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?
I'll just cut to the chase. I don't recommend this anime. I'll start out with the good things. The art is superb and very atmospheric. It's drawn in a unique style and it might be worth watching an episode or two for just this fact alone. If I were ever to direct an existentialist anime, I would definitely turn to this series for some major inspiration. The opening theme is well chosen and the sound effects are fairly good.
Now for the bad-- everything else. Serial Experiments Lain tries to tackle the problem of existence and identity
but it completely fails. The parts that are supposed to be creepy are unconvincing and incoherent, and the attempt to create tension instead collapses into unbearably slow pacing in the storyline. Dialogue is much too short and yet drawn out. Entire scenes go by that neither attempt to interest the viewer nor advance the plot. Each episode except maybe the first one could have easily been cut in half without losing any content. The series could've been much better as a result.
The typical theme of weakening of identity as technology advances was handled very clumsily in the series, as if the writers thought that bringing up the issue alone was sufficient to be profound. It's not. The theme is nothing new in modern media.
Some reviews (not here) by mainstream critics claim that the series asks "deep" questions about contemporary life and the nature of reality, but this really is not true. The questions are old and the answers given are nonsensical and shallow. We are presented with several common plot devices in cyberpunk-- the near omnipotent digital entity that wants Lain (the protagonist) to abandon the flesh and become one with the cyber world, the use of dissociative identity disorder to symbolize Lain's mental fracture due to virtualization, the embodiment of humanity's collective unconscious made possible due to the new internet, etc. This stuff isn't new, which would be fine if at least SEL executed these things to perfection, but it doesn't. Instead the directors plod slowly onwards and resolve the philosophical dilemmas with absurd, silly conclusions about what Lain really is. It's just like they reduced everything down to magic.
Don't get me wrong, I really wanted to like this series. I enjoy cyberpunk and philosophy and wanted to look for a well done series that incorporated the two. I had heard many good things about this anime, but it just did not meet almost any of the most basic expectations I have for either anime or cyberpunk.
If you are interested in cyberpunk, Ghost in the Shell is very much the superior choice in all aspects, except possibly the art, though it's no sloucher there either. If you are interested in a coming of age story for children in a virtual world, Dennou Coil is better. For those just interested in really crazy, genuinely weird stuff-- that still makes actual sense-- try Paranoia Agent or Paprika.
That isn't to say you, the reader, might not like Serial Experiments Lain. If you have no prior exposure to cyberpunk or the philosophical issues raised within, or if you have very high tolerance to long scenes in which absolutely nothing advances the plot, or if enjoyment of the artistic merits of a series is sufficient for you, this just might do it. But it's not really enough for me.
What really scares us? Death or the oblivion? Of course, the oblivion. It is not dying itself that frightens us the most, but rather knowing that we will lose everything we loved and cared for. All of the memories we've treasured, the choices we've made and the people we've touched; everything will cease from existence. So why do we treasure our past so much? Is that just a collection of memories the nostalgia bounds us to, or is it the part of who we are?
Serial Experiments Lain is not your average show, and definitely not something you run into every day. It is a unique
piece of entertainment that completely transcends its genre, and presents itself as a work of art. An avant-garde show, not restraining itself to the boundaries of traditional storytelling and plot building, creating a completely unique and revolutionary piece of media.
This anime series is NOT for everyone. One of the reasons this show is popular even now, two decades after its initial release, is because its plot is still not completely figured out. The story is told in a rather convoluted fashion, which makes the already complex plot even harder to interpret.
Lain is one of those shows that require the viewer to pay full attention to every detail, and challenging them to put all the pieces together to grasp the content of the story. The theme portrayal in this series only becomes more relevant even now, that the use of technology and internet is becoming larger. A nearly prophetic story of what will happen if the lines of reality and virtual world start to blur.
Not only does the show do an excellent job at connecting its elements with its heavy commentary on psychology, sociology and technology, but it also has a very striking approach to the themes of human connection and loneliness, and overall an exploration the existential self in relation to the world. it raises a series of very thought provoking and intellectual questions about identity, existentialism, and religion. The show is also very famous for its mind-bending thoughts about reality, evolution and the existence of God.
Lain's narrative is rather cryptic, meaning that nothing is told to the viewer directly, but rather gives them the undertone hints and pieces that, combined, make the story. The story is devoided of any dialogue or character's inner monologue, not allowing the viewer to know more than they should, giving them a strange sensation of being lost, and forcing them to search for answers. Due to the absence of dialogues, the show relies heavily on its visual presentation. It tells its story through massive, yet subtle use of symbolism and visual keys. The series is rich of surreal and expressive imagery, with commonly metaphorical content.
In terms of characters, there are just the two worth mentioning, with one being far more relevant than the other: Lain and her best friend, Alice. They represent the two sides of the same coin, or, in this particular show, a physical world, and the virtual one. Lain is a lonely, shy, and seemingly depressed middle-school girl, who also suffers from a split personality disorder. She is used to portray most of the show's themes, one of them being a demonstration of the internet's ability to split ones personality, creating a whole different person online. Alice, on the other hand, is much more down-to-Earth, realistic and communicative. Her character is used to resemble reality, and common sense in general, but she is also the key trigger in Lain's development.
Also, even though other characters have an important role in the story, and are used as a symbolical representation of a certain element the show portrays, they aren't as significant as the two aforementioned are.
What i think is the strongest point of SEL's characters is the manner in which their characterization is done. As a fairly good compensation to show's lack of dialogue, Lain's characters aren't defined through cheesy lines or forced exposition conversations, but rather through their very actions. The show can clearly depict the character with little to no dialogue, only through visual presentation of characters reactions, movement and behavior. In an essence, 'show' is of a far greater value than 'tell' in visual media, and SEL follows that rule in a nearly flawless manner.
From the technical sides, even tho the show lacks budget and doesn't have as much production value as most of the shows nowadays do, it still managed to use this in its advantage.
The character designs are much more realistic and humanoid than most of the series. They are devoided of any abstract, but very commonly seen elements, such as weird and unique hair styles, unnatural hair colors, huge eyes and so on. This is due to the fact that the show wanted to make itself closer to the viewer and make them project themselves to the characters easier, but also to set a certain border of reality. In a show where so many surrealistic things happen there must be a certain sense of realism so the viewer can actually see what the paranormal happening is.
Also, due to the lack of budget, the backgrounds in the scene have minimal amounts of details, and a somewhat inconsistent animation. This allows the author to literally point out elements the viewer should pay attention to.
The show also uses lots of repetitive sequences, like the cityscape scene from the beginning of each episode. This is also used quite well, combined with new monologue each episode that really help a lot in the theme exploration. The show uses a very murky color pallet, with two different sets of colors: the deep blue tone, and a thick yellow and nearly sepia tone. This is not only used to locate the time of the happening, which is usually at night or twilight, but also used to switch tones and suggest a certain mood change in a scene.
It is very noticeable that the show lacks music, probably due to the lack of budget. In this certain show, this is by no means a flaw.
For a such a cryptic and mysterious show such as SEL, the absence of music creates a very unique atmosphere. The over-present silence and sometimes a quiet, but sharp techno sound absorbs the viewer in a world shrouded in absolute mystery, creating an atmosphere that perfectly complements the viewer's feel of being lost.
But also, surprisingly enough, such lack of music and creating an absorbing ambient can be use very well when invoking drama. For example, a sudden hard techno bass after a long period of silence can help in creating a sense of tension, and also signifying to the viewer that he should pay attention to the plot point. This can also work the other way around, when the omnipresent background musing is rashly interrupted by silence, creating a very clear tone contrast.
