Dark Horse Comics
(w/a) Lynn Okamoto
I’m a glutton for punishment, or a sucker for second chances. After reading Elfen Lied Omnibus VOL 1, I told myself I would never delve back into its world again, or even think about the series. But as CJ said, “Ah shit, here we go again.” Plus, I’m a sucker for wanting to finish a story that I’ve sunk time in (3 volumes to be exact), even if I didn’t enjoy it; I just need to know how it ends and if it gets better. So here we are again, but with Elfen Lied Omnibus Vol.2 from Dark Horse Comic, each omnibus in these releases collects three of the tankōbon volumes, equaling 24.99, which is a damn good deal for three volume; additionally this is Elfen Lied’s first English release. Not to spend too much time on the first omnibus here is a quick synopsis via Wikipedia,
Elfen Lied takes place in Kamakura and Kanagawa, and focuses on the “Diclonius”, a newly mutated species. Their appearance is similar to humans, but with several differences, namely horn-like protrusions on the forehead and the presence of telekinetic invisible arms called “Vectors”. One such Diclonius, Lucy, is the main character of the series: Initially held in a facility built for experimentation, located off the coast of Kamakura, she manages to escape and wreak havoc, but is injured in the process, an event which causes her to develop a secondary, childlike personality known as Nyu.
Lucy is found by two locals, Kouta, who studies at the local university, and his cousin Yuka. They take her in, and become involved with the numerous, often brutal, attempts to recapture her by a Special Assault Team and a number of other Diclonius, who shift frequently from oblivious to murderous.
So with that out of the way, let’s quickly talk Elfen Lied: Omnibus Vol. 2 which collects tankōbon volumes 4,5,6 – spoilers ahead! Picking up right where the previous volume ends Elfen Lied Vol. 2 begins with Kouta, who is still trying to figure out how the professor lost is head. Leaving the school Kouta meets up with Yuka at home and they make their way to find Nyu (acting as Lucy), who is still missing after fleeing and killing the professor. Throughout the volume Kouta and Yuka reveal their feelings for each other, which is awkward in a multitude of facets each time it happens. We are treated to unnecessary gore scenes throughout that feel edgy just for the sake of being edgy, per usual; plus multiple accounts of unneeded fan service. Yeah a fair amount of Manga and Anime has fan service so it shouldn’t be that big of a deal, but the way Lynn Okamoto writes the interactions and draws whats happening seems weird, and makes you feel like a complete pervert.
From panties to trained killer, let’s speak on everyone’s least favorite character of all time; Bando. Having read a handful of Mangas through the years I have never ran across a character so full of Alpha male testosterone that it oozes out with each time he opens his mouth. Bando’s dialogue reads as a kids impression of what a bad ass killer would sound like, dropping F-bombs constantly for no other reason than they are more muscle than brain–which he is. Although Bando may be one of the worst character (so far) in Elfen Lied the other main characters aren’t free from criticism. Kouta is still a cliche whiny male protagonist that for some reason every female around him loves, it doesn’t help there is nothing likable about him. In this volume (and the previous) he is a complete pushover until one moment he finally lashes out, but it seems so out of place that it is just laughable.
Kouta’s cousin, Yuka is as bad – maybe worse – as Bando in moments. Anytime Yuka is with her cousin she is constantly attached to him and angers quickly when another girl talks, or looks at him. Even though she is the same age as Kouta, she seems to not be ‘all there’, indicated by a moment they get a little hot ‘n heavy and she has no idea what her body is doing, which is a cringe inducing scene that makes you instantly want to rip out your brain. Lucky you this is spoiler free so you won’t get the vomit inducing details. Yuka’s annoyance doesn’t stop there with her lashing out at Kouta for the stupidest reasons. Looking back Bando may not be so bad, at least his character is so bad it’s fun, whereas Yuka is so annoying and unwanted that any moment she graces the page you want to put it down. Nyu/Lucy character doesn’t change much other than she starts to remember her past that happens to include a young Kouta that she bounded with, re-telling the why and how Kouta lost his memory. These flashback moments have a few great parts but quickly falls flat like much of the story.
The easiest way to describe the art would be, late 90’s pointy chin manga characters. That’s not bad, but it has not aged well at all, it also came out in 2002 which was fazing away from this style. This style of art was primarily used for romances and stories without much violence, the exact opposite of Elfen Lied. With characters that can attack others with invisible hands Elfen Lied gets quite bloody and gory at scenes but between the pointed chins and stiff action scenes it looks tacked on. Anytime violence happens the panels that follow are uninspiring and lack fluidity, all of this while trying to be over the top that just comes off awkward and boring; whereas these moments should be bombastic and chaotic instead of tame. Over dramatizing faces in manga’s isn’t anything new, usually it’s for laughs, or to show great emotions, which Okamoto tries in a few places but utterly fails. Instead of looking sad, or devastated Okamoto’s characters look misshapen, stiff, and hard to look at.
The sad thing with Elfen Lied’s story is that it has a cool general plot, but it quickly falls into the early 2000’s fan service, and overly done edgy violence wrapping it all in one huge cringe filled omnibus. By the time you’ve finished this second volume you’ll wonder way Elfen Lied made it past the 2000’s, because it feels exactly like a teenage angst manga. To be far there a few moments where visual and written jokes do land quite well, but that’s far and few between and they land with a soft thud, not a loud hilarious thud.
Memorable Quote: “The very fact that I didn’t kill you is proof of our friendship, can’t you see?” – Lucy
Could you please just kill me next time? Thanks.
Elfen Lied Omnibus Volume 2 is due for release September 27th.