The Elfen Lied manga series ran for 107 chapters (not including two additional non-linear chapters and short stories featured in each bound volume) in Japan from 2002 to 2005. It was written and illustrated by Lynn Okamoto and published in the manga magazine Weekly Young Jump, published by Shueisha. Shueisha also published the series in twelve volumes of Tankōbon Digests.
The series is considered suitable only for mature readers (18 and up) due to its multiple instances of graphic violence, blood and gore, nudity, extreme sexual situations, and child molestation. It tells the story of Lucy, a super-powered escapee from a project in which she was imprisoned and studied. She is a member of a human evolutionary off-shoot known as the Diclonius, marked by small 'horns' on their heads that resemble cat ears, telekinetic abilities, and, presumably, an unrelenting desire to replace regular humans as the planet's dominant species.
The series begins with her memorably violent escape from the research facility that held her captive, and how she is subsequently taken in by two college-bound cousins, Kouta and Yuka. A bullet wound to the head sustained during her escape creates a split personality for her, and in this childlike persona she is found and taken in by the cousins and named Nyu (or Nyuu). Though Nyu is often the dominant personality, Lucy still emerges again at different times, especially when Nyu feels threatened. Lucy's escape prompts the research facility to send out forces, both human and Diclonius alike, to recapture her, which puts a strain on the otherwise peaceful life she comes to find the cousins and their growing "family." As the series goes on, new characters get introduced and past connections, which are often tragic, are revealed among the main characters, especially Lucy and Kouta.
The series often makes it hard to tell what drives the Diclonii to attack non-horned humans, their inherent nature or the abuse they suffer as a result of their appearance and abilities. Both ideas remain very much evident throughout the entire series. It has been compared to both harem and horror manga, having elements of both.
In July 2018, after almost 17 years, the Elfen Lied manga series was officially announced to have been licensed by Dark Horse Comics for a Northern American release, and would be in four omnibus volumes (3 volumes per omnibus), with the first omnibus volume released on June 4th, 2019.
Additionally, the series has been translated into French, Spanish, and German by Tokyopop. Also, a total of six special chapters saw release in various volumes--of these, only two are related to the world of Elfen Lied, and only one of those has an official standing, the second being a fan-service alternate universe or dream sequence.
- Main article: Elfen Lied (Anime)
An anime series consisting of 13 episodes, plus an OVA were based on the first 65 chapters of the series, and featuring alterations to its ending, which was both self-contained and a cliffhanger. It is available on R1 DVD as a box set, as well as a release on Blu-Ray DVD on September 3, 2013.