Category: Seinen

While Elfen Lied the anime (which I’ve only seen an episode and a half of because I couldn’t bring myself to watch it when there was any possibility that another person would enter the room) was eventually brought to the states and even given a proper dub, there has never been an officially licensed version of the Elfen Lied manga brought to the U.S. If you read the manga (and have a basic grasp of America’s sad past in regards to obscenity laws), you might understand why no publisher would want to take that sort of risk. I know I feel like I say this after every volume, but Elfen Lied keeps finding ways to up the “incredibly fucked up” factor and I’ve seriously determined that Lynn Okamoto is in serious need of psychological counseling because no emotionally sound mind could come up with this kind of shit. Yet, I still enjoy his depravity so I’m probably wrong in the head because I found this story of racism, xenophobia, and isolation to be endlessly compelling and one of the most deeply psychological anime/manga this side of Neon Genesis Evangelion.

A government SWAT team led by Dr. Nousou and her brainwashed squad of three clones of Lucy arrive at the Maple Inn completely busting down one of the doors. Despite being thrown up against the wall by one of the clones vectors, Nyu never transforms into Lucy and simply can’t understand what is going on. It isn’t until Kohta interferes and gets shot in the back that Lucy finally awakens, grows out her horns to be at bunny-esque proportions, and goes H.A.M. on every living bad guy in the room. She just cuts one of the Diclonius straight up in half which forces the remaining survivors of her initial attack to retreat. They think they can stay out of Lucy’s range and run away, but she knocks a motherfucking helicopter out of the sky and throws it at Dr. Nousou. The two remaining clones try to hold it up and Lucy just decapitates one of them. The last tricks Lucy by making it look like she’s sacrificed her own life to die with Nousou under the helicopter but she really forced a hole in the bottom for them to hide in til the fight was over. However, the clone that Lucy chopped in half was actually Mariko (Kurama’s daughter) and in her last breath she used her vectors to break one of Lucy’s mega-horns (and another government agent shot off the other one reducing her back to Nyu). Kurama shows up at the Maple Inn and drags off the lifeless corpse of Marika as his mind completely snaps. We learn a little more of Lucy’s backstory where after she went on the killing spree that ended with the murder of Kohta’s family, she kept killing random civilians around the town giving in to her evil side until a little girl she befriended nearly dragged her out of her funk. However, the little girl had an abuse father which the little girl murdered and as the girl and Lucy tried to hide, the government agency (which was tracking Lucy) showed up and shot (and killed) Lucy’s new friend permanently cementing her transition to the dark side.

While I forgot to mention that Kohta survived being shot, the incident (and seeing one of the clones cut in half) forced him to recall what Lucy did all those years ago and now he has sworn revenge on her. The inn is destroyed and everyone is living with Yuka’s family, except for Nana whose Yuka’s mother doesn’t trust because of her horns. Nana goes off to the beach to help feed a homeless man that Mayu had been taking care of. It turns out that man is Kurama, who completely rejects Nana in favor of his lifeless corpse of a daughter. Nana momentarily succumbs to the darkness inside her but then the scene fades away and we only see her later cradling the potentially still alive Kurama in the forest back to her regular kind self. Nyu is being held hostage (and naked) by Director Kakuzawa in his irradiated pond which is also the grave of a million deformed diclonius baby as his people attempted to breed their perfect savior. He is going to rape and impregnate Lucy so that he can be the new God of the new Diclonius race and overthrow humanity. However, Nyu finally snaps at the last moment and without becoming Lucy gains vector powers of her own which (with the possible, ambiguous help of Kakuzawa’s daughter Anna) are now stories tall. Also, Nousou took the brain control chip off of the remaining clone which immediately decapitated her and is now likely on a murderous rampage around Kurakama.

If you were to judge a volume of Elfen Lied by the number of times that I used the word “fuck” as some part of an exclamatory phrase or “jesus christ” in a similar manner, it would be pretty difficult to top this one. There is something brutal and absoluteyl disturbing happening every 10 pages or so (sometimes even more often). If this isn’t the most graphically violent volume of the series yet, I have no clue what would be. Yet, there is so much more going on than just a wee bit of the old ultra violence (to quote A Clockwork Orange). We got deep, deep insight into why Lucy hates Kurama so much (killed her last real friend). We know why any harm coming to Kohta instantly sends Nyu into full-blown crazy Lucy mode (she honestly wants to repent for what she did). We got some more look into Nana’s deep-seated rejection issues and the incident that may have finally sent her off the deep end. Kohta has finally remembered what happened when he was a child which means any possibility of a happy ending at the Maple Inn with the whole group together is completely impossible. Kakuzawa proved that he was one of the most sadistic and evil villains I’ve ever encountered as he tortured and taunted the innocent and defenseless Nyu, knowing full well that she wasn’t Lucy. This volume provided everything that makes Elfen Lied great and deeply unsettling.