Serial Experiments Lain is one of the greatest anime shows ever made, and a personal favorite of mine. It takes an absolute focus on singularity, developing its themes beyond the limits, and pulls the maximum out of its platform for storytelling. It has some of the most aggressive and infinitely deep theme explorations ever put in any sort of media. Its story is complex, intriguing, and somewhat immersive, with thousands of plot-twist, fascinating narrative style, and unparalleled and grounded thematic side. A thoughtful and unique 13-episode experience that can only be described as an onslaught of brutal mindfucks, digging deep into the core of your brain. A perspective-changing brain-basher introducing a completely new look onto this so called "reality".
Close the world
Open the next
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, your best friends companionship, or of all the good deed's one has done, would turn to nil. 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 a loving saint to blood-thirsty psychopath, or 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 alters the environment and history of The Wired, something wanes. At each demonstration on the ontological nature of the events that the Lain Iwakura cares about, 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 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 she 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. 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, 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...
Now let me start of by saying THIS IS NOT AN ANIME FOR EVERYONE! *minor spoilers included*
The story of Serial Experiments Lain is an interesting complex one to say the least. It starts of by a student commiting suicide saying she does not need to exist in this world anymore. The following day the students receive an email from the dead student and at first they think it is spam mail but that turns out not to be the case. Pretty much the whole show revolves around The Wired (or their version of a more advanced Internet) and how humans use it as a form
The main colour pallete for Serial Experiments Lain uses a lot of blacks, purples, reds and yellows. The shadows pretty much consist of most of the colours listed above. For its time, the art style overall was great.
Serial Experiments Lain doesn't rely heavily on orchestral elements and it doesn't have to. The atmosphere already sets the mood for you. There are subtle ominous sounds every now and then.
Lain is an interesting character to say the least and as much as I want to give away spoilers I won't. Lain starts of as an anti-social girl if you will, she is a very shy and doesn't really show any emotion. If you do watch episode 3, that's when things start to really pick up. I was left like :O and you will see why. There are more characters, like Lain's so called friends....well really she only has 1 friend out of that 3 girl group, Lain's family, the Men in Black and a secret organization called 'Knights of The Eastern Calculus'.
This anime is influenced by philosophical subjects such as reality, identity and communication. Those things are key to what make Serial Experiments Lain such an excellent anime. With Serial Experiments Lain being such an in-depth, confusing anime, sometimes you do feel lost and have to try and regain composure, regain your thoughts if you prefer to look at it like that. Some things may not make sense at the beginning, but then an episode or so later things will start to make sense or you will pick up something from a previous episode and slowly put together the pieces. As a whole I really enjoyed Serial Experiments Lain.
So overall just to reiterate, Serial Experiments Lain is not an anime for everyone, you feel lost most of the time, this anime is a thinker (meaning you have to be using your brain to comprehend all of it), many adult themes (not including any of that naughty stuff ;), interesting characters....and in some ways very mysterious, has an odd aura surrounding them.
I'll end with this: Close the world. txen eht nepO
To put it bluntly, Serial Experiments Lain is some of the most pretentious, incoherent, intelligence insulting storytelling ever conceived.
The thing is, the mere concept wouldn't be bad at all. At its core, Serial Experiments Lain is supposed to be a science fiction story about the internet and what have you, with some brilliant visual design.
And it actually nails half the concept. Visually, Lain is one of the most visually striking animated television shows ever. There is immesurable contrast between foreground and background at all times, usually the ground is never even drawn, shadows look like some sort of windows into the netherworld or something. Sound
design is equally brilliant, With the buzzes of electric cables, horns of cars, noises of trains and bleeps of computers being mostly in the fray. The goal probably was to create some sort of claustrophobic environment with the machines being everywhere and all that, and I should say they succeeded at that.
And with that, we are done discussing the merits of this series. For anything that doesn't have anything to do with sights and sounds in Lain is so awfully bad that words can not convey it.
Normally, this is the point at which I should explaimn what Serial Experiments Lain is supposed to be about. Except I can't. Not that I don't want to, mind you. If I could, I'd spoil this series for everybody interested in it so as they wouldn't get to see it.
Simply put, Serial Experiments Lain doesn't make any sense!
The main character is Lain, an eight- grader who generally becomes more and more infatuated with computers as the series progresses because she got an e- mail from an aquaintance of hers who recently commited suicide (naturally, the mail was sent after the suicide date). In the meantime, a different Lain (who is still supposed to be the original Lain) is the unofficial owner of a night club frequented by kids as young as fourteen. At the same time, she becomes capable of transferring her full body onto the Internet, due to which she becomes some sort of a legend. It's worth mentioning that in the world of Lain, it's some sort of great feat to be able to search up information on someone.
This may sound all fine and dandy, but the true idiotism and infuriating preposterousness of Serial Experiments Lain shows itself in the side threads of the story, none of which make any kind of sense! Two suits are constantly watching Lain from outside in their car because she came in contact with the shows version of Anonymous. Said Anonymous are causing the Internet to apper in real life and do something-or-another (don't ask me what and why, it never gets explained) to it's users, by means of utilising the schematics of a child- PSI gathering machine that ended up becoming a giant bomb! Lain's sister gets caught up in some sort of a nightmare with no explenation as to how and why and ends up being replaced with somebody- or something else, ultimately ending up being a victim of spontanious Down- syndrome! An Alien appears who turns out to be another version of Lain!
But most rage- inducing is the technical stupidity of the show. An online dungeon- crawler gets inadverdently mixed in with an IRL game of tag played by kindergardeners due to an error in the games protocol! Memories get rewritten via the Internet! Club music houses data that causes people to have mass hallucinations of Lain! There's some sort af a drug that isn't technically a drug but is treated as one! The main villain is the memory and personality of a programmer planted inside the goddamn Hypertext Transfer Protocol, for fucks sake!
And this isn't coming from some random idiots writing fanfiction about computers in the 1950's, no sir! The people responsible for this mess supposedly did a TON of research into the field, so their sheer stupidity and incompetence regarding the subject (which's height is probably the story's implication that computer networking is based on alien technology) is simply inexcusable!
What makes this even worse is that the script given to the characters in the show is absolutely dreadful. Half the time there's dialog, characters pause for five seconds after saying every line. Not only does this give the characters all the emotions of a robot, it makes the viewer feel like he/she is watching some soap opera made in the early eighties in a country under soviet rule. The other half of the time isn't any better either, filled with nonsensical scenes that have absolutely nothing to do with the plot and are nothing but unintelligent claptrap about the Interne- oh I'm sorry, the Wired.
To elaborate the utter stupidity of Lain even further, the story can't even make up it's mind about Lain's origin. Some sort of God(dess) of the Wired she becomes ( as evidenced by the ever- inexplicably- increasing amount of computer- machinery in her room, the way she makes herself omnipresent on the Internetby tying cables around herself and pinning diodes all over her body (you can bet that the original idea involved her shoving the FireWire cable clear up her ass), accompanied by her aforementioned via Internet memory erasing capabilities, she is shown to aquire this status as the story goes on. Except, later the story says that she always was present on the Wired, that she always was a legend! Whereas clearly happenings involving her didn't start until a few episodes into the story! it just goes on and on like that!
(Now is probably the time to mention the only thing Serial Experiments Lain does right, and that's the subject of online personas; how anonymity brings out the true nature of Internet users. A complete tool in real life, barely noticed by a few of her classmates, Lain is treated like the queen of the internet by the online community, and online, she acts as such. Too bad the story completely fucks up all common sence by having her internet persona appearing IRL, sometimes at multiple locations at the same time, but by this point it's not like the story could get any worse, since it practically defines "worst".)
