Along with GANTZ, Elfen Lied is touted as one of the most infamous anime series Japan has produced for a good few years. Harking back to the dark days when anime delighted in plentiful bloodshed, Elfen Lied is none the less built around a very contemporary cast of largely clueless teenagers living in an adult free house, utterly oblivious to what is transpiring around them.
The first 10 minutes of this show make a strong impression. We find ourselves inside some kind of research facility, following a totally naked girl (but for an ugly metal helmet) as she carelessly wanders through endless corridors. People try to stop her, some with guns, but they all end up being decapitated, dismembered, stabbed or just wiped over the walls. There is blood, and lots of it.
The red haired naked girl, who is called Lucy, has by now escaped from the science people and ends up diving off a cliff into the near-by sea. She washes up on a beach and is befriended by a couple of love-struck students; with her memory gone and a mind that has regressed into that of helpless toddler, a retarded Lucy can only say one word – “Nyu”, and so she is named by her new friends.
What follows then on is something that I can’t help but compare to the “Incredible Hulk”; the military try to get Nyu back, only to piss her off and awaken the monster within her- a very nasty Lucy. This happens a few times, with equally violent results- gouged eye balls and strangulation being but a few particular flavours.
Undoubtedly, you need a strong stomach to get through these four episodes of Elfen Lied. Besides the sheer volume of gore, there is an almost sadistic glee igniting the way these characters act- it may look cute, but do not be fooled into thinking this is one of those shows where the good guys win. There is no room for the weak in here and the creative staffs obviously love pushing familiar cliché to violent extremes- an example of which can be found in just the first episode.
We are introduced to a perky, clumsy young female who is nervous about her new job as a secretary- in other words, a typically harmless sitcom character. She makes a cup of coffee for her boss ever so carefully, but on her way back, she has the misfortune of running into Lucy and moments later, her head is being separated from the rest of her body. It smacks of shock tactics, but it worked anyway, I was snapped out of my comfort zone- such absurd, careless murder is both appalling and fascinating to the point of hilarity.
Beyond the visceral feast of gore, what else does Elfen Lied offer? Would you laugh if I suggested harem comedy? It’s no Love Hina, but by the time the fourth episode closes, our male lead Kohta is already living alone with three impressionable young women, all intent on attracting his affections. It has a fair old amount of fan service too- mainly coming from the innocent Nyu, who has a convenient tendency to run around naked; her child-like mind set adding a slightly unsettling, leery theme of sexual innuendo to an otherwise cold as ice story.
Elfen Lied #1 is animated exploitation, quite thrilling in execution but somewhat by the numbers with hindsight. You will be distracted by the violence, after all- who doesn’t enjoy seeing a man have his beating heart ripped from his body, but I am at a loss to highlight anything else as outstanding about Elfen Lied. There is a humorous harem comedy building underneath the ever growing pile of severed arms and legs but truthfully, it’s all about the gore.