I really want to play Mass Effect 3 a little bit tonight before I go to bed (even though I have tomorrow off, I have to spend the first part of it working because there was some serious miscommunication at work) so I’m going to draw this review to a close. There are only two volumes of Elfen Lied left. It’s 19 chapters I believe. I can’t believe I’m finally so close to being done with reading this entire series. The only other manga series I’ve read from beginning to end was Death Note (which was way before I started this blog though it is on my shortlist of things I want to review but more likely the anime which I’ve never watched all the way through despite owning it in the entirety). Considering that I’m basically only a fifth of the way through Bleach, it will be a long before I ever finish it (if I ever actually finish it). It’s cool to know that this is a franchise I’m actually going to get the all the way through. I’m actually thinking of replacing this once I’ve finished it with the Neil Gaiman’s Sandman books which I actually own physical copies of at home (and that I’ve been meaning to reread for a long time now). Actually, that’s totally what I’m going to do. Now, I’m very excited.

Final Score: A-

A couple of volumes back, I decided to start taking critical notes during my reviews of Bleach mostly so I could leave specific bookmarks on what I thought were great pages from the book to use as pictures in these posts. The opportunity to remark on things that immediately struck me as intriguing also helped the posts become a little more focused, but a quick read through of my notes from say the last volume of Bleach reveals me mostly reveling in whatever feat of bad-assery that Ichigo had just accomplished or trying to keep track of the endless supply of new characters that Tite Kubo was introducing to the series. I decided to start taking notes on Elfen Lied as well, and a read through of those notes are a “little” different. Some variation of “what the fuck” or “holy fuck” or any other expletive seems to be the most common phrase because Elfen Lied continues to reveal new depths of twisted and depraved cruelty in its villains. Like, seriously, Elfen Lied requires a special kind of immunity to disturbing material to even attempt to read it and I’m really depressed about the fact that I’m apparently so desensitized that I can make it through this story (even though it leaves me battered and bruised when I’m done).

When Bando managed to scare away the Unknown Man last volume, the peace at the Maple Inn was shattered the second that Yuka, Kohta, and Nyu showed up at the house. Without hesitation, Bando tried to shoot Nyu which caused her self-preservation mechanisms to kick in and she became Lucy again for the first time in months. Out of respect for Kohta from Lucy and for Mayu from Bando, Bando and Lucy decide to take their fight to the beach (where the Unknown Man fled). We finally know why Bando’s been cleaning the beach all of these months. It’s so there’s nothing that Lucy’s vectors could throw at him. However, despite all of his traps and planning, his pistol still isn’t strong enough to pierce Lucy’s vectors outside of her kill range. The Unknown Man tries to stop Bando from killing Lucy but Lucy just rips his head off for his trouble. Despite her strength, Bando is able to get the drop on Lucy but Mayu shows up to stop him from killing her. Lucy tries to kill Mayu and Bando throws her out of the way and sacrifices his life to save Mayu’s (and shoots and wounds Lucy in the process). Lucy flees to the woods to heal, and Nana vows that she’ll kill Lucy now even if she’s just Nyu the next time she sees her. When Lucy reverts to being Nyu in the forest, she stumbles across Mayu and Nana at the temple/gazebo thing where Nana finally tells Mayu the truth about Lucy. A heartbroken and confused Nyu wanders around the woods trying to make sense of her existence when she finally returns to Nana to confront her. Nana nearly kills Nyu but because Nana is the most innocent of all of the Diclonius she can’t bring herself to harm the defenseless Nyu. Things aren’t safe though because A) Nyu heard the evil diclonius inner voice that Lucy heard as a child and also B ) the volume ends with the government busting into the Maple Inn with four clones of Lucy that are under their complete control.

It finally struck me how similar the government agency in this series is supposed to be the Nazis, specifically with regards to both the Holocaust and their horrific medical experimentation. Just, my god. In order to craft the four clones of Lucy (that can be ordered to stab themselves in the heart and mutilate themselves however their masters see fit just to prove that they are controllable), Director Kakuzawa and a new scientist named Nousou (who bears a remarkable resemblance to Lucy) have been breeding Diclonius with the sole intention of harvesting their spinal cords (which of course we’re forced to see an assembly line with spines on them. *shudder*). So not only are their Diclonius whose entire pitiful existence is one miserable experiment after another (i.e. shooting lead balls at them to chart the growth of their vectors or being forced to live in eternal agony just to serve as a living Diclonius radar), their are Diclonius who are only born to be grown to be harvested like cattle. It’s some fucked up shit. And I really don’t know (or at this point want to know) where Lynn Okamoto is getting his inspiration for this series. On that note though, the scene where Bando is dying and reflecting on what he did to save Mayu’s life was heartbreaking and almost brought a tear to my eye.

