This synopsis is going to be tricky. Elfen Lied is about a Diclonius named Lucy. She is a mutated being that effectively has two horns on her head and four super strong invisible arms that sprout from her back and kill humans – because that is what she is genetically engineered to do. However, Lucy is taken in by two cousins when she escapes her facility and thus develops a split personality to cope. There is Lucy, who kills people and can talk fluently, and Nyu, who can only say “nyu” and does not seem to understand many human concepts at first (like language, or dressing herself). Nyu does not kill people. There are also other Diclonius introduced later that have different ability levels – but all have horns, invisible hands and pink hair.

This may sound like a hard plot to grasp, but at its basic level Elfen Lied is about concepts of humanity and morality. Through the first few episodes I found myself intrigued enough to continue watching, but the show did not really hook me until half way through and then towards the beautiful ending.

Lucy, from Elfen Lied.

For me, the characters are what hook you in to Elfen Lied. Even with the more cruelly crafted characters, such as Lucy and Mariko, you find yourself sympathising with and crying for them. The way they are written dramatically emphasises the flaws in humanity, but the show somehow draws this together to create something that snaps your heartstrings in two. Especially when Elfen Lied delves into the flashbacks of Lucy’s life do we really begin to see this happening. We see how Lucy became what she is, and how this relates to Kota, and instantly feel like nothing is her fault – even though she is the one killing people. Elfen Lied beautifully entwines the stories and the separate characters thoughts together to create this emotion. Each and every character is written in such a wonderful way, from the way Nana just wants to please her Papa, to how Yuka just wants to be loved back, to how Mayu just wants somebody to be there for her. Underneath all the violence is this continuous gut wrenching emotion that carries the entire series through. The bittersweet infusions, particularly with Nyu’s adjustment to the world, also add a sense of humour which provides yet more devices to add that moral commentary that underlies it all.

The production of the show is also really great. I cannot admit to watching anime, I am purely just getting started on watching some after being an admirer of the art for years (any suggestions of shows are appreciated!) but I could instantly see the values of Elfen Lied. The first scene in particular is memorable. The way the epic gore scale is weaved together with the haunting latin voice of the “Lilium” song (below) makes you sit back and realise this anime is aiming for something poignant. The way it puts this eerie spin on the events of the scene, as at this point the viewer has no idea what is going on, really works as an opener and sets the tone for the rest of the show – especially on that balance between violence and emotion. It is also well drawn in a style I am fond of, particularly in the difference between Lucy and Nyu.

The amount of gore and nudity in this series may put people off, but I would encourage them to stick with it. Some of it is indeed unnecessary, but the nudity is not sexual, it is just… there. Another let down would be the sheer amount of coincidences involved in the storyline. A lot of it becomes a little far-fetched (even for this storyline) which does let the overall plot down, and sometimes we do question what the character’s motives are behind it all. But despite all that I found myself willing to put these points aside to just enjoy Elfen Lied as it is, and I would recommend anyone else to do the same. It is a lovely story of humanity and the emotions and depths of human lives, and the underlying themes of acceptance, family and being an outsider.