I can only do so much to keep people away from this story. Serial Experiments Lain is stupid, incoherent, offensive to the intelligence of the viewer, and mindbogglingly boring. It practically cements Yoshitoshi Abe as the worst auteur, and Chiaki Konaka as the worst writer in Japan, period (the latter of the two later went on to somehow miraculously bring us both the best and the worst seasons of Digimon -02 and Tamers respectively-). And with that, Serial Experiments Lain cements itself as one the absolute worst stories mankind has ever made.
Yet, that fact is good from a certain perspective: it can't get any worse than this.
(Actually it did, twice, but they were rare occasions, and besides, I'll leave Alien 9 and Elfen Lied for later.)
Anime: Serial Experiments Lain was produced by Triangle Staff, who also did the animation for Magic User's Club and Boogiepop Phantom, and directed by Ryutaro Nakamura, famous for directing Kino's Journey and the upcoming Ghost Hound. It ran on Japanese television from July 6th, 1998 to Setpember 28th, 1998. Pioneer (now Geneon, now soon to be defunct) has licensed it Stateside, and the fourth and final volume was released on January 9th, 2002.
Story: Serial Experiments Lain kicks off with a suicide in its first few minutes. Then it cuts to a week later, when all of her classmates are
getting emails from her (which is really weird, as she's supposed to be dead and all). She starts contacting and talking to Lain Iwakura in particular, and weird things start happening in her life and in the lives of those around her from there.
I can't really tell you what happens, partially because it's spoilery, and partially because I'm not really sure what happened at some points in this series. I had to watch several scenes more than once just to be able to blog them semi-coherently. This is probably one of the most confusing, messed up anime you will ever see.
Not to mention the mindfuckery involved in this. At one point, I had to take a break because my head was hurting so bad from trying to understand everything. I wouldn't suggest watching more than two episodes a day of this, three tops, especially when you get past the half-way point. The mindfuckery involved gives the last few episodes of Evangelion a run for its money, and surpasses it at some points, believe it or not. Only watch this if you're willing to put the time in on the story.
And yet it manages to answer every question that it brings up, and resolve in a coherent matter.
WARNING: There is suicide, there is blood, there are weird mutant merges of machine and some hints of things related to sex. And, as I said before, mindfuckery. If you can't take any of this, don't touch this series with a ten-foot pole.
Art: Lain was animated back in 1998. So yes, it's going to be a bit dated. There's a lot of stock scenes, though, and the CG doesn't blend well. But it does use all of that to a very trippy effect at some points in the series. So, overall, average.
Music: Most of the background music is ambient noise, but the insert songs that they use are the smex. BoA does a good job with the OP, as does Nakaido "Chabo" Rei'ichi with the ED.
Seiyuu: Joji Nakata shows up as a recurring side role in this (YES!!), and Lain's sister was Saber in Fate/Stay Night (one of the few characters I could stand), so it was nice to see those. Otherwise, as usual, no problems with the seiyuu.
Length: Perfect. It manages to wrap up neatly in thirteen episodes, with no rush needed. Any shorter would've rushed it, and I wouldn't have been able to take one more episode of mindfuckery, really.
Dub: N/A, didn't watch it.
Overall: This is a confusing mindfuck of an anime. Know that if you're going into this. However, in the long run, it's rewarding, especially with the art, music, and seiyuu.
Usually, one can divide good anime into two groups. There's the ones that entertain you through your emotions; scooping you up in the adrenaline-rushing fights, riveting your feelings with heart-breaking drama or simply tingling your adventurous sides. And then there's the ones that makes you sit down and think. Ponder about deeper, philosophical dilemmas and questions such as those of existence, origin, connection. Serial Experiments Lain is among the few to fall into the latter category.
It is a fact that everyone in this world is connected. In our world, we have cell phones, the Internet; there's no limit to how we can connect with our
fellow humans. Lain, the protagonist, gets drawn deeper into such a world, The Wired, realizing that this is indeed true, but on a much deeper level. Because everyone is connected with one another, not electronically nor physically, but on a deeper, unconscious level. Yes, who are really "you"? Or "I"? What is the truth abouth our existence as humans?
Oh, yes, what is indeed real in this world, and what is fiction? What can be defined as reality, and what is just an illusion of our mind? Or is everything merely a hallucination brought forth by our brain - or our brains as a whole? And in whichever way existence functions, who, or what, holds a responsibility for it? For our world, a fictional world, a dream world?
If you think the review has turned into a philosophical thought process straying afar from the show itself, I tell you this: It does not. Serial Experiments Lain deals with all these questions and problems, if not directly and bluntly, then it does so in a way that may bring you to think. And sometimes, it's good if we are brought to think about these kinds of things.
Amongst all the philosophical elements; the seeping, minimalistic cyberpunk aspects that bring about more perplexion than understanding, a plot eventually shines through; though in ways it serves merely as a vessel to bring forth these questions. Conspiracy theory, computer science dawdling, intricate hide-and-seek of the mature kind, blackmail, Serial Experiments Lain doesn't skimp back on the plot workings, and to sort out the complex web of events, question sand meanings brought forth by watching this show is quite the ordeal.
Amongst this mess of nothing and everything is quite a special cast. Some, well, some of them are seemingly normal people. Lain's cold mother, non-caring sister and her computer-obsessed father. They are all people you could see existing in the real world. Even the timid and shy Lain is someone you can find in your neighborhood. However there exists a limit to how much you can believe when you watch this. How everyone acts. How they really are. Are they the same? There is something about everyone; that distinct cyberpunk feel which gives you the feeling that everyone goes around carrying a veneer. But, maybe they are. Or maybe they aren't after all. Make a guess.
The artwork of Lain is quite peculiar. Though extremely simplistic; minimalistic nearly, it works. The almost-empty rooms. The simple faces and costumes. The barbones backgrounds, or the bright, monochrome backdrop that serves in lieu of it at times. It all works very well. It works because of the type of show this is. It shows us what we need to see, when we need to see it, no more, no less. Thus it serves as an advocate to let your thoughts be placed elsewhere. There's nothing to obstruct your mind from swirling into deeper and deeper meanings and questions.
And likewise is the background music. Or lack thereof; because there is extremely little music playing while you watch. While not directly praiseworthy, it has its effect on the overall feel of the show, in a positive direction, too. The only tune stuck within me is the opening theme, which is a mystery in and of itself. Enthralling lyrics and a soundscape that is quite enjoyable to listen to.
On its own, none of what you see in Serial Experiments Lain really has it in itself to make up a good anime. Butwhen melded together, the impression you're left with is quite unique and not something you're likely to encounter anywhere else in the vast world of anime. It is an experience that makes you sit down and think about certain things in life, and it's definitely worth your time to watch through it. But savour it in the right tempo; too quickly and you'll be left to ask yourself what was realyl going on, and too slow results in a product where maximum yield won't find its way uinless you sit down and re-watch the earlier layers.
Lain is a young teenage school girl of no extraordinary ability -- especially with computers, now all the rage among her friends. She appears to have many friends, and while not unsocial or rude, she doesn't like to hang out with people. Each day begins with Lain coming out of the front door of her sunwashed , minimalist house, and descending a small ramp of white stone stairs, identified as such only by slashes of deep black shadows on the risers.
Director Ryutaro Nakamura's SERIAL EXPERIMENTS LAIN is rightfully considered one of the most revolutionary anime series of its time and well into the forseeable future.
His use of color is nearly nonexistent, there is very little dialogue, and what few words areexchanged between Lain and her friends or her father do little to give the viewer a single clue about what -- if anything -- is going on.
And yet LAIN is impossible to stop watching. It is as close to art as anime gets, dazzling in its simplicity of line and shade to infer motion. Ryutaro-san uses stillness to cause unease, and the lack of a word or expression around a family breakfast table speaks volumes.
