When you're miserable, you need someone more miserable than yourself.
Lucy, a beautiful but lethal Diclonius
, escapes from a sinister research facility, brutally slaughtering anyone that gets in her way
, whether they intended to or not. However, a glancing head shot from an anti-tank rifle leaves her injured, and she falls into the ocean, unconscious...
Later, university student
Kouta and his female cousin Yuka are walking along the Yuigahama beach near Kamakura, when they find a naked young woman with horns on her head
. They end up taking her home and calling her Nyu after the only sound she makes.
Between the sinister government agency running the facility
, Yuka's jealousy, Nyu's dark and troubled alternate personality Lucy and a traumatic past he cannot remember, Kouta is in deep trouble. Caught between monsters, both human and not, where does his loyalty lie?Elfen Lied
, written by Lynn Okamoto
, is a gornographic manga
, which has been likened to a combination
, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
, Love Hina
, and Monster
. In other words, it's a twisted mixture of mutant battles, Psychic Powers
, split personalities, pseudo-harem antics, cute girls, the male lead who discovers that the person whom he interacted during that person's childhood is evil, and of course, bucketloads of Gorn
- and it's more than happy to swing between comedy and horror at the drop of a hat
. It has also been compared to I Dream of Jeannie as done by David Lynch
and Wes Craven
. There is also a short anime
series of the same name that follows the first couple of chapters but ends with an alternative ending
before the real plot kicks off.
The series' title is German for "Elves' Song" or more formally "song of the elves'" and takes its name from the poem "Elfenlied", which is featured twice in the story.
The series has become something of a Cult Classic
: given the heavy amounts of bloody violence and nudity, not to mention the dark tone overall (which are even worse in the manga), even in Japan
the series only aired on satellite TV, as a glorified commercial for the DVD release. In North America, ADV Films
didn't seriously think the show would gain widespread popularity, if only for the pragmatic reason that it was limited to mature audiences and could only market it to such. There was actually supposed to be a second season, but the show had to end after only one season largely due to lack of exposure in Japan from its limited TV run. Then, purely by word of mouth
, it became one of ADV's top selling North American DVDs of 2005.
Now has its own Character Page
. Contributions are greatly encouraged and appreciated.
Compare and contrast AKIRA
, Deadman Wonderland
, and Monster
. For series that deal with a superpowered species, compare and contrast Claymore
. Not be confused with Okamoto's one-shot Elfenlied
(often written as Elfen Lied
), which has nothing to do with this series.Cautious Editing/Viewer Warning
: There is a considerable amount of violence, gore, and discussion of rape.
This show provides examples of:
- 108: The number of chapters in the series is 107. Add to this the two special chapters and you get 109. Remove the special chapter that is not canonical and voilá.
- Adaptation Dye-Job: Diclonius in the anime all have varying shades of pink hair. In the manga, Lucy's is a light pink, Nana has bluish-purple, and Mariko has blonde.
- Adult Fear:
- Well, too many things to list, so lets just go with bloody Unknown Man. He's sadist, a rapist, a murderer, and a child molester, and he nearly has his way with a rape victim name Mayu.
- Mayu's stepfather, who molested her repeatedly, and her mother did nothing to stop him. Result is she runs away with nobody to care about her till she runs into Kouta and Yuka.
- All of the Other Reindeer: A recurring theme.
- All There Is to Know About "The Crying Game": Lucy's death and her real name "Kaede" are widely known. Somewhat subverted since you wouldn't know how those happened or revealed. It may possibly be because of the former being Makes Just as Much Sense in Context (her powers exceeded entropy, in other words), and the latter is all the way next to the ending.
- An Arm and a Leg: Happens very often in the manga.
- And the Adventure Continues / No Ending: The manga leaves off on a wild card: Anna, who is revealed to be (or regresses nack into) an intact human, awakens to Nousou's Bifauxnen assistant/bodyguard, Nozomi's voice recovers, and Kouta begins his life married to (presumably) Yuka. The last page shows two twins (who are likely the reborn Lucy and Nyu) about a decade later arriving at the grave of Lucy's pet dog, to an older Kouta and his daughter.
