Note: This review is in the process of being rewritten. While I definitely stand by most of what I said when I wrote this review, I realise that it wasn't structured too well and there are a few things I either didn't touch upon or just glanced over. So, for now, please excuse the quality of the writing in this review.
Warning: The following review may contain spoilers.
Oh boy. Oh, how much I’ve been trying to put into words my opinion of THIS little gem of an anime. Adored by its fan and critics alike, Elfen lied has been praised by many people as one of the saddest and touching animes of all time. And I’m just going to say it right now: I didn’t get it. I really didn’t. And since I know of the large fan base surrounding this show (especially one lovely person who accused me of ‘having no heart’ and ‘being a cynical bitch’ for not liking this), I will do my best to explain fairly my reasons for disliking the show and will give it credit where credit is due, with its animation, sound and so forth.
The plot of Elfen lied follows a young diclonius named Lucy who has escaped her captivity but, after suffering a gunshot to the head, has had her personality spilt in two with no memory of who she is. Apparently, diclonii are extremely violent mutants that are said to be enemy of mankind, with their only distinguishable features being two horns on their head and their ability to rip people apart in seconds. Dazed and confused, Lucy washes up on a beach where she is found by college students, Kouta and Yuka, who decide to take her in. Since her alternate personality has rendered her to be only able to say one word, ‘Nyu’, this is what they decide to name her. From this spans the scientist’s attempts to bring Lucy back with the help of other diclonii, Lucy’s attempts to come to grips with who she really is and how she remembers Kouta from some long time ago along with him feeling like he’s known her long ago as well.
Since I have quite a few issues with this show, I’m going to do my best to address each one individually.
Now, before people jump down my throat about how the nudity is supposed to be symbolic and how I ‘just don’t get it’, let me first state what aspects of the nudity I mean. Personally, I have absolutely no problems with nudity in a series. And in the instances where Lucy is continuously slaughtering people while in her birthday suit, I actually have no problems with at all. Sure, it can be a little distracting sometimes but I don’t think I can really blame the series for that since that’s probably just me nitpicking.
But then we have the fanservice/nudity with Nyu. And this is where I have my problems. In the first few episodes, Nyu fondles and exposes herself, urinates on the floor and guides Kouta’s hand to grope her. And it’s things like this that bother me. Why? Because you could at least make an argument that nudity of Lucy was supposed to be symbolic and emphasise something. But the exploitation of this with Nyu really has no point at all. Some could retort that these things are meant to symbolise her innocence but I really think there are better ways to show that than just nudity and fondling herself. This is probably a nitpick on my part but it was something that just really bothered me throughout the show.
2. Plot Contrivances
Another issue I have is with the contrivances of the story. Now, I understand that a lot of great stories may features some form of contrivance but, for me, Elfen lied takes this to repulsive extremes.
One example of this is Lucy’s nyu persona. The personalities of Nyu and Lucy seem to flip back and forth when it’s convenient for the plot. Lucy appears whenever Kouta and Yuka aren’t around so as to keep the mystery of who she is going and flips right back to Nyu whenever they appear. It’s like when the bullet pieced her skull; it imprinted the thought in her brain that;
“Lucy must only appear when the plot wants it. Otherwise, hello Nyu! :D”
Also, when the big reveal happens about who Lucy really is and her relation to Kouta, the exposition of this in the episode in question (and the whole series actually, come to think of it) just feels like a big cry of ‘Well, what are the odds of that happening?’ The plot, to me, feels like a gigantic string of coincidences that just mashed together in a big clump all at once. Maybe if they took their time with all these story developments rather than just shoving them all in at once, I wouldn’t complain so much, but when you have a ton of stuff just happening to make sure every single possible coincidence you can think of gets put in place, the effect is rather jarring, to say the least. At least, for me
3. Pointless Cruelty for Shock Effect
Anyone who has seen or even heard of Elfen lied will no doubt have heard of its incredibly explicit content, both with the nudity I mentioned earlier and the extreme amount of gore. And boy, does it live up to that reputation. Nearly every episode of this show features guts or a dismemberment of some kind. Similar to my complaints with the nudity, I will also state that I have no problems with gore either and, truth be told, the gore itself didn’t bother me that much but, rather, what was done with it. And this hits at my biggest personal gripe against this show;
It thinks it’s deep when it’s not.
