Sweet bloody Jesus on a crucifix. Sorry if that seems like a heretical epithet to begin a post with, but Elfen Lied is one fucked up manga. I just wrapped up the second volume which (if it’s possible) managed to up the gratuitous violence of the first volume in ways I would not have imagined to be doable. I really don’t want to imagine what is going on in Lynn Okamato’s head (the series’ writer and aritst), but this dude obviously had some really dark things going on in his life that he felt the need to work out via manga. Not since Neon Genesis Evangelion have I found an anime/manga series that is just this brutal. While Elfen Lied still isn’t quite as psychological or philosphical as Neon Genesis Evangelion, I can definitely see where the series planted the seeds for future growth. I’ve been reading this volume over the course of the last couple days (I nearly read it all in one sitting again but I forced myself to stop), and it’s a Festivus miracle that it hasn’t caused me nightmares because of the always shocking depictions of violence and disturbing examples of serious cruelty. Elfen Lied is the master of the macabre.

After Lucy temporarily returned and decimated the government Special Assault Team sent to kill her (and horrifically maimed its psychotic leader Bando), she quickly reverted back to her childlike persona of Nyu and returned to the Kaede residence to be cared for by Kohta and his cousin Yuka. After Yuka walks in on Kohta trying to clothe Nyu (because she’s too mentally underdeveloped to do it herself), Yuka moves in with Kohta because she’s A) jealous of the attention he gives Nyu (despite the fact that he has no real interest in her) and B ) because she wants to make sure Kohta doesn’t take advantage of Nyu. Despite being Kohta’s cousin, Yuka feels a romantic attraction to Kohta and becomes jealous whenever she sees anything remotely inappropriate happening between Kohta and Nyu. A 12 year old homeless girl (named Mayu) shows up at the Kaede home. Though she was at the beach when Lucy destroyed the SAT team, she doesn’t recognize Lucy as Nyu. Matters spiral out of control when Nyu slips and hits her head and becomes Lucy again. She slips out of the house but she is quickly located by another Diclonius, another young female named Nana. Nana desperately seeks the affection and approval of apparent Big Bad Kurama who she sees as her father despite him using her for torturous scientific experiments. Lucy rips every single limb off of Nana’s body though. Just when she’s surrounded by SAT forces though, she begins to revert to her Nyu mindset. She manages to escape before the transformation is complete and shows up back at the Kaede residence a mindless simpleton again. (Mayu witnessed this whole ordeal and wound up in the hospital. She called Kohta to help her out because she has no one else. Should be interesting to see if she recognizes Lucy/Nyu now).

The whole incestual subtext between Kohta and Yuka is making me really uncomfortable but I’m pretty sure that was the point. Yuka certainly has feelings for Kohta, but I don’t think he quite seems to feel the same way about her. Also, apparently he is blocking some traumatic memory from his childhood which is causing even more friction between him and Yuka. I’m interested to find out what really happened there. There’s just a lot of teenage sexuality in this manga, and that in general is making me pretty uncomfortable just because Kohta regularly finds himself in these very awkward situations with Nyu who is for all mental purposes a child. There is zero fanservice in this comic so far. It’s just all intended to be as disturbing as humanly possible, and it succeeds. It can be difficult to sit through reading some of these moments just because they are so awkward and painful, and that’s as a reader. They’re meant to be even more disquieting for the characters on screen. Similarly, all of the moments between Nana and Kurama were brutal and heartbreaking. Nana is meant to be a sympathetic figure who is slaughtered (though still alive I think…) by Lucy and who wants nothing more than the love of her distant and uncaring father figure (though he does seem to want revenge for Nana’s assault). It plays at your heartstrings.

It’s weird. I’m just realizing that while I certainly think this is a better and more interesting comic than Bleach, both of my Bleach reviews have been a little bit longer than my Elfen Lied reviews. I think that has something to do with A) the fact that Bleach issues are about five or six pages longer than Elfen Lied and that B ) also, Bleach‘s stories tend to have a little bit more happening plot wise (just because Tite Kubo tries to jam as much action and exposition into his stories as he can). Anyways, I’ll keep this Elfen Lied post short and sweet (if for no other reason than it’s really hard to find manga pictures via Google Search). This comic is seriously messed up, and unless you can handle things that make Quentin Tarantino films look like a Disney picture, you should really stay away from this series. I feel sort of dirty and disturbed just for reading it, but it’s a price I’m willing to pay to find a fiction that is this genuinely unsettling. I can only imagine where it goes from here.

Final Score: B+

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