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A Review of the Anime Elfen Lied

Jennifer Wilber works as an ESL instructor, substitute teacher, and freelance writer. She holds a B.A. in Creative Writing and English.

A review of the anime series Elfen Lied.

A review of the anime series Elfen Lied.

What is Elfen Lied About?

Though many reviews of the anime series Elfen Lied on the Internet criticize the series as being little more than senseless violence and nudity for the sake of shock value, I have found that there is much more to this series than the surface level shock content. Elfen Lied is an excellent anime series about the darker, and often inhumane and inhuman, side of humanity.

Elfen Lied is a short anime series about a race of mutants, called Diclonii. Diclonii, as a species, are highly motivated to kill human beings and destroy all of mankind in order to create a new world for their own species. Diclonii are mutated humans who are born to humans who have been infected by a Diclonius. The main physical differences between Diclonii and humans are that Diclonii have two horn-like protrusions coming out of their heads, as well as invisible “arms” called vectors, which they can use to manipulate objects around them. Diclonii often use their vectors to kill their human victims.

Lucy is a complex character with a tragic past.

Lucy is a complex character with a tragic past.

Elfen Lied Trailer

Themes Explored in Elfen Lied

The main plot of Elfen Lied centers around Lucy, a Diclonius who escapes from a research facility and develops a split personality as a result of being shot in the head as she made her escape. The first episode is filled with gratuitous violence and female nudity, but as the series progresses, the plot goes much deeper than this.

Elfen Lied explores deep themes including social isolation, alienation, identity, prejudice, emotional and physical abuse, jealousy, revenge, regret, and the value of life. This anime is only suitable for mature audiences.

Though Elfen Lied seems like a show centered around senseless violence, the violent content is a main part of the overall message of this anime. There are reasons why Lucy behaves as violently as she does, beyond the simple fact that she was born a Diclonius. It is easy to think that Lucy is violent simply because of her nature as a Diclonius, but as the series progresses and we learn more about her past and what she experienced as a child, her violent behavior begins to make more sense. Though Lucy is portrayed as an unfeeling monster initially, the viewer quickly begins to sympathize with her.

As the series progresses, the viewer is forced to wonder if it is really the Diclonii who are monsters, or if the real monsters are the humans who treat the Diclonii as subhuman. The horrible things that Lucy had endured in her past likely plays a greater role in what she has become than any natural Diclonius instincts. The series offers great commentary on how childhood experiences and trauma shape the person we become. Does Lucy behave the way she does because of her nature as a Diclonius, or because of the lack of nurturing she received as a child?

Lucy/Nyu and Yuka.

Lucy/Nyu and Yuka.

Fanservice

Like many anime series, this series does contain quite a bit of fanservice in the form of female nudity. Lucy and the other Diclonii are frequently shown nude while being experimented on in the research facility. The nudity in this show is not overtly sexual, however. It is more to show how the Diclonii are treated as something less than human, and more like animals, by the researchers.

Lucy/Nyu and Kouta.

Lucy/Nyu and Kouta.

Romantic Subplot

While Elfen Lied is not a romantic anime, it does contain some romantic elements. The romantic subplots center mostly around jealousy and heartache. Some of the romantic scenes are integral to the plot, whereas others are simply for comedic effect. There are hints of romantic interest between certain characters in this series.

Lucy had reasons for behaving the way she did.

Lucy had reasons for behaving the way she did.

Trigger Warnings

Some viewers may find certain parts of this anime to be disturbing, due to the violence and other difficult themes explored.

The most disturbing scene, in my opinion, happens near the end of episode 8. Viewers sensitive to themes of animal abuse may need to be warned about this scene before watching this episode (this scene is important to understanding Lucy’s character, so I won’t give away any spoilers).

Episode 5 may also be triggering to viewers who are sensitive to themes of sexual abuse. This episode involves a flashback showing the character’s Mayu’s past.

If you are triggered by topics including bullying, emotional, sexual, or physical abuse, general violence, etc, this might not be the best anime series for you. This isn’t the type of anime that you would want to show to young children.

The cover of the first volume of the Elfen Lied manga.

The cover of the first volume of the Elfen Lied manga.

The Elfen Lied Manga

This anime is based on a manga series, though the manga hasn't been officially translated into English. There are fan translations out there, however, if you wish to read the manga, but can’t read Japanese.

The manga does differ from the anime, especially at the end, as the anime only covers about half of the manga. The manga goes deeper into the story, so it helps to clarify some aspects of the anime that weren't explained in-depth. If you liked the anime, you will likely enjoy the manga as well.

The 2017 Blu-ray of Elfen Lied.

The 2017 Blu-ray of Elfen Lied.

Formats Available

Elfen Lied is available on DVD and Blu-ray. I highly recommend the 2017 Blu-ray edition of Elfen Lied. This Blu-ray includes both the dubbed and subbed versions. In addition to the 13-episode series, this Blu-ray also includes the OVA episode. I strongly prefer this Blu-ray edition over previous DVD releases of this series.

There are older DVD releases that do not include the OVA episode. You may also be able to watch Elfen Lied online. I prefer the Blu-ray for the higher quality picture and extra OVA episode. This series is worth watching both in its subtitled and English dubbed versions.

A promotional poster for Elfen Lied.

A promotional poster for Elfen Lied.

Elfen Lied is One of the Best Anime Series

This is an amazing series overall and I recommend it to any anime fan who isn't overly sensitive to graphic imagery. While this series definitely isn’t for everyone, it explores dark and complex themes about humanity. Though there are overly violent and “fanservicey” elements, this show explores many deep themes and makes you think. I highly recommend this series.

© 2018 Jennifer Wilber

Comments

ugly on April 02, 2020:

I cried so hard while watching this anime and I don't know why. This is one of the best anime series I've ever watched.

Louise Powles from Norfolk, England on July 24, 2018:

This sounds interesting. I've never really watched any Anime before, but know it's very popular.