Elfen Lied – 03 – Unlucky Number Seven

When Yuka walks in on Kouta undressing Nyu, a lot of things must run through her head. While it makes sense to get soaked clothes off someone before they catch cold, Nyu is also a beautiful woman, and one with serious mental differences. Yuka’s initial thoughts probably dwell on how bad it looks. But on a more basic level, Yuka doesn’t want Kouta doing anything with another woman, whether it’s harmless or not. As far as she’s concerned, Kouta belongs to her.

A lot of questions ran through my head during Chief Kurama’s encounter with Nana in her detention cell. Like “why is she naked?” or “why is she drenched in blood?”, or “how long has she been like this?”. The exact nature of her situation is kept pretty vague, but suffice it to say Nana has lived her whole life in the facility, enduring what amounts to unspeakable torture with a smile.

As such, Nana knows no other life, and no other comfort but Kurama as her “father”. So she’ll do anything for him…except kill. Instead, she’ll try to detain Lucy for him if she can. All she asks for in return is his necktie, which she uses to conceal her horns.

Yuka tries to stay away from the house where watching Kouta with Nyu causes her so much discomfort owing to her Deep Feelings for him (incidentally, the episode’s title). But when she drops off some of her clothes for Nyu, she finds Kouta has caught cold from his beach excursion, and Nyu is absolutely helpless to care for him.

Back at the lab, Kurama speaks to Bondo about undergoing castration…which is probably not what he should have started off with. He then describes who and what it was that Bondo lost so badly to, and the reason castrating him might save humanity: Lucy can “reproduce” through her vectors, causing the mutation in whomever she touches with him. In that way, she and her kind could one day overrun humanity as we know it.

Yuka decides that if Kouta won’t take Lucy to the authorities, then she’ll just move in to keep an eye on both of them. She puts Kouta to work cleaning up the house, and Nyu is eager to pitch in. That’s when Mayu, the runaway girl with the dog, shows up with Kouta’s umbrella. He has many questions about that night on the beach with Nyu and the soldier.

Nyu ends up slipping and falling, and whether due to the impact of the fall or the music box that plays the show’s theme song (or both…or neither), she reverts back to Lucy. She comes this close to killing Kouta with her Vectors before a flash of a younger Kouta stops them dead. Lucy runs outside, and for a moment the show makes us wonder if she killed Mayu’s cute puppy. It turns out she just set it free, but it soon runs back to Mayu.

As Yuka tries to talk to Kouta about whether he has any feelings at all for her (he seems to have lost a lot of the memories of the two of them that she cherishes), Lucy wanders off, eventually encountering Nana, whom she sensed was coming. Kurama’s underlings don’t think Nana is any match for Lucy, but Lucy’s problem is she never knows when she’s going to devolve back into Nyu…and Nyu isn’t a match for anyone.

Elfen Lied – 02 – One Or the Other

Things would have been so much easier—and far less bloodily—if Kouta hadn’t gotten angry and scared Nyu off. Instead, Bando and his tactical team arrive, and Bando is not particularly interested in anything other than killing the target. After the cops visit his house, Kouta somehow manages to get to Nyu first and tries to run away with her, but Bando gun-whips him and captures the target.

Yuka also briefly talks to the cops before tracking down Kouta, who is still dazed on the beach. Bando drags Nyu to another location, but when she won’t fight back he grows bored and orders his subordinate to kill her instead, since those are their orders. Instead, Nyu turns back into Lucy and does her thing, relieving the grunt of his chest, arm, head—you name it, she slices it off.

Suddenly intrigued, Bando tries to fight Lucy, but it’s really no contest; not when she’s tossing boats around and none of his bullets hit her. The fun ends when she closes the distance between them to the range of her telekinesis, and it’s seemingly game over, as she slices off his arm and gouges out his eyes. But Bando is spared when she suddenly turns back into Nyu.

Nyu runs off, and a young woman with a puppy finds the maimed Bando and runs for help. But when she returns, he’s gone. After a very brief stay in the hospital, Kouta takes a taxi and bids Yuka goodnight, only to find a soaked Nyu at his front door with a new shell to replace the one she broke.

Yuka returns just as Kouta is getting Nyu out of her wet clothes to keep her from catching cold, while the head researcher and his #2 prepare to deploy another human experiment like Lucy to go after her—a naked and bloody subject called “#7.”

