Status: Finished Airing
Aired: Jul 6, 1998 to Sep 28, 1998
23 min. per episode
R - 17+ (violence & profanity)
L represents licensing company
Score: 7.971 (scored by 55550 users)
1 indicates a weighted score
cyberpunk drama mystery psychological sci-fi
SynopsisLain Iwakura appears to be an ordinary girl, with almost no experience with computers. Yet the sudden suicide of a schoolmate, and a number of strange occurrences, conspire to pull Lain into the world of the Wired, where she gradually learns that nothing is what it seems to be... not even Lain herself.
Related AnimeAdaptation: Serial Experiments Lain: The Nightmare of Fabrication
Characters & Voice Actors
For my first anime review on this site, I'll be doing a series that I can confidently say is both one of my favorite works of fiction that anime has to offer that I've ever seen as well as possibly one where I can never ultimately decide how much I genuinely love it or just absolutely appreciate it even if I won't obsess over it.
Now with that out of the way, I guess I'll get into the review.
Serial Experiments Lain is NOT your average anime. At first glance, it might look a little bit like the Matrix movies or Ghost in the Shell (regrettably, both are things I've yet to watch). For more seasoned anime fans, it might even look like the genre of 'cyberpunk' series like Bubblegum Crisis and Appleseed and some aspects of Cowboy Bebop lovingly ripped off from movies such as Blade Runner and Terminator. That should not be surprising if you know the name Chiaki J. Konaka, a screenwriter who is best known for Armitage III, The Big O, Digimon Tamers, Tetsuwan Birdy, the original Hellsing, the 2003 version of Astro Boy, RaXephon, Ghost Hound, Texhnolyze and even some episodes of Princess Tutu and Eureka Seven. This man is very versatile, but his forte seems to be horror and cyberpunk. I haven't seen all of his works, but I'd be willing to check them out one of these days.
Lain's story has...a lot of...layers. In fact, each episode even starts out called "Layer...*episode number*". The series is complicated, and definitely not one you can just watch blindly. If you're wondering if this is a trippy, complex, genre-bending and thought provoking mindfuck anime like Neon Genesis Evangelion (shonen and mecha), Revolutionary Girl Utena (shoujo and fantasy) or Puella Magi Madoka Magica (magical girls)...yes it is. But in some ways, that's not intentional. Nor is it better or worse than a lot of those shows. While I personally LOVE these shows, I'll acknowledge that you're not going to get much out of it if you don't like plots which aren't in your face and hold things back from you only to allude to them subtly. This is a series where sometimes the characters actually see more than the audience. And the narrative is definitely unorthodox, not just for anime but any science fiction. You'll probably want to rewatch it once or twice in order to fully get it, like I did. But even then, it won't appeal to everyone. I even wrote an episode by episode journal summary and analysis for one of my English classes recently, and that was after my second rewatch which I found to be much more enjoyable than the first.
A young, antisocial middle school girl named Lain Iwakura becomes interested in the futuristic technology surrounding them to enter a whole new world they call “The Wired” (read: the Internet) after her classmate Chisa Yomoda commits suicide. Lain only met the girl once, but she reaches out to her from the other side telling her to come to the Wired. As Lain's interest in the medium becomes more intense, she is led down a path in which all of the truths behind reality, identity and how we communicate with one another are revealed to her. All of which causes her to question her own humanity. Ethical conflicts and metaphysical hijinks represented by loads and loads of different literary/cultural allusions, philosophical constructs, metaphysics, symbolism, the psychological makeup of the characters and much more occur and the real motives of The Wired’s creators and benefactors become apparent. The border between The Wired and the real world isn’t all that clear. The basic foundation of the storyline is ‘science-fact’ yet the dramatic presentation of the events which unfold will take you into a world of pure science fiction where the conventions of reality are defied completely and repeatedly. Yeah, it's THAT kind of show. Very love it or hate it, and also one that can appeal to casual viewers and non-anime fans as well. Also, definitely something computer and technology geeks would love.
