A violent classic gets an upgrade and a long sought after OVA episode.
What They Say:
Lucy, a beautiful young mutant, is bred by the military to be the ultimate weapon. Now, with government killers on her trail, the disposition of a five year old, and a hair trigger for ultraviolence, Lucy and her young friends must unravel the dark secret of her legacy before it’s too late.
Contains episodes 1-13.
The audio presentation for this release brings us the familiar tracks we saw before with the original Japanese language in 5.1 as well as the English 5.1 mix, both of which are now encoded using the DTS-HD MA lossless codec. Similar to what we experienced with the DVD release previously, it’s a good mix overall but it’s not one that will wow you or knock your socks off, though it is better than a lot of standard stereo fare. And it definitely makes out better with the lossless form here as the action moments feel like they have a bit more impact. It’s not a constant or regular occurrence, but it does show up in a few key scenes to make good use of it. The show by and large is a forward soundstage piece that sounds very clean and precise in its placement which shines a lot throughout it. There’s a certain stillness to a lot of scenes so when the show does bring in the ambient music or sound effects, they’re more pronounced and have a better impact. While we listened to this mostly in Japanese, we listened to some of the English mix as well and had much the same experience and no problems with either track in general.
Originally airing in 2004, the transfer for this series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. The series is split across two discs with ten episodes on the first and four on the second, which includes the OVA at the end. The show has generally had a good look on DVD but the show has had to deal with the low bitrates and a lot of dark colors. The high definition presentation cleans all this up with a high bit rate for most scenes and especially the big action scenes and the results is a very crisp and clear looking show. Colors are very solid throughout which is a big plus and the detail that’s here looks good, though it was never a hugely detailed show to begin with. Everything just comes across as more vibrant and appealing and gives us the show the way it was intended for the most part. The animation for the series was always good, never phenomenal, but the high definition presentation doesn’t introduce any unwanted effects into it by having a clearer look at things. With a lot of solid colors, that appeal is in the vibrancy and the solidity of it all.
The packaging for this release brings us the very welcome cover art that puts Lucy in the center with smaller portions of Nana and Mariko behind her looking off to the side. IT’s all tied together with the symbolism in the back, the softer orange and brown colors and the vibrant reds from Lucy’s hair. With a good bit of skin visible here as well, it’s certainly alluring and draws you in nicely to the detail across it all. The background is done in reds and yellows that works well to accent the character artwork as it uses all sorts of widgets and symbols that populated the opening and closing sequences. It’s all tied together with a simple but effective logo that’s small but distinct. The back cover uses a number of darker colors in general with a clear listing along the top of the episodes included and a decent summary of the premise that’s a bit light and thin with the color choices to be easy to read. There’s some great character artwork here of several of the other women in the series which are lined above a series of dark shots from the show itself. Production credits are laid out simply and cleanly and we get a solid technical grid that conveys all the information in a clear and concise manner. No show related inserts are included nor is there a reversible cover.
The menu design for this release is pretty nice and it ties into the colors from the cover well. The navigation takes up the left column of the main menu and it provides the episode breakdown by dual title and episode number and has submenus for languages and extras where needed. All of it is quick to access and works nicely during playback as a pop-up menu. The color scheme works really well, even with the artwork of the first disc for example where we get a really bright and happy Nyu image set against the oceanside with a lot of blues and greens and sunshine to give it all life. Submenus load quickly and languages are quick and easy to select.
Unlike the last edition, we do get a few extras with this release that are nice to see. The clean versions of the opening and closing sequences are here on the second disc and we also get a pair of brief sections that shows off an array of production artwork and character artwork.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Based on the manga by Lynn Okamoto, Elfen Lied is a thirteen episode series that has seen release a couple of times. We’d seen the show when it came out in single disc form and found it to be without all that much merit, though many people said it needed to be taken as satire. We also had a full collection two years ago that brought the series out once more, which was a good opportunity to sit down with it again and to be able to take it in over the course of a day instead of over several months. Though I can see the elements of satire there if you want them to be there, it doesn’t strike me as a straight on serious satire of the harem genre or the gratuitous nature of anime at times. This time around, the presentation itself is quite different as we get it in high definition glory, which definitely adds to the overall vibrancy and appeal of the show with its character designs, violence and sexuality.
Elfen Lied revolves around a harem concept of sorts as a young man named Kohta has returned to Kamakura for school. He has a history with this place as he spent part of his childhood here with his father and younger sister when they’d visit relatives. Those relatives are now giving him a place to live, an old Japanese style restaurant that was converted to living space some time ago but fell out of use. With eight rooms to it, it’s expansive but Kohta is given the task of keeping it in shape so it doesn’t fall into disrepair. Most of his initial time is spent with his cousin, Yuka, who has some strong feelings for him but keeps them in check as she’s unsure that he remembers the promises made to her years ago during his last visit. A visit that ended in tragedy she’s still unaware of.
At the time this is happening, there’s a big semi-secret secure complex on an island just off of the coast where a big company has some very interesting things in its hands. In various secure cells, they’ve got creatures called Diclonius, human looking creatures with horns on their heads that are actually forces of nature that have surfaced to cull the human race. There are variations to them, often based on how they’re discovered, but one of them has the ability to call out more Diclonius to be born thereby causing a quicker destruction of humanity. The race is on to figure out an anti-virus so that Diclonious can stop being born to humans, but the real secret is that the man behind the entire complex wants the virus itself, not the anti-virus, so that he can unleash it upon the world and build mankind anew.