For all it sounds as though there is no real action, there is plenty, if subtle. (There certainly are no sword fights or ninja stunts, nor, thank goodness, any giant robots.) And if you haven't already been won over by the creepy buzzing of the eclectric lines outside Lain's house, the girl who stood on the ledge of a tale building, smiling and whispering as though talking to someone other than herself, who then leaps to her death, plus Lain's own brief but repeated hallucination that all of her schoolmates walking toward the school and are fading into mist -- if this hasn't convinced you that something very odd is going to break soon, then I promise your patience over the first three episodes will be well rewarded.
All high art and my own pretensions aside, LAIN is a very creepy and unsettling series. To say more would spoil all the rest. Believe me, I've watched anime's that dazzle the eyes and promise to chill the nerves while retaining a very high artistic and design aesthetic. I have no problem and encourage experimentation in the anime field. But one thing I can not forgive is boredom.
SERIAL EXPERIEMENTS LAIN hasn't a boring spot throughout all 13 episodes. Director Ryutaro Nakamura has not drawn a single hand, cup, empty window, doorknob or chair that is not in the scene for SOME reason. He is a true auteur in the same genius mold of iconoclast American filmmaker David Lynch. You can't take your eyes off the screen for a second, for fear of missing something vital.
LAIN will satisfy the most discriminating and jaded otaku. It sits on my top shelf of anime that I am proud to own. But like all great art, my only regret is not being able to experience it again as though for the FIRST TIME.
But you, reader, have that most enviable experience ahead of you. I'm jealous.
Ryutaro Nakamura is currently directing GHOST HOUND -- and while I've only see the first show, it was enough to give me nightmares last night. No blood, no gore -- but another lovely and innovative anime with breathtaking and never-before-seen uses of the camera in long tracking shots that would be impossible in real-life film. Further still, he uses sound -- of flies, wind, hair brushing past a face -- in a thoroughly pioneering use of 5.1 sound that sets the nerve on edge and even outdoes David Lynch whose recent INLAND EMPIRE I thought had implemented sound in the most disturbing and provacative manner possible -- but no.
Hat's off to Ryutaro Nakamura and SERIAL EXPERIMENTS LAIN. Pure genius.
Serial Experiments Lain is a psychological horror, sci-fi, cyberpunk drama anime written by Konaka Chiaki and developed by Triangle Staff. On one hand, I've seen enough things claim to be psychological with virtually no psychological content that I'm a bit skeptical. However, I've also seen plenty of anime with legitimate psychological horror elements foremost among them being the absolutely stellar Perfect Blue. This will be the only anime produced by Triangle Staff that I've seen so I can't provide an educated hypothesis based on that. I will say that I've seen some other anime that Konaka Chiaki was involved with, though not the head writer
for most of them, and he does have a promising track record.
Our tale opens with a young girl jumping off of a tall building. Naturally, she does not survive. Things get strange when other students at her school start receiving e-mail from her. Our protagonist, Lain receives such an e-mail. That's when she starts noticing other strange things around her and starts becoming obsessed with technology. Even though she barely knew how to work a computer before.
Now, I will give the series credit on several counts. First off, it's very good at keeping the viewer's attention. It continually gives you hints about what exactly is going on but it keeps them really vague. When it outright reveals the answer, you'll probably have a good idea of what some elements of that are going to be and be surprised by others. The series is also good at mixing its surreal elements with the more realistic elements, giving the narrative a feel that's unique in a way that works.
Now, let's look at where the series falls short. The ending is the big one. I don't want to give any details away, but it's a deus ex ending. There are also some elements that are introduced, but never handled in a meaningful or sensical way. The biggest example is that there's a teacher, having an affair with an 8th grade student. In spite of the student body knowing what he's up to and rumours running rampant, he is allowed to keep his job and, somehow, doesn't get arrested or even investigated as far as you see. Yeah, I'm almost certain that would never happen. The worst part is that this nasty little sub-plot, along with being very poorly handled, ultimately has very little impact on the actual narrative. It could have been easily cut and another story device could have served the same purpose without any problems. You might wonder why I'm talking about it so much if it's pretty meaningless. Well, when I see a “psychological” series set in the “present day, present time” I expect to have that psychology grounded in reality, even if the series itself does feature surreal and sci-fi elements. A story element like this just brings you out of the story and makes you notice that this does not happen. The horror elements are another issue. They're largely just kind of weird, but not frightening or scary in any way.
The characters in this do have complexity and depth, for the most part. There are exceptions like the teachers, both their classroom teacher and the one fooling around with a student, who are basically non-entities. They, mostly, react realistically to the strange things happening around them. Except for a few notable cases where they react in reality-defiant ways that make no sense. They also have some interesting interactions and their relationships change in ways that make sense. That being said, there is one very significant issue with the characters. There are conversations where a character will make a statement and contradict it in the very next sentence. The person they're talking to will not respond to this sudden shift at all or will respond by contradicting the last thing they said in order to still be disagreeing with the person they were talking to. Which makes no sense.
The background art in this is really good. It's got a lot of nice details and the surreal elements do look very nice. There are a couple issues with it, however. The first is that some of the surreal elements, though impressive looking, don't actually tie into the narrative. To give an example, there's a scene where they show a faceless androgynous figure dancing in fishnets. It's a strange image, but you could replace it with anything else and the scene would work just as well and the imagery really should be reflective of the narrative in some way. The second issue is the way they draw the actual characters. They're kind of generic and the default facial expression for them is dull surprise. Regardless of what emotion the actor is actually conveying.
The actors are decent in this. You get some strong performances, but also some weaker ones. Shimizu Kaori delivers a very strong performance as our young heroine. Asada Yoko also gives a good performance. Igarashi Rei plays one of those characters without much complexity or depth and it does show in a rather mediocre performance. Hayami Show plays an antagonist who is really too over the top for a series that's trying to employ subtle psychological elements. The music is good. It doesn't really stand out much, but it's primarily used as a part of the atmosphere and it works in that capacity.
The ho-yay factor is a 3/10. There are some moments between Lain and Arisu that strongly indicate that Lain has feelings for her.
Serial Experiments Lain definitely has some things to recommend it. The setup is good. The narrative is compelling. The major characters are complex. The backgrounds look great. Unfortunately, it's held back by several significant problems. The deus ex ending. The story elements where the execution just renders them nonsensical. The scenes where characters contradict themselves and consequently come across as being poorly characterised. The surreal images with no relevance that are just thrown in for the sake of looking surreal. In the end, I would say that the positive factors do outweigh the negative ones, but not by a whole lot. My final rating is going to be a 6/10. It's a decent series, but not quite good. Next week, Rainbow: Nisha Rokubo no Shichinin.
"Pretentious", according to google dictionary is: "attempting to impress by affecting greater importance, talent, culture, etc., than is actually possessed." honestly that definition very simply describes the anime serial experiments lain.
serial experiments lain's story can honestlty be described as a random collection of 'deep' ideas like human concsiousness and existentialistism and its relation to the web, full of forced 2deep4u moments and random exposition supposed to be 'clues' to figure out the needlessly confusing storyline, wich is only made worse with long periods with no dialog and only the sound of a computer humming, which makes for a very boring and uninteresting watch.
the characters aren't
good. lain has no emotion and we never know what she is thinking, and can't relate to her at all, she's basically an alien. there are few side-characters that come up, and they are all not looked at at all, very uninteresting.
overall serial experiments lain is a good anime to watch if you want to look smart, but not much else.
For my first anime review on this site, I'll be doing a series that I can confidently say is both one of my favorite works of fiction that anime has to offer that I've ever seen as well as possibly one where I can never ultimately decide how much I genuinely love it or just absolutely appreciate it even if I won't obsess over it.
