Reviews: Elfen Lied

The series that made me cry

When i first came across this series, that is to say the Elfen Lied manga, i started reading because it had both gore and nudity in healthy doses. What made me stay throughout the entire series was the characters and the incredible sympathy i felt for them. This series took it's characters, made me like them and sympathize with them, made me feel about them almost as i would a human, only to torture them physically and mentally way past physical and mental pain and right into downright mental instability. This series dispensed immediate and horrible judgment on ( almost ) every character that had even a glimpse of hope and good in them. This series did to me what no other work had before it and what no other work have after it. It made me cry in sympathy with these fictional characters. And i loved it for that.

So I didn't enjoy Elfen Lied because I liked the violence, the nudity, the artwork or the story. I enjoyed it so because it made it's characters are individuals I could relate to and sympathize with, rather than some characters in a fictional work that ripped each others heads of and striped regularly. To me, Elfen Lied will always have a unique place among my favorite works, as the one that accomplished what no other has.

Jakob, June 18th, 2010.

PS. Yeah, i am aware that it says June 17th at the top of the review. Tvtropes just don't seem to consider a review posted half past midnight the night to the 18th as, in fact, posted on the 18th.

Too much fanservice; too little characterization. (Anime)

Elfen Lied has an intriguing premise. At face value, it looks very nice. The writing is where it hits snags, and by the plenty.

Characters range from interesting yet unsympathetic to downright flat. The non-diclonii get the short end of the stick; Kouta and Yuuka have barely any personality. Meanwhile, Nana is interesting and adorable, while Lucy is complex, but unlikable. (No, her past does not excuse her actions.) Nyu is irritatingly bland and simply moe fanservice; Bando is stereotypical and flat. Though they're the interesting parts of the show, backstories feel tacked-on and forced.

Characterization problems persist throughout the show. After one character's arc ends, her characterization and trauma are dropped for the rest of the show without explanation. Characters act unrealistically, sometimes absurdly: one almost gets strangled to death and then asks, casually, "What did you do that for?" ...Okay, really? >_>

Onto the gore and nudity. These put off a lot of people from the show, so they deserve mention. Gore was less frequent than I expected. Nudity was sometimes justified; sometimes not: the diclonii in the labs, yes; the artistic opening, somewhat; the panty shots and close-ups on breasts, no.

In production values, though its animation is mediocre, it's definitely better visually than the manga. The manga's early artwork is awful, and despite evolution, it still looks stiff. This is done away with in the anime, though the art style can be off-putting in how it contrasts with the show's tone. On the other hand, the music is very good and (usually) well-used throughout. The backgrounds are gorgeous.

It's been said that you need to look past the fanservice and gore to truly appreciate the show. I can understand that. I tried to look past it and saw poorly-written characters, a forced message, and, well, the fanservice. It's still there, sometimes at the worst possible moments, killing the mood and making one wonder what the show intends to be. Does it want to be deep? The heavy fanservice and flat characters make its message—anvilicious at its worst—feel perfunctory.

If further depth were given to the characters and the fanservice were axed/minimized, then Elfen Lied would be a much better show. Instead, it's a mess.

Postmodernist Deconstruction in Elfen Lied

Perhaps the best definition of postmodernism is, "the interruption of the modern mythological form." Translation: postmodernist texts, through form, narrative, and characters, tend to fuck with modern myths. For example, one modern myth is that there exists a technological solution to any problems in the foreseeable future, be they medical, environmental, or an invasion of hostile aliens. An anime or manga series like Elfen Lied shatters these preconceptions. Likewise, Elfen Lied disrupts notions of anthropocentric progress: from the perspective of performance alone, human beings are outclassed by the Daiclonii, and the Daiclonii treat human beings as lesser creatures in much the same way as many people treat animals. Elfen Lied is a profound and sobering commentary on the perils of treating any life as insignificant, human or otherwise.

But the series is also a genre deconstruction, examining anime and manga genres many of us have come to know. The exaggerated domestic antics of so-called "harem anime" are juxtaposed with the casual and gory dismemberment of protagonists, antagonists, and minor characters alike. Elfen Lied also depicts man's inhumanity to man in a variety of horrible ways, and the excesses of the series are described as consequence of ego or terrible abuse... or both. The effect is an interrogation of violence and subjectivity: to what extent is all human violence the product of either man's inhumanity to man, or the selfish animal called "humanity" that takes what it wants, whenever it wants, regardless of the consequences? And to what extent are we complicit in the justification of these types of violence by the manner in which we sanction them in the very media we consume? Lastly: to the extent that we permit our lives to be utterly ruled by ego, are we not perpetuating the same attitudes that produced the truly monstrous violence depicted in this series?

As a technical achievement, the series is stunning: its art, animation, and sound design are outstanding. I found it thought-provoking and profoundly disturbing; at the same time, I could not look away from it. The anime and the manga consumed a full day of my life, but it will be quite some time before I manage to assimilate and integrate the experience. Others may not be so challenged; some may even find it inspiring.

Your mileage may vary: Oh so true here

Elfen Lied. How do I describe it? It is an odd show to talk about in so much as everyone gets a different experience out of it. I suppose I'll just describe my experience and then my friend's.

As for my experience it is something of a mixed bag. You see, when i first saw this show I loved it solely for the gore. But as time wore on, I began to think about it. Its depressing message, the almost anvilicious way it was delivered, and its large amount of gore. As I looked back I began to realize it was a show mainly devoted to showing just why humans are bastards and it does so with great pride. I won't say that it isn't a gorgeous show, it is. However, the asthetics can't save it from this overall feeling of despair that it can bring. Elfen Lied's super-violence can wear on a person's nerves and its approach to humanity as savages that will attack anything it sees as different leaves me with an bad taste in my mouth. It isn't as though it doesn't try to present good people, its just that the good only seem to be there to be tortured by the evil and made to suffer at the hands of a universe that seems to dictate that everyone must try to cross the moral event horizon. The main characters are wrapped up in thick layers of angst and tragedy. So much so that I really couldn't give the show a second look lest I kill myself from the sheer horror of it all. In my opinion, the anime is maybe worth one view if you can stomach all the abuse, violence, and steps over the moral event horizon along with the occasional dog kicking. While Elfen Lied has Nyu to at least TRY to lighten up the atmosphere her presence just isn't enough to raise you from the depths of despair you feel by the end.

My friend, however, had a very different take on this show. She believed that the violence was great and that, because humans are bastards, everyone deserved what they got. She sympathized with our heroic sociopath and that's a valid viewpoint too. From this point of view I think its safe to say that if you wanna see complete monsters get killed in sufficiently brutal ways then this is the show for you.