This anime has been out for a while, but I'd never taken a look at it. The first time I heard of it was in Newtype. The way it described it was, 'this girl who isn't quite human was in a research facility, but escaped. Now she's lost her memory/has split personalities, and goes from being an ultra-violent monster to being a cute clueless girl who says 'Nyu''. To be honest, this description didn't make me want to watch it. I've seen lots of anime with plots like that, and Elfen Lied didn't sound like it offered anything new. I mean, it sounded a lot like 3x3 Eyes to me!
A while ago I saw some screenshots from the anime on 4chan. Oh-my-God. Not much freaks me out anymore, but these screenshots were just so gore-filled... And it wasn't even that which surprised me. It was the fact that it didn't care who was being torn to pieces! Chibis, animals, whatever. Let me just say in advance, if extreme levels of gore, animal/child violence, and a bunch of other stuff offends/disturbs you, this is not the show for you.
The characters in this show are...mostly all likeable. Most of them have issues, but who doesn't?
To start with, there's Kouta. He's the main guy in the story. He moves to a town he used to visit when he was young, in order to attend a school there. Kouta's the standard anime nice guy, really. He thinks about girls and boobs and other things guys normally think about, but he's a good, honorable guy. He also has a terrible memory, and doesn't even remember his cousin. His father and sister died 8 years ago, and he hasn't seen his cousin since it happend.
His cousin, Yuka, also lives there, and helps him settle in. Kouta and Yuka were childhood friends, and Yuka has developed a crush on him. Cousins. Cousins!! Yuka has some issues. She's especially upset because Kouta doesn't remember her much, while she's been remembering him and wishing she could see him again for the 8 years he's been gone.
Then of course is Lucy. Or Nyu. Whichever you prefer. Lucy/Nyu is the main character really. She's what they call a 'Diclonius', a human born with horns. These Diclonius (the females anyway, not sure about the males) also have more than 2 arms, as it were. They look normal enough, but have multiple invisible arms they can release, called 'Vectors', which are like a form of telekinesis. These can be used to grab things, throw things, and tear people limb from limb. And believe me, that happens quite a bit.
Lucy is a psychopath. It isn't explained until later why she is, and I won't give it away, but she'll basically kill anyone who gets within her 2 meter range (that's how far her Vectors can extend). Then there's Nyu, Lucy's other personality. Nyu is cute, clueless and...cute. All she can say is 'Nyu' (how the Japanese say 'milk'), hence her name. She doesn't have a clue about Lucy, and doesn't even know how to use her Vectors. She's totally innocent and dependant on those around her.
The next character we meet is Mayu. She's a homeless girl who walks around with her pet dog, Wanta. The reason she's homeless is that she ran away after her stepfather sexually abused her and her Mother didn't care. Yeah... I think I'd run away too. I'm sure you're getting a general idea of how messed up this anime is -- but real life is just as bad, really. Man, that's depressing.
Mayu is a sweet and kind girl, who doesn't want to be a burden on anyone. She's quite shy and hesitant about people helping her, but gets better about it as the story goes on.
The final character worth mentioning is my favorite, Nana. Nana is a Diclonius like Lucy, only younger (about Mayu's age). Her Vectors aren't as strong as Lucy's, but can extend for about 6 meters, which makes her possibly more dangerous. She's also very sweet, and unlike most Diclonius, wouldn't ever consider killing anyone.
Unfortunately, Nana's life is an extremely difficult and tragic one. She's been raised in the facility where Lucy was kept, being subjected to torturous experiments. The only reason she hasn't gone crazy is because she considers the head of the facility her 'Papa'. Without that emotional attachment, she certainly wouldn't have lasted this long. Nana becomes involved in the story when they send her out to recover Lucy. This results in one of the best fights in the series, in my opinion. But...don't watch it if you have a weak stomach.
When you first hear about this show, I'm sure you'd think the story is very overdone. However, there are a lot of plot elements which make this series really unique. Flashbacks to 8 years in the past slowly explain what's actually going on, and why people act the way they do. I suppose in that way it's comparable to Stephen King's writing style. I won't give away any more than I already have, but I will say that the final revelation of what happend 8 years ago is absolutely shocking.
Elfen Lied has amazing animation. The character designs are a lot cuter than they were in the manga, and all are brightly colored and detailed. The island the characters live on is beautifully done, too. What I really like is the CGI Vectors. They look ghostly and move in quite a cool way, without looking totally out of place like some CGI effects. Also worth mentioning is the opening, which is based on paintings by Gustav Klimt. Very fancy.
I watched the show subbed, so I'll be talking about the Japanese voices. They all put a lot of emotion into their roles, as usual. Nyu's voice is extremely cute, while Lucy's (done by the same person obviously) seems quite old and mature, even when she was young. Nothing else worth mentioning here.
The music in this show is great. The opening is actually the song from a music box that Kouta owns, featured throughout the series. It's quite pretty and addictive. I find myself humming it now and then.
In conclusion, if you don't mind goresplodges, goresplodes and goresplats (all ã me), as well as child abuse (only a brief scene, not too bad) and animal violence (may put off a lot of animal lovers), you might just be messed up enough to enjoy this great series! Yay for you!
Review Score: 9.0 out of 10