I’m going to keep this review short just because I have to review the last disc of Season 2 of Mad Men (have I ever mentioned how much I hate Betty Draper), and then at some point today, I would like to watch Federico Fellini’s 8 1/2 which is the next movie in my instant queue from Netflix. After that I want to finally get around to starting the first season of Angel for review on this blog (it’s been ages since I finished Buffy). I am so excited to be watching Angel. I know a ton of people who think it’s a far superior program to Buffy, and since I know that it’s a darker and more mature counterpart to Whedon’s breakthrough program, I’ll likely be prone to agreeing. Anyways, there are only three volumes of Elfen Lied left (which equates to something like 25 chapters). I can’t believe I’m so close to the finish line but it’s nice to know that I’m close to the end of the horrifying and scarring journey that has been Elfen Lied. I’ll probably be back in WV by the time I’m done and I don’t know whether I’ll pick up another manga to read when I’m done with this or go back to normal books since I’ll actually have access to my library of books again.

Final Score: B+


Elfen Lied: Vol. 8

Why am I reading this series? I’m essentially volunteering to need massive amounts of brain bleach before I’m finished with Elfen Lied. Yet, after every detour I make into the far more family-friendly (and significantly less fucked-up) Bleach (didn’t even realize the joke I accidentally set up there), I always return to Elfen Lied like a woman suffering from battered-wife syndrome. The story at the heart of Elfen Lied is fantastic but there’s something wrong with me for voluntarily reading a story that I know is going to wind up as fucked up as this one, and in ways that I didn’t even think were possible, this particular volume of Elfen Lied really upped the “fucked up” quotient. I mean, Jesus H. Christ! Lynn Okamoto, what the hell is wrong with you? What is wrong with me since I’m still reading this whole damn thing? I’ve been reading this series since April 3 (when I first reviewed Vol. 1) which makes it a month now that I keep returning to the dark and depraved and horrifying universe that Okamoto has crafted. Still, it’s one of the most engaging (if not necessarily enjoyable) manga series that I’ve ever read so I’m in til the end.

Six months have passed since the beginning of Vol. 8 and the end of the Vol. 7. Women are becoming pregnant with horned babies en masse thanks to Kakuzawa releasing the Vector Virus over Tokyo, and it will only be a matter of months before waves of Diclonius are born into an unprepared populace. Back at the Maple Inn, our group has settled into a normal return and in the wake of Lucy losing her horns, Nyu hasn’t experienced a personality shift since. In fact, she has completely learned to speak like a normal human being and has forgotten most of her actions when she first arrived in Kohta and Yuka’s life (even though she still has an occasional uncontrollabe urge to grab someone’s breast). At the government facility, Director Kakuzawa has been biding his time since the explosion to try and find Lucy so his plan for world domination can come to fruition. It turns out that the “God” of Diclonius beneath the pond is actually his daughter, Anna, who he’s turned into a mutant with a brain 100 times the size of that of a normal person. However, she’s now forced to live in the amniotic sac of the pond for the rest of her existence. Her heightened brain power gives her the ability to (mostly) accurately predict the future based on patterns and human nature. Based on her information, Kakuzawa truly believes that he can uproot humanity in less than a year as long as he can get his hands on Lucy, a task he assigns to Professor Kakuzawa’s (his son) female assistant, Arakawa, and an unknown man in a cowboy hat who can easily be described as possibly the most monstrous person in this series yet.

In their own ways, both Arakawa and the Unknown Man stumble upon the Kaede nakama. Arakawa is the one who actually runs into Lucy (as Nyu) with Yuka and Kohta at the university though they are able to escape before Arakawa can capture Lucy. There is little damage done (so far) there as they get away and Arakawa doesn’t know who they are (though she puts bad ideas in Nyu’s head about what all Diclonius are like). However, shit really hits the fan when the Unknown Man uses a Diclonius (#28) that he’s placed in perpetual agony (and it’s implied he raped her) to locate any Diclonius in the Kamakura area. Of course, you can’t find Nyu with it because she doesn’t have her powers any more (though there are signs that her horns are growing back). But, it can still find Nana, and the Unknown Man shows up at the Maple Inn when just Nana and Mayu are home. He shoots Nana (twice!) with a crossbow gun that shoots spiked balls that secrete an unimaginably painful neurotoxin to disable Nana’s vectors and then he proceeds to attempt to rape Mayu. Mayu is able to fight him off long enough to call Bando who shows up fights the Unknown Man away (though he escapes). However, at that moment, Bando’s mortal enemy, Lucy, walks in the front door with Kohta and Yuka.

I thought the show had really explored the depths of despicable villains (even when it turned some of them like Bando and Karuma into both villains and heroes [or at least considerably less evil people than the main big bads]). I was wrong. For a dude that doesn’t even have a name at the moment (I’m calling him the Unknown Man for lack of a better name), the Unknown Man is the most effective and bat-shit crazy/evil villain yet. Sadism is the name of the game, and he doesn’t even have the excuse that the Diclonius have (which is that all of the people around them are torturing them and trying to kill them). This guy just seems to take a sick delight in causing as much pain and suffering as he possibly can. The scene where he’s trying to rape Mayu and she’s running away was some of the harshest material of the whole series. I nearly couldn’t finish it because I knew there was a serious probability that he’d succeed in his f***ed up plans. I love the way that the series plays ping-pong with who the villains are because even though Bando just saved Mayu’s life, there’s a serious probability that he’s now going to try and kill her and everyone else in the Maple Inn to get a shot at Lucy.

