These are what we call the 'YMMV items.' Things that some people find in this work. We call them 'your mileage might vary' because not everyone sees these things in the same way. This starts discussions in the trope lists, a thing we don't want. Please use the discussion page if you'd like to discuss any of these items.
Alternative Character Interpretation: Practically every single character is left slightly insane from their troubled pasts, or completely evil. Often it's very hard to keep them apart.
Humans Are Bastards needs to be taken with at least a grain of salt; The researchers and staff on the island definitely call their essential Humanity into serious question. But the vast majority of people in Japan and on Earth had no say in how these girls were treated, and never even heard of them until the war Kouta describes in the manga finale took place. As has been pointed out elsewhere, the age these girls get their powers makes their misuse inevitable. So, while prejudice must be condemned, the first time people even hear about Diclonius is when their neighbors' three-year olds kill them. Much like in X-Men or the various Devilman series, ordinary Humans aren't offered a lot of choice on how to view their potential replacements. This said, many non-Kakuzawa-employed Humans in the series do not acquit themselves terribly well.
Even some of the researchers get called into question. Several signed up because the Diiclonius births killed family, or rendered them unable to bear children. Some go For Science!, like Nousou, and quite a few don't want to disappoint The Director. The Operative at the end clearly hates Lucy for killing those near to him.
Saito in the Manga, did she really love Mariko? She manipulated her into thinking her father hated her, but before that, she repeatedly expressed excitement over finally seeing her, after speaking to her for years and helping to raise and educate her, she admits to feeling a sort of bond with the girl.
The Other Facility, because we know so little about it. Of the Four characters we meet from there, only Shirakawa is named, The Agent and the two Operatives go unnamed. We know its purpose is vector research, and they're monitored more closely by the Japanese Government, but we don't know if they have an agenda, want to save the world, or solve the problem to prevent Japan's implication in dooming the planet.
Is Chief Kakuzawa truly meant to be seen as a Magnificent Bastard manipulator with tons of gambits running to his favor? Or is he meant to be seen as a parody/deconstruction of this, since his plans involve letting his enemies know he's doing it without covering every angle someone could use to undo them, taunting his 'Queen' with how he raped her long-lost mother who it turned out always loved her and creating a replacement race that was 99.9% sterile, among other things? Were these plotholes, or does the depths of his evil and the successes he does have fool the reader/viewer into thinking he's all that?
At the end of the manga, Lucy's extremely misanthropic third personality takes over her body as it breaks down, attempting to have its now global-spanning vectors take out humanity before it dies. When Kouta can't bring himself to shoot her, despite both Lucy and Nyu's personalities begging him to do so, the third personality suddenly stops, puts the gun back in Kouta's hands, and asks for a Mercy Kill. Was it really just in too much pain to continue its genocide, or did it rethink its view on humanity upon seeing that Kouta wouldn't shoot her even when she was trying to eradicate the human species?
Broken Base: Oh, God, the sane part of the audience probably won't make 50%.
Captain Obvious Reveal: Seriously, who didn't figure out Lucy killed Kouta's father and sister before it was revealed?
Complete Monster: The "Unknown Man" from the manga is a monster hunter, assassin, and sadisticpedophile who, in order to find our protagonist, crafted a radar system made from a near-human silpelit diclonius who was still alive. Among other things, this involved having a surgeon remove the lower half of her body so that he could carry her around in a sort of backpack, and keeping her in a special tank that left her in excruciating pain to make sure she couldn't use her powers against him. He also cut her vocal cords to keep her from screaming, leaving her in a state of hideous agony and begging for death. He felt that it would have been a shame to let her body go to waste, so he raped her before he had her legs removed; she very likely wasn't the first. Finally, he attempts to rape Mayu, a young girl, for the chance to "play" with a human girl for once. Even fellow assassin Bando, who kills for fun, is disgusted.
Creepy Awesome: Lucy and Mariko are vicious little fuckers, but that's why they're so effective.
Critical Dissonance: Critics generally give this series negative reviews, and mixed ones at best, citing excessive gore and nudity which they regard as exploitive and criticizing some of the characters as being highly simplistic, bland, and/or unidentifiable with. The closest any professional critic has ever come to giving Elfen Lied a positive review was as being So Bad, It's Good. However, as one can tell under the Cult Classic and Germans Love David Hasselhoff entries, audiences view it far more favorably.
Cult Classic: In Japan at least. In America it's one of the most well-known anime series, being called one of the "classics" by several people.
Darkness-Induced Audience Apathy: There's only so many innocent people the protagonist can ruthlessly butcher before some readers/viewers just stop caring about her struggles altogether, and for a lot of these folks, that number hovers around one. And this is just the hero; it gets darker from there. Many people have gone the "this is just too fucked up, why the FUCK should I care for what's coming?!" way.
Ear Worm: The opening is probably one of the biggest Ear Worms in anime history.
Ensemble Darkhorse: You'd think such a series has no fan favourite character, considering everyone is either mentally broken or outright villainous but nope, one of the most popular characters outside the main cast is Kurama. Suprisingly, about as much liked is his daughter. Yes, the psychotic tragic villain Mariko.
Esoteric Happy Ending: The final chapter of the manga clearly states that the World Health Organization "forbade" the birth of Diclonii worldwide until they discovered a vaccine capable of preventing their conception. Red tape and technobabble aside, the term for this is genocide.