Lain's art style is on a whole nother level. It's insane and gorgeous to look at and you WILL get the trippiness induced from looking at a single frame of it. The animation and designs of the characters are by no other than Yoshitoshi ABe, also known most recently for his work on Texhnolyze and Ergo Proxy. Everything is really detailed. The colors are quite basic. Everyone has normal hair and bodies, in fact, there's barely any standard 'anime hair and anime face and anime eyes and boobs and other physical features' in this show at all. It's more realistic because these characters ACTUALLY look Japanese. And that's something I really find unique and FASCINATING. It makes you wonder how this series could possibly be from 1998 since it looks so ahead of its time.
It's some of the most unique artwork I've ever seen, and that's talking about both the 'real world' and 'Wired' visuals. Not to mention how the plethora of symbolism is not only appropriately used and serves a purpose but also blends in yet still pops out of the background for everyone to take note of it. Some people might have issues with the art since it does get a little wacky and I could see how people who are seizure-prone might not be able to handle it, but otherwise, I really have no complaints about it. Other than the fact that the opening sequence, which has the best animation in the show, sometimes looks off model but since its a closeup of certain character's faces while they're thinking and seeing certain things this may have been intentional. I'm not sure how else to describe it, but I personally loved all of it and you can decide for yourself if you feel the same.
There isn't much I can say about this. All of the voice actors sound great and in keeping with the themes of (sur)realism of the narrative and its overall appearance, also sound very 'un-anime' ish. Kaori Shimizu voices the meek yet stubborn and insightful Lain, and her voice is really nice and fitting for that character. Ayako Kawasumi also gives a very satisfying performance as her older sister Mika, who manages to stand out as well despite her only getting real focus for 5 or 6 episodes. I can't say much about the English dub because I haven't watched it, but if you like old school dubs with amateur but still effort-filled voice acting and cheesy, localized script writing...knock yourself out. Although you might want to wait on the dub until after you've finished the Japanese subtitled version for a show like this, if that's the case.
The music in this series is also really great, and there's a nice blend of jazz, techno, alternative rock, soft metal and electro type tunes and tracks in here. A lot of guitar solos too, some of which are very refreshing and fit nicely. The music definitely fits all of the scenes and events of what's happening in the series, rest assured. The opening theme "Duvet" by Boa is also really nice, it's one of the few anime themes that's in English. It's a very relaxing song to listen to and it tells Lain's story quite well with the lyrics, although when you first hear it you're probably going to think its just a wee bit emo and stereotypically teenage angst bullshit but who knows. It's not the best soundtrack for an anime I've ever listened to but its definitely a treat for the ears.
*sigh* This is a HUGE weak spot for this series. Now, I am someone who absolutely loves a character-focused storyline, even if that hampers some of the plot and other technical elements. Lain's not about that. This is basically one part Lain realizing her true identity and reality, the other part finding out what it does to people she cares about including her sister and best friend Alice/Arisu when they find out the truth and finally, what happens to the world when she is ultimately the cause of the 'border between the Wired and the real world not being clear'. The other characters, other than Mika Iwakura, Arisu, her Wired-obsessed friend Carl and the all-important posthumous characters Masami Eiri and Chisa Yomoda, just aren't really 'there'.
But that's forgivable for a show like this, especially since the characters who ARE the most important in the narrative DO get their justice and are very well-developed at that. Lain is perhaps one of the most complex, empowering, morally ambiguous, empathic and also, plain adorable without being moe characters in anime history. She really is quite something. Masami might remind you of Gendo Ikari/Keel Lorenz from NGE, Dios/Akio Ohtori from Utena and Kyubey from Madoka Magica just in the way that he looms over the narrative and ultimately decides what humanity and the character's fate will be. He also is VERY ambiguous in how he thinks and deals with things. A very engaging antagonist indeed. But if you don't like a show to have more characters for which you can't really feel or give a second thought about, then Lain might not be your cup of tea.