I could write more but for some reason, my heart really isn’t in my writing right now. I’m returning to WV in two weeks from tomorrow, and I’m not looking forward to it. I’ve just got this empty feeling in my chest that I associate with when I came back to WV after I spent the summer in Italy. I’ve actually got something to work towards in life now so hopefully it will keep me from falling into the same dark depths of depression I landed in when I returned from Florence, but I know it’s still a possibility. Anyways, I just need to do something not mentally exhausting today because I’m just feeling sad. I’m really not ready to go back home.

Final Score: A-

Elfen Lied: Vol. 7

I’m starting to conclude that Lynn Okamoto is like the Japanese George R. R. Martin. He’s just the kind of person that can take an almost sadistic pleasure in torturing the hell out of the characters in his works. It makes for an expertly crafted story because at any given moment, you don’t know what could possibly go wrong for the heroes. No catastrophe is off the table (as the manga certainly proved this volume). However, much like Martin, it almost makes me want to not get attached to any of the characters because even if they aren’t killed off in brutal ways, he’s liable to make them do something so reprehensible that you could never feel anything positive for them ever again. This particular volume finds us hurtling into the home stretch of the series (only 37 chapters left) and a major cataclysm has struck the universe of the franchise. I have no clue what Okamoto can do now to up the dramatic tension of the series other than instigate a full blown apocalypse (which he laid the seeds for this volume). Still, Elfen Lied continues to prove to me once again that it is is the most disturbing and almost inherently “wrong” series I’ve ever read. And that’s why I love it.

The last volume ended with Kurama revealing to Nana that he was Mariko’s father and the cruel twist of fate that led to Mariko’s birth as a Diclonius as well as the inhumane things Kurama had allowed to be done to her since she was born. We discover that Kurama tried to kill Mariko as soon as she was born but his dying wife in her last moments begged him to let her live. So he sent her off to the institution. I’m guessing the wife would have preferred Mariko to die if she had known the fate she’d have for the next five years. While Kurama and Nana face off against a truly genocidal Mariko (who is deflecting artillery shells like they’re flies), Director Kakuzawa reveals his plans to Shirakawa to release the vector virus over all of Tokyo to slowly begin infecting the entire world. Shirakawa had tried to stop him but much like with Ozymandias in Watchmen, the plan has already been implemented before he reveals his grand scheme. During the fight against Mariko, you see the rocket carrying the virus explode over Tokyo. Eventually Lucy shows up as Nyu. Kurama and Mariko put aside their differences momentarily to stop Lucy. Kurama shoots Nyu which awakens Lucy. She begins to destroy Mariko. However, Mariko uses the bombs inside her body to take out Lucy. Lucy decapitates Mariko but the bombs explode and Lucy’s horns are destroyed which is supposed to permanently leave her in the state as Nyu.

Despite Kurama having the original run as the series’ Big Bad, that most assuredly goes to Director Kakuzawa now (who believes that he has the god-like power to control whatever birthed the lebensborn in the first place). We learned a lot more about Kurama this volume from what led him down the villainous path he’s currently on (along side things we learned last volume), and just why he was able to form such a tight bond with Nana but he could never love his own daughter. The scenes where Kurama kept trying to kill his own daughter (kind of/sort of for her own good) even while he was trying to reconcile with her were just heartbreaking. Even at the end though, having seen what a monster he can occasionally be, Nana has gone from having daughterly affection for Kurama to wanting to be his wife. I’m kind of hoping that was a mistranslation of the manga because otherwise this series managed to top itself yet again in the fucked up department (since she’s like 12). I don’t think Kurama really reciprocates though. I was honestly shocked that he let Nana take care of the de-horned Lucy. He wanted to kill Nyu but Nana convinced him not to so maybe even Kurama is beginning to soften. The scene where Director Kakuzawa molested Shirakawa was always incredibly disturbing. This series doesn’t hold back whatsoever.

I’ll keep this one short because I didn’t get to do the three movies last night that I wanted to (only one, Cyrano de Bergerac) because my French roommate has family in this weekend. They’re sleeping in his room and he’s sleeping in the living room. My TV is in the living room and I wasn’t able to watch any TV. I just wound up watching Bonnaroo videos from last year on Youtube the rest of the evening after my roommate came back home and took control of the living room. So my next film which I’ll start as soon as I’m done with this is The Butcher Boy. Plus, I’ll still be doing my Song of the Day post. Plus, I only have one episode left of the second disc of the second season of Mad Men as well as one episode left of the first season of Community. So, possibly I could end up doing four more posts for the blog today. I’m perfectly okay with that scenario. I just wish I could watch Game of Thrones tonight. I won’t get to watch it tomorrow because I’m seeing the Shins at Terminal 5! Tomorrow is going to be awesome. So, forget that last complaint about Game of Thrones.

