Earlier, I had written a review for the "Elfen Lied" manga, so I will attempt to have a brief compare and contrast between the manga and anime. Note that this is my first time and I'm being experimental, so treat this with kind critique.
Despite getting up in age compared to more recent titles, "Elfen Lied" has still managed to entrance anime fans and those curious to the genre. Even now, I have caught multiple reviews for this title, ranging from "it being pointless" to "a title that should be considered an anime classic." I found that after reading the manga, "Elfen Lied" has great potential to be a classic and I can understand why some people see that, but I have to admit while watching that I caught some flaws in the telling of the elf song.
The story tells of an escaped diclonius named Lucy-the "queen" to a race that is considered to be the next step of evolution. After an intense minute and a half that will test one's commitment to the title (both manga and anime-wise), she gets shot and is found on the beach by two college-age students. There is one slight problem: she has become another entity: an innocent, child-like girl that can only say "nyu." Once known of her whereabouts, diclonius and humans alike try to find Lucy and kill her whereas the teenagers try to keep her safe, unaware of the beast within the beauty. Other than the basic summary, I found that the anime title tends to keep relatively true to the manga, only tweaking when only necessary. However, my biggest problems were that certain events such as unveiling Kurama's story and the pacing the anime had made some of the backstories completely rushed which made them lose their tragic imapacts in the manga. There were also certain exchanges such as the deals made between Bando, Mayu and Nana evaporated, certain key events (especially involving the clumsy secretary in the first episode/chapter) are completely changed and the development of Nyu's speech wasn't clear in the series whereas it flowed splendidly in the manga. I also found that the anime focused more on the romantic elements rather than the science fiction and psychology in the manga. I will give the anime credit for a better ending that matched "Elfen Lied''s overall tone.
Another thing that the anime does really well is the sound in terms of musically. Not only is the music beautiful, but the moments where the music plays is very appropriate. Not to mention it can change from hauntingly creepy to sorrowful on a dime. In addition, the use of silence at moments are just as fitting. One of the major pleasures of "Elfen Lied" is the gorgeous opening "Lillium" with just as beautiful imagery inspired by the works of Gustav Klimt. With such fantastic music, it's a shame that the voices are downplayed; a scratch on the phonograph or nails on the chalkboard. Though I only heard the sub in the OVA "In the Passing Rain," I found it to be okay. Just okay. On the other hand, the dub is ghastly. There are overdramatics played by almost every member and it was awfully difficult to distinguish Mayu's and Nana's voices when they were together in the same scene. The only good thing to watching the dub is hearing Kira-Vincent Davis whose duality as Nyu and Lucy ranges from a cold beauty to an adorable range of emotion in one phrase. A true tour-de-force. Other weaknesses that I found was the ED song didn't fit the tone of the show and I thought that it was strange that there had to be a silly sound to tell viewers that Nyu was changing to Lucy and vice versa; it downplayed the shock of not knowing when the change occured in the manga.
As for the characters, I found there to be both pros and cons.The majority of the main players are in the anime adaptation and some play to their roots from the manga. However, there are certain key differences for better and for worse. I found Kohta's arc to go full circle in not only coming to terms with his memories, but also in becoming a character that acts upon one mistake by doing good out of sympathy (ie. taking in multiple girls in) that makes much more sense than the manga counterpart. However, it comes at a price in the case of Nana. In the manga, she became one of my favorite characters in her full development of being independent and fighting for what she believes in and protecting others. Her love for her "Papa" Kurama is steadfast; even battling with Kurama's biological daughter to do so after having difficulty accepting it at multiple points. In the anime, this is almost completely stripped like her limbs, leaving only a backbone of what her character is supposed to be. She hardly taps into her other persona when push comes to shove and I was shocked that in the battle with Mariko that she blatantly accepted that she was Kurama's daughter, not her. It played against why she looks up to Kurama so much. On the plus side, I'm glad that the anime ommitted Arakawa's ecchi moments tht were totally unneeded in my eyes and the character of Nozomi. How they handled Nozomi's disapperance is both a pro and con in of itself:it lost a character that I didn't think was as strong as the rest of the family built upon. But Nozomi's true focus was introducuing the meaning why the show is called "Elfen Lied." The anime did a nice touch in incorporating a similar thing with the symbolism of a music box playing "Lillium": the show's opener, but the actual meaning of what inspired "Elfen Lied" itself is completely lost.
Other additional notes to "Elfen Lied" is that the camera and editing are really spot-on and add to the psychological tension the characters go through. But at the same time, I couldn't stand the many of the story's ideas are voiced by the characters, let alone at multiple times depending on the message. It made me feel like the show had to tell myself to think whereas I was independently; a treating of the viewers as dumb if you will. This is similar in style to the animation: the backgrounds are carefully detailed with their character designs being crisp, but the animation itself can be lazy at times (I swear I saw a cross-eyed soldier at one point in addition to weird mouth movements and certain models being clones of one another except in different colors. I'm looking at Kurama and the director in particular). I found both the manga and the anime to have good ideas, but both equally fail in their executions. Despite these flaws, "Elfen Lied" was still a title I enjoyed watching.
If one is curious to delve into the world of "Elfen Lied," there are two ways to determine whether the anime or manga is your boat. If you like science fiction or psychology with dark and explicit themes, go with the manga. If you want to even see what "Elfen Lied" is about or like romantic themes, go with the anime. Both are served with healthy servings of graphic deaths, blood splashes and cute outbursts of "Nyu!"