July 14th, 2016
In this milestone episode of Anime Abandon, Sage takes a look at Elfen Lied, a 2004 Anime who's bloody and misanthropic themes and content have made it a divisive title. Bennett explores the themes and ideas behind the show and why it has become not only a cult classic with a devoted fanbase, but also notorious and hated all the same.
Episode Transcript Edit
(The usual Anime Abandon opening has been replaced with a title card with narration by Marc "The Engineer" Swint)
Marc (VO): Warning: This episode of Anime Abandon contains scenes of blood, excessive gore, violence against children, and suggestive scenes. Viewer discretion is advised.
(It then cuts to the opening sequence and then to Sage in his usual spot.)
Sage: Well, this is it. The 150th episode of Anime Abandon. (Sighs) It's.... You know what? I-I-it's amazing. To see how the show has grown and evolved over the years and, countless hours of work to, become what it is today. And, I was pleased as punch to hear that Too Many Games wanted to celebrate the occasion with me by flying me out to Philadelphia. They even threw me quite the surprise party.
(A typical dream sequence wipe with accompanying harp sound effect plays as it flashes back to Bennett entering a private room at the convention center.)
Sage: Oh hoy hoy!!
(Bennett closes the door and walks forward, a look on his face that something is clearly wrong)
Linkara: (Off-screen) Hello Bennett.
(The camera cuts to a group of people at the other end of the table: Linkara, Curtis Arnott (Takahata101 from Team Four Star), Erin Frost (His title card artist), Pete Metzger, Woolie, and Anthony Sardinha. All of them staring him down like they were in a Mafia movie as Linkara picks up a plastic bat and places it on the table. The others minus Woolie all pull out their own bats and the door opens up behind Bennett, Chris Zito from Team Four Star gaming coming out and bapping him behind the leg with another plastic bat. Then it shows Bennett getting pummeled by plastic bats as he cowers in the fetal position in pain.)
Chris: Elfen Lied Abridged was not funny!
Sage: I tried my best!
Chris: You made me lose my bat!
(More of the pummeling continues)
Linkara: I liked your game reviews better!
Sage: Thank you!
Chris: I hate you Spoony!
Erin: Your title cards are lame!
Curtis: Son of a bitch!
(As the beating continues, it cuts to an outside shot looking through the glass fireplace as Bennett tries crawling away, but gets dragged back. They all continue wailing on him, but suddenly, the beating stops and they get away. Bennett manages to get up, clearly hurt and in pain thinking he's alright....But the camera then cuts to Woolie behind him with a pool cue, ready to strike.)
Woolie: VIOLENCE! JACK!!!
(Woolie breaks the pool cue across Bennett's shoulder and throws it to the ground. Linkara then throws his bat on the ground, realizing the trouble he's going to be in if anyone found out what went on as the others do too.)
Linkara: I never even saw these assholes before!
(The door opens as Curtis is holding it open and encouraging the others to get out, Chris staying behind and hitting Bennett one last time, eliciting a groan of pain as he high-tails it out of there with the door closing behind. The screen then flashes back to Bennett in his room, nodding his head in happiness)
Sage: Good times. (Beat) But being beaten unconscious got me to thinking: How do you know when an Anime has achieved cult status? Especially when Anime, by itself, is considered a cult interest? (Pause) I took a lot of blows to the head.
(Cut to a montage showing clips from Brazil and True Romance)
Sage (VO): How we define a cult film follows a few simple guidelines that depend on an amalgam of content and audience reaction. Most films that have achieved cult status, usually revolve around obtuse subject matter, or, in a broader sense, rebellious subject matter. Characters thumb their noses at authority or the status quo by embracing that which is considered perverse or taboo. Stories are written with little to no regard to established tropes to intentionally veer off traditional paths of story telling. And all creative decisions are often made for the sake of themselves, rather than what will prove to be profitable.
Sage: Because of this, cult films can easily be identified by their lack of budget. Not to say that their aren't high budgeted cult films, but they became cult films in spite of their budget, not because of it.