- Anti Anti Christ: Lucy. Though Kurama expects her to lead the diclonius race and replace humanity (presumably with himself serving as The Man Behind the Queen), she's not particularly interested in the job. She later winds up killing him and (mostly inadvertently) plays a big role in saving humanity.
- Apocalypse Wow: The manga has some fun nearing the ending, including an impressive ten or so pages pages dedicated to Lucy destroying the world when she accidentally thinks Kouta is Killed Off for Real; don't worry, he's not. There's also many treats to the eventual destruction of the research facility, which is ripped apart from below the ground up with Lucy's vectors after she kills Kakuzawa.
- Art Evolution:
- In the manga, the artwork starts off okay, but gets dramatically better. Compare the cover of volume 1◊ to volume 12◊.
- The horns of the Diclonii also had a different look at the start of the manga, though that changed quickly.
- Art Imitates Art: In the opening credit, Gustav Klimt.
- Artistic License – Law: In the manga finale, the World Health Organization issued a birth ban until the Diclonius birth vaccine could be distributed. The WHO has no authority to order UN member nations to do anything. At best, they can strongly recommend actions, but the rest is up to every single national government on Earth.
- Artistic Title: "Elfenlied" is German for "elf song", and is the title of a poem by Eduard Mörike (but it's not the Latin poem, "Lilium", sung during the anime's opening).
- Art Major Physics + No Arc in Archery: When an enemy is out of reach of their vectors, a Diclonius will typically use her vectors to instead throw objects at them. These thrown objects invariably behave like a bullet or arrow, regardless of the actual aerodynamic properties of the object in question.
- Of course, we're talking about very small objects thrown at the speed of a bullet, like that pen that's thrown into a soldier's eye. Played straight for extremely large objects.
- Asshole Victim: Where do we start ?
- Attack of the Town Festival: The end of Lucy's Start of Darkness involves a bloody rampage in the middle of a town festival.
- Barbie Doll Anatomy: Common in the manga, and happens a handful of times in the anime as well. There are a number of full-frontal nude shots and while neither the anime nor the manga is shy about detailing nipples, the crotches are invariably left featureless.
- Justified in that most Diclonii encountered in the story are Silpelets which are likened to worker bees. As they're sterile they may also physically lack any primary sexual characteristics as well. Lucy, on the other hand, is a "queen" and fully capable of sexual reproduction so she's presumably better equipped, so to speak.
- Berserk Button: It's rare that diclonii care for anyone. If they do, you really don't want to threaten that person.
- Bloody Horror: Lucy is frequently covered in blood after killing people with her psychic powers. When Kouta finally witnesses this in the anime it's extremely traumatic for him since he had been trying to protect her and befriended her throughout the series, and because he has PTSD from a traumatic past. Heck even her origin story as noted above involves her being covered in blood this way.
- Blood-Splattered Innocents: On numerous occasions, but most notable is Kanae during Lucy's rampage at the festival.
- Bloody Handprint: Which isn't show anywhere in the manga.
- Bolivian Army Ending: In the anime... kind of. Later revealed to be a plain old Cliff Hanger.
- Bonus Episode: The anime has 13 episodes plus one on the DVD.
- Break the Cutie: Every single goddamn one.
- Breather Episode: Episode 10.5, the OVA, an extremely loose adaptation of Chapter 85-86, which explains how Lucy was captured in the beginning of the manga. A nice break if one is going through the series in one sitting.
- Sadly the R1 DVD sets don't include it.
- They do as of 2013, and the Blu-Ray release.
- Brick Joke: In the manga, Nozomi's diaper.
- Bullying a Dragon: Various people (Nana and Bando in particular) continue to trash talk Lucy even after they've seen exactly what she's capable of. This decision ends badly for them.
- Combat Tentacles: Diclonius vectors might certainly count as these.
- Compressed Adaptation: The anime cuts off at around chapter 63, instead ending with a somewhat vague cliffhanger. For those who want to know what the anime missed, well... Kurama does not die with Mariko. A ton of other characters are introduced. Kakuzawa finally gets the death he deserves. Arakawa's role is bigger. When Kouta's memories return, his reaction to Lucy is... less positive. You know, just read it. It's kickass... and very sad.
