English: Serial Experiments Lain
Status: Finished Airing
Aired: Jul 6, 1998 to Sep 28, 1998
23 min. per episode
R - 17+ (violence & profanity)
L represents licensing company
Score: 7.981 (scored by 67951 users)
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2 based on the top anime page. Please not that 'Not yet aired' and 'R18+' titles are excluded.
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.
BackgroundNo background has been added for this series yet.
Related AnimeAdaptation: Serial Experiments Lain: The Nightmare of Fabrication
Characters & Voice Actors
THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS.
Serial Experiments Lain is a paragon of many dimensions, and completely unparalleled in many more. It's a masterpiece of intellectuality, and utterly unparalleled in providing a mind-warping trip into extreme psychological and philosophical themes whose impact lingers and haunts like nothing I've ever experienced.
This is going without saying that Serial Experiments Lain is one of the most inaccessible creations of art to grace the medium of Animation, and it is difficult to even describe its complexity. There is a broad range of ideas, all of which have massive depth in their facets, which could all be focused on as a main point. Generally, these themes involve technologies impact on society, thorough deconstruction of the internet, the psychology of an impersonal god, Etcetera. In addition, the massive breadth of theoretical possibilities to many of the open-ended points in Serial Experiments Lain's plot and themes is without limit.
There is more things to breakdown and go into detail than could ever be summed in a simple article, especially considering the more subjective aspects. What I will going into is the realistic nature of the setting and plot of Lain, the mechanics of the show, and ultimately to the madness that lies within the later themes of Serial Experiments Lain.
**Section 1: Exposition Methods & Related Devices**
Concerning the plot of the first half of the show, the delivery is extremely cryptic and mysterious. There is little aspects of the plot structure in which one definitive point is summed up, rather it's ever-evolving, chapter-less, and amorphous. Points are conveyed not through clear, upfront events, but through innumerable small details continuously revealed throughout the course of each episode. Everything is a puzzle made up of tiny little fragments of information, the bonding of each piece comprising of the viewer's continuous contemplation and theorization of what is going on, and what is next. Eventually, through no clear, definitive point, but over a general expanse of time, the big picture clicks into place.
The latter half of the show, starting somewhere in the 6th episode or so, is an even higher dimension of intellectual exposition. In the first half, the themes involved with each small detail conveyed would be mentioned some way or another. The philosophical notions and ideas, as well as most of the psychological aspects, are found entirely through the viewer's own questioning. This side of the plot, which holds some of most powerful ideas and content of its genre that I've ever witnessed, are never expressed in any moment through the face-value of events that occur, but entirely through the varying levels of connotations. There are no narratives, clear explanations, or dialogue, only the viewer's ability to string together the numerous implications of events into powerful, complex systems of ideas.
The methods listed places Serial Experiments Lain on a level of intellectual sophistication that is, as of this day, unrivalled. Common tropes of exposition found in mainstream Japanese animation usually involve not only singular points of very direct narratives or dialogue, but outright illogical halts to events taking place in way for spoon-feeding the audience information to degree's that outright kill immersion, or even break the 4th wall. Serial Experiments Lain is the absolute anti-thesis of this. Through the constant connotation-heavy, cryptic exposition, almost the entire burden of figuring out what is happening is placed on the intellect of the viewer.
In tandem with the exposition method is the pacing of the events that occur. Particularly in the first half of the show, the pacing for the most part is slow, drawn out, and takes it's time with every detail presented. It's true that it goes over-board in this regard at some points, however, it's inextricable to success of the shows exposition method, which I will demonstrate in an analogy: If I were to present a person with a puzzle, demand it to be pieced together quickly, and then toss all pieces in the person's face, said person wouldn't make heads or tails of the puzzle. A puzzle is formulated and solved one piece at a time until the bigger picture is revealed.
This illustrates the key function of the slow pacing in the show. The significance of each bit of information presented is only designated by how each scene takes its time in revealing said information. If the show were to completely scrap this pacing in way for a faster speed, nothing would be able to serve as a cue to the importance of a bit of information versus an irrelevant bit. The viewer wouldn't be able to register enough information to form a bigger picture, and the exposition as a whole would simply fail. In order for the cryptic nature of the exposition to not fall into incoherency, lengthiness of time must be utilized.
*Section 2: Realism - Part I*
Suspension of Disbelief is a critical aspect of Serial Experiments Lain. That is, the complete lack of any cause for disbelief what so ever. Before I go on about how Serial Experiments Lain achieves a grounded sense of tangible realism, and why it's so relevant later on in the anime, I'll first explain a few things about disbelief, and what too much suspension of disbelief can do to the emotional impact of an art piece.
Disbelief is what naturally arises when a viewer witnesses something that is extra-ordinary, fundamentally different, or super-natural in relation to the real world the viewer lives in. Disbelief isn't necessarily a bad thing, especially if there is plenty of aspects of the show that are congruent with our own reality, or that the extra-ordinary premises are developed into some kind of sensible system I.E. if you can present a sufficient amount of science or logic behind what's happening. However, regardless if it affects the show negatively in an immediate sense, which it can very much do, inundating a viewer with material that requires vast suspension of disbelief changes the nature of the effect.
Take a show like Naruto for example, where the characterizations are almost nonsensically dramatic and flamboyant. It's true that it's very entertaining to watch, but in reality, no one is going to spontaneously pass out at the sight of a tasty bowl of noodle soup, or yell at someone with so much force that they are lifted off their feet and fly ten blocks away, let alone survive.
An even better example, which highlights the negative aspects of what disbelief can do, is any sort of prelude or interlude you might find in a standard Shonen anime Ala. Dragon Ball Z, One Piece, or Soul Eater. In these scenes, usually, each side spends inordinate amounts of time explaining things. These explanations can be either totally nonsensical in the context (a villain explaining every fighting move he uses to the protagonist, or vis versa), or reach eye-rolling lengths (rants that go tens of minutes in length with no real reason why fighting isn't happening. (I know it's called filler material, and I don't care))
The primary flaw in a consistent need for the viewer to suspend their disbelief is that the long-term impact of the show is lessened in proportion. While suspending one's disbelief opens you up to the realm of the ridiculous and the fantastic, it also increases the emotional distance from the show and the real world. A viewer might get swept off their feet by a story about forest spirits and cosmic gods, but once we return to our daily lives, "real world" begins to over-write and obscure the emotions lingering from the experience. This is because the premises we are subjected to outside of the show have nothing in common with reality. In this regard, Serial Experiments Lain is incredible in a sense that not many show's I've seen have achieved.
This quality, which is the utter lack of any cause for disbelief, is facilitated in two key ways, the first being the characterizations of the show. Just like the qualities of the expositions method (and by extension the existence of the entire plot), this is also an inaccessible part of the show. The characterizations of the show are, for lack of more interesting words, straight-forward, serious, and extremely mundane in a very "real life" way. This may seem like the shows biggest down fall, due to it lacking any sort of conventional values of humor, drama, goofy/silliness, or any sort of distinctly Japanese flavor of 'wacky'. However, these issues are only skin deep, as they, just like the plot, serve to ground the viewer in a sense of absolute realism when the later half of the show begins to take off. That is, in the moments of absolute madness, there is no point in which the idea that "this could happen to real people, or people I actually know" falters.
The second key point is the plot. Speaking of which...
*Section 3: The Setting, and The Wired*
The plot elements involving the first half of Serial Experiments Lain are absolutely crucial to formulating the basis of, as well as a sense of logic and realism to, the second half of the show, which is where the truly transcendental madness lies. In particular, the plot concerning who and what Lain Iwakura is, what The Wired is and it's functions, and what it's relationship with humanity and Lain is. It's important to note that The Wired's relationship to Lain and the rest of the Human race are drastically different. However, due to the fact that the progressions of the plot lines aren't found in singular events, but arrays of small details scattered through out each episode, there is a sort of vagueness to the origin of each idea presented in the show. This makes the subject extremely complex and difficult to even approach.
