Elfen Lied ( エルフェンリート , Erufen Rīto ) is a Japanese manga series created by manga author, Lynn Okamoto. The title is German or Dutch and translates into English as "Elf Song," "Elf Ballad," or even "Fairy Song." Its name is derived from the poem "Elfenlied" by Eduard Mörike and adapted into a classical German Lieder by Hugo Wolf.
Overview of the series themes
Elfen Lied revolves around the interactions, views, emotions, and discrimination between Humans and Diclonius, a mutant species similar to humans in build, but who are distinguishable by two cat-ear-like horns and "vectors," transparent arms which can pass through air and objects at high speed. The series centers around the teenage Diclonius girl called Lucy who is said to be the first Diclonius; Rejected by Humans, she begins a subsequent murderous vengeance upon them. While conducting this quiet slaughter, Lucy also creates "Silpelits," mostly girls (Males implied to exist, though they are rarer ) born like her, meant to spread their mutation and displace the Humans as Earth's dominant species.
Elfen Lied involves themes of social alienation, identity, animal cruelty, revenge, child abuse, jealousy and the value of humanity, with some implied criticism of Japanese culture. The series contains graphic violence, transgressive subject matter, and nudity, and is thereby recommended for mature readers only.
A thirteen-episode anime television series adaptation based on the manga was produced by the studio ARMS and broadcast on TV Tokyo from July to October 2004; the anime was later licensed in North America on DVD by ADV Films. The anime started before the manga was complete and, as a result, the plot differed between the two, especially towards the ending of the story. In 2005, an original video animation, set between the tenth and eleventh episodes of the series, saw release.
The opening sequence of the first episode is known far and wide as one of the most graphic, gory and plainly unsettling in all of mainstream anime. So far, only the thirteen-episode anime series has been licensed in the United States, by ADV Films, and in Australia, by Madman Entertainment. ADV Films stated that the series was one of their best-selling and "most notorious" releases of 2005.
The Diclonii are a species evolved from Humans with two cat's ear-like horns and vectors, transparent telekinetic controlled arms that have the power to manipulate and slice objects within their reach. Each one can also use these vectors to infect Human males with a virus that causes their children to be born Diclonius. These children almost inevitably end up killing their families and then others. Most Diclonii are being held in a facility off the coast of Kamakura in Kanagawa, which is south of Yokohama, headed up by the scientist Kurama, who in turn answers to the Kakuzawa family, trusted by the Japanese government to contain this threat. The story reveals that that confidence to be unwisely placed. As the manga story starts, an official of the Japanese government arrives to inspect the facility and ascertain whether its massive budget is justified. He soon receives his answer. The anime begins with only slight variations.
The first (and "Queen") of the Diclonius race, a teenage girl, named by the staff as "Lucy," escapes somehow, using her vectors to deflect gunfire and effortlessly kill security guards and anyone else who gets in her way. As she makes her way off the island the facility is on, a sniper shoots her, but rather than killing her, the shot hits her metal restraining helmet, wounding her in the process, and she falls into the sea. Kurama, who has seen someone he cares for die at Lucy's merciless hands, vows to retrieve or kill her
The next morning, a young man named Kouta is moving to Kamakura to study in a university where he is reunited with his cousin and childhood crush, Yuka, who is disturbed by his apparent lack of memories regarding their past together. The pair encounters the wounded Lucy on Enoshima Park Beach, naked with her head bleeding from the bullet wound and only capable of saying the word, "Nyu." The vicious Lucy is gone, replaced by this child-like girl, but her personality will not stay away permanently. Kouta and Yuka decide to take her with them to Maple House and name her "Nyu" as a result.
The series goes from there, with more characters and themes introduced, and with a deeper understanding of the past and present situation, including the shared past of some characters. The people who want Lucy for their purposes turn out to be as great a danger as Lucy herself.
