Elfen Lied has a very memorable opening. A naked girl with her face covered by some sort of helmet breaks free of her laboratory imprisonment and kills more than twenty people while walking out of the building. She doesn’t appear to touch any of them, but people who get too close end up exploding into chunks of blood and gore.
The girl, perhaps the most dangerous serial killer in the world, walks out into the night, unstoppable.
She ends up at the beach and is taken in by two college students who are also cousins. Now she cries easily, doesn’t know how to speak other than the word “Nyu,” and appears completely harmless. Kohta and Yuka, the college students, decide to take care of her and name her “Nyu” since that’s all she seems to say.
The start of this anime is gratuitous in its violence and nudity, two things it shows plenty of during the course of thirteen episodes. Watching the first scene would make it easy to call it a splatter film and toss it to the side. What’s remarkable is how tightly-written it actually is, and how emotionally involving it becomes.
Nyu is a diclonius, a human mutant with small horns and invisible hands that enable her to attack and kill. There are other diclonii at the research lab, and Chief Kurama decides to send out another diclonius girl, Nana, to bring Nyu down. When we’re introduced to Nana, she’s bloody, naked and chained up, but adoringly calls Chief Kurama “papa” as he stands over her and talks to her. In order to survive this hellish world, she’s convinced herself that Kurama is her father and that she’d like to please him.
Nana fails at her mission, and the head of the lab orders her to be terminated. Kurama says he’ll do it, though it clearly pains him. Eventually another, much more dangerous diclonius is released to stop Nyu.
Throughout the series, we get flashbacks into Nyu’s past. We see her terrible childhood, and the awful thing that brought out her murderous powers. She’s a sympathetic character because of what she’s had to suffer, but it can’t be forgotten that she’s also a cold-blooded killer. Time and again we see her kill kind people who mean to help her. All this makes Nyu a very complex character, and she’s not the only one. Kurama, who seems like a heartless and cold villain at the beginning, slowly but surely shows his humanity, until by the end he is kind of a hero.
The ending isn’t flawless. There are still some questions raised, but a few scenes, like the last one with Kurama, are very gripping. Not everyone is going to be able to stomach Elfen Lied, but if you can, it’s worth watching. This anime packs a wallop.