Now with that out of the way, I guess I'll get into the review.
Serial Experiments Lain is NOT your average anime. At first glance, it might look a little bit like the Matrix movies or Ghost in the Shell
(regrettably, both are things I've yet to watch). For more seasoned anime fans, it might even look like the genre of 'cyberpunk' series like Bubblegum Crisis and Appleseed and some aspects of Cowboy Bebop lovingly ripped off from movies such as Blade Runner and Terminator. That should not be surprising if you know the name Chiaki J. Konaka, a screenwriter who is best known for Armitage III, The Big O, Digimon Tamers, Tetsuwan Birdy, the original Hellsing, the 2003 version of Astro Boy, RaXephon, Ghost Hound, Texhnolyze and even some episodes of Princess Tutu and Eureka Seven. This man is very versatile, but his forte seems to be horror and cyberpunk. I haven't seen all of his works, but I'd be willing to check them out one of these days.
Lain's story has...a lot of...layers. In fact, each episode even starts out called "Layer...*episode number*". The series is complicated, and definitely not one you can just watch blindly. If you're wondering if this is a trippy, complex, genre-bending and thought provoking mindfuck anime like Neon Genesis Evangelion (shonen and mecha), Revolutionary Girl Utena (shoujo and fantasy) or Puella Magi Madoka Magica (magical girls)...yes it is. But in some ways, that's not intentional. Nor is it better or worse than a lot of those shows. While I personally LOVE these shows, I'll acknowledge that you're not going to get much out of it if you don't like plots which aren't in your face and hold things back from you only to allude to them subtly. This is a series where sometimes the characters actually see more than the audience. And the narrative is definitely unorthodox, not just for anime but any science fiction. You'll probably want to rewatch it once or twice in order to fully get it, like I did. But even then, it won't appeal to everyone. I even wrote an episode by episode journal summary and analysis for one of my English classes recently, and that was after my second rewatch which I found to be much more enjoyable than the first.
A young, antisocial middle school girl named Lain Iwakura becomes interested in the futuristic technology surrounding them to enter a whole new world they call “The Wired” (read: the Internet) after her classmate Chisa Yomoda commits suicide. Lain only met the girl once, but she reaches out to her from the other side telling her to come to the Wired. As Lain's interest in the medium becomes more intense, she is led down a path in which all of the truths behind reality, identity and how we communicate with one another are revealed to her. All of which causes her to question her own humanity. Ethical conflicts and metaphysical hijinks represented by loads and loads of different literary/cultural allusions, philosophical constructs, metaphysics, symbolism, the psychological makeup of the characters and much more occur and the real motives of The Wired’s creators and benefactors become apparent. The border between The Wired and the real world isn’t all that clear. The basic foundation of the storyline is ‘science-fact’ yet the dramatic presentation of the events which unfold will take you into a world of pure science fiction where the conventions of reality are defied completely and repeatedly. Yeah, it's THAT kind of show. Very love it or hate it, and also one that can appeal to casual viewers and non-anime fans as well. Also, definitely something computer and technology geeks would love.
Lain's art style is on a whole nother level. It's insane and gorgeous to look at and you WILL get the trippiness induced from looking at a single frame of it. The animation and designs of the characters are by no other than Yoshitoshi ABe, also known most recently for his work on Texhnolyze and Ergo Proxy. Everything is really detailed. The colors are quite basic. Everyone has normal hair and bodies, in fact, there's barely any standard 'anime hair and anime face and anime eyes and boobs and other physical features' in this show at all. It's more realistic because these characters ACTUALLY look Japanese. And that's something I really find unique and FASCINATING. It makes you wonder how this series could possibly be from 1998 since it looks so ahead of its time.
It's some of the most unique artwork I've ever seen, and that's talking about both the 'real world' and 'Wired' visuals. Not to mention how the plethora of symbolism is not only appropriately used and serves a purpose but also blends in yet still pops out of the background for everyone to take note of it. Some people might have issues with the art since it does get a little wacky and I could see how people who are seizure-prone might not be able to handle it, but otherwise, I really have no complaints about it. Other than the fact that the opening sequence, which has the best animation in the show, sometimes looks off model but since its a closeup of certain character's faces while they're thinking and seeing certain things this may have been intentional. I'm not sure how else to describe it, but I personally loved all of it and you can decide for yourself if you feel the same.
There isn't much I can say about this. All of the voice actors sound great and in keeping with the themes of (sur)realism of the narrative and its overall appearance, also sound very 'un-anime' ish. Kaori Shimizu voices the meek yet stubborn and insightful Lain, and her voice is really nice and fitting for that character. Ayako Kawasumi also gives a very satisfying performance as her older sister Mika, who manages to stand out as well despite her only getting real focus for 5 or 6 episodes. I can't say much about the English dub because I haven't watched it, but if you like old school dubs with amateur but still effort-filled voice acting and cheesy, localized script writing...knock yourself out. Although you might want to wait on the dub until after you've finished the Japanese subtitled version for a show like this, if that's the case.
The music in this series is also really great, and there's a nice blend of jazz, techno, alternative rock, soft metal and electro type tunes and tracks in here. A lot of guitar solos too, some of which are very refreshing and fit nicely. The music definitely fits all of the scenes and events of what's happening in the series, rest assured. The opening theme "Duvet" by Boa is also really nice, it's one of the few anime themes that's in English. It's a very relaxing song to listen to and it tells Lain's story quite well with the lyrics, although when you first hear it you're probably going to think its just a wee bit emo and stereotypically teenage angst bullshit but who knows. It's not the best soundtrack for an anime I've ever listened to but its definitely a treat for the ears.
*sigh* This is a HUGE weak spot for this series. Now, I am someone who absolutely loves a character-focused storyline, even if that hampers some of the plot and other technical elements. Lain's not about that. This is basically one part Lain realizing her true identity and reality, the other part finding out what it does to people she cares about including her sister and best friend Alice/Arisu when they find out the truth and finally, what happens to the world when she is ultimately the cause of the 'border between the Wired and the real world not being clear'. The other characters, other than Mika Iwakura, Arisu, her Wired-obsessed friend Carl and the all-important posthumous characters Masami Eiri and Chisa Yomoda, just aren't really 'there'.
But that's forgivable for a show like this, especially since the characters who ARE the most important in the narrative DO get their justice and are very well-developed at that. Lain is perhaps one of the most complex, empowering, morally ambiguous, empathic and also, plain adorable without being moe characters in anime history. She really is quite something. Masami might remind you of Gendo Ikari/Keel Lorenz from NGE, Dios/Akio Ohtori from Utena and Kyubey from Madoka Magica just in the way that he looms over the narrative and ultimately decides what humanity and the character's fate will be. He also is VERY ambiguous in how he thinks and deals with things. A very engaging antagonist indeed. But if you don't like a show to have more characters for which you can't really feel or give a second thought about, then Lain might not be your cup of tea.
Overall, I absolutely love Serial Experiments Lain and would definitely recommend it to someone into the types of anime and stories. If you loved shows like NGE and Madoka, you should definitely check out Lain. But keep in mind, it's definitely not for everyone. Some things about the show are definitely objectively better than others. Some might find it too confusing or too difficult to get through. A lot of things are up to interpretation and never fully explained, and the amount of symbolism in this series is comparable to Madoka's and Utena's in how dense and well-versed the narrative and its writers are. And you definitely will be caused to think and feel a number of ways about the show while watching it/analyzing it before, during and after.
Perhaps the most fascinating aspect of Lain is that it could lead the viewer to question whether the series is science fiction or a prediction of what will be ‘science-fact’ in the near future. After all, everyone is connected and we must “Close this World, Open the NeXt.”
