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First tankōbon volume of Elfen Lied, released in Japan on October 18, 2002 by Shueisha, featuring the main character Lucy.
|Genre||Psychological horror, Romance, Science fantasy|
|Written by||Lynn Okamoto|
|Magazine||Weekly Young Jump|
|Original run||June 6, 2002 – August 25, 2005|
|Anime television series|
|Directed by||Mamoru Kanbe|
|Written by||Takao Yoshioka|
|Original run||July 25, 2004 – October 17, 2004|
|Original video animation|
|Directed by||Mamoru Kanbe|
|Written by||Takao Yoshioka|
|Released||April 21, 2005|
Elfen Lied (エルフェンリート Erufen Rīto?) is a Japanese manga series written and illustrated by Lynn Okamoto. It was originally serialized in Shueisha's Weekly Young Jump from June 2002 to August 2005, with the 107 chapters collected into twelve tankōbon volumes. Elfen Lied revolves around the interactions, views, emotions, and differences between human beings and the Diclonii, a mutant species similar to humans in build but distinguishable by two horns on their heads and "vectors", transparent telekinetically controlled arms that have the power to manipulate and cut objects within their reach. The series is centered on the teenage Diclonius girl "Lucy" who was rejected by human beings and subsequently wants revenge.
The series' title is German for "Elves' Song" or more formally "song of the elves'" and takes its name from the song "Elfenlied", which is featured in the story. Elfen Lied involves themes of social alienation, identity, prejudice, revenge, abuse, jealousy, regret and the value of humanity. It is also noted for the graphic violence and emotional themes of how the characters change through the whole story. A 13-episode anime television series adaptation was produced by the studio Arms and broadcast on AT-X from July to October 2004. The anime began airing before the manga was complete; as a result, the plot differed between the two, especially the ending. The anime series has been licensed in North America by ADV Films and in Australia by Madman Entertainment. ADV Films said the series was one of their bestselling and "most notorious" releases of 2005. The Anime Network is streaming the series in English, German, and French.
Plot and characters
Elfen Lied takes place in Kamakura, Japan, and focuses on the "Diclonius", a newly mutated species. Their appearance is similar to humans, albeit with several differences, namely horn-like protrusions on the forehead and the presence of telekinetic invisible arms called "Vectors". One such Diclonius, Lucy, is the main character of the series: Initially held in a facility built for experimentation, located off the coast of Kamakura, she manages to escape and wreak havoc, but is injured in the process, an event which causes her to develop a secondary, childlike personality known as Nyu.
Lucy is found by two locals, Kohta, who studies at the local university, and his cousin Yuka. They take her in, and become involved with the numerous, often brutal, attempts to recapture her by a Special Assault Team and a number of other Diclonius, who shift frequently from oblivious to murderous.
Much of the plot of Elfen Lied revolves around the Diclonii species, which strongly resemble humans; the only obvious difference are the two horn-like protrusions extending from the temporal and parietal regions of the skull.
Diclonii powers involve the use of invisible arms, known as "vectors", that can grasp and impact things as if they are solid, but also become insubstantial and pass through objects. They can slice objects as well, which is how Diclonii usually kill their victims. Vectors usually have a limited range of a few meters, but the length varies among each Diclonius. Diclonii also demonstrate the ability to sense one another.
A key point of debate throughout the series is the Diclonius propensity towards violence. Many have a vendetta against humans, and have ambitions to wipe out the human race and populate the world with their own species. It is disputed and contradicted during the series as to how Diclonii develop their violent behavior, whether it is part of their genetic DNA or whether it stems from abuse by humans.
If a Diclonius vector penetrates or even so much as touches a human male body, the "vector virus" is transferred to the human, causing their children to be born as Diclonii (when born from humans they are called "Silpelits"). An incident involving the escape of a child Diclonius during Kurama's early years where the Diclonius' vectors penetrated him without causing him pain, resulted in Mariko being born a Diclonius and Kurama taking precautions against a recurrence by urging Bando to be sterilized. All Diclonii (Silpelits) born from human parents are sterile and female. There is only one Diclonius that is actually capable of reproducing: Lucy, the "queen".
