Elfen Lied

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vivafruit's avatar By on Aug 1, 2007

Story

I’m actually going to make the case here that the story would be entertaining even without the ultra-violence. Elfen Lied has a relatively interesting tale involving apocalypse, split personality, and evil-men-in-lab-coats performing diabolical experiments. In other words, there isn’t anything that we haven’t seen before, but the elements are mixed in such a way to hold one’s attention well.

When the shock value is added, however, the storyline is elevated from interesting to riveting. Aside from two distinct moments (a recap portion in episode 12, and a fairly weak “bonding” session between Nana and Mayu in an earlier part of the show), I was held to the screen from the guiltless bloodbath of the first 5 minutes to the final episode.

The story is somewhat marred by a “read the manga” ending and some unnecessary ecchi moments, but these are minor complaints in the grand scheme of things.


Animation

Whether you love it or hate it, I doubt anyone can really dispute the fact that the gore is exceptionally well animated. In fact, just about every part of the various fight scenes are almost flawless: fluid, quick, and exhilarating. Outside of these scenes, the animation is not quite as impressive but nonetheless appealing. My one complaint would be with the somewhat lackluster character designs. I wouldn’t call them terrible, but they definitely seem generic.


Sound

Elfen Lied has a fantastic opening theme that reappears as background music in the actual show, with favorable results. Voice acting is fairly unmemorable save for the excellent performances of two seiyuu. Yuka is one of Noto Mamiko's first major roles, but here she seems a perfect fit; because of her efforts, what would otherwise be a relatively bland character is made into a likeable one. A similar (but less significant) effect happens with the appealing machismo of Bando’s seiyuu.


Characters

While the characters in the show could have been a lot worse, they’re by no means good. Most of the characters are likeable on a basic level (my favorites were probably the off-kilter, steroid pumping Bando and the surprisingly compelling Nana), and some of them have interesting back-stories thrown in for good measure. Unfortunately, in the end they feel more like caricatures than actual human beings. Given the nature of the show, this might have been unavoidable.


Overall

I hate harem animes with almost no exception. As well as being shamelessly clichéd and artless, most of the plot lines that these animes manage to come up with simply aren’t interesting. The majority of the anime-watching community seem to enjoy brainless, ditzy, high-pitched and disproportionate girls emasculating an already girly protagonist, but the entire idea has never really appealed to me.

I bring this up because, as much as I am loathe to admit it, Elfen Lied is undeniably a harem anime. All of the ingredients are there: the faceless main character, the ample supply of unnecessary female characters, the spacious former hotel… anyone who says otherwise is simply delusional.

…and yet, here I am, defending this title as not only a good anime, but a great one. Despite the pointless panty-shots, despite the random breast fondling, despite the girl-barges-into-room-with-hero-in-compromising-situation scenes, I was glued to the screen for pretty much the entirety of the series. This isn’t just something I’d recommend; I think Elfen Lied is one of the best shows of 2004.

What makes this show excellent are not the harem elements; when all is said and done, the ecchi part of the show merely provides a basic skeleton for the creators to build upon. What they add is one of the bolder moves that Ive seen recently in anime. While most series nowadays are invisibly affected by some time-tested boundaries, Elfen Lied smashes just about every rule on what is considered acceptable within the realm of entertainment.

The obvious example that many people have already brought up would be the gratuitous violence. Trust me, these people are NOT exaggerating; of the numerous animes that I’ve seen, this one takes the prize for most gore. However, what many people are failing to note is that the most disturbing parts of the show don’t really have anything to do with blood and guts. How many animes have you seen that involved animal torture? Child molestation? The total loss of conscience? These subjects have been touched upon before, but never with the intensity and prowess that Elfen Lied manages to achieve.

In the end, the most criticism that this anime receives will be derived from the fact that the anime uses raw shock value to help bolster a relatively shallow plot. What they’ll fail to mention, however, is that this is not really a bad thing. When all is said and done, the unblinkingly savage nature works; Elfen Lied is absolutely fascinating in its sheer viciousness, and the ecchi part of the show only helps to contrast this brutality. If you’re worried about others accusing you of having “bad taste” in anime, then by all means skip this show. However, if all you want in anime is an engrossing, balls to the wall rollercoaster ride of betrayal, cruelty and fanaticism, then there arent a lot of titles that Id recommend over this.

7.5/10 story
9/10 animation
8.5/10 sound
4.5/10 characters
8/10 overall
DistMan's avatar By on Oct 24, 2004

Story
Alright... what we've got here is a messy little story as the synopsis hints at.

What we have here is a species that has evolved further than your normal everyday human being. This species possesses so called "vectors", nifty little telekinetic things which are useful if you want to hang upside down in a tree and make a carrot salad... or let’s say, shred a human into tiny cute little pieces. Now, the problem here is that there are people who don't think that these evolved humans, or "diclonius" as they are called, should roam free. On the contrary, they should be subjected to various inhumane tests. And this will, obviously, anger these vector-equipped beings. You see, if you're too close to one of these creatures and accidentally drop a coin, (a quarter for instance) then expect to have it shot through your head faster than you can say "Barbequeonthedarksideofthemoonisgood" backwards. Or the short version: "Mess with a Diclonius, and you die."