- Or it would be very sad, if it didn't keep resurrecting the characters who die. Kurama, Bando, Mariko, and even Lucy—death is so cheap that it takes a lot of power out of an otherwise good story. The anime still left out Bando's awesome death scene though.
- Conspicuous CG: The vectors.
- Contrived Coincidence: Once it's revealed that Lucy and Kouta met as children, it gets hard to believe that Lucy washing up on that beach would coincide perfectly with Kouta's return to that village for the first time in several years, and that both would have Laser-Guided Amnesia, and that Kouta's unoversity teacher is the son of the Big Bad, and that Mayu happens to witness the fight between Lucy and Nana... Well, you can see where this is going.
- Covers Always Lie:
- Compared to the amount of blood and violence in this series, and how mentally scarred Lucy is, she sure does seem calm and serene on the DVD and manga covers.
- Awww, look at that manga cover, with the incredibly moe pink-haired girl on the front.◊ This looks like a pretty innocent ser-WHY IS THERE SO MUCH BLOOD!?
- Crapsack World: Besides the nice-looking coastal city the series takes place in, apathy and discrimination run rampant, where being a Diclonius means a lifetime of being broken repeatedly and being a human means living in fear of the child being born a silpelit, which will accidentally kill its parents by the age of 3 as a result of its vectors.
- Crapsaccharine World: The melodrama takes places in a nice little coastal city and a very pretty inn...
- Creator Thumbprint: The openings of Elfen Lied and Sora No Woto, both series directed by Mamoru Kanbe, feature recreations of Gustav Klimt's paintings, featuring the respective shows' characters.
- Creepy Child: At least two of the unnamed Diclonii.
- Cry Cute: Probably because of their exaggerated eyes, but all of the main girls when they do it. Even Lucy/Nyu and Mariko in the anime.
- Cut-and-Paste Translation: The German dub has less swearwords than the English one.
- Cute Is Evil: As a general rule, is it ever. Most of the cute characters you see are superpowered psychopaths who would just as soon tear you in half as look at you. Special mention to Nousou, who is drawn in an effeminate, Bishōnen style and is fawned over by some of the other cute characters, suggesting that he may just be a nice guy after all. He is then promptly shown overseeing a messy process of stripping the spinal columns out of skeletal torsos of diclonii that were killed for that express purpose.
- Dead Guy Junior: In the manga ending, Kouta's daughter is named Nyu.
- Death by Childbirth: This happens with any Diclonius that has slipped into Kill All Humans mode.
- Death Is Cheap: Manga only. Kurama and Bando have excellent death scenes but disappointingly survive. Nyu/Kaede has similar treatment. This is one point in which the anime may have been better - if they actually finished it properly.
- Disproportionate Retribution: Several examples.
- Dysfunction Junction: Nearly or just as bad as Neon Genesis Evangelion.
- When the most normal and cheerful person in the cast is the one with no arms or legs, expect some serious issues.
- Earn Your Happy Ending: Kind of. Could have been much worse.
- And really, despite it all, the very end is something wonderful. This is one of those stories that's well deserving of this trope.
- Expy: Not the series itself, but it has one. Wolfbreed. It's Elfen Lied... with werewolves.
- The Fair Folk: The Diclonii seem to have been influenced by them in many aspect, such as children that are secretly given to human parents but turn out to be monsters, or that they are invulnerable to normal weapons and can only be killed with a special metal (in this case tungsten instead of iron). It's this kind of elves that the title is referring to.
- Fanservice: A girl with the body of an 18 year old and the mind of a 2 year old. Not hard to imagine all the kinds of situations this creates.
- Also, the scene of Yuka sitting on Kouta's lap and kissing him is taken much further in the manga, and several chapters have still art of characters in revealing clothing or various stages of nudity.
- Also, Panty Shots. Lots and lots of panty shots.
- It'd be easier to list the characters who AREN'T played for Fanservice at least once. Really, if you're a non-extra female in the anime, there's roughly a 75% chance you'll be seen in your underwear and a 50% chance of getting a nude shot. If you're in the manga instead, those numbers are closer to 95%/80% respectively.
