*ten minutes in* YEP! It's Higurashi and Mnemosyne's lovechild. Chronologically older love-child but there you go!
Ten minutes into the show and you'll be greeted with copious amounts of gore and blood for all to see. People being torn limb from limb without a moments thought, and by this point you'd think that you much have a very clear idea of what you're getting into. Oh but Elfen Lied is so much more. Even if it's faulty in its presentation.
Guess which one is Nyu and which one is Lucy. Go on guess! :D
Synopsis is as follows: A Diclonius sporting protective headgear has escaped from maximum security of an unknown facility. She's literally cutting through soldiers sent to stop her from escaping and is seemingly protected by a supernatural force as no bullet pierces her. Just before making her escape, however, a sniper shoots her but fails to kill her as the headgear gets in the way, it still wounds her and she subsequently falls into the sea. A few hours later, two cousins, Kohta and Yuka come across a naked, young girl with long hair and a set of horns standing at the edge of the sea shore. She has no recollection of how she got there, and how a blood wound came to be at the side of her head. Looking quite lost and sad, the two cousins take the girl back to their home. The girl is unable to communicate with the two and has quite a childish personality, with her being unable to comprehend the most basic of things. She only seems to say one word, 'Nyu'. And so, the cousins aptly name the girl Nyu and let her stay with them. Soon, they find out that an enigmatic organization is after Nyu and Nyu herself, is not what she appears to be. Who is she? What is she?
The character of interest here is Nyu. Diclonius are humanoids, termed the 'next evolution of man'. They are quite similar to humans except for one feature, they have a set of horns on the top of their head. Unfortunately, they are also quite adept at killing humans. They have 'vectors', transparent hands which can extend to a certain radius and can pass through any object, at the same time, they can slash and cut any thing. Although, human appendages seem to be a favourite. A key point which is constantly touched upon, is the Diclonius' tendency towards violence. It's shown later on that most if not all Diclonii were subjected to severe psychological trauma which led to their homicidal tendencies. In Lucy's case, it's been ridiculed by her peers as a child and seeing her pet puppy being beaten to death in front of her, which gives the motivation behind Lucy's hate for humans. Whenever Nyu is confronted with violence or hit on the head(falling badly also works), she reverts back to her Diclonius persona. Sadistic and having no empathy, she is Lucy. With the sole exception of Kohta, with whom she has shared a friendship in a rather illustrious and tragic childhood, Lucy is a cold, calculating killer and will kill anyone who stands in her way.
Extremely popular avatar time!
In the main cast of characters, Kohta and Yuka are clichéd and there's really no visible effort in making them stand out and they are, despite the immersive story, bland. As the story progresses, Kohta becomes the centre of attention and that, to an extent, rectifies the problem. It's hinted quite early on that Kohta and Nyu once knew each other as kids, and these little sprinklings of information draw you in and increases your want for more. Of course, flashbacks assist this want and help at keeping the pace at a nice, smooth level.
Like Lain, Elfen tries to project darker sides of human nature not normally portrayed in anime or any medium for that matter. It even broaches the topics of paedophilia and abandonment via a scene concerning a minor character. It particularly, shows how nature and nurture play integral parts in ones growing up. However, even with all the ideas just bursting at the seams, it still fails to execute them properly. There's this one scene later on in the series where Lucy's aforementioned pet puppy is brutally beaten to death in front of her by a group of boys, thus making a fine point that regardless of age, violence is an integral part of the Human Condition and of the natural affinity humans have towards cruelty. Unfortunately, it feels quite out-of-place. To make matters worse, this scene is very much important in moving the story forward and plays an integral part in showcasing the psychology of Lucy. But, it just feels tacked on and for me, there's no way to look around that.
Look at that attention to detail! Blood has never looked so... red.
The music is spot-on. It gives the sense of mystery which helps the viewer feel more immersed and the intro sequence is very well done. With it's haunting tune, it sets the tone of the anime just right. Unfortunately, I can't say the same thing for the animation. It's never consistent and at times, it's really good while at other moments, it's laughably bad. The anime does employ C.G.I to show of the vectors to full-effect. On a more positive note, they really did pay attention to detail when it came to showing off the gore. Which is either disturbing or interesting, depending on how you personally view such tidbits.
Speaking of immersion, I couldn't help but feel rather doubtful whenever comedic moments occurred. Granted, it's there to relieve the tension you'll probably get from watching this anime but honestly, it falls flat. And these usually happen right after a scene of blood and violence, so it all comes off as rather awkward. And if the image used for this review is any indicator, I should mention that there will be nudity in this anime. Considering the nature of the show, it's not really all that surprising and it's definitely not of sexual nature, oh no. To answer your thoughts; yes, there's nudity and no, it really shouldn't be all that concerning for you considering all the violence and gore which this anime robustly throws at you.
Now let's talk about the voice acting and the animation! If I'm bringing this up and dedicating an entire paragraph to it, it has to be really good or bad. In Elfen's case, it's bad. They really do not suit the characters. However, some characters are exceptionally done. Nana, Maya and Lucy stand out as the best voiced, the voices really fit the characters and more importantly, both Lucy and Nyu voices are well done. Which makes me question the direction of it all. You can tell that level of acting doesn't seem to consistent between the actors. This makes the delivery of the dialogue flawed and it's really off-putting. The animation is borderline confusing. At times, it looks absolutely amazing and then it goes back to very poor designs with 2D faces and abuse of lighting effects. Had the acting and the art style been more consistent, the entire pacing could've worked beautifully.
Conclusion: This show is well paced and well-written, no doubt about that. I can guarantee that Elfen will snatch any remaining innocence you have and will tear it to shreds in front of your eyes. That said, there are genuinely sweet moments in this one which can serve as a consolation for the violence you'll witness watching this. That is, if you have the guts for it. APPROVED.
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