(Another monologue now showing clips from Blue Velvet, Dirty Flamingoes, and Battlefield Earth)
Sage (VO): All of this informs the most important deciding factor over cult status: audience reaction, which can run the gamut between sincere and ironic. Your typical audience might shy away from the non-traditional structure of a David Lynch film, or the general repulsiveness of John Water's characters, or the poorly structured plot of Battlefield Earth. But there are certain audiences that embrace those films, BECAUSE of those perceived slights. Whether they themselves have lived a life that isn't considered (for lack of a better term) normal, or whether they want to experience a film that's unlike anything they've seen before, they can find the fun or general feeling of entertainment from your (Posters for) El Topo's, your Showgirls, your Buckaroo Banzai's. Your Rocky Horror Picture Show's. In the end, it's all about the personal attachment the audience can make with the film, that they can't make with another, that defines what truly makes a film "Cult".
Sage: So with all of that said: how do you apply that to anime? Especially since the aesthetic that the mind's eye conjures when you hear the term (Finger quotes) "Cult Film", doesn't really figure into the anime aesthetic? Well, you gotta further divide the subculture.
(Another Monolgue, showing clips from Dragon Ball Z, Attack on Titan, Rebirth of Evangelion, and Cowboy Bebop)
Sage (VO): As much as it seems like an oxymoron, there is such a thing as mainstream anime. Look no further than Dragon Ball, Attack on Titan, and Neon Genesis Evangelion for proof positive of this. So, then it becomes a question of audience and fan reaction vs mainstream recognition. For example: Cowboy Bebop has legions of dedicated fans and near universal critic appraisal, but it's status as one of the most well-regarded anime outside of the otaku culture, robs it of a cult status.
Sage: And besides, quality of content has little to do with cult status.
(Cut to a clip of Troll 2 as an example of that very notion)
George Hardy: And you can't piss on hospitality. I won't allow it!
Sage: But now I think we have the tools to build the spectrum on whether or not an anime can be considered cult, and for what reason.
(Another brief monologue with clips from Serial Experiments Laine and....Mad Bull 34)
Sage (VO): On one side of the spectrum is Serial Experiments Laine: a beloved anime that was unfairly ignored by the anime buying public, but was rescued by disappearance by Funimation after enough demand from its fans. On the other side is Mad Bull 34: an outrageously violent shit-show that just had to be seen to be believed, and was rescued from disappearance by Discotek Media.... probably on a dare.
Sage: And in the middle? You have (brings up DVD) Elfen Lied. The perfect nexus of human triumph and atrocity. You either love it....Or you despise it. In a phrase, it's, "The Feels: The Anime".
Sage (VO): A 13 episode anime released in 2004, Elfen Lied is.....exhausting. Whether you love it or hate it, everyone has the same experience after they watch it: like they were put through the wringer and left to dry in the cold. To say that Elfen Lied is emotionally draining, is like saying Schindler's List is emotionally draining.
Sage: I'm not gonna lie to you people: This is gonna be a rough one to sit through. But, 150th episodes don't come along every day, do they? This....Is Elfen Lied.
(Clips from Elfin Lied are shown as Sage begins the review proper)
Sage (VO): The series follows Kouta and his cousin Yuka, who happened upon a naked girl washed up on the beach.
(A clip of Nyu/Lucy naked and crying, with Censor Kaiser stepping in (And get used to that throughout this review, the series is pretty well known for its nudity) as Kouta awkwardly stares at the commotion, clueless as to what to do.)
Kouta: Uh, Hey!
Yuka: Kota, take your clothes off right now!
Yuka: Just take off your clothes!
(Kota fails to find a proper response to that awkward question as it cuts back to Sage, who has the same reaction)
Sage: Uhhhh, look Yuka: Sex on the beach sounds like a good idea. But.....
Sage (VO): Oh! You meant take off his coat so she could use it to cover herself. Why didn't you just say that?
Sage: Oh, wait! I forgot! Because you want to bone him!
(It then cuts to a clip of Kouta and Yuka underneath their house in a rainstorm as Yuka forcibly kisses Kota to his surprise. Not the first time the anime delves into subjects and topics far beyond its writing grasps to make itself seem more "shocking and mature". Nor will it be the last)
Sage: Him, I remind you, being her cousin. (Beat) It's that kind of anime.
Sage (VO): Following Pokémon logic, the two decide to name her Nyu, since that appears to be the only thing she can say. And the comparison to wild animals continues as not only does she have stubby horns, she's not even housebroken.