Alright, now we've got the basics down. One of these creatures escapes from this facility and loses her memory in the process. Kouta and his cousin find her naked on the beach, and from there things get a bit out of hand. This organization from which Nyuu escaped will do anything in its power to get her back, even if it means using other evolved humans.

The show is very good. It's a very bloody and messy show: they won't hold back with the blood, bone splinters and intestines when a person is cut to pieces. This is one facet of the show, the killing part of the show. Then we have the drama part which reminds me a bit of Love Hina or (insert a high-school romance anime here). The thing is that Kouta's cousin has got a thing for him, and Nyuu is a very well endowed little girl who also happens to lack any form of common sense. So there are some situations which little Kouta might have a hard time explaining himself, but we'll leave it at that.

There is lots of nakedness in this show, both upper-body nakedness and full body nakedness. It's not done in a forced manner but in a rather believable, understandable manner.

To be honest, I thought a dark angsty violence storyline would clash pretty badly with a comedy/romance genre. but it didn't. It could've been a little less romance-focused though, and some things are quite cliché, but it's fully bearable. The blood/gore thing is a bit overdone at some times as well. All in all I'd say that some things are a bit over the top at times.

The story is quite good and flows well. Characters are introduced nicely into the series and the various flashbacks etc are played at the right time. Nothing feels particularly forced. They also managed to create the "I want more" feeling every time an episode ended. Which resulted in me spending my afternoon watching the last 10 episodes in one go.

The ending was superb and well executed and fit perfectly with the tone of the show. Something to be aware of is that the end isn't definite. The manga will most likely take the story further.
Animation
This is the only part that disappoints. The visuals are alright, but nothing above that. The colors are vibrant and the lighter colors of the palette have been used throughout the show. The detail level is medium and comparable to the later mid-nineties anime shows. The lines in the show aren't knife sharp but rather a little thicker and blurred.

My real gripe with the visuals is the character designs. Don't get me wrong; I think that most of them are very good. Nyuu, when in evil mode, looks great with a more mature look and all adult characters in general also look mature. The problem is the teenage characters. Some of the characters look like the typical H-game adaptation style...together with Card Captor Sakura roundish head design, which I simply don’t think fits. The eyes are way too big and round. One of the children in the show rivals the characters in Shamanic Princess regarding the eye size. The faces are too circular, and the chin-cheek contour is very vague.

I would've preferred the use of sharper lines, both for the eyes and for the head shape, like they did with the more adult characters. The characters are, however, well drawn if we look at them as a whole, with clothing, hair bands and whatnot. The characters display an aura similar to that of their personality.
Sound
The Opening tune is a dark piece of material. It's a classical piece sung in Latin and this tune is used throughout the show in various shapes (piano-only version, string version, male vocal humming version etc). It's not overused, but rather used in passages where it's very fitting. The tune is a bit too flat for me to fully like it; it lacks dynamics and depth. It's well produced, well sung, well recorded and I like it when it's played in the show, but it's not a tune I'd play several times a day.

The ED song, however, is a good happy catchy J-pop sung by Kawabe Chieko. I always found it a bit strange that they used such a happy tune, when the episode usually didn't end in a very happy manner.

The background music is just "there". It's not something I "listened" to during the show. It does what it's supposed to do, nothing more and nothing less.
Characters
We have quite a bit of character development here. The main characters are introduced in a good manner and are then given time to evolve. The flashbacks give further insight into why some of the characters act like they do. This also helps to create sympathy and empathy, something they did quite well. The character personalities are also well executed and they were believable. I never felt that any character acted strangely or forced. The flashbacks certainly help in understanding the characters.
Overall
I give this show a well deserved 9. It kept me wanting more after each episode. It was a very well executed ending. The character interaction is good. The OP and, especially the ED was good. The story was interesting and well paced as well. The visuals are the only thing that drags down the overall score. It could've been better considering that it's a show which was released in 2004.

There is a lot of bad karma in this show, and some people will view this as overdone. I don’t think so myself. There is a very strong "You reap what you sow" feeling throughout this series. The only difference is that when you inflict damage onto a diclonius it will be returned 100 times harsher...
9/10 story
6.5/10 animation
7.5/10 sound
8.5/10 characters
9/10 overall
sothis's avatar By on Oct 25, 2004

Story
Violence and nudity lovers unite -- Elfen Lied has been created just for you! Really though, although there is somewhat of a plot to speak of, the main focus of Elfen Lied is the shock value, plain and simple. The somewhat thin plot revolves around the fact that a certain type of people exist that have horns (dubbed Diclonius). These creatures become terribly violent and homocidal, causing those who sit in power to worry. Lucy is one of these creatures who escapes from a maximum security facility (leaving much carnage in her path), and washes up (naked and bloody, no less) on a beach where the young Kouta and Yuka find her. Lucy, however, has somehow lost her homocidal tendencies and has reverted to Chii-like dumbness, acting like a 3 year old who doesn't even know how to walk. And thus, the story begins...

