Manga · Reviews

Review: Elfen Lied (Manga)

Elfen Lied Vol. 1
Elfen Lied Vol. 1 by Lynn Okamoto
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**Please note that this is a review for the whole series and is spoiler-free.

With an arsenal of graphic violence and nudity, colorful characters, and deep themes of social alienation, Elfen Lied is close to being the manga series with some of the of best character development I have seen in a long time.

My experience with this series began a few years back when I found the anime online. If the naked girl on the cover didn’t have my attention, then the first 2 minutes of the first episode sure did as heads went flying in a bloody spray of violence. I remember watching the show and feeling that it had tremendous potential to become something phenomenal if it was only given the attention that it deserved and a bit more creative writing (I was unaware of the manga’s existence at the time). I enjoyed the animation and the plot had me thoroughly intrigued, but when I got to the final episode I was left feeling hollow and hungry for the loose ends and myriad unanswered questions. I found out much later about the manga series and finally got off my lazy ass to read it in its entirety. I must say that I’m so happy that I did.

Here’s a spoiler-free snippet about the overall plot. Elfen Lied is essentially about a group of people—humans and mutant human like species known as Diclonii—that end up living together by some force of nature. The characters go through phases of growing up where they are faced with issues such as social alienation, prejudice, abuse, revenge, and jealousy, amongst others. The story revolves around their interactions and emotions, as well as how the Diclonii come to define humanity. This synopsis doesn’t really doe the series any justice and I apologize for that.

There were many things that I loved about Elfen Lied. It has very good action (lots of crazy blood, gore, and explosions), it has plenty of comedy (in that cute haremish sorta way), and best of all it has characters that actually evolve (without the typical shoujo romance BS). Each character has a background and extenuating circumstances that make him/her unique, most of them tragic. Watching these people grow from the roots of their issues is quite beautiful. The development doesn’t lack in showmanship or emotion and that is what makes Elfen Lied absolutely amazing.

Flaws? Well the art is good, but it’s not phenomenal. The action is depicted rather nicely, but sometimes the pages would be overloaded giving it a very busy appeal. I didn’t really know where to focus my attention at certain points, however. This isn’t a heavily reoccurring thing, so it wasn’t too bad. The character design is nice, but the eyes are so large and similar that it became difficult at times to differentiate the female characters. The male characters all looked vastly different from one another most of the time, so identifying them didn’t require as much effort.

Another flaw that I found with this series was the ecchi (or frivolous perverseness) element was mostly unnecessary. The unrelated sexual innuendos took away from the serious tone that shadowed the plot. I can understand the need for comic relief, especially in a piece like this, but there are other ways to add humor rather than breaking plot to insert stupid sexual dialogue, which seemed like a waste of space given that the women spent eighty five percent of their time in the buff.

Overlooking the crude humor breaks and sometimes brimming art panels, Elfen Lied is a wonderful series that should be read by any fan of manga at least once. The plot is very interesting, especially if you’re into science-fiction and elements that question the term “humanity,” or if you just love to stare at bare breasts. Like I said earlier, the character development is wonderful, done no amends by the anime series in the least. I recommend this with 4 out of 5 boobs, I mean stars.

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