(A clip is then shown of Nyu sitting on the floor and grunting as the two look worried)
Yuka: What's the matter?
(Then it cuts to the anime showing us that she, indeed, pissed on the floor. The puddle being given the Censor Kaiser treatment again, as Sage can only look on in awkwardness. Then it cuts to the Tropic Thunder clip. You know the one.)
Kirk Lazarus: You went full retard man. Never go full retard.
Sage (VO): This would all be pretty uncomfortable if we didn't know that Nyu is actually Lucy: a homicidal humanoid (dubbed a Diclonius) who has the ability and wherewithal to dismember people by the dozens via invisible hands called vectors.
(It then cuts to a bit from the opening episode of Lucy, chained in a straightjacket to a bed above the floor and wearing a helmet, turning around to a security guard in her cell and promptly decapitating him.)
Sage: So instead of it being, pretty uncomfortable. It's REALLY uncomfortable.
Sage (VO): Seems that Lucy was kept under lock and key and away from prying eyes, but was let out under mysterious circumstances. However, during her escape, she catches a sniper's bullet to the head, but instead of killing her, it just makes her go full retard.
Sage (VO): Over the course of the show, she reverts back and forth from Lucy to Nyu, like if Forrest Gump yo-yoed between himself and Leatherface. Now this all hinges on one of the most tritely written plot devices ever conceived.
Sage: In fact, it's so trite, that you all know what I'm talking about. The bonk on the head.
(The explanation briefly cuts to a clip from The Majestic before going back to the show)
Sage (VO): Yes, the tried and true writer's crutch for any and all plots. From mega blockbusters to hack comedy sketches, the bonk on the head comes in many forms. But they all perform the same function: getting an established character to act against type. And so it is the same here in Elfen Lied. But the show tries to obfuscate the inherent hokey-like nature of it, by doubling down on the violence that surrounds it. All of a sudden, the thought of a two-faced psychopath has some novelty to it.
Sage: But this presents a problem: If your (Finger quotes) "Heroine" is a murdering butcher half the time, how do you keep the audience from wanting her to be captured and/or put down?
Sage (VO): She can't just keep taking out nameless and faceless guards all the time, so what do you do? Make nearly everyone else around her the most irredeemable fucksticks in the history of fucksticks.
Bando: What the hell is the point of shooting at targets that don't scream or bleed? It's getting old! I'm ready for real people!
Sage: Ladies and gentleman: (Extends his hand out) Meet irredeemable fuckstick number one.
Scientist: Mr. Bando?
(It then shows the memetic clip of Bando turning around at that question, and back handing the poor woman to the floor before staring at her)
Bando: Never sneak up behind me. Stupid bitch.
Sage: ….With a bullet.
(Cut to the first commercial break)
Sage (VO): This here is Bando. He likes to kill people. I'm sure he has other interests.
Bando: Every day, all this training, what does it add up to huh? Killing people. Right?
(Bando then pulls the trigger on his handgun as the hammer slowly cocks back, and pointed at one of his men. The hammer drops, the guy flinching in fear as it's revealed the chamber is empty. Because you know, Bando's the bad guy)
Bando: That serious enough for you.
Sage (VO): He's sent along with a platoon to recapture Lucy, but nearly dies in the process. This would be an excellent time for him to exit the story, seeing as how he's served his villain of the day purpose, but he sticks around long after his usefulness. After his fight with Lucy he's just, not needed anymore. Especially since it's this guy, (Director Kakuzawa), who's the actual honest-to-god antagonist of the series.
Sage: But the reason why Bando sticks around is simply because, the story doesn't have a lot of meat to it.
Sage (VO): The main focus of the show, is Lucy/Nyu's relationship with Kouta, and their history that Kota has internally repressed. Which is yet another hack writing crutch, and one that doesn't come out nearly as well as the bonk on the head, but we'll get more into that later. Your typical plot of Elfen Lied, is as follows: Kouta loses track of Nyu. Someone from the lab finds her. Nyu turns into Lucy. A massacre happens. Kouta then later finds her after she's turned back into Nyu. Barely enough plot to sustain a six episode OVA, let alone a 13 episode series. But what could they do, since they were adapting from a Manga that wasn't anywhere near done, and wasn't hampered by a production budget or narrative restrictions like an anime has? Making matters worse is that the manga has, numerous side characters that have their own stories, that are explored in the manga. And the anime has to shoehorn in these characters as well, and in the case of Nozomi, leave them out entirely (Cuts to a manga image of Nozomi) However, if you had to leave out a character: might as well be the one who was psychologically abused so much, she has to wear a diaper because she keeps wetting herself.
