I owe an apology to VAP and Arms. After completing the anime, I blamed them for Elfen Lied’s mediocrity. In actuality, it's the fault of the mangaka Lynn Okamoto for its creation. Elfen Lied resembles a puzzle with missing pieces and pieces that don't belong. Although the concept is uniquely complex, some parts were unexplained or just plain ridiculous.
The story wasn't entirely bad, just a bit dramatic. The characters were distinguishable in personalities. As a harem, every girl that entered Kouta’s life had a tragic past. The best part were the backstories, even illustrated in extra chapters. It tells the story from the character's point of view and displays their emotions. It's understandable about their situation of not having anywhere else to go. Thankfully, not every single character is infatuated with Kouta (the male protagonist). Three girls have feelings for Kouta, but he never showed favoritism for one or the other. There's also character development in Nyu, who matures from the girl who only uses one word and enjoys groping other girls after a time skip in the story.
The idea of a mutant called Diclonii was good at first, until Lynn decided to vastly vary them from humans without an explanation. First, it's gory with the Diclonii’s ability to kill humans with telekinesis, their invisible vector arms. The amputated heads and bodies ripped apart grab your attention. Then it turns comical. Their bodies appear humanlike. They even die like humans. However, their bodies are apparently made of plastic, as they receive plastic body parts instead of bionic parts like regular humans. This makes them appear as your typical Barbie doll. It makes no sense, because Kouta squeezed Nyu’s non-plastic boobs plenty of times. At the very last minute, Lynn decides to give one specific Diclonii the unfortunate ability to melt for overusing her power, when this was never mentioned throughout the story. Then I questioned why can't she die normally. Also, Lucy is the original Diclonius from a virus that spread during the time she was born. The manga failed to mention how this virus originated. The lab named Lebensborn was apparently using young Diclonii as test subjects to discover what's unknown about them, but those flaws, among others, were never explained.
Apart from the flaws with the Diclonii concept, there are major things that ticked me off about Elfen Lied. As the story progresses, it became clear that Lynn couldn't make up his mind about what he wants to do. A scene would become a teaser with the character being backed into a corner, on the brink of death, or going through a psychological state. Then things suddenly brightened with the character surviving a near-death experience or turning back to normal. For example, a character had a gun to his head, and the scene cuts to a scene of blood splatters. Then the character later appears with an excuse of someone saving him. If foreshadowing took place, I'd excuse this. The most ridiculous thing is how you witness a character taking his/her last breath from having his/her guts spilled out, body split in half. Then they appear chapters later completely unharmed. There's also a lot of pointless tears, especially from Yuka, who disliked Kouta not showing her enough affection or not remembering their childhood.
The ending didn't make sense at all, and Lynn threw anything together just to end it all. Sad scenes occurred, and they weren't realistic. They'd cry one minute, perk up the next, and then go back to bawling. Characters that died suddenly come back to life. Then new information was introduced at the last minute just to hurry and end the story. Reminds me a lot like Lynn’s other work “Gokukoku no Brynhildr.”
The character design was average. It's just your typical big-eyed characters. The background design is what really stands out. It was moderately detailed from the cracks in the wood floors to the swirly clouds in the sky. The gradient colors were good, too, especially in the streets at night and dark hallways. I don't invest my time much into ecchi, but it's fanservice galore of course. I think it was done well, just wish it was done at appropriate times.
The meaning behind “Elfenlied” (“Elf Song,” a poem in German) is creative in terms of the title. Behind all of the amputated heads and chopped bodies lie a mediocre story. There are several other minor flaws in Elfen Lied, such as a character who wears a diaper and characters with family complexes. If the puzzle was completed with all of the right pieces, I would've enjoyed it more. Overall, I thought Elfen Lied had the right idea, but it wasn't drawn correctly.