Elfen Lied. An overly expanded storyline that empathize the darkness and horrors caused by a young female Diclonius named Lucy, who torments humanity because of what she endured as a child. The plot then connects to her childhood love interest, Kouta and her disturbed involvement that she committed to him in the past, which will later become a prominent event in the story…so it seems. This is what the Elfen Lied story is supposed to convey to the audience, but it's not. The addition of unrelated subplots and overwhelming (also pure idiotic) ecchi content damages the intentional purpose of Elfen Lied. This review contains three sections: the anime version, the manga version, and the general content since I do not judge a title as a single unit, meaning that in most occasions, the anime takes a different approach than the manga which can alter the storyline. And also note this: The following review is based upon the question from TheUnPercepted and the review will be based upon my personal thoughts and opinions, containing content which will (or could) disappoint the radical Elfen Lied fan. If you are one of those folks, then don't read it or bark like a child in high doses of sugar.
Anime: This adaption actually disappoints me despite of my previous statements from Q&A sessions mainly because the reactions were from the first time I've seen it. It is very obvious that anime adaptions are less received than its manga origin, but in this case, I will have to say that this anime adaption is horrid, if not the worse. There are a lot of factors that gravely disappoint me in the Elfen Lied anime, but I will address the important factors as a list.
Elfen Lied and the Nonexistence of Rationality. This will have to be a very serious factor that I must not ignore. Of course, a typical rebuttal to this would be: "This is just an anime." Well, duh. Many would define rationality as reasoning, with the application of morality. While the definition is true, rationality does have a lesser known meaning. The reason why the person does his or her action. In Elfen Lied, rationality does not exist. There are a lot of examples in the anime adaption and the first example is why Kouta (and Yuka) decided to keep Nyu (before and after the police involvement in the second episode). Sure, I do understand that if finding a 'lost' and bewildered individual and taken her shelter for a day or two and call the authorities that they found Nyu. That is what I expected them to do and luckily that it is written in Elfen Lied: Alternate. In the actual anime, this is not the case. In the second episode, Kouta lies to the authorities on the whereabouts of Nyu, particularly in this scenario, this would have been the obstruction of justice (I do admit that Kouta should been thrown his sorry ass to jail by his stupidity protection to himself and Nyu). Where is rationality and his explanation to why he lies to the detectives? Oh right, I guess that protecting a crocodile-tear Nyu is worth it. The only exception of why Kouta should lie to the detectives is this: the Kamakura Police Department has a horrid reputation of scandals and distrust gap between the authorities and the population.
1b. Elfen Lied and the Nonexistence of Rationality: Part II. Lucy's background story is one of the main prominences to upheave the intended purpose of Elfen Lied. Her childhood is, of course, horrible, but was her retaliation went too far and was it worth it? Her peers at the orphanage does constant harassment based upon her horns with moderate verbal abuse. As this continues on until the wicked brutality of Lucy's newly bonded puppy, her boiling point has spurred out and kill the bullies. I do understand of how she would commit this, therefore, I am 'alright' with her actions. After the murder incident at the orphanage, she decides to kill the inhabitants on their home…well, because she needs to seek shelter. Wow, you got to be kidding me. From looking at this, I find how the young Lucy just…kills people without a statement of why she killed them (though it is implied that she need to find someplace to live). How stupid. Lucy does meet Kouta and grew to a close friendship, which is acceptable in my standards. I did wish that Lucy realizes that not all humans are pure evil, and there is always good inside of each individual. Unfortunately, this does not happen. Elfen Lied seems to imply that all humans are evil except for Kouta. There is an expected childhood climax that Kouta has lied to Lucy that he was just going to the festival with his male cousin, but in actuality, he went with Yuka. From there, Lucy begins to shut down her 'supposed theory' that humans can be good and goes on a rampage, which ends up killing Kouta's sister and his father. The question is: Why? It would have been better if Lucy goes rampage on Yuka and kills her then explain to him that it was based upon jealousy. Both the manga and anime versions vaguely answer to the question of why she killed Kanae and his father. Lucy's response is, basically, avoiding this question and tells about her background story. You must be joking! Come on!