Sage: Not to point too fine a point on it but, Elfen Lied is not for lacking side characters with histories of abuse.
Sage (VO): There's Mayu, another runaway that Kouta and Yuka quasi adopt into their household who escaped a life where her stepdad sexually abused her....
Sage: ….And no, I'm not gonna show it.
Sage (VO): But as soon as she's adopted by Kouta and Yuka, she's immediately better, and all signs point to her living a perfectly well-adjusted life. I mean, good for her, but that doesn't leave a lot of room for a story. Because of that, Mayu just sort of floats around the plot and has little to do with what's going on. She has a few moments with Bando, which I suppose helps to paint him in a better light....
Bando: I came a long way to this shithole town for one reason: I'm gonna put a bullet in that fucking bitch! And if you aren't straight with me, I'll fucking kill you too!
Mayu: I don't know where she is! My big brother said he saw a girl like that the other day at school.
(Bando then punches Mayu in the face. Because again, he's the bad guy.)
Sage: ….But it doesn't last very long.
Sage (VO): Not content with two runaways, the Kouta household also adopts Nana, another Diclonius. But unlike Lucy, she doesn't feel the need or desire to lash out at people. In fact, she seems quite happy and demure: only wanting to make her and Lucy's minder, Kurama, happy. Which means locating and retrieving Lucy.
Nana: I've never worn this kind of dress! Papa, does it look good on me?!
Kurama: Nana. I'm counting on you.
Nana: I know! I'll do my best for you papa! And I'll I want is a pat on the head if I do a good job!
Sage: Which is why Lucy dismembers her, and leaves her stump of a body, dying and bloody in a cemetery!
(It then cuts to the aftermath of another famous and lampooned scene of the show, one where Lucy brutally tears apart Nana limb from limb slowly, showing her reduced to nothing more than a torso with a still attached head.)
Sage (VO): Ah but she's alright folks! She got new prosthetic limbs, (thanks to Kurama) and now she can propel herself using her vectors. Why it's almost like she never got her arms and legs brutally ripped off! (Beat) Except she did. (Beat) And you can't unknow that.
Sage: But unlike Mayu, Nana actually has some thematic presence in the story. Even though she figures very loosely into the plot proper.
Sage (VO): I like that instead of having every Diclonius be a sadistic monster, there's one who is equally dangerous, but only seems to want to help, even though she shares a similar past with Lucy. She's routinely kept shackled to a wall, naked as the day she was born, and bloodied from unknown wounds, and yet....she's bubbly and eager.
Sage: If there was one, major overriding theme of Elfen Lied, it's the age old argument of nature vs nurture. Are we born evil? or are we made evil? And curious enough, for an anime that is predicated upon extremes. It seems to play these two extremes against the middle.
Sage (VO): Nana has been the victim of heartless experimentation at the hands of uncaring professionals, but remains kind. Lucy has been the victim of abuse from pretty much everyone in her life and....well....
Kurama: NO LUCY, DON'T DO IT!!
(Cut to a scene of Lucy callously decapitating Kisaragi in cold blood)
Sage: What's frustrating though is that, despite it being a theme, the anime seems either unwilling or unable to answer the questions it intrinsically brings up.
Sage (VO): As I said: the anime frames Lucy's acts of violence as stemming from an abusive past, one where she grew up being the object of ridicule and derision from the other kids at the orphanage where she lived. And yet from a young age, it seems that Lucy is also haunted by some kind of spectral inner force, that goads her into acting violently. Using the abuse she's experienced, as justification for her bloodlust.
Lucy's Inner thoughts: This world wasn't made for people like me.
Lucy: So what, should I do about it?
Lucy's inner thoughts: It's so simple....
(The bandages fall off to reveal an exact copy of Lucy's face)
Lucy's inner thoughts: All you have to do is remake the world.
