I can’t decide if I’ve seen too much anime or if this is one of the most clichéd things I’ve ever seen. Maybe a bit of both.
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.
For this viewing, I took in the English dub, which is available in 5.1. The Japanese track was also given the 5.1 treatment, which is something I seem to be seeing a bit more often (though should be standard at this point). The audio was clear, and there was a nice balance among the tracks. There were no issues of distortion or drop-out. Dialogue stayed centered, but there was a nice amount of directionality with the sound effects.
Visually, this was a good anime too. I didn’t notice any technical issues with the transfer, and there were some really good visual effects, particularly during battles and with diclonius powers. There seemed to be a good amount of care put into the production of this anime, particularly considering it was a TV series and not a feature.
The three discs are contained in a single amaray case with center insert for two of the discs. The front cover has a shot of a nude Lucy with her hands in front in a prayer like pose, with Nana and Mariko standing over her shoulders, looking to the sides. The back of the case has a picture of all four human women (Miyu, Yuka, Arakawa, and Shirakawa) each standing in a similar pose, wearing similar dresses, and appearing to sing. There is also a series summary and the technical details. While the packaging is fairly basic, I do really like the design of this set. The pictures on each side do a nice job of playing up the duality of personas (particularly with Lucy’s split-personality) throughout the anime.
The menus are fairly basic, but easily navigable. The episodes are provided to the left of the screen with a character portrait on the right. Submenus for languages and extras are in the lower left. In a nice touch, the cursor is a hand, mimicking the diclonic powers of Lucy and everybody else. It’s easy to follow and use, and that’s what’s important.
This release has the standard clean version of the OP/ED, as well as a decent amount of production and character artwork. There’s nothing you’d want to check out more than once, but there’s some nice stuff to see here.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Originally released in 2004 in Japan, ADV brought this series over in 2006 and released it in a few different variations over the next few years before their folding. This release by Section23 Films includes the full TV series as well as the previously unreleased OAV. In all of its previous incarnations, I’ve been interested in seeing it, but have never had the chance, so I was glad to jump on it this time. Unfortunately, it did not live up to my hopes.
Kouta has come to Kanagawa Prefecture to live with his cousin Yuka and attend college. Kouta has not seen Yuka since they were children, but she still holds dear the memories of his last visit which have served to help develop true feelings for him. Unfortunately for her, Kouta does not seem to hold these same feelings, and he has a tendency to want to help out anybody in trouble. And, of course, that anybody is often cute, young girls who have a habit of hanging on him in ways that make Yuka jealous.
Kouta and Yuka find one such girl lying unconscious on the beach. There’s nothing particularly remarkable about her except that she has horns growing out of her head. When she comes to, she does not seem to have any memories, and the only thing she can say is ‘Nyu,’ which is what Kouta and Yuka decide to call her until they can find out more about her.
The problem, that they don’t realize, is that Nyu has a secret: Nyu is really a split-personality of a diclonius named Lucy. A diclonius is a human born with special powers that marks them apart, and often leads them to homicidal rages, and Lucy is no different. Trapped in a secret research facility for the majority of her life, she has just escaped and the personality of Nyu was created to hide her from her would-be captors. But as strange things begin to happen around him, and more girls with horns begin to show up, Kouta starts to learn that there is more to Nyu than meets the eye, and he will work his best to find out what it is. The problem is that in order to learn the truth, he will have to look within himself at memories and feelings he has long suppressed.
I thought the general concept of Elfen Lied was a solid one, and I felt that the split-personality of Lucy as a major plot-point had a lot of potential. Lucy’s two personalities are about as opposite as could be imagined: Nyu is a bubbly, overly-affectionate airhead, while Lucy is a brilliant sociopath whose method of anger management is mass murder, and there’s no clue as to when each personality might come out. It’s an interesting idea.
The rest of the pieces are in place too: super-secret research lab that (despite the presence of a serial murderer) acts as the real antagonist; shocking past for the protagonist; love triangle (and applicable romantic tension) between Kouta, Yuka, and Nyu; and a generally likeable cast of characters. Everything seems setup for at least an intriguing series, if not a great one.
The problem is that it comes off as very paint-by-numbers. While the cast is likeable, they are also fairly generic. There’s nothing about Kouta or Yuka that stand out in comparison to others in their position, a problem since they are two of the main characters, and the various members of the research lab are any members of a shadowy corporation from pretty much every anime ever.
The story itself is also pretty clichéd. Yuka’s constant jealousy over Kouta’s willingness to help others comes from every harem series; Nyu is basically a less subtle version of Chi (or any other “innocent” character); and the shadowy research lab has their mysterious and shadowy motives that really don’t make a whole lot of sense. The only real surprise for me was that Kouta does declare his love for Yuka; she seemed doomed to be the typical lovelorn cousin. Otherwise, the end result is a plot that does little to really grab attention.
All of this isn’t to say that Elfen Lied is actively bad—it’s not. It just isn’t particularly good either. It’s obvious that they were going for something really profound—Yuka and Kouta’s cementing of their relationship and Lucy’s final confrontation with Kouta stand out in my mind here—but everything around it is so bland that those points end up missing their marks. I am willing to accept that perhaps it would have had more impact had I seen it when it was first released in the US seven years ago, but at this point, I have just seen too much anime for it to have the effect it wants to have now.
Elfen Lied is a series that seems interesting on the surface but does not hold up on closer examination. It’s possible that it was really good when originally released, but it just does not hold up on initial viewing in 2013. If you like dark, psycho-mysteries, then you might find some enjoyment in Elfen Lied, and I certainly would not say that watching it was a complete waste of my time. I just would not go out of my way to watch it, either. Thumbs very firmly in the middle.
Japanese 5.1 Language, English 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Character Artwork, Production Artwork, Clean Opening Animation, Clean Closing Animation
Content Grade: C
Audio Grade: A-
Video Grade: A
Packaging Grade: A
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B+
Released By: Section23 Films
Release Date: September 3, 2013
Running Time: 350 minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p
Aspect Ratio: 16:9 anamorphic widescreen
Magnavox 37MF337B 37” LCD HDTV, Sony PS3 w/HDMI Connection, Durabrand HT3916 5.1 Surround Sound System