Elfen Lied

Okay, I’m gonna be 100% honest and level with you here. When I first watched this show, it was a very, very long time ago, around the time when I was first getting into anime—close to a whole fucking decade. I was a 13-year old, pre-pubescent fucking cringe master who praised this show purely because of how hard it tried to be edgy and dramatic, completely glossing over all of its flaws and basically just saying “much violence, such drama, wow”. For fuck’s sake, going back and looking at the pre-historical ancient relic that is my original anime list, the show was listed as the 5th in my top 5, to which I say “what the actual fuck was wrong with me”. If you’re curious, I don’t do top five or top ten lists at all anymore because I think it’s just a poor practice; most shows aren’t even remotely comparable to one another regardless of how good or bad they are, like how the fuck am I gonna definitively say Re:Zero is better than Samurai Champloo for example? But enough of that shit—I’m writing this review because I just recently rewatched Elfen Lied for the first time in almost 10 years, and it is not only one of the most boring experiences I have been subjected to in a very long time, but would be one of the worst shows I’ve seen in a long time if not for competition from shit like Domestic Girlfriend. Let’s talk about the basic premise; so there’s these mutated humans called the Diclonius with horns who can control invisible arms called vectors which come out of their backs and let them do a whole bunch of crazy shit. They’re super dangerous, so there’s this super-secret government research project which contains all of them and performs experiments on them to try and figure out the secret to their powers and shit. Lo and behold, our story begins when one day a Diclonius named Lucy escapes from her confines, breaks out of the aforementioned top-secret facility, but gets shot by a fucking anti-tank sniper rifle, somehow lives and then wakes up on a beach having reverted to childlike intelligence without any of her memories. She’s eventually discovered by this dude named Kouta and his cousin Yuka who take her in after finding out that police are searching for her, etc. Okay, first and foremost, let me get this out of the way; this show is So. Fucking. Slow. The pacing and extremely blatant intentional padding here is fucking laughable and utterly joyless to watch. Even after getting to the end it somehow still feels like absolutely fucking nothing happens. I thought the pacing of Bloom Into You was bad? This is a whole nother fucking level of slow. Worse still, despite intentionally padding out the show’s runtime by shoveling the same flashbacks down your throat over and over, the show still manages to end on one of the worst, most utterly nonsensical cliffhanger endings I have ever seen in my god damn life. That brings us to what is perhaps my primary point of contention—the “plot”. Nothing that happens in this show makes sense. Let me break down the story for you (all of the fucking interpersonal melodrama between characters entirely ignorant of what’s going on behind the scenes aside, we’ll get to that trust me). Basically, the Diclonius are capable of infecting other humans with a virus by touching them with their vectors, causing them or their partners to give birth to Diclonius offspring. Because of this, the government keeps them contained and kills most newborn Diclonius because they don’t want the general population to get infected with the virus or killed by the children who eventually awaken to their powers and start going fucking sicko mode or whatever. Bear with me here because this show does an absolutely terrible job of explaining what the fuck is happening and why; the guy in charge of the whole operation is apparently also a Diclonius and his whole fucking master plan is to use them—primarily Lucy who he refers to as the “queen” Diclonius—and harness their power in order to usher in a new era of mankind. Why? You fucking tell me, dude—every single character in this fucking show is completely one-note and defined by singular personality traits such as “this guy is evil” and “this guy is a walking male anime protagonist stereotype”. The Diclonius themselves don’t make any fucking sense. In its desperate failed attempt to be edgy and violent, the show tries to drive its plot into two entirely opposed directions, one of which being the idea that Diclonius are just normal people with invisible hands turned into murderers by their circumstances who have been unfairly persecuted, and the other being that they are killing machines who slaughter humanity with childlike joy and arbitrarily infect people with the virus who they don’t decide to kill for whatever reason without so much as a single rational thought to logic. We’re supposed to sympathize with Lucy’s hatred of humanity as she mercilessly slaughters dozens upon dozens of innocent people because, what, she got bullied as a kid and decided in response that humans didn’t deserve to live, and now carries that grudge with her into adulthood? It’s implied that either her having a mental breakdown or the mental influence of being a Diclonius in-and-of itself drives her to just say fuck it and go on this relentless murder spree; so much for this show’s entire theme of humanity unwittingly making monsters out of the mutants they’re mistreating. In fact, it’s so poorly written that I would argue this world’s treatment of the Diclonius is entirely justified. Speaking of Lucy’s past (which we’re shown in excruciating detail multiple times in the most boring expository way imaginable), let’s talk about something this show is full of—shock value. Now, I don’t take an issue with a story exploring very mature themes or showing really gruesome imagery, but Elfen Lied does this purely for the sake of shocking the audience in order to substitute for its incredibly poor writing and awful dialogue. The vast