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Elfen Lied (エルフェンリート Erufen Rīto?) is a Japanese manga series created by manga author Lynn Okamoto. A thirteen-episode anime television series adaptation based on the manga was produced by the studio ARMS and broadcast on TV Tokyo from July to October 2004; the anime was later licensed in North America on DVD by ADV Films. The anime started before the manga was complete; as a result, the plot differed between the two, especially towards the ending of the story. In 2005, a special original video animation, written to occur between the tenth and eleventh episodes of the series, was released. The title is German for "Elf Song" and takes its name from the poem "Elfenlied".

Elfen Lied revolves around the interactions, views, emotions, and differences between humans and the Diclonius, a mutant species similar to humans in build but distinguishable by two horns on their head 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 humans and subsequently wants revenge.

Elfen Lied involves themes of social alienation, identity, prejudice, revenge, abuse, jealousy, regret and the value of humanity.[2] The series employs graphic violence. So far, only the thirteen-episode anime series has been licensed in the United States, 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.[3][4]


Elfen Lied takes place in Kamakura, Japan, focusing on a new strain of the human race - Diclonius, similar to ordinary human beings, yet different at the genetic level and notable due to physical abnormalities, particularly a pair of short horn-like protrusions. 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, Kanagawa Prefecture, she manages to escape and wreak havoc, but is injured in the process, an event which causes her to develop a secondary, child-like personality known as Nyu.

She is found by two local residents, Kohta, who studies at the local university, and his cousin Yuka. They agree to take her in, becoming involved with the numerous, often brutal, attempts to recapture Lucy by a Special Assault Team and a number of other Diclonius, who shift from oblivious to murderous frequently. Other characters include Bando, a SAT trooper who was mauled by Lucy and infected with a virus, and Kurama, a carrier of the virus.

While the animated series ends with Lucy confronting a large team of SAT members, after which she disappears, the manga continues by showing the mad plans of Kakuzawa, leader of the Diclonius' research, and his ultimate failure. The world itself is endangered.


  • Lucy (ルーシー Rūshī?), whose real name is Kaede, is a Diclonius girl around eighteen years old. Lucy has developed strong emotions of hatred and vengeance towards regular humans mainly because of how she was treated by the majority of them as a child, making fun of her horns and giving her insulting nicknames such as freak. As a child, she bonded with a dog which was killed right in front of her by classmates, which triggered her first killing. She seems to lack empathy, kills without much concern, and acts somewhat sadistically, often torturing victims before killing (such as Bandou and Nana, though she did not actually kill them); however, towards the end of the series, she begins to show remorse for her actions, especially towards Kohta, whose father and sister were killed by her. She is aware of her "Nyu" state as revealed in the manga by her worries just before she reverts. "Lucy" is not actually her real name; the last chapter of the manga reveals that her name is actually Kaede. Voiced by: Sanae Kobayashi (Japanese), Kira Vincent-Davis (English)
  • Nyu (にゅう Nyū?) is a split personality of Lucy that developed after a .50 BMG round ricocheted off the metallic helmet encasing her head.[5] Nyu has a childlike personality and infantile knowledge of the world, forgetting even that she is a Diclonius and how to use or manifest her vectors, leaving her as what is equivalent to a human with horns. She initially lacks spoken language skills; however, she eventually learns a handful of words and phrases until (in the manga) she can finally speak properly despite the fact she still uses the nonsensical phrase nyu as her catchphrase. Nyu is innocent and incapable of violent acts, a foil to the normally cold and sadistic Lucy; she is the manifestation of her "good side". Whenever Nyu hits her head or when she is confronted with violence, she reverts to her sadistic side, Lucy, though is unaware of her actions while in her "Lucy" state. Voiced by: Sanae Kobayashi (Japanese), Kira Vincent-Davis (English)
  • Kohta (コウタ Kōta?) is around nineteen years old and enters the story when his cousin's family allows him to move in to their closed-down restaurant 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. Because of him repressing his memories, Kohta does not remember Lucy from when he met her earlier as a child, nor does he remember the child Yuka (which causes problems for him and Yuka due to Yuka's feelings for him; she is hurt at being forgotten). Due in part to his loss, he has a soft spot for girls in trouble and is extremely generous and protective of the girls around him. He constantly has flash backs, like many other characters, that do not make any sense to us. He is more forgiving in the anime, but when he gets his memories back in the manga, he is unforgiving towards Lucy for killing his father and sister. Even so, he also remembers the happy memories that he shared with Lucy, and loves her despite the horrible things she's done. Voiced by: Chihiro Suzuki (Japanese), Adam Conlon (English)
  • Yuka (ユカ?) is Kohta's cousin. She is around nineteen years old and last saw Kohta when they were ten, during the summer when Kohta family visited (just before Kohta's father and sister were murdered).When Kohta moves to Kamakura to attend same university as her, she moves in with him at the Kaeda House inn. She has had a crush on Kohta since childhood, and secretly hopes that they will finally be together. She is uncomfortable with Nyu's attachment to him, and often feels anger at Kohta for not understanding her feelings toward him.Voiced by: Mamiko Noto (Japanese), Nancy Novotny (English)


