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 50713 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
I would strongly recommend against reading this review if you haven’t watched the anime. Several themes I will touch on may significantly affect how you interpret the plot; hence deprive you of the opportunity to enjoy this superb piece of mind candy. The beauty of this work is that it can be interpreted in multiple different ways, what I describe below is just one of them.
The anime will be referred to as SEL (previously Lain) and the character will be referred to as Lain (previously Iwakura Lain) to avoid confusion. Credits to Nenad for suggesting this clarity change.
SEL is perhaps the most perplexing anime I have ever watched. In order to understand it to an adequate level, I think it is a prerequisite to understand both Western and Eastern philosophy sufficiently, and the major differences between the two. Never before had I experienced an anime so disjoint, both in time and causality, yet convey philosophical and psychological ideas so seamlessly and logically that it appears as if it was the intent all along. If you are looking to be simply entertained by a light comedy or a poignant drama, look away. If you are looking for epic battles or erotic fantasies, again look away. SEL is an anime that asks existential questions through explorations of central themes in philosophy, psychology and theology. The concepts in SEL are nothing new, and even if they were, such differences would be ineffable as I would not know them. Regardless, SEL is an anime that challenges your perspective of reality.
Story/Concept – 10/10 – Multiple interpretations, philosophical, compelling
On the surface, SEL appears to be an anime exploring the future implications of technology. Superficially it appears to be simply another cyberpunk about weakening of individual ego as a result of technological advancement. However, peeling off this layer of shallowness, SEL truly provides a condition in which we can reevaluate the validity of many commonly held beliefs. Not saying that cyberpunk future isn’t a viable way of interpreting it, but rather that stopping there would be a waste of potential.
Is a god without worshippers still a god?
SEL questions the definition of self. SEL questions the distinction between real and not real. SEL questions the validity of existence. SEL questions the direction of information flow. SEL questions the distinction between the collective and the ego. Above all, SEL is psychological. The experiences of each character, no matter how real they may seem, should always be treated with skepticism. This design, like the movie Shutter Island, allows SEL to convey multiple different interpretations to one set of events.
The disjoint events may be falsely perceived as slow and dull storytelling, but carefully piecing the puzzle together will reveal hundreds of unique and fascinating tales, each with its own implications and ideologies.
Character – 10/10 – Unique, psychological depth
Metaphorically, Lain represents the conscious incarnation of the Jungian collective unconsciousness. Other characters can be seen as Jungian archetypes guiding the maturation of this consciousness. In other words, it represents the maturation of Lain from unconsciousness into an ego. This is perhaps the most important idea in SEL.
Dissociative identity disorder, self-deception, Ego/Id and persona, SEL arguably has the most complex and accurate interpretation of these psychological phenomena I have ever seen in anime. This is perhaps one of SEL’s unique strengths, the ability to convey peculiar ideas convincingly and empathetically.
Most other characters either act as a static Jungian archetypes or show generally superficial emotions. They act as guidance to Lain’s psychological development, and their inner thoughts shrouded in complete mystery.
Walking down the streets you might interact with countless numbers of people, but to you, these interactions are superficial with great psychological distances. Their true emotions are concealed, but you unconsciously do not care. This is the concept of persona. Similarly, the apathetic attitude of Lain constrains those characters from developing. In this regard, SEL should be praised for such high level of psychological realism.
Perhaps there is one sole exception to this, who, for this reason not surprisingly, became Lain’s only true object of affection.
Sound – 9/10 – Atmosphere, Suspense, Empathy
Dialogue, sound and music are not extensively used in SEL. Some scenes will go for long periods of time without anything but ambient noise or the sound of electricity running through wires. For most anime, this would be boring and detrimental to viewer-character connection. However this was used in perfect harmony with Lain’s psychological states, giving a feeling of empathy and suspense rather than boredom and insufficiency.
Art/Animation – 10/10 – Artistic, Appropriate, Resonant
The art style in SEL is truly unique and complementary to the themes presented. Through dark and abstract scenery, figurative and precise objects, SEL portrays a world both surreal and relatable. If considered an artwork SEL truly stands out, however compared to more recent anime, the animation may appear lacking in quality. I however do not think it’s fair to judge an anime made 15 years ago based on the animation standards today.
Enjoyment – 10/10 – Ingenious, Exciting, Informative
Satisfaction is in the eye of the beholder. For those looking for an anime to further expand their curiosities of the world, accompanied by excellent symbolism and beauty, SEL will be just as enjoyable for you as it was for me. For others, perhaps “weird” is the only thing that will come to mind.
In philosophy, there are seldom any answers. If an idea is not contradicting it can be considered. And reality, just like every other concept and idea, will continue to be subjected to many interpretations both in the past and future.
Is just the memory of something enough to make it real? Is there really any value in being real? What am I? What defines me? SEL is an anime that aims to question rather than to answer. Through compelling, unconventional and insightful storytelling, SEL provides a portal for us to consider reality differently from what is conventionally believed to be true. Through unreliable narration and ambiguous storytelling, SEL provides what is truly a free thinking platform void of a dictating interpretation. In doing so, SEL provides not a conventional story with linear plot, but an opportunity for us to expand and evaluate our own worldviews.
Does this review exist because it is remembered? Does it exist as an absolute, or as what others think of it? Perhaps these questions will never be answered, but without bearing them in mind, they most definitely never will be.
Thanks for reading my first review ever. Feel free to leave me a comment if there’s anything you disagree with or want to suggest possible improvements for this review.
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
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
Opening Theme"Duvet" by Bôa
Ending Theme"Tooi Sakebi" by Nakaido Chabo Rei'ichi
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Shakaw [Shakaw] (Brazilian Portuguese)
Oga [Oga] (Brazilian Portuguese)
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