The initial setting of the show centers around a junior high schooler named Lain Iwakura. Lain is a very shy, distant, and extremely detached individual. She has a group of female friends which act typical in whatever ways junior high schoolers act, and they occasionally spice up there lives by going to an underground nightclub. It's all extremely mundane and normal, until things take a turn into the unknown when strange occurrences revolving around something called "The Wired" begin to happen.
Initially, the appearance of The Wired seems to be the show's equivalent to the internet, both technologically and sociologically. However, the nature of The Wired is revealed to have drastically different dimensions, mainly in the distinguishability between itself and the 'real world'. This is illustrated through quite a few events that happen through out the first 4 episodes.
In the details of the first episode, one of Lain's classmates commits suicide. A period of time after Lain Iwakura discovers this, Lain starts receiving emails from her dead class-mate which claim that "she crossed over into The Wired". These emails show, somehow, that her conciousness still exists. Another series of events involve depictions of people undergoing strange hallucinations in episode 4. One of which particularly involved a teenage boy who seems to be undergoing what, on the surface, seems to be a severe hallucination of being trapped in some kind of dungeon-based video game. Ultimately, the boy ends up killing a girl he believed to be some sort of dungeon monster... What follows this is very crucial, and has vast implications.
After the event, Lain is shown gathering details on the incident, and what is gathered is that the boy had desired to play a video game (called Phantoma) with in The Wired. After this bit of detail, Lain's father approaches her and engages in a dialogue, saying that Lain must remember that the only function of The Wired is to contain and transfer information, and that it's not to be confused with the real world. Lain responds with a denial of this, stating that the difference between The Wired and reality isn't clear at all. This dialogue, coupled with how the incidences involving people playing video games in The Wired, which resulted in experiences that completely blended with their perception and sense of reality, begin to point toward the nature of The Wired as something that is able to manipulate the conciousness of those who are connected to it.
In the episode 5, through the fragmented dialogues involving Lain and a variety of floating puppets, it's revealed that external reality is a "Hologram" of the information contained within The Wired. Everything that 'exists' is simply centralized projections of the collective information that The Wired contains. The final progression is wrapped through two key events. The first is Lain's sister, Mika, getting into a car crash. Through some freak accident involving her connection to The Wired, Mika's mind gets duplicated into two separate instances, both of which begin to have their own experiences and become their own individuals. The second point comes much later in the show, where the exposition on the origin of The Wired, and its purpose, takes place. This exposition shows that later in the development on the technology behind The Wired, a scientist named Masami Eiri began to implement the ability for The Wired to become permanently connected to people on an unconsciousness level. The scope of this implementation was not just singular targets, but everyone on Earth. This is what is referred to as "The 7th Protocol of The Wired".
So... What does it all mean? What exactly is The Wired, ultimately? It is two-fold: technological, and metaphysical. Concerning the technology behind The Wired, it's some kind of global array of devices which, through some means, fundamentally affect the psyche of everyone on the planet. Through out the show, Physicalistic Mind-philosophy is a position taken as true, specifically that the human mind is electrical impulses in the brain, which can be affected and manipulated like any other electrical system. This presumably involves some sort of machinery that can wirelessly interface with, and therefore manipulate, human brains. However, there is another side to the technology, and that is the digitalization of conciousness itself. To put it more in the semantics used in the show, the complete translation of the human mind into a construct of information contained completely within The Wired, which can exist independent of any brain or body. This seems to be largely the case for most people later in the show, and is actually what happened to Lain's classmate who killed herself in the beginning of the show, so it's safe to presume that this is the universal case.
The second dimension of The Wired is metaphysical. To a universal, omniscient perspective which theoretically isn't connected to The Wired, The Wired is simply psyche-affecting technology. However, given the truth explained about how mind's who are connected to The Wired are completely integrated into The Wired, the meaning of The Wired when considering limited, human observers is absolutely fundamental. As explained in Episode 5, everything experienced by someone who is connected to The Wired are projections, or 'holograms', of information stored within The Wired. Given the fact that all of humanity is connected to The Wired, this logically means that the entirety of all experience-able and observable reality is The Wired, and any other conceivable basis for reality is equivalent to non-existence, due to how minds contained within The Wired having no means of experiencing something outside The Wired.
It doesn't stop there. The Wired's fundamental link to all observable phenomena goes beyond what is external to the human observer, but actually extends to the mind of each human observer itself. Not only is external phenomena projections of information in The Wired, but every level of mental phenomena that make up concious beings are simply autonomous constructs of information as well. This key fact serves as the basis for how everything, including the minds of human beings, can be manipulated, created, or erased in any way or means. This ties in with who Lain Iwakura is.
*Section 4: Lain Iwakura*
To preface, Lain Iwakura is an extremely detached individual. Lain is detached not just in a social way, but in a completely fundamental way: She seems to not really 'connect' with the entirety of her own reality, as if something were very subtly... wrong. Coupled with this is how utterly lost she is with in here own mind. I find this very intriguing and relatable because of how similar this behaviour is to my own, due to some aspects of my own mind. I often have my attention detracted into 'clouds' of mental noise that are usually extremely ungrounded in reality, at times bordering on out right craziness. This psychology is quite similar to Lain's own kind of wanderings with in herself.
However, in exactly the same sense of how The Wired has unfathomably vaster facets to itself than its initial appearance, there is too more to Lain Iwakura than meets the eye. Actually, what is met by the eye at all would be closer to outright deception. Firstly, the name "Lain Iwakura" doesn't actually refer to one particular person, but more accurately describes multiple beings...
From the get go, Lain Iwakura’s exact identity, in terms of it being singularly defined, is brought into confusion in the first few episodes, particularly when she visits the local nightclub. In scattered dialogues she has with various people that enjoy the night club scene, Lain Iwakura is talked about as if she is two different people. At one point a boy flirts with her, asking her to come back when she is her "wild side". Another point is when the DJ of the club makes some sort of inquiry to her, only to dismiss her because "she wants to play her shy kid side". During a few brief incidents, particularly involving a person who actually commits suicide in the night club via shooting himself, Lain is shown abruptly switching to a much more assertive, aggressive demeanour.
At first it simply seems to be the inklings of a Split Personality Disorder. However, episode 6 through 7 add a dimension to the problem. In episode six, Lain Iwakura is shown wondering through projected landscapes of data in The Wired (different from the projections that make up of Tokyo), attempting to find a certain scientist who worked on the technological prototypes of The Wired. In these scenes, she is entirely in her "aggressive" persona. In the beginning of episode 7, Lain speaks with her computer, expounding that there is a Lain in The Wired different from the shy Lain Iwakura, which is who she sees as herself. I feel it's important to consider the occurrences shown in episode 5, involving Lain's sister Mika. As discussed on what the implications of those events were, Mind duplication is possible in The Wired, and considering this, the dialogue at the beginning of Episode 7 begins to point toward the problems with Lain's identity going beyond mere Split Personality Disorder.
There is another aspect of who, or more appropriately, what Lain Iwakura is, and this ties directly into the identity crisis that is about to come to a boil. Specifically, what is Lain's relationship with The Wired...
Inklings of Lain Iwakura possessing some sort of great power of some nature are littered throughout the first 7 episodes. Lain is usually mentioned in almost all the dialogues describing the nature of The Wired, as well as the existence of some sort of 'omnipresences' or 'god' within The Wired. Whenever she is mentioned, she is described as carrying some immense power, or that her will is somehow crucially important.
