It is time. I have held off for a long time reviewing this anime but after I read some internet commentary that rubbed me the wrong way, I must now review this mess of an anime known as Elfen Lied.
On a private, government/military(?) owned Island, a naked woman with telekinesis escapes resulting in the untimely demise of quite a few guards and a hapless secretary until this woman is shot in the head causing her to fall in to the ocean. However, because she is wearing some super titanium-like alloy helmet, she lives but with no memory of who she is, or what she is and with no basic human speech other than spouting "Nyuu", she is discovered by 2 cousins and taken home and promptly named Nyuu.
That's about where all interesting aspects of the show end, and some thing called, but not quite is a coherent plot begin. The rest of Elfen Lied involves the residents of Yuka's family Inn dealing with her childishness, Lucy/Nyuu's awakening, and the scientific groups attempts to capture her.
Be very forewarned, this is a graphic anime. The violence is unrelenting and brutal. If you have a weak stomache do not watch this at all. This anime also contains nudity, and a scene of bodily function gone wrong (which I will discuss a bit in the overall section)
While there is a "story" here involving the organization who kept Nyuu/Lucy (as we find out her name is later) attempting to either bring her back or completely destroy her, while the main male character who supresses his past starts to remember, you are treated to 12 episodes of exposition, and sheer mind numbing brutality without any inclination as to why any of this is going on. While a scientist has a name for these Telekinetics "Diclonious", and assume that they are supposedly the next evolution of human..no rhyme or reason for their existence is explained or explored, leaving the viewer to draw their own conclusions when they are not distracted by the mayhem on the screen. Now, to be frank, had the story kept to "Lucy escapes, she is being chased, meets people, inevitable showdown with the military/science group after her" this could have been a better anime, however, the show flips from these violent encounters to a slice of life/harem/ecchi/comedy then back and it just does not work.
Like the subject matter it covers, the animation in Elfen Lied is ugly. For an animation done in 2004, it looks like interns drew and filmed it in 1998. Too little color, and very dark palettes take up the screen, characters are poorly rendered. It's just sloppy work, and it further ruins what is already a dismal watching experience. One nice touch though, the opening credits are a wonderful translation of Gustav Klimt's "The Kiss"
Although the original Japanese dub is passable, do not watch this anime with the English dub. It is absolutely god awful. Character voices are grating to the ears, and do nothing to make the experience any better. The only saving grace to the soundtrack is the OP Lilium, a very haunting tune sung in latin. This however is contrasted by a poorly out of place ending called "Be your girl" that just has no business in this anime.
Other than 2 characters in Elfen Lied, there is not one single endearing quality of any one you see on screen. The main male character Kouta is a wishy washy push over, letting anyone into his home, while having issues supressing his past, he comes across as a "Oh woe is me and my poor memory" whiner. His female cousin Yuka is an internally jealous doormat in love with Kouta, and does nothing to make me root for her. Nyuu/Lucy is a split between a blabbering idiot and a violent sociopath, the various baddies serve no purpose but to appear evil, and exist just to die at the right moment in various ugly ways.
The two characters that I liked though, are a stark contrast to the rest of the cast. You have Nana, the inept Diclonius sent to bring Lucy back but fails miserably, is driven by her love for her "father" Kurama, and then there is 13 year old Myu, homeless due to sexual abuse suffered at the hands of her stepfather. Sadly 2 side characters do not save the rest of the cast.
Elfen Lied's has 2 camps and no happy middle ground: Raving fans who think it's the greatest anime ever created, and people who hate it. That's it. I desperately tried to enjoy it, hell I even watched it a second time to see if I could find anything worthwhile here, and failed.
For some reason, when I see this written on the internet "OMG, saddest anime ever" along side "This anime is AWESOME", I have to truly scratch my head. People looking for some deep meaning will just not find any. Say what you want, and I am indeed prepared for the eventual commentary to follow, this is no social commentary. Social Commentary is the act of using rhetorical means to provide commentary on issues in a society. This is often done with the idea of implementing or promoting change by informing the general populace about a given problem and appealing to people's sense of justice.. This does not exist here. Elfen Lied is a 12 episode long torture-porn experiment full of barbarism and misplaced nudity. It exists just to titillate and in that arena, it does it's job well. I was offended by the arrogance of the creators attempts to dip this anime in the batter of "having a message" but fried in the oil of ludicrousness.
To be honest, one scene in particular bothered me to no end, not because I was offended by it but because it showcases the glaring hatred the director has for his viewers. Some moments after bringing Nyuu/Lucy into the Inn, and trying to figure out what her deal is, Nyuu soils herself. This scene goes on for an eternity. You see it coming, the characters do not..and they play Nyuu's obvious discomfort for laughs UNTIL she urinates on the floor. After a wtf moment, the director transitions this into a fan servicey bath scene. Nyuu's humiliation is turned into an excuse for "Hey she just pissed herself! What do? Let's get naked!!!". At this moment I realized that Mamoru Kanbe thinks you are an idiot. Because as I mentioned in a comment for another review of this anime that Rivers of Gore and naked chicky nipples are what drives Elfen Lied and I believe in my heart of hearts that these scenes exist only to preoccupy you from the perplexing lack of good storytelling. Sadly he succeeds given the almost violent defences the average fan of Elfen Lied throw out when someone mentions they dislike it.
Bottom line, the only appeal this anime has is to what I like to call The Lowest Common Denominator and pre-pubescent boys who think boobs and buckets of blood are cool. It caters to the immature and tries to be too many different genres at once, and one day when the core fans of this grow up, they will see it for what it is: A bad anime with no redeeming value whatsoever.