Overall, I absolutely love Serial Experiments Lain and would definitely recommend it to someone into the types of anime and stories. If you loved shows like NGE and Madoka, you should definitely check out Lain. But keep in mind, it's definitely not for everyone. Some things about the show are definitely objectively better than others. Some might find it too confusing or too difficult to get through. A lot of things are up to interpretation and never fully explained, and the amount of symbolism in this series is comparable to Madoka's and Utena's in how dense and well-versed the narrative and its writers are. And you definitely will be caused to think and feel a number of ways about the show while watching it/analyzing it before, during and after.
Perhaps the most fascinating aspect of Lain is that it could lead the viewer to question whether the series is science fiction or a prediction of what will be ‘science-fact’ in the near future. After all, everyone is connected and we must “Close this World, Open the NeXt.”
So give it a try. Even if you don't seem to understand, it's (not) a shame you seemed an honest man...
My good friend once told me that I wouldn't like this anime... that it was too dark and confusing. It turns out my friend was wrong this time... not only do I like lain, it's turning out to be one of my favorites...It's a difficult show to sit through, that's for sure. And that electrical hum that you hear whenever Lain is walking outside always puts me to sleep.
serial experiments lain takes place in "Present Day, Present Time", but it's not quite the reality we know. It's not exactly a reflection of our society, but more like a funhouse mirror. The story is about Iwakura Lain, a quiet 14-year-old girl who, as strange things start to happen all around her, begins to explore and discover the intricacies of The Wired (the Internet, more-or-less). As she looks for answers, she finds more than she ever expected.
There aren't any story details you need to know before you dive into the complex world of lain,but I'll give you a sense of what the show is like in case you're deciding whether or not to watch it.
First off, it's trippy. The makers of lain went for a distinctly psychedelic mood, and I'm not just referring to tie-dyed T-shirts.
Second, it's weird -- in an X-Files/H.P. Lovecraft sort of way. Chiaki Konaka, the writer of the series (as well as Armitage III and Bubblegum Crisis 2040), is a Lovecraft fan. [Lovecraft was a horror/cult author whose works were very weird. -Ed.]
Third, it draws you in. The show is a mystery of sorts. There's a lot we don't know in the beginning, and as we're given clues and answers about the truth, we end up with more questions needing to be answered. There are long scenes featuring unusual camera work, and scenes with little or no dialogue. Some scenes are altogether impossible to decipher. There are details at every little turn, some of which are crucial while others might be meant to distract you. The show demands your concentration, and you might find yourself very willing to give it.
Fourth, it's a computer lover's show. If you can appreciate the appeal of a powerful computer, or the feeling of urgency associated with needing a new one, you'll like this show. If you live a good percentage of your life online, this show speaks to you. If you feel amputated every time you visit home because there's no ethernet, the makers of this show understand. Better than any other anime I've seen, lain examines our networked society and discusses the implications of our humanity becoming increasingly "wired".
Some people have criticized lain for the fact that it covers many of the themes already presented in Evangelion. In my opinion, those people are only seeing the similarities they want to see while being blind to the (very significant) differences. Consciously or subconsciously, all great works build upon and are influenced by the great works that preceded them and then add their own unique style and flavor. Even if two works appear similar, they each have a heart of their own. lain is an anime which not only incorporates the best of what has come before, but actively acknowledges (through references) that there's a lot more out there beyond the scope of what 13 episodes of anime can explain, that the ideas presented are not brand new, that other people have a lot to say about these ideas, and that the sources are available to anyone with more than a passing interest in what the series is all about. In that sense, lain does not take itself and its own viewpoint overly seriously. Instead of being self-absorbed, lain's anti-dogmatic approach and call for every viewer to perform his or her own "experiments" adds tremendously to the show's appeal.
The low budget really shows in the animation. It's choppy and inconsistent especially when faces get a close up then you can sit there and count the frames. On the other hand the colorful and atypical art style does a lot to distract from the bad animation. SEL has a very unique and phantasmagorical style and, due to the use of color, texture, shadows, lighting, and dynamic angles, the show really feels very surreal, almost like a dream.