I’m sorry guys, but covering people in buckets of blood and guts if you don’t have a reason for it, does not equal deep. There’s a particular infamous scene around episode eight in a flashback of Lucy’s past in which some of the boys bullying her, for having horns on her head, find a puppy she had been keeping and beat it to death with a vase. It’s this kind of thing really ticks me off because, apart from the fact that I am a huge dog/puppy lover and did not particularly enjoy the sight of one getting beaten to death, the scene was ultimately pointless. Sure, Lucy gets angry for a minute and blows the kids up but then she meets Kouta straight after that and the scene is never mentioned again. And honestly, a lot of scenes feel like this. They just felt like they were put there to make you feel sad, the characters have a one minute angst about it and it’s never mentioned again. I could go on, but I think you get the gist of my issue here. And don’t even mention episode five. I could write an entire article about how much what happened in there annoyed me. But, I shall reign back for now as I want to keep this as fair as I can.
4. The Characters. Especially Lucy.
My major problem here is with Lucy, but I’ll talk about the other characters first to get that out of the way. Kouta, to me, had pretty much no personality except from being pretty spineless and having a habit of getting into awkward positions with Nyu. Mayu, even though I didn’t think she was awful, seemed fairly pointless to me and didn’t really add anything. Nana started off as interesting but then seemed to be cast to the side when she had served her purpose to the plot. Yuka, to me, was just someone that was there to get jealous of Nyu, punch Kouta and be phenomenally awkward. Bando was the epitome of wasted potential for a good villain and the rest were all the stereotypical ‘evil’ humans who ‘just don’t understand the poor diclonius’. Weirdly enough, Mariko was the only character I found kind of interesting. I didn’t like her, no, but I found her fairly interesting. But since she’s only around for roughly four or five episodes, her character barely gets explored at all.
And then we come to Lucy. By this point, you are probably expecting me to launch myself into what a bad character she is, etc. Actually, no. Believe it or not, my biggest problem with Lucy is… she has no character to speak of at all. Before you start to disagree, as I can feel some of you might, think about this for a second. What do we actually know about her in terms of personality? And this is where I draw a blank. All I got was that her childhood was bad and she kills people. There seemed to be nothing else to her. I’m sorry, that doesn’t make us understand her. You need to have us connect with her as a character. That’s how you make us understand or feel sorry for her. That’s how you make all this terrible stuff that happened to her actually add up to something. Since we rarely see her, since she seems to be in her ‘Nyu’ personality for most of the series, we know nothing about her. We don’t know if she’s funny, boring, silly, charming, awkward or anything! You can literally sum up all her trauma in two words: Bad childhood. She begins to show a small bit of character towards the end of the show (and by ‘the end’, I mean the last ten minutes of the last episode), but even so.
Okay, I’ve now addressed every problem I have with this show. I shall now shortly talk about the good aspects of Elfen lied (because there are a few). Firstly, the animation, while not exceptional, is fairly good and some of the action scenes look fairly impressive. Also, the music, especially the opening theme song, is absolutely gorgeous. Seriously, no hate at all for the opening, it’s absolutely fantastic. The art design, the song, the animation, it’s a gorgeous piece of work. That is it, ladies and gentlemen. All I have to say.
Many people will disagree with me regarding this show. And you know what? That’s fine. Different people have different tastes and opinions and I have no problems with other people expressing them. If you think I’m wrong, feel free to leave a comment explaining. If you liked or were touched by it, then good for you, you obviously got far more out of it than I did. But simply, to wrap up, Elfen lied didn’t do a thing for me. I didn’t shed one tear watching this show and maybe it’s just not my cup of tea (or cup of smoothie :D). If it did for you, maybe you’re just seeing something I’m not.