2a. Generic Characters and the Lack of Development: Elfen Lied does have standard and cliché characters, particularly on Kouta. He is a typical and standard character who claims to care about young women who experience lifelong crisis and taken care of them (with Yuka) as 'paternal guardians'. Kouta claims that he experiences repressed memories, but it is mainly based upon memory denial (in my opinion and the evidence of psychology). In the very first episode of the anime, he experiences a hallucination that Nyu 'could' be connected with someone in the past, but he was withdrawn when Yuka calls out his name. Throughout the show, more hallucinations were shown from Kouta's mind, focusing on Lucy/Nyu's horn. As the show progresses, I have doubts that he has 'repressed memories'. My definition of memory denial is the refusal of accepting the truth that will have dire consequences and pressing this hallucination further back so that he can move on in his life as if nothing had happen. In this Elfen Lied case, acknowledging that Nyu is the girl responsible for his horrible past and the refusal to accept that she is the one who had done it. I would have punched the hell out of Kouta for being such an ass. In the sixth episode, Arakawa (Professor Kakuzawa's partner) tells him the basis of a Diclonius and the effects of having horns. Later on in seventh episode, he talks to Nyu (even though she does not understand) on how she escaped from Professor Kakuzawa and the failure of 'discussion' about the symptoms of being a Diclonius. Again, this scene demonstrates that he refuses to be concerned about Nyu and the potential threat that could happen in the near future. He decides to perceive Nyu as a normal girl and keep her in the household. The rest of the show gives out the climax and Kouta decides to be more 'forgiving' to Lucy. Oh well.
2b. Generic Characters and the Lack of Development Part II: Yuka. Everybody hates her, including myself. Throughout the series, she gets mad at Kouta that he does not care for her. Yuka even expects him to remember the past and how much she loves him. First off, Kouta has 'repressed memories' (though I strongly disagree with this theory) and secondly, why can Yuka just tell him that she loves him. It would have been much easier for herself rather being such a selfish and cocky bitch. Mayu is a supporting character that has no purpose in the show (which I had already explained in the Q&A). Nana is my favorite character in the show. Ironically, she is the only character that displays rationality and logical sense than the rest of the cast. Bando is also a cool character, but it is unfortunate that many assume that he is the 'bad guy'. Sure, he is a minor antagonist, but the definition of antagonist does NOT always mean an evil character. It actually defines as a character who opposes the protagonist (Lucy). Other characters such as the Kakuzawas, Kurama, Mariko, and others are alright and serve well in the story.
3a. Nyu, 'The Nyu Problem', and the Sickening Use of Emotional Manipulation: This is absolutely the number one factor that I hate the most from the anime and manga versions. This factor is somewhat not very surprising from fellow readers who had read Elfen Lied: Alternate, but many will probably ask me this: Why? A few rebuttals that are most likely to respond to this factor are the following: Nyu is super cute and 'Moe', Nyu is innocent—don't hate, and Nyu have not done anything wrong. If someone replied similar to the third rebuttal, I will go in rage. My answer to these: your rebuttal justification is very poor. To answer the question why I dislike Nyu is complex, but I will start breaking down the reasons. I will have to say that I hate Nyu the most, even surpassing Kouta and Yuka. The 'Nyu personality' is somewhat of a personality, but for all the wrong reasons and grave flaws. A personality is defined as characteristics/qualities that form a person's character. In the earlier episodes, this application is quite acceptable. She was shot and shocked by the .50 caliber's velocity and her memories (temporarily) were wiped out. However, a person cannot AND should not classify Nyu as a complete different personality just because she lost her memories and the portrayal of playing innocence. Throughout the entire show, I begin to suspect the transition from Lucy to Nyu seems a bit too…in place. For an example, in the sixth episode, Kouta finds Lucy and when she tells him that she is sorry, Kouta obtains another hallucination of the shaded, young Lucy. As Kouta suspects if Lucy was the one whom he met when they were children, Lucy transitionally shifts to Nyu, who she cries and cheers of her reunion with Kouta. Elfen Lied does say that Lucy has multiple personality disorder, but how can someone transition one personality to another in certain situations (in this case, the transition from Lucy to Nyu in this scene, is rather done on purpose). This transition is performed the same way in the beginning of the tenth episode when Nana and Lucy briefly fights until Mayu intervenes. When Mayu tells Lucy to stop fighting, she begins to compare Mayu's words to the young Kouta's, Lucy's personality is being transferred to Nyu…in a nick of time as Kouta shows up. From there, Nyu displays her usual tears and innocence. Fans of the show like to claim themselves, psychologists, and know every aspect about Nyu and her state of mind. So I am assuming that Nyu having 'amnesia' and playing innocence is classified as a personality?
