The Nihon Review - Anime Reviews & Editorials

Elfen Lied

Title: Elfen Lied
Genre: Drama/Action
Company: VAP/Genco
Format: 13 episodes
Dates: 25 Jul 2004 – 17 Oct 2004

Synopsis: Diclonius: mutants with the deadly power of psychokinesis and a homicidal urge toward humankind. After escaping from a maximum security research institution and suffering acute amnesia, the diclonius Lucy is taken in by cousins and childhood friends Kouta and Yuka. Unfortunately Lucy’s docile mask threatens to slip at any moment, and a ruthless organisation will stop at nothing to retrieve her – including the disposal of anyone helping her.

The Highlights
Storyline: Involving though fragmented.
Characters: Deep and complex.
Production: Polished to a shine.
Violence: Extreme.

First off allow me get the unpleasantries out of the way: Elfen Lied is not for your children, or for people with fragile sensibilities or any type of heart condition. Acute violence with dismemberment and torture aside, this anime also addresses issues including child abuse and human experimentation, and as such contains a fair amount of nudity and uncomfortable content – which is only to be expected from one of the studios responsible for the equally fantastic (and bloody) Berserk.

That said, Elfen Lied uses violence and nudity as tools to hammer its messages home. Frequently see-sawing between abject horror and heart-wrenchingly touching moments, we are strapped into an emotional rollercoaster which only serves to affect the audience deeper.

Director Kanbe Mamoru (Psycho Diver Soul Siren) uses great pacing, as well as a vivid and sometimes shocking past-arc to gradually expose the complex storyline. He builds tension between characters to the breaking point and beyond, exploring their complicated needs and feelings, and their differing views of the harsh world which has enveloped them.

Although there is not a great deal of visual flair apparent with the lead characters, and many anime cliches are present, the cast does have an air of credibility and realism about it, and each seiyuu performance matches the character appearance well. For a compressed thirteen episode series, the characters find themselves dealing with a vast range of issues, including repressed memories, acceptance and betrayal of friendship, and trauma both physical and psychological.

On a more technical side the animation is superb, with the crisp computer-enhanced lines and special effects we have come to expect from a quality modern production. Fluidity of motion and expression of emotion are also well-developed, and the schizophrenic changes in animation style for the amnesiac Lucy deserve special mention: the transition from kawaii to kowai is simply a joy to behold.

Of course no anime is perfect: Elfen Lied has a storyline that could only be described as fragmented, and some of the more interesting aspects of the plot are simply thrown away to make room for yet more gratuitous bloodshed. Add to this a mix of annoying filler and explicit fanservice, and you begin to realise what is holding this series back from achieving true greatness.

The Rating: 8

Reviewed by: Scoot

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