The Unknown Man is thought to be a Kakuzawa and thus is related to the Director. They do know each other, and the Unknown man does seem to know and support the Direcotor's agenda. However, they are never confirmed to be related, and it's unknown if the Unknown man wears a Hairpiece to disguise little horns on his head.
Some of the Diclonii eventually survived the year; The twins' ethnicity at the end of the manga is left ambiguous.
Germans Love David Hasselhoff: The show didn't get very far in Japan (partly due to being hardcore enough that it couldn't be broadcast on-air even in Japan), but was a major Sleeper Hit in America through DVD sales. Same for the actual Germans.
Hype Backlash: It's one of the few series 4chan users refuse to talk about due to this reason.
Due to the over-the-top art, a lot of the gory scenes end up looking more cartoony than intended. This isn't the case in the anime, however.
The constant nudity and Fanservice can turn otherwise serious scenes into this.
This whole series is supposed to be a sort-of lecture on how "Humans Are Bastards". Only that the "humans" (save for Kouta and his family, Mayu, Yuka, Kurama and later Bando, and in the past Hiromi) tend to be so obviously, ridiculously, flatly, and STUPIDLY evil that the emotional impact is completely gone. Nevertheless, this actually works a lot of the time, but it's still a bit hard to swallow that most of the human cast is this one-dimensionally villainous.
It's pretty much impossible to see the early fight between Nana and Lucy and not immediately think of the Black Knight scene.
The Scrappy: Tomoo is the most hated character in the series. A Deviantart user even created a contest asking for people to draw him dying in some way.
Viewers Are Geniuses: The work’s title in the anime adaptation becomes this, as the original poem it’s taken from is about an elf who gets hit on the head just for trying to have a look into the human world, and ends with, ‘Well then, elf, have you had enough?’ The poem’s theme connects very poignantly with the manga/anime’s recurrent theme of rejection and exclusion and their consequences, but as the lied never appears in the anime, viewers have to be familiar with the poem to understand what the title even means.
Quite a lot, considering the ambiguity surrounding whether the diclonius' are genetically predisposed towards wiping out the human race.
The Inner voice is also subject to this, is it the root of her DNA speaking to her? Is it another personality that formed through all of the abuse breaking her? Is she the Embodiment of the Diiclonii? Or is she some combination of all three.
Base Breaker: This is inevitable, really. The fans are split between those who hate her for what she did, those who feel awful for what she went through, and those who do both.
Die for Our Ship: The Lucy hatedom can get pretty rabid, but how much of this is Die for Our Ship and how much is simply hating Lucy because she's a villain is completely impossible to determine.
Ron the Death Eater: She manages to be an odd case that's a victim of this, along with Draco in Leather Pants. Now, Lucy is clearly not innocent by any measure. However, there are some that think of her as nothing but pure evil who would always kill others as soon as something goes wrong, just because. Now granted, she certainly shows this behavior early in the series, but as the story goes on, it's made plain that, yes, she does feel awful over what she's done, and does try her best to NOT kill anymore and would've been content to live with Kouta and her friends. However, the people of the Diclonius Research Facility always keep screwing her over and over, and forcing her back into killing people, making it difficult to nearly impossible for her to atone and any hope she can find in humanity and a better future grow dimmer each time. And she's being manipulated by a Split Personality that represents her innate diclonius instincts, which she first tried to suppress. Seriously, the girl just can't win.
Angst Dissonance: One of the biggest non-shipping reasons for her becoming The Scrappy, being one of the most well-off characters in the series, but complaining about her unfortunate circumstances more than any of them.
Lucy/Kouta fans LOVE to bash Yuka for being clingy, despite Lucy also being clingy in other (and scarier) ways. It makes you wonder if those fans really appreciate the Lucy/Kouta pairing for how screwed-up it actually is in canon...
People in the West bash her since they're both cousins, and incest of any kind is largely taboo and considered "disgusting".
Hollywood Homely: When she's first introduced she is described as looking like the homeless child she has been for perhaps several weeks at that point. Problem is, virtually nothing about her physical appearance suggests this.
Jerkass Woobie: He's an asshole, yeah. But he still manages to come up as more decent than others assholes here.
Rescued from the Scrappy Heap While a few people find his anime counterpart amusing in some cases. Most would agree that he has little to no redeeming factors and would rather have seen him killed by Lucy than spared. His manga counterpart has much of his jerkassery toned down considerably, given multiple moments of character development and badassery and is widely considered to be one of the best characters in the manga.
Anime only. Bando does some stupid things from attacking his own partner, getting up to Nana's range despite knowing better and trying to jump for his gun once Nana has knocked it away despite already having another one. (In the manga he barely had time to reach for it before Nana stopped him)
This is a far cry from his manga counterpart who always played it smart. Even during his first battle with Lucy after she had taken him down he attempted to find a way to beat her...even if such a thing didn't work out in the end.
Love to Hate: Manga only. Director Kakuzawa is a fairly despicable character but undeniably a darn good villain.
Magnificent Bastard: Manga only. He practically has everything fall into his hands, has people dance in the palm of his hands and almost always has a stoic face and lets little bother him. He's practically a textbook example of what a good corporate villain might be like and one can't deny that he's got some style. Whether it’s using his own employees like pawns, firing off vector virus missiles or having a second diclonius son at the ready, he seems prepared for anything.