Two particular incidents should be considered. The final scene of Episode 2 involves Lain Iwakura and her normal group of friends hanging out in the night club. At one point, a man shoots and kills a random female. Everyone begins to clear out of the club, but Lain stands transfixed. The man recognizes her for some reason, insinuates that Lain is somehow forcing him to the actions of homicide against his own will, and referred to her as a "scattered god" (At least in my version of the Japanese to English subtitles). The second incident is around the middle of Episode 6, where Lain Iwakura is interrogating the scientist behind the prototypes in which the technology behind The Wired was based off of. Shortly before the end of the discussion, the scientist claims that Lain is extremely important to The Wired, and that she has unspeakable potential.
This finally leads us to the smoking gun: Episode 8. Around the beginning, Lain is confronted by her normal group of friends. Her closest friend, Arisu, begins to ask if Lain is guilty of something, though Arisu fails to specify what this exact something is. After repeated questioning, Arisu drops the accusation and wanders off. From this point, Lain has some rather vivid panic attacks involving quandaries about her other "me" in The Wired, worrying about what that "other Lain" did, and confused on the matter of who she is.
At the 14 minute mark on, things become clear. Arisu is shown, in her bedroom, sexually stimulating herself to a fantasy of one of her teachers, which is obvious by his imaginary figure standing over her. All of the sudden, from the corner of Arisu's eye, Lain is seen sneering at her from Arisu's bed, tangibly and physically. With a persona clearly different than the 'Shy' Lain Iwakura, the 'pervert' Lain beginnings to mock Arisu for her fantasy, and laugh in response to Arisu's accusation of Lain spreading rumours of her perverse desires, which sends Arisu into an emotional fit. To fill in the rest of the context, Arisu was initially suspecting that the 'shy' Lain started a rumour about her fantasies about this specific teacher, when the 'pervert' Lain actually caused the initial rumors.
Simultaneous to this event, the 'shy' Lain is shown, physically and tangibly, lying in her own bed in a fit of panic. What follows can only be described as a artistically surrealistic depiction of a mental breakdown, which involves a conflict between the 'aggressive' Lain and the 'pervert' Lain on who each of them are, or who the "real" Lain is, and, to her distress, the 'shy' Lain is forced to endure.
Following this is a scene somewhere outside the projections making up Tokyo, the 'aggressive' Lain is seen talking with a concious being in the form of a shape-shifting sliver blob, who actually turns out to be Masami Eiri, the scientist who implemented the "7th protocol of The Wired". This time, it's flat out stated that Lain is an omnipresent being within The Wired. After a series of denials, Lain concludes that if what Eiri said is true, she could simply "delete" all the information involving the nasty rumours spread by Lain about Arisu. Information, in this case, meaning everyone's memory. Eiri agrees and asks her to try it...
... And then Lain succeeds in doing exactly that, proving Eiri true. After a scene simply showing the word "deleting...", the 'Shy' Lain Iwakura is shown walking to school, when her group of friends greet her in a very chipper fashion. As they run to her, Lain deduces that she actually did what is equivalent to 'erasing' the events surrounding the rumours from existence, as no one remembers it: She deleted all memory of it from The Wired. Just as Lain attempts to return their greeting, another Lain tangibly manifests itself from 'shy' Lain's position, greeting her friends in a very socially engaging way clearly different from the 'Shy' Lain Iwakura. All this occurs as if the 'Shy' Lain were some sort of imperceptible ghost to the event, as no one actually senses her presence. Lain is left in denial, saying "Stop it! I am me; I'm over here". In a state of shock, she watches her group of friends leave with the other Lain, when she is suddenly confronted with the 'pervert' Lain. She says "Lain is Lain, I am Me", and the whole scene fades to white. The episode ends with the 'Shy' Lain asking her computer to affirm whether "I am me, and that there is no other me than me", clearly in an inescapable quandary of the nature of her fundamental existence...
So what is Lain? Lain is the 'admin' of The Wired. Lain is a being capably of creating, erasing, or changing any and all information in The Wired at her will, and capable of existing and moving to any point and place within said information. In other words, Lain is the omnipresent, impersonal god of the entire universe in which humanity exists, as she can freely change all aspects of reality at will. The good question is WHO exactly is Lain Iwakura? Frankly, that's clearly an open-ended question, but from the perspective of the 'shy' Lain Iwakura, Lain Iwakura is a multitude of persons, all of which are also "admins" of The Wired. As to who the initial or real one is, this is impossible to answer, as each one Lain Iwakura fundamentally interferes with all the social and external functions of every other Lain Iwakura, as well as the possibility that every Lain Iwakura can create or destroy other Lains, meaning any one Lain could have been the first.
*Section 6: Realism - Part II*
Everything said so far has paved the way to what is the crown jewel of what Serial Experiments Lain offers: the philosophical themes and psychological contexts, which I've somewhat touched upon already. However, before we finally journey into said madness, I feel there must be some final precepts that have to be covered.
In philosophy, particularly in the abstract and fundamental categories such as metaphysics or ontology, proper and convincing execution of any idea is an easy performance to fail. The logic behind a particular conclusion can wane to many unjustified leaps and gaps, tend toward insubstantially tangential pseudo-intellectuality, or degrade into nonsense. Generally speaking, the most common instances of anything resembling abstract philosophy in modern media is either wildly exaggerated poor critical thinking, or entirely based upon "what ifs" and unexamined presumption. It is a shame that this is so because abstract and existential philosophy can create some of the most profound experiences that can be conveyed, if done right.
It is from this aforementioned point that Serial Experiments Lain draws its greatest virtue: despite the utterly extreme degrees it achieves, everything is grounded with in what can be reasonably deduced or implied from the premises of the plot concerning the world, Lain Iwakura, The Wired, and its effect on humanity. Despite its venture into solipsistic-esque notions and profoundly Lovecraftian epistemological themes, not once is there a vast gap in the substance that spawned such extreme quandaries. Unlike most artistic creations concerning extremely disturbing abstract philosophy, Serial Experiments Lain actually provides a satisfying sense of logic to a degree that completely dissuades any doubt. Not only is the logic of such extreme notions solid, but the premises making up said logic are realistic and scientifically feasible.
Most of what happens in terms of philosophical and psychological horror is completely based in highly advanced levels of wireless technology, an absolute understanding of how conciousness works in the brain, which allows for its manipulation, and global-scale virtual reality. True it might be that these extreme levels of technology are offset by innumerable distances of scientific advances that we have yet to uncover, none of the notions present seem so far off that I would begin to disbelieve them. The 'fiction' part of the Science Fiction behind Serial Experiments Lain is highly questionable in whether it truly strays from reality. On good example: I am not quite convinced that conciousness manipulation via electronic interfacing with a brain qualifies as outright fictitiousness.
This key point, that the 'fiction' behind the philosophical themes might not be all that fictitious; that there is consistent feasibility, solid logical progression, and realism leading up to, and present within, the incomprehensible fringes that Serial Experiments Lains shots for, is the crux of its unforgettably haunting and traumatic effect. These notions aren't something that can just be dismissed as wildly pseudo-intellectual propaganda, nor as emotional drivel. No... This could actually become a reality one day.
*Section 7: Metaphysics, Ontology, and Mind*
... and so we finally arrive at the monolith of unspeakable magnitude that is the philosophical and psychological contexts of Serial Experiments Lain.
The philosophical ideas and themes, and all accompanying psychological contexts that the show ultimately centralizes on, deal with the abstract categories of thought on a comprehensive scale: Philosophy of mind, free will, the concept of the self, reality, metaphysics, and even epistemology-esque notions. This is to say that Serial Experiments Lain attacks all angles of how we conceptualize the true nature of the reality that the psychological self must function in. The direction of horror selects every aspect of how we think and feel about existence itself, which, by virtue of these feelings and thoughts being the basis in which we mentally interact about the world, totally affects one's feelings and thoughts on anything conceivable. The structure of the philosophy is also of great merit. The way the notions are presented, and how they connect, is as if one were approaching a vast web of complexity with no clear point of beginning nor end. Every idea presented is either a seamless progression from, directly tied to, or a direct implication of, another idea.
