Reviews: Elfen Lied
A so-called Cult Classic
The manga definitely had a wonderful premise for a story, with a mutant species that seems to be a Missing Link in the evolution, but can also lead to advancement of the human race and a Diclonius protagonist, torn between her murderous side and her innocent, child-like amnesiac self. Unfortunately, that sort of stopped being the focus of the story and quickly devolved into lots of gorn, lots of harem clichés that seem to be seen as deconstructions, but it's done badly. It's impossible to feel sorry for anyone in this story. Because everything sucks for everyone. Not a single character has not got some issue that involves a bad background, a bad present or other issues that make them seem horribly pitiful. The body count gets high fast and then we get Lucy's background, which seems to be nothing but "Let's make her appear as miserable as possible, so the reader will feel sorry for her". Which is difficult to do when I felt like saying the Eight Deadly Words about this story. The art-style is actually a bit creepy at first, with the humongous eyes on the girls and off-modelling in several panels. Thankfully, the art evolved nicely as the story progressed. And as the reader, I felt like I was never clear what I was supposed to be feeling at several scenes. Any sexy-funny or romantic-funny scene just came across as awkward on both sides, which made me wonder what I'm supposed to experience right now: Arousal? Hilarity? Awkward Giggles? A desire for Brain Bleach? This isn't counting into the fact how the characters keep overreacting to the tiniest of things. The story, as mentioned, had a good premise, but then seems to have lost what it was originally going to tell. Necessary evolution? The bad side of science? A lovestory between a human and Diclonius, which never came to be, anyway? It seems to want to take an approach of Diclonius VS Human views, including racism towards the Diclonius, but given how majority of humanity is presented as consisting of nothing but jerks, it's difficult to feel like you got a proper, balanced view on what the good and bad sides of both were. How can we stand for humans, when we are shown to be jerks who try to kill others for being different? How can we stand for Diclonii, when they are presented as nothing but omnicidal murderers? Very confused story, at best.
enjoyable, if you can tolerate certain aspects
I enjoyed the anime very much. The first few episodes [in particular] had several moments of "what did I just watch??" where I had to hit the pause button, but much of the rest of the story was beautiful and tragic and disturbing. In my opinion, Lucy was a wonderfully complex character, lonely and in love, bitter to spiteful to misanthropic, and likeable at the same time. I wish the anime spent more time on her character than her alter ego Nyu (I haven't read the manga, so can't comment there). Kouta and Yuko were reasonable characters; Kouta was almost over the top with empathy, but in my opinion ultimately not too unbelievably-forgiving or such. There's a lot of nudity. I guess an amount of it came off as more playful than objectivizing, e.g. Nyu being naked in unexpected situations than "let's pan the camera over this scantily clothed character in a sexualized pose", but there was still a lot of "fanservice". I thought the opening theme was artistic and curious—with Nyu and Kouta embracing manikins which seemed to take the place of one another—rather than "notorious", but it's certainly not PG-13. The violence was definitely a thing. I suppose the copious amounts of blood didn't give me nausea; I guiltily admit to playing FEAR Combat in, well, a less happy part of my life. It didn't undermine the story for me, but I respect those who don't care to tolerate it. All in all, I think the themes of love, acceptance, longing and sadness, mixed with spite and malevolent self-identification made the story tragic and powerful. Its aspect of monsters-vs-humans or sci-fi fantasy didn't seem as novel or outstanding (sinister research facility, anyone?), but I liked it as a tragic and contorted love story.
It's like a food fight shonen-style. With only tomatoes. And naked girls. In a spaceship!
