Naked girls brutally murdering people. Sure, why not?
Story: Lucy, a diclonious, is caged up in a lab. She has vectors, invisible "arms" which can easily decapitate a man, and is therefore deemed "dangerous." She in particular has four vectors, each having a maximum reach of two meters. Two of the workers are examining her, and one accidentally drops a key within two meters of her.
The two men are quickly killed, and Lucy escapes, completely naked except for her helmet. She walks out and easily diverts the bullets fired upon her. She gorily murders the other people (included a clumsy coffee girl), and gets ready to escape. However, a sniper shoots her with a 50 caliber bullet (apparently, her vectors cannot stop this type of bullet). It hits her helmet and only damages her brain. She falls into the ocean.
Kouta and Yuka, who are cousins, are walking along the beach when the find a naked and bloodied girl washed up on the shore. Now, what should you do in this kind of situation.
A.) Get the f*ck out of there.
B.) Call the police.
C.) Help the girl regain her bearings and then call the police.
D.) Pull a Ryuugu Rena and take her home.
If you chose D, then DING DING DING DING! You know how to correctly handle a diclonious!
Seriously, why would they bring her to their house (no parents, thank heavens) and not tell ANYONE?!
But Lucy has changed. She doesn't try to kill them, she just... says "Nyuu." So Kouta and Yuka decide to name her "Nyuu!" Ah! Ingenious!
(Remind anyone of "Chobits?")
If you couldn't already tell, "Elfen Lied" is a "shock value"-type show, so it's not for everyone.
However, if you analyze the show, it can be considered deep--maybe the lack of clothing is because of the inhuman way diclonii are treated. Maybe it's because Lucy could have used clothing to strangle them. Or maybe it's because the animators were horny; we may never know. View it how you will.
Animation: The blood, first and foremost, is very artistic. So are the intestines, the lungs, the bone... but I digress. That is pretty prominent, and it looks damn good. The OP, and the Gustav Klimt-style artwork in it, is stunning. The character designs, save for Lucy's (not Nyuu's, though), are lackluster. There's also the fact that Lucy and Nyuu look nothing alike except for their hair. It looks odd. Speaking of which, why do all the female diclonii have pink hair? The bright color palate is a little strange, considering the darker tone of the show. Animation itself is fine.
Sound: The opening song, "Lilium," is gorgeous. Every form of it (look it up), whether it be music box or hard rock, piano or violin, is haunting and beautiful. The ending song pales in comparison. OST is medicore, but "Jouzai" is creepy and probably my favorite. Voice acting in Japanese is very good, not counting Nyuu's Chi-like voice, and an average performance for Kouta and Yuka. English voice acting sounds scripted, but Lucy's English VA sounds subtly badass. So why the high score? "Lilium." I love it that much.
Characters: An... interesting cast, except for a few mediocre characters in the weird-ass harem anime.
Characters: Top Picture: Read, dammit!; Bottom picture: This is Nyuu, but Lucy looks more mature, with smaller eyes and a more piercing stare.
Lucy: Sexy and badass, she provides much of the gore. Her backstory allows the viewer to build a sense of sympathy for her, and her development is subtle but could be worse.
Nyuu: Chi from "Chobits" with a kickass alter ego. Enough said.
Kouta: Okay, so he's the typical "harem" guy--doesn't have a girlfriend, has average looks, isn't particularly interesting, and yet somehow girls fawn over him. He's dull, but his backstory is pretty damn sad (oh, did I forget to mention that this anime will [or might, I suppose] make you cry?).
Yuka: A bitch. She loves Kouta, and basically tries to force herself on him, despite the fact that they're cousins. Is just a jealous and dull character. Moving on.
Nana: Another diclonious, she fights Lucy in a rather epic (and disturbing) battle. A pretty relatable character, I'd say.
Mayu: Honestly, she probably has the most tragic backstoy of all. It is damn disturbing, and makes her the most sympathetic character of all.
Kurama Mariko: Dark and ruthless, this diclonious defines herself as bloodthirsty before showing her true colors. I almost cried. T.T
Chief Kurama: Second most sympathetic character, he is also, maybe, the most relatable. Actually, he's pretty likable!
Bando: Bloodthirsty bastard. All there is to say here.
Characters are, as mentioned before, interesting (for the most part), but a lack of development doesn't help the rating.
Overall: More than just a crappy shock value anime, this is a dark and bloody view of human nature. It is deep and thought-provoking, and worth a watch, if you can handle the gore and nudity. And "Lilium" really is beautiful.