- Fan Disservice: Lucy walks around naked in the first episode while slaughtering people and splattering blood and limbs everywhere. Mayu in the scenes where she is molested by her stepfather. Also, many of the Diclonius are naked while they are tortured and the like. It's pretty much a given that if a character is nude or nearly so, something bad is either happening or about to happen, with few exceptions (see the previous trope). Erotic or traumatizing? You decide.
- Also, Panty Shots. Lots and lots of panty shots. Usually immediately followed by traumatic slaughter.
- Fantastic Racism: Played straight in the fact that humans believe Diclonii to be murderous monsters that will wipe out humanity and hunt them down without mercy.
- Subverted by the fact, that this time humanity is right! Maybe. Though Diclonii do have a genetic drive to kill humans, there is some ambiguity as to just how much this can be averted by childhood circumstances. Nana is the most obvious example, but there are others in the manga. There is also, it's noted, a genetic drive in humans to kill humans, but those are normally suppressed by parents raising their children, not torturing them from their birth, chaining them up, and shooting rocks at them. See Informed Ability below.
- It's a complex problem. Diclonii begin to use vectors around age 3, when Kids Are Cruel as well as intractable and still without inhibitions, notwithstanding that they can't even properly understand death. It's pretty hard for a 3 year old child with the power to destroy anything nearby with minimal effort to NOT commit brutal murders and antagonize humanity, and set in motion the whole conflict. It takes an exceedingly gentle personality, in fact, which is not a survival advantage and therefore rare. Even Diclonii would have trouble raising Diclonius children, except if they kept them at vector's length all the time, which is impractical. Although the Institute completely screwed it up with the whole torture business, the best bet is probably raising such children in isolation and gradually socializing them and increasing human contact AFTER they know that, well, tearing people apart with vectors is... well, wrong.
- Festival Episode: And a tragic one at that.
- Final Solution: Pretty much every Diclonii in the series has been abused by humans to the point where their biological survival instinct has fused with their psychosis, which insists that humans must be eradicated or they will eradicate Diclonii. Turns out that this is absolutely correct. Once knowledge of Diclonii is widespread, all Diclonii babies are killed at birth until human scientists develop a vaccine capable of keeping them from being conceived at all.
- For Science! and The Evulz: Logical Extreme: All of the scientists want to observe Diclonii, even if it means risking another person's life. When questioning their motives, it usually involves a "What Do You Mean It's Not Awesome" quote.
- Four Lines, All Waiting: Past Chapter 75, the manga relies on taking on individual routes and expanding on multiple characters. In Chapter 87, there's at least six individual timelines happening at once, and each timeline takes up a page, resulting in a extreme Mood Whiplash. In no particular order:
- A is Nyu captured by Kakuzawa and learning of Lucy.
- B is Kohta recovering from a gunshot wound in Chapter 85.
- C is Nana finding Kurama borderline deranged after enduring through Chapter 65.
- D is Barbara and Nousou the former who gets promoted to central character after she kills Nousou.
- E is Professor Arakawa developing and finding the cure for the Diclonius.
- F is The Agent finding Nousou's headless body.
- Frankenstein's Monster: Manga only, but a young-looking scientist scavenges a dead body blown to bits by an explosion and is able to reanimate the dead within his "laboratory" with some Applied Phlebotinum (it's never clearly explained). Can you guess what happens next?
- Freak Out: A lot of characters. Some get them multiple times.
- Freeze Sneeze
- Gecko Ending: In the anime, Lucy shows up casting a shadow on Kouta's house. The manga, however, has a definitive end, maybe.
- Kurama is killed in the anime, whereas he survives in the manga.
- Genocide Dilemma: A major theme of the series is this, due to the nature of the Diclonii. Once a vaccine is developed, they're effectively wiped out as a species.
- Genre Shift
- Good Eyes, Evil Eyes: Used in a very prolific manner, In fact, a key characteristic of a Diclonius who's been pushed too far is a piercing, glazed-over look in their eyes, signifying their descent into murderous misanthropy (basically every Diclonius in the show goes through this at one point or another, given that Humans Are Bastards).
