ADV Films // 2004 // 100 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Mitchell Hattaway (Retired) // June 9th, 2005
Idle hands are the devil's plaything.
Elfen Lied is the story of teenage cousins and their schizophrenic mutant friend. Sounds fun, huh? In fact, it is pretty fun. It's also incredibly violent, packed to the gills with female nudity, and borderline misogynistic. If you're so inclined, it's just what the doctor ordered.
Here's a little bit of background: On a small island somewhere off the Japanese coast, a group of Diclonius are being kept in an underground lab/bunker. Diclonius are humanoid mutants; their mutant traits include small horns sticking out of their skulls and telepathically manipulated phantom arms (known as vectors) with a reach of at least two meters. Being trapped inside all these years (not to mention being poked and prodded by scientists on a daily basis) has left the Diclonius with serious mental health issues (homicidal tendencies being the most troubling). The government has taken every precaution to keep the Diclonius from leaving the island, but...well, you can probably guess what happens.
ADV's first volume of episodes from this series contains four installments. Here's a rundown of each:
* Episode 1: "A Chance Encounter"
A Diclonius named Lucy breaks free from her restraints, bypasses the lab's security measures, slaughters a gaggle of guards, and escapes from the island. Meanwhile, Kohta, an orphaned high-school student, is going to live with his cousin Yuka and her family. After meeting his cousin at the train station, Kohta and Yuka see Lucy walk out of the ocean. Despite the fact that she has horns, is bleeding from the impact of an anti-tank round to the head, can't understand a word they're saying, just freaking walked out of the ocean, and is completely naked, Kohta and Yuka take Lucy home. Yuka shows Kohta where he will be living -- an old restaurant he will maintain in lieu of paying room and board.
* Episode 2: "Annihilation"
Chief Kurama, the onsite head of the Diclonius Project, chooses a soldier named Bandoh to head a strike team charged with tracking down and killing Lucy. Bandoh, a psychotic, misogynistic (there's that word again) misanthrope, jumps at the opportunity. He and one of his men find Lucy and Kohta standing on the shore where they first met. The soldiers incapacitate Kohta and capture Lucy. Bandoh then begins assaulting the young mutant, a move he quickly comes to regret, as the psychopathic half of Lucy's persona soon comes to the fore. Kohta later comes to in a hospital. Two policemen arrive and tell him to forget everything he thought he saw.
* Episode 3: "Deep Feelings"
Chief Kurama, after realizing it takes a Firefox to bring down a Firefox, decides to send another Diclonius out to capture Lucy. He chooses a young girl named Nana; Nana believes Kurama is her father, so she will do anything for him. Kurama tells her Lucy has caused him a great deal of anguish and trouble, so Nana agrees to hunt down the other mutant. Kohta becomes ill (too much time spent out in the rain), so Yuka comes by to take care of him; she also says she plans to move in with him. Kohta had dropped his umbrella during the altercation with Bandoh, and a young girl named Mayu finds it and returns it to the restaurant.
* Episode 4: "Attack"
Nana discovers Lucy in a cemetery. She orders Lucy to come with her, but, of course, Lucy ignores the order. The two then begin fighting. Mayu is nearby, hears the battle, and rushes into the fray. The young girl attempts to stop the mutants, but Lucy knocks her away. Nana is distracted by the appearance of the young girl, which presents Lucy with the opportunity to take down her opponent. Chief Kurama and a squad of soldiers arrive, and Lucy quickly flees. Yuka begins to suspect that Mayu is a runaway; she decides to ask Kohta if the young girl can stay with them.
I don't normally go for shows like Elfen Lied; I'm not a big fan of pointlessly gratuitous violence, and cartoon nudity isn't my bag, either, but for some reason this one works for me. I'd probably be hard-pressed to defend the show on an artistic level, but it is rather stylishly done. And while at times the plot's treatment of some of its female characters seems ready to cross the line, a course correction is usually right around the corner. For example, when we first meet Bandoh, he cold cocks his female assistant simply because she interrupts him; later on, following his encounter with Lucy, Bandoh (who is now limbless and blind) is told he will have to be castrated. Seems Lucy, in an effort to create more of her kind, used her vectors to taint his seed with Diclonius DNA, so it wouldn't be a good idea to let him procreate. I was also pleased by the distinct lack of annoyingly goofy, stupid characters. Imagine that -- a cast populated primarily by kids, but not a needlessly immature idiot in sight. In fact, the one bubbly, bumbling character is dispatched in the first five minutes (Lucy uses her vectors to remove the young woman's head). Gotta love that.
ADV's transfer is darn near stunning; it's bold and bright and really pops. Both audio options do the job nicely. While neither is as immersive or punchy as I was hoping, they do really cut loose when the action starts. (Just so you'll know -- some of the voice acting in the dub made my ears bleed. Don't say I didn't warn you.) Extras include clean opening/closing animation, production art for the show's characters and settings, a preview for the second volume in this series, and previews for other ADV releases.
I quite enjoyed Elfen Lied, and I'm looking forward to the rest of the series. Give it a shot.
Review content copyright © 2005 Mitchell Hattaway; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: ADV Films
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Japanese)
Running Time: 100 Minutes
Release Year: 2004
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Clean Opening/Closing Animation
* Character Artwork
* Production Artwork
* Volume 2 Preview
* Anime News Network Page
* Official Site