What does it mean, 'The Nyu Problem'? In Elfen Lied, the main purpose of putting Nyu ('personality') to the storyline is to relieve the genre of dark horror and to bring in (attempted and failed) humor and lightness to the storyline. It's like adding sugar to a sour lemonade drink, but adding too much of it can change its intended taste. Well, this is what happened to the anime (and manga). I do understand of why Lynn Okamoto would do so, assuming that he does not want Elfen Lied to be an depressing, sad, and tragic story. In my honest opinion, I wish that he should not add humor since this factor distorts the intended genre of Elfen Lied. 'The Nyu Problem' is my proposed theory, which is the well-known contradiction between the state of minds from Lucy and Nyu…and is strongly denied by Elfen Lied fans by attacking this factor, claiming that this is false. If this theory is false, then why other anime fans who seen Elfen Lied said that there is a strange contradiction between the two different states (and there are a lot of anime fans who proposed this). I will not go any further details about 'The Nyu Problem' since diehard Elfen Lied fans are not rational enough to rebuttal this theory.
Lastly, Elfen Lied's 'controversial' use of emotional manipulation. This factor is the most controversial discussion between fans and those who dislike Elfen Lied. Considering on the emotional level in the show, this is a fact that the show contains a lot of emotional scenes. To separate facts and opinions, the factor of emotional manipulation actually stands in the middle though it leans more towards fact. What scenes in Elfen Lied contain emotional manipulation? I cannot answer this question as there are a lot of them, but all of the scenes (which contain this factor) have someone in common. The answer: Nyu. As you (the reader) and I know that Lucy and Nyu are contrast 'personalities', but shares the same body. We know that Lucy kills people from family members to security officers (in the anime). We know that Lucy's actions are sinful (though I don't think that Elfen Lied fans don't get it). The addition of Nyu is to refute that Lucy is not a bad character, including a motherload of ecchi content for Nyu and the overuse of 'Nyu's cuteness' which I greatly despise. The chasm between Nyu and Lucy is a big gap, but overusing Nyu too much in Elfen Lied anime and manga is actually ruining the supposed theme of darkness, depression, and seriousness of the franchise.
Final Verdict: 1 out of 5. When you see this score, you would think that I hate this franchise. However, in this special case, my rating of the Elfen Lied anime 1 out of 5 does NOT mean that I hate this show. The anime version has a lot of plot holes and little closure (remember that the anime was made in 2004 and the manga was not completed yet) and the outcome between Kouta and Lucy was a bit…rushed in my opinion. Elfen Lied actually as a lot of great potential to become an anime classic, but large plot holes and the addition of Nyu is bogging the show down, in my opinion. The animation was solid, mainly average, but I absolutely love the original soundtrack for the show by using the ensemble orchestra to play. The reason why I gave 1 out of 5 is only because the cons outweigh the pros by a lot. It's like a weight balance for an example; the cons weight the most and the pros is very light to counter it.
Author's Note: This is just Part One of the review as I am going to review the manga version. In Part II of the review, I will be including the history of the development about Elfen Lied: Alternate and the intended message about why I wrote the fanfiction story.
If you are an 'loyal' Elfen Lied and you feel a bit uncomfortable with this review, you can rebuttal any section of the anime review. However, if you want to rebuttal, it needs to be mature and appropriate, including no backlash since I already had to deal with those folks throughout the chapter uploads of Elfen Lied: Alternate.