Elfen Lied (as in a song, not a lie) is a very dark horror/fantasy anime series. There is a new genetic strain of humans called Diclonii. They are physically separated by small horns on their heads, but also possess highly dangerous telekinetic abilities. Lucy is a bitter Diclonii who hates human beings for the way they treat the Diclonii. However, Lucy’s psyche has splintered into another identity, Nyu, who is an almost infantile Diclonii with no abilities. Nyu allows Lucy to take revenge on those who intend to harm the Diclonii without any recollection of her actions.
Elfen Lied is based on the bulk of the manga of the same name. The anime shifted the focus to the struggle between scientists and Lucy/Nyu in attempting to train Diclonii for nefarious purposes. Unfortunately, because the manga was still in production, the creators of the anime had to develop their own conclusion to the short run series that doesn’t exactly follow the direction of the original story.
The story told by the anime is a fantastic example of technology/science gone wrong horror. The series chooses not to focus on how the mutation occurred, but why so many laboratories are attempting to control it. It opens up interesting questions of evolution, bioengineering, and scientific ethics.
At the same time, Lucy/Nyu are starring in their own monster story. After a series of traumatic events in the early part of the series, Lucy begins to unravel. Her desire to take revenge on people who have hurt her kind extends to an uncontrollable blood lust. Until this turning point, Lucy only kills people trying to hurt how. From this point on, her powerful vector (telekinetic) arms begin to kill on their own even when Lucy has no reason to attack. She struggles to bring Nyu back to the surface to protect her new friends.
The entryway for the viewer to this twisted world is the relationship between college-aged cousins Kouta and Yuka. Kouta moves to a new beach-front town to attend college. He finds Nyu wandering around the beach during a storm and brings her into his home. Kouta and Yuka quickly befriend Nyu, but Nyu keeps running away. The cousins find out that Nyu is wanted by the police and other organizations and choose to hide her. They don’t even know Lucy exists.
Once the relationships are established, Lucy starts to emerge more and more. It’s as if the relative safety of her generous hosts allows her the freedom to show her true self. Kouta and Yuka become Nyu’s guardians and constantly save her from harm.
Then the incest, sexual assaults, child abuse, ultra violence, and blood really goes wild. The anime focuses on the violence to comment on human relations and discrimination. It also uses shocking, out of character moments from all the major characters to force you to realize that there can’t be a happily ever after in this story. Saving or defeating Lucy will not solve the Diclonii conflict; it will only shift the numbers one way or the other in a growing battle for domination.
Elfen Lied is a very thoughtful series filled with beautiful animation. It is a difficult but rewarding watch. The big thing to keep in mind is that, due to nudity, violence, language, and adult themes, this is a series for adults. At the same time the horror unfolds, Elfen Lied also comments on nudity, male and female gaze, and the objectification of minors. The combination of content is a troubling one that gives the short series far more weight than it might otherwise have.
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