- Gorn: With so much Gorn, Kirk doesn't stand a chance this time!
- Gory Discretion Shot: Subverted, surprisingly enough: in episode 3, what looks like a Gory Discretion Shot implies that Lucy has done her usual job on Wanta that was barking at her. Soon after, it's revealed that she simply cut its leash.
- Subverted so often that after a decent percentage of the manga, if someone isn't dismembered or beheaded in-panel you know they're probably okay.
- Even being chopped in half might not kill you, especially if you're Bando.
- But there is a straight Gory Discretion Shot in the first episode.
- And another one in the eighth episode during Lucy's backstory, the animators were kind enough not to show the three bullies beating a puppy to death.
- Gratuitous German:
- The title of series is actually bad German. Correctly, it would be Elfenlied. Probably because to distinguish the title of series from the German song that also appears there twice.
- The Idiosyncratic Episode Naming which is in German.
- Nozomi's favorite song being "Elfenlied". Nyu/Lucy sings this song, too.
- Gratuitous Rape: It certainly seems like this. There's Lucy who was on the receiving end of Attempted Rape, and Mayu who ran away from a sexually abusive stepfather. And in the manga, there's the Unknown Man. How do we know he's evil? Because of the atrocious rape he gleefully commits on Diclonii. Even when he's on a time frame to find Lucy, he still stops to try and rape Mayu.
- The most egregious example is - again, from the manga - the Director and Shirakawa. He finds out she's a spy: He graphically molests her and uses the "Not If They Enjoyed It" Rationalization to humiliate her. It comes out of nowhere, it could be removed and nothing would be lost (save some exposition after the fact) and after that, it's never brought up again as Lucy kills her soon after. At least Mayu had a character arc with her assault, this is just for shock value and more evidence to show that the Director is evil.
- Grey and Gray Morality: The diclonii are a race of superpowered psychotic killers, who bloodily dismember any human that crosses their path. The human scientists opposing them perform horrific experiments on them which are more or less torture in the name of science, and kill them off whenever they've outlived their usefulness. Hard to fault either of them for wanting the other guys dead.
- Grotesque Cute: You see almost everybody drawn in the cutest, most Sickeningly Sweet shoujo style, and next thing you know, you see torn limbs, heads and hearts, and blood sprayed everywhere!
- Hanging Our Clothes to Dry: Happens between Lucy and Kouta when both were younger after they get in a water fight in a stream.
- Harem Anime: Subverted. What could've been a major harem show is a high-handed drama instead. Also, only Lucy/Nyu and Yuka loves Kouta, who is just the Deuteragonist, and Nozomi loves him only a little bit, but it does not really count. As long there are only two girls who love him, it's not a harem.
- Harmful to Minors: If you're a minor in this story, may God help you.
- Healing Factor: Diclonius in the manga are noted to have a small level of ability to heal their wounds. This is noticeable when Nana first appears covered in scars, cuts and gashes across her entire body but later appears only shortly after her fight with Lucy completely devoid of those specific wounds. This apparently is also what helps the clone Diana survive having her own heart gouged out and Lucy is even capable of healing Kouta's own wounds with her vectors near the end of the manga.
- High-Pressure Blood: Holy HELL is there High-Pressure Blood.
- Humans Are the Real Monsters: A huge part of the show, but Bandou really pushes the envelope, and the Unknown Man pushes it off a cliff. Sometimes it seems that the Diclonii are more human than the actual humans, but usually not for long.
- Fantastic Racism: Basically, more or less every human or Diclonius is pretty unpleasant to its own kind, but especially nasty to the other. It may just be the humans we see that are nasty, but that's pretty much everyone except Kouta, Kanae, Yuka, Mayu and Nozomi.
- Hurricane of Puns: Chapter 21.
- Idiosyncratic Episode Naming: The episodes of the anime, as well as the title, are in German. And don't make much sense to German viewers either.
- I'll Kill You!
- Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy: Justified. The vectors of the Diclonii make most guns completely ineffective against them. High caliber tungsten rounds seem to be the only thing they have trouble stopping.
