ANIME EVOLUTION SERIES
Full lit of the review series can be found on this page, 3rd post from bottom:
This is not a conventional review as I usually write. All there is to be said about this series has already been said from multiple angles in all the wooping amounts of reviews this title got. This will be more of a meta-thinking essay on the series than an actual analysis of the various sections of the anime. So if you expect info on what the series is all about, stop reading and look elsewhere. The following text will be quite boring if you don’t like stories AROUND a series rather than ABOUT a series.
If you are reading this line I assume you are interested. So take a deep breath because here comes a hell of a wall of text. Be warned that I hate this series and I normally use the harshest words against it but for the sake of reviewing I will be as polite and objective as I can. That is a huge sacrifice on my part!
There are thousands of anime made throughout the decades but only a few manage to be engraved deeply in our memories. Fond childhood memories is a main factor as so is the first time you come to witness or experience something new. Series like Dragonball Z, Sailor Moon and even Pokemon are not famous just because of lots of marketing (although that did play an important role too). They are famous because they were the best of what the tv had to offer back then. There may be far better titles in each genre but since we never got to watch those back when we were greenhorns, they never managed to transmit the same feelings years later when we actually got our hands on them. We may be admitting their superiority over the previous favs but they still weight less in our minds.
And this is what Elfen Lied is. A series most of us watched as greenhorns and that is where most of the mythos and the rave around it come from to the most part. You see, back when it aired anime were still not so well received by most young people. Most saw a bit of Dragonball, a bit of Pokemon, a bit of Sailor Moon and thought that this was the extend of what an anime can get to. Now as much as you may have liked those series, you MUST admit that they appear quite silly for someone who first watches them and that is enough to never be bothered with them.
And then Elfen Lied (henceforth called EL) comes along and brakes that assumption. True, there were already violent anime airing, as there were anime full of nude, full of interesting story ideas and nice visuals. But EL happened to have mixed all of the above in the same package. For example, let’s look at the first 10 minutes of the first episode. The opening song and video are haunting and artistic, intriguing and eye-catching. Then we see in just a few minutes a massacre of the highest possible gore and splatter you could ever dream of witnessing back then, backed up by a scary naked woman wearing a demonic metal mask and horns. You even see a person who acts all silly assuming to be the main comic relief character throughout the series to be eventually brutally murdered in seconds. WOW, HOLLY SMOKES, WHAT IS THIS??? Instant hook! And here starts the rave of the series. Sex and violence always sell and EL happened to have an extremely amount of both. Also, there wasn’t anything remotely similar airing on mainstream channels back then and that made the impact to be tenfold.
There are many who can say that is was Dragonball who got them hooked to anime. Others that it was Naruto or Sailor Moon. But all these people already were ready to accept the weirdness of the Japanese culture. They had their mindset ready to watch silly boys throwing energy beams and klutz girls with magic wands. There were not many of those around, I guarantee you that as I was one of them. EL happened to hook to anime a far more broad group of people, who until then only saw anime as silly and childish. But splatter, nude, a haunting intro and a story full of misery and social issues around cruelness? That was so political incorrect that drew people in by the thousands. Because after all, the more political incorrect something is, the more attractive it appears to young people. And let’s face it, all other anime at that time had the archetype of the stupid teenager helping innocent people and defeating bad monsters. EL was nothing like that. Everyone was either crazy or evil; there were no clear good guys and bad guys. Plus, it was the first series that directly presented on mainstream channels in the west a world where humans are not good by default and are tormented by monsters. No sir, here the humans are sadistic little bastards who like tormenting little girls and are being slaughtered like pigs as revenge. Even children and women were not spared! When was the last time they showed even women and children being killed? Heck, even kicking puppies was quite cruel and rare back then.
So as you understand, it was all so original and extreme back then most immediately fell in love with it for being so damn different. And needless to say, thanks to it the anime communities worldwide were doubled in a few years. “Anime are cool; look what they show” many were saying and showing scenes of the series to their friends, not afraid to be called geeks anymore because it was so damn violent and sexy it could not be labeled nerdy. And many of those friends actually became fans themselves and got to bring in more of their friends to the gang. As petty as it sounds having gore and sadism to be the magnet of interest, it is a fact that in order to be an anime fan you just gotta love that sort of shit. It is a fact…
Now let me make it clear that in the following years all the elements of EL were copied in following series. Mainstream anime nowadays are far more sexual and violent, something that EL helped visualizing thanks to its gargantuan fandom. People wanted sex and violence and that is what they got. Open any recent anime and there is little to no chance to not see nude, splatter, lolis and all the sick stuff successful series like EL helped to establish.
So far so good, sounds like the best anime in existence, right? … Not by a longshot really. It does feel shocking and different and special if you are a newbie in the field without any previous exposure to this sort of anime but otherwise it feels quite ridiculous by itself if you are already a veteran viewer. As I was the first time I watched it. You see, I got to watch far more dark and brutal titles since I was 6; many years prior to watching this anime. How is that possible you ask? Well, it is simple, adults back it the 80’s couldn’t imagine an animated series to be violent so they pretty much had no age indicator on the VHS titles. Everything was labeled “for kids” and was placed on the same shelf. So this is why I was watching fairy tales on one moment and heads jettisoned away the exact next. Yes, I got to watch Birth, Windaria, Choujin Locke and Nayuta before I was even 8. Anyone familiar with those really old titles will easily ask why I didn’t become a serial killer by being exposed to such gargantuan amounts of violence in such a tender age. Ok, I admit, those movies affected me to a great extend and now I am this loli-lover, Angry Video HS Nerd you all tolerate through my reviews. What I mean is that I was already exposed to far more sinister stuff way before EL and guess what, it didn’t seem worth not even half of what everyone was raving about. Because the shock value was low.
