fan service" wasn't enough already. There's no development to any of the characters. To sum it up all, the characters are just a bunch of retards and lolis who lack development and any core personality.
The opening sequence is probably the best part of the whole show. With the beautiful soundtrack "Lilium" there are some artistic scenes which have no damn relation to the convoluted mess of a plot. The ost is nothing special either and a bunch of them are reused and rehashed constantly but yet fail to be anything memorable. The art and animation is rather average and have nothing special about it. The show lacks aesthetics and any sort of artistic detail. The only details that are probably put in, is during the gore scenes where the disturbing images of the bones of the characters can be seen. The character designs are repetitive to the point where three characters have the same hair color. At least give them some more distinguishable features ffs?
Despite trying to be deep, Elfen Lied fails horribly by only touching on its themes very superficially hence lacking any message at the end of the day. It transforms itself into a generic harem with its seemingly "clever" tricks to fool the audience that it's something mature, but at the end of the day, it's just another mindless harem. Also, a useless incest romance subplot that goes nowhere (why is this such a big thing in Japan?) The characters lack personality or development and the art and music is nothing particularly special either. It tries to make up for its flaws with the help of conveniences, cliches, mindless gore and nudity which only worsen the show and makes it "edgy" as all hell. This show might appeal to a gore fan, an imouto incest fanatic, a lolicon, a misogynist or a mindless harem lover. Unfortunately, I'm not one of them.
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Elfen Lied is something else. Just watching the first 10 minutes of the first episode and one can understand that this is not your typical anime. A series modeled, in many ways, after the tragedies of Shakespeare and Ancient Greece, Elfen Lied is not something that you want to enjoy a sunny day with. The seemingly grotuetist violence and nudity may put some people off of this series, but I have to say that the story would not have the same impact without it.
Story: 10 - Elfen Lied boasts one of the most intense and intriguing plot lines that I have ever experienced in anime.
It must be known that the central themes to Elfen Lied are hate, anger, and inhumanity. Every darkness of the human soul is represented in this 13 episode series.
Animation: 8 - Not much to say here. The animation is very good, but nothing really stands out. I do really like the opening that shows a style adapted from the famous Austrian painter Gustav Klimt
Sound: 10 - The music really sets the tone for the series. I love the opening song "Lilium" by Kumiko Noma.
Character: 9 - Elfen Lied has the best in depth characters i've seen since Neon Genesis Evangelion. The characters are real, with both light and darkness in their souls. Unlike most anime, the distinction between good and evil is not so clear. Can Lucy/Nyu be considered a good character when she has the capacity to harm so many?
Enjoyment: 10 - This rating is the most subjective of all. I enjoyed the series, especially because I enjoy both dark and lighter anime series.
Overall: 10 - You just can't find many anime series that took the risk that Elfen Lied did. Sure you can watch Tenchi, Love Hina, or even Ranma 1/2 and get the same decently good anime over and over again. Elfen Lied, is something that just doesn't come around that often.
"Elfen Lied" has been nothing short of a phenomenon. There were no big budget promotions (like "Full Metal Alchemist" was promoted, for example), the manga wasn't exactly red hot property (like "Death Note" was, for example), but it was suddenly catapulted to fame in an incredibly short time in 2004. It's the kind of overnight success story that films and anime have been made from. But does it deserve all this hype? The short answer is no. The long answer is nooooooo.
Only kidding - this review is the long answer, obviously :P
When I first noticed "Elfen Lied" on an anime site, it was listed
as horror. But the picture shown on the site (not the picture from the MAL page, by the way) was this typically cute, giant eyed little girl with pink hair. First thing that came to my mind was: WTF? Cute, seemingly innocent little girl with a dark side going around killing everyone? Little did I realise how close I'd struck to the truth. What I didn't anticipate was how far below its hype it turned out to be.
To be fair, my initial impressions of "Elfen Lied" were actually pretty good. From the haunting melodies of its opening song "Lilium" and the combined gothic-anime style artwork, it seems to do everything right. The opening episode starts, and we are thrown straight into a blood bath, with heads and limbs flying in all directions curtesy of Lucy, a diclonius (a kind of mutant human) who is one of the central characters of the story. It was hard not pay attention. "Wow! I can feel this is going to be awesome!" I remember thinking to myself. But five minutes of ruthless massacre later, a extremely stereotypical ditzy secretary is introduced, who then promptly waltz in and trips over into the path of Lucy. I blinked as I tried to get to grips with this conflicting atmosphere, and at that point a small voice in the back of my head piped up: "What the hell is this?! A horror or a goofy comedy?!"