Final Score: B+

Elfen Lied: Vol. 6

Well, that’s what I get for observing that the last volume of Elfen Lied was a bit tame to previous entries in the series. Much as I expected, Lynn Okamoto decided to up the disturbing factor of the series, and while it still isn’t as psychologically scarring as the volume where we discovered Lucy/Nyu’s backstory with Kohta, we’re getting an idea for just how sadistic and sociopathic the evil government agency in this series is (are they with the government though? I can’t really tell. I just know they are bat shit insane and genocidal). Also, while the series did an excellent job of making you fear the diclonii at the beginning of the story, we’re really starting to learn just what it is that is maybe pushing them to being such omnicidal maniacs in the first place and that their destructive/murderous tendencies are perhaps the fault of humanity. We’ve reached the halfway point of this story, and while it’s certainly within the realm of possibility that I’ll wind up giving up on Bleach at some point in the future (though I’m still enjoying it so it won’t happen soon), I can’t see myself turning stopping Elfen Lied until I draw this epic tale to a close.

If there’s one thing that this series is starting to do that I find irritating is make us think that Lucy’s powers are going to suddenly awaken (and have her go on a massive killing spree) only for it to be a false alarm. this volume doesn’t quite do that (like say last time) because Lucy manages to wake up, finds herself being taken care of by Kohta and Yuka, and forces her Nyu personality back. It’s almost like she’s combining Nyu and Lucy though because suddenly Nyu is miraculously capable of many more words than she was before. She’s becoming more intelligent (which means when she’s hurt, she’s liable to do all sorts of damage if she ever realizes the full extent of her powers). Nana feels guilty for attacking Nyu because while Nyu might share the same body as Lucy, they’re obviously different people. Nana is easily the most empathetic person in the Diclonius race (until she ends up getting pissed off later). She apologizes to Kohta and Nyu and is welcomed back into the Kaede residence. That house is quickly becoming full. This peaceful turn of events quickly takes a turn for a worse though when Director Kakuzawa reveals that he knew that Karuma would let Nana escape and he sics Karuma’s biological daughter Mariko (who’s an incredibly powerful Diclonius) on both Lucy and Nana. Mariko is so powerful that they’ve installed explosives throughout her body as an insurance policy should she get out of control. Since they blow up one of her arms the second she’s let loose and tries to kill everyone around her (even though this girl is like five), the explosives aren’t a blufff. She runs into Nana on the beach and while she starts to kick Nana’s ass at first, when she insults Karuma, Nana’s inner Lucy-style pure evil side awakes and she turns the tide against Mariko. She’s about to kill Mariko when Karuma arrives and we learn just how he came to be infected with the Vector Virus and the origins of the agency’s program to study the Diclonius.

Those scenes where they were performing the experiments on the diclonius children (who all began to be born at around the same time. Sounds like someone was intentionally trying to impregnate women or this was caused by Lucy suddenly infecting a large number of people at once without realizing the consequences) were very, very difficult to read. Watching the scientists shoot the children in the face with lead balls at increasing velocities to test the strength of their vectors was just cruel in the sort of way that you’d expect the Nazis to behave. Although it’s interesting to learn that even though Karuma felt terrible about what was happening (which is why he eventually befriended Nana because one of the diclonius that had to be put down bore a great resemblance to her), he didn’t actively do anything to stop it. While he’s meant to be a sympathetic villain, he’s still quite a bit of a bastard. And he only appears somewhat likeable in comparison to the real psychos that are Bando (who’s softened some as well) and Director Kakuzawa (who wants to destroy humanity). It also seems that Director Kakuzawa believes that over the course of one year, he could completely destroy humanity and prop himself up as a God to the new Diclonius. I’m really interested to see just how he thinks he can accomplish that.

I could probably write more (I think I use some variation of this phrase in 80% of my posts on here) but I still have to write my “Song of the Day” post and Glee is coming on at 8. This week’s episode is a Whitney Houston tribute which means it will either be brilliant or completely terrible. I really hope it’s the former because ever since it came back from it’s winter hiatus, the show’s been sort of struggling to find traction. Still, I may have a friend coming over to watch the episode with me and it’s always easier to enjoy Glee when you have company to laugh at all of the absurdity of the show. The cast members can’t seem to stop tweeting about which is also either a good or a bad sign. The sugary-sweetness of Glee will definitely make for a strange contrast with the bloody, over-the-top violence of Elfen Lied.