And here is where this series most aims at in order to impress. Shock value. The more it shocks you, the better it appears to be. Because without it, it feels as silly as watching Goku eating a mountain of food without gaining a single pound.
Let’s get now to more conventional analysis, starting with the animation. The intro song is marvelous and artistic, a very good initial impression. But the rest of the series is actually more about bright colors and cute albeit crude character figures than actual quality. The bright colors are actually a smart move as they make the splatter scenes to appear even more shocking. You wouldn’t expect so much violence in a series with cheery colors. At the same time they give that harem fuzzy feeling of multicolored hair bimbos doing silly stuff all over the place. It helps to hook you by the extreme amounts of fan service it has. There are panty shots and boobs almost every 5 minutes, while underage girls are most of the time shown being tortured. Yeah, great eye catcher stuff for sadists.
Still, the actual amount of detail given to character figures is quite simple and almost crude, as the girls have ridiculously huge eyes and simple face structure, while the gore scenes themselves are not really paying attention to body anatomy. This of course sounds as peanuts as you can get a boner by even two spheres that are supposed to be boobs as well as being shocked by 5 fishsticks which are supposed to be fingers, being severed from a hand. So although the quality of the animation is not really high, it gets the message across even if it was just wireframes.
The music part is a threshold. The opening songs is amongst the best music pieces in anime history while most of everything else in it are subpar and forgettable. The dialogues themselves are retarded as hell but it is all part of the “so extreme it is no longer stupid” feeling of the series. If there are two words I clearly remember from the series, that is “Nyu” and “AAAARGH”. The rest were nonsense I have deleted from my mind as the story I will now criticize is for me one pig pile of steaming manure.
Ok, the story is essentially about humans being sick bastards who like tormenting little girls in an attempt to not be exterminated by a new race of horny (literally) red haired lolis which are genetically created and programmed to kill everything that moves. So, the story gets more complicated when the female ringleader of those lolis has convenient memory loses and turns from a heartless killer to a playful pussycat everytime the scriptwriter wants to prevent the story from ending. Also, the characters keep behaving in the most ludicrous way possible as means to not end the whole mess in 10 seconds by implementing common sense. And if you don’t believe me, think of this:
“Hey, mister police officer, I found a naked girl on the beach. Better take care of her because I am a male teenager living alone and can’t just take her home where anything can happen.”
There, see, he just took her home and didn’t do anything to her, despite being defenseless and amnesiac, all excused by the fact that he was very pure in heart … and missing a dick. Then follows a long line of enemy waves who want to capture Lucy, the ringleader. But are all so damn stupid, they can’t even breathe without chocking to death. Imagine sending in a sadistic military dude to capture Lucy. He will be talking for half an hour about what a bastard he is instead of just capturing her, until Lucy conveniently gains back her memory, cuts him to pieces and then conveniently forgets everything again. Then imagine a girl who was being molested by her father and another horny girl who was almost killed by Lucy, to be accepted in Kouta, the dickless boy, in his house. Supposed, they are safer in the house where Lucy kills someone every now and then than just going to the police. Or the police themselves being so autistic they never do anything about the dozens of people who are being found in pieces right outside of that house. Wait, that could be because they are in league with the villains, right? … Sure, and that is the only reason the dickless boy and his harem of lolis don’t leave that house despite being targeted by manslaghtering sadists every two days. Add to this the way they throw in incest and even more amnesia for other characters just as extra shock value that has nothing to do with the story, how everyone meets (or meats lol) someone, remembers and forgets, finds and loses, in the most far-fetched ways possible and always in the most convenient times and… well… the story is written with the mentality of a 5 year old, not better than that of the other classics around that time on tv. But as I said it is all about shock value rather that realism. The plot is quite fast for its duration and shocking every 5 minutes, while there are many social messages to leave you something to think about. Still, as I said, it only works if you are a newbie in the field who never thought of such things up to that moment. The logic of the drama is paper thin to fall apart while the ending is left so open to interpretation, it hardly feels as closure. Many remained faithful waiting for the sequel but there is nothing you can’t get by reading the rest of the story in the manga… Which becomes even more extreme and obscure to the point of “so stupid it is no longer smart”. But hey, the vagueness and ludicrous behaviors are all part of its appeal too. Even the manga ending is made to feel like the good ending of a date sim, proving that it was essentially made to please otakus and not other people. Yes, it was a series by otakus, for otakus after all.
In all, if it got to shock you the first time, it is bound to become your fav for many years and even open a portal to you, leading to the darker regions of the otaku realm. It has done so a million times already. All I can say is that it is much harder for someone to be impressed today by it because most modern anime are far more violent and sexual. Heck, even cartoons are. Also, after other titles like Higurashi or Mononoke came along, the throne of grimness is no longer EL’s for most. In fact I know many who admit that they have no idea why they liked that series so much. Simple, the shock value faded away and left behind only ashes and bones. So while I give it a high Value for its very important contribution in mainstreaming anime (for good or bad; I kinda hate the way most modern anime are all full of fan service) I must still give it a very low mark in Enjoyment because it doesn’t work if you are not a newbie and in no chance in hell it feels good if you are a veteran viewer. I got the same messages the series has in Akira, the same type of gore in Choujin Locke and those felt far more realistic and credible, without fan service and ridiculous behaviors fooling you to consider “idiotic” as “brilliant”.