...and it's all downhill from there on. I should have known from the j-poppy ending theme that constrasted jarringly against the dark, forboding opening theme that something was wrong. Having been infected by the hype before hand, I was so convinced that this was going to be one of the greatest anime ever that I'd invited a friend of mine to watch this "masterpiece" with me. I'd sold it to her as this "really highly rated, brutal horror"... and we both watched with synchronised, slack jawed amazement as "Elfen Lied" descended from that potentially great horror themed show down to a, well, a bizarre horror of a show. (Ok, it's not actually *that* bad, but I just had to use that line :P)
This anime is meant to be horror, and though the horror elements are there, the pr0n elements are almost as strong, if not stronger. I'd heard about the violence, but I wasn't expecting all the nudity. As a result of my lack of research, I had to suffer my friend continuously teasing me about my supposed enjoyment of the omnipresent fanservice. The amount of scenes containing unnecessary distasteful nudity is simply ludicrous. If people are hit, their clothes magically rips off their bodies often rendering them completely naked. All the female characters in here just love getting naked... any excuse, and off goes all their clothes, or at least enough to reveal body parts that underscore the ecchi nature of this anime if nothing else. If a person falls over, you can bet the scene will feature the best angle from which to view a panty shot as they fall. There're countless more examples, but it would take me all day to list them. It's so bad it got to the point where, given any situation, I found myself wondering how they're gonna squeeze fanservice out of it. For example, during a scene where the characters gets caught in the rain, I'd start thinking: oh dear, here we go again - I can feel a wet t-shirt scene approaching... they might even start stripping once they find shelter. And funnily enough, most of the time my wild guesses will turn out to be correct. The fanservice flies in from all directions, and even after the anime had already conditioned me to anticipate the worst, they'd still be able to turn up when I'm least expecting them. The prime talent of the creators appear to be able to convert any situation into pr0n.
Now let's look at the horror aspects. It's impossible to talk about "Elfen Lied" without mentioning it. There's no denying that there is an incredible amount of blood and gore in here, but just how effective and appropriate are they? On one hand, the violence does serve its purpose to a certain extent. The sheer brutality of it and the fact that, like the fanservice, it can occur at any (and often unexpected) moment gives "Elfen Lied" a heightened sense of tension, anticipation, and enhances the viewing experience with a compelling edge. When all is said and done, the credentials of "Elfen Lied" as a horror is solidly cemented by all the violence. On the other hand, the violence of "Elfen Lied" is plasticky both in the visual sense and in the meaningful sense. Visually, the series is a bit of a one trick pony when it comes to violence - it's very direct, involves a lot of blood (sometimes too much), and the severed body parts often has the look of a dismantled toy body part to them. It all feels a little fake, and there's nothing as vivid and disturbing as some of the violence portrayed in the likes of "Berserk" and "Narutaru". Beneath the surface, it's pretty clear that the show's violence is mainly deployed as shock tactics, and so has very little actual meaning. Furthermore, "Elfen Lied" goes waaaay overboard with this tactics, and overuse of this often less-than-meaningful violence inevitably leads to a diminishment of its effectiveness. Unsurprisingly, after constantly being bombarded by the downpour of blood and severed limbs, I found myself numbing to them by the end, and they no longer affected me as much.
To its credit, I think "Elfen Lied" has got some intriguing concepts to build on. Mutants with invisible, deadly vectors hands? Sounds interesting. Involvement of a secret research facility that has a sinister purpose behind it? Tell me more! But unfortunately, they don't appear to be particularly interested in telling me this story. Unlike the fanservice, plot points are hard to come by, to the extent that it's hard to tell whether there are big gaping holes in the plot or whether they just failed to explain it properly. By the end, all I'm left with are some half developed concepts, some giant question marks, and a hollow lasting impression. Instead of expanding on its interesting sci-fi premises, it chose to divert a significant proportion of its attention to something that vaguely resembles a teen drama (but an ultra violent one, remember!) Drama! Does that mean it poured blood, sweat and tears into developing some astoundingly good character interaction and development then? No. Whilst the sci-fi aspect of the story can be described as wasted potential, the drama aspect never really had any potential to begin with - because it's of the dreaded harem variety. People can try and kid themselves all they want but we all know you rarely get anything worthy of note originating from that particular genre... other than lame humour and cliched, laughably unrealistic romance and characters of course.
