Saturday, July 13, 2013

Anime Review: Elfen Lied

ELFEN LIED: Far from perfect, but a must-watch

The story of Elfen Lied (Elf Song) revolves around the Diclonius, a species of mutated homosapiens that are said to be the harbingers of man’s destruction. Due to this threat, they have been captured, isolated, and studied in scientific facilities. The show takes the perspective of Lucy, a Diclonius who escapes from the laboratories and acquires amnesia on the process. The main conflict arises as the scientific community prepares measures for her recapture.

The series opens up with a violence and nudity that completely signify that it is not for children. Even though these are the factors that make the anime enthusiast try the title out, they are actually not used in the story to attract the audience. In fact, Elfen Lied is one of those shows that really doesn’t care about its audience. It doesn’t settle for fan service and just tells the story it wants to tell. It just so happens that the plot really requires these rather sensitive themes.

Sure, the show is unique, and it makes it very refreshing to watch. There is nothing quite like it! However, uniqueness does not necessary translate to good storytelling. I find the pacing of the story to be really problematic, for it frequently fluctuates between slow and fast. Aside from that, there are too few threads to weave in the story. There is too little to hold on to, and so most of the time the show is actually boring despite its sensitive themes.

But there is a factor that makes up for these traits -- the story’s incorporation of matured concepts like social alienation and the value of humanity. What makes these concepts even more interesting is when the series starts to portray the humanity of the Diclonius, which is especially contrasted against the inhumanity of people. This is what really makes Elfen Lied a watchable series. It is just so interesting to see the characters develop, as they mingle with these concepts.

Speaking of characters, I find some of them to be well made -- Mayu who has been molested by her stepfather and the Diclonius Nana who sees the scientist Kurama as her father just to keep herself sane from all the torturous experiments, in particular. These characters are actually MOE archetypes, but not of the annoying kind. Their MOE tendencies are effective on making the viewer sympathetic. (As a personal opinion, Nana is the most interesting character of the series. She is just so human that I can’t help but be concerned of her development. She is easily the most relatable of them all).

But the series has its fair share of bland characters as well -- Kouta and Yuka; and you know that it’s bad when your main characters are the ones who are flat. Their flatness, however, is understandable. They seem to be just there to offer the viewer the main perspective of the show. But this doesn’t change the fact that their flatness contributes greatly to why the series is boring at times. If they have had more depth, the show could have been a lot more interesting.

I’m not saying that the show is not entertaining. It has its moments. There is just a lingering tendency in its depth to be overshadowed by the problematic pacing and bland characters. It’s a good thing that Mayu and Nana are there to offer their services as well made characters; and, the questions the show imposes are just too thought provoking that the word interesting is an understatement. Overall, I highly recommend this series despite its flaws. An anime enthusiast should watch this at least once, so he would know why it is enjoying a lot of attention from the anime community.

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