So give it a try. Even if you don't seem to understand, it's (not) a shame you seemed an honest man...
Ironic. Serial Experiments Lain isn't timeless. In fact, it bathes in its own time. You can make parallels to the lives we live, the wired culture which we indulge in. Perpetual connectedness. Forever trapped in the screens in front of us. Yet Lain is a product of its own time. The late 90s when, instead of Y2K, Japan was drenched in its own fear. The horror of technology. How it grows, evolves, enraptures, and swallows. The technophobe culture which Lain overtly commented on is the very culture that no longer exists to the same extent today. We accept technology as it
comes. We consume it as it springs forth every second of every day.
Circuitry hangs low over the city like a spider web. A barrier that represents one layer beyond our own. A layer of the wired. The weird. The mysterious. Power lines, low hums of generators unseen, these are motifs through which director Ryuutarou Nakamura expresses the indulgence of a society bordering on dystopia. Power, mystery, and growth. The symbols associated with a spider. It's web. A perpetually connected string of vines that ensnares victims.
The shadows aren't black but splotched. They are made up of moving ink, the bubbling of a cauldron. The shadows move and hide anything and everything. Ethereal, they walk and cover or uncover. Whenever you are to wander into the over-blown, exposed outdoors, you see a world that is one step behind, the people disappear, desperately grasping progress. That progress manifests in evolution. You are alone. You are empty. You are without friends or anyone who understands you. You poor, poor girl, thick-brimmed glasses on your face and a frown that never dissipates. You see an opportunity. The opportunity for freedom, to escape, to become something more.
You jump. Fall. Fall all the way down. Windows shatter and the metal of the roof crumples under your weight. You don't know. You are no longer restricted by the heaving, useless body that no one understands. You are now a part of something more.
Or you. The one frustrated with work. The grind. It weighs heavy on your back and you can feel your ribs begin to crack. You believe in something more. That something right above you every time you walk outside. The shadows can't mask that. The wires drape over, like taunting beggars asking for you to come. You do. Screw work, screw obligations, you double down. You don't need your body. You need influence, you want religion, you want to be the religion you want. You are.
You Don't Seem To Understand.
Lain transposes the meta. View the wired as a look into the real world through the eyes of the fake world on screen. We are presented with falsehood, we see their reality, we see our own through that same reality. Blurred images of parking lots and bridges run through many filters. Hardly distinguishable as real but they are. These are the images Lain uses to show us the parallel. The meta.
Far from us but close anyway. Like an infinite loop. The presentation is purposefully confusing and fractured. The narrative lacks a timeline. We see a poor girl, fourteen, introverted, shy, a parallel to the two souls lost. One on the train-tracks, one splayed out on the streets. This girl, Lain, is given a window to the new, weird, wacky world of vaporwave fuzz and dripping cyber heaven. The wired is just that. A depiction of future as seen from the past that purposefully paints itself as completely dissonant than the path we took. Yet it is an esoteric narrative that is hauntingly believable in the minutia, but ultimately unbelievable in the idea. The ideas here, which are undoubtedly avant-garde and esoteric, are made to be siphoned from by the viewer. A string of information given to you.
What do you take from the depiction of the internet? The web that harbors answers and routes of communication that might seem completely unbelievable. What would you have said in 1998? What would you have said in 2000? 2005? Later? Lain isn't timeless because as time passes what you take from it is utterly different and not through the intent of the writer or director. It happens to be that because that is how technology works. The creators know that. We should've too. Lain works because it isn't timeless. If it were then the answers we seek would be malformed. Technology isn't timeless, much like this series, it becomes dated. Lain's room evolves as she does.
To lose yourself in duality. Your self-identity melts away into pixels and becomes yet another blue screen that hums and glitches. The device which you look at the said screen is shaped like a gun. You press the trigger and the screen collapses and the gun is holstered in your hoodie. The hoodie is worn by a boy no older than thirteen.
Lain experiences ego death. Her loss is documented through thirteen brutal episodes. Each one adding layers. Layer one is weird, Layer ten is love, layer thirteen is ego. The layers evolve as does her room. Tubing stretches, viscous green coolant dashes through and feeds her system. Every time we see her room something new has been added. This persists until Lain lives in the cyber-heaven that she first got to witness in layer one. Consumed by the internet. No doubt people can relate. Anime fans especially. Let the flickering screen be the food for the day. The duality of not only yourself but the difference between fiction and reality. A topic which can be read into at any time and place. The bad side manifests and becomes you. You lose the understanding you saught.
In Jungian Psychology this is the psychic death. The fundamental change of the psyche. This could be becoming something new, becoming a god, realizing your true potential, your strength, the power, the mystery unfolds. Yet it can also be understanding who you were to begin with. The delusions fade and you see yourself for the first time, not in the third person, but in the first.
They can be false. Once you forget them, the notion that they ever existed comes into question. The final theme of Serial Experiments Lain. An experiment in truth. Relating to truth and fiction, but only enough to draw the parallel. Once you remove yourself, truly remove yourself, you never were there to begin with. Just a fleeting thought triggered by minutia.
Lain makes this connection. Tea and madeleines. Written as an essay by Marcel Proust. The idea here is that certain triggers may cause forgotten memories to erupt back into the conscious. The memories of a childhood friend, the first time you tasted soda, the eyes of a deleted girl that is as much a part of you as she is everyone. The theme only holds weight to those who believe that the final comment of the series holds weight. A divine being that carves out a location for itself, out of reach by all but perhaps in sight. Like the wires that hang over you every time you venture outside.
Every idea builds on itself to paint a picture of more than just a culture. More than just a narrative. A holistic approach to storytelling that relies on encapsulating a present day. A present time. You laugh, but it is a period piece unlike any other. One that may fall victim to quick production or off-model animation, but one that wants to never be just another fleeting thought.
Serial Experiments Lain is a difficult anime to grade on a scale. While the philosophical ideas that the series focuses on- instrumentality, cybernetic integration, loss of identity through prolonged interaction with the digital world- are thoroughly thought provoking and interesting, the execution of these ideas are inconsistent. This is a case of a series being a bit too ambitious for it's own good. The concepts to make the series work are all in place but it lacks a solid foundation to give it that push into the realm of excellence. It is a series that seems to constantly present fascinating ideas only to have their
potential squandered by poor storytelling, downright ugly artwork and and a lack of all but a couple interesting characters.
Serial Experiments Lain has gained a distinct following and reputation for being a true mind-screw and an underrated prophetic gem of 90's anime. If there is one thing that everyone seems to agree on, it is that Lain is "weird". It is extremely difficult to understand and follow on the first view- almost impossible in fact. This is due mostly to the fact that nothing is ever really clearly explained. The dialogue that moves the story along is extremely limited and what is said seems to constantly dodge the questions that the viewer is desperately seeking the answers to. I realize that this style of storytelling can be very effective. Some of my favorite stories work the same way. However, in these stories there is something else driving the story and keeping me interested while the questions keep me guessing. Lain has no such other drawing force to speak of. Aside from untangling the convoluted plot, there is no real aspect of the series to get any enjoyment of fulfillment from.
Despite being a relatively short series (13 eps), it crawls along at a snails pace and seems to take forever to get through. This would not be so bad if by the time the end had come, you didn't feel like the same story could have been told just as effectively in half the time. There is just so much empty space in the story. Large sections which seems to be dedicated to creating a specific atmosphere and subtly describing the character of Lain are drawn out too long with no real payoff at the end. The best parts of the series come when the speed of things picks up and we get to see some truly bizarre spectacles. Specifically, the more horror-oriented scenes are really great and will make you chuckle at the freakiness of it all. However, when the story slows back down, you'll end up scratching your head at the stilted and uninformative dialogue waiting for the next bit of surreal immersion.
