Elfen Lied DVD #1

Vandemar

imageSome animes are simply cool, others are awesome, and some develop greatness over a long period of time. Elfen Lied rockets past the ordinary into extraordinary within the first episode, making it something that you can’t pass up watching. The story follows a strange girl who escapes from a lab, giving the viewer the quest to discover her origins. Genco and Vap, with ADV on the distribution, combine to produce a tale of innocence and stone cold killing.

Episode One, a Chance Encounter, begins deep in an underground science lab, a naked woman wearing a helmet begins her escape. Soldiers in body armor try to stop her with loads of gunfire, but their bullets freeze in mid-air before their bodies are ripped apart in awesome, blood-gushing fashion. She escapes the lab, but takes a .50 round to the head on the way out, revealing beautiful pink hair and weird horns/cat ears when the helmet shatters to pieces. The girl the researchers call “Lucy” tumbles into the sea.

image“Lucy” washes up on the beach at the feet of two cousins, who promptly name her “Nyu”, since that’s the only noise she’ll make. “Nyu” is very different from what we’ve seen so far. She’s scared of everything, gentle and playful, far from the limb and head exploding murderer we met earlier. But the researchers are after her, and there’s a mysterious and tragic background involving the two cousins who found her.

Episode Two, Annihilation, continues where the first episode left off. The researchers and Special Assault Teams are after Lucy. While she’s as gentle as a kitten with her rescuers, those who cross her find that she can still rend people limb from limb with spooky invisible hands. We find out about Kohta, one of her rescuers, and the tragedy of his sister. A misunderstanding with Nyu nearly leads to more tragedy, and more outcasts and runaways start to show up at the empty old restaurant he is calling home for now. While the first episode was a dramatic symphony with crescendos of violence, this is a slower episode, where characters and storylines are established.

imageLots of nudity and violence make this one to keep the kids away from, but older fans will certainly appreciate the limb exploding action. All is not dramatic fight scenes and cool sprays of blood, however. Elfen Lied moves in spurts, sometimes wandering along and developing the plot between the cousins, building backstory, and then unleashing a furious fusillade of carnage and blood. While it’s too early in the series to tell if it’s going to hold up over time, the first two episodes are a very cool kickoff to a series with a lot of promise.

Conspiracies seem to be the hot trend in anime, but this one seems a step above the rest. Graphic depictions of carnage are lovely and all, but story is what makes anime worth watching over time. The fiendish conspiracy that pulses at the heart of Elfen Lied demands to be unraveled. Characterization delivers, too. The bad guys are, of course, deliciously bad, almost too over the top, but that just makes it much more enjoyable when Nyu gets angry and starts hurting them in wince-inducing ways. Kohta struggles with things in believable fashion and manages to be sad without wallowing in copious amounts of eyerolling angst.

imageElfen Lied’s animation is astounding. Lucy’s spooky ghost hands of doom gave me the creeps, while some of the de rigeur pretty sunset shots were outstanding, with beautiful blasts of orange and red. Outdoor daytime shots seem to crackle with life, while night is gloomy and grim. Blood spatters in great crimson swaths. The sound was good and crisp, the dubbing synced up well enough, and the music was fantastic, setting the mood in each scene without being overly flashy.

This disc is just the beginning, when we are thrown up on the shore of this anime and fumbling to get acquainted. But as beginnings go, it’s a race car launch off the line with the pedal mashed to the floor. The first ten minutes are jaw dropping action scenes, and the plot is promising enough to drag you in. Lots of questions are raised in the opening. Who is Nyu/Lucy? Who is that girl who looks a lot like her in the lab? And why do the cousins seem overshadowed by tragedy? The only answer is, of course, watch and find out.

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