Elfen Lied

Anime Review

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Title: Elfen Lied
Published by: Madman Entertainment (Australia / New Zealand)
Based on: Manga series under the same name by Lynn Okamoto
Genre: Killer Loli, Murder, Mystery, Drama, Psychological
Audio: English and Japanese Dubs
Subtitles: English
Aspect Ratio: Anamorphic Widescreen (16:9)
Runtime: 325 Minutes
Cost: $59.95 from the Madman Online Store
Classification: This title is classified MA15+ for Strong Animated Violence and Strong Themes.
Blurb: The original ‘Killer Loli’ series, where some newborn children have horns, alongside supernatural powers and are known only to a few as Diclonius. These humans are kept in inhumane captivity, until one, Lucy escapes her confines. This series despite having a rather brutal storyline delivers a rewarding storyline and has adequate design and music backing it.
Special Thanks: Special thanks goes to the Madman Entertainment PR Team for providing me with a review sample of this title.

I have a bit of an interesting history with this series. As I did my schooling in Queensland, we had to do a two-day exam known as the Queensland Core Skills test, which is supposed to test our maths/english skills, alongside other academic abilities regardless of the subjects we studied. I resolved in the writing part of the exam, that I would try and mention an anime series in mine (After all, there are many messages that can be obtained through anime), and it resulted in this series being mentioned, as despite it being THE killer loli series, it does hold some strong messages that are implemented into one unique watching experience. Interested? Read more in my review of Elfen Lied. 

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Imprisoned under tight military security, Lucy, a genetically-altered human known as a Diclonius escapes her confines in a wave of bloody violence and brutality. Now lost, alone and stricken with amnesia, she wanders into a kindly family that takes her under their care, oblivious to the latent destructive power that this innocent-looking girl harbors.

For fans of anime over the page of 15 (All good boys and girls should be aware when an anime is too violent for their age group right?), I like to think that this is a staple in their anime collection, considering that one could easily call it one of the most, if not most violent anime series on the market and to some may be considered a right of passage into more adult anime series. This series features frontal nudity, gore and over the top mutilation of many (secondary) characters. Despite the focus on needless violence, there are some messages that can be acquired through watching this series.

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The series heavily focuses on ethics, and how a person is treated can alter their behavior. Due to their treatment by society, Diclonius are generally portrayed as violent individuals who are good for nothing but becoming test subjects in cruel experimentations and being deprived of basic human rights, and those who are not taken away at birth, become subject to ridicule which turn them into violent being that can use their Vectors (Transparent arms that extend from their body) to mutilate their victim. This series does show how one can use their power for ‘evil’ but at the same time, the human nature of some to control that which is different, how some can blatantly disregard human rights and in regards to the normal humans in the series, the willingness to abuse a child both sexually and violently and the feelings of abandonment. It does paint a bleak picture of the world, however it is a sad reality that there is at least a small number of people in the world who endure/commit acts such as this.

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In a series where children can be turned into weapons, families can be torn apart and people can be left amputated, there is still potential for some warm fuzzy feelings whilst watching it. The series follows the characters and their persuit for happiness and a family, so whilst the protagonist Kohta just arrives in Kamakura to attend university, he ends up taking in his cousin, two diclonius and a runaway girl and with them, form what could be called a happy family unit and his actions to protect this happiness they all strive hard to achieve, whilst also suffering from this own traumatic experiences.

The story generally remains depressing, and even in the ‘warm fuzzy’ moments, they will usually cross over to something in the storyline that saps away that feeling and at times, makes you feel rather ill at what they are presenting to you. Even a young daughter of one of the staff members has been kept in isolation from birth, being supported only by a woman at the end of a phone line acting as her “mother” and is a key antagonist in the final episodes, whilst another girl who could only be in early teens (Althrough as this is anime, could be younger or much older) is treated badly and is only given the support so she wont break down, however this support does hold feelings for her unlike the majority. Whilst the above mentioned “warm fuzzy” moments are appropriately placed to boost the morale of the viewer, it is hard to ignore these aspects and makes you feel awkward at times.