majority of what we are shown is gratuitous and entirely unnecessary for the sake of the story, and many times plot devices are shoveled into the show purely for the sake of showing the audience extremely disturbing and uncomfortable imagery—but that’s not even the half of it. No, the real problem I take serious issue with is this show’s extremely blatant outright sexualization of kids. 14 year old girl? Yeah, let’s just casually force her into some completely pointless fanservice scenes in which we show full-frontal nudity (as this show often does). Fuck, that’s not even the worst of it—the aforementioned flashback scenes with Lucy show her completely nude as well, and she’s way younger at that point. Entire plot beats are created and themes discussed specifically for the purpose of showing us these scenes, which are completely irrelevant to the main story and serve to do nothing more than waste time in the worst way possible. Even putting aside the pedophilic shit on display here, there is simply way too much terrible fanservice. Any time this show tries to deviate from being edgy and melodramatic to get a laugh out of you or show a bunch of generic ecchi anime garbage, it fails miserably and would probably completely pull you out if the show could somehow manage to suck you in. In terms of violence, one of the primary issues with Elfen Lied is that it makes an attempt to have its story be extremely character driven. It should be pretty obvious why this fails; every single character is a fucking cardboard cut-out, and the show progresses so god-damn slowly I would feel more rewarded grinding main quests in Final Fantasy 14. So in the absence of strong characterization or good writing, violence is all that the show has. Its merit is substantiated entirely upon how grimdark and gruesome it tries to be, except that the action is sparse and entirely lacking because of the show’s misguided attempt at storytelling. Honestly, it’s a bit of a stretch to call what the writers and other creative masterminds behind Elfen Lied have done here “misguided”. No, this show is in many ways insidious and entirely purposeful in its terrible dialogue, its themes and the whole fucking romance subplot happening in the background. Boy oh boy, the romance subplot… you wanna know why this show feels like it lasts for 50 fucking years? Well, maybe it’s because every waking hour of its runtime is spent retreading the same tired plot point of Yuka being jealous of every other fucking character who comes within a 2-meter radius of the protagonist, INCLUDING the 14 year old I mentioned prior (by the way, that 14-year old, Mayu, gets abused by her mother who is jealous of her stealing away her fucking pedophilic husband, that’s real I’m not kidding you I swear). This dead horse just keeps getting beaten over and over and over and over again with no resolution—there’s literally a part where it seems like Kouta and Yuka get together finally and you think that shit’s over with (reminder that they’re cousins btw, what the fuck), but then almost immediately afterwards it’s back to the same bullshit because apparently these idiots have completely forgotten what just happened 2 seconds earlier! Holy fucking God, the amount of times people immediately forget or gloss over extremely important shit in this show for the sake of plot convenience and padding its fucking runtime is utterly embarrassing and painful to witness, I wanted to stab my eyes with serrated forks every single god damn time it happened because that would probably be a more pleasant and ultimately distracting experience by comparison—this shit is the literal definition of “selective hearing”. So the entire romance subplot between the male protagonist and his cousin is beaten to death all the way till the show’s end with no resolution, then we learn that the whole time Lucy was actually childhood friends with the male protagonist—because, you know, plot has to plot no matter how convenient and contrived that plot may be (before I forget by the way, during the scene where Kouta and Yuka are supposed to get together, Yuka literally says, verbatim, that she wouldn’t mind being his property. Again, what the fuck). Following this, what feels like 24 whole hours during which the same song plays on a constant twenty second loop are dedicated to showing us her tragic past which culminates in her finding out that Kouta lied to her about his cousin being a boy, so in response she decides all of humanity deserves to die in one of the most ridiculous logic leaps of all time, then decides to track Kouta down and kill his entire family in front of him for revenge but leaves him alive because, you know, what are friends for amirite? Kouta has a mental breakdown and conveniently forgets that all of this ever happened until the very end of the show when he witnesses Lucy slaughtering people. So finally we reach the point where the male protagonist remembers everything and is confronted with the killer responsible for the deaths of his father and sister, and what does he do? Try to exact vengeance? Run away in terror? No. They have a tearful reunion where they make up with eachother, kiss, and it’s happily ever after. I’m sorry, was I imagining the part where Lucy slaughtered Kouta’s entire family mercilessly for the most fucking petty reasons imaginable? You know what, fine; let’s say that by some miracle this man has truly made his peace with what Lucy did to his family. Are we ever shown that Lucy has grown as a character and come to realize that misanthropy and subsequent wanton murder is bad? Of course we aren’t; to the writers of Elfen Lied, character growth is a forbidden arcane magick beyond the understanding of mere mortal men, to say nothing of characterization in and of itself. Kouta is just like “Yeah I know you killed my family and hundreds of other innocent people without remorse and have no regrets to this day but we were friends when I was 5 so