- Infant Immortality: Averted. Many children die in this series, regardless how young they are.
- Info Drop: We only learn about Lucy's real name when Kouta reads the letter she wrote as a child. It's Kaede.
- Informed Ability: The Diclonii 'drive to kill humans' is (almost) only ever seen in diclonii who have been horrifically, unforgivably abused by humans. There are very few times this seems to 'not' be the case, and all but one of those could be a situation of children with terrible power not knowing how to control it. Until the very, VERY end of the manga (as in the last chapter), we are only shown a single example of this not being the case, and even that one is questionable.
- In Vino Veritas: A bonus chapter of the manga is devoted to this. Mayu is knocked out very soon, Nana gets mad over Kouta's treatment of her, Nyu and Yuka try to have sex with him... then Lucy awakens.
- Karma Houdini: Mayu's Abusive Parents never get punished for their actions.
- Director Kakuzawa, anime version only. While he eventually gets some comeuppance in the manga, thanks to the series' Gecko Ending he's still alive and completely unharmed at the end of the anime.
- Kids Are Cruel: Lucy's childhood, which culminated in her Start of Darkness when the children in the orphanage beat her puppy to death!
- Kill All Humans: Most Diclonii. Whether it's because Humans Are Bastards or because of a genetic drive is unclear.
- It's at least very heavily implied that it's a genetic drive. The fact that Humans Are Bastards just makes it easier for them to listen to their inner voice telling them to kill everyone.
- One interpretation is that the "genetic voice" of the Diclonii to be a simple case of egoism. It's mentioned often in the manga that human beings have a drive to expand and survive that is based primarily on egoism; it is only natural the Homo sapiens diclonius would have a similar drive. Since they are competing with humans for a place in the world, and since their vectors give them a huge advantage, it isn't difficult for them to associate their capabilities with manifest destiny and a sense of superiority, particularly after the abuse many of them receive at the hands of human beings. This serves as a particularly brutal aesop regarding both the consequences of mistreating fellow human beings and the objective insignificance of human life.
- A different interpretation however is that the "genetic voice" is just regular insanity and the humans simply misinterpreted the Diclonii based on that.
- Kill 'em All: Explicitly states that Lucy could singlehandedly cause Diclonii to outnumber humans (guaranteeing their extinction), but doesn't actually occur in the series.
- And then the situation is turned around in the manga: through various genetic-modifying Techno Babble, humans create a "vaccine" that removes the Diclonii genes from humans, extinguishing them as a racial offshoot. Yeah, that's right; the Diclonii end up being the victims of genocide and rendered totally extinct. A case of Grey and Gray Morality in that, no matter what happened one species was going to wipe out the other.
- Lighthouse Point
- Little Miss Badass: Almost all of the Diclonii are this during their preteen years.
- Lyrical Dissonance: First, the violent anime ends with a cheery upbeat song. Then, the lyrics turn out to be all about unrequited love, which is actually a subplot in the series.
- Meaningful Titles: The title is taken from a German song/poem of the same name (Nozomi just sings this already existing song) and is a reference to Lucy/Nyu more than any other character. The "Elfen" part is a reference to her horns which resembles sharp ears. The "Lied" part (though actually meaning "song" in German) is symbolic to the English term "lie," meaning deception, a fitting reference to the innocent persona Nyu and the sociopathic persona Lucy. In other words, a reference to her deception to everyone but most importantly Kohta.
- Mood Whiplash: This should be obvious if you have read anything else on this page.
- Mugging the Monster: The kids who picked on Lucy and killed her dog didn't know just what they were messing with.
- Several characters do this to the Diclonii (usually Lucy). Most don't get a chance to learn from their mistake.
- Naked on Arrival: Lucy.
- Nature Versus Nurture: A point is made about whether or not the Diclonii really are malicious, or if their cruelty is a byproduct of how they were raised. Nana seems to indicate that it is indeed nurture, not nature.
- Nice Job Breaking It, Herod!: The bad guys regularly visit hospitals trying to find newborn Diclonii and take them, with or without their parents' consent.
- Nipple and Dimed: The nipples are generally shown uncensored, but the genitals not.