Final Score: B+

Elfen Lied: Vol. 5

Wow. That volume was surprisingly tame by Elfen Lied standards. Except for things occurring in flashbacks that we had already witnessed, I don’t think there was a single instance of dismemberment, torture, rape, or murder this whole volume. I guess we can call this a breather volume. There were still plenty of disturbing things and the introduction of one new character (as well as bringing another established character into the Kaede residence). I think it’s finally beginning to dawn on me that one of the reasons for this series’s existence is that it’s trying to deconstruct a lot of the tropes at the heart of the harem-manga/anime genre. And it’s doing it all pretty well. This particular volume was heavy on seeing how these characters interact with each other when there isn’t some murderous force out to get them all, and while I was initially shocked that there wasn’t something genuinely traumatic happening every other page (though there are still moments of considerable personal dysfunction), it was interesting to learn a little bit more about the burgeoning group dynamic in the Kaede home.

The last volume ended with Lucy (as compared to Nyu) running into Kohta and Yuka after she had murdered Professor Kakuzawa. While the series teased the possibility of Lucy revealing to Kohta all of the terrible things she had done to him as a child (i.e. killing his sister and father), she reverts to being Nyu at the last second (as I’m assuming the anesthetic finally wore off that had caused her to become Lucy in the first place). Despite Kohta and Yuka’s growing romance (which we saw last time at the temple), Nyu still has something resembling feelings for Kohta (it’s complicated since she’s so childlike) and she crawls into bed naked with Kohta and then Yuka walks in and then Nyu tries to seduce Yuka (maybe…). Only Mayu’s arrival stops it from happening when Nyu tries to grope Mayu and realizes how much Mayu disliked it (because of what happened with her pedophilic stepfather). Eventually, Yuka invites a friend over to the house, another girl her age with an amazing singing voice named Nozomi. However, Nozomi suffers from crippling anxiety that has resulted in her having little control over her bladder and she has to wear a diaper (which is accidentally revealed to Kohta along with other mishaps). Back in evil scientist-ville, Karuma is ordered by his boss to dispose of Nana but Karuma instead decides to help her escape. Though she is almost killed by Bando who discovers her when she arrives in Kamakura, they decide to team up to take out Lucy. Nana befriends Mayu (who helped her learn about money and didn’t judge her because of her horns), and Mayu brings Nana back to the home where she meets Nyu and proceeds to beat the shit out of her. When she realizes that Nyu won’t fight back (and after Kohta hits her and tells her to leave), Mayu is confused because she can’t feel Lucy’s presence as she should. However, the head trauma is causing Nyu to become ill and then as the manga ends, Nana suddenly feels Lucy awaken.

For once, I think the series might have crossed the line into gratuitous nudity in this volume. There’s always a ton of nudity in this series, but all of those shots of a completely naked Nana (who is supposed to be like a pre-teen I’m pretty sure) didn’t really serve any purposes that I can think of and were maybe just really awkward attempts at fan service for weirdos. Also, it’s getting to the point with Nyu’s indiscriminate sexual groping of everyone that it’s starting to be used more for humor than for drama (at least I can’t wrest any dramatic overtones from it except when she molested Mayu) which is to me a problem. I also don’t really know how I feel about Nozomi. She seems like the series attempt to add a yamato nadeshiko to the mix (except one with incontinence because no one is allowed to be semi-normal in this show). I did appreciate the job the series took to show perhaps the softer side of Karuma who has up til now been the series’ Big Bad. However, he no longer has that title since we’ve met who I assume to be the real big bad in the chief who apparently was also the father of Professor Kakuzawa (which means he must be infected with the Diclonius virus). Unless I’m confusing the chief and this new villain because they were both drawn very similarly.

I’ll keep this review to a minimum because I still have a lot of writing to catch up on from this weekend. I didn’t do any extra writing yesterday because I wound up playing Xenoblade Chronicles almost the entire day. Damn is that game addicting. It’s pretty much everything you could possibly want in a modern JRPG except for good graphics (cause it was several years old when it finally came stateside and it’s already on the Wii which has pretty awful graphics). So at the moment (and by the moment, I mean apparently the last month and a half or so), I’m going through one of my patented “into Japanese shit” phases which I’m sure will eventually wear off. Now that Lucy has woken up again, I really want to know what’s going to happen in this next volume because Kohta is slowly remembering what happened all those years ago and Lucy seems to be losing her patience with his amnesia (and Yuka’s continued presence in his life). There could be a bloodbath of violence awaiting us, and I have to assume that this especially calm volume means that things are going to get pretty terrible for everyone soon enough. However, I must take my break for Bleach which is also getting to an interesting point. I definitely think I chose the right two manga to read.