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Despite everything that goes forward in this series, there is some very interesting backstory surrounding all the characters. The primary character development takes place over multiple episodes and surrounds Kouta’s original meeting with Lucy/Nyu and a summer he spent with her during their childhood, alongside his cousin Yuka and his younger sister. This is primarily important as not only does it give justification as to why she became the so called ‘Cold Blooded Killer’ but also shows that Diclonius are not born murderers. Other characters also receive a solid amount of character developments, most recieving at least half an episode or more dedicated to them.

I must say, with the storyline to contend with and only 13 episodes to use, time use was effectively allocated. The storyline whilst being very dark will no doubt appeal to those who have a liking for violent series as well as those who want to question the effect of ethics and those that break it. “Reality can be cruel, so what if someone had the supernatural ability to fight back?” is what I think the overall question is here.

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To me, the winning component of the design are the environmental designs. Everything seems to have a realistic look to them and accurately portray a calm and peaceful town that is by no means modern. That being said, the environment is also well adaptable to the bloodshed environment the storyline is flung into, and also suits the darker themes shown in this series. For the character designs, moreso then anything it must be stated that nudity is present in a fair few episodes, which does include frontal nudity of a much higher degree then most fanservice series. However, you will find that none of the nudity is of a sexual or fanservice nature, but instead is used to add an extra incite into the lives of the characters that have been abused. The overall character designs however are above average but are nothing special.

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Opening Sequence
Lilium by Kumiko Noma

To be honest, there was one issue I had with this opening theme, and that was the source of the art in it. Essentially, the animation consists of artwork from a painter which had the character superimposed on them, and it took me a fair while to realize that they were modified works of Gustav Klimt. That being said however, the sequence was no less then beautiful. The song Lilium plays an important role in the series and has something like three versions in total throughout the series, but all versions are a pleasant listen.

Ending Sequence
Be Your Girl by Chieko Kawabe

I don’t have any attachment to this song or the animation involved it it as well. When you compare it to the beautiful opening, it pales and does not suit the theme of the series at all, whilst the animation is just more or less an image of Lucy.

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In terms of music, you would actually be surprised how few tracks there are in total, with a recent look at an soundtrack listing totalling around 15 songs in total including the opening theme. However, what is included are some very well performed songs that are well suited to the series. The English voice acting is a mixture of names well known to me and not as well and do an average job. Kira Vincent-Davis does a very good job at portraying the multiple and very different personalities of Lucy and Adam Conlon does a satisfactory job as Kohta if not a bit bland. Jay Hickman who voices the character Kurama does a solid job in his role, and will be mentioned in a few reviews later on. The other members of the voice-cast are okay, but no character really stands out.

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For the packaging of the set, the outer and inner covers (The same either side) basically say everything about the series. As you can see from the front cover pictured above, it easily identifies that this will be a series involving bloodshed, with a naked Lucy on the front cover and more bloody signs on the back cover with the normal screenshots and blurb. The DVD disc designs remain the same as they were for the individual volumes released many a year ago and are equally indicating of the violence in the series as the cover is.

As I stated when describing the DVD Package, each of the discs are the original DVD releases, therefore were not custom-designed for a collection such as this, therefore there are duplications of bonus content on every disc. However, this is what is included at least once throughout all four DVD’s:

  • Production Art
  • Character Galleries
  • Clean Opening Sequence
  • Clean Ending Sequences
  • Original Japanese Cover Artwork Gallery

In other words, nothing special but it will do.

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Personally, I am not that into pointlessly violent animes, and if this series was delivered in any other way in terms of storyline, I most probably would have found it a pointless series, however with a storyline that makes you question ethics and presents a sorrowful tale and the characters persuit towards happiness…. it is a memorable series that I think all anime fans should watch at least once….. unless you are really opposed to violence of course.

Final Score

Storyline / Character Development: A
OP/ED Sequences: 
Music/Voice Acting: 
Personal Preference: 

Overall Score: B+

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Founder of The Otaku's Study. I have been exploring this labyrinth of fandom these last fourteen years, and still nowhere close to the exit yet. Probably searching for a long time to come.

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