Much of the plot of Elfen Lied revolves around a species known as Diclonius which, as explained in the original manga version,[citation needed] are an evolutionary development from humans. Their bodies are very similar to humans', the only obvious difference being the two horn-like temporal protrusions which are said to relate to their telekinetic powers. In the manga, it is mentioned that Diclonius would fall into a coma if they lose one of their horns and would never return from their lethargic state if they lose both horns.[citation needed] However, Lucy manages to recover from this twice. In the anime, Lucy went into shock from losing one of her horns, and was temporarily rendered catatonic for a very brief period before recovering in time to save Nana.

Their powers involve the usage 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 Diclonius kill their victims. Vectors usually have a limited range of a few meters, but the length varies between Diclonius; Lucy's vectors are able to extend to 2 meters; Nana's can reach 5 meters , and Mariko's are the longest, with a range of 11 meters. Diclonius also have the ability to detect the location of others of their kind, such as when Kurama releases Nana from the offshore laboratory to search for and retrieve Lucy. However, when Lucy reverts to her "Nyu" state, Nana is unable to sense her; in the manga, Nana is also unable to sense Mariko when she is injured and reverts to a personality similar to Nyu.

A key dispute 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. If a Diclonius vector penetrates a human body, the "vector virus" is transferred to the human, causing their children to be born as Diclonius. An incident involving the escape of a child Diclonius during Kurama's early years where the Diclonius' vectors penetrated him resulted in Mariko being born a Diclonius, and Kurama takes precautions against a recurrence by attempting to sterilize Bando.[6]

According to the manga, all Diclonius ("Silpelits") born from human parents are sterile and female, resulting in a structure resembling a beehive. There is only one Diclonius that is actually capable of reproducing: Lucy, the "queen".

It is disputed and contradicted during the series as to how Diclonius develop their violent behavior, whether it is part of their personality or whether it stems from abuse by humans, and both conclusions are supported by significant evidence. Kurama explains to Bandou that Diclonius are born with the intention of populating the world, and Lucy has implied to be directed by Diclonius instincts when she kills humans as a child.[citation needed] In the anime's final episode Lucy tells Kohta that "I was born to destroy humans." However, it is also shown that the Diclonius have usually been subjected to some type of severe psychological trauma; for example, Lucy was tormented by her human peers and witnessed the killing of her pet as a child, while Mariko was raised in neglect since her birth. They could therefore have developed their homicidal tendencies from abuse. Further supporting this view is the evidence of Nana's character. Unlike other Diclonius, Nana is good-natured and refuses to kill humans in order to please Kurama. Kurama implies Nana's nature is a direct result of his caring for her and treating her as a daughter while she endured horrific experiments at the Diclonius research facility.