Once again Elfen Lied delivers extensive blood and boobs, but if you’ve watched, say, True Blood (which didn’t premiere until four years after this show) you’re likely as desensitized as I am. What struck me more was just how much of a boorish asshole Bando was (and will likely continue to be, as he’s not dead yet), as well as the apparent heartlessness of the lab coats. Kouta may have messed up last week, but maybe now he understands how much Nyu needs him in her current state.

Elfen Lied – 01 – A Study in Extremis

The haunting opening credits feature Latin vocals and Klimt-inspired art, a blending of the sacred and the profane. A research subject breaks free of her industrial-strength restraints and goes on a harrowing homicidal rampage, lifting neither arm nor finger but utilizing a kind of telekinesis to relieve both guard and functionary of their heads and/or various limbs.

Every effort to stop or slow her steady march ends the same way: an abundance of blood and viscera staining an otherwise cold and sterile environment. She is finally seemingly neutralized by a shot to the head from an anti-tank round, and falls at least fifty feet into the inky ocean. But, of course this isn’t the end of Lucy…it’s only the beginning…of Elfen Lied.

Why am I watching and reviewing this show, which aired fifteen years ago in the season before Bleach premiered? Many reasons: A look at a show I missed because I wasn’t even into anime back then; a means of complementing today’s crisper, cleaner, and overall safer anime; and mere curiosity in a show notorious and controversial for its transgressive content; a show nearly as many people hate as love.

Also, it’s a show that gives you those first ten minutes, then follows it up by switching gears completely. What follows is a mundane, low-key romantic comedy without a hint of the supernatural horror or military intrigue of the prologue. College student Yuka meets up with her same-aged cousin Kouta in Kamakura, and end up on the beach reminiscing about his departed little sister, Kaede.

That’s when Yuka notices something, or rather someone quite out of place: a buck naked woman with pink hair: the research subject Lucy. Due to her head injury, she seems to have reverted to the developmental state of a young child, and can only say one word—nyu—which they eventually decide to name her.

Since Yuka and Kouta are decent folk, they do what anyone would do: offer Nyu clothes and then shelter at the otherwise vacant ten-room inn where Kouta and Yuka will be living. She confirms her developmental state by being unable to adequately communicate she has to use the bathroom, and relieves herself on the floor of the foyer.

As Lucy has profoundly changed and entered a profoundly different world than the lab where she no doubt lived and suffered for quite a while, her handlers are already planning an operation to hunt her down and eliminate her, as the lab’s chief researcher declares that an unbound Lucy in the outside world would spell the “end of mankind”.

Bando, the man they choose to lead the manhunt, is about as heartless and despicable as they come. He’s bored with simulated kills, slaps the shit out of unwitting assistants, and desires nothing but the opportunity to kill without restraint. In effect, he’s a “Lucy” by choice. In any case, he surely won’t hold his fire just because Lucy isn’t quite herself.

After sharing a meal of onigiri with Yuka and Nyu, Kouta takes out a shell that he keeps as a memento of his deceased sister, who died suddenly of an illness. Nyu interprets his connection to the shell as something making him sad (not necessarily wrong) and breaks it into pieces, throwing Kouta into a rage. He shouts and fumes and tells her to get out, and she does.

Returning to the now rain-soaked spot of beach where they found her, Nyu stares out into the ocean and tears start to fall from her eyes, as Bando & Co. close in on her via helicopter. Roll Credits.

* * *

Elfen Lied is a compelling blast from the past with a first episode that packs a vicious punch in its first act before easing into its more domestic latter two. It’s an exploration of extremes, be it between Lucy and Nyu, the research facility and the sleepy Japanese town, the blunt lethality of Bando and innocence of Kouta, and yes, the warmth of human flesh and blood and the chill of metal and concrete.

It sets things up superbly for one hell of a clash of worlds and personalities—between parties that seek to simply live their quiet little lives, and those who seek to end a life, before, as they claim, it threatens to end all life. Having no previous knowledge of Elfen Lied or where it goes, a great start is no indication of a great anime, but most definitely warrants further viewing.