Aside from the awkward delivery of the story and poor pacing, the biggest problem with Lain is the art. Technically speaking, this is probably some of the worst animation I have ever seen. In fact, there were times when I struggled to even classify it as animation at all. There is very little actual character movement to speak of. When characters are in motion, their motions are extremely limited and stiff. There is absolutely no style or flare to the animation and it just comes off as either lazy or budget/time-restricted. The actual art style has a bit more style than the animation and there are certainly some moments of brilliance when the muted palette and recurring theme of droning electronic equipment create a sense of self-inflicted isolation. Once again, the idea is solid and interesting. Yet due to uneven follow through, the whole thing becomes a mess. The character designs are not appealing and do not have a very distinct look aside from Lain herself. It is very difficult to enjoy an anime series when you are almost constantly wishing that things were not so damn ugly. Music is sparse and minimalistic. It is usually not even noticeable although it does work very well for a few specific scenes near the end.
I really have no problem with the plot of Lain, when all is said and done. There are some fascinating and valid ideas being presented and the overarching plot has plenty of relevance to the modern world and science-fiction validity. If executed more masterfully, this series could have been great. It really seems unfinished in a lot of ways. There was plenty of room to flesh out concepts that were just hinted and develop actual characters that have purpose. What Lain fails to do is follow through with it's seemingly vast possibilities and intentions. A lot of times a series will set out to accomplish something simple and succeed admirably by not putting too much on it's plate. Lain is the opposite of this, where is series is so desperate to get across a myriad of themes, ideas and concepts that it misses the mark by a long shot and ends up the territory of incoherent curiosity.
Serial Experiments Lain. Such an eerie piece of astonishment. And such a psychological thriller that is so full of philosophical ideas integrated in technology around us. This anime is one of those I have watched that required more time thinking or researching than watching (and making it hard to write this as my first review) - but it was definitely worth it. Apparently the 1998 cyberpunk anime was not made for the majority market, thus if you would prefer more actions than philosophy and thinking all over the series, there is a chance you will find this anime dull and boring.
Story - This is an
utterly difficult part to comprehend. The storyline is not even linear. Instead, there are seemingly ambiguous clues and fragments all over the episodes. If you have not paid enough attention, or if you have not prepared yourself well for a thinky show like this, you will be lost quickly and get extremely confused first time watching it, because yes, it is hard to follow. Once you have good understanding of the plot and solve the puzzle, you will wonder how possible was the story be even written back in time. Not just with intensive philosophical and psychological elements that audience needs to deal with, but everything the story itself is beyond time as a 90s series.
Art - Despite it is a 90s experimental show, I still liked the art. The art is quite different from the "mainstream" productions, even compared to most popular anime shows back 15 or 20 years ago. We all know though, Lain is pretty hard to be put alongside with mainstream for benchmark. At times, high-contrast colours of different saturation grades were used for emphasizing certain circumstances and moods. Weird-looking reflection-like intricate shadows were used to express the Wired world concept . All these brilliantly worked for creating amazing atmospheres and is a plus for me.
Sound - I cannot say this is a bad part, because, as to fit the atmosphere, not much OSTs were used. There are not many conversations between characters as well. If I am to say, I would say silence was more used than anything in this aspect. A lot of words were substituted by facial expressions, reactions and certain forms of symbolism. The opening theme (Duvet by Bôa) was awesome on the other hand.
Character - Story centered around our protagonist Lain - and Lain had huge character development and psychological impact along the storyline. Also you may pay attention to the relationship between Lain and her best, if not the only friend, Alice. As you keep watching, you will wonder who, or what, some characters actually are, like the "Wired Lain", "Wired God", Lain's parents, or you would even wonder if Lain is God, or if Lain and "Wired Lain" are the same person. All these confusions within the understanding of the characters are so mind-blowing and would take a while until you figure it out all.
Enjoyment - I like philosophy. I like science fictions - even if the story is pseudo-science only. And of course I like cyberpunk and its story backgrounds. (Did not pay much attention to genres though, just realized lately this is called "cyberpunk") What is not to like? Bravo I say.
Summary - This is such a beyond-time anime in so many ways. The way the technology gets integrated in our daily life is shown in the elements like the Siri-like desktop computer system, texting friends in class, holographic display in Lain's room etc, coming from a 1998 anime (where mobile web service was not even popularized until later in 2000s), is way beyond time for me. Also philosophical integration with technological devices is very idea-provoking. The philosophical definition of existence and a shared/collective unconsciousness are also giving blue screen of deaths in our brains.
Bad thing about this anime? Maybe the theories in this anime are too advanced for some people and such made their heads exploded before anything significant can be processed in their brains, making its market small. It is also a matter of taste indeed - I personally loved it and I give my full recommendations to anyone who likes thinking. Definitely worth watching, and perhaps rewatching.
I've watched this show 2,769 times and still can't make any real sense of it. And I for God's sake like philosophy and science fiction very much.
Its metaphysics are somewhat contradictory, and some things are never explained in any way, and any theory I'm able to form about all this show presents leaves something out.
Its important characters are all shallow and don't show any kind of appropriate/understandable emotional reactions. This is by no means the number one show I'd recommend if you wanted to think about the effects modern technology has on people's lives.
I figure this is after all its ultimate goal: to illustrate
how, because of the complexicity and rapid advancement of technology, many questions previously safely put on hold about the world, society, reality, humanity, identity etc. must be asked again, and there's not really time to think them beforehand, only when it's too late to do anything if needed. Ultimately, the average person, in here the viewer, can't really know for sure what's happening in the world around them. They can only consider sources more or less reliable. Such case is the source for all conspiracy theories, which Lain's plot ultimately is about.
However, seeing how this is illustrated in the media of animated mini-series is barely worth using 13*25 minutes of your life.
I recently finished one of the most iconic and groundbreaking anime in history. Honestly is very difficult to write a review as my brain is trying to recover from the mind-melting experience of watching Serial Experiments Lain, but I am going to do my best.
SEL is all about making you think. While other anime want to simply amuse you, SEL tries to connect with you and tries to create some kind of "bond" between you and your conscious, pretty much what NGE and GhitS do (or try to). SEL uses (and abuses) your intelligence and your darkest feelings
in order to get you into the plot. I'll simply put it this way: you can't watch SEL "just for fun", it requires your full atention and sometimes you will have to stop and re-think what you just watched.
I am not going to breakdown the story for you. All I am going to say is that is amazing. The story presents some of the major teenage issues of modern Japan (suicide, technology addiction, careless parenting) and connects them with a sci-fi plot. In this context SEL's plot is essentialy a psychological thriller driven by different situations that at first seem like random events with philosophical deepness but that in the end are connected with Lain's nature and her interpretation of the world. There is an interesting theory that Lain is a personification of Jesus and that the whole serie is an interpretation of Christ's life. That's probably the most beautiful thing about SEL: everyone perceives it different and has an unique interpretation of it, and there are not rights or wrongs.
SEL's art and animation are fine. It seems like a low budget production that some genius turned into a masterpiece (like Tarantino's Reservoir Dogs), but it is not really an issue and the characters expressions are really good. The soundtrack is great and the intro song is one of my favourites.
SEL is not "worth a shot", it is much better and much more reccomendable than most anime out there. Then again remember that it is not an action-packed shonen that you can marathon. You must take a time after each episode to interpretate what you just watched. In the end though it will be worth your time and you will feel the satisfaction of have watched an anime classic that helped you to open your mind.
“If you stay in a place like this… you might not be able to connect.”