The first theme that develops is the basic metaphysical and ontological thought surrounding The Wired. As I have explained in the sections on The Wired & Lain Iwakura, the definition of The Wired and the "real world" blend until they are absolutely indistinguishable. Minds which connect to The Wired are transformed into digital information in the process. This means that The Wired isn't merely a virtual reality overlaying one's sense perceptions, as that would mean that the mind of the observer would be rooted in another "reality" beyond the virtual reality: There is clear ontological difference. When a connection takes place, the mind of the observer becomes apart of The Wired itself, making The Wired the only reality there is, and thus the ultimate reality.
From many different instances in the show, this notion is progressively frayed into a complex network of more specific, sinister ideas. Much of the thought following the aforementioned basic notions blend into Epistemology and further reflections of what reality is to a human observer within The Wired. Serial Experiments Lain introspects deeply upon what it means for something in reality to exist, or specifically, for something in the past to have actually occurred, and meditates on how humans can know of such existences of objects. The entirety of the events in episode 8, where Lain was revealed to be a group of impersonal gods to humanity, as well as many dialogues preceding and follow that episode, show case one ontological idea on the being of events and objects: The basis on which any happening occurs, or pn which any object exists, is human memory. Tamper with the collective memory, and reality is warped, or even destroyed.
Further illustrations which will disambiguate this idea are present in the 8th and 13th episode. As gone over before on episode 8, Lain is capable of removing information from human minds on a vast scale. In episode 13, after a traumatic bout of events which lead to a climatic moment of distress for Lain, involving Arisu's sanity snapping under the weight of said traumatic events (watch the episodes to find out why), Lain Iwakura erase all memory and records of The Wired, by extension any memory of herself, from existence.
Carefully examining the outcomes of these two crucial events poses a tremendous quandary with an answer of dreadful undercurrents: This would be the fragile dependence upon the human psyche in order for an object or event to exist. If, somehow, any physical trace of an event were to be erased, say, a persons existence, an important part of someone's life, or a discovery that brought change of monumental magnitude to society, and then following that, the annihilation of all records which preserved the information regarding the subject, could it still be affirmed that it actually happened? If, given these conditions, all memories and mental information surrounding said subject were made void, and any awareness of such removal of information, that is, awareness of one's own ignorance, were permanently removed, how would one be able to say if something existed or not? To the human observer, what would be the difference between these conditions surrounding an object or event, and said object or event never even existing?
In the omniscient, transcending perspective I am addressing this issue in, this seems inconsequential. However, to the human observer connected to The Wired, with the fallibility and limited scope of perception the comes with our human brains, what then would be the situation? What would be the outcome to someone who not only has their knowledge limited to the information that exists within The Wired, which would include the bundles of information that comprises their mind & conciousness, but also has their scope of awareness, particularly in terms of their own ignorance, limited to said information as well? The answer, with all its terrible implications, is that a comprehensive annihilation of all records and human memory would result in a state indistinguishable from not only the non-existence of said object or event, but a permanent state of unawareness from all of humankind in regards to the subject. It would literally be as if it had never even been conceived before...
From here on is when things get far more complexly intertwined, splitting into two main aspects. When taking into account the events of episode 8 and 13, as well as the fact that minds that exist in The Wired are just as much projections & constructs of information as the objects that make up the world of The Wired, the undercurrent of the previously described Epistemological notions bubbles up into another tremendous quagmire.
*Section 8: Quagmires at the Fringes of Comprehension*
The apposite observation that should be made in light of all these mind-numbing thoughts is the subtle Lovecraftian tone. That is, a tonality that, somehow, a humans sense of reality is frighteningly sheltered: Fragile and insignificant in relation to an un-meditatably vaster nature of reality, whose inklings might all but shatter any sense of sanity or well-being. It is a theme that slowly creeps into one's mind at the unravelling of each idea spoken of so far. I feel the final nails in the coffin lie within in the epitome of these ideas. Enter the boundaries of Free Will, and its implications on the concept of The Self.
Return one final time to climaxes of the 8th episode. It was shown that Lain was able to erase events from reality due to the ontological nature that the existences of events can only be facilitated by the memory records of human minds... But what did the events of that episode truly imply about what a psyche is? The notion that it is bundles of information with an unspecified level of complexity has been tossed about, but a human psyche of this nature would find a ghastly truth to their existence.
This truth is on the ontology behind what ultimately constructs a person's mind, which is the experiences that make up their lives. Specifically, that the construction is ontologically sourced from Lain's being(s), and ultimately her whims. Take a moment and reflect on what built any ideal one might hold in life? Experiences with abuse leading to a desire for compassion in society? A certain sort of wisdom that might lead you from acting upon selfishness and hate, perhaps? Or reflect on any accomplishments one has had? Graduation? A person you were meaningfully intimate with: A mother, best friend, or partner of some sort? How exactly do these things exist to you, and how do they shape your mind? These, ineluctably, are based in memory records. Everything that has happened to us is memory, and therefore, everything that not only dictates our behaviours, but dictates self-image, concepts of who we are, and ways of thinking, are fated entirely from memory.
... And so, with a flick of Lain's fingers, any comprehension of an ideal would be gone. In the instance of a whim, your warmest memory's of your mothers love would turn to nil. Perhaps, if in a moment of twisted sadism on Lain's behalf, such memories could be turned to recollections of rape and abuse, and your warmth inverted into psychotic pathologies of rage. Or the relationship with your best friend from childhood would, the next day, be that of a stranger you never knew. The most mind-splitting notion is that any alterations or annihilations of the facets of one's mind would go utterly unnoticed; The change itself becoming erased by the ignorance of such. You could be morphed from loving saint to blood-thirsty psychopath. Perhaps, have one's mind revert back to an infantile state with the previous life all but erased, and you wouldn't even know there was a difference. Any sense of there being an independent will, choice, or even freedom of thought, is just an illusion at the consequence of Lain's prolonged absence. An illusion which can be shattered at any moment of her meddling.
This shattering of the illusion of a free psyche spells an insanity: That you can not escape this ontology, because the nature of your mind binds you to it, and the only alternative is the nothing of non-being. However, the most horrible disillusionment is not for those of human observers, but for the impersonal god herself, Lain. The Lovecraftian flavors of this ontology of The Wired is a double edged sword, with the show climaxing at the blow dealt to Lain... The realization of a near perfect Solipsism.
An underlying instinct of our human nature is that we exist in a world external to us. In order for something to become significant for us, the consequences of it must be outside the meer of mental whims. Engrained within the logical route to instances of meaningful events is that of their independence from us, less they be absolute delusion. Our minds must rely on there being something, or else everything that happens is simply an absurd form of nothing. There has to be a line in the sand between what has happened, and hasn't happened, and the notion of independence of objects is that which draws that line.
It is this fundamental nature - this line in the sand - that Lain slowly finds herself bereft of. Each time Lain Iwakura, whatever incarnation of her it may be, alters the environment and history of The Wired, effectively undoing the reality of the human observers around her, something wanes. Each each demonstration of the ontological nature of the events that the Lain Iwakura cares about - mainly her relations with her father, and her best friend, Arisu - There is a scream. A cry that can not be audibly sensed, nor sourced by any visual perception, for it comes from the breaking of a mind: An unfathomable, terrible wailing of a thousand leagues of the void, drowning all paths to meaning. It is the realization that, upon gazing at the truth of her reality, there is no real distinguishing between Lain's own imagination, and the supposed 'world' around her.