Techno at its finest. This song really had my foot tapping and head bobbing with its fast rhythm and library of classic techno sounds.It really fits well with the background pulse.The Club Cyberia vibe might the best ost ever created in anime.This song even comes complete with DJ J.J (Chikada Wasei) soliciting fun and ecstasy to all the good little clubber boys and girls.
As far as characters go there isn't much to say. Other than Lain and the main Villain, Masami Eiri, there aren't very many interesting characters. It's also almost impossible to talk about Lain or the Eiri without giving away spoilers... so consider this a spoiler warning...
It's true that lain is "dark" in its presentation, and even moody sometimes, but I never found it depressing. On the contrary, I found serial experiments lain, ultimately, to be positive and uplifting. lain's multi-faceted expression of several interrelated themes, its captivating visual landscape, its pulsing soundtrack, and the impressively actualized psychedelic mood make this show a must-see.
Boogiepop Phantom and Serial Experiments Lain are very slow-paced and have very little dialogue. They both attempt to be philisophical....
90's anime style ownage: dull atmosphere, squared character design, electro music on the background, overcrowded city depression, urban mysteries of the concrete-cable town, new age at its best.
strange deaths, beautifully haunting music, and strange color schemes make these two anime series almost siblings. . .
Both mess with your brain. However, Boogiepop creeps you out with supernatural, where Lain (which does have bits of creepiness) uses the modern phenomenon of internet and the decrease in human contact. Boogiepop is perhaps less philosophical than Lain and less conceptual
Also a very surreal anime with somewhat similar darkish style.
Lain and Boogiepop Phantom are soul mates; they deliver highly convoluted stories with intricate plots that are presented in a non-linear way, which allows for some extremely disorientating moments. The mood of both is very dark and menacing; virtually all scenes are charged with nervous tension. Lain is more coherently philosophical while BP is somewhat disjointed but they share the same spirit of subversive violence, enthralling confusion and constant questioning.
Both employ a philosophic style, approaching dark, almost disturbing themes and nonlinear, vignette-effect storytelling. The character designs are similar, not surprisingly because they are done by the same artist (Shigeyuki Suga). Both series also use sparse color palettes, with Boogiepop Phantom extending it further to noise-filled, sepia tones, to reflect the anxieties and tragedies of the characters as well as give the series an over-all psychological, surreal atmosphere.
It seems that Lain and Boogiepop share the same gothic approach to their respective views of the world. I like how both make you really think about their true meanings and how deep they really are.
Watching one is like watching the other. :-D
Boogiepop is a more violent, mysterious, horror version of Lain.
Both have schoolgirls as protagonists; both have some kind of “god” in them; both are creepy, confusing, and complex; both have awesome dark/electronic/industrial music, and the same character design, atmosphere, and slow pacing.
If you liked one, you’ll love the other.
Darkness, mystery, psychological thriller... highly recommended !!!
Total mind screw. Serial Experiments Lain is more understandable and has a (sympathetic and well developed) main character, while Boogiepop Phantom is more confusing and creepier.
Both are outstanding creative series, have a really alternative development, similar art, treat about dark stuff like suicide and gives a lot to think.
Both shows are very similar to one another, and both deal with the same basic thing, the degradation of the human mind. But while Lain deals with one single person, Boogiepop Phantom deals with a larger group of people who are all connected.
almost the same art style & similar atmosphere
This show shares the same character designer and key animator as Lain. It's also very dark, gloomy, and deals with how young people living in modern Japan are disconnected from one another. Boogiepop delves more into the horror genre and it's a little easier to follow, but in terms of atmosphere and storytelling style they are quite similar.
The two shows are both willing to progress the story without clearly defining it to the viewer in full. It instead lets you take the knowledge you have and attempt to piece the events from it. These both have effective, dark, dreary atmospheres. The artistic styles are similar and have a huge payoff when you get a full story out of it.
I'm sure everything about similarity of those two wonderful non-mainstream anime was said already so I'm just adding a vote.
similar psychologic effect, similar atmosphere
Both have strange deaths and haunting music. There's a creepy atmosphere to them both. With dull blurry-like colored backgrounds and characters.