Written by Lynn Okamoto, Elfen Lied premiered in Japan in Weekly Young Jump magazine in June 2002. New chapters continued to appear in the magazine until August 2005, when the final chapter appeared. The series' one-hundred-seven chapters were also published in twelve collected volumes by Shueisha from October 2002 through November 2005.
The manga saw an official North American English release that began in mid-2019 and ended in late 2020.
The television series, developed by ARMS, Genco, and VAP, and directed by Mamoru Kanbe, ran for 13 episodes and adapted approximately the first 60 or so chapters of the manga. Episodes one to eleven are in canon with the continuity of the manga for volumes one to six of the manga, faithfully adapting most of the events happening in the latter. The last two TV episodes strayed from the manga's continuity and gave an original conclusion to the anime. The series' author, Lynn Okamoto, has a brief cameo appearance as a special guest voice in episode twelve.
Elfen Lied first aired on TV Tokyo's AT-X satellite channel from July 25, 2004, to October 17, 2004, and was broadcast again in 2005. The anime was licensed by ADV Films in the United States in 2004 and released on DVD in 2005. A single twenty-four-minute original video animation episode was also released by VAP on April 21, 2005. It takes place between episodes ten and eleven of the original TV series, and for that reason, some refer to it as "episode 10.5", "OVA special," or even as "episode fourteen." The special itself takes on a lighter tone and answers some questions about the early episodes rather than advancing the plot. During the Anime Boston 2006 (May 26—28) convention, ADV Films acquired the distribution rights of the OVA for release in the United States. However, the OVA was never broadcast on television and not included in the box set released by ADV Films in November 2006. On December 19th, 2012, a Blu-Ray Box set including the OVA saw release in Japan. In October of 2013, the Blu-Ray with OVA saw release in R1, the North American Region.
The series was aired in the United Kingdom on Propeller TV (Sky Digital) as part of Anime Network's short-lived launch in the United Kingdom. The series was aired uncut. It has yet to appear on television in the United States, other than on Anime Network's "On Demand" channel. The DVD box set released by ADV Films confirms that the series has a rating of TV-MA-VSL for the 2005, 2006, 2009, and 2011 releases, and TV-MA-VS for the 2013 release; the Canadian rating is 18A for the 2005, 2006, 2009 and 2011 releases, and 14A for the 2013 release.
In a posting on the official Adult Swim message board in April 2006, Adult Swim programming director Kim Manning revealed that despite the series' high level of controversial content, Adult Swim inquired into possibly airing the series, as Manning was an avid fan herself and watched the entire series in one sitting. However, the censorship board revealed that the series would have to be so heavily edited ("it would have been cut to shreds") to air that it would have been "unintelligible," and it does not appear that it will air on the channel at any time in the foreseeable future.
The Elfen Lied anime series has received praise for its story and technical excellence in production quality, animation, and color. Due to the many scenes of nudity and gore in the series, it has drawn criticism as being "overly blatant." The overt violence of the first seven minutes of the first episode has deterred some viewers and caused controversy as to its release. The first four episodes have liberal scatterings of horror and fan service, often taking the form of bloody violence and incidental nudity.
The series drew criticism for having sub-par voice acting, in both the original Japanese audio track and the English dub of the series. Another criticism is that the series ends abruptly with loose ends to the story that could leave viewers unsatisfied. Despite all of these criticisms, Western reviewers also describe the series as "really a genuinely good watch," and "a very special show, good and bad parts taken into consideration."
The opening and ending sequences feature artistic drawings of the principal characters. These versions of the characters were stylistically based on Gustav Klimt's paintings, including The Kiss, Adele Bloch-Bauer I, and others with similar imitating poses, colors, and patterns. The German song Elfenlied ("Elf Song"), from which the title takes its name, appears in the manga and is credited to the composer Hugo Wolf. A poem by Eduard Mörike is the basis for Wolf's version. The song does not appear in the anime since it was taught to Nyu by the manga-only character Nozomi. All episode titles have dual titles in German.