That pretty much sums up my feelings for this show right there. Elfen Lied, despite what so many sappy, shallow people would tell you, is nowhere NEAR a masterpiece; I wouldn't even go so far as to call it good. It is, for all intents and purposes, a woefully inadequate attempt at a drama which falls far short of tragedy greats in anime such as “Grave of the Fireflies”, “Kino's Journey”, “Now and Then, Here and There”, and yes Neon Geneses Evangelion. It is an ant amongst giants. Fans of the series will point to the many instances of drama and "tear jerking moments" as proof that there is substance of any kind to be found here, but they would be wrong. Instead of coming off as depressing, the more appalling moments in this show come across as more disgusting than anything else. Whereas moments in shows like “Now and Then, Here and There” and EVA showed tragedy in ways which were designed to not only depress its viewers but also leave them with "heartbreaking fondness;" Elfen Lied simply wants to gross you out as much as humanly possible.
Just about every moment of this show is saturated with fan service almost to the point, no, take that back, TO the point of absurdity. Some fan service here and there is okay, I don't really like it but its fine, but THIS MUCH!? How many times do I have to see Lucy (or Nyu, which is her alter ego) shamble around on screen wearing nothing but socks? How many times must I have to see Mayu (who's 13 BTW) take a bath with Nanna (who is also 13)? Nothing makes you feel like a pervert more than watching a couple 13 year olds take a bath together for ten minutes. Am I supposed to watch or should I look away?
The show starts off with a ten minute bloodbath as a naked Lucy strolls though the hulls of a heavenly protected government research lab killing literally hundreds of well armed soldiers and guards (and one very unfortunate, very clumsy secretary). She manages to escape but is shot in the head, which then causes her to lose her memory. Washing up on a nearby beach the next morning (naked, as always) she is taken in by a pair of well meaning college students (who only go to class once during the series; I guess class attendance isn't really a top priority in Japan), Kohta and Yuka. Now let’s play a little game; you see a naked, clearly mentally ill girl wash up on the beach without the ability to speak. Do you...
A) Call the police.
B) Give her some food and cloths and THEN call the police. Or would you...
C) Take said naked girl home with you and NOT tell anyone.
If you said A or B then TADA! You're a normal person. If you said C then you are a character in Elfen Lied. YEAH! I know anime isn't a genre where characters always act and talk like real people, but COME ON! Who wouldn't call the police if they found a naked mentally ill girl on the beach? (Other than perverts, that is). Is it too much to expect these characters to act at least somewhat realistically?
And that's pretty much the problem with this show from beginning to end; the characters don’t act like real people. The love triangle that's started up between Nyu (Lucy), Kohta, and Yuka, I guess to add a second layer of "depth" to the story (you know, give it something other than the whole naked girls killing lots and lots of people) comes off as more of a soap opera than anything else. What person actually asks their first cousin to fondle their breast? YUCK! Every time Kohta does anything with another girl (oftentimes just helping them out) Yuka gets jealous, calls him a jerk, maybe slaps him around, and then runs off crying. Now I can sympathize to a point, but girl GET OVER YOURSELF! It isn't the end of the world if your first cousin isn't romantically interested in you.
But it isn't only that, characters who really are likable and DO have interesting back stories (Mayu for instance) are introduced, and then almost ignored. Mayu had possibly one of the saddest back stories in the whole show, and yet her past was never fleshed out or used to propel the story. I would have loved to see her run into her step father in the streets someday, or maybe she, with the help of her friends, could have tried to confront him. Although the creators of this show get props for attempting such an ambitious story, they get no credit for execution as the whole thing is more disgusting then sad and is not elaborated on during the course of the series. Mayu serves as a plot device for the rest of the series, and it is very unfortunate for the series as a whole because instead they decide to focus on Khota and Yuka who are, quite frankly, uninteresting and boring.
So now for some good stuff. The little Diclonius (the race of horned mutants of which Lucy [or Nye], and Nanna are a part) girls are SO adorable that it was almost impossible to find any fault in them, even when they went on bloody rampages and killed dozens of innocent people. All they had to do was look at the screen with those giant red eyes of theirs and cry a little bit and my heart would break for them. Who knew such sadistic killers could be so cute? Despite my trashing the linier story of this show, the back story for Lucy was actually quite stunning (if a little too convenient). The part with her dog was SO depressing I was tempted to give this show more than two stars, but alas the ending didn't give it any hope of such a high rating. My favorite part, by far, is when Lucy goes to the zoo as a child and is amazed by the size of the elephants and giraffes.
“Oh, it’s so big, how did it get so big?” (Elephant trumpets) “whow, amazing!” (Just imagine this in the cutest little girl voice possible).
It reminded me so much of my own childhood, going to the Omaha Zoo (one of the biggest in the country BTW) and begging my parents to let me see the elephants because they were my favorite.
Yes, I'm a sucker when it comes to little girls suffering; probably explains why my favorite shows are “Now and Then, Here and There” and “Gunslinger Girl”, and if Elfen Lied had focused on this back story instead of the inane love triangle/government conspiracy nonsense it could have very well been a masterpiece. As is, with only a few episodes dedicated to back story, the show could not stand the weight of its own self importance. Nanna was also a pretty interesting character, though at the very end of the show she did get a bit annoying.
The animation for this show was actually quite good; better in fact then most anime I've seen. The backgrounds were quite stunning in their detail and the character designs were oh so cute. The music was pretty plain, although the main theme wasn't bad at all, if a little less impressive then other shows. It's the opening and ending that get on my nerves. More naked girls shuffling around while the camera zooms in on their breast. Don't believe me? It's true. The ending is some Japanese rock song with a still picture of a naked Lucy while the camera slowly zoom in on her left breast. What kind of person does it take to watch that all the way through? I wonder... maybe the same kind of person it takes to give this show a five star review.
So if you're looking for tragedy, look elsewhere at the shows I've already mentioned. Elfen Lied is nothing special, that is unless you’re looking for underage girls taking baths together, in which case I'd suggest you turn yourself in to your local authorities and get immediate psychiatric help. Good night.
Replay Value; low.
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