Reviewby Theron Martin, Jul 22nd 2005
DVD 2: Vector Two
Yuka and Kohta convince Mayu to stay with them and Nyu at their place by more or less adopting her, while Nyu's visit to college with them results in unexpected and dangerous complications. When Nyu turns up missing in the wake of that incident, Yuka and Kohta set out to look for her, only to be caught in a rainstorm that winds up bringing them closer together. Lucy is now afoot, though, and doesn't seem happy with current developments. It's also becoming increasingly clear that Lucy and Kohta have a past connection, and it isn't a good one. How will Kohta deal with that?
Meanwhile Mayu has some chance encounters which, unknown to her, put her in great potential danger.
This volume, which consists of episodes 5-7, slides away from the horror and action emphasis of the first volume in favor of a predominant emphasis on character and plot development. Though the series remains quite serious and plays most scenes straight, the flavor of anime romantic comedies continues to linger; the living arrangements are gradually developing in a haremesque direction, for instance, and the way Yuka reacts to Kohta at times reminds one strongly of any number of past romantic comedies. Unlike in true romantic comedies, though, the signs of Yuka's frustration with Kohta are often subtle and muted, and the overall tone is too dark for the series to qualify as any kind of romance or comedy. The romantic story between Yuka and Kohta, while it does get heavier treatment in this volume, is still merely a sidelight to the main plot rather than the focus of it. Equally as important are the revelations of the very disturbing reasons why Mayu is a runaway and the heartwarming way she responds to the offer of Yuka and Kohta. We also get to see more character development for Bandoh, Lucy, and even NANA—yes, she's an important character in this volume despite the fact that she was apparently dead at the end of the last one.
Oh, there are still bits of intense gore, action, and horror-themed tension to these episodes, but those elements come in much smaller doses. The most fascinating elements of this volume are the way characters shift in and out of states of psychosis and the different ways which characters come up with to cope with incidences of extreme trauma. Further hints are dropped about the suggested past connection between Kohta and Lucy, enough so that a viewer can come to some rather ugly conclusions about what really happened several years ago that caused Kohta to repress some of his memories. The full truth will have to wait for a later volume, though. More is also explained about the nature of Lucy and NANA, though whether their nature truly makes them a threat to mankind or whether their threat is a product of the way they have been treated is left unclear. As with the first volume, the writers make a concerted effort to always end episodes on cliffhangers. The one at the end of this volume is a doozy, and the fact that you can see it coming a minute or more in advance only heightens the anticipation. I am quite intrigued to see where the story goes next.
As with the first volume, Vector Two is a technical and artistic marvel. It is one of the best-looking anime series currently in circulation, with sharp, well-detailed backgrounds perfectly supporting somewhat cutesy but very well-rendered character designs, with a vibrant palette of colors bringing both to life. Of particular note in this volume is the striking use of red highlights in the dark and muted mountainside temple setting in episode 6 and the visual contrast between the normal and psychotic states of certain characters. Animation is smooth, clean, and mostly devoid of shortcuts, with minor support from CG effects and an emphasis on facial expressions. Fan service continues to be used liberally, and its use is very edgy in one case. All the actual nudity appears in episode 5 and the stylish opener and closer art.
As good as the artistry is, Elfen Lied is unquestionably the best-sounding anime production to date. Its wonderful musical score ably supports each scene, but even more important is its well-balanced sound mixing. This is a series which must be heard on a surround-sound system to be fully appreciated, one where off-screen sounds coming out of the rear speakers give scenes a convincing three dimensional sound effect. The stellar Latin opening number, respectable J-rock closer, and eerie menu themes don't hurt either.
The English and Japanese dub performances in Vector Two are distinct improvements over the first volume, though this could partly be because this block of episodes gives more characters a broader emotional range. Most English casting choices are both a good match for the role and for the original performance, with only Andy MacAvin as Director Kakuzawa sounding a bit off. The English dub in general is solid, with the only flaw being a distinct reduction in background murmurs in one college lecture hall scene in episode 5—but you have to be listening closely to both dubs to catch this. As with the first volume, ADV's English script takes a few liberties with the translation. Most of the time this isn't going to be a problem for anyone other than diehard purists, but it does result in a handful of scenes where the meaning varies a little between the dub and subs. (This is particularly noticeable during a confrontation between NANA and Bandoh in episode 7.) Fortunately none of this affects major plot points.
The extras for this volume are a duplicate of the set found on the first volume: clean opener and closer, company previews, and extensive (if somewhat repetitive) sets of character and production art. A preview of volume 3 is also included, continuing a recent trend by ADV. Included in the case is a reversible cover and brief commentary by series composer Takao Yoshioka, who might be known to American fans for his work on Happy Lesson and Mezzo.
Though Vector Two lacks the “WHAM-BANG!” opening punch of Vector One, it acquits itself quite well in its examination of core characters, its handling of situations both dark and romantic, and its maintenance of top-rate artistic and production values. It is not as graphic as the first volume, but still an edgy title intended exclusively for mature audiences. More importantly, it reaffirms Elfen Lied's position as one of the year's top series releases.
Overall (dub) : A-
Overall (sub) : A-
Story : A-
Animation : A-
Art : A
Music : A-
+ Top-rate artistic, animation, and sound merits.
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