Nevertheless, the researchers at the experimental facility believe the Diclonius to be nothing less than an existential threat. The Diclonius there are kept in isolation, where they are heavily restrained to the point of being unable to move and fed through tubes. Lucy mentions the danger to the human race to Kohta in the final episode of the anime: "Given just five years, I can ensure that there are more babies of our kind born in the world than there are normal humans."


When work began on adapting the Elfen Lied manga 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 moe 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.

Despite the manga having 107 chapters, 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 missed out.[7]

Kanbe originally thought that "this was a love story, and I could make it so that it would bring viewers to tears."[7] 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.[8] 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

A segment from the first episode of the anime, which is notorious for featuring nudity and strong graphic violence for the major duration of its run. Here, Lucy is using the beheaded body of a secretary as a shield.

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 in the series.

Themes such as genocide and the attempts to "purify" the earth from each other also appear in the anime between Diclonius and humans. Both species feel the need to populate the earth with their own species and wipe each other out. Kanbe quoted this in relation to the desire of humans to cast each other out and segregate each other.[2]

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".[9] Throughout the series there are various incidences of human 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 yet copious amount of blood is shown.

The introduction scenes of Elfen Lied are a reference to Gustav Klimt's artwork such as The Kiss.

A majority of the episodes contain graphic amounts of 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. 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 'ultra-cuteness.'"[10] 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[11] and Gunslinger Girl.[10]

Cultural references

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.[11] The song Elfenlied ("Elf Song"), appears in the manga[12] and is credited to the composer Hugo Wolf. A poem by Eduard Mörike is the basis for Wolf's version. The song does appear in both the anime and the manga. In the manga, it is taught to Nyu by the manga-only protagonist Nozomi. While in the anime, the melody of the song is played from a music box in Nyu's flashback with Kohta. The music box is shown in episode nine, "Reminiscence", and has a gold plate in the top with the word "Lilium" on it, which is the name of the theme.



Written by Lynn Okamoto, Elfen Lied premiered in Japan in Weekly Young Jump magazine in June 2002. New chapters continued to appear in the magazine until August 2005, when the final chapter was published.[13] The series' 107 chapters were also published in twelve collected volumes by Shueisha from October 2002 through November 2005.


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 special 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 24-minute original video animation (OVA) episode was released by VAP on April 21, 2005. It takes place between episodes ten and eleven of the original TV series. The anime's opening theme song is "Lilium" by Noma Kumiko and is sung in Latin. The ending theme song is "Be Your Girl" by Chieko Kawabe.

The anime was licensed by ADV Films in the United States in 2004 and was released on DVD in 2005. During the Anime Boston 2006[14] (May 26–28) convention, ADV Films acquired 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" DVD released in June 2009. As of September 1, 2009, all of ADV Films' former catalog was transferred to AEsir Holdings, with distribution from Section23 Films.[15]

The series was aired in the United Kingdom on Propeller TV (Sky Digital) as part of Anime Network's short-lived launch in the United Kingdom. The series was aired uncut. 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-MAVSL; 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.[16]

Differences between media

Due to the fact that the manga had not been finished by the time the TV series started airing, the manga and anime show 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 series only covers events roughly up to about halfway through the manga storyline, though the anime has its own original ending. As a result, much of the characters' pasts and many details of their pasts and of the Diclonius that were in the manga do not appear in the anime.

Several of the characters in the manga also do not appear in the anime, such as Aiko, who Lucy encounters prior to her capture (however, she briefly appears in the OVA) and the characters of Silpelit Number 28, the Mariko clones, Lucy's younger half-brother, and Anna Kakuzawa and Nozomi, a friend of Yuka, who wants to be a singer but cannot be because of her abusive father. There is also a difference in the characters' personalities in the manga; Kohta is much less forgiving upon finding out that Lucy was the one who killed his family.

Several of the properties of the Diclonius change between the anime and the manga; Lucy has many more vectors in the manga and her destructive power is far more powerful at the point she can destroy buildings and sink an island, and there is greater variation in hair and eye color. In the anime the female Diclonius have a uniform red or pink hair and eye color; however in the manga their hair color can be as diverse as a normal human's (e.g. in the manga, Nana and Mariko have purple and blond hair, respectively). Diclonii genetics are also explained in greater detail in the manga (such as Kurama explaining 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 whereas he does in the end of the anime and Bandou does not lose the lower half of his body.