I love you”. The show makes constant attempts at incredibly forced and ridiculous melodramatic so-called “tearjerkers” which serve to do nothing more than make you groan in frustration; there’s this whole fucking subplot about how the chief of the secret government research project has a Diclonius kid who had a bomb implanted in her body when she was born to keep the chief subservient, and the show tries to do a sad moment where the guy is finally reunited with his kid and they both get blown up by the bomb. This is already stupid for numerous reasons, but the worst part is the whiplash—two seconds before the chief and his kid have their tearful reunion, the kid is casually killing people for fun and established as being this psychopathic violent battle freak with super powered vectors dabbing on the other Diclonius and telling them to come back in 10 years. It is literally impossible to feel bad for these two idiots when the kid’s father is the only human she doesn’t treat like a fucking plaything for no other reason than the fact that he’s her biological father. Every single scene in this dumpster fire of a show that tries to be sad falls flat on its fucking face. How about that fucking ending, though? Remember how I said the show ends on one of the worst cliffhangers I’ve ever seen in my fuckin’ lifetime? Basically, after Lucy and the MC get together, we’re shown Lucy going up against a bunch of soldiers, then we hard cut to the rest of the main cast all eating dinner together without her. It’s implied that she’s either dead or missing, the dog starts barking at someone waiting at the door, Kouta goes to check it out when all of a sudden the broken grandfather clock chimes and the show just ends. That is literally it. What the fuck was even the point? Never in my life have I seen such an obvious attempt to force people to read the source material and it is absolutely unacceptable for the show to end like this after intentionally and maliciously padding its runtime with hours upon hours of nothing. Going back to the whole shock value discussion for a moment, let’s talk about how the show tries to drive its point of humanity being evil home by showing us countless examples of bland villains with zero character other than “I am evil because fuck you, that’s why”. There are lots of shows and other narratives guilty of this; hell, look no further than Persona 5. And look, I like Persona 5 and I understand why they approach the story from the angle they do, but you cannot deny how over-the-top evil they depict many of the generic NPCs and main villains as being, it reminds me of videogamedunkey’s Yakuza 3 video where he says “So in this game every man, woman and child in Japan is a total asshole, so you have to fight them with a bicycle to gain respect on the streets”. In a game as silly as Yakuza this is fine and serves the important purpose of driving gameplay, but here in Elfen Lied it simply doesn’t work and amounts to nothing more than lazy writing. Even the show’s best character, Bando, is still extremely one-note and uninteresting, only managing to be somewhat endearing because he’s such an unashamed asshole and his whole character motive is to find Lucy and 1v1 her on Final Destination, it’s a welcome departure from the show’s ridiculous overarching plot. Honestly, there was missed potential here to have his character grow and actually be interesting, but we’ve already gone over this show’s aversion to forbidden magicks… I can’t even begin to explain to you just how much this show screws up. It is terrible on such a deep and fundamental level it is astounding it ever found its way onto the television screen. Honestly, off the top of my head there’s very little good here I can pick out. The art was decent for the time when the show was released, but hasn’t aged well and still has serious and easily noticeable hiccups. There’s even a part at the end where a whole fucking animation of Lucy jumping with her vectors is reused in extremely blatant fashion, to say nothing of how we’re shown the same god-damn flashbacks over and over in a horribly misguided attempt to drive home the show’s penultimate story beats. Remember how when I reviewed Squid Game, I praised the mature content for actually being relevant and the story for not shoving any particular theme or message down your throat, respecting you as a viewer and letting you connect the dots yourself? This is the complete and total opposite of that, so much so the contrast between the two is staggering. Everything Squid Game did right, this show does wrong. But I’m losing focus on trying to pick out good things in the show here—I guess I did mention Bando was kind-of okay, but still ultimately not a very good character. The violent scenes are animated decently but honestly still aren’t particularly impressive even by the standards of when Elfen Lied originally released. I alluded to the music being extremely repetitive earlier when talking about the flashback scenes, but it is at least decent in and of itself, just utilized poorly and lacking in variety; the motif here is good, but there are too many variations of it used too often and not enough original tracks on the soundtrack (also, Lucy humming the motif was fucking cringe, it’s barely even story relevant and doesn’t serve the purpose of humanizing her character that it’s supposed to—instead, it just makes her seem like a creepy fucking horror movie villain). This show is complete and utter dogshit and I urge you to stay away from it at all costs. Oh, and if all that wasn’t enough to convince you that this show sucks ass, there’s a scene from Lucy’s past where her bullies sadistically beat a dog to death, all for the sake of pure shock value—listen, I don’t care how edgy and grimdark you’re trying to be, there are lines you just don’t cross. Do not, I repeat do not waste your time on this fucking trash.

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