Again, the plot itself is pretty weak, as far as I'm concerned. There are a few minor twists and the obligatory "people can't remember things from their past that were really damn important, which come back later in the series", but as a whole, the plot was definitely back burner for the violence and nudity (and I don't think anyone could argue with me on that). The violence? Really messed up. Honestly, I think this was the most disturbing thing I've seen as far as blood goes. I've seen quite a few really gory things in my time, most of which were really cheesy (Baoh, for one). Berserk is a good example of a series that isn't cheesy as far as the violence, but still is really up there on the violence scale. Elfen Lied leaves them all in the dust, giving us not only extreme violence, but very disturbing violence (Narutaru style) that is very graphic. For example, people often get their heads or limbs twisted off. This would be gruesome enough, but in EL, they are very careful that you see the bone sticking out of the limb that's left. Or, people sometimes explode and their organs fly out. Really nasty stuff, and really, really graphic. And like Narutaru, there are a few scenes that are just so wrong that you cringe. In general, I found it to be SO violent that I was laughing near the end when each messed up thing happened. Honestly, I think each episode tries to outdo itself, because as the series went on, each episode seemed to have something even more bizarrely grotesque than the previous one, and near the end it was no-holds-barred.

The other facet was the nudity, which I really didn't enjoy and felt was extremely overdone. Violence I can understand because the plot revolves around these creatures being super violent... but nudity? Is there really a point to flaunting the character's naked (and sometimes underage) body? It even is plastered all over the intro and outro, including the very first shot of the outro that you always inevitably see when the episode ends. Come on guys, is this really necessary? I feel like the creators of the show must have accidentally ate 5 bottles of viagra and took it out on the female characters they were drawing, since I swear 60% of the time the diclonius girls are naked, many times unnecessarily. Unlike the violence, this was not effective as far as I'm concerned, except helping Anime Nerd #43243909 have an easier jack off session that evening.

All in all, a somewhat thin but still interesting and unique plot that was enhanced by the brutality and lessened by the ridiculous amount of nudity.
Animation
The animation of Elfen Lied seemed good most of the time, but faltered at others. The backgrounds were definitely the most beautiful of the lot, and were detailed and interesting. As previously mentioned, the violence was excessive and effective as far as how it looked on the screen. Though it might not have looked completely real, it was creepily done and looked real enough to be disturbing, especially with the bone fragments sticking out and such.

I think the only part I didn't enjoy so much was the character designs. At first I was impressed, but as the show went on I started to feel like they were a bit generic. They almost reminded me of Kanon, with the huge dating-sim eyes and the bright colors. All of the Diclonius girls had bright pink hair (which is never really explained), while everyone else tended to have normal colors. In general, the colors used were very vibrant and rich.


Sound
The audio was probably the highlight of the series, and reminded me a great deal of Tsukihime. Beautiful orchestral singing dominated the series, with a woman at the helm most of the time. It fit the tone of the series, though just as easily could have had a techy/techno feel once in awhile, which it didn't. Voice acting was decent for everyone involved, though Nyuu's voice was fairly irritating and reminded me of Chii. In any event, her character seemed to be thrown in just for the fanboys, so I guess it needed a cutesy voice to match.
Characters
There was a decent amount of character development to speak of, but I don't necessarily think I was happy with a lot of it, hence the somewhat lower score. The crux of the development was definitely with Lucy/Nyuu, and Kouta. Like many stories, Kouta has a dark and hidden past that he has to discover, and Nyuu has two completely different sides that she ends up exploring in a strange way. The secondary characters have their own situations as well, such as the other Diclonius girls (developed weakly), Yuka, the cousin who has a crush on Kouta (wtf is up with the incest thing in so many anime series?), and various side characters as well. Again, the character development really is in the background as opposed to the violence and nudity, just like the plot, so you can't expect this to be another Infinite Ryvius or FMA. It was decent and enjoyable in part (hence the 7), but weak in other parts.
Overall
You may be wondering why I scored Elfen Lied at an 8, even though my other scores are all lower. Well, I really did enjoy this series, even though I felt it was pretty weak as a whole. If it hadn't been for the extreme almost laughable violence, this would have fallen flat on its ass from the thin plot, beautiful but still generic animation, and somewhat weak characters. Elfen Lied is a fanboy anime, plain and simple... it appeals to people who want the super violence and nudity, and that's why it succeeded as much as it did. I agree that the violence helped the series be more enjoyable, hence the high score of 8... but if you are looking for something really deep and complex, without being flaunty, I don't think this is for you. For all others out there, don't be scared of watching this just because of the hype it got. Go into it knowing what type of show it is, and enjoy!
7/10 story
7.5/10 animation
7.5/10 sound
7/10 characters
8/10 overall
roriconfan's avatar By on May 3, 2012

ANIME EVOLUTION SERIES
Full lit of the review series can be found on this page, 3rd post from bottom:
http://anidb.net/perl-bin/animedb.pl?uid=251338&show=userpage&do=blog&blogid=29009&page=0

This is not a conventional review as I usually write. All there is to be said about this series has already been said from multiple angles in all the wooping amounts of reviews this title got. This will be more of a meta-thinking essay on the series than an actual analysis of the various sections of the anime. So if you expect info on what the series is all about, stop reading and look elsewhere. The following text will be quite boring if you don’t like stories AROUND a series rather than ABOUT a series.



