We’ve had some amazing anime in our HotSpot over the last couple of weeks, but while all the anime I’ve looked at have been “for adults” they haven’t been overly gory.
Now, it’s time for one of the grand daddies of anime gore, Elfen Lied. So if you’re squeamish, I suggest you stop reading.
As well as being notorious for how bloody it is, Elfen Lied is also a fantastic anime. It is shorter than the manga, though, so reading the manga after you’re done is definitely recommended.
The premise of Elfen Lied focuses on a newly mutated species called Diclonius. They look pretty much human, except for two horn like protrusions on their heads. The main difference, though, is not in their appearance. The Diclonius also possess invisible telekinetic arms called Vectors, which can turn people into mincemeat very fast indeed.
The main Diclonius of the series is Lucy, who sets the tone for the whole thing immediately in the first episode. For this, I’m going to recount some of my thoughts. When the anime opens, we’re in some kind of lab or facility, where they seem to have a pink haired woman imprisoned in some sort of device.
She wastes no time in trying to escape. In comes a character who bumbles about, and trips while carrying a tray of tea. “Oh”, I think to myself, “this is going to be the reoccurring clumsy character.”
And then… Lucy escapes, murders this woman’s colleagues, and then decapitates her.
The bloody massacre that takes place here immediately tells you what kind of experience you’re in for. This is an anime that isn’t afraid to show the realities of possessing such powers, as well as dealing with some pretty adult issues in its plot.
While trying to escape, though, Lucy is injured. This causes her to develop another personality, one who has trouble communicating and is very child-like: Nyu.
Nyu meets the other two main characters, Kohta and his cousin Yuka. Well, I say main characters, but that may be a bit generous. The focus of this anime is definitely on Lucy and the other Diclonius we eventually meet.
The main theme of the anime is definitely how humans treat each other based on difference, and much is made in the show of whether or not the Diclonius’ violence is inherent to them or just a result of the mistreatment they receive.
It also explores the inhumanity of ordinary people, with brutal, unforgiving detail. There is one Lucy flashback scene which I won’t spoil, but it definitely paints the humans as being very inhuman and Lucy as the victim. You can’t help but feel like you’ve been gutpunched, while simultaneously rooting for Lucy.
As I mentioned, the show is full of some very graphic violence, including torture, dismemberment and even rape. This is not an anime for anyone sensitive to these issues. Even though this anime came out in 2004, it still feels relevant, thanks to the harsh portrayals of the worst side of humanity.
That’s not to say the Diclonius are made out to be innocent, though. As I said before, one of main talking points of the series is whether or not Diclonius are “evil” or if their acts are the result of human mistreatment.
Some of the Diclonius want to wipe out humans and populate the planet with their own kind (as they can pass on their abilities), but the same argument could be made of humans, who want to either get rid of the Diclonius or use them for their own ends.
There are also some pretty dark romantic sub plots, especially with Kohta and Yuka. Even though they are related, there is a kind of “love story” sub plot going on with those two.
Sadly, because the anime and manga were running at the same time, the anime is only 13 episodes long and does tell a different story to that of the source material. So as I said before, if you enjoy the anime, definitely give the manga a read.
Overall, this is easily one of the most intelligent and adult anime available, and not just because of the violence. It deals with some pretty uncomfortable ideas and storylines with brilliant and unflinching writing, well written characters and an interesting world.
The animation quality has aged well despite the fact that it is over ten years old, and the English dub is executed surprisingly well for the time.
This is a must watch anime for sure, but as I said at the start: it’s not for the squeamish.
Elfen Lied is available to stream on Hulu.