As secure as everything is, one of the Diclonius in there has been set free by someone and has found an easy path out, killing heavily along the way. Lucy makes her way towards the sea, but ends up getting partially sniped at the end, causing her to fall in. When she makes it to shore later, discovered by Kohta and Yuka, she’s without her memory and acting very differently. With only the word “nyu” to her vocabulary, they call her that and take her home. Such begins the growing collection of women that fall into Kohta’s life. Nyu and her other personality Lucy interchange at points, generally when someone from the complex comes out in search of her to try and either kill her or bring her back, and there’s a relationship of sorts that is brought out between her and Kohta that ties back to events years past in regards to Kohta’s sister.
The forces brought out to go after Lucy are certainly diverse. One is a slightly younger Diclonius that has a father figure within the complex that she wants to please, so she heads out to take down Lucy knowing that it will earn her praise. Another Diclonius,the most powerful of all, is brought out much later with a bomb inside her in order to make sure she keeps to her part of the deal. The weapons used to take down Lucy are as much a danger as Lucy herself, if not more so, but it’s all that they have. The problem they run into is that when Lucy switches into her Nyu personality, the other Diclonius can’t sense her anymore, which makes her harder to find. Which is sort of silly at times considering Lucy/Nyu stand out so much in comparison to everyone else.
Amusingly, one of the Diclonius becomes a live-in partner at Kohta’s place after she finds her position with the mysterious group in jeopardy. And after she loses all her limbs. Another arrival in the house is a slightly younger character named Mayu who is a runaway. She left her home after years of her stepfather sexually abusing her and ended up on the streets, living with a little puppy she found and named Wanta. She comes across the action that’s taking place, first seeing a battle between Lucy and Nana and then making friends with Nana. She also ends up dealing with one of the soldiers that was sent after Lucy to begin with, a very violence hungry man who lives to kill but meets his match in the ultimate killer. Kohta finds himself living with these four women as time goes on and it does feel like a strange little harem show in a way, though only Yuka and Nyu show any real interest in him, and Nyu has more of a father figure approach to her feelings because of her innocence. In fact, at one point, Mayu talks about how the little group is like a family with Kohta and Yuka as the parents.
The bulk of the series is made up of back and forth moments where the fighting is central as Lucy deals with those coming to attack her, though only when that personality is brought to the surface. In this regard, Elfen Lied is unlike just about every other TV series I’ve seen and it does leave you wondering what the Japanese broadcast version was like, if it was as uncut as we have here. The opening scenes to the series sets the stage as Lucy yanks out spines, explodes heads and there’s even a moment where she makes a heart pop out of someone. They don’t hold back because the amount of blood flowing here is truly impressive. I do enjoy series that push the limits and Elfen Lied does so, quite effectively with the open sexuality – or at least nakedness of the characters – as well as the violence though that’s a given at this point.
While the high definition aspect of this release is a huge plus for the show and makes it worthwhile from that alone, the other thing that makes this worthy is the addition of the OVA. Long unlicensed, ADV FIlms finally managed to add it to this collection to truly make it complete for the first time. The OVA is essentially episode 10.5 as it brings us to that period when most everyone was living with Kohta and we get a few more inklings out of Lucy as to her state of mind while others are trying to adapt, such as Nana wanting to be useful. It’s cute and adds a little more domestic life that helps to pad things out in a good way. What really makes this episode important is the flashback sequence we see from Lucy where we get to understand what happened after she left as a child and was taken in after making a new friend. This is an important bit of bridging story that helps to show us what happened with her and how she ended up where she did for the next several years before breaking free.
I admit, I still have a hard time really seeing this as a satire of various genres. I agree that if you look hard enough and point out things, it can be viewed that way. But so much of the show plays it straight, though that may be the satire itself in that it takes itself seriously, that it doesn’t leave you with the feeling you get from many satires, the knowing that it’s all about that. To me, this plays out as an ode to violence, a loving ode to violence, that doesn’t hold back and revels in it. But not in a really glorifying way. The characters are torn apart and abused sadistically, but you don’t have Lucy gloating over it or throwing a screaming primal rage as she does so. It’s simply something that must be done. The series covers a lot of ground, even as Kohta gets pushed to the background often, as it delves into child abuse, relationships and revenge. I find that the show works much better when viewed as a whole work and not broken down into single episodes or multiple volumes – and the inclusion of the OVA definitely helps a lot as well, and I “enjoyed” it more this time around with a bit of foreknowledge about it. I do think of it as a must-see show simply because it does things in a way most shows are afraid to do, especially for television. But it’s not one that I think can be watched often.
Japanese DTS-HD MA 5.1 Language, English DTS-HD MA 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Production Sketches, Character Sketches, Clean Opening, Clean Closing
Content Grade: B+
Audio Grade: A-
Video Grade: A
Packaging Grade: B+
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B-
Released By: ADV Films
Release Date: September 3rd, 2013
Running Time: 350 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.