Elfen Lied is the title of a Japanese manga series originally created by Japanese author Lynn Okamoto as well as a TV anime series based on it. Elfen Lied focuses on a mysterious and deadly breed of horned humans called "diclonius", and the havoc they wreak upon humanity. The title Elfen Lied is German for "Elf Song", and pronounced approximately, although the correct German spelling would be "Elfenlied".
Elfen Lied first began as a manga series, serialized in the magazine Weekly Young Jump and published in Japan by Shueisha, ending at the completion of the twelfth volume. An anime adaptation began airing in Japan on July 25, 2004 while the unfinished manga was still in production. This caused the anime plot to differ in some ways from the manga plot. A bonus OVA episode was released on April 21, 2005 giving some more background information.
So far, only the anime series spanning 13 episodes and the OVA have been licensed in the United States, by ADV Films. ADV Films said the series was one of their bestselling and "most notorious" releases of 2005. Elfen Lied and the character Nana were the inspiration for the popular Clone Manga fan-webcomic "Nana's Everyday Life" which has been completed and fully translated from English into 6 other languages.
The story begins with a naked young girl named Lucy escaping under odd circumstances from an insular research facility off the coast of Kamakura in the Kanagawa Prefecture of Japan. Lucy manages to nonchalantly dismember and slay a fair number of the staff and guards with a form of seemingly supernatural power and gets outside. A sniper is seen trying to shoot her, only managing to ricochet a bullet off her metal helmet. Lucy then falls off a cliff into the sea, bleeding from her head but ultimately surviving and evading the research staff.
Lucy is not a normal human but rather a diclonius: a mutant variant of humans with two small horns on their heads (hence the name diclonius) that resemble cat ears. The diclonius race possesses telekinetic powers through use of their "vectors", invisible arms that they control with a number and length of reach depending on the diclonius.
The day after Lucy's escape, a boy named Kohta arrives at Kamakura to meet his cousin Yuka. Kohta has come to study at the local university and has been given lodging at an old, family-owned inn, the "Maple Inn", provided he acts as the caretaker. After meeting with Yuka, they go for a visit to the beach and find Lucy washed up on the shore, still naked and bleeding from her head. The head trauma Lucy experienced causes her to develop a split personality. In stark contrast to the cold and sadistic Lucy, this personality is completely docile, harmless and is incapable at first of saying anything other than "Nyū". Not knowing what to do with her, Kohta and Yuka take her back to the inn to look after her and name her "Nyū". Yuka quickly decides that it will be best that she also live at the inn.
Kohta, Nyū, and Yuka begin settling into their life at the inn and Nyū begins to dredge up painful repressed memories from Kohta's past. Meanwhile, the researchers from the laboratory where Lucy was held begin searching for her, dispatching both human and diclonius agents to hunt her down.
Lucy is a teenage diclonius girl around 18 years old, Lucy has four vectors with a limited range of two meters. However, she can be swift and lethal within that range, and will use any nearby objects as high velocity projectiles to kill at greater distances. She is also capable of stopping or deflecting most standard ammunition when she concentrates on the task. Lucy hates humans mainly because of how she was treated by her human peers as a child. Consequently, she discounts non-diclonii, claiming they are not real people. She seems to lack empathy, kills without much concern, and acts somewhat sadistically. Despite this lack of concern for human life she will not harm Kohta and refrains from killing in his presence.
Nyū is a split personality of Lucy that developed after an anti-tank rifle round ricocheted off a metallic helmet encasing her head. Nyū has a childlike personality and infantile knowledge of the world, and lacks spoken language skills. Nyū is innocent and incapable of violent acts, a foil to the normally cold and sadistic Lucy; she is the manifestation of her "good side". When Nyū is attacked violently (or hit on the head), she regresses into Lucy; likewise, when Lucy is treated with love and kindness, she will uncontrollably switch back into Nyū.
Voiced by: Sanae Kobayashi (Japanese), Kira Vincent-Davis (English)
Kohta is around 19 years old and enters the story when his cousin's family allows him to move in to their closed down inn in exchange for maintenance while he goes to a local university. Kohta has repressed traumatic memories of his father's and sister's deaths during his childhood at Lucy's hands. Because of his repressing his memories, Kohta does not remember Lucy from when he met her earlier as a child. Due in part to his loss, he has a soft spot for girls in trouble and is extremely generous and protective to the girls around him.