This is finely represented in the last episode of the series. In the in the final confrontation between Lain and Masami Eiri, an incident occured: Arisu witnessing said events. After what must have lead to some abject realization of what the world around her really was, Arisu descended into an unintelligible state of maddening wails. Despite Lain's attempts at placation, Arisu slipped into to catatonia under the weight of such inescapable truths. In absolute desperation to fix the only thing se really cared for, Lain wished everything back to the point were The Wired didn't exist....
Once again, reality followed her wish. All memories of Lain's existence were erased, and Masami Eiri was fired before he ever instigated the 7th Protocol of The Wired (which created the 'admin of The Wired': Lain). It seemed as if everything were back to normal, and it appeared as if The Wired was no more, except for one slight discrepancy... Lain still existed.
Now in what seems to be some sort of Limbo in the form of Tokyo, all falsehoods resolve. Everything that has happened, exists, or could possibly exist, is equivalent to sustained imaginative musings. The entire world in which Lain cared about, in particular, all the minds in which she had a relationship with, are merely bundles of information which exist solely at her word. There are no 'others', nor objects. There is no ontological substance to having 'friends', 'family', 'people', or any sort of conception which would lead to a meaningful life. Any configuration of The Wired would net the same result: All possible experiences are equivalent to imagined illusions of Lain's mind, which are held in only an inescapable nothing. From this, Lain's mind cracks as the finality of her Solipsism-esque existence is disclosed.
That is, until she visited by God, or some other being that is actually independent of Lain Iwakura's will.
Whatever happened after Lain's mind snapped, the series closes on something jarringly absurd. Lain finally realizes the true 'depth' of her omni-presence, which is that the ontology of time itself based in memory and current awareness of the environment around human observers, both of which are malleable by Lain's commands. This is shown by her meeting her old friend Arisu, who is now grown up and married, of and completely unaware of the events she had with Lain in her teenage years. They briefly exchange words, with Arisu befuddled with the familiarity of Lain's visage. As they part, Arisu remarks that she's sure they will meet again. Lain agrees: They will meet again. 'Anywhere, Anytime'...
That is, until she visited by God, or some other being that is actually independent of Lain Iwakura's will.
Whatever happened after Lain's mind snapped, the series closes on something jarringly absurd. Lain finally realizes the true 'depth' of her omni-presence, which is that the ontology of time itself based in memory and current awareness of the environment around human observers, both of which are malleable by Lain's commands. This is shown by her meeting her old friend Arisu, who is now grown up and married, of and completely unaware of the events she had with Lain in her teenage years. They briefly exchange words, with Arisu befuddled with the familiarity of Lain's visage. As they part, Arisu remarks that she's sure they will meet again. Lain agrees: They will meet again. 'Anywhere, Anytime'...
What the ending of Serial Experiments Lain means is possible the most thought provoking aspect of it all. The final thoughts that I am left with is are on how the 'Shy' Lain originally came into existence? What does the existence of the 'other' Lain's mean? Perhaps the original 'Lain' who was birthed the beginning of the 7th protocol simply saw no meaning or motivation in anything due to her completely blank mind, and the creation of the "Lain of the flesh", which is what the 'shy' Lain has been refereed to, was a means understanding what 'human' emotion and meaning was all about. What was the nature of the God-like being who visited Lain? Was he a figment of Lain's imagination? Are there other levels to The Wired that haven't been explored yet; Levels which Lain is ignorant of? Perhaps there are many parallel Wired's, each with a similar being like Lain, outside of which higher beings oversee, and perhaps enjoy, letting these Lain's play out their existence? These are but a few ideas which are inspired but the absurd, open-ended cliff-hanger that the series concludes on...
The entirety of the experience that makes up Serial Experiments Lain is completely nonpareil. Not simply unparalleled in terms of any mere genre, but of any medium across the board. It is as such because Serial Experiments Lain is a journey, not simply of a character in a show, but for the mind of the viewer itself. It is fall into a monolithic black-hole of completely unimaginable insanity, and a plunge beyond the absolute fringes of existential madness. It is gloriously epiphanous, yet strikes paralysing, abject horror deep into my soul. It is utterly awe-inspiring, yet haunts me to the bone weeks after the mere mention of its name.
In The Wired, we are all connected as one, and there is no escape... read more
Often, you find that some people don’t watch anime for one reason or another (excluding “it’s just not for me”), whether it be “it’s just for a bunch of kids”, “it’s all the same thing” or “it’s just a bunch of mindless entertainment” or other such reasons. Serial Experiments Lain breaks that reasoning not only right in its face, it makes sure you remember it too.
To start off, the synopsis for the show is Lain Iwakura is a mere quiet girl, who after receiving a text from a classmate that had committed suicide, and pressure from her friends, buys a computer to find out what “The Wired” is. What she discovers is something that is far beyond this reality, in an odyssey that is so vast and warped, that it even makes Lain question herself…
What makes Serial Experiments Lain a masterpiece is how, while it certainly is an open ended interpretation based piece, it is not one of those that is so open ended to where there aren’t any draw able conclusions. In fact there are so many interpretations you can make of Lain, and somehow they all can work. That is one of the beautiful things about Lain. And it makes this show worth viewing more than even twice, each time you watch it with a different theory on what’s going on through all of these Layers, it seems like it works with a different meaning. You can watch it over and over, and almost feel like you’re somehow watching something different, even though the dialogue and video is the same. That sounds insane, but if you try it, you’ll see what I mean. Think of it like this: Close The World, txeN ehT nepO.
Serial Experiments Lain is also enticed with symbolism and as well a plentiful of references (like Think Blue Count Two), the bear suit, even the opening credits animation seems symbolic of the series as well as the ending credits animation, the buzzing wires shown throughout the series also involving the sounds of people talking to each other through the phone wires at times. The blood drops from the wires and as well with the purple space on the floor with spots of red. People fading before Lain’s eyes. Even the “To Be Continued” with the B and e having a blue and red color in each of the two letters is a reference.
But is Serial Experiments Lain a coming of age story about a girl who breaks out of her shell? Is it about a girl who has a multiple personality disorder? Is she somehow a god herself like in that of old Japanese culture made new? Is it a warning of trying to merge consciousness into the internet? Is it about the power the power of what the internet does in way of posing as someone else? A secret society conspiracy to control the internet with the human consciousness trapped in it? How internet and technology could affect and change humanity’s way of life as we know it? Is Lain about the obsession of digitalizing everything and leaving nothing left of the real world? Is this one bad LSD trip? Who knows?
Another thing is that, Lain certainly doesn’t even look like your typical anime. The art and style of Yoshitoshi Abe is phenomenal. The wires, Lain, the weird red circles in a purple ground that Lain walks on down her street which, some of that purple and red circle “ground” is on the wall, the Navi computers and wires, the other characters, even what could be called Smart Phones or could be called “Smart Navis” for phones, the signs of a city that has started to come a ways in modernizing, and especially what you see Lain’s room become. There isn’t much “heavy” color in line, as it takes more of a realistic approach to its design and environment, but is also what makes the show so engaging to watch with the abnormal things that occur. It has a use of a plain (or faded I assume) color scheme that mixes into a darker color scheme that also helps set the atmosphere – real but dream like. It does have some things about it that are indication of its low budget on some of the visuals and animation, there’s a few frame skips in some small parts, and some footage re occurs or is reused, but it certainly masks it a lot better than other series that have been done on low budgets, I even think it doesn’t really look low budget. Most likely this is probably due to the truly masterful direction and execution of the creators on where they like to draw your eyes towards. And there are some scenes that show some good animation like that in the first episode involving the train towards the end of episode 1 (of course in other episodes as well). As this show progresses, you are bound to find scenes where you are certainly left disturbed, or freaked out or creeped out and unsettling by some of what you see. Although there is an episode where at least 10 minutes or most of the episode is like that of a long music video recurring the past episodes, however while it may come off as an excuse (maybe it is, maybe it isn’t), it could be an image or prediction of what the internet and computers would be like of making music videos out of your favorite shows.
