Now the abysmal overall score may be partially for shock value but Elfen Lied truly is the worst anime I've ever see. And just for fun I'll start with a anecdote.
I had already seen it once and thought I'd share the fun with a few of my friends. Making fun of Elfen Lied has and still is a meme of sorts, most of my friends can't stop themselves from laughing whenever the series is brought up. Anyway, me and two of my pals gathered in front of a TV and started watching the thing. Various groans and sighs could be heard from the other guys during the first episodes and after the third one of them rose and said he was going home to grind rep on his WoW character instead of watch.
This little story while of course only based on taste is also rather telling. But I'll try my best to do a fair review of the show.
The first problem with Elfen Lied is that there's absolutely nothing new about it. While for example CLAMP often takes overused genres they always manage to put their own unique spin on it. Elfen Lied on the other hand is a mishmash of ecchi, psychological drama, gore and magical girlfriend. A mysterious pinkhaired girl who has both a innocent and a dangerous side meets a loser manboy who tries his best to take care of a growing stable of girls that wants to bone him. And the big twist about who killed Koutas family could be seen from miles away.
Instead of using shocking images and plotpoints as a helping tool to tell a story (Like Garth Ennis and Mark Millar does for example) it is the sole point of the story. One miserable character after another enters the fray and it never gets interesting in the slightest. I have watched the whole thing twice trying to figure out what people like about it and I come up with nothing.
But to be honest I did kinda like the flashback part where you get to see a younger Lucy. While still not sympathetic in the slightest you did get some kind of reason for why she's mentally unstable.
Overall one of the worst storys I've ever experienced in viewed media but the flashback part gets it a extra point.
While being the best part of the show there is still nothing special about it. The gore was rather boring and ultimately meaningless, simply a means to an end. The show tries hard to convey shocking images but without decent writing behind it, it all falls flat. It may be that I am a bit desensitized but I truly felt nothing watching this.
Another weak part of it, while some of the characters have decent voice actors Lucy's "evil" voice is another lame cliché that made me laugh a bit when I first heard it. That she also gets a supercool facial expression to go with her dark, brooding voice just makes it worse. Also I really hate the intro, it's insanely pretentious and tries to convey the image of a deeply serious show while everything within it has about the same target demographic as say Naruto. (I have nothing against Naruto but it's not a serious drama and neither is Elfen Lied)
Every single character in this show has a really tragic past, from the agent who had to kill her own daughter to the girl who was raped by her own father. The problem is of course that it's all there is to most of the cast. None of the characters has distinct personalitys, dreams or goals. They're basically just there to move the story (bad as it is) forward. Whenever there's a break from the main story it's used for random ecchi scenes instead of taking the time to build characters. And so I truly felt nothing for any of them, not even the raped street urchin or poor abused Nana. And I'm not a uncaring bastard, I smile like a moron watching Ghibli movies because the characters are full of warmth and love. They give you a reason to like them, in Elfen Lied everyone is a misanthropic failure and never give you a reason to symphatize with any of them. The characterisation is vile, they took clichés and stripped away the likeable parts of them.
It may be that I'm missing something vital when watching this but I truly cannot find anything positive about the show (Except for the flashback part). And I don't dislike depressing animes, Texhnolyze is one of my favourites and it's way more depressing than Elfen Lied.
When I was younger I wanted to make more people like anime. I wanted to show them that there are shows out there with intelligent writing and likeable characters. Shows that you wouldn't be ashamed of watching when your mum stepped into your room and asked you what you were doing. Elfen Lied is a clear step in the wrong direction, a anime whose sole point is to shock and disgust its viewers. And due to its inane writing it never does anything with the gore and shock value, it truly is the whole point of the show.
So all in all I do think I've given it a fair review. No matter how hard I try I can't find anything particulary nice to say about it. And due to the important parts (story and characters) being so abysmal the 1 is justified in my book.
But I am also fully aware that there are scores of people who love the show and I don't exactly think they're dumb because of it. It just clashes insanely bad with my tastes and does every single thing I dislike about anime. Apples and oranges amirite?
Tis a year or so after I wrote this and I still stand by all of it. It might be a bit rough and a bit angry but I still have nothing nice to say about Elfen Lied. Of course I haven't rewatched it but considering the scores I've given it that should come as no surprise. Also if you're reading this part you might want to read the comments, I've answered a few attacks on my empathic ability and explained a bit more why I think the way I do about the show. Odds are you don't care but if you for example severely disagree with the review and would like to call me bad things, read the comments first and you might get some sort of answer. Also that part about the show clashing insanely bad with my tastes should be emphasized, this is collection of my somewhat objective opinions on Elfen Lied, not me trying to state facts.