Elfen Lied involves themes of social alienation, identity, revenge, child abuse, jealousy, regret and the value of humanity. At least, thats what Wikipedia says. All of these themes are explored in the most shallow of ways and doesnt leave much for you to think about. Good and bad are clearly distinguished, with the bad mostly being the most extreme forms of sadism and the good being everyone else.
There are mainly two things that makes this manga "Mature". First is gore. Which isnt done badly, but overused alot. Ultimately reducing the shock value of seeing someones limbs getting torn off for the ten tousandth time.
The other is Nudity and Sex, and boy did the Author get caried away on this one. The entire manga is plagued with unnecessary nude/sex scenes. Mostly involving weird fetishes such as girls pissing themselves. Most of these comes out of nowhere and destroys much of the mood by being out of place.
Elfen Lied is a story about Lucy, a teenage Diclonius girl who had been subjected to experimentation, abuse and social alienation at the hands of humans. The story starts off with her breaking out of captivity and gruesomely murdering everyone in her sight with her Diclonius powers.
The plot mainly revolves around her thirst for revenge against mankind. Sounds kinda awesome right? But unfortunately, the need of the Author to include out of place characters and their stupid nobody cares backstories ultimately caused Elfen Lied to have a trainwreck of a plot.
How did this happen? Well, after one chapter of being treated to possibly the most awesome opening for any manga ever, Lucy lost her memories and stumbles upon a couple of teenagers, who decides to take her in. One of them is the supposed Male lead, Kohta. Things go downhill from now on. The plot becomes filled with events that has little to do with the main plot, mostly consisting of Kohta and various girls he takes in to his house. (Explained more in the characters sections.)
These events successfully pollutes much of Elfen Lied's main plot, and just left me having the temptation to skip alot of the pages. But dont worry, i forced myself throough them, so i have read every single page of the manga.
The ending is a severe disapointment for me and destroyed much of what the series is building itself into. I wont go much into detail as it might have some major spoilers with the points i would like to address.
There are about 8 characters in the series i would like to talk about. These characters takes up a significant amount of the manga, or i wont mention them. Some of these make the show, and the others break it, actually, more like break the fuck out of it. I'll start off with Lucy.
I see her as the main character of the story. Mainly because she is one of the most interesting characters in Elfen Lied and the only thing that kept me reading. Her history, sadism, and thirst for revenge are all very much intriguing. Unfortunately, she was reduced to a brain dead retard right after the first chapter and stays that way most of the time.
Only capable of saying the "Nyu?", her main role is degraded to causing Kohta to stumble into sexually awkward situations, and groping the breats of other girls. Occasionaly, she returns to her original persona, which are mainly in short spurts until near the end of the manga. And everytime she degrades back into being a retard, my heart sinks, and i murder a kitten.
In the end though, she does manage to stay interesting for the brief moments of returning to her original persona. Especially in the end, where much of her history is explored.
Male lead. Mostly accompanied by his lovestruck cousin, Yuka. This guy has very little to do with the main plot. His role is to accept homeless girls into his house and forming a mini harem/ecchi series within it, so as to contribute to the nudity/sex in the series. Most of the time, i just breeze through the pages with him because he has very few important things to say.
His most important role is his past(conveniently hidden by amnesia and does not appear until the later chapters), which is the only thing that really allowed me to tolerate his existence.
Still, one of the worst male leads ever.
Kohta's cousin. Is in love with Kohta. Role is to get jealous everytime Kohta finds himself groping other girls. Their half-assed relationship is a shit stain on the pages of the manga. And let me tell you, its one hell of a large stain that would cause most janitors to consider retirement. As such, she needs to die in a fire.
Cant remember her name. One of the girls Kohta takes in. She wears diapers because she got piss control problems. One of the Author's fetishes he so kindly shared. Nothing to do with the plot, die in a fire plz.
Another girl Kohta takes in. Chased out after being sexually abused by her step father. Uninteresting character overall, weak back story and no real significance to the plot. Has several interesting relationships with a couple of characters though, i'll let her slide..
Whew, finally, another decent character apart from Lucy. Nana is a Diclonius, also subjected to experimentation. She also escaped, with the aid of her "father". Unlike Lucy, she does not detest humans as much and even sees one as her father. She wishes to live in peace and coexist with humans, with the ultimate wish of being with her "father".
Another good one. Kurama is one of the staff of the Research Centre which inhumanly operates on Disclonius girls. He is the only one who feels guilty for his actions and has a great deal of history. His story is one of the more interesting ones in the manga, making him one of the most memorable of Elfen Lied charactes.
One of the few characters with character development. Introduced as a bloodthirsty Police Force member sent to kill Lucy. He failed and seeks revenge on Lucy. Over the course of the manga, he changes and begins to show affection for people. Kind of like the Tough guy showing affection to weak people cliche. But, hey, at least hes better than diapers girl.(Or about half of the cast, Kohta included)
This ends my character section.
The art in Elfen Lied is bland, no other word for it. Most panels have white backgrounds, and character designs are generic to the max.
For a series that boasts blood and gore, there really isnt anything impressive. There is definitely lots of blood, but i dont know about gore. The most goriest of images is probably bones shattering and some instentines.(Which dont really appear often)
Most of the times, its just lots of blood spurting out of severed limbs and heads, theres really not alot of details in the gore.
Has a pretty interesting core plot, but becomes too riddled with uninteresting characters and events that caused it to fall flat on its face. Sex and nudity are horribly implemented and the gore is repetitive.
This makes it really hard for me to recommend this to anyone. I read the manga because i heard lots of people saying its superior to the anime. If thats the case, i recommend staying away from Elfen Lied, anime or manga.