Elfen Lied Vol. 3 & 4

Let's face it: if you've made it past the first two volumes of Elfen Lied, not much gets to you. The carnage seen in the opening half of this series is enough to ward off all but those with strong stomachs, and those offended by nudity have left the fold as well. But is there more than that to Elfen Lied? Absolutely, and watchers who made it through to this point will likely find the last two discs rewarding, if a few far-fetched points and a little bit more questionable material don't bother you terribly.

In the second half of Elfen Lied, the massive chase that's been on slows to a halt as we get some serious backstory on Lucy/Nyu from Nana, the Diclonius who (unlike the others) does not want to kill. We find out Lucy's first experiences in the real world and what led to her becoming the schizophrenic killer she's become. What's more, we realize that the worlds of Kouta and Yuka have passed within Lucy's course before. As the sinister organization that controls the Diclonius beings releases their most fearsome terror yet to bring in Lucy and kill Nana, our friends realize that the young woman they've been harboring may bring destruction on them all.

As the second half unfolds, we come into what turns out to be a deeply personal story. The darker elements of Elfen Lied come to the surface, not in terms of gore and viscera but the heartrending pain that has led all of our characters to their current state. What once was a mishmash of genres finds its way into tragedy and stays there until the end of the piece. The final episodes conclude the story in a way I never expected, but it works and works well. I thoroughly enjoyed the ending overall, especially since tragedy like this rarely finds its way into anime.

The carnage level of these episodes is not quite as high as in the first two discs, but the violence here is far more disturbing. We aren't dealing with random redshirts here but the vicious deaths of children and the innocent. Those scenes don't need a lot of red paint to be unsettling, and I think they could disturb a few viewers. The show also broadcasts several scenes of full underage nudity, and though they aren't detailed or exploitative per se, they are unnecessary and brought down my opinion a bit. I will say, though, that there is far less of what I'd consider deliberate fan service (and that's a plus in my book).

There are a couple of moments that required me to suspend my disbelief a little too much. While I liked the idea of Lucy's childhood meshing at points with Kouta's, there are points in their backstory together that are hard to believe. Meanwhile, there is a "dramatic reveal" near the end of the final episode that is silly and pointless as it is played, especially against this otherwise unrelenting backdrop of sadness and death. (You'll know it when you see it.)

However, I am glad that the conclusion works well. No, not all the mysteries are solved, and there's huge room for a sequel. (I understand that there is a short epilogue OVA that wasn't licensed in the U.S. which I'll review if I can find it.) There are bits that don't quite work. But on the whole, I liked Elfen Lied, even though its material went over the edge on many occasions. It's a worthy show for those who like edgy, gruesome fare that's more than typical horror drivel.

Elfen Lied Vol. 3 & 4 -- brutal and graphic violence, nudity, profanity, disturbing themes and concepts, rated TV-MA -- B+