At the least, Elfen Lied is something unique. An anime with copious amounts of gore, nudity, and explicit content hitting the screen at every turn. The said content is shown in unapologetic fashion every single time, and this series is definitely not for everybody. Whether it's the blood or the boobies, I can see why Elfen Lied seems to be a pretty "love it or hate it" kind of anime.
For me, I wasn't turned away from the gore one bit. The nudity and other stuff I could do without and only one particular scene (A mess is made on the floor, so to speak) really came close to making me outright stop watching. Even then, the world of Elfen Lied and it's story unfolds in such a fashion that I had to stay with it, because it does a great job of keeping the viewer wondering what will happen next.
Short and Sweet
Story - 7.5/10
When it comes to plot, it builds very well but kind of fizzles and fails to go out with a bang. Things start off action packed to a point where I would find it difficult for anyone to not enjoy the first episode. After all, things are blowing up like the apocalypse, and by things I mean people. The viewer isn't told anything and it all slowly unravels the world and characters which has been a successful formula in plenty of anime before. The main story around Lucy and anything involving her was the strong point of the show that kept reeling in more and more. Lucy is a pretty good character and if I could complain about anything involving her, it would be that she wasn't Lucy often enough.
There are some interesting sub-plots going on as well, but much of my problem with the story and show itself is the lack of resolution when it's over. The two interesting villains are left with very open ends, nothing really comes from Yuka and Mayu, and the very last moment of the show (which is an open end as well) would have had so much more impact if everything else was properly resolved. Just like how food should have a satisfying after taste, any properly told story should as well. The satisfying ending was missing in favor of some poorly executed mystique, which ends up being the biggest drawback of the show.
Animation - 9/10
The character design is...saddening. Generic cannot even begin to describe a world where every female seems interchangeable. But the character design is really the only thing holding the animation back. Everything else is very vibrant and looks beautiful. The colors are marvelous and can be bright and vibrant or dark and haunting. For what it's worth, the cookie-cutter looks of the characters does give a strange, added shock value to the level of violence just about any one of them suffers.
Sound - 8/10
The music is quite impressive and fits the tone of the anime very well. I love the opening theme and any time that signature tune plays it's very well timed. Though I feel the voice acting really dampers the overall score of sound here. Lucy, Bando, and Kurama are the highlights of the show but everyone else suffers from one flaw or another. Kouta sounds almost like he's brain dead at times. As for everyone else not mentioned, there are so many stereotypical soft female anime voices that sometimes I wondered if Minnie Mouse took the job to universally voice almost every girl here. It gets to points where these soft-voices just sound unrealistic, almost like a parody of itself, and I couldn't take them seriously even during some crucial moments.
Characters - 6/10
Yuka is pathetic. The love story trying to happen between two cousins isn't even the problem here. It's just that she's so clearly not desired by Kouta that I see no reason for her to be spewing god awful hentai-inspired lines like "Kouta, do you want to touch my breasts?" She tries to make everything about herself and it happens way more often than it should. The biggest problem with this is Yuka's voice actress isn't bad, she's just saddled with horrific dialogue.
As said before, Lucy's a highlight, as it should be for the protagonist. Her Nyu personality was an interesting plot device but Nyu was just happening way more than she should have been. I was getting flashbacks of Pokemon during most of the time Nyu was repeating her name like a mindless drone. It dragged out and regular words should have been happening much sooner. That flaw aside, Lucy was a character with depth that I was fascinated by, and the eventual telling of her backstory was such a poignant moment of enjoyment and sympathy.
I really liked the contrast of Nana's character to the way Diclonius are made out to be. She provides surprisingly interesting moments of the show. The stuff between Nana and Chief Kurama was pretty damn good. Their relationship (and Number 35's role in it all) really had me going right down to the final episode. I also enjoyed Bando as a villain, I thought he was one of the bigger shitbags I have seen in any anime. Lots of good stuff was coming from him, but unfortunately Bando gets pretty shafted by the time the show is over along with the only other villain, Chief Kakuzawa. Mayu was someone I didn't care for, and Kouta was a decent albeit uninteresting male lead.
Overall - 7.5/10
I said it was a love it or hate it anime, but I find myself very indifferent about Elfen Lied. I wanted to love it because it did have me glued to my seat going through episodes relentlessly, but it feels like for everything going great, there is something bogging it down. It adds up to a very good fundamental anime, but one that could have been much, much better and lacks a good pay-off when it's all over.