Voiced by: Chihiro Suzuki (Japanese), Adam Conlon (English)
Yuka is Kohta's cousin. She is also around 19 years old and planning to attend the same university as Kohta. She moves in with him at the inn after having not seen him in many years. Having had a crush on Kohta since childhood, she is in love with him, and is therefore jealous of Kohta's attention to Nyū, to the point of being very irrational.
Originally serialized in Weekly Young Jump magazine, the complete manga series runs for 107 chapters spanning over 12 volumes.
The manga also features several side stories from previous works done by Lynn Okamoto. These stories came included with the release of certain volumes of the manga as bonus material (not related to Elfen Lied) for fans of the manga to collect.
* MOL - featured in volume 1
* Digitopolis - featured in volume 2
* Memoria - featured in volume 3
* Carrera - featured in volume 5
In addition, volume 8 includes two other stories that form part of the Elfen Lied universe.
* NOZOMI is the first side story featured, and explains Nozomi's past and why she chooses to move into the Kaede Inn. This tale is in canon with the continuity of the main storyline.
* The second side story that follows after NOZOMI involves the whole residents at the Kaede Inn throwing a party and indulging themselves in excessive drinking. Nana and Mayu fall asleep, allowing both Yuka and Nyū to release their inhibitions and deliver an intimate fan service to Kohta. Unfortunately, their fun is suddenly brought to an end when Nyū without warning switches back to Lucy who seems rather upset, ending the story with a cliffhanger. This tale is not canon for Elfen Lied's overall plot.
The television series directed by Mamoru Kanbe and produced by GENCO and VAP ran for 13 episodes and adapted approximately the first 60 out of 107 chapters of the manga. Episodes 1 to 11 of the anime are in canon with the continuity of the storyline for volumes 1 to 6 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 in episode 12.
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 was released on DVD in 2005. A single 24 minute OVA episode was also released. It takes place between episodes 10 and 11 of the original TV series, and for that reason, some refer to it as episode 10.5, OVA special, or even as episode 14. The special itself takes on a lighter tone and answers some questions of 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.
Compared to its manga original, the approach and depth of information presented by the anime involving the diclonius race differs greatly. The diclonius virus is explained in less detail with scenes such as Professor Kakuzawa's explanation of the half-diclonius status and ancestry of his family to Lucy being omitted. The diclonius characters are depicted as all having the same hair color, whereas in the manga Lucy/Nyū had pink hair, Mariko was blond, and Nana had dark purple hair. The diclonius characters in general are shown to have distinct limits on their vectors' quantity and range, which is not true in the manga.
Characters were introduced in the manga that were otherwise completely omitted from the anime series. An example of this early on in the manga is an acquaintance of Yuka's, referred to as "Nozomi-chan." Similarly, the music box playing the "Lilium" melody that is featured in the anime does not appear in the manga.
Spoilers end here.
The anime series of Elfen Lied has been praised for its technical excellence in production quality, animation and color. Criticism has been leveled at both the Japanese and English dub for having sub-par voice acting in the first three episodes. Another criticism is that the series ends abruptly with some loose ends to the story that could leave viewers unsatisfied. Despite these criticisms, Western reviewers also describe the series as "really a genuinely good watch", "a horror series of exceptional merit", "certainly memorable" and "a very special show, good and bad parts taken into consideration". In the 2004 AnimeReactor Community Awards, fans voted the Elfen Lied anime as the Best Opening/Ending Combination, Best Drama, Best Thriller (Mystery/Horror), Best Fanservice and also voted Lucy/Nyū as Best Female Character.
Throughout the series, there is a great deal of graphic nudity, blood and gore, extreme graphic violence as well as psychological violence. One of the most prevalent motifs of the series is the humanity of the diclonius, especially contrasted against the inhumanity of ordinary people. One reviewer described the series as "devoted to quite a few of the darker, more callous factors of human nature". Throughout the series there are various incidences of human sadism, casual beatings, cruel experimentation, pedophilic rape and outright killing. The series has drawn criticism as being "overly blatant" or "sad and forced" in this regard.
The series juxtaposes many different tones and genres and was described by a reviewer as "mixing insane amounts of violence with a heavy dose of ultracuteness." The series also involves romantic sub-plots as well as many comic moments. Elfen Lied has been described as similar to, or borrowing elements from Chobits, 3x3 Eyes and Gunslinger Girl.
The German song Elfenlied ("Elf Song") 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, it is taught to Nyū by the manga-only character Nozomi.