Final Score: B+

Elfen Lied: Vol. 4

What in the good lord’s name am I reading? I finished the fourth volume of Elfen Lied last night before I went to bed, and it is only by divine providence (even though I don’t believe in anything divine) that I wasn’t wracked with nightmares brought forth by the horrendous scenes that were occurring at least once (if not twice) an issue in this latest volume of Lynn Okamoto’s horror opus. I finally get what all of the big deal is about Elfen Lied. We can officially say that Volume 4 was the moment where the series “Grew the Beard” if you will (Star Trek reference that means essentially the opposite of “Jumping the Shark”), and I am now hooked. I really wish I wasn’t hooked though because I regularly feel like I’m treading down some dark, voyeuristic path of Hell that no normal person would keep on reading. Yet, I press forward because this world’s mythology and its cruel and inhumane cast of characters (whether because of their actual non-humanity or the blackness of their hearts) rigorously compel me to see what could possibly happen next. I’m guessing nothing pleasant.

I think I finished this volume on Friday and for god knows what reason, I’ve sort of delayed doing my actual write-up. So, if the details of the events of this volume are a little foggy in my mind, I apologize. I had actually gotten better these last couple of weeks of not letting myself fall behind on my blogging. Essentially, the gist of this volume is that we finally learn the tragic backstory of Lucy (though not how she came to be captured by the government) and her connection to Kohta as well as the origin of Kohta’s amnesia. As Lucy is wandering around after murdering Professor Kakuzawa (and slowly returning to her Nyu personality), she recollects on the last time she was in Kamakura. Lucy was an orphan who was abused and bullied at her school as a small child because of her horns (she isn’t yet aware of her powers). The only friend she has is a puppy in the woods that is eventually brutally murdered by her classmates at which point her powers awaken and she kills every single kid in her class room. As she’s wandering around the forest, she runs into a young Kohta and the two strike up a friendship. Kohta generally cares about Lucy but she’s slowly succumbing to her madness. Kohta is only in town for a little while and he spends his last day at a festival with Yuka. Lucy sees this, gets jealous, and kills a bunch of people at the fair. Kohta and his family see the massacre and decide to leave town. Lucy ends up on the bus they take to leave town and murders Kohta’s father and little sister at which point Kohta’s mind snaps. Back in the present, Lucy/Nyu arrives and addresses Kohta by name (who’s beginning to remember what happens) and asks him how he’s been. Ruh Roh Rooby.

I pretty much skimmed over the plot (because like I said, I read it like four days ago), but let’s just say that this was by far the most emotional and psychological volume of the series so far. This was Elfen Lied‘s Neon Genesis Evangelion moment and then some. Honestly, the shit that happens to Lucy and Kohta in here makes everything that Shinji Ikari went through (at least to where I had gotten in the anime [which is admittedly not very far]) seem like a day where you wake up on the wrong side of the bed. This volume explored social alienation, the cruelty of humanity, young love, unrequited love, sexual awakening, and plenty of other issues in a manner that was far more mature than I would have expected to be possible from a manga. This was heavy shit, and Elfen Lied more than did the material justice. Not only that though, but it was also the most legitimately disturbing material of the series yet as well. There were several massacres in this volume alone, and at no point has the series begun to desensitize me to the violence that I regularly witness in its pages because each act of gruesome violence and cruelty is given the proper weight and importance that it deserves. This isn’t meant for exploitative purposes. It’s meant to scare the hell out of you but also make you think, and on all fronts, Lynn Okamoto succeeds.

I’m going to keep this review short because I have to finish doing laundry today (it’s my day off). There have been clothes drying in my basement on the clothes line for a couple days now that I’m sure are ready for me to fold and put away. But seriously though, I’m addicted to Elfen Lied. I almost want to put my reading of Bleach on hold so that I can keep reading this series, but I know that if I stick too long in Elfen Lied world, it will probably kill my soul (not that I believe souls exist). I felt emotionally depleted after I finished this volume, and I had to actively fight off desire to sleep so that I wouldn’t have nightmares filled with visions of Lucy killing schoolchildren or schoolchildren bashing her puppy to death. So, breaks are probably good. Plus, I’m still enjoying Bleach and I want to stick with that series for as long as I can before its quality implodes on itself. On that note, you really should read Elfen Lied if you’ve managed to get this far in this spoileriffic review.

Final Score: A-

Elfen Lied: Vol. 3

Every time I read a new volume of the manga Elfen Lied, I become slightly more convinced that this series is going to leave me an emotionally scarred, broken shell of a man. Sweet lord this story is disturbing. I feel like there’s going to be some variation on that phrase in every single post because in every single volume thus far, Lynn Okamoto manages to outdo himself in the “how miserable can the lives of our heroes be” department as well as “how cruel can the villains be” section as well. In this volume, I also finally began to see where Okamoto introduced some of the more philosophical and outright psychological themes that lead to this series’ regular comparisons to Neon Genesis Evangelion, and while the shoddy translation that’s at the core of the copy of the manga I’m reading still unfortunately interrupt and distract from the over-all experience, Elfen Lied has quickly turned into one of the most outright disturbing pieces of fiction I’ve ever encountered whose shock value seems to only be matched by the copraphagia and orgy scenes in Gravity’s Rainbow (note that I am in no way saying Elfen Lied is half the work that Gravity’s Rainbow was).

