A harem series gone terribly, violently wrong.
What They Say
Imprisoned under tight military security, Lucy, a genetically-altered human known as a Diclonius, escapes her confines in a wave of bloody violence and brutality. Now lost, alone, and stricken with amnesia, she wanders into a kindly family that takes her under their care, oblivious to the latent destructive power that this innocent-looking girl harbors!
Elfen Lied retains the original audio tracks seen on the single volume releases and the previous collection. The show makes out quite well with a pair of 5.1 mixes encoded at 448kbps that do provide for some good directionality at times. 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 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. Elfen Lied is spread across three discs in a 5/4/4 format and each disc looks quite good, especially considering how much blue there is and dark colors for the skies and night time scenes. The reds are sometimes a problem for shows but they hold up quite well here with no noticeably serious blocking or noise. There’s some to be had in the backgrounds at times, again mostly with night time or dark scenes, but it’s very minimal even on larger setups. Colors are general sharp and vibrant where appropriate and backgrounds have a good look to them. The lack of cross coloration is a plus and there’s very little line noise during panning sequences as well.
Elfen Lied goes for the less is more approach here with a graet visual of Lucy set against a white background. Lucy herself is very striking with the color of her hair and the flow of blood along one side of her. It’s also made all the more stark as the helmet on her is cracked and falling apart as well as the bandages around her being stripped away. It’s serene yet speaks of violence. The back cover has more red to it with the flow of blood going down to the white but it also has a little bit to offset it as Nyu is there in a shirt looking al cute and innocent. The Lucy/Nyu angle is given more of a nod than I would have expected and the summary covers the simple premise of the show, though the black on red is a little difficult to read depending on the lighting. The episode count is given a good nod, though it feels like there should be more in here because of the thickness of the oversized keepcase. The rest of the cover has basic production information and a solid technical grid that lays it all clearly. No show related inserts are included nor is there a reversible cover.
The menus for this release are pretty barebones, which is to be expected overall. Each menu features a bit of a sketch outline of some of the characters in white set against darkened red obscure backgrounds while the navigation is overlaid on top of it. The navigation is standard for many ADV Films collections in that it has the episodes listed by number and then the submenu for the language selection. As there’s nothing on these discs but the show itself, they’re very minimal but easy to navigate and without a really strong sense of style to them. As is standard however, the discs all read our players’ language presets without issue.
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. With it being four years since we saw the series last, this new collection provided 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.
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.
But 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, though 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 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 5.1 Language, English 5.1 Language, English Subtitles
Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70" LCoS 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.