And don't get me started on the characters... God they are so bad! If someone tries to strangle you for no reason, would you simply sit up afterwards and ask in a *conversational* way: "what did you do that for?" I doubt it. If it was me I'd be trying to get the hell away that person. If someone suddenly attacks your friend on sight for no apparent reason, and then tell you they did it just because they were hungry, would you believe such a lame ass excuse? My friend and I actually burst out laughing when we heard the excuse... then our mirth turned to astonishment as the dumbass in question not only accepted this sorry excuse of an excuse... but then proceeded to let the attacker into his house. (His house was already occupied by about 5 other girls by then, and yeah the attacker is is a girl. The harem aspect really starts to show at this point - man, how hard they had to twist the story and the character interactions just to get all those girls into the house :P) Okay I know that anime character aren't realistic in general, but did they even read the script themselves to see if the crap they churned out actually made sense on any level? The scientists are mostly a joke, the mercenary/security are practically useless... even the dog that featured briefly seem to be nothing but a plot device, abandoning its owner for no good reason other than so that it could interact with another character and garner sympathy from the viewers for the said character. I've heard of dogs being abandoned by it's owners before, but never the other way round!
Kurama is one of the few bright spots of the cast. His dilemma is choosing the right thing to do between the contradicting feelings that arise from his different roles as a cold, rational scientist, a normal human being, and a father whose child is caught up in the thick of things. This is arguably the only thing in the anime that DOESN'T feel a) forced and manipulative, b) inconsistent with the character and the situation, and c) like a shallow, black and white, clear cut issue. But apart from Kurama, most of the characters in "Elfen Lied" are so ridiculous it's actually hilarious to watch in places. A pity the same can't be said for the bits that are genuinely meant to be funny (the harem comedy bits).
People often harp on about how "Elfen Lied" is a deep anime that explores the ugly side of human nature. O rly? Call me cynical, but can you honestly expect much substance from an anime that's chock full of gratuitous fanservice and fetish based harem drama? Ok, that was a rhetorical question, but for those who are unconvinced, I'll put aside my prejudice for a moment here to properly address the issue. Let's take an example. One of the characters, Maya, has a tragic past that you would think would have a certain amount of impact on her life... but looking at her you would NEVER be able to guess it happened at all if it wasn't for the flashback that showed that event - "Let's design this really cheerful, likeable little girl. Oh! And we'll just shove in this flashback to tell people of her tragic past... and voila! She has depth!!" All traces of the affects of Maya's tragic past on her character magically vanish after the flashback, to the extent that I'd totally forgotten about it by the end of the series. Is this really exploring the so called social issues? No. It just smells suspiciously like a shortcut to gain the viewer's sympathy and a heavy handed approach to character development. What exactly are the profound messages this supposedly deep anime is trying to convey? That children can be cruel? Don't abuse children? Love conquers all? Don't piss off mutants that have dangerous powers? Sh*t happens? I'm not sure the makers even know themselves. Like the genre of this show, the messages - assuming it's trying to communicate anything - are a really bad contradicting mash up... and apart from Kurama's dilemma, almost everything monotonously boils down as an excuse for more cruelty and abuse. Worse, the countless abuse that happens in this anime has a stench of sadism about them - they are portrayed in such an over the top way that I couldn't help but get the impression that the producers are getting a kick out of it or something, which sickens me.
And this is why I can't work out for the life of me why this show is so popular. It's blatently just a shallow ecchi/harem flick, and normally people are smart enough to realise these kind of show tends to suck - you don't see other ecchi harems floating around being touted as the greatest anime ever do you? The only thing that makes "Elfen Lied" stand out against its brethrens is its violence, so I'm forced to conclude that showering an anime with blood will fool people into think it's "hard hitting" and "profound". Given the atrocious and manipulative handling of the story and characters, this anime has no chance of ever becoming deep, but with a bit more effort it could have at least become a really good atmospheric horror/sci fi. A crying shame that, instead of focusing on those more intriguing aspects, the makers were apparently more interested in thinking up new ways of applying fanservice. Very few anime have been known to successfully mix up very contrasting feels - "Trigun" does it very well for one, but "Elfen Lied" is not one of those few. Whoever decided it would be a good idea to mix the horror with the inappropriate fanservice (that had my friend and I laughing out loud at times) and the harem comedy (which, in contrast, isn't very funny, but is amusing due to how absurd it all is) should be shot. Several times.
If it was physically possible, and we managed to avoid being put in the friend zone, it would be almost every anime fan's dream come true. Let's take a peek at some characters that would make for the best anime girlfriend!