Sage: So, does this mean that, even if Lucy had lived a happy and idyllic life, she'd still turn out to be a violent murderer? Well it, kind of seems that way.
Sage (VO): Many times it's shown that Lucy goes well beyond just killing people: she outright tortures them. She drags out Nana's death by lopping off her limbs and fingers, bit by bit, and when she has Bando at her mercy, she breaks his arm and gouges out his eyes and strangles him. And in both times: the only reason why she didn't kill them, was because an outside force prevented her from following through.
Sage: There's only so much an abusive past can explain, let alone condone. No matter how overboard the anime presents said abuse.
Sage (VO): Let's go back to the orphanage for a moment: remember how I said that Lucy was targeted by the other kids for looking like she does?
Sage: Now, we know that kids can be cruel but tell me: does this feel real to you?
(The kids then trip Lucy up with an umbrella and laugh at her while jumping and dancing like stereotypical mocking idiots.)
Tomoo: You must be some kind of monster, cause you're totally not a human!
Sage: I don't know about you guys, but if I was a kid, and I knew about a girl about my age that had pink hair and horns....I would think that would be the coolest shit in the universe!
Sage (VO): But nope! Pretty much every single kid here is beyond awful, again, going back to what I mentioned about irredeemable fucksticks. But, these are kids. Misbehaving little shits, the lot of them. But still kids all the same.
Sage: Now I know what you're all thinking: "How in the world is the anime going to try to justify Lucy killing all these kids?" Well, they go for the lowest of low blows. They bludgeon Lucy's puppy to death.
Tomoo: Keep holding it down!
(The anime then shows Tomoo beating the puppy to death with a vase, while the other bullies hold Lucy and force her to hear the whimpering death throes for herself. And yes, the anime is seriously playing this exploitative edgelord scene as straight as it possibly can. These kids should be glad that John Wick wasn't even around when this show was first made.)
Sage: Who are these kids!? Jeffery Dahmer's bastards!? This would be, terrible if it wasn't so forced!
Sage (VO): Granted, trying to create an anime with as much transgressive subject matter as Elfen Lied does is NO easy task. And sometimes the only way to get away with it, is to contextualize it with something that's even worse. But you can't ask me to take this, or any other time the anime goes off the deep end to portray morally bleak bullshit, seriously.
Nana: No more! I'm scared! I'm scared, I don't want to do it anymore, please stop! Don't do it!
(The apparatus then fires a cannonball at Nana with enough force to splatter blood on the side as Kurama looks on in horror)
Isobe: Guess 270's the limit.
(Cut to a clip of "Ask Mr. Lizard" from Dinosaurs)
Mr. Lizard: We're gonna need another Timmy!
Sage (VO): I mean, you can't say it isn't effective. We're supposed to think Bando is a son of a bitch, and so they have him sucker punch a woman and beat up a little girl: son of a bitch status confirmed. But the lengths that the show goes too to frame him in such a way, removes all sense of intentness from the character. He comes off like a joke more than anything else. (Cut to a picture of Duke Nukem) Sort of like how Duke Nukem went from one of the coolest characters in video games, to being an unintended parody of himself.
(Cut to footage from a level in Duke Nukem Forever)
General: America is counting on you!
Duke: (Singing. You heard right) America: Fuck Yeah!
Sage (VO): If not for that: at least one has to laugh at the shear audacity of the anime, trying so goddamned hard to justify themselves having a bunch of kids slaughtered.
Lucy: Do you know who isn't human? PEOPLE LIKE YOU!!!
(Lucy then tears apart the bully holding her as Tomoo looks on in shock seeing his insides splattered across the room. (Also, get used to hearing the same sound effects being repeated for blood splatter and gore in this series)
Sage: You know: I don't care who I piss off by saying this. But, Elfen Lied: Too many kids getting butchered.
(Clip shows the aftermath of Lucy's massacre at the orphanage of pretty much everyone dismembered and the room covered in blood and broken glass)
Sage: Like: an absurd amount of children getting butchered.
(It then cuts to a scene where Lucy bisects Kouta's sister Kanae in half on a train....Right in front of Kouta. This series loves it's child murder doesn't it?)
Sage: It's unnecessary really. Sort of like the disturbing amount of shots of naked little girls.