If you are reading this line I assume you are interested. So take a deep breath because here comes a hell of a wall of text. Be warned that I hate this series and I normally use the harshest words against it but for the sake of reviewing I will be as polite and objective as I can. That is a huge sacrifice on my part!

There are thousands of anime made throughout the decades but only a few manage to be engraved deeply in our memories. Fond childhood memories is a main factor as so is the first time you come to witness or experience something new. Series like Dragonball Z, Sailor Moon and even Pokemon are not famous just because of lots of marketing (although that did play an important role too). They are famous because they were the best of what the tv had to offer back then. There may be far better titles in each genre but since we never got to watch those back when we were greenhorns, they never managed to transmit the same feelings years later when we actually got our hands on them. We may be admitting their superiority over the previous favs but they still weight less in our minds.

And this is what Elfen Lied is. A series most of us watched as greenhorns and that is where most of the mythos and the rave around it come from to the most part. You see, back when it aired anime were still not so well received by most young people. Most saw a bit of Dragonball, a bit of Pokemon, a bit of Sailor Moon and thought that this was the extend of what an anime can get to. Now as much as you may have liked those series, you MUST admit that they appear quite silly for someone who first watches them and that is enough to never be bothered with them.

And then Elfen Lied (henceforth called EL) comes along and brakes that assumption. True, there were already violent anime airing, as there were anime full of nude, full of interesting story ideas and nice visuals. But EL happened to have mixed all of the above in the same package. For example, let’s look at the first 10 minutes of the first episode. The opening song and video are haunting and artistic, intriguing and eye-catching. Then we see in just a few minutes a massacre of the highest possible gore and splatter you could ever dream of witnessing back then, backed up by a scary naked woman wearing a demonic metal mask and horns. You even see a person who acts all silly assuming to be the main comic relief character throughout the series to be eventually brutally murdered in seconds. WOW, HOLLY SMOKES, WHAT IS THIS??? Instant hook! And here starts the rave of the series. Sex and violence always sell and EL happened to have an extremely amount of both. Also, there wasn’t anything remotely similar airing on mainstream channels back then and that made the impact to be tenfold.

There are many who can say that is was Dragonball who got them hooked to anime. Others that it was Naruto or Sailor Moon. But all these people already were ready to accept the weirdness of the Japanese culture. They had their mindset ready to watch silly boys throwing energy beams and klutz girls with magic wands. There were not many of those around, I guarantee you that as I was one of them. EL happened to hook to anime a far more broad group of people, who until then only saw anime as silly and childish. But splatter, nude, a haunting intro and a story full of misery and social issues around cruelness? That was so political incorrect that drew people in by the thousands. Because after all, the more political incorrect something is, the more attractive it appears to young people. And let’s face it, all other anime at that time had the archetype of the stupid teenager helping innocent people and defeating bad monsters. EL was nothing like that. Everyone was either crazy or evil; there were no clear good guys and bad guys. Plus, it was the first series that directly presented on mainstream channels in the west a world where humans are not good by default and are tormented by monsters. No sir, here the humans are sadistic little bastards who like tormenting little girls and are being slaughtered like pigs as revenge. Even children and women were not spared! When was the last time they showed even women and children being killed? Heck, even kicking puppies was quite cruel and rare back then.

So as you understand, it was all so original and extreme back then most immediately fell in love with it for being so damn different. And needless to say, thanks to it the anime communities worldwide were doubled in a few years. “Anime are cool; look what they show” many were saying and showing scenes of the series to their friends, not afraid to be called geeks anymore because it was so damn violent and sexy it could not be labeled nerdy. And many of those friends actually became fans themselves and got to bring in more of their friends to the gang. As petty as it sounds having gore and sadism to be the magnet of interest, it is a fact that in order to be an anime fan you just gotta love that sort of shit. It is a fact…

Now let me make it clear that in the following years all the elements of EL were copied in following series. Mainstream anime nowadays are far more sexual and violent, something that EL helped visualizing thanks to its gargantuan fandom. People wanted sex and violence and that is what they got. Open any recent anime and there is little to no chance to not see nude, splatter, lolis and all the sick stuff successful series like EL helped to establish.

So far so good, sounds like the best anime in existence, right? … Not by a longshot really. It does feel shocking and different and special if you are a newbie in the field without any previous exposure to this sort of anime but otherwise it feels quite ridiculous by itself if you are already a veteran viewer. As I was the first time I watched it. You see, I got to watch far more dark and brutal titles since I was 6; many years prior to watching this anime. How is that possible you ask? Well, it is simple, adults back it the 80’s couldn’t imagine an animated series to be violent so they pretty much had no age indicator on the VHS titles. Everything was labeled “for kids” and was placed on the same shelf. So this is why I was watching fairy tales on one moment and heads jettisoned away the exact next. Yes, I got to watch Birth, Windaria, Choujin Locke and Nayuta before I was even 8. Anyone familiar with those really old titles will easily ask why I didn’t become a serial killer by being exposed to such gargantuan amounts of violence in such a tender age. Ok, I admit, those movies affected me to a great extend and now I am this loli-lover, Angry Video HS Nerd you all tolerate through my reviews. What I mean is that I was already exposed to far more sinister stuff way before EL and guess what, it didn’t seem worth not even half of what everyone was raving about. Because the shock value was low.