Natsuiro Kiseki – 12 (Fin)

The day of the audition repeats; Yuka messes up at the audition again; they tour Tokyo, and all wake up back in Sumida again. They realize they wished on the big rock’s cousin for summer to never end. The day repeats numerous times; some days they go to the audition, other times they do other things. The only change to anyone else is Rin’s mother, who sees her off by saying something different each day. When her mom asks her when she comes home, Rin figures it out. The four have to thank the rock and say goodbye to summer vacation and the miracles it gave them. The wish is released and tomorrow comes.

If last week’s episode had ended with the first moment of this one – Natsumi waking up in her bed at home in Sumida, then opening her curtain to see Saki standing there – if it had ended just like that, we would have been satisfied. A sudden end, sure, but one that left open the fascinating possibility of a literally eternal summer. One in which Saki never moves; they have infinite chances to nail their idol audition, and they can essentially do whatever they want. But since this is not a noitaminA series, it has twelve episodes, and it decides to not only show us that timeloop, but how the girls ultimately get out of it, and grow in the process.

One reason we love timeloop episodes so much is that deep down, they’re, well…they’re creepy. For humans, time moves forwards and that’s it. When it starts behaving strangely, it opens up a whole can of worms about the nature of our very existence, which can be be unpleasant. Not only that, it’s fun to watch the characters react to this anomaly. A never-ending summer sounds fantastic, but it gets old fast, because it will always get old fast as long as you wake up in the same place at the same time you did yesterday. Everytime the day resets, you feel you exerted all that energy yesterday for nothing; it wears on you.

As a timeloop, it employed lots of montages, which did a good job of quickly portraying the fact that many days were passing and they were getting a lot done, but Rin’s mom, who introduced them to the big rock, subtly prods her daughter to end it soon, or “come home”, as she calls it. The rock’s miracles are…miraculous, but they aren’t everything. Life for the girls can’t truly continue until they release their wish and return to normal time. Life goes on, and Saki moves, but the girls wish one more time – on the now dormant rock – that they’ll stay friends forever. Bawwww.


Rating: 9 (Superior)

Natsuiro Kiseki – 11

The day of the idol audition arrives, and the girls travel to Tokyo. Rather than sightsee, they practice dancing in a park and recieve applause from bystanders. At the audition site, the sight of the unfriendly competition gives Yuka cold feet, but everyone encourages her until her confidence is back. After a lengthy interview and script-reading, they dance in front of the judging panel. Yuka slips and falls in the middle of the routine. They then sightsee around Tokyo. When at a shrine, they all wish at the same time that summer never ends, and when they wake up the next morning, they’re back to yesterday.

This episode is about the four girls taking the next step in what could be dramatically different lives as idols, while reflecting on their friendship and all the adventures they had over the miracle-laden summer. There was hardly ever a dull moment, and quite a few moments of genunine awe, wonder, and happiness. When they arrive at the audition and Yuka – who orchestrated all of this – starts to waver, all the others need to tell her is to think back to everything that’s happened. She’s good enough, and special enough, to succeed. She just has to be herself; the Yuka who brings everyone together.

Their interview was going so well, there were times when we thought “gosh, they might just make it!” Alas, a crucial error by Yuka eliminated them from serious contention. But it turns out the audition was Yuka’s effort to keep everyone toghether, including Saki; not merely to fulfill her dream to become an idol. She wavers at the question “what if only one of you is selected” because she always assumed they’d be idols together. Of course, with the episode resetting (thanks to the big rock’s Tokyo counterpart), something huge has happened: they have another shot at idoldom, and there’s a possibility that summer may never end…because why should it?


Rating: 8 (Great)

Natsuiro Kiseki – 10

As a typhoon approaches town, the girls recall the last time they were caught in one four years ago, while exploring a haunted hotel, but don’t remember why they went or how they got out of the ordeal safe and sound. They make a wish at the big rock to remember what happened, and as a result, younger versions of themselves appear later that day, whom they then follow. The original reason for going was because there was a stage to perform on. The young counterparts attack them and lock them in the room with the stage, where the older versions sing. The youngins head home but are almost swept out to sea, but the older ones save them (and thus themselves), and then disappear like ghosts.

