Elfen Lied is an R-rated complete 13 episode supernatural horror seinen anime, based on a manga of the same name created by Lynn Okamoto in 2002, directed by Mamoru Kanbe produced by studio Arms in 2004 and broadcasted in the summer of the same year.
From the very first second we’re confronted with mild nudity and excessive violence, as a captured girl in some sort of high security laboratory breaks out, wreaking havoc on her way without touching anything, harvesting metal and flesh without distinction.
With only some bandages that barely cover her and a helmet that covers he head, she gruesomely kills her way out of the facility, getting stricken on her way in the head not so violently as to kill her but enough to cause her a split personality situation.
Oblivious of her name, her origins and everything else with the taking over of her new persona, she wanders and ends up on the doorsteps of Kouta, a boy around her age living alone, who takes the nude unconscious girl on his doorsteps, gives her shelter, clothes and name: Lucy.
She has -at this point- the following two personas;
The tormented vengeful and full of hatred girl that escaped the facility with an obscure grudge against humanity inspired by years of torturing experiments, and Lucy, the innocent childlike harmless girl with childish behavior, no ability of speech and affection towards Kouta, basically a human pet.
Kouta, in the meanwhile, is majorly only knowing of childish Lucy, tries to find out her origins while she stays at his home.
It is brilliant how a slice of a life and a horror seinen could walk together thanks to the split personality factor as we see in Elfen Lied, using the best of both worlds, we’re one moment having fun with Lucy, Kouta and other characters in a festival or a dinner, the next we’re confronted with a gruesome fight where limbs are torn off and blood is shed everywhere without moving a single hand or leg.
As a measure of retrieval of Lucy, the facility sends a girl named Nana with apparently same ability, gradually, as they confront, the threat of Nana brings out the original vengeful persona within Lucy, and we learn they’re both Diclonius (a.k.a Diclonii), a genetically modified breed of humans possessing additional translucent long arms that are so fast, sharp and powerful as to cut and tear off the hardest materials as if it was butter, also dotted with cat-ear shaped bones sticking out of their heads.
As we delve further into the story we learn the past of Lucy, the motives of the facility breeding her kind and other events that start to connect and fill gaps in our understanding of the plot.
The 12 volume manga Elfen Lied was condensed into 13 episodes, 22-25 minutes each, with an exclusive alternate ending, because the anime was being produced while the manga had not been finished yet.
Many anime and manga fans would classify it as gore, but it doesn’t qualify as such even if it’s filled with violent and sexual explicit content.
It is also worthy of note that this anime could also be disturbing on an emotional level especially when we witness Lucy’s as well as other characters’ tragic and horrifying pasts.
The name Elfen Lied means literally “The Song of the Elves” in both German and Danish, which is a poem written by Eduard Mörike.
As of the opening, it is called Lilium, a hymnical-like track composed by Kayo Konishi and Yukio Kondo, performed by Kumiko Noma, with Latin lyrics based on verses from the Psalms, with visuals of art featuring Lucy being held and kissed by a man veiling her, the painting heavily inspired by and in the fashion of Gustav Klimt’s painting The Kiss.
Lilium is a powerful song that brings about emotions of sorrow, melancholy and eeriness and I just think it is outstandingly composed and performed, with an angelic vocal and instrumental almost out of this world.
The general theme song of the anime is the music box version of Lilium, the music box holding the key to Lucy’s past and long forgotten memories.
The opinions differ as tastes do, I’d personally recommend it, and it is short, exciting, and horrific in every sense of the word and a food for thought, binge-watching material for any person I might even say.