And here is where this series most aims at in order to impress. Shock value. The more it shocks you, the better it appears to be. Because without it, it feels as silly as watching Goku eating a mountain of food without gaining a single pound.

Let’s get now to more conventional analysis, starting with the animation. The intro song is marvelous and artistic, a very good initial impression. But the rest of the series is actually more about bright colors and cute albeit crude character figures than actual quality. The bright colors are actually a smart move as they make the splatter scenes to appear even more shocking. You wouldn’t expect so much violence in a series with cheery colors. At the same time they give that harem fuzzy feeling of multicolored hair bimbos doing silly stuff all over the place. It helps to hook you by the extreme amounts of fan service it has. There are panty shots and boobs almost every 5 minutes, while underage girls are most of the time shown being tortured. Yeah, great eye catcher stuff for sadists.

Still, the actual amount of detail given to character figures is quite simple and almost crude, as the girls have ridiculously huge eyes and simple face structure, while the gore scenes themselves are not really paying attention to body anatomy. This of course sounds as peanuts as you can get a boner by even two spheres that are supposed to be boobs as well as being shocked by 5 fishsticks which are supposed to be fingers, being severed from a hand. So although the quality of the animation is not really high, it gets the message across even if it was just wireframes.

The music part is a threshold. The opening songs is amongst the best music pieces in anime history while most of everything else in it are subpar and forgettable. The dialogues themselves are retarded as hell but it is all part of the “so extreme it is no longer stupid” feeling of the series. If there are two words I clearly remember from the series, that is “Nyu” and “AAAARGH”. The rest were nonsense I have deleted from my mind as the story I will now criticize is for me one pig pile of steaming manure.

Ok, the story is essentially about humans being sick bastards who like tormenting little girls in an attempt to not be exterminated by a new race of horny (literally) red haired lolis which are genetically created and programmed to kill everything that moves. So, the story gets more complicated when the female ringleader of those lolis has convenient memory loses and turns from a heartless killer to a playful pussycat everytime the scriptwriter wants to prevent the story from ending. Also, the characters keep behaving in the most ludicrous way possible as means to not end the whole mess in 10 seconds by implementing common sense. And if you don’t believe me, think of this:

“Hey, mister police officer, I found a naked girl on the beach. Better take care of her because I am a male teenager living alone and can’t just take her home where anything can happen.”

There, see, he just took her home and didn’t do anything to her, despite being defenseless and amnesiac, all excused by the fact that he was very pure in heart … and missing a dick. Then follows a long line of enemy waves who want to capture Lucy, the ringleader. But are all so damn stupid, they can’t even breathe without chocking to death. Imagine sending in a sadistic military dude to capture Lucy. He will be talking for half an hour about what a bastard he is instead of just capturing her, until Lucy conveniently gains back her memory, cuts him to pieces and then conveniently forgets everything again. Then imagine a girl who was being molested by her father and another horny girl who was almost killed by Lucy, to be accepted in Kouta, the dickless boy, in his house. Supposed, they are safer in the house where Lucy kills someone every now and then than just going to the police. Or the police themselves being so autistic they never do anything about the dozens of people who are being found in pieces right outside of that house. Wait, that could be because they are in league with the villains, right? … Sure, and that is the only reason the dickless boy and his harem of lolis don’t leave that house despite being targeted by manslaghtering sadists every two days. Add to this the way they throw in incest and even more amnesia for other characters just as extra shock value that has nothing to do with the story, how everyone meets (or meats lol) someone, remembers and forgets, finds and loses, in the most far-fetched ways possible and always in the most convenient times and… well… the story is written with the mentality of a 5 year old, not better than that of the other classics around that time on tv. But as I said it is all about shock value rather that realism. The plot is quite fast for its duration and shocking every 5 minutes, while there are many social messages to leave you something to think about. Still, as I said, it only works if you are a newbie in the field who never thought of such things up to that moment. The logic of the drama is paper thin to fall apart while the ending is left so open to interpretation, it hardly feels as closure. Many remained faithful waiting for the sequel but there is nothing you can’t get by reading the rest of the story in the manga… Which becomes even more extreme and obscure to the point of “so stupid it is no longer smart”. But hey, the vagueness and ludicrous behaviors are all part of its appeal too. Even the manga ending is made to feel like the good ending of a date sim, proving that it was essentially made to please otakus and not other people. Yes, it was a series by otakus, for otakus after all.