The sound use in Lain is truly exemplary. The wires buzzing, the noises the Navi makes along with its voice, and some sounds I can’t quite describe myself, granted it is a more quiet approach. The music helps deliver an ominous ambiance and deranging type of experience to the show, which truly complements the situations that happen in the show that can also be related to it being like a psychological horror almost in a sense or a nightmare. There are some tracks that deliver a “menacing depression” type feel to them. Granted, dialogue and music is also used minimally, it does it in a very well sudden build up to the next event between alot of the more quiet scenes. The dub and sub of the show are done perfectly to match the tone of the show, though, however I think that overall while the sub and dub have scenes where they might outdo eachother, ultimately the dub in the end is the better of the two options. Dialogue is created in a way that has at times a very shy and other times casual, and at other points, confronting. The opening theme to Lain is very strong and enjoyable, and matches very perfectly to part of or what Serial Experiments Lain is about. The ending credits song is not one that I cared for, but some might.
Lain’s character is quite a thing to see. You first see her as a shy timid girl, who then becomes pressured into computers, becomes a more confrontational and ambitious one while amidst having breakdowns, and as well see some of her actions which she herself literally has no recollection in other places, and even at one point, change from one personality literally to another in an instant. Is she having a personality disorder, is there an imposter posing as Lain interfering with her life? Is it both? Seeing as she starts striving to discover what the wired is as well as who she is along with what she is especially with the interaction of characters in her family and friends, who help define and affect Lain’s own character, is a thought provoking and a sort of emotional experience. As you go through the show, you can’t help but feel sorry for Lain as her reality starts to break. She is a character you will remember, and not one of a rehashed same old plot and story type of character.
This series is easily my favorite, and in my opinion it truly stands above all the rest of anime there is. I feel that more shows should try to be daring and experimental as Serial Experiments Lain is, not being Lain clones in terms of style and substance, but just shoot for that high level of unique quality of story, art, sound, character, and animation. It is a show that jam packs so much into 1 episode each you feel like you’re watching an episode longer than 20 mins. Lain is a show that will leave you wanting to watch it again and again for years, making you even want to research the topics and themes and the meaning of it all within this multi-Layered show. Easily, a classic.
Present Day… Present Time! HAHAHAHAHA
Art and Animation: 9.75
Enjoyment and Worth: 10
How ownership worthy is this?: 10/10 would buy the overpriced 600 dollar Aniplex of America version (/fanboyism).
Bonus Review: I was one who bought the Limited Edition Blu Ray box that Funimation released in America, and I will give a review of that. The set however is now sold out and no longer in print and goes for 200 dollars, but there are occasional times where someone will put it up on ebay for a pretty decent price. However there is now a pretty cheap “anime classics” standard edition for around 20-25 bucks or so for the blu ray combo pack.
The box set comes in a nice thick hard shelf friendly box that has quite a nice feel to it. The plastic it comes wrapped in is attached to the series synopsis and info paper, with the list of the details like video specs and whatnot. It is a combo pack so there are also dvds in case if you go to your friend’s house with it and you forget your blu ray playing device and they don’t have one. The box set is actually exactly the same as the Japanese release with the difference being there’s no two soundtrack cds and the box art being different. What also makes this special is the two books, a small “restoration” mini booklet translated into English commentary with some official art booklet, and an art/sketch (no color) book. The commentary book is of the creators talking about the restoration of Lain into HD for Blu Ray like on certain scenes they restored or problems they had, and while it is interesting, for those of us who have no idea about art will end up being lost and not truly understand from around a quarter to most of the conversation, granted there is a dictionary at the bottom for the terms used and are highlighted in the restoration book. The problem that some may have is that they’ll either need glasses or a magnifying glass to read the text, and definitely a magnifying glass to see some of the screenshots in the images to see what the creators are talking about in the booklet, although a few are noticeable by their image despite the small size.
There’s also an inclusion of emails exchanged on the production of making Lain into HD and keeping things like the color and animation on correct levels in the restoration booklet as well in there, but it is filled with more jargon which most if not all was featured in the dictionary previously. It is still certainly interesting to read and if you care enough about to really know what is being discussed or having idea, you can up look videos or books etc that give examples to fully understand, or even research how things get converted from SD into HD. The booklet also features official colored art from YoshiToshi Abe.
The sketch book is 320 pages, with character designs and of the characters in various clothes, posture etc, and as well environment/setting designs, which the book also features a list of numbers with Japanese text, what they’re for I’m not sure since I can’t really read or understand what it’s for, but you’ll find Japanese writing throughout the sketch book, even on some the characters, assumingly that they may be talking about how they made the design or something along those type of lines, and as well titles for the sketches.
The remaster of Lain into HD is beautiful, with a rather nice picture, however there is banding and some minor video quality issues compared to the JP BD (and worse, Funimation outright said it was just everyone's video player equipment being bad, which it's not. Nice job Funimation, call your customers who actually know something idiots why don't you?). Unfortunately, they jammed 9 episodes per usual onto one disc, and leave 4 on the other. For me, I’d much prefer it if they do 13 episodes of a show in one release, that they’d at least put 8 episodes on one disc and 5 on the other when they do these releases, though I’d want 7 to 6, in case if you’re in the living room and you want to fall asleep with a show on (make sure you set your TV and playing device to sleep!) with whichever disc you are on. The menu is also a nice Lain ode type touch, as it’s basically an old 90s computer type menu with some extras on the 2nd disc.
Overall, it is a great box set to add to your shelf to look over and feel and read through and of course, watch this unforgettable show.
Review for Serial Experiments Lain by John Kim
Introduction: I find myself typing this review thinking more about the conceptualization of existence, than the anime itself. Above all, there are two standards I hold true for anime. There are anime that simply entertain for the sake of enjoyment, and there are anime that stretches the boundary of human imagination. Serial Experiments Lain falls in the latter category and for this reason Serial Experiments Lain stands out as a true classic. Serial Experiments Lain pushes the envelope of what the perceived notion of what can be done with television as a medium. The show doesn’t just provide entertainment; it provides insight, and profound views and beliefs about technology and the role it plays in society. With that said it's time to get on with the review.
Story: Given that Lain’s story progression is very disjointed, if the execution were to be even off by the slightest, the show would have been ridden with plot holes. Lain however doesn’t need worry about plot and story in the same sense as other anime, but instead relies on the atmosphere and the characters to tell the story. What little plot Lain does have, the show works with it fabulously. Now some may argue that Lain is completely plot driven, but to each his own. Personally I believe that Lain strays as far as it can from bland episodic story telling, and in essence is similar to Citizen Kane in the aspect that the story has little to do with the show. Lain above all is a character study, and the plot only moves forward under the characters.
Art: Despite the art being off center in terms of traditional anime, it hardly deters from the overall enjoyment of the series. It is important to note that the series actually benefits from the unique art style presented in Lain. Art is not a big pulling factor for Lain, so if you are a fan of high quality art, you may be in for a rough ride.
Sound: The series relies on a minimalist approach to sound and music. Dialogue is sparse, but very profound. Sound effects are seldom used but with brevity, and has a lasting impact on the viewer. Once again, this lack of a quality that would normally be detrimental to an anime’s enjoyment, but becomes one of Lain’s strengths. The sound of the electricity running through power lines, the empty sound of Lain typing on her keyboard, and the scarce use of music. These are all memorable pieces of sound effects that adds to the overall impact of the show.
