Anime Reporter turns its attention now to Elfen Lied, the thirteen-episode, ultra-violent anime series. The anime was originally broadcast in 2004 and is based on the manga of the same name.
Elfen Lied begins in not entirely unfamiliar territory, a state of the art, heavily-secured secret scientific facility, an unstoppable abomination killing everything between it and freedom, a calm figure watching the escape on security monitors. As I previously mentioned, this is an ultraviolent series so expect to see a loooot of decapitations and bloodspray within the first few minutes. There’s also a lot of female nudity, but given this series’ dark tone and disturbing themes, it skips well past fan service and into more mature territory.
The escaped abomination, or Lucy, as it’s known, is a pink-haired girl with some rather cat-ear like horns sticking out the top of her head. She also possesses the ability to cut and crush things and people around her to pieces with a radius of a couple of metres. The details of this are explained in more depth in the series, but it might be more rewarding to discover the nature of Lucy’s powers through the series. Suffice it to say, Lucy is a diclonius, one of several mutants who share her appearance and abilities and who also seem to have a penchant for widespread destruction.
After Lucy’s escape, she’s found by two cousins, Kohta and Yuka, who take her in. Fortunately for them, Lucy seems to have developed a pretty severe case of amnesia, giving her a childlike personality and a vocabulary consisting of “Nyu”, which also lends to her being given a fairly unimaginative new name. Kohta has a pretty messed up family history, but he’s far from the only one. Little by little, Kohta and Yuka help ‘Nyu’ to adapt to life in the real world, all the while coming to terms with some very complicated feelings and a veritable barrage of strangers who seem to need a place to stay.
Oh, and they also have to deal with deranged hitmen, murderous diclonii and cybernetically enhanced versions of the aforementioned. It’s all very graphic and, while the series is rated 15, there are some themes which may be a bit too disturbing for minors, including animal abuse, child abuse and incestuous relationships.
The animation is striking. Violence is abundant and very graphic, with vivid tones of red making up a great portion of many scenes. Characters are rendered in fairly nice, if standard anime form, though it should be noted that, over ten years after its original broadcast, Elfen Lied is on par with many of today’s anime series and at moments, surpasses many. The voice acting is excellent in both English and Japanese though characters do little to escape their tropes and there shouldn’t be too many surprises in terms of character development. It’s also worth pointing out that there isn’t a whole lot in the way of humour in this series and, despite its violent and explicit nature, many episodes can feel quite slow.
Elfen Lied may prove to be uncomfortable watching for some viewers and it’s certainly heavy going in many places. An operatic soundtrack adds much in the way of tension and suspense in all the right places though it also slows the opening theme song to a heavy crawl that many may feel the need to skip over after the first episode.
Elfen Lied is available on DVD and Bluray and has been for some time. Despite its 15 rating, this series may be a bit much for some viewers older than that. Not for the faint of heart!
76% – “Makes an Impact” – Elfen Lied may be perfect for those viewers who want hefty helpings of gore and some seriously heavy content, but it won’t make many fans of those looking for some lighter entertainment.