The series starts with Ominous Latin Chanting and in three minutes there's blood everywhere, this pink-haired girl named Lucy killed an entire army using only her mind and someone fell in the ocean. Have I mentioned she's naked during the whole intro? Just a small tip for you, the first minutes are a gornstorm. Really. If you drop a PEN, this girl will kill you. And make you drop one liter of blood from your body. About the series itself, it's decent enough to be watched. Its plot surely is down deep the gornfest and the fanservice one. I haven't found it yet, but there's one, according to my friend. And there's plenty of sci-fi there. I'll be watching FLCL to see if I can get my memories to remember that gorn isn't always necessary, even for robots getting out of 12-year-old boys.
You cannot turn away...
Life can be ugly, and people can be rotten. We know this, but rarely is it all as raw as it is in Elfen Lied. In it, nobody, especially the leads, is perfect or pure, and they can make horrendous mistakes or decisions. But there are also beautiful moments, exemplifying Captain Kirk's old saying that while we may be barbarians at our core, we can choose not to be. Does it have inconsistencies? Sure. Does it go 'there' sometimes when it doesn't need to or maybe shouldn't? Hell, yes. Is it the greatest 'X genre-related noun' of all times? No. But IMO, it can be fairly awesome and does not hold back. You may feel sorry for Lucy, or you may feel she made her own bed. But you will not forget these characters easily, if ever. For those who don't like it, I ask only that you dispense with the sweeping dismissive terms when you make your opinion known. It is not for everyone, and should not be viewed by people below a certain age, however mature they might be or seem. To paraphrase Billy Joel, the story is frequently kind and then suddenly cruel, yet for all her flaws, Lucy is always a woman to us.
A Potentially Good Series Overloaded With Narm and Cliches
Elfen Lied was a promising series, I must admit: people trying to speed up evolution by hunting down those... things. Or at least I think that's the plot. It got discarded in the fourth chapter for nudity and over-the-top gore. The main character, Lucy or whatever is, like all the other characters, flat as a piece of cardboard. There's not much to her. The art is sloppy and ugly to look at. You'd think it was that terrible fan art every series has. It could've been good, but no. It was just a bunch of pointless Gorn. It's supposed to be deep, but instead, it just seems as if all those things were tacked on in order to make it seem as if there's something other than the mindless killing. The only thing that comes anywhere close to being just plain Nightmare Fuel? The dog scene. And even then it serves little to no purpose. It truly is a cliche storm. Someone please tell me that there is a plot, it's just heavily veiled by all this godawful attempt at a story.
Two episodes in, and I've stopped watching it.
The show alternates between gory, psychological sci-fi drama, and a cutesy, harem hi-jinks. Unfortunately, both these elements are done better in other animes. Akira trumps the former by being far more disturbing and grotesque, Chobits succeeds over the latter by actually managing to be cute and funny. Whilst I appreciate the shows premise of combining two very different genres which lie at opposite ends of the scale, I just don't think it pulls off either element well enough to pass. Then there are the characters. The characters I was introduced to made me want to head-desk. Maybe there is a perfectly good reason for why our male hero didn't immediately report a naked, brain-damaged, lost girl straight to the authorities as soon as he found her. Perhaps later, there would be an explanation for why the boy didn't talk to the police, even after they come knocking on his door for the specific purpose of asking him about the very same lost girl. But I don't know, because I wasn't prepared to wait long for some excuse to materialise. Our male "hero" is kidnapping someone without any obvious, sensible reason other than him possibly being an asshole. Come to think of it, the writers might have had a much better story if that were the case. Then there was the villain, a hammy super-soldier who was so over the top, I thought he was some kind of joke. Finally there is the psychic girl, who I couldn't root for either. The first thing you see her doing is her killing an entire facility full of people. Even those who weren't displaying an obvious threat. Wouldn't the world be better off if she was killed? I might sympathise with her condition, but she still seems better off dead. No amount of doe eyes, mental retardation, or cat impressions will make up for that. It was like sticking Pierrot Le Fou in a puppy outfit and then expecting me to overlook his crimes against humanity (however justified). The anime may have all the answers to these issues in later episodes, but it completely failed to captivate my interest long enough to make up for them. In short, I wasn't hooked.