Because I don’t want to burn myself out while reading Bleach (and because I left all of my real books/comic books in WV), I’ve decided to switch back and forth between volumes of Bleach and volumes of the notoriously graphically violent and psychologically disturbing Elfen Lied. There are something like 52 volumes of Bleach (it’s been running for over a decade and is still going) and only 12 volumes of Elfen Lied so when I finish the latter, I’ll just have to find something else to distract me as I continue to read Bleach although there’s a halfway decent chance that just by that point, I’ll have given up on Bleach if it ends up being as bad as I’ve heard towards the end (or even towards the part where they end up in the Soul Society). Anyways, last night I began Elfen Lied which I read very, very quickly (if for no other reason than the plot propels itself forward very rapidly), and it without a doubt deserves its reputation as being one of the most (for lack of a better word) fucked up manga on the planet that doesn’t somehow delve into being hentai or ecchi.

At a remote island research base, a scientist named Kurama is explaining to government agent the nature of a new mutant offshoot of humanity known as the Diclonius. Born with two horns extending from their head and telekinetic powers beyond imagination (i.e. they can dismember humans with utter ease), the Diclonius are the greatest threat to humanity in our existence. There is only one (so far) named Lucy, who the government keeps completely locked and chained in a secure holding facility. All the guards know not to come within two meters of her (or to allow any of their belongings to get that close to her) because it will result in their immediate and ghastly death. Guess what happens? After killing the two guards watching her (in gruesome, gruesome fashion), a naked Lucy waltzes out of her holding cell and continues to mow down even more of the armed soldiers in the complex, including a brutal dessication of a young secretary. Just as she’s about to leave the island, one of Kurama’s sniper’s hits her in the face with a .50 sniper round which she somehow manages to survive. However, Lucy is now suffering from amnesia and she washed up on the shore of a beach, still completely naked only to be found by two young cousins, the male Kouta and the female Yuka, who attempt to care for the amnesiac Lucy who can only say “Nyu” (which is what they name her) and has the mental faculties of a very small child. After government operatives (including a true psycho named Bando that Lucy maims when she momentarily regains her memories) try to recapture Lucy, it is quickly apparent to Kouta and Yuka that something is strange about this girl they’ve just found.

I’m not quite sure how to approach this manga critically yet since I’m still so early in the process of reading it. Here are some initial thoughts. There is a ton, ton, ton of violence in this show. Like, just an unbelievable amount of blood and gore. It takes a lot of blood and guts to faze me but there is so much violence here that it can make me slightly sick to my stomach to read it. Yet, somehow that disturbing voyeuristic quality is also one of the reasons I can’t quite put it down. I read the entire volume in one sitting which is certainly high praise (though it felt like the chapters in this manga were short but maybe I was just reading it very quickly. The other big thing to warn potential readers of the series (or viewers of the anime) is that there is also a considerable amount of nudity in this show. Once again, it’s not being done for a hentai like porn effect or to titillate readers. It’s meant to be disturbing/dramatic, and it pretty much always is. If this comic doesn’t get under your skin somehow or if you’re enjoying it without a healthy helping of disgust at the actions you’re seeing, there’s probably something deeply wrong with you.

Here are the basic questions you have to ask yourself before you read this manga. Do you have a weak stomach? If so, go find something else. Are you offended by nudity? lots and lots of nudity. Once again, if so, go somewhere else. Other than that, this has a reputation for being one of the most psychologically daring and morally complex manga ever written so I’m all aboard. I haven’t actually gotten to any parts where the series is deeply philosophical but I’m sure they’re coming because this franchise has developed a considerable cult following over the years. I’m actually looking forward to reading more Bleach though instead of coming right back to these books just because I feel like my brain is definitely going to need regular breaks from the shocking and disturbing violence that appears in Elfen Lied‘s pages regularly.

Final Score: B+