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"I have the impression that Hiyao Miyazaki's films (such as "Princess Mononoke") transcend what is typically referred to as anime, and I therefore plead guilty to being ignorant of the criteria by which anime is evaluated by its fan base. My first instinct has been to criticize the animation itself, which is often so stiff, choppy, and artistically bland that I cannot fully appreciate its plot, no matter how admirable. But having viewed "The Ghost in the Shell" and the "Elfen Lied" series, I have to admit that frames/second are not much of an issue when the artistry is well conceived and executed. It helps to have a compelling storyline, but anime is first and foremost a visual art, and unless it jumps at the eye in terms of quality artwork (including stylization and palette) and artistic direction, this form of animation, due to its lack of fluid motion, minimalistic approach to facial expression, and occasional still frames, just fails to engage me.
Since "Elfen Lied" succeeds on an artistic level, I found myself totally absorbed in the story, though it is almost certainly drawn out a bit more than is necessary. I enjoyed the occasional female nudity, which, by the way, is not very explicit in terms of detail. And as for the blood and gore, it wasn't realistic enough to be considered offensive (in fact, it was kind of artsy in a Quentin Tarantino kind of way).
"Elfen Lied" has a terrific soundtrack, and its theme song ("Ilium") is hauntingly beautiful. A female vocalist delivers the theme during the opening credits (which I let roll for all 13 episodes), but, within the film, the theme is also sung by a male choir, is included in the soundtrack as an instrumental, is played on a music box, and is hummed by male and female characters. And no, I never got tired of hearing it!
I know there is some debate as to the plausibility of the characters in terms of their behavior and interrelationships, and I have to admit that at times it was challenging for me to distinguish between certain characters whose appearance was similar, but I am giving this series 5 stars because the "art" of it works for me, because I love the soundtrack, because the plot is both interesting and well developed, and because I found the story elements, including the adult content, to be quite entertaining.
The Elfen Lied Vol. 1 Box Set (B000929V72) includes the "Vector One" DVD in a nice box that is intended to hold the remaining three vectors which must be ordered separately. Amazon's note about multiple discs does not apply, since only one DVD comes in the box (a cardboard filler occupies the empty space). The "Vector One" DVD is also available without the box, but if you plan to buy the entire series, and if you don't mind paying a little more, the box set is a nice way to go."
Antonio D. Paolucci | Beaver Falls, PA | 10/19/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"It's hard to write a review for Elfen Lied and make it sound good. It's violent, full of nudity, with a touch of what may end up becoming incest; but it just works. None of it is unneeded, as you'll see while you watch it. It all fits in with the story and the mind-set of the characters. Elfen Lied is, in the end, a well written anime, one I'd recommend to adult fans, especially if you liked Gantz, Blood, or Ninja Scroll. (Note that none of the episodes contain any graphic sex scenes, so this is not adult animation. Definately for those of you 17+, though.)"
Perfection at its Peak
Lord | 04/30/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Elfen Lied is without a doubt, one of the best anime to come out in 2004. The animation is top-notch. Character development is unparalleled. Each individual is distinctly unique and has well-established history, goals and morals. The soundtrack never fails to set the mood and the intro as well as the credits are impressive as well. However, what tops off this masterpiece is how the story keeps you on the edge of your seat down to the last second of episode 13. There is never a dull moment and the plot keeps rolling strongly without ever slowing down.
The basic premise for driving the plot is a race of highly-evolved, psychic humans called diclonius. The distinctive feature of these people are two, small, bony growths protruding from above the ears (the nature of the word "diclonius" comes from a dinosaur, which possessed two horns, hence, the "di" prefix). Their hidden power is the manipulation of matter with invisible arms.
The story starts off in a remote, island research facility where the most powerful diclonus, Lucy is being held captive. Mysteriously loosened from her bonds, she fights her way out of the building and succeeds in killing most of the security force (with extremely bloody results). Because the scientists experimenting with her race don't consider her to be a human, she is not clothed during this rampage. Unscathed, Lucy is nearing escape when she is not quite successful in deflecting a headshot from a .50 caliber rifle.
Senseless, lost and naked she wanders to a beach quite a distance away. It turns out that the wound from the bullet has activated a second personality within Lucy, which is devoid of anger and full of innocence. "Nyu," is the name of her alter ego. She is noticed a short time later by two cousins, Kouta and Yuka. While Yuka attempts to find this strange girl some clothes, Kouta is having terrible flashbacks from his childhood. Memories of a girl he once knew; possessing horns on her head.
While the plot does not escape from a weak male lead, which has been overused in the anime genre, there are more than enough strong points to make up for this. The most revolutionary part of Elfen Lied is the way it uses what would normally be called questionable or offensive material and then makes the characters and storyline stronger (as opposed to making the viewer look away or sickened). I've seen other anime, which can simply be described as soft-porn and devoid of story. Others promote random violence, once again, without any story to back it up. Elfen Lied does well where these have failed.
The major opponents of Elfen Lied cannot see or understand Lynn Okamoto's (the author) vision from beneath the gore and skin. Such people are too superficial to look deeper into her creation and appreciate the underlying gems, which all great stories possess.
I must also admit that this anime is not for the faint of heart. The blood and nudity makes for a strong R type rating, so children should be kept away. However, I'll stress again that these aspects of the plot do not detract, but instead add to the storyline. If you can handle these crucial moments, then this anime is definitely for anyone who wants to be touched by a story I can simply describe as spectacular.
The dynamic personality struggle between Lucy and Nyu is something which I will never forget. Her disposition constantly transforms from a temperamental psychopath to a cute and loveable child at just the right time to make you love her just barely more than you hate her. It is such perfection which makes me wish I could give Elfen Lied ten of five stars."
For Tragic Horror Fans
shoefly | 04/27/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Although this may appear to be a pure gore fest at first, there are some comically tragic undertones rarely found in story lines. Shocking in many more ways then the violence in this film, this anime will be loved by those who enjoy films that reflect a variety of emotions. I, myself could not stop watching the episodes until I reached the finale. Strangely mesmerizing, it is well worth watching. However, if you are one who does NOT like gore (especially severed body parts) or are offended by a naked cartoon female, this anime is not for you. ENJOY!!"
Thought provoking, disturbing series
thomas2240 | kumamoto, japan | 09/20/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"first of all, in response to a couple of the reviews, no, the american distributors did not omit any of the scenes in the show, it is completely unedited. the show itself is interesting and somewhat deep. it covers the topics of human evolution, the feelings of pain one has when he or she is alone and many other interesting, emotional, and controversial topics. yes, the show is extremely violent and has alot of nudity, but that doesn't necessarily detract from it. if you don't mind that sort of thing, then i would recommend this series for anybody but children."