A humanoid test subject known as a Diclonius escapes from a lab somewhere, protected by some sort of supernatural powers. She literally paves her way through a sea of blood of her own making and falls into a sea after a failed attempt of stopping her permanently with a sniper.
A while later, the two cousins Kouta and Yuka comes over a naked girl with a peculiar set of horns on her head standing in the ocean. Without the ability to say anything but "nyu" and looking quite lost and forelorn, the two take her with them to their home, name her... well, Nyu, and let her live with them.
What they quickly learn, however, is that some sort of organization is after Nyu. And Nyu herself seems to have another personality within her. Who is Nyu? WHAT is Nyu? And just what is going on?
I'll admit that it was the unusual name that drew me towards this series, and the artwork that reeled me in. And Elfen Lied DOES, in fact, have quite beautiful art. The settings, while not all that much in the way of variation, paints quite the scenic picture. And the characters all look quite good. Or, in Nyu's case, quite cute.
Cute, however, is not quite the description I have in mind for the series itself.
You see, the first ten minutes of this film does, in its own way, give you clear warning about what to expect. Excessive, bloody, redshirt violence abounds. People being torn apart, limb from limb -- and literally at that -- or exploding in a red haze of blood in a showing unlike anything I have ever seen earlier in ANY title. It's a good indication of what to expect, but you better believe Elfen Lied doesn't stop there. Oh no.
In fact, much of the series itself is devoted to quite a few of the darker, more callous factors of human nature; Our need to control everything, or have everything under control if you will, whatever the price might be. Our willingness or lack of edicts regarding non-human life. How social disuse (or misuse) influences ones growth and maturity. The topic of pedophilia and abandonment is even covered through the inclusion of another character, a young runaway girl named Maya.
And that is what really made my stomach churn about this series. Not as much the excessive violence, but the way things are set up. Case in point; Nana. She's one of the aforementioned Diclonius, with an age of around 14-15, and when we're introduced to her, she's naked, partly covered in blood and chained to a wall. And then, we get to know she's being experimented on. Subsequently, she is sent out with orders to hunt down and kill the escaped Diclonius, which she refuses because she don't want to kill anyone. A compromise is made, and she finally sets out to track her down. When she does find the escapee, she makes the mistake of confronting her on her own, and gets both her arms and feet ripped off in the process. Being considered useless by her "owners", she is to be put to sleep.
So why, you might ask, am I watching this series? Well, that would be because, despite all that's wrong with it, it IS a good series in the end. And while Kouta and Yuka are your (perhaps too) typical cousins, it's the characters -- the GOOD characters -- that makes the show work despite its dark imagery. With Kouta being in the center of attention, he soon becomes the focal point for a lot of the characters in the show. He becomes the ward of Maya and later also houses Nana, the other runaway Diclonius, who was set free instead of being killed like she was originally ordered to be. And this is the moments that draw you back to the show, along with the desire to find out just what happened with Kouta and Nyu long ago, a recurring event that gets prompted by sudden flashbacks at key moments. In fact, the pacing of this series is near perfect, only hampered with reused footage later on, something that I felt stretched out certain scenes to unnecessary lenghts. This doesn't really reach the point of badness. You'll just notice it.
Another thing that sorta stuck out with me was the few times this series tried to insert some comedic moments, mainly through the antics of Nyu. And while I appreciated the chance to release some of the tension I felt from watching this, some of the scenes, like the one where Nyu sees fit to grab Yuka's breasts for seemingly no reason, felt a bit wrong. Given the happenings just moments before, it came across as more awkward rather than funny.
I guess I should mention that this series DOES contain a lot of nudity. Given the nature of the show, this really shouldn't be a big deal. Besides, none of the nudity is of any sexual nature, save for the one where Maya's pedophile stepdad forces her to strip for him. And given her general underageness, the scene came across as creepy as it was intended to be. In either case; yes, there are nudity, and no, this really shouldn't concern you more than the violence and other unsavory events happening in this series.
My last worry about this show, and this was one that drove me to download the raw of the last episode, was that the show itself was going to degenerate into a depressing cesspool of sorrow and grief by its end. Given the show's rather angsty-at-times nature, I didn't think it was completely unwarranted of me to feel that way. Now, I'm not going to spoil anything for you, but I AM going to say that my fears were completely unfounded, much to my relief. Is it a happy-go-lucky ending? Maybe.... or maybe not. But you can rest easy and hold the anti-depressant prescriptions, because you will, at least, not be needing those.
There are so much more I could have said about this show, but I really need to wrap things up soon. Besides, it's just a 13 episode show, and there are just so much I can say before I start giving away major plot points. The show is well written and paced, no question about it. There'll be some things that will surprise you and some that won't. Granted, this show will also take any remnants of innocense left in you and flay it to shreds, but there are some genuinely sweet moments to be had inbetween the extremes and enough enjoyment to justify the pain you have to go through to see this. That is, if you think you can deal with it.
I can't with good conscience give it a five star rating, however much I'd like to do so. It's a very special show, good and bad parts taken into consideration, but it just isn't for everyone. — Stig Høgset
Recommended Audience: Adults only. Not for the rampant nudity, but for the excessive violence and the rather graphic showcases of the darker sides of human natures.
Version(s) Viewed: R1 DVD, bilingual
Review Status: Full (13/13)
Elfen Lied © 2004 Rin Okamoto / Shueisha / VAP / GENCO
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