Elfen Lied Review

Elfen Lied is a 2004 psychological horror science fantasy Japanese animated series directed by Mamoru Kambe. Based on the manga of the same name written by Lynn Okamoto, the series is centered on the teenage Diclonius girl “Lucy” who was rejected by human beings and subsequently wants revenge.


Positives:

  • Highly violent with lots of gore
  • Great voice performances
  • Good animation
  • The writing is decent
  • Interesting premise

Negatives:

  • Lackluster characters
  • Score is not memorable
  • Uneventful story

Plot:  Elfen Lied focuses on Lucy who is of a newly mutated species, the “Diclonius”.  She escapes from a facility built for experimenting on Diclonius but is injured in the process, developing a secondary, childlike personality known as Nyu.  She is found by two locals, Kohta and his cousin Yuka.  The series follows their involvement with the attempts of the organization and the Special Assault Team sent to recapture her.  The story is alright but as for as big as it is the focus is more on the characters.  Sure the Diclonius have the ability to wipe out humanity but at the same time that plot doesn’t really feel relevant.  Also, the whole thing with Lucy/Nyu staying with Kohta is pretty unnecessary especially since he is a lame character and it makes no sense why they don’t call the cops.  It would’ve been a helluva lot better had the story focused on Lucy struggling to escape capture while interacting with other humans and regaining her humanity.  The premise is actually pretty interesting though it doesn’t really feel compelling.  Lucy isn’t going through a developing arc, there isn’t a world ending event occurring and someone trying to stop it, the “good guys” aren’t trying to stop the evil organization; the story just feels like it’s there.  (3 out of 5)

Characters:  One of the biggest problems I have with the anime are the characters.  The main protagonist of the series is Lucy, a Diclonius.  The creators try to make Lucy a likable sympathetic character, first, by having her have a crappy childhood and second, have her have a split personality with a child-like personality named Nyu. I understand why Lucy could be apprehensive towards humans but come on, not every Diclonius will be treated with hatred and rejection.  It’s like X-Men.  Despite bigotry not every human hates mutants.  So this concept is totally unrealistic.  And the fact that the Diclonius seem determined to end humanity over their unrealistic abuse is way too over-the-top.  I find her to be a cruel, heartless, and flat character.  She’s like that one kid at school who a) gets picked on and b) doesn’t have any friends, so decides to shoot up a school.  Kouta is cliche as hell with little to no personality.  He is completely useless.  Even with Kouta’s cousin, Yuka, she is as worthless as Kouta.

There are only three characters who have anything worth liking about them.  First, there’s Nana, a Diclonius who was nearly killed by both Lucy and the research facility.  She has this father/daughter relationship with Kurama, who is one of the antagonists as well as another Diclonius’ father named Mariko, and despite her treatment, doesn’t want to end humanity but only wants to please her Kurama.  Despite Kurama being a douchebag, atleast he shows some redeeming qaulities when it comes to him caring for his daughter Mariko and Nana. Even with the death of his wife and with his compassion to minor character Kisaragi, who was decapitated by Lucy at the beginning of the anime, that makes him a deeper character than let’s just say…the Kakuzawas who probably just as bland as Kohta and Yuka are useless.  All they ever talk about is mating with Lucy to create a superior race to rule the world and nothing else.  In other words, they suck.  The third actual likable character is Bando, a member of the National Police Agency’s Special Assault team.  Sure the guy is a dick, but you have to admit that he’s pretty awesome.  And his fight with Lucy was pretty awesome.  The characters are pretty so-so; some good, some bad, some completely useless. (3 out of 5)

Animation Style:  Visually the animation style looks good, the dull hues work well with the overall dark and violent tone.  Elfen Lied doesn’t hold back its heavy use of gore and violence that can get pretty intense.  The vector arms have this 3D ghostly look to them that do make them look unique. The fact that the Diclonius women have the horns and the pink hair is a pretty decent design.  (3 out of 5)

Score:  The music is good and some of the themes bubbling.  I’m on the fence about the intro.  It’s not bad but I don’t particularly care for it nor was it really memorable.  The English voice cast give some pretty good voice performances.  Carli Mosier does a really good job as Lucy, definitely gives the character presence.  The other voice performances include Carli Mosier (Nyu), Blake Shepard (Kouta), Nancy Novotny (Yuka), Cynthia Martinez (Mayu), Sasha Paysinger (Nana), Jay Hickman (Kurama), David Wald (Band), Luci Christian (Mariko), and Andy McAvin (Kakuzawa).  The sound is pretty damn good.  (3 out of 5)

Writing:  I’m on the fence about the writing.  For one thing, the entire set up of the world is actually pretty interesting and how it is established is done well with Lynn Okamoto’s writing and Mamoru Kanbe’s presentation.  There are definitely some dark undertones involving prejudice, revenge, abuse, regret, jealousy, and identity.  One of the biggest problems is how poorly written most of the cast are.  The good guys are seemingly useless while the bad guys are scheming and rubbing their hands in an office.  The whole thing about the Diclonius being subjected to alienation by basically everyone is a bit of a stretch.  There are some people who would except it, some who would extort it, and some who would fear and hate it.  The first two aren’t really touched upon.  I can understand Lucy’s anger at humans for her mistreatment but like X-Men she hasn’t interacted with humans enough to hate all humans to just kill with little regard.  Now, there is this theory that Diclonius are violent by nature but I don’t buy that, because then that means that the Diclonius are just jackasses.  I would’ve liked to have seen more interactions with the Diclonius and society, like news reports, organizations, how people feel about them.

There’s some pretty cool scenes such as Lucy vs. Band, Lucy vs. Nana, Lucy vs. the Special Forces Unit. The dialogue is decent and conversations between characters is handled pretty well.  The action and horror can be pretty brutal at times but with Kouta and Yuka there are some more dramatic, emotionally powerful ones too.  There is some nudity but it isn’t overly done.  Also, the series has a strong message behind it about how fear and prejudice can make this great world quite dark and how some respond to it, even darker. There’s a flashback where we see Lucy’s origins and her connection with Kouta.  The whole Nyu personality seems like candy for anime fans and a complete waste of time.  Not only is the secondary personality unnecessary but it completely takes away from the character development of Lucy. The writing is alright and it has its moments but it isn’t as compelling as it could’ve been.  (3 out of 5)


The Verdict:  In the end, Elfen Lied is a decent anime but it could’ve been so much more.  The biggest problems with the anime are the lackluster characters, uneventful story, and non-memorable score.  However, the anime does have good presentation, a lot of violence, great voice performances, Diclonius are an interesting premise, and the writing is good (though I hate the whole Nyu thing). Elfen Lied gets 3 out of 5.

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