This was yet another instance of “be careful what you wish for” because where the big rock is concerned, it’s almost never what the wishers expect. In this way, the rock almost has a tricksterish quality to it; every wish it grants comes with a valuable lesson that helps the girls grow. This week they met the Muppet Babies versions of themselves, and they were quite a handful. Saki in particular is fiercely protective of everyone else, and they arm themselves to the teeth to visit an abandoned hotel on a day when a typhoon is forcasted. Pretty bold. The true genious of this episode is how it plays with time to simultaneously resolve the mystery from their past and pave the way to the future.

There’s a causality loop in play: the girls are saved by whom they percieve to be “ghosts” taking the form of older versions of themselves, who were only there to save them because they were curious about how they survived that day four years ago. Not only that, while initially the younger girls appear in the present day, by the time they’ve been saved, time has shifted to four years in the past, since the older girls disappear. It’s a very neat little point-of-view switcheroo. When everything’s resolved, Yuka announces she’s gotten them an idol audition: something they wished for four years ago. That’s right: there were actually two wishes this week: one in the present that led to the girls saving their younger selves, and the another in the past that gets them a shot a idol fame. Good times!


Rating: 9 (Superior)

Natsuiro Kiseki – 09

Now in Hachijo-jima, the girls head for the inn, which happens to be run by the family of the surfer, Koharu, who saved Yuka from the sea. The surfer has a twin sister, Chiharu. She knows about Dr. Mizukoshi’s impending move there, and alerts others that his daughter has arrived so they can meet her and show her around. A bit overwhelmed and still unsure of what to do, Saki becomes invisible and inaudible to all around her; she can only communicate by writing. That night Rin and Yuka convince Natsumi not to try to keep Saki from moving. The next day Chiharu takes them on a tour of the island, with Saki tagging along, after which Saki reappears, now more sure that moving won’t be so bad.

Natsumi is definitely a girl of absolutes. So when her best friend and neighbor relays to her she’s not quite sure she wants to move away, she takes it to mean Saki definitely doesn’t want to move, when the reality is murkier. So murky, in fact, a sudden wish on the big rock’s cousin at an outdoor bath essentially turns her into a ghost for most of the episode. By ghost, we mean the kind that are still connected to the living world in a way they don’t understand, and cannot move on until they figure out what that is and resolve it. Saki is similar: she hears one thing from Natsumi that seems to reinforce her desire to stay on the mainland…but she hears another thing from, well, everything around her.

The island is, as we said last week, a gorgeous paradise, a place where somebody could be quite happy; and a place where people are already lining up to be her friend. It’s also a place her father decided to move to not just to fulfill his dream, but to take over for his mentor, an old doctor who had to retire due to declining health and left the island. Koharu resents that Saki’s father is replacing the irreplaceable, but her twin Chiharu tells everything will be fine. And everything will be fine…even if Saki moves away from her closest friends, they won’t stop being friends.


Rating: 8 (Great)


Car Cameo:
The gals pile into a Nissan Cedric Y31 taxi that takes them from the shore to the clinic.

Natsuiro Kiseki – 08

Saki packs up the things in her room as the moving day nears. The group decides to visit the place where she’s moving, which is technically Tokyo but in reality it’s Hachijo-jima, 178 miles from the city proper. Saki’s dad tries to reassure her, but she has distressing dreams in which her friends can’t see or hear her. They soak in a couple of Tokyo sights before boarding the overnight ship, which they run around until lights out, when they huddle under a blanket. Yuka gets seasick, and if the waves get too rough, the ship will turn around. In the morning, though, the clouds are gone and Hachijo is in sight. Natsumi finds Saki on the deck and confronts her about whether moving is what she wants.

Every episode of Natsuiro Kiseki has had some form of supernatural phenomenon brought on by the wishing rock…until now. Even so, this may be the best episode yet, capturing the excitement and adventure of a voyage, exentuating how that journey can be the destination. To Rinko and Yuka, it’s enough that it’s an adventure with their good friends. But to Saki, it’s almost a dry run for her actual move, since they decided to visit her home in “Tokyo”, which is actually the most southern and isolated of the Izu Islands, which are indeed administrated by Tokyo. Moving from one’s friends is always tough, and it’s definitely starting to sink in for Saki, now that she’s packed everything in her bedroom away (making her sudden awakening from an unsettling dream in the empty, lonely room all the more unnerving). The episode perfectly captures the bubbly sense of awe one gets from visiting a great city for the first time, as the Tokyo Tower and Rainbow Bridge make brief cameos.