Character: Now this is where Lain shines brightest. In a vast wasteland of mundane same-old, Lain sticks out as an anime that takes its characters to a level that most anime can only dream of achieving. The character of Lain is perhaps the most deep and relevant characters in anime today. To explain upon this point, one would have to watch the series and comprehend the various themes and motif’s on one’s own. But in order to be brief, Lain’s character can be summarized as ascending from human status, to near God like power through the prowess of the internet. Ahem, I mean, “The Wired.” It’s a simple concept and seems like it has been done before, giving credit to the argument, and it probably has. But the beauty here is the cast of side characters that surround Lain. Her sister, her father, mother, and friends, are all extremely deep characters, that although don’t appear to be, are actually extremely poignant in their own right.
Enjoyment & Closing: If watched with an open mind, Lain will do more than simply entertain. It is truly revolutionary anime for its time, and the amount of depth in the show is utterly staggering. Never in my years of watching anime have I seen a show as thought provoking as Lain. If one were so inclined to contact me, we could talk for hours upon hours of the religious symbols, and religious references that run about the shows course. We could then change the subject to comparing Lain’s character to that of philosophy of the Jungian Shadow. We could converse and discover deeper and more universal meanings as time progressed. Lain is such a show that the viewer doesn’t just watch it. The viewer must be pushed to think, and who doesn’t want to do a bit a of thinking once in a while? read more
Present day... Present time! hahaHAHAHAha
"What isn't remembered never happened. Memory is merely a record...You just need to rewrite that record."
The term "existentialism" gets tossed around a lot when talking about psychological narratives. Perhaps it's that existentialism is a theme common to many stories that not only makes them more interesting, but encourages the viewer to ask questions about themselves, and be more introspective. Perhaps it's that existentialism is a concept central to the being of psychological intrigue, and one that also lends itself to storytelling. However, Lain is existentialism in its most pure form.
Serial Experiments Lain is extraordinary, and not in the most ubiquitous sense of the word. It's very much outside of the ordinary, and unique in its own right. Lain deals with the connectivity of life, in terms of both our collective unconscious, our memory, and that of the physical around us.
In a time when the Internet was new (in SEL, referred to as "the Wired"), it was a nebulous, abstract concept that people had trouble initially latching onto. The concept was so radical for the time... that you could send and receive information from anywhere in the world, not just text or images, but disparate thoughts and ideas. Something that, by mail, could take days, weeks, or maybe a month to change continents suddenly took mere seconds. The idea that everything that went on the web was recorded somewhere, creating this vast store of knowledge also profoundly changed the way that we functioned as a person, group, and society. Suddenly, there was an entire library of virtual encyclopediae on practically any and every subject.
This connectivity is the underlying theme of Serial Experiments Lain. In episode 9, it changes gears, and goes into explicit detail of several of the formative forces that shaped the advent of the internet and computing- namely, Vannevar Bush's memex theory and Ted Nelson's HTML protocol. It also likens the collective human neural network to that of Schumann resonance (ultra low frequency "hum") that surrounds the world, and every small event on earth creates a tiny ripple in the network.
Lain, who at the beginning acquires a "Navi" (universe term for computer), begins to explore the universe of the net. Slowly, she descends into what's seemingly an inescapable addiction of being connected to the Wired at all times- constantly learning, constantly talking with others, constantly manipulating. Her ever-deeper descent into the net is marked visually by the vastly increasing amount of technology in her bedroom. What starts as a simple single monitor, single tower setup transforms into a grotesque dungeon of monitors, servers, chips, boards, and displays of all kinds. A veritable jungle of wires, coolant lines, and cords form a claustrophobic technological nightmare. Red, yellow, and orange display lights flicker like some carnivorous
animal in the dark, waiting to strike. Outside, dark shadows cast along the ground are covered in blood red spots, signifying the underlying presence of the wired beneath the surface of reality. The hum grows louder.
Within this lair, Lain seeks the truth about the Wired and the real world. Who are the Knights of the Eastern Calculus? Who, or what is the God of the Wired? Is the "real world" merely a construct of the Wired? Outside, we see her in the mundane trenches of life as a student; school, hanging out with friends, surfing the web. We also witness her more introspective ventures: who is Lain, truly?
The idea that everyone is connected without the use of a proxy device is central to the plot, and creates an unforgettable narrative that's at once eye opening and horrifying. What do we become when the lines between the virtual and the real blur to the point of being unable to extricate one from the other?
"People exist in the substance of others' minds. That's why there were all kinds of me's."
Lain Iwakura is a strange middle school-aged girl. Distant, absentminded, and borderline catatonic, Lain is a very difficult character to get a feel for, even though one can read her traits off like a laundry list.
"Is Lain on drugs?" "Does Lain have some form of Schizophrenia?" "Is she affected by some kind of intense dissociative identity disorder?" Lain acts and reacts in many ways like she 'is' on drugs, or she 'does' have a medical condition, though it's none of the above. Lain starts out as a meek, repressed girl who's just along for the ride with her friends, and pushed around by her family. She seemingly transitions from a timid, shy person into an aggressive, self assured, and a touch petulant in an instant, lending credit to the multiple personalities theory. However, her life is more and more regularly interrupted with these changes, until it comes to a point where there seem to be two Lains, one assertive and manipulative, one shy and meek. Is one an imposter? Is Lain truly herself? Who or what is the real Lain?
Artwork and Animation: 8
This show will have aired 17 years ago this summer, and it looks it. While the animation is overall not the best, it also has a distinct charm about the minimalist style it's rendered in. The overall design is a little rough around the edges, and has a slightly 'unfinished' feel to it, like that of a hazy memory. Lain also makes excellent use of psychadelic colors and has an extremely surreal, tripping feel to it. Other times, it uses blacks, grays, blues and purples to create a dark and foreboding atmosphere. Much of the computer technology looks extremely dated at this point, but for the time, and looking back, the artwork and subject thereof is very indicative of that specific point in time; the mid-late 90s when the internet became universal and computing was something everyone was beginning to get into. Looking at it from when it was a present day representation, it fits in well with how it was then.
Sound and Voice Acting: 8
I watched this in both sub and dub (because, idiotically, the dub didn't have the Japanese text that shows up frequently subtitled). I have to say that, annoyances in the on-screen text aside, Bridget Hoffman (Irisviel in Fate/Zero, Nia in Gurren Lagann) did better job portraying the listless, empty character of Lain than her Japanese counterpart. The other voices are rather generic, but they're of little importance in this series.
Of equal or more importance than the speaking here is the background. The hum of electricity... the quiet tap of footsteps, faint car horns, barely audible traffic noises. The feeling of eyes is nearly audible in this. I've never seen such effective use of oppressive silence in a show. It sets the tone greatly, and gives it a very surreal feel of being locked inside someone's quiet, distant head.
Serial Experiments Lain is a show that can lead one to different conclusions with every successive viewing. I don't like to throw out nebulous terms like "deep", but SEL fits the definition to the utmost. Layers upon layers, intricately woven, heavy, intense. It's excellently thought provoking, and though it's confusing at times and not every question has an answer, that's part of the allure; that it's up to the viewer to decide what happens.
SEL could be construed as a warning to society of the dangers of our increasing connectivity and detachment from reality. With how immersive online games, social media, and networking have become, it's easy to construct a persona that may differ strongly from the person away from the net, and in that, create a dissociative, escapist phenomenon that allow us to live multiple, separate, yet very real lives (in the sense that it's present day, present time). At what point do we become the thing that we've created, and cease being what we were before?
+ Excellent unreliable narrator + dissociative identity nonlinear storytelling
+ Unexpected, original story
+ Increasingly claustrophobic, nightmarish tense feel
+- Dated art (part of the camp, honestly)
+- Difficult to follow
- One early subplot not addressed later
- Annoying supporting characters
Definitely. Serial Experiments Lain is a well deserved classic. A unique tale of raisons d'être and how one girl's discovery of self leads to some extraordinary results. read more
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.
The general feel of both anime is similar, especially in art and sound department, but story wise Lain is more open minded with no fixed story while on other hand Boogiepop does have a story you just need to look for it.
If you like complex thinking, you should watch this. Very psychological.