In all, if it got to shock you the first time, it is bound to become your fav for many years and even open a portal to you, leading to the darker regions of the otaku realm. It has done so a million times already. All I can say is that it is much harder for someone to be impressed today by it because most modern anime are far more violent and sexual. Heck, even cartoons are. Also, after other titles like Higurashi or Mononoke came along, the throne of grimness is no longer EL’s for most. In fact I know many who admit that they have no idea why they liked that series so much. Simple, the shock value faded away and left behind only ashes and bones. So while I give it a high Value for its very important contribution in mainstreaming anime (for good or bad; I kinda hate the way most modern anime are all full of fan service) I must still give it a very low mark in Enjoyment because it doesn’t work if you are not a newbie and in no chance in hell it feels good if you are a veteran viewer. I got the same messages the series has in Akira, the same type of gore in Choujin Locke and those felt far more realistic and credible, without fan service and ridiculous behaviors fooling you to consider “idiotic” as “brilliant”.

2/10 story
6/10 animation
6/10 sound
3/10 characters
5/10 overall
thecrimsonclaw's avatar By on Sep 3, 2014

Crimson here, with another review that will probably never be read, but due to spending my entire Wednesday in, watching a shit ton of anime, I decided to vary my daily schedule for today, and write this. So here it goes...

"Elfen Lied" is the anime adaption of the Manga series of the same name, created by Lynn Okamoto. Since the animes debut in 2004, "Elfen Lied" was and has remained one of the most popular and critically acclaimed anime series of all time, often being called a "classic" and ranked among the "best" shows out there, and is among the several shows that are known for getting newcomers into the anime medium, or allowing casual viewers to get into darker and more complex shows. It's still talked about all over the place, and is held in very high regard.

But what do I think of the all amazing "classic" that is "Elfen Lied"? Read on and find out.

Story:

Premise:

"Elfen Lied" is set in Kamakura, Japan, and follows a race known as the "Diclonius", a newly evolved and more advanced species, who are similar to humans in appearance, but possess several unique features, such as horns on their head, and the ability to use Telekinesis through invisible arms referred to as "Vectors". The story focuses on a Diclonius named "Lucy", who has escaped from a resarch facility where she was being held captive, where she slaughtered all the personnel and guards. In the process of her escape, she is injured, and this injury causes her to develop a second, child-like, and innocent personality, named "Nyu". Basically, she has multiple personality disorder.

After her escape, Lucy is found by two locals, a young male student named Kohta and his female cousin Yuka. They take her in and end up involved in a series of brutal and blood-filled events in which a Special Assault Team, as well as other Diclonius, attempt to recapture Lucy.

The premise, at it's centre, isn't all that unique. Around the time "Elfen Lied" came out, there were very few shows that touched upon the things that a plot like this focused on. However, that was then, and this is now. The premise is still fairly decent, but a lot of its unique flavour has died out as the medium of anime has grown and evolved over the last decade.  Tons of shows have done the premise of "superior evolved races" and "telekinetic powers" and "the main character has multiple personality disorder". Fuck me, "Evangelion" did the whole main character mind fuck idea with Shinji Ikari years before this show came out. Despite what people say, a lot of it's "unique" elements have been done before it, and by endlessly better shows.

That's not to say the premise is bad, it's just not great and certainly isn't anything to throw a perfect score at. Moving on...

Nothing but shock value:

But how is the actual plot of "Elfen Lied"? Well, sadly, it's no better than the premise, in fact, it's worse. There really isn't a whole lot going on in regards to the actual story. Most of what happens is just random events of the Special Foces showing up to capture Lucy, and then this creates an excuse for the series to create a massive, unneccessary blood bath, where blood flies everywhere, limbs get torn off, and lots of people scream and die horribly.

This animes biggest appeal is shock value. That is not good plotting. Don't get me wrong, I love over the top violence. I adore brutal fight scenes. I get ecstatic whenever I watch a series that's dark and gritty. But there needs to be a good story too, and unfortunately, that's the important element that "Elfen Lied" lacks.

There really isn't all that much to it's story, which is unfortunate, because if the writing and plotting was better done, it could have gone hand in hand with this shows nonsensical violence, and gave said violence more context and sense, which would have made this series far more enjoyable. It's a big shame.

A blood bath that really isn't so bloody:

But let's just say that, we forget about the storytelling itself for a moment, and actually focus on the real appeal here: the shock value. To a newcomer, yes, the violence and dark tone of the series may seem crazy, over the top, and generally well presented, but to anyone, with any real experience with similar titles within the medium, "Elfen Lied" is a fucking joke at creating violent scenes with a dark setting.

The series really isn't all that shocking, in fact, compared to other titles of the same demographic, it looks like "Teletubbies". I'm not even joking around. The opening scene is described as "WOW. SO FUCKING VIOLENT. LOTS OF PEOPLE DIE. THIS SHIT IS FUCKING CRAZY. HEADS EXPLODE. EEEEEEE. IT'S SO GORY. NO ANIME IS LIKE THIS." I really wasn't that impressed.