Despite it’s distance, Hachijo-jima is still Tokyo. Despite not wanting to move at all – signifying a difference of intent with her father, for whom working on an island is his dream – Saki is willing to submit to her father’s wishes, not wanting to hurt or disappoint him by voicing her discontent with the decision to move. Natsumi picks up on this; it’s Saki’s M.O. to just “live” with things she believes she can “do nothing about”. Natsumi insists Saki fight for what she wants, and if she doesn’t, then Natsumi will do it for her. The island is a gorgeous paradise at first glance (and in the preview), but the first local they encounter (who has to rescue an un-stretched Yuka from the sea) takes an instant dislike to the “mainlanders”, unaware Saki may be a future neighbor. This was an all-round brilliant and beautiful episode, and we can’t wait for the conclusion.


Rating: 9 (Superior)

Natsuiro Kiseki – 07

The girls prepare for a idol singing competition coinciding with the town’s Taikoboshi festival. Natsumi, who wants to win, is annoyed that Yuka is not taking it seriously; moreso when Yuka suggests they just wish for the win, which would be cheating. When a suden rainstorm threatens to cancel the competition, Rinko’s mom tells her and Yuka to make Teru Teru Bouzus, which end up working, precluding the need for Saki and an uncertain Natsumi to wish on the rock. They perform and win the competition, which Yuka vows is just the beginning of their rise to idoldom.

This was a very feel-good, moving episode that didn’t rely on the happenstances that result from rock wishes, but was fueled purely by the quartet of girls as they practice for what may be their last singing contest as a group, with Saki leaving. All summer we’ve known she’s been leaving, but there are episodes where it casts a pall on everybody else and episodes where it’s not a factor and everyone enjoys life in the moment. We got the latter here, and another instance of the group splitting into twosomes: Natsumi/Saki and Yuka/Rinko, then playing off one another.

Natsumi and Saki are the “grown-ups” of the group; even if they’ve had their immature days, they strike us as more mature than the wide-eyed Yuka and the bashful Rinko. But Yuka proves she’s the most childlike of them all, being the primary propeller of the idol dream she wants to come true for everyone. She goofs off for most of the episode, only watching the concert videos and refusing to practice, but when it’s showtime, she hunkers down and her performance is just as good as everyone else’s. Just as one shouldn’t underestimate Yuka’s ability to perform seriously on the fly, one can’t rule out the possibility of her idol dreams coming true someday.


Rating: 7 (Very Good)

Natsuiro Kiseki – 06

With her mother out of town for a couple days, Natsumi must juggle feeding Daiki, doing her homework, and practicing for an important doubles match against regional champs. Wanting to help, Yuka spearheads a wish that literally splits Natsumi into two people, so one of them can focus on tennis, while the other studies and does housework. When the day of the match arrives, Natsumi panics and makes lots of errors, until the wish wears off, and the Natsumi who got valuable advice from Saki merges with the other, and they bounce back and make a match of it. That evening the four friends attend a night festival where they place their wishes on a lantern.

Like body-switching, doppleganger episodes can be a lot of fun to watch, if done properly, as it was this week. The target of the cloning was Natsumi, who just happened to be in the middle of a week of hell which she might not get through in one piece…so Yuka helpfully wishes up a second Natsumi and presto, things are gettin’ done in Aizawaland. Her initial annoyance with the situation feels right, but so does her realization that having two of you has distinct advantages. Natsumi in particular was a good choice; she’s headstrong, stubborn, and proud, we always wondered how she’d interact with…herself. It’s bumpy at first, but eventually they get into synch.

As Saki tells her, Natsumi can also be single-minded to her detriment; by splitting in two she’s not only able to experience two things at once, but also focus on more than one single goal, in her case, winning her last mach with Saki. She gets advice from Saki as the other her tries to change up her game. Predictably, when she’s still split, the tennis match doesn’t go so well at first (we really enjoyed the graceful and powerful tennis animation, by the way), but thankfully the wish wears off just in time to save face and make the match close. All’s well that ends well, and Daiki never sees both Natsumis at once. Natsumi and Saki have also come a long way, which will make Saki’s eventual departure all the more painful.