- Noble Savage: The Diclonii technically are this, given how it's near-impossible for regular people to civilize them without being killed by the former.
- No-Holds-Barred Beatdown: Although there are quite a few, Lucy fighting Nana probably takes the gold.
- No Name Given: Numerous examples, especially near the Manga's end. The Agent and the Unknown man are the most prominent. The Operatives in the Vector Craft, the Fleet Captain, and The Bakery Lady are also never named.
- Partially with the vast majority of the main cast, who have either only a given name or only a family name. Yuu and Anna Kakuzawa are a rarity. Yuu Kakuzawa and Shirakawa gain names by accident in the anime. Isobe's name is hard to spot at times— he almost seems this trope.
- Off Model: The art in the first manga volume is a little dodgy, especially concerning Lucy's legs and several male faces. It noticeably improved, although it's not without some hiccups that carry over into Nononono.
- Oh, Crap: From the readers, when Kouta gets shot. Lucy has never made that face until then. Damned be the odds, so many people are about to die so horribly.
- Ominous Latin Singing: "Lilium", the opening theme.
- One-Gender Race: Subverted, as there are male diclonius but they so incredibly rare that we only see one in the manga, Lucy's half brother. There are two other cases, but it's not clear whether they're descended from Diclonii whose ancestors bred with humans to the point that the only part of the Diclonius heritage remaining is the horns (there are two of them), or if they just have a birth defect that changes the shape of their skulls.
- The manga makes it clear on this front: The Kakuzawas are only Humans with a slight genetic mutation. Lucy could not sense them at all; Her Diclonius are a separate evolution altogether as a result of genetic manipulation as opposed to being descendants from demons.
- Only a Flesh Wound: Having your limbs ripped off or exploded is okay if you get a tourniquet, and usually if you don't as well.
- Overdrawn at the Blood Bank: Goes right along with the High-Pressure Blood.
- Overtook the Manga: See the Compressed Adaptation entry.
- Person of Mass Destruction: Every Diclonius has the potential to become one of these.
- Pineal Weirdness: The Diclonius start as humans with large pineal glands.
- Power Degeneration: By the end of the series, Lucy's vectors are so strong, using them causes her body to melt as a result of entropic backlash, even though entropy doesn't work that way.
- The Power of Love: Not in the way it's usually thought of, and it doesn't show much in the anime, but the manga makes it pretty clear that love (primarily of the filial sort rather than romantic) is more powerful than anything else motivating a Diclonius, even their instinctive drive to Kill All Humans. It can even override the obedience devices in the lobotomised Mariko clones.
- Powered by a Forsaken Child : Much of Kakuzawa's scheming involves the use and abuse of Kurama's Diclonius daughter, Mariko. While at the Institute, she is essentially a hostage to ensure Kurama's complete obedience. Her use as a weapon against Nana and Lucy distracts Kurama and prevents him from acting in time to stop the virus-carrying missile. Even when Mariko herself is gone, her many and varied clones provide both weaponry and, most nightmarishly of all, the organic material used to build the Vector Attack Craft which have a dubious track record against the masses of Clone Diclonii, and fail completely against Lucy making this trope literal and even more loathsome.
- Precious Puppies: There are a few puppies in this series, and they're all quite precious. Except when they're getting beaten to death with a vase/rock.
- R-Rated Opening: One of the most notorious openings in anime history.
- Real Place Background: The series takes place in the Japanese town of Kamakura. Most of the locations, such as the stone stairs, are well-known local landmarks.
- Red Eyes, Take Warning: Practically every Diclonius in the anime.
- Red Shirt: Played painfully straight. Almost every guard, soldier or cop seen in the series ends up slaughtered by a Diclonius, often Lucy, even if they're not aggressive or fleeing, which probably make us wonder What Measure Is a Mook?.
- Relative Error: A horrific one; Lucy mistakes Kouta's sister as his girlfriend when they were all younger. She promptly kills her and Kouta's father.
- Running Gag:
- Arakawa is constantly voicing her annoyance about being kept from her apparently frequent showers. Later, after having worked alone in a basement room without much outside contact for weeks, she's made her great breakthrough working in nothing but her sweaty underwear and dirty hair.
