Reviews, Top Tens, and more! Posts every Monday and Friday at 8:00 AM PST. Follow me on my social medias for updates and other random nonsense.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Anime Hajime Review: Elfen Lied

***Warning, the following may contain spoilers for Elfen Lied. Reader discretion is advised.***

Series Synopsis

Escaping from a top-secret island facility, something dangerous is now at large. Possessing unparalleled telekinetic powers, even the most well equipped armies stands little chance. Her name is Lucy (voiced by Sanae Kobayashi).

Lucy is injured during her escape and washes ashore with neither the ability to speak nor her memories. She's discovered by cousins Kouta and Yuka (voiced by Chihiro Suzuki and Mamiko Noto). Unsure of what to do, Kouta and Yuka take the mysterious girl back to their place. They decide to refer to their guest as Nue who couldn't be any more of a sweetheart.

Though it wasn’t what they were expecting, the sudden family of three hope to live a peaceful existence. Little do Kouta and Yuka realize, they brought home a ticking time bomb. Though Nue may be kind and friendly, Lucy is not.

No matter how brief it may be, whenever Lucy resurfaces, many people end up dead.

As the days continue, nightmares of the past threaten to repeat themselves. These peaceful times will instead be plagued with tragedy.

Series Positives

Well this is interesting. My opinion of Mirai Nikki changed after the re-watch. It improved. Though my issues with it remain, I have a much better outlook on the show. Something similar happened with Elfen Lied.

Like Mirai Nikki, Elfen Lied made my top horror anime. Also like Mirai Nikki, re-watching Elfen Lied justified its inclusion on that list. For all the reasons I gave too. If you don’t know what those reasons were, I’ll be going into much greater detail here.

Elfen Lied was indeed an fascinating experience a second time. But a few details must have been forgotten. For everything this show did right, it did something else that was questionable.

While that might be the case, it’s important to remember. What Elfen Lied did right, it did amazing.

Lucy’ Story

If this show can claim credit for anything, it knew how to tell backstory. There’s more to it than that. But we’ll get there in a moment. For now, I want to focus on Lucy’s story.

Lucy was a murderer. We won't pretend she wasn’t. She killed enough innocent people to label her as such. I can’t, and won’t defend her actions. And neither did she. Here was a character who knew they had no right to forgiveness. Thus, she never asked for it.

Though I can’t excuse the things she did, I can understand why she did them. Or at least why she started. After being treated like a monster from a young age, that was what she became. I don’t believe this was something she wanted. Instead, it was something she was forced to do.

Lucy got dealt a real s@#$ hand. It was so bad, it was a miracle she didn’t snap sooner. And what it took for to lose it would’ve broken anybody. She did a pretty good job laying waste to her orphanage. Considering what those little brats did to trigger her, I’d say they had it coming.

Quick aside, I always respect stories like Elfen Lied which treat kids equal to adults. Just because you’re ten little Timmy doesn’t mean your head is immune from exploding.

Getting back on topic, I suppose the real question is this. Was Lucy evil? Short fused would be a better description. Granted, she had the ability to rip a person in half. But you still needed to piss her off for her to do that. Usually. As proof, we only need look at Nue.

Nue and Lucy were the same person. For Nue to even exist, there had to be a part of Lucy that wasn’t filled with anger and hate. Was Nue the person Lucy would’ve become had she had the chance to live a normal life? I doubt it. Yet, Nue was a glimpse into a childhood that never got to happen.

This dilemma within Lucy was what made her a great character. You felt sorry for her as much as you feared her. She wasn’t void of good intentions. But she also was susceptible to a power high. There was little anyone could do to stop her. She took advantage of that. Lucy wasn’t a blameless. Yet she was tragic as well.

That tragedy played out several times in this show with other characters. Except it was Lucy’s circumstances which held the most power. They were a driver. They were a mover. There was a point to the cruelty. It wasn’t around just to exist. Because of that, there was something to attach to. This distinction will become important in a moment.

Plus, the night and day difference in personality added a lot to the fear factor. Knowing that sweet, innocent Nue could turn into Lucy at any moment was always unnerving. And here was where the show managed to make its mark.

The Violence

Violence, gore, blood, these are all enhancers. They are tools used to create atmosphere. Like any tool, if used wrong, nothing’s going to get built. Elfen Lied is graphic. Please be aware of that. Also know that it served a purpose.

The amount of blood, the amount of death wasn’t what was important. Heads ripped off. Bodies sliced in half. The magnitude of the killings wasn’t what made this show unnerving. The suddenness of them did that.

I’ve never seen so many mid-sentence deaths before. There was never any warning. Visual or musical cues were rare. One second a character was. The next they weren't. This combination of instant deaths and brutal deaths made me put Elfen Lied in my top horror anime.

These moments were throughout. You always knew something was going to happen. But couldn’t tell when. There are so many moments I can about. But there’s only one I must talk about.

Lucy’s escape from the facility.