To give an example of shows that handled gore and dark themes better, here's a big list for you, with details:

- Spoilers for other series here, be warned-

1. Neon Genesis Evangelion - Explored many dark psychological themes, within a dark, post apocalyptic setting, with lots of violence and crazy shit happening. Also, in the more recent rebuild movies, the main character pretty much causes the apocalypse, during the apocalypse, and kills most of humanity

2. Berserk - Had gore on an entirely different level from this show, to the point people lost arms, legs and heads in pretty much every single fight scene. The main character loses an arm and an eye, while his lover is raped by his best friend who betrayed him and slaughtered all of his fellow comrades to achieve ultimate, god-like power, and plunged the world into a demon apocalypse. This is the first arc in the series, and is one of the more tame parts of the series.

3. Claymore - Basically the same as Berserk, but a little less dark, and with a female protagonist. It was a lot more gory and dark than "Elfen Lied" too, with a female lead who actually had personality.

4. Yu Yu Hakusho - Another classic, focused on the occult, and was very dark for it's time. Contained some insanely bloody fights, and a lot of massacres. Much more gory than this.

5. Hunter x Hunter - While a lot more friendly looking, there are a lot of dark undertones and some gritty scenes that make even this show look less gory. For example, one of the characters pulls out someones heart and in the Manga, he crushes it with his bare hands. The Chimera Ant Arc has giant beasts literally eating people alive. The main character beats a villain into a mushy puddle of blood with his bare fists. You get the point.

I've listed 5 shows there, that handled violence and dark themes a million times better than this show, and what's even better is, all of these shows have a very well written and engaging plot, which this show doesn't have.

But, it's not all bad:

I make it sound like this show is a complete shit fest, but don't get me wrong, there are some positive elements of the show. The action scenes, while nothing too special, are very entertaining. The telekinetic fights are fun to watch, and short and sweet, although CLAMP's "X" did similar fights that were much better.

The pacing is pretty good too. Something happens in every episode, and the show is short, being only 13 episodes in length. You could power through it in less than a day if that's your thing.

But outside of some decent fight scenes, there really isn't all that much to the general story, and it's quite a shame, because I really wanted to jump on the bandwagon of people who loved the shit out of it.

Characters:

While the plot isn't too great, the characters of "Elfen Lied" are an improvement. The primary characters are all fairly decent. I will describe some below:

Lucy: Lucy is the primary protagonist of the show, and is a 16 year old Diclonius. As a child, Lucy was alienated by her peers, and as such, she despises all humans. Lucy is a sadistic psychopath, who kills without mercy and who lacks feelings. However, the one exception is Kouta, who she will never harm or hurt, and who she cares for more than anyone else.

As a character, Lucy isn't too bad. She has a fairly interesting past, and her development from complete monster to "girl with feelings" is done fairly well. However, she isn't all that unique as a character. The trope of "emotionless girl with destructive, bloody powers" has been done by countless shows, and has been handled far better by said shows. She's a decent protagonist overall.

Nyu: Nyu is Lucy's other personality, and as such, could be said to be a separate character. Nyu is a very child-like character, who has no knowledge of the world, her own existence or anything around her. She can only speak two words "Nyu" and "Kouta", meaning her volcabulary isn't all that great. She is the complete manifestation of Lucy's "good natured" personality. When attacked violently, she turns into Lucy.

Nyu is a really adorable character, and I can't help but be "aww'd" by her cuteness. However, outside of this, Nyu really isn't all that interesting a character. She doesn't really develop at all, and really serves no purpose to the plot other than being a foil for the real Lucy, and preventing her from doing lots of bad things. Was there really a need to give Lucy this personality? I don't think so.

Kouta: Kouta is a seconary protagonist of the series, and is a young College student who takes Nyu in. Kouta is your typical do-gooder, who has a thing for helping out girls in trouble. He's kind, generous and just wants to protect those he cares about.

He has a very interesting back story that I won't spoil, which is probably the pinnacle of his character as a whole. In general however, Kouta really doesn't develop too well. He's a likeable character, but he just... Doesn't do much. He's just an every man who gets caught up in the violence. His role is much more significant in the Manga, but I'm reviewing the anime.

In regards to secondary characters, they're not too bad either, although they also lack development, and can be annoying. Kouta's cousin is annoying as hell, and I personally blame her for starting the whole "I am in love with my cousin" incest trend that anime seems to be obsessed with, as this was the first show I'd ever seen with that sort of thing.

The villains are pretty decent too, but nothing to jump for joy with. They're mostly just there for Lucy to mow down and slaughter. Bando was pretty well done though for a villain.

Overall, the characters in "Elfen Lied" are fairly decent, but they're really nothing too spectacular, which again, is a shame.

Art and Animation:

"Elfen Lied" was animated by Arms Corporation, a subsidary of Studio Pierrot (FUCK). They haven't really produced anything noteworthy, aside from the recent "Brynhildr in the Darkness" (which was actually based off a Manga series written by the same Mangaka who did this series, although unlike this series, it looks like it'll be excellent). With these facts in mind, how did they do?