Sage (VO): Yeah, so, the anime hints that Lucy is 18 but, Nana certainly isn't, Maya certainly isn't, and Mariko, the last Diclonius sent after Lucy, REALLY isn't. Although she is psychotically insane.
Mariko: Oh I see. You think you're gonna kill me right? (unintelligible) But....NO ONE CAN KILL ME, NOBODY!!!
Sage: You could make the argument that the nudity wasn't portrayed or framed in a sexual way, and, I can certainly see that side of the argument. Except for Mayu. But this all feels like we're dancing around the main meat of the discussion: What about the story?
(Fade out into the second commercial break)
Sage (VO): Well, if we can take into account that the plot centers around a homicidal demi-human who switches between her true personality and Sean Penn from I Am Sam. The story.....still doesn't make a whole lot of sense. So, seems that Diclonius can spread their infection like genes through human males and, that is how the reproduce. Thing is: Diclonius born from humans are sterile, so they can't reproduce themselves, save for Lucy. Hence why she was let out in the first place by this guy, son of Director Kakuzawa. Seems that he's one of the very, very rare male Diclonius. Although his genes have been watered down through the generations. But he figures that he and her could be the Adam and Eve for a new generation of Diclonius
Professor Kakuzawa: Lucy. It's different for you. You're the pure one I've been-
(Lucy interrupts his villain motive rant by promptly giving him the Headless Horseman special)
Sage: (Whispering) I think that's a no.
Sage (VO): So between this plot point and the end, not much really happens. But towards the last act, it's revealed that Kouta met Lucy when they were both young and befriended her when, shocker of shocks, he's not a complete dickhole to her! But the good times don't last long when Lucy's paranoia gets the better of her, and she becomes jealous of little Yuka, so she kills his family and Kouta blocked those memories until now.
Sage: Alright: throwing away the fact that repressed memories are about 95% bullshit, (especially how it's portrayed in fiction), the real problems start to teeter over at the end.
Sage (VO): After Mariko fails to kill Lucy, Kurama appears to reveal that she's his actual daughter, and seeing as how their lives are fucked up beyond all recognition, they decide to blow themselves up. Meanwhile Lucy, finally apologizing for, you know, killing Kouta's entire family because she was jealous of his cousin Yuka.
Sage: Which, to be fair, wasn't entirely unfounded.
(Sage clears his throat as a screencap of the kissing cousins moment appears in the upper right corner)
Sage (VO): Decides that enough is enough and throws herself into a waiting hail of gunfire. But, because the anime couldn't leave well enough alone. It's hinted that Lucy is still alive and that Director Kakuzawa is gonna attempt to breed more Diclonius because, well, like son, like father.
Sage: Now, my one question after sitting through all of this, is a simple one, but an important one too: Why do the Kakuzawa's think their plan is going to succeed?
Sage (VO): While the anime itself is fuzzy about the details, Diclonius born from humans are sterile. They can only reproduce by infecting human males, and thus more Diclonius are born. Sterile as they are. That's how Mariko came to being, and how Kurama's wife died the most melodramatic death I've ever seen in anime.
Hiromi: Why are you trying to kill our baby? We were looking forward to her so much, and now she's the only child I can ever have. I'm begging you to save her, she's our daughter. Our only chi-
(Hiromi then falls dead, face first onto Kurama's chest as blood is dragged down on his suit while her corpse falls to the ground. Then it cuts to Bennett snickering like a five year old at the sheer absurdity of it all)
Sage: (giggling) Jesus fuck, this show.
Sage (VO): So, Lucy is capable of conceiving, that I get. But then, why would you have your goons and conscripted Diclonius kill her? In fact, why didn't you impregnate her when you had her trussed up and locked away? I know, evil fucking thing to do. But again, evil fucking bastard here. And more to the point, why do you think YOU can make more Diclonius if you think Lucy is dead? No matter who you try to impregnate, they're only going to give birth to sterile Diclonius, and if you're genetic history is any indication, all you're gonna have are watered down Diclonius that don't have any vectors. It just seems like the Diclonius as a species were meant to go extinct in one generation, and you think you could rule the world full of them? This whole plan is nothing but racing as fast as you can to a red light.
Sage: At least it's better here than in the manga, where it's revealed that Director Kakuzawa, isn't even a Diclonius. He's just some poor fucktard with horns. It'd be tragic if it wasn't so funny!