After they both ran away last volume, Nyu and Mayu both make their way back to the Kaede residence. Nyu has reverted back to her docile Nyu personality after going on a roaring rampage of violence against Big Bad Karuma’s Diclonius daughter Nana, and Mayu (who was injured during the fight) was picked up at the hospital by Kohta. After enjoying Kohta and Yuka’s hospitality for the evening, Mayu (who has repressed the memories of Lucy’s fight with Nana) goes back to being a homeless street urchin with her dog Wanta as her only companion. We learn that Mayu ran away from home after her mother’s new husband began to sexually molest her and when Mayu told her mother, the mother hit Mayu for trying to cause problems. Now, Mayu takes shelter in a firewood shed and lives off the scraps from a bread shop that a kind clerk gives her. However, the clerk leaves the bread shop (which means Mayu has no food) and Wanta’s owner turns up to take Wanta away (it’s real name is James) and tells Mayu to stay away from the dog forever. Eventually, Mayu returns to the Kaede residence because she has no where left to go, and Kohta and Yuka begin to take care of her. Cue a time skip of sorts and Kohta and Yuka are finally attending college again. They drag Nyu along with them because she can’t be left on her own. Nyu can also say “Kohta” and “yes” besides just “Nyu” now.

Nyu runs into Bando on the college campus but thanks to something that apparently didn’t translate very well into my comics, other people using “nyu” as syllables in other Japanese words makes him unable to be sure that he’s run into the same Lucy that maimed him. Bando is at the school to find out if there’s any way he can avoid castration which Kurama has sentenced him to face after being infected by Lucy. It turns out this infection happens to any man who is pierced by the vectors of a Diclonius. If they were ever to have children, the kids would be Diclonius. The scientist however isn’t all he seems to be and he offers to not castrate Bando as long as he is able to go around and impregnate as many women as possible so the scientist, Dr. Kakuzawa, can study the effects of letting the Diclonius into the human population to wreak havoc. Yeah, he’s not suspicious at all. The volume leaves it vague on what Bando decides to do but somehow I don’t see him picking the greater good over emasculation. The scientist is also one of Kohta’s professors and he finds Nyu next to Kohta and Yuka in his class and takes her away pretending to be her uncle. He, is in fact, a male Diclonius although he lacks any of Lucy’s powers because his bloodline has been diluted. He wants to impregnate Lucy to retake Earth for the Diclonii, but Lucy returns when he puts Nyu under anesthesia and she doesn’t like to be used by anyone. She decapitates Kakuzawa just before the anesthesia wears off and she becomes Nyu again. At that moment, Kohta and Kakuzawa’s assistant arrive to find Kakuzawa’s headless body.

This volume really upped the number of plot threads (I even left off where Nana learned to use artificial limbs with her vectors to replace the ones that Nyu ripped off) and added something really important to the mythology of the series, mainly the existence of who knows how many other weak Diclonius in the world and the virus that will result in the birth of stronger, purer Diclonii. However, honestly, at this point, the most impressive thing was how it made one character seem more whole and well-rounded than even Kohta and Yuka after only a couple of issues. Mayu has to be the most damaged and scarred person in this whole series and that includes Nana whose father regularly does evil Mengele-esque experiments on her for the sake of who knows what. We learned a lot about Mayu’s backstory and how this is affecting her ability to function in the Kaede residence, esepcially after she walks in on Kohta and Nyu taking a bath together. Nyu seems to be in love with Kohta in some odd way that only her underdeveloped mind can really comprehend. We’re also learning that Nyu’s vectors are growing so this could prove to be especially fatal for anyone that attacks her when she’s in Lucy mode. I’m curious to see exactly what the consequences are going to be if anyone discovers that she’s the one that killed Kakuzawa (and Kohta already suspects this to be the case).

I always read these volumes of Elfen Lied incredibly fast because I have to know what happens next. The chapters are very short and they almost without fail end on some sort of a cliffhanger so there’s an immediate urge to know just how deep this rabbit hole goes. However, I’m also thankful that I’m also reading Bleach at the same time as Elfen Lied because if I didn’t have decent breaks between volumes of this comic, I think it would just break my soul. There are almost no moments of happiness in this series. Even when they do occur (such as Kohta and Yuka throwing a birthday party for Mayu), they are almost always a prelude to something absolutely terrible happening. I’m not sure if I’ve encountered an author with such an eye for how to construct horrific situations since George R. R. Martin, and at least his terrible moments weren’t always as unsettling as what happens in Elfen Lied. Well, it’s time to begin a short break from the macabre world of Lynn Okamoto and into something a little lighter like Tite Kubo’s urban fantasy and the adventures of Ichigo Kurosaki.

Final Score: B+

Elfen Lied: Vol. 2

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+

Elfen Lied: Vol. 1

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+