Anime Review: Elfen Lied (TV)
Director: Mamoru Kanbe
Number of episodes: 13
Original Run Time: July 25, 2004 to October 17, 2004
Opening Theme: “Lilium” by Kumiko Noma
Ending Theme: “Be Your Girl” by Chieko Kawabe
Genres: action, drama, horror, psychological, romance, science fiction
Themes: amnesia, gore, multiple personality, mutants, superpowers, tragedy
Plot Summary: The Diclonius are mutated Homo sapiens that are said to be selected by God and will eventually become the destruction of humankind. They possess two horns on their heads, and have a “sixth sense” which gives them telekinetic abilities. Due to their dangerous powers, they have been captured and isolated in laboratories by the government and any child born with horns is sentenced to death. Lucy, a young and psychotic Diclonius, manages to break free of her confines and brutally murder most of the guards in the laboratory, only to get shot in the head as she makes her escape. She survives and manages to drift along to a beach, where two teenagers named Kouta and Yuka discovers her. Having lost her memories, she was named after the only thing that she can now say, “Nyuu,” and the two allow her to stay at Kouta’s home. However, it appears that the evil “Lucy” is not dead just yet…
While perusing around on Netflix for some new-to-me anime, I discovered a powerful series that made me stop and take pause after each episode. Elfen Lied is a beautifully perverse story of love, technology gone wrong, the self-destruction of humanity, and ultimate sacrifice. The title “Elfen Lied” is German for “Elf song” and is derived from the poem, “Elfenlied” which is a major part of the story. Despite only having 13 episodes, I think Elfen Lied is by far, one of the best and most creative boundary pushing anime series I’ve ever seen.
Our story beings with a girl named Lucy who breaks free from a laboratory in a very brutal killing scene. You aren’t really sure why she is breaking free or even why she’s being held captive, all we are given is one f’ed up killing spree and a girl hell-bent on tormenting her captors. This twisted beginning sets the tone for the remaining thirteen episodes. We soon discover Lucy is Diclonius, a genetically altered human with telekinetic abilities that has the powers to wield “vectors”, multiple invisible hands that move so quickly they can slice through anything solid. Lucy having lost her memories after her escape and injuring one of her horns, is found by two teenagers, Kouta and his cousin Yuka.
Not knowing why, both Kouta and Lucy are drawn to each other and he brings her back to his home to live. Lucy now in a childlike state clings to Kouta who enjoys caring for her and just being in her presence. Yuka on the other hand is not certain of Lucy, who they now call Nyuu, and tries to hide her growing feelings for Kouta who is oblivious to her desires. In the meantime, the government is on the hunt for Lucy. They even send a vicious operative after her named Bandō who is an apathetic man that enjoys taking the lives of others. He prides on always getting the job done and never missing a target. Upon his first meeting with Lucy, he initially only encounters her “Nyuu” personality and is not impressed. But when things get heated and her life is threatened, the infamous Lucy emerges and it quickly becomes Lucy who enjoys mutilating Bandō, leaving him severely injured. This confrontation between the two leads Bandō on a personal vendetta against Lucy.
There are several different subplots going on throughout the story. One being the personal (and moral) struggle of one of the antagonist, Kurama – a man sent to capture Lucy but in the end has to deal with his life choices and fathering a Diclonii child. Through a series of flashbacks, we glimpse into his life as an agent whose purpose was to kill dozens of Diclonius girls and even his own daughter. Without giving too much away, I can truly say that his story is emotionally heart wrenching as we watch him do a complete 180 during the show. He was one of the characters I loathed but by the ending, I was completely blown away and deeply sadden when the final chapter of his story played out. It is a tremendous feat for the writers to make us, the viewers, feel compassion for an otherwise unlikeable character.
Elfen Lied touches on many themes but the most prominent is the human condition. Right vs. Wrong and how people treat others in a world where everyone is different. The anime leads us to believe that the sole reason Lucy is inherently evil is because other humans, even children during her childhood, treated her badly. Would she have killed so many people if she were treated with respect and as a “normal” person? Unfortunately, we will never know. Though over the course of her journey, Lucy is a vicious killer, she also is able to show remorse for an act of violence she committed against Kouta years earlier. This also points to humans being able to seek forgiveness and a chance at redemption. Not all of our characters are redeemed by the end of the series but a few are set on a path to finding peace.
Overall, Elfen Lied is an anime I highly recommend to anime loving adults who enjoy an action packed series with deep complexity. It’s one of the very few I’ve seen that can pack so much information and emotion into so few episodes and still pull off a tremendously heart-felt show. The opening song and weird – you’ll see what I mean – beginning is now one of my favorites and will stick with me for a lifetime.
5 out of 5 Controllers