- Also Nana losing her concentration and dropping her arm or leg (often to the disbelief or horror of accidental witness).
- Nyu groping the other girls.
- Yuka getting wet down there and ruining her panties.
- Serial Escalation: How far can a Diclonius reach with their vectors? To a helicopter, to land from several thousand meters below, and to outer space.
- Shrines and Temples: It's set in Kamakura, so they're all over the place.
- Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism: Heavily on the cynical side.
- Shameful Strip: When Mariko first faces off against Nana, her opening attack basically blasts Nana right out of her clothes. Mariko's follow-up comments suggest this was not unintentional.
- Shoo Out the Clowns: In the fastest Shoo-out ever, the general feel of Elfen Lied is realized when the cute Dojikko secretary gets her head cut off in the first five-seven minutes of the first episode (and she had done nothing except walk in on Lucy's battle!). And it doesn't help that Lucy uses her beheaded body as a human shield next.
- It really happens even sooner. 14 seconds into the first episode, a nameless guard is beheaded by Lucy/Nyu/Kanae. That's right 14 seconds in. In this one, the clowns didn't even make it in the door, it was slammed in their face right after it was opened.
- Soundtrack Dissonance: The ending theme, Chieko Kawabe's "Be Your Girl", in contrast to pretty much all that the viewer's seen for the previous 20 minutes or so.
- Though if one pays attention to "Be Your Girl"s lyrics, they actually fit with the rest of the story fairly well since it's a song about a girl loving a man she can't have.
- Spider Limbs: Vectors.
- Start of Darkness: After Lucy suddenly comes down sick with a bad fever, she spends her time bedridden and remembering her childhood. It's not a nice story...
- Super Power Meltdown: Lucy has one that devastates half the city when she thinks that Kouta is dead.
- Tailor-Made Prison: The sinister Research Faciliy in which Diclonii are held and experimented on (more like tortured).
- Tears from a Stone: From a stone Hachiko.
- Tears of Remorse
- Theme Tune Cameo. Variants of "Lilium" often show up in the anime's background music. It's also the tune Kouta's music box plays, and is labeled as such.
- Time Skip: In the manga, six months have been passed since Mariko's death.
- Title Drop: The manga has Nozomi sing the titular song at one point. Much later, Lucy, who learned the song from Nozomi, sings it to help herself heal Kouta's wounds.
- Traumatic Superpower Awakening
- Tykebomb: Every single diclonius in the facility. Apparently what's produced there. Lucy and Mariko could certainly be called nuclear tykebombs.
- Unusual Ears: They're actually horns, but they look kind of like cat ears.
- What Measure Is a Non-Cute?: Zig-zagged, particularly in the manga. The trope at first appears to be played straight, with Mayu and the "cute" diclonii (Nyu and Nana) winding up on the good guys' side while evil diclonii are either given Dull Eyes of Unhappiness or are outright masked to make them appear less cute. However, as the series continues, even cute diclonii like Mariko and her clones, or Number 28 suffer gruesome deaths and the penultimate event of the entire manga is Lucy suffering a horrific and painful death where she basically melts herself with the entropy of her own powers. Oh, and while cuteness provides you with a measure of protection against sudden, messy deaths, it's no protection against maiming, torture, or psychological breakdown.
- What Measure Is a Non-Human?: When the survival of humanity is at stake, humans are willing to do lots of things.
- Inverted in the series. Where they would show horrible deaths for any human, but never showed onscreen Lucy's puppy's death.
- Where It All Began: Slightly subverted since this place is not the earliest shown. In the final pages of the manga, Kouta visits the orphanage, specifically the grave of Lucy's pet dog, once a day due to a strange whim. He does this for at least a decade, until his daughter finds a Message in a Bottle and two familiar faces.
- Younger Than They Look: Silpelit Diclonii age faster than humans or Queen Diclonii like Lucy. Nana, for example, appears to be on the verge of her teen years but is in fact six or seven.
- Your Head A Splode: ...where do we START!?
- Zombie Gait: The Diclonii sometimes do this. Much more common in the manga than the anime.