Both series involve disturbing, psychological elements born through twisted technologies. Dark atmospheres encompass the lives of seemingly average students, each with their own past tragedies and/or mental instabilities. A first glance, the plotlines are confusing—albeit, both TV shows are intended for viewers who enjoy re-watching episodes to digest the subtle details, symbolisms, and intellectual undertones.
If you like complex thinking, you should watch this. Very psychological.
They're both very psychological and philosophical. Lain doesn't have Mechs or fights, but they're still rather similar.
Lain and Evangelion are intrinsically complex series. In both there is a strong presence of technology, which underlines the problematic relationship between individual existence and collective psychological archetypes of a symbolic order. These anime address topics such as the self, the body, the role of communication and the possibility of forging bonds. Lain is heavily intellectual from the outset and slow-paced through and through, while Eva only develops its conceptual core in the later episodes and is much more action-driven. Lain and Eva are prodigies of existential thought transmitted through a visual medium; and as such they go hand in hand.
Both are very deep, and make you think. They have somewhat similar theme, but the setting is very different.
Lain is no doubt a series to be enjoyed for every NGE fan that was attracted by NGE's psychological scenes.
Both have deeply complex plots and deal with the human psyche
Makes you think on what the hell is actually happening in the anime, and what the characters are thinking and what leads to their actions.
Dark, psychological, philosophical, mysterious, Lain and Evangelion are very similar thematically and tonally. If you like one (or if you didn't absolutely hate the last two episodes of Evangelion), you'll almost certainly like the other.
Both makes you think of life. (Що Лейн, що Ева дають підстави переосмислити життя)
Two great psychological anime. In both almost all the characters have their own individual inner world, incomprehensible even to themselves, do not speak already about others. Immediately recall the words of Gendo Ikari: "No one will ever fully understand another person".
So, to fully enjoy these masterpieces of psychological need to put it mildly, "to apply the brain." Well, if you're fans of the genre ala "Lucky Star", or "Azumang's" image not recommend.
I've watched both of this anime and i think that anyone who has watched Neon Genesis evangelion should also watch serial experiments lain.The most common thing between these two anime is the psychological aspect.Both of them have a complicated history and also characters.Even if the history is not the same (of course) they both have to do with technology and future.Also the main character are almost the same,with big personality problems and duple personality sometimes.Also i think that in both animes the characters surrounding the main characters are problematic and difficult to understand .
Both are science fiction titles that are also psychological thrillers.
Both these series are psychological in nature. It explores the idea of existence, self and being. You'll end up questioning yourself. Although NGE has more action and SEL has a slower pace.
Both have similar themes dealing with "god" and self discovery. They also share similar art styles and story telling mechanics.
Heavily influencing deep psychological thinking, themes like Existential philosophy and Depth in human inter-relations, both shows intersect in the point where the viewer is left with more meaning behind the plot and span of episodes.
If you like Complex themes, and thought-skewering eeriness, watch them both.
- Both are psychological and deep
- Both are mindscrewy (Lain more so than Eva)
- The last two episodes of Eva are the most similar to Lain
Revenge of the late 90s with these two unique pieces. Serial Experiments Lain is only similar to Neon Genesis Evangelion with the undertones, as well as the atmosphere and overall impression both series tend to leave with people. Evangelion will leave you somewhat shaken in what you consider to be "normal" in the ways of human psychology, as well as taking you through a detailed unraveling of the main characters, whereas Lain will leave you wondering more about the duality of the self and the responsibilities associated with near God-Like power (something that the viewers of the End of Evangelion wish had been discussed with a certain character). Both have a haunting feeling that I associate with them, as Demolition D+ would say, an "over your shoulder, God is watching" kind of feeling, an omnipotence hidden just beyond our view. If you enjoyed Eva, you'll enjoy Lain.
- both delve deeply into philosophy, and psychology
- both require your brain turned on
- both are complete mindfucks
Opening Theme"Duvet" by Bôa
Ending Theme"Tooi Sakebi" by Nakaido Chabo Rei'ichi
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