When Elfen Lied was being adapted into an anime series, director Mamoru Kanbe was recommended to work on the series by the series composer, Takao Yoshioka. Yoshioka believed that Kanbe's general drawing style and composition would be ideal to adapt the manga, still in publication at the time, into an anime series. Kanbe himself, originally reluctant about joining the production, gained interest in it upon reading the manga.
While the manga was still ongoing at the time, Kanbe and the production team were forced to condense the plot of the series into thirteen episodes, even though they felt it was necessary to make more as several significant plot details in the manga which Kanbe felt he could have used to make the series more emotive were left out.
Kanbe thought that Elfen Lied "was a love story, and I could make it so that it would bring viewers to tears." Thus, he made attempts throughout the series to provide a contrast of emotions, commenting that he could make the violence exemplify this throughout the series. The production team were originally surprised by Okamoto's choice of Kamakura as a setting for the series; however, after several visits to the area, Kanbe commented that the setting in Kamakura was, according to the production team, ideal for the poignant and reflective drama in the series to unfold, as its general tranquility and geography made for a reflective and yet eerie, deep-meaning backdrop to the series. This can be seen in several examples, such as on top of a set of steps overlooking the coastline, where many of the interactions between characters take place. This is used as an important device in conveying the ideas of memory and emotional association, such as the contrast between Kohta and Lucy's conversation when they were ten years old in comparison with their conversation in the final episode.
Style and themes
In comments made by director Mamoru Kanbe on the Elfen Lied website, he stated that he intended for the anime to question and discuss values relating to the way in which humans divide each other by difference, as well as the belief that atrocities such as those committed by Lucy in the series are strongly influenced by the way in which people are treated by their fellow beings. The series frequently discusses the events and treatment which define the human character in such a way, and the problems which arise from discrimination, as well as the wild contrasts between compassion and vengeance between fellow humans, through the strong vengeance of Lucy compared with her past memory of Kohta. Many of the themes are mentioned at the teasers at the ends of episodes.
Themes such as genocide and the attempts to "purify" the earth from each other also appear in the anime. Both Diclonius and the human species feel the need to populate the earth with their own and wipe the other out. Kanbe quoted this in relation to the desire of humans to cast each other out and segregate one another.
Throughout the series, there is a great deal of blood and gore, 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 casual beatings, cruel experimentation, and outright killing. Also, animal cruelty is present when two young boys mercilessly beat a puppy until it dies; though the act is off-screen, a copious amount of blood is shown.
Most of the episodes contain graphic violence, including instances of torture, and at one point the series addresses consequences of the rape of a child. The series also includes scenes that present female nudity and strong language (specifically in the English dub). The series juxtaposes many different tones and genres and was described by Bamboo Dong of Anime News Network as "mixing insane amounts of violence with a heavy dose of 'ultra-cuteness.'" The series balances its darker themes with 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 opening and ending sequences feature artistic drawings of the principal characters. These characters are drawn in a style based on Gustav Klimt's paintings, including The Kiss, Adele Bloch-Bauer I, and others with similar imitating poses, colors, and patterns. In promotional art as well as in the series itself, characters make use of a famous El Greco hand symbol of outstretched fingers with the middle and ring fingers connected. The 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. It is taught to Nyu by the manga-only protagonist Nozomi.
Written and illustrated by Lynn Okamoto, Elfen Lied premiered in Japan in Weekly Young Jump magazine on June 6, 2002. New chapters continued to appear in the magazine until August 25, 2005, when the final chapter was published. The series's 107 chapters were also published in twelve tankōbon volumes by Shueisha from October 18, 2002 through to November 18, 2005.
While there has not been an official English-language release of the manga, it has been translated and released in Germany, Italy, Mexico, Portugal and Taiwan, by Tokyopop, Planet Manga, Grupo Editorial Vid, Panini Comics and Ever Glory Publishing respectively.