Serial Experiments Lain, despite its complexity and silent thematic exposition, is a very personal story about loneliness. The meaningless, cloying, and forgettable evenings shared between drunken comrades contrast with the cold, silent suppers at Lain’s dining room table. The Wired offers a solution to such inconsolable isolation. Slowly abandoning the envelopment of her hooded teddy bear sleeper, Lain delves deeper into this cyber world in which there are no limitations.
Mysterious, immersive, and sometimes terrifying, SEL tells its story in a way as detached as its characters
are from one another. It utilizes no devices in order to arouse emotion, running the risk of alienating its viewers but relying on the story to speak for itself. The lulling hum of electricity accompanies most of the series rather than music. Nimbly conveying more in a single shot than it could in a whole paragraph of dialogue, the series openly explains very little, instead communicating subtly and deliberately through every movement and spare word.
The animation, while simple and even awkward in some places, does not struggle in creating its own peculiar imagery. SEL’s art style resembles few others, with character designs harshly emphasizing features often glossed over in anime such as irises. Special attention is given to anything related to the Wired, such as the shadows of telephone lines and the flickering reflection of a computer monitor in Lain’s eyes. Petrifyingly distorted images, particularly faces, present themselves with little buildup or ostentation as the Wired and the real world begin to merge.
SEL is not so simplistic as to be an indictment against the Internet itself. Rather, it is a picture of one fantastical solution to a lack of connection with others, drawn from a realistic model. Lain unaffectedly morphs from one persona to another when deft changes to her expression and mannerisms render the cold, wild Lain of the Wired wholly distinguishable from her naive, uncomprehending counterpart. Where Lain’s ambiguous identity and the holes in her memory bring disconcertion and dissonance in her relationships with others, the Wired provides boundless unity and the illusion of innocence through erasure of memory and data. The only foil for this allure is Lain’s classmate, Alice, who, with a touch, can destroy all glamour of the virtual world.
“You were my friend, even without connecting with me.”
So, Serial Experiments Lain or like I like to call it; Serious Experiences of Mindfucking.
It's an anime you get when you put 2001: A Space Odyssey, Inception, The Sixth Sense, Threads of Time, Air, TRC, Nisio Isin, Guy Richie and couple hundred other things in a big bucket. The you give that bucket to Chuck Norris who shakes the ingredients and squeezes the bucket to smaller size. But it's not over yet. Chuck gives the bucket-like thing to Andy Dick. Andy comes near your head and starts to push the bucket inside your head through your ear. He isn't doing it in gentle way. Your
ear whole is tight and it hurts like hell. After a while you can't handle with the pain and you lose consciousness. You gain it back about 13 episodes later, you don't know where you are but your brains feel silly. That's pretty much what I felt like when watching Serious Experiences of Mindfucking.
Everything is connected, there is life and eternity, some teddy bears, few crows and word God mentioned several times. Lain is psychological mystery with bit of dementia side on it so it really doens't need anything else to make it work. Whole story is pretty much just about the plot and there really is lot about that side. There ain't any useless seconds of screen time in Lain. Story is so wide that even if there is plot holes no-one is gonna notice those since the quantity of information which cames to your head while watching Lain is pretty much limitless.
Art & Sound;
Well, year 1998. Very unique art style and brilliant ideas made to success. Fits with the genres and makes it even more mysterious. Nothing to complain about. Pretty much the same thing with sounds. They are a hit with Lain but wouldn't work so good in any other anime. Story, art and sounds are working so good that I had chills more often than I blinked my eyes. And it's not bad thing at all.
Another full hit for Lain. Saying them as a character is just downplay. Deep and real, that's how they are. Protagonist is pretty much the deepest character I have seen in any anime. I think she is pretty much like compination of Misaki from Welcome to the NHK and Nausicaä from Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind.
It's quite impossible for not to enjoy anime where everything on it equals with the word perfect. Many animes are ruined cause of crappy pacing, there that problem on Lain. It's quite rare for me to find anime which I can't stop watching, Lain is one of those fews. I love unique ideas and when they are as much success as they are in Lain, then enjoyment is on the top.
Lain is series which you shouldn't watch when you aren't on your best condition. If you are tired you ain't gonna get shit. I don't have any tens on my list but I seriously considered giving it to Lain.
This is my first anime review, I made this like in 20 minutes and I don't speak english to good so me is apologising crappy grammar and misspelled woords.
Unlike most other animes at that time, SEL was not based on any manga or light novel, it was an original. Let me at first tell you that this is definitely not the only criteria that makes this anime unique. Firstly I would like to say that if you want a fast anime with lots of action or generally lots of things happening this is not for you; if you want an anime with romance or ecchi this is not for you; if you want an anime that starts with a bang from start and keeps on its definitely not for you; and lastly if
you think after watching this you will soon forget the plot and get on with your next on watch list I say at the beginning its not that forgettable. This is an anime that makes you stop and think, makes you ponder the reality surrounding you and most certainly makes you question your beliefs. And if you think of the time when this aired that was and I think still is one of the most unique traits of any anime.
SEL is a story of a girl named Lain. She seems to be so ordinary at the start but please hold on till episode 3-4 then everything changes. At the beginning of the anime one of Lain's classmates commit suicide after telling everyone that she does not need to exist in this world anymore and next day all of her classmates receive an email from her. At first all thinks its a joke or something but slowly the plot progresses and we find the real truth. Lain was a shy girl with almost no experience of computers and the world of the wire (which is the writers idea of a much more developed form of internet) but she eventually finds out that she is quite skilled in computers and gets deeply involved in the world of the wired and then everything turns weird. If I say more of the plot I will just spoil the anime for you so let me just say this just be patient with the first few episodes and if you like a good story you will not be disappointed.
For me story is the best part of this anime and it gets 9 out of 10.
If anything is better than the storyline is SEL its the characters. They are only a few characters that are fully evolved to be true but still the rest are also developed with equal discretion.
Lain, the main character is probably one of the well portrait protagonists for me in any anime. She is created with so much attention to every aspect that its like a flawless character, all the dialogues and the sell-centered thinking gets viewers interested more and more to learn more about her reality and always makes them guess why is she acting like that. With every episodes Lain grows more and more until all watchers will grow into the plot progressively.
Other interesting characters include Masami Eiri who is although not a likeable personality but still the way he is portrait you can not but understand his logic too. Alice is another very unique character whose plot was another well placed part in this beautiful puzzle.
Rest of the cast includes Lains parents and sister, her other friends and mysterious Men in Black none of whom seems to disappoint either.
Characters are the strongest part of this anime and gets 10 out of 10 from me.
Arts are not the main feature of this anime and there is no stunning animations to make you go wow, but you have to remember it was 1998 almost 15 years ago so in that time it must have been not bad at all. There is also use of some experimental colored backgrounds wich actually gives some sequences good atmospheric value.
I will give the art.animation 8 out of 10.
In the anime they are is very sparse use of sound effects present. Sometimes even dialogues are so few but all just adds to the affect of the unique atmosphere the director was trying to create. Most of the sound used in the anime are ambient stuff but the opening track by Boa and the ending by Reichi Nakaido are so good that most people will definitely check out the soundtrack for those. Overall the tracks and the ambient noise pieces and blend of sparse effects and dialogue adds immensely to the overall enjoyment of the experience.
I myself like the OST quite a lot and still listen to the Reichi Nakaido ending occasionally.
Sound gets from me 9 out of 10.
At the end I would like to say that this anime is a piece of art and like most art is not for everyone. But people who like food for thought with their entertainment and a good overall story and unique characters (lets face the truth, now-a-days good and unique characters are such a rarity in animes) should not miss out on this anime.
All this talk of this makes me want to watch SEL again and that is also another point for this anime its re-watch value.