Full Series Review: 'Elfen Lied'

Updated on March 12, 2018
RachaelLefler profile image

I've studied anime, manga, and Japan for over a decade. My favorite anime/manga are sci-fi and seinen (mature).

Intro and Summary:


Elfen Lied is probably infamous in the anime community because its opening scene is one of the most brutally violent scenes in any anime, ever. The show begins with Lucy, a little girl with telekinetic powers, breaking out of a lab that once confined her. She does this by killing many people with her powers. She's similar to Carrie in Carrie or Eleven in Stranger Things. But she kills way more people.

We later learn that Lucy is a being known as a diclonius. These things can kill people by controlling invisible arms called vectors. They look like humans, but have pink hair and eyes, pale skin, and small white horns on their foreheads.

Weirdly, shortly after breaking out of the lab, Lucy regresses to a child-like mental state. She forgets her own name, how to speak, and of course what happened. She is found on the beach by some kids, who just happen to be good old fashioned squicky, incestuous, cousins living alone together. No parents in sight! Thanks Japan!

So, these kids call her Nyu because that's all she says, and they take her in and she becomes sort of part of their family. But obviously, the Girl Cousin becomes jealous that Boy Cousin becomes fond of Nyu. Because the best kind of love triangle is one where the main rivalry is between a mentally disabled escaped lab-rat girl who may or may not be genetically programmed to destroy the human race and... the protagonist's Clingy Jealous Girl cousin!

Over time, other diclonii are discovered, some of which fight Nyu, and eventually of course, she gets back her Lucy self and memories. The Men in Black of course want to recapture or kill Nyu/Lucy and other diclonii. Technically speaking though, it's hard to really see them as that bad. Sure, diclonii are depicted in this as cute, innocent, naive little girls. But let's not beat around the bush: they're destructive. They kill people. They seem to have been created for the purpose of destroying the human race.


Elfen Lied
Source Material:
Manga by Lynn Okamoto
Horror, Psychological, Mature
Additional Material:


Hot garbage. There are lots of flaws with this anime. Here's my list, feel free to add anything I overlook or fail to mention in the comments:

- Setup without a payoff. The beginning of the show is glorious and powerful. Then Lucy becomes 'Nyu' for half the show, a cutesy, mentally-disabled (I'm not saying that as an insult, but the show romanticizes/sexualizes it without calling it what it is) baby-like girl that other people have to take care of. So, if you watch this and the beginning of the series draws you in, the middle third of it or so will just leave you disappointed and annoyed. Similarly, the gorgeous OP makes you think the show will be much better than it is.

- The faux symbolism and pretentiousness. The OP has operatic music that's quite beautiful over images that are based on a Gustav Klimt painting. So this show is intellectual and sophisticated? Don't make me laugh. And does it have anything to do with Germany or German culture? Nope!

- I'm particularly sensitive to this kind of thing in anime, but I thought the child nudity and incest in this was a little disgusting. I get cultural differences and all, but I can't make myself enjoy this if it just squicks me out.

- Tonal inconsistency. The show flashes back and forth between "oh look how cute the diclonius girl is being" to "omg no" over-the-top, bloody, graphic, horrifying violence. It's cloying when it's sweet and disturbing when it's violent, so there's not a lot of moments that I could consider good.

- The deuteragonist Nana, a diclonius, has a backstory that's incredibly depressing. This seems over-the-top and maybe a little cliché.

It's not ALL bad. What I like is that the show got me to care a lot about Lucy and Nana. I didn't always like them, but I felt bad for them. But that wasn't enough for me to say I would recommend the show to anyone. It's a confusing, inconsistent mess, that only sometimes hit the right notes to get me to actually care about the characters or plot.

Rating for Elfen Lied: 4/10

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