You could not ask for a more impactful opening. There was no grace period. You start the show, people die. In these beginning minutes, everything was laid bare. You saw everything you needed to know.

Lucy was unstoppable. If she wanted someone dead, they were dead. Those who survived this scene, she let survive. Whether as a message or who knows. It didn’t matter who you were. Everyone was fair game. 

Amongst this carnage, there’s one part that gets to me every time.

This isn't much of a spoiler for several reasons. One, this character wasn't important. Two, they didn’t live long enough to be important. And three, again, this was in the first ten minutes.

As Lucy made her way through the facility, we kept cutting to this one character. A young woman who appeared to be a secretary or an assistant. She was your typical klutz. She meant well, but was easy to startle. The show was setting her up to be the comic relief. And sure enough, she did all the things you'd expect this type of character to do.

As all hell broke loose, she remained unaware of any of it. Lucy was standing before a wall of guns and personnel. Then assistant girl came in, tripped, fell, and made a huge scene. Right between Lucy and the soldiers. In a typical airhead way, the girl had no idea what was happening. She looked up at Lucy. And dead.

No fan fair. No hesitation. Just dead.

I don’t know what it is. But this instant gets to me. There was no safe role in Elfen Lied. There wasn't anything protecting a character. If and why someone died or if and why someone lived was random. That randomness was this show’s biggest advantage. The blood and gore only made that much stronger.

Series Negatives

Where to start, where to start?

There are two quick things I want to mention.

The first is the ending. It was ambiguous and open. And I don’t know why. Making it worse, it felt tacked on as well. There was an already serviceable open-ended question before this. It was a lot stronger and had much more of an impact. This last second mysterious shadow nonsense kind of ruined in.

The second thing got to the point where it ended up being f@#$ing hilarious. All the scientist in this show were God damn morons. They had a tendency to forget who they were dealing with. On more than one occasion, Lucy and others like her had their powers rendered useless. So, for a brief moment, they weren’t dangerous.

Did it never occur to these scientists to restrain these girls while they had the chance? I mean, it wasn't as if they had been studying them for years and years. Instead, they left these very dangerous people unattended and were shocked when they did what they did best. Murder.

That's a special kind of stupid.

The ending has always bothered me. And I’m serious when I say the latter of these problems became a joke near the end. Yet there was something else from this second viewing. Something I don’t remember noticing the first time around.

Misguided Backstory

Like I said, Elfen Lied knew how to give backstory.

The vast majority of people in this show had some kind of tragic past. Some, like Lucy’s, meant a lot. The cruelty of these prior events helped shaped what was happening in the show. They felt important. That wasn’t the case for all them, though.

There were two characters who I can only describe as misguided.

The first was Bando (voiced by Joji Nakata). This guy can go f@#$ himself. What an obnoxious ass hole. He was just a random violent person who did nothing for this show. He served only as a pin cushion for Lucy. As satisfying as that was, it would have been much better had he not been around in the first place. He never progressed the story. He was never an obstacle.

Everything that happened was independent of his actions. Anything he did do that was arguably helpful could’ve been done by others. Others who were much more necessary to the story.

The short answer is, I did not like Bando. He was a flaw to this series. The second character wasn’t, but she had a similar problem.

Mayu (voiced by Emiko Hagiwara) was a sweetheart and did have a role to play. Okay, that's me being nice. She was as unnecessary as Bando. But I liked Mayu and that’s what matters. Her backstory, though, I have a problem with. There was no reason to have it as dark as it was.

The tragedy of Lucy’s past served the story. What happened to Mayu isn’t taboo for a narrative to do. It no doubt added a horrific layer to her character. Except, besides that, it did nothing. It was never brought up by any of the other characters. We only learned of it through flashback. It didn’t fill any type of role. So, why do it at all?

Having a character go through what Mayu went through just for the sake of doing it misses the point. This didn't create a foundation for later development. It was shock value, nothing more. Elfen Lied is the last show that needs that kind of boost.

What these characters did was take time away from more pressing matters. Had both Bando and Mayu not been here, nothing would’ve changed. Many of the events in the show would’ve still happened. Or how they ended up happening would’ve altered slightly.

In their place, the series could’ve focused on more key elements. We could’ve spent more time learning about Lucy’s time in the facility. We could’ve seen what Kouta had done after he lost his family. Other essential characters could’ve had more development.

This held Elfen Lied back. And it’s why I’m not as gung-ho about this show as I once was.

Final Thoughts

Despite coming away with a less positive opinion, Elfen Lied was still a great show to return to.

This was a series that knew how to turn the dark and disturbing into something quite unnerving. Elfen Lied isn’t the type of show you watch for a good time. Going into it, you have to be aware that this isn't for the faint of heart. As I said earlier, this is one of the most graphic anime I’ve come across. But it’s purposeful use of this type of violence is what made it so special.

Warnings aside, Elfen Lied is one you check out.

                Google+                          Facebook                           Twitter

No comments:

Post a Comment