Rating: 8 (Great)

Natsuiro Kiseki – 05

Rinko catches a cold and Yuka nurses her back to health. The next day, Yuka gets sick and can’t hang out with the other three. She’s out of commision for four days, during which Natsumi, Rin and Saki take measure of their relationship with her.

This week there were no dates, no girls gettting stuck together or switching bodies. In fact, not much of anything happened at all. Saki and Natsumi agreed to play one final match together at the request of their senpais, but there’s no match this week, while Rin and Yuka both get sick. It’s a quiet, contemplative episode of simply hanging out and existing.

We’re okay with that – not every week needs to be a slapstick comedy based on a granted wish gone wrong. And as always, the girls are fun to watch even when they’re not doing anything. Laid-back anime that’s still entertaining is no easy task, but this series works for us. Also, the whale hallucinations were a nice trippy touch. That Rin is a weird one…


Rating: 6 (Good)

Natsuiro Kiseki – 04

Yuka likes her cousin Takashi, but he’s interested in Saki. While resting on the rock, she accidentally makes a wish that swaps their bodies. Yuka is elated, and is able to arrange a date with Takashi. Saki is furious, and makes everyone wish for them to switch back, but Natsumi and Rinko switch bodies instead. The next day, Yuka goes on the date with Takashi while Saki, Natsumi and Rinko shadow them. When it starts to get serious, Yuka realizes it was a bad idea, since he only sees Saki and not her; Rinko spirits her away before they kiss, and everyone returns to their normal body.

We had pretty good episodes focusing on Natsumi and Saki; this week it was Yuka’s turn to take center stage. Only, most of the time, Yuka isn’t in her own green-haired, relatively out-of-shape body, but in Saki’s. When her wish to become Saki comes true, she totally runs with it without hesitation. For most of the episode, nobody is who they should be. We must salute the four voice actresses for nailing one another’s way of speaking and mannerisms, and there were lots of nice touches like Yuka-as-Saki cooling her face with a cola. Natsumi-in-Rinko was so much peppier than she usually is (reminding us of how she played Fam). We love bodyswap episodes (Fairy Tail and DS9 had some good ones), and this one delivered the goods.

The swapping wasn’t just played for laughs. Yuka learned that looking and sounding like Saki is no way to win the heart of her cousin (it’s allowed in Japan, though in decline). Going on a date with him only gave him the idea that Saki liked him, since that’s how he saw her. They made a good couple, but it was a dead end. Ultimately, she’ll have to approach him honestly, as Yuka, if she wants to get anywhere. We kinda feel bad for poor Takashi: about to kiss Saki one minute, and suffering rejection-by-text the next. Both Yuka and Saki kinda ended up toying with his heart. They are some cold witches.


Rating: 9 (Superior)

Car Cameo: A Daihatsu Hijet kei truck pulls up right at the beginning.

Natsuiro Kiseki – 03

Yuusuke insists he saw Daiki’s sister Natsumi flying, and proposes she and her friends may be witches, which angers Daiki because it isn’t like Yuusuke to lie. Yuusuke follows Saki, who learns of his falling out with Daiki, and devises a way for them to make up: she arranges for them to watch them fly again, under the guise that she’s the only witch. The rock doesn’t cooperate, but they make up anyway.

Every week both we and the girls learn one or two new things about the wish-granting big rock. This week, we learned that an identical wish can be wished upon other people (i.e. Yuka and Rin getting stuck together), but the same wish apparently won’t work twice on the same people (i.e. everyone flying.) Which, if that’s true, kinda sucks, since it means no more flying. But regardless of the rock’s ‘rules’, it’s existence and their ability to wish upon it must remain closely-guarded secrets.

If too many people find out, it may ruin it’s power altogether…or even worse, attract the attention of Men In Black who may abduct and experiment on the girls (and it’s just not that kind of anime!) Still, even without the rock working, Saki managed to help Yuusuke and Natsumi’s brother make up. One way or another, the rock brings people together.


Rating: 7 (Very Good)


Car Cameo:
A somewhat crude but still identifiable white Honda Integra DC5 (AKA Acura RSX) zooms down the street as Yuusuke stalks Saki.