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.
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 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.
Complex plot lines, existentialism, and bizarre realities are present in both. Anime you need to think about after watching. Both could be seen as old takes on future technological development as well
both neon genesis evangelion and serial experiments lain are shows that mainly revolve metaphorical/deeper elements yet also can conjure up a sophisticated and complex plot. like evangelion, many of the scene in sal can be analyzed heavily and may take a couple rewatches to figure out what's really going on beneath the plot's surface layer. lot's of "oh i get it now!" in both animes.
similar themes and even look and style of the animation.
Ergo Proxy is a high budget show that develops way too slowly, but it's heavy on philosophical concepts of existence - similar to Lain's discussion of it. Ergo Proxy has some action but the background story and concept exploration take too long - it's 22 eps.
Lain and Ergo Proxy are insistent in their constant interrogations. They are both intelligent series that demand more than one viewing, Lain is considerably more risqué in that it twists narrative conventions to the point they no longer apply while Ergo Proxy channels its intellectuality via the plot itself, even if it lags a bit at the end.
Many questions about life. Many things that you can explain with words...but sometimes you can't just explain in a normal way. Life or death? Good or evil? What is the meaning about the most small things in the excistence.
If you like weird stuff...you will love Ergo Proxy.
Ergo Proxy and Lain are both what I would describe and Dark and Psychological Anime. If you enjoyed the ambiance of Lain, you are sure to enjoy Ergo Proxy
The theme and characters are related to each other somehow..especially Ergo Proxy and Lain. Plus some scenes and speechs feel the same too..
And of course they are sure for the ones who adore 'psychological' things..
Both deal with machines developing sentience, humanity's evolution, and have similar art styles. I high recommend both if you are looking for a thinking anime, as they both illustrate many philosophical and sociological concepts that are hard to define.
Philosophical doctrines are used in both,too.
Both have dark atmosphere.
Both have gloomy colors in them.
both are seinen with striking visuals and deep social metaphors. The characters in both are haunting and entirely human. I found it very easy to connect with their decisions and actions, and never felt the story was being pushed somewhere it shouldn't.
both series end with somewhat startling epiphanies. If you don't find your self at least puzzling over the series as a whole and fitting pieces together from every episode, I'd be suprised. I've rewatched SE:L many many times and I always get something new out of it
Both are complexed psichological anime, have a kinda similar feel.
Both are thought-provoking and mind-bending, though Ergo Proxy to lesser extent than Lain.
They are both anime that require you to think a bit more. very sad and serious vibe. both have cool story's.
Both are the stories about a cyberspace layered on the real world. The concepts and details are bit more confusing and scientific in SEL. SEL is a must watch for anyone who like sci-fi anime like Dennou Coil.
Also has the 'future of cyberspace' aspect. It also deals with children around the same age and is another engaging story that is a joy to watch unfold.
It fuses virtual reality with the real world, but while Serial Experiments Lain philosophizes about god and people, Denno Coil avoids the god issues and instead talks about the connection between and among people. Both stories are surprisingly deep even as the main characters are all children.
Both are dealing with the unknown in cyberspace.
Denno Coil is another series that involves children using futuristic technology.
Definitely a must see for anyone who enjoyed Lain.
It deals with cyberspace interference with normal, real world. Although it's not as dark & deep as Serial Experiments Lain it surely is well crafted and the plot will keep you wanting to watch the whole series.
Both of these Anime deal with the relationship between the real world and a virtual world that has begun to intrude past the traditional boundary between the two. Whoever, while Lain is more complex and is more focused on character interactions, Dennou Coil is more light hearted and easier to understand, and has more "Action" scenes.
Both center around a female protagonist at the forefront of new technology.
Both are cyber punk anime that have an augmented reality world existing in codes and have somewhat of a "mediator" between the real world and computer-generated.
Both shows involve a blend of cyberspace and the real world, and the main characters of both shows are grade school girls.
While Serial Experiments Lain is darker, overall, and has more subversive, symbolic elements, questioning things about life, existence, etc... Dennou Coil evades all of that and just gives us some lighthearted adventures in the cyber world.
There is conflict introduced in Dennou Coil, but it's never quite as heavy handed about the thematic elements of it's story as Serial Experiments Lain is.
Perception and reality: the divergence between what one perceives and what might exist is at the heart of both series. Paranoia Agent follows a more psychological approach to unravel the relation between these vectors while Serial Experiments Lain has a more philosophical take. It is likely that those who enjoy abstract deconstructions of identity will appreciate these exercises in surreal existentialism that are Lain and Paranoia Agent.
Paranoia Agent has the same psychological feel that makes you think, but doesn't become apparent until later episodes. But if you are looking for something more rooted in a "whodunit" fashion, this is for you.
Both are heavily psychological and philosophical (Lain is more philosophical than Paranoia Agent) with mysterious circumstances and great characters (or for Lain, character).
Both series focus heavily to the cerebral side of storytelling. The power of the mind, and how it can invade the real world in very dark ways. Symbolic and allegoric in nature, both Lain and Agent are exceptional visual treats as well as very thought-provoking and intelligently written. If you enjoy cartoons that make you think-- and more importantly, if you enjoyed Paranoia Agent-- you'll owe it to yourself to give Serial Experiments Lain a viewing. Or three.
It's all about human spirit/soul & The Net, but:
Paranoia Agent has more fragmented structure, often going sideways to tell your almost unrelated story just to keep with overall crazy style;
and just playing with questions about spirit/soul, never getting serious; while
Serial Experiments Lain has more solid structure, always staying on the way, with every episode submerging you deeper into the story;
and not answering any question about spirit/soul, but makes you think about those questions yourself.
The series both feature some really trippy/terrifying sequences, a dark atmosphere, and a plot that the viewer will have to think a lot about, not to mention that the power of the media is an important element in both.
Both Paranoia Agent and Serial Experiments Lain are thought provoking and leave a lot to the viewer to interpret, and both have stunning visual styles and interesting plot decisions, although lain is a bit more abstract than that of Paranoia Agent.
The art styles are very similar, and both shows revolve around dark, subversive presentation. Both shows are tonally very similar, but Lain has more cyberpunk elements, while Paranoia Agent has a heavier focus on individual character's stories.
Both these shows are complex psychological shows that f**k with your mind, The are best to be watch twice to understand them good.
Both shows center around a girl, whose fate is unknown to her. The answers they are looking for unfold as the the two series progress. In the end they both stand alone before a great challenge and they both have to discover that they can ultimately change the world as we know it.
Both anime involve complex theories with strange organizations that mess with your mind (especially Lain). And even though both series have an entirely different feel (Madoka is more action-drama, Lain is more suspense-thriller), the endings are remarkably similar, and both are true works of art.
Both center around a seemingly normal girl
Both use unique and "trippy" visuals
Both become extremely dark
Both go deep into human psychology
Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica is basically Serial Experiments Lain with magical girls, but better.
From the drama, to the psychological, even the story transitioning, except how the story was portreyed. The Themes are even parallel to one another, except MSMM was designed to look light and SEL was designed to be true to the theme and SEL can get a bit too deep in comparison to MSMM. Compatibility is, as estimated, is roughly over 80%
>Both are mindfucks.
>Both have some of the weirdest arts in the story of anime, they are just awesome.
>They have a dark atmosphere.
Serial Experiments Lain And Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica both have these light animations, but with dark undertones(although Lain more so). Madoka and Lain both do not completely know what the world around them really is and they do not know their fate. Both will have you questioning so many things you know.
Centered around a girl.
If you understood madoka, you should give this a try.
Both follow an estranged girl that realizes she is much more important to the fate of the world than she ever thought she could be.
Opening Theme"Duvet" by Bôa
Ending Theme"Tooi Sakebi" by Nakaido Chabo Rei'ichi
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