The Elfen Lied anime series has received praise for its story and technical excellence in production quality, animation and color.[11][17][18][19] Due to the many scenes of nudity and gore in the series, it has drawn criticism as being "overly blatant"[20] or "sad and forced".[21] The overtness of the first nine minutes of the first episode has deterred some viewers and caused controversy as to 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.[17] Another criticism is that "the series ends abruptly with some loose ends to the story that could leave viewers unsatisfied".[22] Despite these criticisms, Western reviewers also describe the series as "really a genuinely good watch",[20] "a horror series of exceptional merit",[22] "certainly memorable"[11] and "a very special show, good and bad parts taken into consideration".[9]


  1. "Elfen Lied South Africa Animax". Animax. Retrieved 2009-07-21. [dead link]
  2. 2.0 2.1 "Backstage — Official Elfen Lied website" (in Japanese). Retrieved 2007-12-01. 
  3. Solomon, Charles (July 17, 2005). "Mean Girls". New York Times. 
  4. ADV Films (September 28, 2005). "Great Reason To Give Thanks With Nine New Releases November 15th". Press release.
  5. Okamoto, Lynn (2002). "Chapter 1". Elfen Lied, Volume 1. Shueisha. ISBN 978-4088763583. 
  6. "Deep Feelings ~ Im Innersten". Elfen Lied. 2004-08-08. No. 1.
  7. 7.0 7.1 Exclusive Mamoru Kanbe interview, DVD Extra — Elfen Lied DVD 1 (Vector One). Released by Madman Entertainment and ADV Films.
  8. "Production Note, Official Elfen Lied website" (in Japanese). VAP. Retrieved 2008-03-20. 
  9. 9.0 9.1 Høgset, Stig. "Elfen Lied review". THEM Anime Reviews 4.0. Retrieved 2006-08-21. 
  10. 10.0 10.1 Dong, Bamboo (June 29, 2005). "Shelf Life — Sound of Bounce on Free Throw". Anime News Network. Retrieved 2007-01-18. 
  11. 11.0 11.1 11.2 11.3 Robinson, Tasha (August 8, 2005). "Elfen Lied". Sci Fi Weekly. Archived from the original on 2006-09-20. Retrieved 2007-01-18. 
  12. Okamoto, Lynn. Elfen Lied Volume 5 (in Japanese). Shueisha. p. 154. ISBN 4-08-876477-3. 
  13. "Elfen Lied (manga)". Anime News Network. Retrieved 2008-05-28. 
  14. "Anime Boston 2006 - A.D. Vision". Anime News Network. Retrieved 2006-06-05. 
  15. "ADV Films Shuts Down, Transfers Assets To Other Companies". Anime News Network. 2009-09-01. Retrieved 2010-05-14. 
  16. "Re: What kind of anime do you complainers want?". Adult Swim. April 27, 2006). Retrieved 2007-09-23.  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  17. 17.0 17.1 Martin, Theron (May 16, 2005). "Elfen Lied DVD 1 Review". Anime News Network. Retrieved 2006-04-19. 
  18. Martin, Theron (July 22, 2005). "Elfen Lied DVD 2 Review". Anime News Network. Retrieved 2007-01-18. 
  19. Pierce, Travis (May 27, 2005). "Elfen Lied Review". Gamerz-Edge. Retrieved 2007-01-18. 
  20. 20.0 20.1 Laeno, Dominic. "Elfen Lied review — Second opinion". THEM Anime Reviews 4.0. Retrieved 2007-01-18. 
  21. "Negative First Impression Theater: Elfen Lied". Iron Circus. February 12, 2005. Retrieved 2007-01-22. 
  22. 22.0 22.1 Martin, Theron (November 28, 2005). "Elfen Lied DVD 4 Review". Anime News Network. Retrieved 2006-04-19. 

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