Sage (VO): Now, I've probably spent the better part of 20 minutes kicking the crap out of Elfen Lied, give or take a minute or two, but I called it a cult anime at the top of this video and that infers that there is a cult fanbase around it. Obviously, I don't count myself among them but why is there one in the first place?
Sage: Because, for all of its faults, (mostly surrounding plot and character). It can be a very beautiful anime.
Sage (VO): Well, not visually speaking. The anime is pretty cheap and roughshod, and there's obvious cut corners every which way. But it's beautiful in tone, and that's thanks to the Superman of anime themes: Lilium. This one aria plays throughout the entire 13 episode run, and goddamned if it isn't the most effective piece of music. Just in terms of creating atmosphere and elevating an otherwise forced, forgettable scene. Hell, the opening of the very first episode is legendary, because the song creates this surreal contrast, between itself and the violence on screen.
(Bennett shows a clip of the opening act to emphasize his point, showing Lucy in the fetal position finishing off a poor mook scared and begging for his life, before a bloody vector opens up the shutter to her cell while the choir harmonizes in the background.)
Sage (VO): Still, even Superman fails every once in a while, and the law of diminishing returns strikes again. By the last episode, that aria has been used so many times, that it doesn't even register with you anymore. Especially when the melodrama hits it's most maudlin.
Mariko: All this time. That I was locked away in that dark room. I was looking forward to the day we'd meet. You'd say come out. And there you'd be (Sobs) with mommy, and waiting to take me home, so we could be a real family.
Sage: Yeesh! I know that your life up until know has been a hellish nightmare where you've been kept immobilized in a dark vault, to the point where you can't even stand on your own two feet but....COME ON!! You're a six year old girl! Play some Pokémon, or ponies or-
(Sage gets interrupted by the clip of Mariko and Kurama getting blown up)
Sage (VO): But as I said, Elfen Lied is predicated on extremes, but in every way imaginable Extreme violence and sadness, sure. But also extreme happiness and, dare I say love.
Kouta: I can't let you go knowing that you'll hurt people! There's already too much in my life that I regret, I want to put a stop to the bloodshed. Besides. I love that lonely little girl I met so long ago. And I love Nyu. She's like nobody I've ever met.
Sage (VO): The concepts of extremes are baked right into the very design of the show. Not only is that delicate Aria used to contrast the violence, but the set design and environments are peaceful and feature old-world beautiful architecture. All the more shocking when they both become drenched in blood. Even the characters are overly expressive, even bordering on Moe in certain respects. Usually, violent anime shies away from the overly drawn large eyes and the more stylized aspects of anime, opting for a more gritty or subdued design. That the characters are drawn the way they are, again, contrast the brutality that surrounds them. It's like if Happy Tree Friends were played completely straight: Though in Elfen Lied's case, sometimes it circles back to parody.
Sage: So I can certainly see the appeal of Elfen Lied from an aesthetic point of view. As well as a gorehound point of view.
Sage (VO): If you fancy yourself a fan of the Claret, then Elfen Lied won't let you down. And the fact that the anime has no compunction about having both women and children be on the receiving end of the bloodletting means that there's some novelty to it. At the very least, I can say that the violence is so outlandish and prolific that getting worked up over it feels like that's the point. You should be worked up about it: It just means it provoked you and therefore did its job. Still could have done without all the naked little girls though.
Sage: (Holding the DVD case) Even though I find myself on the (Makes gesture) "Thumbs down" side of Elfen Lied, I think that's more on me than on the anime itself. It knows who its audience is and it tries its damnedest to be what they want it to be. And, I got to respect it.
Sage (VO): A show that misses more than it hits can be forgiven if those hits go for a long way. Even the greatest batters in history fail 70% of the time. So it basically comes down to this: Are you the kind of person who remembers the homeruns, or the strikeouts?
Sage: Even though I know I thanked you all before, I can't let a milestone episode like this go by without, thanking you all again for allowing me, to do this show for as long as I have. And, I gotta say that, I also hope against hope that you all continue to, help and support the show because, there's still a lot of work to do. So we continue on, to episode 151 with, (Holds up DVD for) Hyper Doll. Till next time.