I just finished watching the Elfen Lied anime, which is based on a fairly long running manga. The anime was only 13 episodes long, with one 30 minute OVA being produced afterwards. This anime has been out for a while, so I’m a bit late to the party in commenting on it, but it was such a shocking series, I felt it deserved its own post.
The anime opens with Lucy, a young girl with horns, pink hair, and strange powers, fully nude walking through a building that looks like a cross between a bomb shelter and insane asylum. As she walks down the hallways, she is ripping guards and scientists to shreds using powers that are explained later in the series. Blood, bones, guts, and organs splatter everywhere. This scene sets the tone for the rest of the anime. I’ve read critics of the series decry this portrayal as over-the-top and gratuitous or simply sex and violence fan service.
If that’s all you watch and then turn it off, I would agree. But as you continue to watch the first episode, the mystery of what Lucy is, what that facility she was in is, and how that all relates to the college aged teens she meets who take her in to help her, is absolutely engrossing. That scene is not the end of the extreme violence and nudity.
As the first few episodes progress, you begin to see the reason behind the over-the-top approach to this anime. Nearly all of the characters are absolutely tortured. Without giving away too much of the plot, you have one character who witnessed his sister and father brutally murdered before his eyes at a young age, another who was sexually molested by her step father with her mother accusing her of lying and eventually abandoning her, one whose limbs are mutilated and is left for dead, and several who are tortured repeatedly in gruesome and inhumane ways by authority figures. The nudity and blood is simply a way to reinforce and help push the sort of emotional twistedness of the extreme horrors the characters have been through.
Nudity in most movies or series is usually a precursor to a love scene. In this anime it’s more closely tied to something bad, usually quite violent, happening to a character. It’s actually quite a brilliant mind screw and a good way to get you to empathize with the torture the character is experiencing.
So, yea, not for kids, this one.
My only complaint is that while the first four episodes and last four episodes were strong, the middle was very slow. This is a weird thing since anime is based on a rather long running manga. You would think they had plenty of material to work with, but it’s almost like the producers and writers just lost their way in the middle. The same fights and arguments were fought and argued again and again. Nothing new really happened. And the conversations just sounded very forced. I’m not sure why this happened. Maybe it was a brief reprieve before the torture started again? lol. Also, without giving away the ending, I will just say that it had a satisfying conclusion, but ended with the typical amount of loose ends that most anime series end up having.
The OVA was apparently never released in the USA, but it’s easy to find on the internet with subtitles. It takes place in the middle of the series and is rather light hearted compared to the series and answers a few questions that were not otherwise resolved. Honestly, they should have cut the middle four episodes down to two and added the plot of the OVA into the middle and the pacing would have been a lot better.
So, if you can tolerate watching something that will mess with your emotions and shock you with gruesome violence and gratuitous nudity, this is an anime I have to highly recommend. The series is on NetFlix.
On a 1-10 scale, I give this anime an 8. Now I need to go find something to watch on NetFlix that is more uplifting and less disturbing!