Well, the general art isn't anything to jump at. Even for it's time, the art is fairly crude, with character designs looking rather generic, and lacking significant amounts of detail. They have gigantic eyes, and simple looking faces, it's not too great. Countless series from the 90's look better than this, "Yu Yu Hakusho" being a good example. However, the series is very colourful, and this is handled very well, as it acts as a very beautiful contrast to the dark, "bloody" scenes. It's a very well played move, as it allows for the gore to appear more "shocking" that it actually is, due to bright colours being slashed to pieces. Backgrounds are handled a lot better, with the landscapes and scenes looking quite nice, but still nothing too fantastic.

The animation is a little better, due to the less than detailed art style. The lack of detail allows for some pretty fluent animation. During fight scenes, stuff is captured fairly well, with blood being animated the best (because again, shock value is the centre of this show). Again, it's not the best in the world, but it's fairly decent, and is pretty good for it's time. The gory scenes themselves are the best done thing in this show, but they lack knowledge of the human body and how it is put together, and as such, look almost cartoon in fashion, rather than realistic, which they're trying so hard to be.

The animation is decent overall, but it's not great.

Sound:

Surprisingly, "Elfen Lied" handles the sound department really well. The music itself is done fairly well, and although not a lot of the tracks are memorable, they do fit the scenes really well by conveying the emotions of each particular scene perfectly. They're also very well produced and are of excellent quality for their time.

The series has one opening theme, "Lillium" performed by Kumiko Noma. It is a very beautiful and symbolic piece of music, that sets the tone of the series fairly well, and is very memorable and unique for an anime opening theme.

The series also has one ending theme, "Be Your Girl" by Chieko Kawabe, which is a nice contrast to the series dark themes, being an upbeat pop song. It's a fairly decent piece of music.

The accompanying opening and ending sequences are both excellent, and I never skipped them once.

I watched the show in english because I'm one of those dub faggots, and I found the voice acting to be very well done. The characters are all portrayed very well, and the voice acting is of good quality, with a varied cast, who all capture the emotions and feelings conveyed by the characters excellently. The Japanese voice cast are also very good, however, I prefer the dub, solely because the quality of the acting is superior and feels less "acted".

The sound effects of the show are nothing to brag out, but they're decent and do their job. There's not a lot of variety however, and the quality isn't too great.

Conclusion:

So how is "Elfen Lied"? Is it really this highly acclaimed masterpiece that everyone has spent years praising for it's unique plot and over the top gore?

Simply put, the answer is "no". It's not the worst show in the world, but it's certainly not the best show in the world either, yet, for some reason anime fans have put it on this pedestal of greatness, marvelling at it, as though it were the only gore show that exists within the medium.

If you think "Elfen Lied" is a masterpiece, or if it's within your top 10 shows of all time, then you clearly haven't watched that much anime. There are a whole host of shows out there that are similar that handle the areas of story, gore factor, character development, animation, and pretty much everything that makes a show good, that much better, and I encourage those who hold this anime in high regard to broaden their horizons and watch more shit.

If you are a newcomer to anime, you might be impressed by "Elfen Lied", but anyone who has had a taste of the anime medium should know that compared to pretty much every other show in it's demographic, it's really nothing short of decent.

It's up there on the bench of mediocrity with "Full Metal Alchemist: Brotherhood". It's entertaining enough to watch through once, but beyond that it's overhyped and overrated.

And now, it's scoring time:

Story: 4/10

Premise 1/3 - Not the most unique premise, but it sets things up well enough.

General Plot 0/2 - There really isn't all that much going on here. Just lots of blood spatter and shock value. Nothing deep or engaging, with no tension.

Pacing 3/3 - Very well paced. Something happens in every episode. Can be powered through in a day.

Conclusion 0/2 - Not satisfying in the slightest, and completely random, with a sort of cliffhanger that really makes no sense at all.

Animation: 4/10

Artwork 1/3 - Very generic, with not a lot of detail, however, the backgrounds look nice.

Character Designs 1/3 - Very simple and generic, lacking detail, however, the colour serves as a nice contrast for the "bloody" scenes.

Animation 2/4 - Nothing too fabulous, but the fight scenes are done quite nicely, and are animated fairly fluently. Blood flies around nicely. Outside of this, scenes aren't animated too well.

Characters: 4/10

Personality 2/3 - Most characters have well founded personalities and traits, however, Nyu does nothing but be cute, and the villains are just cannon fodder for Lucy.

Development 1/3 - Characters don't develop so well, however, Lucy develops a little bit, so points for that.

Uniqueness 1/4 - The characters aren't all that groundbreaking, and have been done countless times before. There's very little uniqueness to be found here.

Sound: 7/10

Voice Acting 3/4 - I watched it in English, but the voice acting was superb in both languages. Voices are recorded nicely.

Music 3/4 - The soundtrack is very well done, and is of excellent quality, however, it lacks variety and the tracks cease to be memorable. Opening and Ending themes are absolutely marvellous.

Sound Effects 1/2 - They do their job, but there's not a lot of variety, and they sound rather cheap at times.


Overall: 4/10

It's pretty bad. It's mediocre.

But hey, I thought "Jojo's Bizarre Adventure" was an underrated masterpiece that kicked most Shounen shows in the nuts so my opinion probably doesn't matter to you people.

4/10 story
4/10 animation
7/10 sound
4/10 characters
4/10 overall