Elfen Lied -- Vector One Review
Much like its central character, Elfen Lied is a show that exhibits a split personality, with these initial four episodes featuring equal amounts of action, bloodshed and violence as they do romantic, teen drama elements. Following the artistic title sequence which merges tasteful nude paintings of the central female figure with an operatic theme song, we are thrown into the midst of a devastating prison break in which a young girl breaks free of her experimental constraints and casually walks out of the facility holding her. Only referred to as Lucy, her voluptuous figure and the carnage she mercilessly delivers to her pursuers are all we can concentrate on, with her masked face and cold nature hiding any expression as she utilises 'vectors' in the space around her body to twist and contort anything she comes into contact with. The tortured screams of her victims as they lose life and limb (quite literally, only not in that order) never particularly haunt the viewer, as we presume that in some respect she is a victim, but then she destroys the life of an innocent character who stumbles into her path, only to later use her dismembered body as a human shield. Combined with a brief aside which suggests the character I refer to would have been a recurring and central figure, this single act both defines the nature and capability of Lucy while also letting the viewer know anything goes when it comes to the direction Elfen Lied will take.
Washing up on a beach after sustaining an injury and losing her mask during the escape, Lucy inadvertently stumbles upon Kohta and Yuka, cousins reunited after eight years as Kohta returns to attend college in the same town as Yuka. Revealing a cute, innocent face with wide-eyes and pouting cheeks the pink-haired girl that walks dripping wet and naked into their lives may inhabit the same body as the deadly killer we witnessed earlier, but this is not the same girl. Exhibiting child-like mannerisms and a coy innocence around the dumbfounded Kohta, the only word she utters is "Nyu", which soon becomes her name as the kind-hearted Yuka suggests Kohta put the girl up at his new spacious residence while they try and find out who she is. And it is here where the romantic teen elements come into play, with Nyu's tendency to walk around with very little on showing absolutely no signs of embarrassment around Kohta leading to many familiar comedy situations, while Yuka's own feelings for Kohta are lost on him as he concentrates on the increasingly suspicious events that take place after their meeting with Nyu. The frequent references in the script to the large house Kohta has taken residency in immediately suggests he'll be living with both Nyu and Yuka by the end of this volume, and then when another young girl in need comes into the mix it's hardly a surprise this eighteen year old stud is living with three young ladies before the credits on episode four roll.
Somewhat rare in a television series is how the events in these four episodes take place over the course of just two days, with the episodes following directly on from one another giving an increased sense of time and the overwhelming events that take place in the lives of the unsuspecting Kohta and Yuka. In this time Kohta witnesses soldiers kidnapping Nyu in what we know to be a seek and destroy mission, before they hospitalise him and force Nyu's darker personality to re-emerge in order that she may defend herself. This in turn develops the split personality concept, as the cold ruthless killer we saw breaking out of an unspecified facility in the opening episode never appears to be completely in control, with the sweet Nyu fighting for dominance within a shell that is capable of some overwhelming feats of violence. The story development outside of the central trio lets us in on the facility where Lucy was being held, as we learn of what she is and exactly what she is capable of, before meeting another of her kind who is later sent to find Lucy so her pursuers may capture her again. But like many of the aspects of this series, what could just have been a setup for a visually exciting fight between two beings of equal power is something more, as the girl we are introduced to and her background and relationship with the man overseeing the operation, reveals a tragic relationship making the action which later plays out genuinely more affecting.
With a case design that is sure to turn a few heads in stores the cover artwork receives a thumbs up from me, showing the two sides of Nyu/Lucy as she sheds the mask covering her face in the opening minutes of episode one. The inside cover reveals a text interview with executive director Mamoru Kanbe, and comes with a spoiler warning, as it does reveal a little too much about who lives and dies in the series.
A very recent production Elfen Lied looks and sounds quite stunning on DVD, with the four episodes found on this volume presented in crisp anamorphic widescreen with a choice of Japanese and English Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround audio accompaniment. The video presentation reproduces the bold use of colour and liberal splashing of red with ease, while detail is very high throughout leaving only some minor macro-blocking and the common presence of banding on a digital production to let the side down slightly.
The audio options are fantastic with absolutely no complaints to be made. Viewing a series that makes active use of the 5.1 sound stage is always a joy and Elfen Lied does so with a frequency that cannot be denied. Optional English subtitles use a yellow font and are well timed, with little to no errors that I recall.
In terms of extras you’ll find the obligatory clean opening and closing animations, alongside character and production artwork galleries which run a few minutes each and are set to the series original soundtrack. All are well presented and thanks to the series attractive visual style definitely worth a look. Elsewhere on the disc you’ll also find a set of trailers for other ADV releases alongside a short preview of what’s to come in the next volume of Elfen Lied.
Comparisons to Chobits and Gantz seem inevitable, with Elfen Lied displaying attributes from each fused together and using the potential which is so obviously there to great effect. Often terrifyingly beautiful Elfen Lied achieves a rare feat in anime, as it takes those extreme adult tendencies so often associated to the form and exploits them within a compelling action and drama series. Some aspects remain shrouded in mystery, while others seem easy to predict, but either way this is one I’m looking very much forward to continuing with as the subsequent volumes emerge...
Last updated: 30/04/2018 20:17:25