The Diclonius are beings that are human in appearance, but have small horns on their head and invisible arms which stem from the back of their bodies. These arms are very powerful, and not only able to lift massive weights, but cut through things as well. Born to human parents, the Diclonius are secretly taken from their parents shortly after birth and euthanized, as they become erratic as they age and generally end up killing people.
Lucy is one such Diclonius, but was raised in a research facility until her escape into the ocean. During her pursuit, a shot grazes her head and she loses her memories. Kohta finds the girl naked in the ocean at night, but she's reduced to a child like state and can only say "Nyu" - which is what he decides to call her. The research organization wants to terminate her, as she's particularly dangerous. Kohta isn't sure why people are after Nyu, but he decides to keep her safe. However if her personality switches back to Lucy, will anyone in the town survive?
I found the first episode of Elfen Lied to be hard to watch, but as I continued I couldn't stop watching a series so bizarre. It kicks off with a sombre artistic intro sequence that I like. After this, I'm greeted by 12 minutes of intensely graphic carnage. Halfway through the first episode, it changes into a slice of life anime comedy thing. At first I had assumed that the violence was an overbearing attempt to emphasize that Lucy was a killer (character development), but the killing isn't a one off character development gimmick, it's a reoccurring theme.
Lets back up though. Most of this surrounds a girl named Nyu as that's all she can say. She's an extreme example of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde except one personality is a sadistic out of control Terminator, and the other is an un-house trained version of catgirl Nuku Nuku. Kohta is a guy who ends up staying at a house by himself. What does a guy in anime do with an empty house do but fill it with cute girls right? While, describing this show makes it sound like a harem title, however it's more like a young couple, their daughter(s), and their cat... well if it weren't for all the brutal killing going on.
Yes brutal killing. Because even though it's got some (harem like) comedy gimmicks, along with cute pink haired girls (one of whom acts like a cat), this show has some of the most intense and graphic violence I've seen in quite some time. This anime has the highest count of me saying "holy shit" per episodes of anything. And no one is safe. Even "cute anime girls" who are often left mysteriously untouched in most anime, die pretty gruesome deaths in this one. This becomes such factor that it turns into suspense: you're never really sure if someone is going to live or be massacred. Watching Elfen Lied is like an epiphany though. I never realized how most titles pull their punches leaving characters unscathed, until watching one that doesn't.
Elfen Lied pinions off of three elements: comedy, drama, and violence. This creates a situation hard to digest as both the comedy and violence are diametrically opposed and each sabotages build up of the other. This does however give Elfen Lied a formula unlike anything else I've ever watched - probably because most would reject it all together. Towards the end comedy becomes scarce, which helps the drama but draws attention to weaknesses in the story.
The story isn't that bad but very far fetched with plot convenience. Characters continuously bump in to each other, know each other in their past, or are somehow related. To its credit, Elfen Lied leverages this by developing characters simultaneously and fleshing rather quickly. I found the way the characters evolve with the plot of Diclonius experimentation and possible world apocalypse to feel a bit forced. But considering the time limit, this probably couldn't have taken shape any other way.
Overall I found Elfen Lied to be a unique anime, not because any of the component parts are original, but because it takes an unusual set of them, which normally would be considered suicidal to any show and makes it generally work. The contrast between excessive curtness in the characters, and the extreme carnage is honestly a lot to swallow, and for that reason I wouldn't recommend it unless you're really seeking a show off the deep end, or something very different. At first I wasn't sold on the contrasts myself, but as I watched I found it a fascinating approach. Worth it for something different, but better to be on the side of caution before getting into this one.
Lucy: You were a good dream; in a life that was nothing but a hellish nightmare.
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