Note: I re-reviewed this anime in 2019. Please disregard this original review.
Oh dear, oh dandy, this one is a doozy. I wanted to find something that reinvigorated my interest in the medium as I’ve been wanting to repeat history and stop looking at it for about a year, and then watching more anime series for about six months before the cycle continued once more. So I picked a very hushed out anime that I wagered to have a reputation towards it being really weird. Which it meets head first by offering one of the most unique series I’ve ever seen. It’s Elfen Lied, and it is one of my favorite things I’ve seen this year.
Elfen Lied Review
Studio: Arms Corporation and ADV Films
Length: 13 episodes
Availability: It’s on Hulu, weirdly enough.
The term Artsy gets thrown around quite frequently when describing something abstract and odd, but trust me when I say that Elfen Lied not only aims for such a reputation, it succeeds by being the anime equivalent of an arthouse film. One focusing on everything from incest, human interactions, betrayal, torture, father surrogates, the homeless, parental rape, and, most notably ultra-violence from adorable girls who can pop heads off with a mere thought. All when condensed from 107 chapters of a manga that were not entirely completed by the time of the series production and into thirteen episodes, disaster is a very likely result. As it was for things such as Chaos;Head.
Yet, Elfen Lied does very much walk the line between being a beautiful and twisted work of art and a mismanaged series of ideas. With several details feeling unnecessary or underdeveloped, with some being shoved in during the last episode for the sake of aspects never delivered on come the conclusion. There are both plenty of errors, and points where the show became rather comical in its execution, at least in my perverse and twisted mind. But much like a series of wonderful actors reciting a mediocre script, there is something to the show that transcends itself beyond the regularly used indicators of quality. Or in simpler terms, it’s really gosh darn charming while being so jarringly unique that it is hard to not adore.
But onto the actual premise, it is a bit of a doozy. Focusing on a series of a new species of mutated Homo Sapiens known as Diclonius. Horned creatures with the thirst of human blood, and the ability to both destroy anything that gets in their way, or defend themselves from it through invisible arms known as Vectors. One of these creatures, named Lucy, escapes from a secret government facility by ripping the limbs off of the security guards through said Vectors, which also reflect the majority of bullets. Though one reaches her noggin, causing her to go falling into the sea, with her mind taking a major toll, making her resemble a mentally retarded person half of the time. Particularly one who likes to be nude because there are already nipples in the intro.
Though, with such a hampered mental state and vocal prowess halted when it comes to saying anything more complex than, “Nyu,” she is taken in by two college students and cousins who, for the most part, just try to deal with her. Along with an orphan who is eventually thrown in to raise the sexual frustrations of one of the cousins and to provide a reason why there is a cyborg assassin thrown in later. Well, aside from the fact that when characters can die without direct contact, you sort of need a reason for some of them to not be quadriplegics.
Which is a sloppy explanation from my part, if only due to how much is going on at this show at a given time. It’s the sort of cobbling of insane ideas tied to a series of disturbing imagery that unfinished scripts and storylines are made of, but Elfen Lied is alongside with Deadly Premonition in terms of being a lovely and sloppy series of events that can be nitpicked. Balancing the amount of dumb, artsy, and overall coolness to a level that should not work, but certainly made for a bloody good time.
A statement that can easily be viewed as a pun, seeing as how liberal the show is with the use of gore. The very first frame following the intro is a man’s crudely removed arm lying on the ground, before Lucy begins strolling down the facility naked as the day she was born, with heads, arms, legs, and even halves flying out. It is borderline disgusting in a sense, helped by how they are among the most focused aspect of what looks like a medium budget late nineties OVA series.
It also carries a very brutal disconnect by how there is no direct contact illustrated between the slicing and Lucy, as the only occasionally displayed CG Vectors work their relentless magic. However, the show is also understanding enough to not let gore be the primary focus, and rather act as a gunshot interrupting a dinner party. The majority of the show is relatively quiet with the awkward performances from nearly everyone involved providing a sense of satire to the whole thing, but not one that undermines the impact held by some of the more morally troubling aspects of the show.
Something that is enough to bring up the fact that I was called to reviewing this upon viewing the studio behind the animation production being the same as those who made one of the most digestible and overall shit shows I’ve ever seen. Whereas something like Master of Martial Hearts, which oddly came from the same studio somehow, had absurdly implemented and awkward fetish bait seeping from its blasted pores. There is an overall sense of sophistication on Elfen Lied’s part, so even if everything it is trying to do does not make a lot of sense, it is engaging. Or at least it riled me up to the point where I was literally shaking my seat.
Perhaps it is my own twisted nature, but I can’t help but love the very idea of a pink haired girl who was nearly dead a few days ago wandering the streets with a purse full of money, but not understanding the concept of money. And later having a dream where money-people try to sacrifice her. by tying her naked body onto a cross. The show manages to hit a very delicate and difficult to emulate balance of misunderstanding and confidence that ontop of being bold and rare, always has the ability to fall back on just being funny to avoid much of the available criticism.
Though, not necessarily all of it, and it is primarily stuff that comes with having too many ideas trying to be expressed. After dragging my feet from a week long hiatus from indulging in the series to plow through it once more, as is the norm for me, I still had zero idea on where the series would ultimately end up going, but I’m not sure that the creative team has the same ideas, as there is still quite a bit left unexplained or detailed by the time “Das Ende” pops up. A problem only made all the more important by how so much of the show is heavily detailed, and is grounded in reality. Leaving behind a sense of melancholy only made more confusing by an OVA that only raised more questions than answers, as well as lessening the importance of the relationship between two characters.
I’d be damned if that stopped me from downright loving this little Elf’s Song. As a prime contender for the banner of uniqueness allowing for a pass on several miscalculations in terms of what could be accomplished in thirteen episodes, the question of how complete the experience feels is up for debate. But when it comes to being a rollercoaster of joy, intrigue, discomfort, and a general veil of awkwardness, I can’t think of a better example than Elfen Lied. Or at least the dub in any case, because goddamn does it make the whole thing a lot more amusing.
Excellent! (19/20) An exceptional product that is hindered by a few issues to the point where they are barely worth noting for this superb title. Definitely worth both your time and money.