A 13-episode anime television series was directed by Mamoru Kanbe, animated by Arms and produced by Genco and VAP. The series' author, Lynn Okamoto, has a brief cameo appearance as a guest in episode 12. Elfen Lied first aired on TV Tokyo's AT-X satellite channel from July 25 to October 17, 2004 and was broadcast again in 2005. A single twenty-four minute original video animation (OVA) episode was released by VAP on April 21, 2005. It takes place somewhere within the timespan of episode eleven of the original TV series. The anime's opening theme song is "Lilium" performed by opera singer Kumiko Noma and is sung in Latin. The ending theme song is "Be Your Girl" by Chieko Kawabe. The series was released on Blu-ray in Japan on December 19, 2012.
The anime was licensed by ADV Films in the US in 2004 and was released on DVD in 2005. During the Anime Boston 2006 (May 26–28) convention, ADV Films also announced the distribution rights of the OVA for release in the United States. However, the OVA was never released on television and was not included with the box set released by ADV Films in November 2006 or in the "Complete Collection" DVDs released in June 2009 and December 2011. When ADV Films divided their assets, Elfen Lied was remained with them and in-print. A Blu-ray Disc box set (as well as a new DVD set) was released on September 3, 2013 by ADV and Section23 Films, making it the only Blu-ray release under the ADV brand, and contains the never-before released OVA.
The series was aired in the United Kingdom on Propeller TV (Sky) as part of Anime Network's short-lived launch in the United Kingdom. The series was aired uncut despite stricter censorship standard imposed by OFCOM on UK cable TV. While 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; the Canadian rating is 18A. 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 actually 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") in order 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 since.
Differences between media
Due to the fact that the manga was not finished by the time the TV series started airing, the manga and anime have several significant plot differences. While the manga covers 107 chapters, the anime was condensed into thirteen episodes and director Mamoru Kanbe mentioned that he wanted to feature much more of the original story. The anime only follows events roughly up to about halfway through the manga, and it has its own original ending. As a result, much of the characters' pasts and details of the Diclonius that were in the manga do not appear in the anime. In 2005, a special original video animation (OVA), written to occur between the tenth and eleventh episodes of the anime, was released.
Several of the characters in the manga do not appear in the anime, such as Aiko, who Lucy encountered prior to the series start (although she briefly appears in the OVA) and the characters of Silpelit Number 28, the Mariko clones, Lucy's younger half-brother, Anna Kakuzawa and Yuka's friend Nozomi, who wants to be a singer but cannot because of a verbally abusive father and unsupporting family. There is also a difference in the characters' personalities in the anime; Kohta is much more forgiving upon finding out that Lucy was the one who killed his family.
Several properties of the Diclonii change between the manga and anime; Lucy has much fewer vectors in the anime and her destructive power is far more powerful in the manga, at the point she can destroy buildings and sink an island, and there is greater variation in hair and eye color. In the manga a Diclonius' hair color can be as diverse as a human being's (e.g. Nana and Mariko have purple and blond hair, respectively) while in the anime all the female Diclonii have a uniform red or pink hair and eye color. Diclonius genetics are also explained in greater detail in the manga: For example, Kurama explains the purpose of the Silpelits and that the Diclonius virus can only be passed into the human male to produce Diclonius offspring. Small differences in the details of the plot and characters also exist: Kurama does not die at the end of the manga and Bando loses the lower half of his body.
Reception for the Elfen Lied anime series was generally mixed to positive. It 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" or "sad and forced". The overt graphic nature of the first nine minutes of the first episode has deterred some viewers and caused controversy upon its release.
The series drew criticism for having "sub-par voice acting", in both the original Japanese audio track and the English dub of the series, although the series still drew an "A-" rating for both language dubs. 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".
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- Exclusive Mamoru Kanbe interview, DVD Extra – Elfen Lied DVD 1 (Vector One). Released by Madman Entertainment and ADV Films.
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